Yes, I know: it should be a 48-star flag... The 115th A.A.A. Gun Battalion, 1943 to 1945

England (Part 3)

CAMP BLANDFORD, DORSET

After a gruelling three day trip the battalion arrived at Camp Blandford, Dorset, at seven in the evening of March 6th, 1944.

The original purpose of our move to Blandford was to take a course in "Mobile Training" under the British. Under combat conditions our batteries are often miles apart. Should we be ordered to another specified area perhaps a hundred miles away to set up an immediate air defense, it would be necessary to move our motor-powered vehicles, plus our guns, range, office and tentage equipment quickly and with a minimum of confusion. The British had evolved a fast and accurate method of moving all the elements simultaneously, and it was with this end in mind that we started our training, on March 13. The whole course was typically British, "everything being done by the numbers", and although there was plenty of bitching as we became acquainted with column control, fast black-out convoy driving, report centers (RC's), etc., we gradually became aware that the British hadsomething there.

We showed steady improvement under the concentrated tutelage and by the time our two weeks were nearly up we were ready for our Battalion Problem. It lasted three days and closely simulated battle conditions. We left camp early one morning and during the next three days moved about Southern England, setting up one combat mission after another, moving often at night under the most difficult conditions of road, terrain and weather. The critique at the end of the course found us all in solid agreement that we had benefited immeasureably from the course and this was to be borne out under fighting conditions in France. The British Army gave us a high rating for our work.

At this point the battalion was informed that it would be a part of the initial landing force on the French Shores, and our future training took on new importance. We worked seriously and carefully from then on to prepare for the day when we would hit the beaches.

The landing might have to be made from the ramp of an LST into several feet of water before hitting the beach sands. Therefore all vehicles, range equipment, and guns would have to be specially waterproofed so that they would reach dry land even with motors running under water and without any damage to our delicate equipment. Too, they would have to be immediately stripped of their waterproofing upon reaching shore and be ready to go into action within a matter of minutes. No easy job, but special waterproofing instructors showed us how.

Up to this point most of our training was directed towards air targets, our primary mission; however, realizing that under certain circumstances it might be imperative for us to turn our versatile 90's at ground targets, Higher Hq. prescribed for us a course in Field Artillery Firing. And a beautiful Field Artillery piece the 90 proved to be with its high muzzle velocity giving its 27 pound shell a flat trajectory allowing unusual accuracy. We learned about tree bursts, particulary effective against dug-in ground troops, and air-bursts too . . . the flak bursting at tree-top level tearing those under it, causing real consternation among troops under the fire.

No sooner had we completed this intense training and invasion preparations than we suddenly found ourselves saddled with the job of servicing the entire Blandford Camp. This meant KP, MP Patrols, police details, trucking details, operating two tremendous mess halls and a thousand other details for every one. There were bright spots of entertainment and relaxation at Blandford and these were well taken advantage of. Bournmouth, right on the Channel, was the most beautiful town we had yet seen in England and was active with a variety of entertainment. Passes were frequent -- but not too, they never are -- and everyone managed to get there at least once. We were not completely without divertisements at camp for we had the "tea and cakes" NAAFI Joe McKenna and his sister put on an excellent show under USO auspices (some of us saw them again in Luxembourg) and ENSA tried nobly but failed miserably with several show attempts.

It was not entirely with regret that we heard "Prepare for March Order" and pulled out of Blandford headed for Stonehenge on 11 May 1944.

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arrives at Camp Blandford, Dorset on the 6th of March, 1944 for two weeks of Mobile Training from the British Army. Their subsequent high rating in exercises helps earn them selection for the initial invasion force. "our future training took on new importance. We worked seriously and carefully from then on to prepare for the day when we would hit the beaches."

At this point (still at Camp Blandford), the 115th begins training to use their big guns as Field Artillery, skills that will be put to good use before too long. The high-velocity 90mm gun begins to show its potential as a field piece. Total time at Blandford is about two months.
 
Updated Tuesday June 07, 2005 09:10:09 PDT
The original text of The Story of the 115th A.A.A. Gun Battalion, published by the unit in 1945, is in the public domain. So how, you may ask, can I claim that the contents of these web pages are protected by copyright?

The answer is that it is my own transcription of the text and images into electronic format, and compilation into these web pages that is copyrighted. In addition, the web design, art, and annotations, plus all material from my father's personal albums are copyrighted original works. I reserve all rights to how all these materials are used. You may not copy them or store them in any retrieval system without permission.