GenElCo 3.7 inch Heavy AA gun
|Anti-Aircraft Artillery - A Short History added by John Webster on 23 Jan 2009 - 11:18.
|IN THE BEGINNING
Ever since man has taken to the air in an effort to gain a military advantage over his enemy, that enemy has been compelled to shoot down the means used to achieve it. Whilst shooting at a tethered observation balloon is a relatively straight forward ballistics problem, hitting a fast moving aircraft weaving and soaring in a three dimensional sky is another matter entirely. Despite the fact that the War Office had bought its first experimental heavier than air flying machine in 1910 and in 1912 had formed the Royal Flying Corps, the British Army had given very little thought to the difficulties involved in countering attack from the air.
The onset of the first world war in 1914 brought some urgency to the matter of Anti Aircraft defence. The four Squadrons of the R.F.C. Left for France at the outbrake of hostilities, and by November 1914 the Army had formed six A. A. sections and these too went to the front, armed with the Vickers 1 pounder, quick-firing 'pom-pom' guns. This was an all-purpose weapon dating from the Boer War, with a 1.46 inch caliber, firing either a light percussion fused shell or solid shot, and was pedestal mounted on a crude travelling carriage. This at least provided some A.A. defence for the BEF, however the possibility now existed that London, the seat of government and military stratagey, could be subjected to air attack by Zeppelin airships.
The task of defending London was given to the Royal Navy, who had the aircraft of the Royal Naval Air Service available for deployment in this role, and had recently adopted the 3 inch Quick-firing gun for shipboard use and could make about half a dozen available for a fairly simple conversion to land use. It was an adaption of this 3 inch gun which was to become the principal long term A.A. weapon, but it would be two years into the war before this gun made an appearance. At the behest of Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, the RNVR AA Corps was formed, and a number of Vickers 1 pounders on high angle mounts were deployed on roof tops for the defence of Government buildings in Whitehall. Others were sited along the Thames docks, and 3inch guns were placed at Woolwich, Chattenden, Waltham and Purfleet, bringing the total number of guns for the London defences to 30.
Outside London, the War Office was responsible for the protection of key instalations, such as ordance factories, ammunition depots and oil installations. To meet these commitments, the War Office decided to raise A.A. sections of the Royal Garrison Artillery, each equiped with two guns and motor transport.
The first recorded A.A. success of the war was on 23rd September 1914 by Lieutenant O.F.J. Hogg
of No.2 section, 3 Corps who shot down a German Aircraft expending 75 rounds from a Vickers 1 pounder over open sights. It is questionable who was the more surprised, the Pilot or the gun crew.
|Our Gun added by John Webster on 28 Jan 2009 - 18:21.
Having rebuilt my Matador back to Artillery Tractor spec, the natural progression was to find something for it to tow. I have always believed that restored machines are far more interesting if they are doing the job for which they were originally built.
I had been well impressed by Denny Thompsons 3.7", having assisted him with it at a couple of shows. At that time there was only one other that I knew of, and when I heard that it might be for sale I made some enquires. The deal was done and I became the owner of a Vickers pattern 3.7" Heavy A.A. Gun. built in Canada in 1942 by the General Electric Co.
Some parts had been removed by its previous owners, the Portuguese army, such as the davits for hoisting the rear axle, and the firing platform. Luckily, I had Dennys gun to copy as a pattern, and these were made during the winter of 2002/03.
Between 2002 and 2004 we took the gun and Matador to events from Fort George in the North, to Bletchely Park in the South.
In January 2005 the gun was damaged in the same fire in which we lost the Matador, and is currently undergoing restoration once more. See Gallery for pictures.