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

Foreword this book supplements and continues the story of how the R.A.F. defeated the attack of the German Air Force during the autumn of 1940. Much of the air fighting has already been described in “The Battle of Britain.” But the fighter squadrons never constituted the whole of our defensive system. It has therefore been thought worth-while to give some account of the other materials which went to the making of the “Roof over Britain ”and the War Office and Air Ministry have combined to tell the story of the static defences—A.A. guns, searchlights, balloons and the Royal Observer Corps. Captain Anthony Cotterell was kindly lent by the Army Bureau of Current Affairs to write the Army part of the story and the Air Ministry compiled the story of the balloons. At the beginning of the war the roof was only a fairly tough framework. With the exception of Germany, no nation in the world at that time had an even approximately complete system of anti­aircraft defences we were certainly, after—a long way after— Germany, the best prepared. Moreover, one of the most creditable parts of the story is the speed at which our defences were developed. The Prime Minister has well described the character of a munitions programme :—‘‘The first year—nothing at all the second year— very little the third year—quite a lot the fourth year—all you want.” If September 1938, with its rather humiliating improvisa­tions, betaken as the starting date, it will be seen that the develop­ment of our anti-aircraft defences has been better than scheduled. So this story is worth telling as a story of efficiency. It is worth telling for another reason. Though their story is not dull, the life and the work of the men and women of the static defences very often contains every element of exasperation. They have had to fight the canker of armies, monotony—often in isolated stations far from their own homes and from anybody’s home. Their victory over monotony is described in these pages. The reader will observe that there are holes in the story, though not in the roof. Just as the static defences were complementary by today our fighter squadrons, so by night they are complementary to cur night-fighters. Some stories of the exploits of night-fighters have been published in the Press, and have told the enemy only what they already know—namely, that our night-fighters areas skilled and courageous as other sections of the R.A.F. But exactly
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