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

10 ROOF OVER BRITAIN new or renovated guns was still only a trickle. This makes it the more remarkable that a year later a formidable artillery served by fully skilled gun-crews was ready to meet the assault o f the Luftwaffe. Credit for this jump from infancy to maturity must be shared among many people, from the men and women who made the guns and shells to the General who controlled the destinies o f A.A. Command. General Sir Frederick Pile, who overtook this job a few weeks before the outbreak of war, has made the family created by his predecessor grow with an efficiency and energy for which both his command and the public have good cause to be grateful. The modern commander has an administrative job which would tax the talents of a captain of industry, on top of a military job which is always presenting new possibilities and problems. He has to consider everything from the finding of labour to build huts for the A.T.S. to the fragmentation of metals under certain con­ditions. To revive an echo of a conundrum of 1914-18 vintage, though bread is the staff of life, the life of the staff is no longer along loaf. Part of the success of A.A. Command is due to the fact that General Pile has known how to gel the best out of his staff and that he has been to scientists the kind of patron they dream about. All their ideas have been tried at least once, and tried quickly. That is why in so short a time the basis of our A.A. defences has been changed from a bluff to a buckler. Studying the enemy's methods As part o f the process of trying to keep one jump ahead o f the enemy, officers from A.A. Command have often flown with our bomber crews. These officers are not in any sense passengers they are trained as air gunners, but their main job is to observe and report on the enem y’s ground defences and how they can be best avoided, and to see what lessons can be learned from the enemy. The officers originally chosen were sent on a short course at a Searchlight Wing, where their knowledge of searchlight methods was brought up-to-date and amplified. But the main emphasis of the course was on cultivating their powers of observation. For instance, they were set down on a hillside, each with binoculars, and told to observe and comment on events in a small barbed-wire encampment some distance away. A man came out of the camp and sat down reading a newspaper which reflected brightly and would giveaway the position from the air. An A.T.S. girl came up to the camp, spoke to the sentry and was admitted. Rifle fire broke out in some woods nearby and the camp was captured.
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