Monday 18 September 2023

World War 2 Eighty Years On - September / October 1943.

The troop from 371 Bty. of 117 Regt. stationed at Dorney   Camp (SM7) was relieved by B troop from 564(M)HAA Battery. Formed and trained at Blandford, Dorset, 564 Bty. went to Bude for firing practice before moving into Emmbrook camp, Wokingham, near Reading as heavy rain had made Emmbrook very muddy, making the move to Windsor most welcomed.    

Enemy air activity was no longer of mass attack or Blitzkrieg on London, but small raids were still taking place which required the Battery at site SM7 Dorney Common and other sites in the district to be on the alert as Height taker and Plotter, Corporal Bratt remembers.

‘Many broken night's sleep were endured as often the alarm bells would go two or three times a night. Then it was a case of out of bed, into your boots, grab your greatcoat and steel helmet and "Run like Hell" as it was a distance from the A.T.S. huts to the Command Post. An Ack-Ack (anti-aircraft) site in the middle of a bad winter night was not a funny place to be.  

Whilst stationed at Dorney 564 Bty. bagged its first German Raider which crashed at High Wycombe. Corporal Bratt of C Section was on the height finder that night and witnessed the hit in the telescopic sights. On being stood down after the action, Major Haines Bty. Commander, ordered the NAAFI to be opened up and a celebration took place.  Excited with their success, an armed guard of an Officer and six gunners went to the crash and stood guard overnight. It was 564's victim and they wanted no one pinching their glory. Although life on Ack-Ack site was hard, especially during the winter months when Nissen huts could be cold and damp, being with a battery for a long period was like being with the family, more so when one had joined at seventeen and a half years.  When the guns went into action it was advisable for the village residents to take shelter.  On one occasion the aircraft trackers mis-aimed and shot off the chimney pots of buildings in Alma Road.   L/Sergeant Whitaker of ‘D Section’ also a Height/Range finder recalls that a propeller off the plane, which crashed in the High Wycombe area, was given to the Battery to mark their first victory. Major Haines, had it mounted with a suitably inscribed brass plaque’.  This was the action of February 22/23 1944 - see chapter 6.

Fire Watching

 In the fight to reduce the effect of firebomb attacks regulations were introduced calling on every man working less than sixty hours a week and every woman working less than forty-five hours to do forty-eight hours fire watching a month.

Their equipment comprised of sand buckets, sand scoop and stirrup pump. 

A distinctive grey Fire Watcher's tin hat was supplied. The estimated available number of firewatchers in 1943 was put at six million.

Note Fire Watchers were part of Air Raid Precautions. The ARP was renamed Civil Defence in 1941




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