How I Went To War - 4
Towards the end of the month the Unit moved to Cambridgeshire not far from the RAF airfield at Duxford and our role there was defence of the air base.
Here we had to organise the camp from scratch, setting up gun positions and command post, erecting the bell tents and the cookhouse and store marquees. The latrines consisted of a deep trench with a pole strung across for perching on and surrounded by a hessian screen.
It was a hazardous operation and one could easily drop an item of clothing into the mire with direful consequences
Soon the guns and equipment arrived with loads of ammunition to be unloaded and then it was a scene of great activity to position the guns and level them using clinometers, also arranging the Command Post instruments and phone lines to GOR (Gun Operations Room) probably at the RAF base at Duxford from which we would receive early warning of enemy attacks.
Guns in position and duly lined up with the predictor, dials were checked and we were ready for action.
Luftwaffe Map of Duxford Aerodrome: 1940.
[APB Comment: I added the English translations of the German terms and the north pointing arrow.
The Jerry arrow shows Cambridge as 13km south, when in fact it is due north of Duxford.]
The day war broke out was September 3rd and the morning was fine and clear. Britain had at last declared war on Germany, the sirens wailed in the distance and we rushed to man the guns complete with our gas respirators at the alert and expecting a mass raid by German bombers almost at once.
We stayed on the guns all the day long. Food was brought out to us; no bombers appeared and we were at last ‘stood down’.
Vickers 3.7-inch Heavy Anti-Aircraft Gun
We soon got into the daily routine of checking the guns for orientation and performing the necessary duties of guards, pickets and cookhouse fatigues. Even the cooks, whose greatest effort was to serve up brown stew on a regular basis, began to improve their menu; one particular speciality being porridge, also hot sweet tea strong enough to keep a spoon standing upright (well, that’s a bit overstated).
The high point of each week was the visit to the RAF camp for showers and a decent meal eaten off plates instead of mess tins. We even had prunes with custard which went down well, perhaps to keep us fit and well
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