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

ratio varies. In March and April, 1941, it was one to the guns and two to the fighters. Every third aircraft shot down was shot down by the guns. T o disturb the aim and deter the faint-hearted A more important criterion of efficiency is how our A.A. fire compares with the German A.A. fire. This is a difficult question to answer. But certainly it is true that our bomber losses are lower than the enemy’s known losses in proportion to the number of ’planes used. Let us take one example of our losses in man-power, for the loss of trained crews is in every way more serious than the loss of machines. Jn the big four-figure raid on Cologne, the target was attacked by about 6,000 men (slightly less than the bayonet strength of a Division of infantry). They suffered between 300 and 400 casualties only. This in spite of the fact that our bombers usually attack at lower heights than the enemy in order to ensure greater accuracy, and in consequence tend to provide better targets than the German bombers over here.In contrast, on the great day of September 15th, 1940, the Germans attacked with between 2,000 and 3,000 men, and lost between 600 and 700 of them. German respect for our A.A. defences started low but has flourished and grown. The first-class enemy pilots keep on with their job, the others don’t. If a man is wondering whether he has got to take avoiding action he is not going to concentrate on hitting Buckingham Palace or the War Office he is going to be jinking about, and his aim will be disturbed at a critical moment. That is one of the main functions of Anti-Aircraft Command—to disturb the aim and deter the faint-hearted. The number of planes shot down is by no means the only measure of anti-aircraft efficiency and value. Life is easy when there are plenty of ’planes to shoot down it is not so obviously worthwhile to men who have had to wait months, perhaps years, for the opportunity to fire at an enemy ’plane at all. Months, or years, of the most demoralising dullness, during every hour of which it is necessary to behave as if the enemy were expected at any minute. And when, finally, the enemy ’plane does arrive, it maybe only possible to fire at it for a few seconds or, perhaps, because our own ’planes are in the neighbourhood, they may not be allowed to fire at all. Conditions of life in the A.A. Command are much more difficult than is generally imagined even by the rest of the Army. T b :men must be inconstant and instant readiness, all through the day ‘‘it isn ’t easy to shoot down a ’plane” 7
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