The Reconnaissance Corps was part of the Royal Armoured Corps and was a wartime-only unit that was in service between 1941 and 1946. Performing a specialist role in each Division (Infantry, Armoured and Airborne), they had little use for heavy weapons and other than the exceptions below, only had 3-inch Mortars within the support elements.

1st (Airborne) Reconnaissance Squadron

Originally called the Airlanding Reconnaissance Squadron, this unit was the reconnaissance element of the 1st Airborne Division.

When first formed, in May 1942, each of the jeeps used was armed with a Vickers Mk I. Possibly in a similar form to that shown in the photo below. A full copy of the War Establishment is available as a PDF transcript.

The King inspects an airborne jeep fitted with a Vickers machine-gun during a visit to airborne forces in Southern Command, at Netheravon Aerodrome 21 May 1942. With him is Major-General Frederick ‘Boy’ Browning, GOC 1st Airborne Division.

In 1943, it was mainly equipped with motor-cycles and several jeeps; although without any mention of them being armed. There were four troops and each Troop Headquarters had a 3-inch mortar detachment for support.

A copy of the War Establishment is available to download as a PDF:

From 1944, all of the jeeps were equipped with Vickers GO No. 1 Mk. I guns. These were so equipped to provide suppressive fire in the event of ambush or other such event. It’s recorded that Freddie Gough – the Squadron’s Commanding Officer – attempted to have twin mountings used (two Vickers GO guns) similar to the Special Air Service mountings; however, his request was turned down due to the problems of ammunition supply for such a high-rate of fire weapon.

The photos below show a recreated Troop of the Squadron in and around Arnhem and Oosterbeek for the 60th anniversary of Operation MARKET GARDEN in September 2004. Many of these individuals in these photos have gone on to become part of the Emma Gees – the living history element of the Vickers MG Collection & Research Association.

Formed into four troops, including one Support Troop of 3-inch mortars, the War Establishment of the Squadron was as below. Click on the links to download a full transcript.

It’s known that, at the time of Operation MARKET GARDEN, the Support Troop also included 20-mm. Light Anti-Aircraft guns (Polstens) on wheeled carriages. These were for anti-armour and anti-aircraft use.

After the Squadron returned from Operation MARKET GARDEN, they were completely refitted as all of their equipment had been left behind. Whilst doing so, they were equipped with the No 2 Mk I variant of the Vickers Gas-Operated machine gun. This was equipped with a shoulder stock and bipod and could be employed dismounted from the jeep.

6th (Airborne) Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment

This Regiment was the Reconnaissance element of the 6th Airborne Division. Within the Support Troop of this section there were two platoons, each of four Vickers .303-inch MG Mk. I guns, mounted on Universal Carriers; however, whereas a normal MG Platoon had additional vehicles for the Platoon Sergeant and Commander, those members of the platoon commanded carriers mounted with MMGs and were part of the fighting element of the platoon.

45th Regiment

The 45th Regiment was used in an Infantry role as a ‘Chindits‘ Battalion, where it was formed into Columns each having an MG Section of two guns, the Battalion’s MG Platoon being spread across the Columns and supplemented with additional guns and machine gunners where required.


Sources:

  • Fairley, J (1990) Remember Arnhem [2nd Edition]. Glasgow: Peaton Press.
  • Fletcher, J (2004) Photographs from Arnhem 2004.
  • Hewitt, 1945a
  • Redding, 2011
  • Paradata (2019) MEMBERS OF A TROOP, 1ST AIRBORNE RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON, SUMMER 1944. Duxford: Airborne Assault Archive. Available from: https://www.paradata.org.uk/media/8023. Accessed 19 September 2019.
  • Paradata (2019) AIRBORNE RECONNAISSANCE JEEP SHOWING FRONT MOUNTED SPARE WHEEL, TOOLS AND VICKERS K MACHINE GUN, C. 1944 Duxford: Airborne Assault Archive. Available from: https://www.paradata.org.uk/media/3977 Accessed 19 September 2019.
  • Paradata (2019) A BURNT OUT JEEP BELONGING TO 1ST AIRBORNE RECONNAISSANCE SQUADRON IN LEAFY OOSTERBEEK. Duxford: Airborne Assault Archive. Available from: https://www.paradata.org.uk/media/1919 Accessed 19 September 2019.
  • Spender (1942) H 19947. London: Imperial War Museum. Available at: https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205198336 Accessed 19 September 2019.
  • The National Archives, WO 24/951, War Establishments April to June 1944.