Ack-Ack Gun

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

Ack-Ack Gun, Condé-sur-Noireau, 1944 (Imperial War Museum)

The photograph was taken in August 1944 and shows a 3.7 Ack-Ack Gun firing air bursts on targets south of Condé-sur-Noireau in Northern France. They were used to fire over German positions in support of attacks by the Allied infantry (which included my father Kenneth Taylor, in the 6th Battalion of Green Howards).

On the right of the picture, below the barrel, is George Jackson from Leeds, who was in the Middlesex Regiment stationed at Dover Castle and part of the Allied Advance that began on D-Day on 6th June, 1944. The gun crew were accompanied along the way by a pet cockerell called "Billy". George Jackson survived the war but the rest of the crew were killed by a shell while standing in a food queue at Nijmegen.

Many thanks to Debbie, George's granddaughter, for the picture and the information.

The 3.7 inch Ack-Ack Gun was actually an anti-aircraft gun. When fired, it jumped right off the ground, creating a cloud of dust that obscured everything. As the picture shows, the gun crew wore no helmets, or flash guards, or ear defenders. In the absence of enemy aircraft the gun was given this new supporting role. Later in 1944 it was fully adapted to anti-tank use and was used in the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945.

Related: (i) The Nijmegen Bridge, (ii) Kenneth Taylor's War Diary.

Page last modified: October 03, 2018


Posted by Ben Lacy

March 4th, 2008 at 14:31

Look at the size of that shell! I'm sorry, but this cannot be a 37mm gun. The shell is too big.

Posted by Ben Lacy

March 4th, 2008 at 14:33

whoops, my bad… you said 3.7-inch (93.98mm). That's more like it. Sorry. Ben

Posted by mic lewis

October 11th, 2008 at 02:34

fabulous photograph… wonder if IWM sell prints?

Posted by Patrick

October 11th, 2008 at 12:54

It is a great photograph, and apparently they do sell prints »

Posted by Debbie

November 28th, 2008 at 14:04

Hi Patrick

I came back for a look at your site as I do periodically and noticed that someone had shown interest in the IWM photo of my grandfather and his gun crew. We found the photo completely by accident. A relative bought a book on the history of World War 2. When looking through it we saw the photo of grandad. You can imagine our surprise! The book had the reference number and source of the photograph in the back of it so we wrote to the Imperial War Museum and requested a print of the photo. I will have a look and see if I still have the reference number – if I do I will let you know so you can post it here.


Posted by Patrick

November 28th, 2008 at 14:25

Hi Debbie. Yes please! Many thanks.

Posted by Debbie

December 3rd, 2008 at 22:02


Have found the Imperial War Museum negative number for the photo of my grandfather on the gun. It is B.9227. There is another number in the top right corner of the accompanying notes which I don't know if it is relevant or not but thought I had better include it just in case M.385/64.

For the sake of completeness and interest the accompanying note reads:

"A 3.7 ack-ack gun firing air bursts on targets south of Conde-sur-Noireau. These guns were used in the Battle of Britain and at Dover. They were taken to France as ack-ack guns but due to lack of enemy planes, are now used in a new role firing air bursts over enemy positions. 15-8-44."


"NOTE: The above photograph was reproduced on Page 309, left hand bottom, of the "SPHERE" dated 2nd September, 1944, above the following caption:-

"A new role for A.A. guns in France. The 3.7 A.A. guns used in the Battle of Britain were taken over to France on Invasion Day. Owing to the absence of enemy aircraft however, these guns have been given a new role, they are used to fire over the German positions in support of attacks by our infantry, as shown here."

I do hope the above is of interest to visitors to your site. I am as you will appreciate extremely proud of my grandfather – and especially today which is the anniversary of his death.


Posted by Patrick

December 4th, 2008 at 13:59

Debbie, many thanks. Unless I'm doing something wrong, it's very hard to find out if this photo is actually for sale on the Imperial War Museum website. Searching with the keywords "Ack Ack" brings up only four images, none of which is this one.

Posted by mic lewis

January 17th, 2009 at 10:40

Hi Patrick……. Many thanks to Debbie for posting the IWM neg. no. for this photograph. I will pursue this with IWM.
The picture captures perfectly the incredibly hostile conditions and heavy physical demands required of heavy AA gun crew .
The precise teamwork and sheer brute strength required of these guys to achieve up to ten rounds per minute ( on a totally manual system ) speaks volumes for the quality of these men.
Totally ignored by WW2 filmakers the important contribution these men made to the defence of this country particularly during the blitz has been largely forgotten.
How tragic that George Jacksons' crew were killed in those circumstances so near to the end of the war. The bond between the members of these crews would have been very strong indeed. George Jackson must have been devastated.

Posted by John Ritchie

February 19th, 2009 at 17:05

Does anybody know What does the abreviation "ARL sight" stands for in relation to the 3.7 AA guns.



Posted by Clive

August 18th, 2009 at 15:36

ARL might stand for Admiralty Research Laboratory. There were a numbe of AA gunsights designed there by a Major Kerrison in the 1930/40s.

Just a guess but it might be right.


A Browser!

Posted by Clive

August 18th, 2009 at 15:40

I meant to mention; I am also a Boltonian – or at least Walkden/Worsley and the family are from West Houghton.

The browser again!

Posted by Pallix

February 25th, 2010 at 01:16

My father was born in Conde sur Noireau in 1920
Somewhere i am enjoy to see that the History is not lost!

Posted by William Lowther SC (known as Mr. Bill)

April 27th, 2010 at 10:50

I was a boy in the war and we had mobile AckAck guns running around the street's of Portchester Portsmouth for several years. I have put some of this story in my book A Step Beyond Courage. Details Available through my email . Hope this helps you.

Posted by Geoff Maple

July 21st, 2010 at 23:40

My father served in the 9th (middlesex) H.A.A. Regt RA… from 1940-1945 I have a LOT of photos plus the regiments history… published in Holland in 1944
Is this of any interest.

Posted by Patrick

July 23rd, 2010 at 11:42

Thanks. It would be interesting to know if you have any photos of Ack-Ack guns being used by the Middlesex Regiment.

Posted by Marine

August 3rd, 2010 at 14:14

Hello, sorry for my english. I come from Condé-sur-Noireau and i'm interersted by all about my town. Condé was destroyed at 95% during the night June 6th and 7th 1944. I do the visits of Condé every weeks in summer. If you have some information about Condé-sur-Noireau during the war i'm interested. Thanks.

Posted by Debbie

August 4th, 2010 at 23:38

I am very interested in Geoff Maple's post. Geoff: are you planning to get any of the photos and the regiment's history online or, indeed, are they already available electronically somewhere? It would be great for me to be able to see this archive. Thanks.

Posted by Geoff Maple

August 14th, 2010 at 22:50

Hello Debbie.
Sorry I havnt replied but I broke my leg on holiday and have just gotten out of Hospital.
I gave the Regts History to the Imperial War Museum many years ago to be copied and I guess they have other copies.
I have a lot of photos but not downloaded anywhere.
You can write to me at

Posted by norah alford

November 25th, 2011 at 16:31

I just visited your site for the first time. I am interested in learning how many women (i.e. A.T.S.) were part of each ack-ack crew. When these woman were posted to other units, after VE Day , I heard they sometimes comprised as many as three out of four.

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The art of Françoise Taylor:
paintings & drawings by my mother, vécue 1920-2007