‘Put That Light Out!’: The 93rd (Searchlight) Regiment Royal Artillery

One of the best-kept secrets of the military history of the British Isles is that of the 93rd Regiment. Very few people realise that this was an all-female regiment (with the exception of the Commanding Officer and Battery Commanders) and that this is the only time so far that women have been deployed on active duty as a regiment in the world.

In fact they operated in very small groups across Britain, helping to keep the population safe from attack by enemy aircraft. They had other important functions, one of which was to help bring home battered aeroplanes with wounded men on board. In just 3 months in 1943, searchlight units homed 247 planes: a major contribution to the war effort.

Their story is unsung but extremely moving. They worked around the clock, overcame local opposition and, as General Sir Frederick Pile said: “The girls lived like men, fought their lights like men and, alas, some of them died like men. Unarmed, they often showed great personal bravery. They earned decorations and they deserved more. As a partial solution to our manpower problems, they were grand. But, like all good things, they were in short supply.”