Shooting Down the V-1
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Shooting Down the V-1
By George Silver

George Silver Writes.....

 I'm a retired Electronics Engineer that spent 30 years in the Aerospace
electronics world mostly in the Space and USN FBM area, did work on USAF programs too later.

 I read your stuff on the Proximity fuses.
I Thought you might enjoy the following.

  Here is a true story as I heard it, related to the early use of the fuzes in England during the V1 days.


  I was in the USAF, stationed in England during the years 1952 thru 1954. I was dating a pretty English Lass,  as many of us did, and we used to frequent a "working man's club"  near Doncaster, Yorkshire.


  Also there most nights were a group of older English men, some in their 60's and 70's. And as was often the case they had much to talk about with the "visiting yanks", including the following.

They told me this story as a serious `wonderment' of the "Yank's way of
doing things".

   Three of the group had been in a Home Guard Anti Aircraft Gunnery
battery, during WWII. They had been moved about and served in a defense of a number of cities and targets during the days the Germans were bombing England. They said they had shot down 4 German  bombers during their service. Quite proud of that since many batteries were never credited with any even though they fired thousands of shells at the bombers overhead. Barrel liners on some of the guns were replaced every couple weeks due to wear.


   When the V1's started arriving in England, the Battery they were in was moved from the defense of a Airbase north of London to an area on the South east coast of England, right under the paths of a lot of the V1`s.  When the Battery moved it took many trucks and ammo carriers to provide the needed transport for the Radar tracker, the generators and the cables to the 12 guns in their battery. Ammo Carriers were armoured trucks with hard tops so that the shards of the falling exploded Shells did not penetrate and detonate the ammo supplies, (the top was not thick enough to stop a un-detonated falling shell). Their Battery was one of first the radar tracked and guided units using large caliber rifled guns. They said it usually took about 6 to 10 thousand rounds of shells fired to down a V-1 due to the small size and speed of the V-1.  The bombers before this had taken an average of 4000 to 8000 shells to bring one down.


   They had been on the coast several weeks, each day and night firing up literally all their available ammunition stores at the V-1s going over, with very little success. The battery was used several times that night before, but no V-1s were being detected by the Coastal Warning Radars at that morning.


   In the late morning an American convoy of 4 guns, one ammo truck, a radar van, a comm. van, and generator had pulled into the small field next to the one used by their battery. It also had several trucks of troops. They set up tents, cook tent and also the guns were set up and boresighted with the antenna beam of the radar on the radar van.


     One of the Home guard walked over to welcome them and was met by a US Army MP before he got to the American battery. He was told that the Home guard was not to come over to chat with these gunners since `they had not finished their set up tasks yet.'  So the Home Guard member shrugged his shoulders, went back and told his mates that that was a `standoffish bunch'.


  About this time the ammo re-supply convoy returned accompanied by a British Command Vehicle  that  drove up to the Radar Van of the Home Guard AAA, Told the Home Guard that that was a US Army AAA battery that was training, they the Home Guard were not to distract them so the Yank's could get proficient faster.  Also the Home Guard was not to fire at the next groups of V-1s that came over so the US AAA battery could tell which was their fire and more accurately setup their radar acquisition and tracking system. and also the timers used for timed fire.  After the US Army battery had fired on 4 or so V-1s then the Home Guard batteries could again commence firing.

   The coastal warning system picked up the late afternoon launches of V-1s and passed the estimated paths and timing into the Home Guard AAA command system.  Without passing the word to the US Army AAA the Home Guard watch the US AAA units ready their 4 guns and await the V-1s. The AAA barrels were pointed in the expected directions so the Home Guard figured that they must have been also passed the incoming target info from a related loop.  As the V-1s got into range the US AAA tracked them for a bit then each gun fired at them in ripple sequence. After one ripple the V-1 blew up. 4 shells had been fired.   The next V-1 was not far behind and again the US AAA tracked, finally each gun fired in ripple sequence again and this time after 2 ripples the V-1 blew up.. 8 shells fired.  This happened each time a V-1 came within range of the US AAA Battery.

  The Home Guard Battery personnel from commander down to gunners, and ammo handlers could not believe what they had seen. But after the 4th V-1 was shot down the Home Guard followed orders and again opened up on the remaining.

   Later that night the Commander of the Home Guard Battery and one of the men who was telling the story walked over toward the  US AAA battery, stopping well clear and calling to the guards. A US Army Lt came out to meet them, thanked them for allowing them to calibrate their guns without having to color the shot to determine which was theirs.  When the Home Guard Commander asked the US Army Lt how they had gotten those amazing hits, the US Lt paused, then laughed and said that they had specially picked some soldiers from the Tenn. hills who were exceptional squirrel hunters and also were good quail hunters.. They trained them on the AAA gun and told them that if they wasted a lot of ammo they alone would have to clean all the
guns.


   Well Tenn. hillbillies are known for avoiding work if they can so they just keep the shooting eye on the targets so they do not have to clean guns. With that the US Lt turned and returned to the battery. The Home Guard people went back to their unit and told the rest of the conversation. All shook their head in wonder at the ways the "Yanks had found to do even the simple things".  They still believed that was the reason for the accurate shooting 6 and 7 years later..
I of course knew nothing about the "radar proximity fuze " so I could make no comment except to tell them that it was plausible, because most  the boys growing up in the Midwest where I grew up could shoot a flying blackbird out of the air with a 22. or the head off of a sunflower waving in the wind.   We hunted Pheasants with 22's and only shot them in the heads so the pheasant s body had no lead particles (shot) in it..

That is a true story, facts as I remember them from 50 years ago..

George Silver

 

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