Roof over Britain - the official story of the A.A Defences, 1939 - 1942

8 ROOF OVER BRITAIN some of them all through the day and night some of them all through the night with maintenance work during the day. They are in little pockets allover the country, many of them under junior N.C.Os. and miles from the nearest farmhouse. A few, even at this stage of the war, have not yet had the chance to fire their guns. It is therefore a dull life and must often seem a meaningless one. full of petty, and sometimes not so petty, hardships and discomforts. This book is an account of their work and the trials they have to face, and an appreciation of their achievement. 2. The Building of the Roof the task of developing A.A. defences is not new. It had to be done in the last war. But the job in 1914 was very different from the job in 1939. In 1914 there was no semblance of a black-out until October 1st, and on that day 12 A.A. guns and 12 searchlights were deployed in the London Area. These merely token defences were not so inadequate as they seemed, because air-power was in its infancy and the attack was unlikely to be more terrible than the defence. But the Germans were already thinking of terror raids. In September, 1914, the Chief of the German Naval Staff wrote a minute saying,“ 1 hold the view that we should leave no means untried to crush England, and that successful air raids on London, in view of the already existing nervousness of the people, would prove a valuable means to that end.” On January 9th, 1915, the Kaiser gave his permission for attacks to start, these attacks to be “expressly restricted to military shipyards, arsenals, docks, and, in general, military establishments London itself was not to be bombed.” When the raids came they caused a great loss of working time and not a little upset. The first place to be bombed—King’s Lynn on January 19th, 1915—was the subject of a report from the Zeppelin commander to the effect that he had been “heavily attacked by guns and engaged by searchlights.” Such defences, however, did not exisVand his report gives some indication of his diffidence. Nevertheless, these comparatively feeble raids had a considerable effect, not only in slowing up munition production but in keeping back from France sorely needed fighter aircraft and A.A. guns. Gradually the defences got the upper hand the beginning of the
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