GLS / 1956 / Hong Kong
 
This photograph was taken on an anti-aircraft training exercise with the 27th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment. My responsibility was setting up the radar equipment and then providing maintenance support.

The noise of the anti-aircraft guns was tremendous. When a shell was fired the gun would jump in the air, creating a cloud of dust that obscured everything. In the photograph, the barrel of the adjacent gun is only just visible through dust kicked up by the battery of guns.

The target was a windsock towed by an aircraft. This was first picked up on a surveillance radar, then control transfered to a fire control radar. The coordinates were then fed into a predictor (an early form of computer) which estimated where the target would be by the time a shell had reached the aircraft's altitude. The output from the predictor was fed to dials on the anti-aircraft gun, and two gunners seated on the gun were responsible for keeping the gun aligned with the coordinates on the dials. One can be seen in the photo.

It did not occur to me then to question the effectiveness of the anti-aircraft equipment, but looking back I wonder just how much use it would have been. It was one thing to hit a windsock slowly travelling across the sky, but we were in the age of the jet, of the MIG 15. The radar and predictor could have coped with the increase in speed, but the 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun relied on gunners turning handles to keep the gun aligned with the bearing and altitude readings on the dials. Just how fast could they twiddle and still retain accuracy?

Radar and electronic prediction had improved tremendously, but the 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun used by the 27th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment was just as it had been in World War II.

Something else that strikes me now. Where are the helmets? The flash guards? The ear defenders?