The Drill Hall, Norman Road, Rusholme, Manchester
Although not Royal Signals, this is included in the history of 42 Signal Squadron as the Royal Artillery was the original occupant of the Norman Road Drill Hall. As well as being of historical interest in its own right, a number of personnel transferred to 42nd Signal Regiment on departure and down-sizing of the artillery.
War loomed in the late 1930’s, leading to a rapid expansion of the Territorial Army. The Drill Hall on Norman Road was purpose-built for the Royal Artillery and was completed in 1940 shortly after the outbreak of World War Two. The first unit at Norman Road was a Battery of 71st (East Lancashire) Searchlight Regiment, Royal Artillery (TA). 71st Searchlight Regiment was officially formed in August 1938 with headquarters and two Batteries at Failsworth, Manchester and one Battery at Rusholme. The unit’s first recruit was sworn-in on 8th November 1938 and by 22nd June 1939 the Regiment had reached its full strength, including a Regimental Band.
At the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, 71st (East Lancashire) Searchlight Regiment was embodied for service and deployed around the Manchester area. In 1941 it moved to the Orkney Islands in defence of Scapa Flow, returning to the Liverpool area in February 1942. Later that year, at short notice, the Regiment was ordered to the South Coast, enjoying a more aggressive role to combat ‘tip and run’ raiders. On 31st May 1943 the Regiment was reduced to cadre strength in order to provide reinforcements for the more recently formed Light Anti-Aircraft units. It was placed in suspended animation in March 1944.
In February 1947, Lieutenant Colonel CW Provis was appointed to command 606th (Mixed) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (East Lancashire) (TA) which was being formed as the successor to 71st Searchlight Regiment. The sub-title ‘mixed’ indicated that it had both male and female soldiers. The Drill Hall at Norman Road was occupied by the Regimental Headquarters and two Batteries. The Regiment had an additional out-station at Flixton, about 6 miles west of Rusholme.
The Drill Hall housed a 3.7" anti-aircraft gun in what is now the Signal Squadron stores. This may explain the large size of the doorway to the stores.
Married quarters were built next to the Drill Hall and were later used mainly by staff of the Army Careers Information Office in Manchester but were sold in the early 1990s.
606th (Mixed) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment had a cadet detachment at Norman Road which was inspected by Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein in April 1948.
Anti-Aircraft Command was disbanded in 1955 and the 606th (M) HAA Regt RA left Rusholme. It amalgamated with four other Royal Artillery regiments, to form 314th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery (TA), with headquarters at Hulme, Manchester. One of the other four regiments was 574th (Mixed) Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment Royal Artillery (7th Battalion The Lancashire Fusiliers) (TA) based at Cross Lane, Salford. By quirk of fate, the Cross Lane Drill Hall was later to house part of 42nd Signal Regiment following the 1961 TA reorganization.
In 1961 the 314th Regiment became part of 252nd Field Regiment RA (The Manchester Artillery) (TA). Under the 1967 TA cutbacks the regiment shrunk by 75% and became 209th Light Air Defence Battery (The Manchester Artillery) RA - part of 103rd (Lancashire Artillery Volunteers) Light Air Defence Regiment, Royal Artillery (Volunteers). 209 Battery is now based at Belle Vue Street, Manchester.
42nd Signal Regiment moved into the building in June 1955. The only mementoes of the Royal Artillery are the mosaic of the cap badge in the floor of the main entrance and the cap badge design beaten into the copper fire-place in the Officers’ Mess.
Diagrammatic History of Rusholme’s Royal Artillery Units.
42 Signal Squadron is still recruiting spare-time soldiers to
train on Tuesday evenings, weekends, plus a 2-week exercise each year,