Yesterday morning, 70 years ago today, Herbert Morison rose in the House of Commons. The Home Secretary had something to say to the nation.
Yes, it is a little facetious. Three V-1 flying bombs will strike the Borough of Beckingham, two in Southwark, one in Lambeth, one in Lewisham, and one in Wandsworth, but the two that struck Deptford in the early morning, killing 24, would have been more on the minds of parliamentarians than the dribble of bombs that came in through the rest of the day. Deptford Dockyard is a major staging area for the Invasion, and an area a quarter mile square around the dockyard will be struck by 7 V-1s and a V-2 during the campaign, doing significant military damage as well as pretty much wrecking the local housing stock. The rain and damp of a dismal summer (not to mention the coal-less winter to follow), penetrating through opened building envelopes, will complete the work of the high explosive blasts.
On the other hand, with the techno-utopians arguing that NOW is the moment of the robot revolution, it is as well to remind ourselves that they have been with us for a very long time indeed, and General Sir Frederick Pile told the Chiefs of Staff what Google is telling us now: A “robot defence” was needed against a “robot target.” (Dobinson, 423.)
By this, Pile meant that he can defend London with just 128 American guns with SCR 584 radars and BTL predictors (the MIT Radiation Laboratory design better know as the M-9 or AA Predictor Mark 10). These would be supported by just 64 British 3.7” with GL Mk III and Vickers predictors. (422-3).
It might seem a little odd that AA Command is pitching its DIVER plan, as it would come to be called, in terms of minimal resource allocation. This is certainly not what the Kent Gun Belt is going to look like in the end, but this is early in the planning process, and Pile's staff faces difficult problems. First, OVERLORD has priority. Many guns (and balloons) must go overseas, and many more to OVERLORD staging areas. Security for the embarking ports will require 1258 HAA (Heavy Anti-Aircrcaft, 3.7", 4.5", 5.25")and 950 LAA (40mm and 20mm) to protect basing areas. These would have to be in place by D-30, an assignment complicated by the fact that no more than 20% of the HAA was mobile. The rest would have to be provided with firing positions, and at least some provision had to be made for crew accommodation. Moreover, the continuing labour shortage called for AA Command to give up personnel as quickly as they could be replaced and limited the amount of construction that would be possible.
Fortunately. based on known CROSSBOW sites, the main threat was on a fairly narrow axis between the Pas de Calais and London (and between the Cotentin and Bristol). In the event, the necessary American equipment did not become available. Redeployment for DIVER/OVERLORD stripped guns from many other areas, a concern after the winter resumption of German strategic bombing against London, carried out by much more effective bombers carrying much more effective bombs, so that if all of the planes dispatched on the raid of 16/17 January had actually been able to find London, it would have been the fourth heaviest air raid inflicted on the capital to taht time. Fortunately, when a German 130 bomber raid was sent against Hull on 20 April, now defended by only 80% of the guns present in March, the Germans could not find Hull, either. Had they attacked the "Baedecker" targets, they would have encountered no guns at all.