The First World War: 1914-1918
Two HAC infantry battalions and five artillery batteries were mobilised for active service overseas during the First World War. After the outbreak of war, the existing half Infantry Battalion was brought up to full strength and became the 1st Battalion, serving in France and Flanders from 18 September 1914. The 2nd Battalion was raised in September 1914 and sailed for France on 1 October 1916; it saw active service in France, Flanders and Italy. The Reserve (or 3rd) Battalion supplied the other two Battalions with drafts from England.
The existing A and B Batteries of horse artillery were brought up to strength and sailed for Egypt on 9 April 1915, serving both separately and together there and elsewhere in the Middle East. The 309th (HAC) Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery and the two second-line horse artillery batteries, 2/A Battery and 2/B Battery, saw action in France and Flanders from April and June 1917 respectively. The three (later two) reserve batteries remained in England.
The various units were disbanded in 1919. Around 13,000 members served with the HAC during the war and over 4,000 of these men were commissioned into other units. The Company’s casualties during this conflict totalled about 1,650 men who died serving either with HAC units or other units of the armed forces.
Building on a long tradition of civil defence in the City, and following a decision to expand the Metropolitan Police Reserve Force, Lord Denbigh, the HAC’s President and Colonel-Commandant, invited past and present HAC members to become Special Constables of the Metropolitan Police in 1919. The division became known as the HAC Detachment of the Metropolitan Special Constabulary. It was active in the defence of the City during the General Strike of 1926 and was attached to Commercial Street Police Station in 1939.
The Second World War: 1939-1946
In March 1939 the HAC formed an anti-aircraft regiment to defend London. This became the 86th (HAC) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment RA with three batteries (273, 274 and 275 Batteries). Later in 1939, the Territorial Army was doubled in size and the HAC’s existing A and B Batteries became the 11th (HAC) Regiment RHA whilst two new batteries, C and D, formed the 12th (HAC) Regiment RHA. In November 1940, these two regiments were expanded by the addition of E and F Batteries respectively. The 11th Regiment deployed to North Africa at the end of 1941 and the 12th Regiment followed at the end of 1942. Both regiments later fought on mainland Italy, with 11th Regiment also serving earlier in the campaign to capture Sicily.
The 86th (HAC) HAA Regiment RA, by then comprising 273, 274 and 383 Batteries, landed in France on D-Day, 6 June 1944. A former 86th Regiment sub-unit was 275 (HAC) HAA Battery and this became part of 165 HAA Regiment RA and landed in Normandy on D-Day +7. The 13th (HAC) Regiment RHA, which had been raised in December 1940 with G, H and I Batteries, landed in Normandy on 15 June 1944. The HAC’s 86th and 13th Regiments and their batteries then fought through to Belgium and on into Germany, so too the 275 Battery. (Another former sub-unit of the 86th Regiment for part of 1941, 446 Battery had joined 164 HAA Regiment RA and was based in the Orkneys as air protection for the fleet at Scapa Flow from 1943 until its disbandment in the spring of 1944).
At the outbreak of war, the HAC Infantry Battalion had been converted into 162 (HAC) Officer Cadet Training Unit and supplied officers to other regiments. Two HAC companies in the 30th [originally 13th] (Home Defence) Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, defended the East London docks.
The various HAC regiments and units were disbanded in 1946. Over 700 men serving with HAC units, and Company members serving with other units, lost their lives during this war.
Read about members who were awarded the Victoria Cross, get guidance on researching members who fought during the World Wars and search our Archives for further advice and details of HAC publications available for purchase. You can also view photos, videos and audio from this era on our Gallery and Videos and Audio pages.