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15 October 2014
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Manning the “ack-ack” guns

by The Building Exploratory

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Contributed by 
The Building Exploratory
People in story: 
Jack Smith
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
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Contributed on: 
31 January 2006

This story was submitted to the People’s War web site by Karen Elmes at the Building Exploratory on behalf of Jack Smith and has been added to the site with his permission. He fully understands the site's terms and conditions.

Jack was 19 when the war broke out, and lived with his family in Oswald Street, Hackney. He had wanted to join the airforce, but it was full up, so he was given the choice of Army or Navy, and he chose to join the Army. When he first joined up he was on the “ack-ack” guns. The “ack-ack” gun took 11 men to work. It was tremendous in size. One man stood on the platform, two men turned the handles and it took the other eight men to load the shells. The gun was bolted to the ground in cement, and the gun pit wall was four foot down because underneath there were bunks to sleep on in a lull. The targets were the German planes. Jack was stationed at Temple Mills in Walthamstow, and his shift used to start at six until six the next day.

When the invasion from Germany threatened they were positioned elsewhere to try and prevent the planes from reaching London. First they were stationed at Walton-on-the-Naize, for three weeks when they had to pack all the guns onto the back of a lorry and go on to another place.

Jack made many friends in the army and got on very well with them. On one occasion they were on alert, the guns were sighted and ready for action and they had to move around keeping up with the target. The gun misfired and his mate who was a loader waited two minutes and then opened the breech to take the shell out and dump it. He only got so far when it exploded, killing him. All they could find was his tin hat.

After a period in the army Jack volunteered for a different job, however he was unable to talk about what he did. When he volunteered for the job his past was investigated to make sure he was suitable. He was told he could not talk about anything he did, not even to his family.

This story was recorded by the Building Exploratory as part of a World War Two reminiscence project called Memory Blitz. To find out more please go to links

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