Sikh LAA Regiments, RIA

In 1942, with an increased threat from Japanese Air Forces, there was an urgent need to beef up the AA defences in India. The immediate step taken was to move additional AA Regiments of Royal Artillery but as the arrival of British AA Regiments only partly met the requirement, it was decided to convert select infantry battalions to  hasten the availability of the required number of anti-aircraft units as these battalions could provide trained soldiers who had to be trained only on anti-aircraft techniques. A total of seven anti-aircraft units were so formed; three HAA and four LAA regiments. Two of these AA Regiments were formed by converting infantry battalions of 11th Sikh.

7 Sikh LAA Regiment was raised at Peshawar on 1st April 1942 on conversion of 9th/11th SIKH and formed part of 3rdIndian AA Brigade deployed for AA defence of peninsular India. 7 Sikh LAA Regiment was initially located at Bombay with the Santa Cruz aerodrome and the Kasheli Bridge in Bhiwandi amongst its responsibilities. The Regiment, less 24 Sikh LAA Battery moved to Vizag in November 1942. 

Vizag may have been far away from the Burma front but the city had been bombed by Imperial Japanese Navy aircraft in April 1942 causing widespread panic. With the fall of Burma and the Japanese now closer to India than ever before the air threat to Eastern seaboard was very real. 

The move of 7 Sikh LAA Regiment to Vizag was meant to further strengthen the anti-aircraft defences on the Eastern coast but the Regiment did not serve for long thereafter as the situation had turned in just over a year and by August 1943 it was appreciated that the Japanese air threat had considerable reduced and there could be a cutback in the number of AA Regiments. On the other hand, with the plans to push back the Japanese from Burma, there was a greater requirement of infantry units.  

7 Sikh LAA Regiment became to first AA Regiment to be disbanded when the regiment less 22 Sikh LAA battery was disbanded on 30 September 1943 at Mathura.

The second Sikh AA regiment i.e. 8 Sikh LAA Regiment was raised on 1 April 1942 at Nowshera on conversion of 8th/11thSIKH and was placed under 1st Indian AA Brigade. The Regiment was deployed at Alipore aerodrome in Calcutta, Diamond Harbour, Cassipore, Mulajore power station and Kanchrapara aerodrome with the Regimental Headquarters at Tollygunje. Lt Col A.R. Walker, I.A. was the commanding officer.

As the build-up for the offensive by 14th Army was taking place, 8 Sikh LAA Regiment was moved to Assam, coming under 13th AA Brigade, RA. With the Japanese Air Force being more active in this sector and with frequent air raids, the Regiment saw thick in action for most of the time. 

During one such raid, on 11th  November 1943, the Japanese raided a number of airfields in Assam including Kumbhigram which had a battery of 8th  Sikh LAA Regiment defending it. As the  Japanese carried out high level bombing, the LAA guns were not effective and the Japanese planes were able to bomb the installations at the airfield. One of the bombs fell near the gun position and hit the ammunition stacked near the gun position, setting fire to the ammunition. As there was a danger of the fire spreading and causing further damage,  Gunners Mehnga Singh and Hari Singh of the Bofors detachment extricated the stores and stores kept there even at great risk to their personal safety.

 They were both awarded the Indian Distinguished Service Medal.

In 1944, 8 Sikh LAA Regiment was placed in support of 15 Corps which was to operate through the Arakans and down the coast of Burma.The Batteries were strung along the route from Bhatpara to Feni and subsequently moving forward, from Chittagong to Ramu and Chiring. 

As SEAC prepared for the last campaign to defeat the Japanese, one of the operation planned was code named Zipper,  to capture either Port Swettenham or Port Dickson, Malaya as staging areas for the recapture of Singapore in Operation Mailfist. The operation was to be carried out by the 34th Corps. To support this operation, two Indian LAA Regiments,  8th Sikh LAA and 9th Rajputana LAA Regiments were placed under command 34 Corps. They were located at Bombay in early 1945, to train for the amphibious operation at the Combined Operations Training Centre. HQ 9th AA Brigade had been tasked to co-ordinate the training of the AA regiments, having shed its British AA regiments after conversion to medium regiments. 

The training and preparation for the invasion continued even as Burma was retaken though the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki leading to the surrender of Japan in August 1945 meant a change in plans. Operation Zipper was never fully executed and 34th Corps was now to carry out the operation as a reoccupation force and not as an invasion force. With the role and requirement now changed only one LAA Battery (of 9th Rajputana LAA Regiment) took part in the Operation. 

The next change for the Regiment came in January 1947 when  the Indian artillery regiments were renumbered serially, to avoid duplication of numbers, with the Special Army order 10/S/47 giving out the new designation. With this, 8th  Sikh LAA Regiments was now designated as  30th  LAA Regiment, RIA. 

The Regiment did not serve for long after this and just a fortnight of India gaining independence, was disbanded at Mathura on 31 August 1947.