Ack-Ack Command A.T.S. reunion
|A.A. command and the ATS added by John Webster on 1 Feb 2009 - 19:14.
|Anti Aircraft Command at its peak was the largest single Command in the British Army. despite this or perhaps as a consequence, it was always short of manpower. Pre-war lack of funding, meant that the TA regiments had never been up to their full strenth of men or guns and equipment, and as the war progressed, it was required to send ever increasing numbers of gunners and officers to over-seas service with the field armies.
In 1941 General Sir Frederick Pile, General Officer Commanding A.A. Command, took a decission that had more social implications than tactical, by deploying ATS girls in "mixed" A.A. batteries where for the first time in the British Army, women were to serve along side men in a combatant role.
Girls from all walks of life volunteered to train as "Gunners", a term never officially applied since they were ATS, not R.A., however, they were granted the privilege of wearing the R.A. Grenade and white lanyard. The Girls never "maned" the guns, apart from the ethical implications, the physical effort involved in handling the ammunition was more than could have been expected of them. They did however do almost every other job, from fire control instruments to plotting, laying telephone lines to driving and despatch riders. A total of over 74,000 ATS volunteers served in A.A. Command, and by the end of 1944 they outnumbered the men.
After the war, there was little need for women in a peacetime army and most of the girls went back to civvy jobs or family life. In the late 1980s and early 90s, Vee Robinson, Dorothy Brewer Kerr and others published books about their wartime experiences in AA command. This seemed to rekindle the sence of belonging the girls had felt, and in 1993 the first full scale reunion since the war was organised. These reunions continued as an annual event, until, in 2004 it was decided to quit while they were ahead, and, rather than watch numbers dwindle as an inevitable consequence of passing years, the last national reunion was held.