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

how night-fighters bring the enemy down would be most useful knowledge, and must be denied to him. Again, since the book deals with the A.A. Defences of Great Britain, no mention has been made of the large numbers of trained A.A. regiments supplied by A.A. Command for service overseas. It is worth noting, however, that the roof over Britain was built simultaneously with roofs over many other places. Some of the strain has recently been taken by the Home Guard, whose pro­gressively more valuable work must also be reserved for fuller and separate treatment. Some readers may think there is another gap in the story, because it does not deal in anyway with the Civil Defences. This gap has been deliberately left. The Civil Defences have their own story to tell, and a magnificent one it is—so magnificent that they have been left to tell it themselves. ‘‘it isn’t easy to shoot down a ’plane” 5 1 .“It isn’ t easy to shoot down a’plane” o n a night in March, 1941, the Battery Commander respon­sible for the A.A. defence of the Widnes area made out the following incident rep o rt:— “21.25 hours—An aircraft blew up in the air, bearing 290.“21.30 hours—An aircraft was seen surrounded by a shell burst and lit up with an orange glow. “21.35 hours—A n aircraft crashed inflames, bearing 240—distance about 3 miles.” The ’plane referred into the last two extracts, a Heinkel III, pitched in a sports field on the town’s outskirts. It burned luridly, consuming the pilot but three members of the crew who baled out were captured. The ’plane had first been hit by an anti-aircraft shell, causing loss of height and speed then a night-fighter had picked it up and fired from point-blank range and finally, when its fall had become a scream of punctured engines, the ’plane had struck a barrage balloon cable. That is an example of the Air Defence of Great Britain—A.D.G.B. in—* the full flower of co-operative function. Fighter Command is the main defence of Britain but Fighter Command could not survive without A.A. Command, and that is what we are concerned with here—the story of our anti-aircraft guns and searchlights. It isn’t easy to shoot down a ’plane with an anti-aircraft gun. With afield gun, sitting still, shooting at a fixed target, mathemati­cally you only expect one hit in a hundred rounds. There are several
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