Throughout the Second World War all territorial army anti aircraft units in the UK came under the remit of the Anti Aircraft Command. This body was set up in April 1939 and spent the war under the command of General Fredrick Pile. The command headquarters adopted a formation badge early in the war:In 1943 this badge was rolled out to all the units of the ADGB (Air Defence Great Britain) replacing a number of earlier regional badges.. The formation sign consists of a black bow and arrow aimed into the sky on a red background and was based on the crest of the Gordon family, whose ancestral home at ‘Glenthorne’ in Stanmore had been taken over by the Command Headquarters. The badge was produced in both embroidered and printed versions and was in use into the 1950s, one of a few formation badges to survive into the National Service era. The badge was worn on each shoulder, beneath the unit shoulder title. Unusually the formation badge was also worn by Home Guard and ATS units whose members were used to free up other service personnel for the European Campaign. The Home Guard were used for loading and firing the guns and the women of the Auxiliary Territorial Service handled ammunition and controlled the gun directors. One of these ATS predictors was Mary Latham:
Fortunately I passed as a predictor operator No.3 which involved looking through a telescope, keeping the target on the horizon line. This demanded steady nerves under gunfire and we needed a lot of practice. At the end of the day, we were mentally and physically exhausted. We lost our voices as all orders were shouted as loudly as possible.
The procedure was as follows:
The predictor passed the information we put in on to the guns (3.7) then the gunners fired the shells. We worked in 2 groups- A and B. I was in B group; 5 on the predictor, 3 on height-finding. Spotters were on duty for 24 hours underground. The plotting room was always ready for any aircraft flying overhead.
We were well looked after with health inoculations every 3 months, regular dental care, F.F.I. (Free from infection) each Friday.
We (14 girls in each hut) were confined to our billets on Friday nights. We had to clean all our equipment, even to the studs on the bottom of our boots.
After 6 weeks practice in Arborfield, we were sent to Bude in Cornwall. This was our first Gun-Site, this was not operational, but it gave us a taste of what was to come. The only description of the gunfire (4 guns firing in a semi-circle with the predictor 20 yards away) was like hell let loose; however, we got used to it.
Our battery was moved to 36 different sites along the East and South coasts of England.
Our entertainment committee provided us with good entertainment during our off-duty hours: concerts, dancing, table-tennis, darts in the canteen and various sporting events outdoors.
During our time in Hull we shot down one of our own aircraft (a Wellington). The crew gave us the wrong signal. Fortunately they landed safely; just the tail missing. We were commended for our accurate firing but the crew were not impressed. Hull was badly hit at the time.
At Caister, near Yarmouth, 25 A.T.S.s were killed by machine-gun fire. The enemy aircraft flew over in the early morning at sunrise when it was impossible to see them and peppered the coast with gun-fire. It was a frightening sight to see Focke Wulfs diving down while we tried to pay our respects standing to attention during the playing of the Last Post to those who had been killed.
In 1943/44 we were posted to Southern Command. The batteries at Plymouth were fully operational with search-lights and 4.5 inch guns. Here we saw a lot of action as the German planes bombarded Plymouth and Devonport docks.
For an excellent history of women’s involvement in AA work please look here.