Like the R.A.F., our anti-aircraft gunners only count certainties.
This fact was brought home to me when I visited an anti-aircraft station guarding a vital area on the Northeast coast.
The guns here — powerful 4.5 inch monsters — have been in action more often than those at any other station on this stretch of coastline, and have been officially allowed a very creditable number of enemy ‘planes. How difficult it is to establish a claim was explained to me by the officer in charge.
One occasion when the station I visited scored an indisputable success was during a night raid some time ago. It is recorded in the report book in the control room as follows:
“00.23. Object falling in flames, bearing 60. ‘plane.”
This was the first entry, when the gunners were not quite sure of their success. Afterwards came a longer and more confident description: “What appeared to be a yellowish ball of fire was seen falling. Shortly afterwards there was an explosion.”
A fuller account was given me by the officer In charge. - “The raid took place shortly after midnight.” he said. “The ‘plane nad been flying round for a little while, and we saw a salvo of our shells burst all round it at a height of something over 9.000 feet. Suddenly there was tremendous flash. I thought at first it was a flare dropping, It lit up all our faces on the ground below. You could have read newspaper by it. It was terrific sight.
“A few seconds later there was an explosion, so violent that I am told hundreds of windows were broken in a town several miles away. Whether the bombs had exploded in the bomb rack or not, I don’t know, but it certainly sounded like that. Not until heard the explosion were we entirely satisfied that we really had got a ‘plane. After that there was huge cheer from the men and we spent the rest of the night eagerly hoping to have crack at another.”
Wreckage of a bomber was discovered later, and the station were accorded the full credit.
This was the most spectacularly successful shoot, but there was another night when three planes were brought down. Examination showed that they must have been hit by antiaircraft fire, but it was not possible to establish exactly where the honours should go. A number of stations had been in action — the one I visited among them —and there was no means of saying with certainty that any particular one of them had scored the vital hits.
The post has had excitement of another kind. Bombs dropped all round the site one night, about 20 falling within a radius of a few hundred yards. Fortunately no one was hurt and no damage was done.
The anti-aircraft regiment by which this post is manned was a North-Country Territorial unit before the war. A good proportion of the men now in it come from the North, but there has been a considerable intake of recruits from all parts of the country — from the South of England to the Isle of Skye. They are a particularly keen lot and are proud of their record.
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