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206 (Ulster) Battery

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General

206 (Ulster) Battery, Royal Artillery (Volunteers) - "The Ulster Gunners", is part of 105 Regiment, Royal Artillery (Volunteers). It is a TA Artillery Sub-unit based in Northern Ireland and is split between two locations, Newtownards and Coleraine.

History

The 8th (Belfast) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (Supplementary Reserve), was founded in the wake of the Munich crisis, and recruited mainly in the spring of 1939 from young men of the City and District of Belfast. It was mobilised and at action stations, manning its guns to defend Belfast, before war was declared on 3 September, 1939. World War II In October, it left for practice camp in Cornwall, and thence to France, where it joined the British Expeditionary Force before Christmas. Following the German invasion of the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, all units were soon in action, but the fortunes of war resulted in evacuation from Dunkirk, Cherbourg, Saint-Malo and other ports during late May and early June. One troop* successfully brought back four of its 3.7 AA guns and some vital gunnery instruments despite having orders to blow them up. Back in England, the regiment was soon in action again during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, first in London and then on Teesside. In the spring of 1942, the regiment embarked for the Far East in the Belfast-built liner RMS Britannic, and after a long voyage, reached Bombay. The guns and equipment were unloaded at Karachi and both elements assembled at Lahore before driving some 2,000 miles in convoy down the Grand Trunk Road to Calcutta. It was later transferred to East Bengal, before moving south to join XV Corps in Burma. For the next two and a half years. the regiment took part in the Arakan campaigns, firing effectively against the Japanese Air Force and ground targets. Their accuracy at long range earned them the nickname “The Twelve Mile Snipers.” Some elements took part in the famous Battle of the Admin Box at Ngakyedouk (“Okeydoke”) Pass. Several officers and men received awards for gallantry following this heroic stand, which proved to be the turning point in the Arakan. At Easter 1945, a tablet to the memory of members of the regiment who died in the Arakan was unveiled in St. Mark’s Church, Akyab. This little, battle-torn church was one of the first in all Burma to be retaken, and men of the regiment assisted in restoring the building.

Post-war:

When the war ended, the regiment was fortunate to embark at Madras as a unit, instead of being dispersed in age groups as was the common practice, and returned home to Ulster in another Belfast-built ship, RMS Stirling Castle. Many of the officers and men came together again in 1947 when the Territorial Army was re-formed, and so helped to perpetuate the regimental spirit in a new organisation, the 245th (Belfast) (Mixed) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA which was formed in T.A. with HQ at Belfast. (245 HAA Regiment was considered the successor to 8th (Belfast) HAA Regt, although that unit was continued by the regular 56 HAA Regt). The successor of which, the 206 (Ulster) Battery Royal Artillery (Volunteers), (of 105 Regt RA(V) – ( the Ulster and Scottish Gunners) is one of the most efficient units of the Volunteer Reserve today. They have always been proud to wear the ‘Read Hand of Ulster’ on their uniforms, and to have an ‘Esprit de Corps’ which has always been second to none.

The Battery was formed in 1993 after Options for Change and the disbandment of 102 (Ulster) Regiment, Royal Artillery (Volunteers). The two old batteries of 206 (Coleraine) Battery and 215 (North Down) Battery were amalgamated to form 206 (Ulster) Battery. The new Battery was absorbed into 105 Regiment to make the "Ulster and Scottish Gunners" along with 207 (City of Glasgow), 212 (Highland) and 218 (City of Edinburgh) Headquarters Batteries.

Insignia

Members of the Battery wear the Ulster Gunners' badge on their left sleeve. The badge, or 'flash', can be traced back to the 3rd (Ulster) Anti-Aircraft Brigade which was formed in Northern Ireland in 1939. The "Ulster Gunner Brigade" consisted of 3rd (Ulster) Searchlight Regiment, R.A., the 8th (Belfast) Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.A., the 9th (Londonderry) Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.A. and 102nd Anti-Aircraft Regiment, R.A (Territorial Army).

Role

206 (Ulster) Battery are currently in a transitional year, in preparation for conversion from an Air Defence battery, to a Field Gun Battery. This is due to the changes in the type of warfare that the UK armed forces currently face, and will face in the future. The UK armed forces must adapt to meet the uncertain challenges that the future holds, and as part of this, the UK government has recommended changes in the organisation of the Armed Forces. The programme, known as Future Army Structures (FAS), details these recommendations. The Territorial Army, as part of the UK Armed Forces, is as equally affected as it's regular counter-parts. Therefore, 105 Regt RA(V) as a whole are making preparations for re-roling as a Field Gun Regiment with the L118 105mm Lt Gun.

Awards

The Battery has won the Thales' Shield (formerly the BP Trophy) for the Best Air Defence Battery in the TA in 2001,2002,2003 and in 2005, a feat unmatched in the Territorial Army. This year, the battery also won the prestigious Queen's Cup for being the overall Best Battery in the TA. A reflection of the hard-work and commitment of the members of the Battery.

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