During World War Two, the last line of defence against German bombers was the Anti-Aircraft ("Ack Ack") Guns. These were based all over Lancashire to defend factories, the civilian population and military sites. One of our Grandfathers manned the Ack Ack guns and we have been trying to find out where he might have been based. In our research we have found a number of possible sites, some are listed here, others are simply local to us. We have a lot more to learn about these sites, but what is surprising is that the German Luftwaffe knew of their existence during the war.
This site (the five pictures here - two courtesy of Google Earth) are in fields off Brandlesholme Road in Bury. We alerted the County Archaeologist of their existence and they recorded them on the SMR (now HER) - see details below
"Remains of World War II searchlight site. Visible on aerial photographs as one complete penannular enclosure, a second half levelled with the hint of a third, in a classic triangular pattern. A smaller rectangular earthwork lies to the SE and closer to the road is another area of earthwork which appears to be a further circular emplacement with short access road linking it to Brandlesholme Road. The three penannular enclosures will have been the searchlights, the rectangular, the command bunker, and the remaining earthwork would be the AA gun emplacement. The site consists of earthworks about 1m high with occasional exposure of bricks, possibly used as hardcore." (SMR entry, Greater Manchester Arcaeology Unit).
Stanhill / Knuzden POW camp
The guns at the Stanhill/Knuzden camp, may have replaced earlier searchlight batteries, according to the GMAU report - whose own information was from a local resident. Were they there as defense for the camp, or to defend the local factories?
There are many QL and Starfish sites on the surrounding moors.
Above: A German Luftwaffe reconaissance photo of the Heaton Park area, with AA sites and searchlights marked on!
Right: Part of a map of Heaton Park used to show new recruits where everything is. The AA emplacement is at the edge of the park adjacent to Sheepfoot Lane.
A Heavy Anti Aircraft gun site near The Trafford Centre, just off Kingsway Park.
In its day it would have protected the heavy industry and war work going on at the huge Trafford Park complex. The site is now part of playing fields at Queensway
Left: Image courtesy of Google Earth.
The Urmston Anti-Aircraft Gun Emplacement bases are surprisingly well intact (part is lost to a modern housing development). A nice memorial has been erected within the site with some explanation and some wider context. It states: "Gun emplacements housing four 3.7 inch heavy anti-aircraft guns were built in an arc and this arc centred on a fifth emplacement with blast walls which housed the predictor and its crew."
According to the Friends of Broadhurst Park website: "During the Second World War, prefabs were erected on part of the park for Polish soldiers who manned an anti-aircraft battery on the site. (The circular foundations of the battery can still be seen on Broadhurst Playing Field near to the boundary with the cemetery).
Manchester residents moved into the prefabs after the war and lived there until the 1960′s when the buildings and Moston Hall were demolished. The area was grassed over and trees were planted. Apple trees from the prefab gardens can still be seen."
We were tipped off by Ben (thanks, Ben!) that this site still existed. Having looked at it, we agreed that it certainly looked WW2. Then Ben found the Friends of Broadhurst Park page that confirmed it.
Lucas Green AA Gun site. Associated with the defence of Chorley / Euxton ROF site. It is a DFW3/23 pillbox and an attached AA gun emplacement designed to accommodate a static Bofors 40mm light anti-aircraft (LAA) gun.