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

THE BUILDING OF THE ROOF 9 end of the Zeppelins came when Leefe Robinson earned his V.C. by shooting down the S L .ll near Cuffley. Soon the £Jermans were routeing themselves clear of the London defences. By 1918 these consisted of 284 guns, 377 searchlights, and 11 fighter squadrons. But in 1919 A.D.G.B. was disbanded, and until 1922 there was no A.A. protection in this country except for one very small regular brigade and searchlight battalion— 2/3,000 men in all. In 1922, four heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiments (then called brigades) and two searchlight battalions were formed, all in and around London. Most of their recruits came from the Banks, the Insurance Companies, Lloyd’s, and one or two large concerns like Vickers and theW andsworth Gas Company. They were very much understrength and recruiting was a problem they could not solve. A t the first post-war camps in 1923 there were about 30 men to represent batteries which should have had 150 men. Certainly there was little enough inducement to join except for the incorri­gibly military or determinedly sociable. They had to spend a great deal of their first camp period in humping ammunition over two and a half miles of sand dunes. They not only carried their own mam unition, but that of the regulars who followed them to camp, and they had next to no transport. Practice was thus negligible. They went to camp again the following year, much increased in strength, but still saddled with so many fatigues that they had little time for shooting. Equipment was meagre in the extreme, money was always tight, and it was not unusual for units to spend con­siderable sums of money in buying their own equipment. By 1925 a start was made to rebuild the air defences. There were now two regular anti-aircraft brigades—about 5,000 men— who spent half their year running camps for territorials. The regulars were not designed for the defence of this country but togo abroad with an expeditionary force. Things gradually began to buildup by 1936 there was one A.A. Division, and a second Division was formed. By 1938 there were five, and they were brought together under one A .A. Corps. In 1939 there were seven Divisions and the Corps became a Command. These formations were, o f course, all Territorial Army formations. This seems a lot compared with 1914 but no comparison is valid. Only eight months later the German Air Force killed 30,000 people in Rotterdam in half an hour. In September 1939, an air attack on anyone o f the countless targets crowded into this island was not only possible but considered highly probable. The 1939 establishment was therefore by no means excessive. Moreover, the greater part o f the men were recent recruits, and the later flood of
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