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15 October 2014
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A Female Gunner in the Mixed, Heavy Ack Ack.

by derbycsv

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
People in story: 
Ruth Hamilton (nee Minshull). Army no: 235061
Location of story: 
Various bases, UK.
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
24 August 2005

631 Mixed Heavy Ack Ack gunsite, Bromley 1944.

I was 16 when I joined up. I had 5 uncles in the war and dad was an Air Ministry Policeman at an ammo dump in Buxton so I dearly wanted to go and do my bit. One day, instead of going to work, I went to Manchester and joined up. I told them I'd forgotten my National Insurance card so they couldn't check my age. I don't think they bothered to follow it up.

I wanted to be a cook but they did some tests and sent me to Mixed Heavy Ack Ack, Royal Artillery. I went to basic training at Lancaster and then on to Park Hall Camp, Oswestry 2 days before Christmas. We had no cards or presents. We went on to a firing camp at Tycroes, Anglesey, where they had the guns. When the first gun went off I nearly died because of the shock of the flash and the bang. We had no ear muffs and from that day onwards I had tinnitus.

We went on to Manchester - East Lancashire Road and we were thrilled but when we got there we had dummy guns because there weren't enough real ones! After about 10 days, they came in one night and told us to get up as we were moving to Glasgow where we had dummy guns again. We were there for 10 days and then we went to Portishead, Bristol, which is where we first saw action. Bristol was bombed so we fired back. I don't if we shot any down - you never got to know unless you saw one. Then we went onto Yeovil and Chadwell Heath, Essex. We moved every 10 days to gun sites around London. After that we went to firing camp at Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex. They had new remote control technology there which was a panel with dials instead of lots of pieces of equipment. Women were better at this because our hands were smaller!

We went to Ravensbourne, Kent, and the gunsite there was on the Oxo sports ground. Outside the gates was the Times Club and were were allowed to go there. About 12 of us lived in the pavillion which was beautuful compared to what we were used to.

We were sent on to Northern Ireland and were the first mixed heavy ack ack to go to there. It was on a site on Loch Foyle, miles from anywhere and is now the Maze prison. We then went back to Ravensbourne and 'doodlebug alley'. The doodlebugs all came 'up this alley' and over our camp. We fired at them but they carried on. One dropped near our site and it was scary as no-one knew what they were. The train to Dover passed our camp and we guessed DDay waasn't far off because of all the trains and troops going by.

When we were disbanded most ATS members went to Biscester, Oxford, to a huge ordinance depot. I ws put in an office on my own called 'Units Location' - very secret. All the camps abroad had a secret code and it was my job to put the code on all the invoices. After Ack Ack it was so boring but several of my friends were in the stores and we lived in a thatched cottage near Thame, Oxford so that was nice.

more photos are available at: a5383325, a5384117, a5384496, a5384577.

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