BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

My Time in the War: AA Batteries in Dorset and Chatham

by ageconcerndurham1

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Freda Illiffe
Location of story: 
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 March 2004

This story is submitted with the permission of the author, Freda Illiffe, on behalf of Age Concern Durham County.

I joined in 1941 and travelled up to Dalkieth in Scotland for 6 weeks' training as a predictor and then was stationed to Dorset. There I joined an ACKACK battery, where I worked on a predictor. These helped the guns. When a plane was sighted, we gave the range and we had to focus on getting the plane in line with the predictor. We would look through a telescope and there were a cross at the end of it, which had to be lined up with the plane. When all the dials were lined up properly, each girl was lined up properly, then that information from the dials were sent to the guns, which then used these to fire. The guns that the men fired were 3.5, and the longer the gun, the further they fired.

Then towards the end of the war, around 1944, when the Doodle Bugs came, I was stationed at St. Mary's marshes at Chatham. This was real scary because I didn't know when the Doodle Bugs were going to drop. Even though I still did the same work, there was the added risk of being bombed on. While we were there, we had to go on duty. While on duty, we had to sleep in tents, so that when the bombers came, we would be able to alert the unit. We slept on the canvas in the tents, in bunks - I never liked the bottom one! There were lots of earwigs crawling about!
When a friendly plane came past, whether in daytime or nighttime, they would drop 'colours' - either red, green or amber in different combinations - and we would know they were friendlies and cease fire. But if it was a German plane, they didn't do this so we carried on firing. Of course, at night, it was so dark that we were firing almost blindly and the predictors couldn't be used; so we used a plotting table on the ground instead in the command post. This was a fixed concrete block on the ground and the plotting tables were like maps with little miniature planes on them, which the girls could move with a little pointer. When a plane came into range, it was detected on the radar, and one of the girls would then plot this onto the plotting table, and we would know where to aim.
There were special radar girls who had vans in the fields with aerials to track the planes. We always said the radar girls were cleverer than us, because their training was a lot harder than ours!
When I joined, I actually volunteered. What happened was, because I lived on a farm in Frosterly, I was exempt from military service. I however, didn't want to stay home and actually volunteered to join them! My mother never knew, even until the day she died. I told them that I had been called up.
After the war in Europe ended, I then joined the Royal Ordinance because the ACKACK wasn't needed any more. With them I travelled back up to Scotland and did all kinds of jobs. I issued uniforms to all the troops that were just joining up - there were some lovely kilts! I also learnt to drive the big forklift trucks and stack all kinds of things, such as paint. I would put them onto a palette and the forklift would transport them around the warehouse.

I was the only person from the Northeast, we were all from different parts of the country.

This story is submitted with the permission of the author, Freda Illiffe, on behalf of Age Concern Durham County

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Forum Archive

This forum is now closed

These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - My Time in the War

Posted on: 25 April 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Freda

I very much enjoyed reading your story. You made it all sound very interesting. Well done!


Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

British Army Category
Auxiliary Territorial Service Category
Kent Category
Edinburgh and Lothian Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy