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The life of an ATS ‘Ack Ack’ Girl

A member of the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) serving with a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun battery, December 1942.
A member of the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) serving with a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun battery, December 1942.
A member of the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) serving with a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun battery, December 1942. Identified by her son as Sheila Hopwood from Fratton, she later married a Royal Marine and became  Sheila Hutchin.
A member of the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) serving with a 3.7-inch anti-aircraft gun battery, December 1942. Identified by her son William (in 2015) as Sheila Hopwood from Fratton, she later married a Royal Marine and became Sheila Hutchin.

An ATS spotter with binoculars at the anti-aircraft command post. A 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun can be seen in the background.
An ATS spotter with binoculars at the anti-aircraft command post. A 3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun can be seen in the background.
ATS girls operating the height and range finder.
ATS girls operating the height and range finder.

ATS girls using an identification telescope.
ATS girls using an identification telescope.

Some time during December 1942 the War Office photographers were out with their colour film again. Given the difficulty of their subject matter, including gunfire, they made a pretty impressive job of it.

From 1941 all unmarried women between 20 and 30 years old were called up to join one of the auxiliary services. These were the Auxilliary Territorial Service (ATS), the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and the Women’s Transport Service. Later this conscription was extended to some married women. They were not intended to serve in the front line of battle – but for much of the war the front line was indistinguishable from the home front, especially with regard to Anti Aircraft gunnery. 731 women died serving in these Auxilliary units during the war.

Mary Latham was just one of hundreds of thousands of young women who suddenly found their lives completely transformed:

The year was 1942. I was a hairdresser in Chorley, Lancashire. As hairdressing was considered to be a luxury trade in wartime and I was 18 years old, I was given the choice of munitions work or joining one of the forces.

My friend May and I travelled to Preston to sign up in the forces and received the King’s Shilling. Two weeks later we were notified to go to Lancaster. We were met at Preston station by a sergeant, taken to Lancaster and fitted out with our uniforms.

How different my life changed in the next 4 years. We moved from Lancaster to Arborfield, where we did 6 weeks of intensive training all at the double. Each one was assessed for:
* Fitness
* Hearing
* Eyesight
* Nerves (in Ack-Ack action)
It was necessary to pass all the tests.

A battery of 4.5 inch anti-aircraft guns in action at night. In the foreground is an ATS section operating the height finder.
A battery of 4.5 inch anti-aircraft guns in action at night. In the foreground is an ATS section operating the height finder.

Fortunately I passed as a Predictor operator No.3 – which involved looking through a telescope, keeping the target on the horizon line. This demanded steady nerves under gunfire and we needed a lot of practice. At the end of the day, we were mentally and physically exhausted. We lost our voices as all orders were shouted as loudly as possible.

The Predictor team of ATS girls at work.
The Predictor team of ATS girls at work.

The procedure was as follows:

The predictor (Kerry – called after its inventor) [Major A.V. Kerrison at the Admiralty Research Laboratory, Teddington] passed the information we put in on to the guns (3.7) then the gunners fired the shells. We worked in 2 groups – A and B. I was in B group – 5 on the predictor, 3 on height-finding.

Plotters were on duty for 24 hours underground. The plotting room was always ready for any aircraft flying overhead.

Auxiliary Territorial Service plotters at work at 428 Battery, Coast Defence Artillery. The plotting table is covered and a false coastline has been drawn on the cover by the photographer to allow the censor to pass this photograph. Dover, December 1942. (This comes from a different photographic sequence - this was not AA but coastal defence).
Auxiliary Territorial Service plotters at work at 428 Battery, Coast Defence Artillery. The plotting table is covered and a false coastline has been drawn on the cover by the photographer to allow the censor to pass this photograph. Dover, December 1942. (This comes from a different photographic sequence – this was not AA but coastal defence).

We were well looked after with health inoculations every 3 months, regular dental care, F.F.I. (Free From Infection) each Friday.

We (14 girls in each hut) were confined to our billets on Friday nights. We had to clean all our equipment, even to the studs on the bottom of our boots.

After 6 weeks practice in Arborfield, we were sent to Bude in Cornwall. This was our first Gun-Site this was not operational, but it gave us a taste of what was to come.

The only description of the gunfire (4 guns firing in a semi-circle with the predictor 20 yards away) was like hell let loose. However, we got used to it.

Our battery was moved to 36 different sites along the East and South coasts of England.

During our time in Hull we shot down one of our own aircraft (a Wellington). The crew gave us the wrong signal. Fortunately they landed safely – just the tail missing. We were commended for our accurate firing but the crew were not impressed. Hull was badly hit at the time.

At Caister, near Yarmouth, 25 A.T.S.s were killed by machine-gun fire. The enemy aircraft flew over in the early morning at sunrise, when it was impossible to see them and peppered the coast with gun-fire. It was a frightening sight to see Focke Wulfs diving down while we tried to pay our respects, standing to attention during the playing of the Last Post, to those who had been killed.

Read more of Mary Latham’s story on BBC People’s War. See also the experiences of Phyllis as an ATS girl on Ack Ack, and Frank Yates on operating an Anti Aircraft gun.

As mentioned in the comments, if you are able to get to Norfolk in the UK, RAF Langham would be well worth a visit.

A battery of 3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns firing at night.
A battery of 3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns firing at night.
ATS girls working the Kine-Theodolite which photographs the shell burst, thereby checking the results of the Predictor crews.
ATS girls working the Kine-Theodolite which photographs the shell burst, thereby checking the results of the Predictor crews.
ATS Kine-Theodolite operators viewing the developed film taken by the Kine-Theodolite.
ATS Kine-Theodolite operators viewing the developed film taken by the Kine-Theodolite.

102 thoughts on “The life of an ATS ‘Ack Ack’ Girl”

  1. My Nan Ada Bassett (nee Gelder) was a “Telephonist A.A.” which I believe was a position in the plotting room. I have 2 group photos, one taken at Bude in Cornwall which I believe was a training ground, probably now the site of GCHQ Bude. the other I do not know where it was taken.

    Both photos available for download here (password is 2sxKDb2Q):

    If you can identify anyone in photos, please let me know by emailing me at

  2. My mother was first in the Land Army (hjave photos) then joined the ATS and moved on Ack Ack guns; seemingly in various parts of Britain. Then she trained for Radar and was sited in the basement od Danson House Mansion in Welling in Kent. Today I have much interesting material on the role of ATS, Ack Ack and Radar. I have a photo naming all the first names of the women in her troop; she also gives the troop leader’s name but not the whereabouts.. Another photo shows Mum somewhere outside a typical army hut with a large group of both men and women all in Uniform. However, I cannot tell anything from these photos. I am in the process of writing up my Family History and the stories about the individuals are very much part of this process (my father having been a POW). War was not a subject talked about but Mum did mention her working in Danson Park Mansion; as children we regularly went into the Park. MyGrandfather had been a Groundsman there and looked after the birds in the aviary. My sister tells me he often bought home little chicks to rear.

    If any one can help please contact me on

  3. My Mom was in the ATS and was stationed in East Anglia where she met my Dad who was in the US Army as part of the Normandy invasion. He landed at Utah on D+20 and was with Patton’s 3rd Army into Germany. Meanwhile, Mom deployed forward with her unit and was outside of Antwerp on VE Day. She loved telling the story of walking down the road with her best friend when a lorry full of British troops rolled by and they all loudly announced the war was over (in the west anyway). Shortly afterwards, she volunteered to go to the Pacific theater where she figured my Dad would be sent, but he got the Red Cross to send her home to Bradford-on-Avon where they were married in late June. Dad was destined for the Pacific, but the atomic bombs were dropped on the Japanese and he ended up not going. Instead, they came to the States and were working on an apple orchard in my Dad’s hometown, intending to buy it. But, the owner sold it to his brother and Dad went back into the Army and served for 32 years. Mom was always a Brit at heart and served as an Army wife with her three sons following the family as we moved all across the world. Mom and Dad both passed away in 2008, just three weeks apart.

  4. Wonderful
    Thank You
    This is in Reference to Elsie Platek Gill Gledhill
    This is amazing I Found the camera my Mother mentioned the Kine-Thedolite!!
    She was in London when a Buzz Bomb went over. They took refuge in a factory near a hot water heater she was marked for life by that. She talked about time in Scotland people and eveets but not service.
    She married Frank J Platek 1945 in Washington coming over on the British Army Staff. They arrived on the Queen Mary my Dad was a Master Sargent helping troops to and fro.
    I have a picture out of a news paper where they are celebrating VJ Day in Washington DC.
    Wonderful sight makes me want to find out more.
    Joanie Anderson
    Mpls MN

  5. My mum Lilian Crellin [1923-2011] was in the ATS stationed in Kent, Battery 542.
    Have some photographs of her in uniform and photographs of friends in the ATS.
    From writing on the back of photographs my mum was a group leader .

  6. My mum Margaret Mary O’kelly born 1915 in Kilmeedy, Limerick, Ireland, was in the ATS, she never spoke to me about it, but one of my sisters said that my mum told her she was promoted to sergeant and didn’t really want it. Would really love to find out more about her time during the war.

  7. My Mom, Isobel (Tink) Seraphine Darvell was ATS; in addition to working on the guns, she was a radar operator on the Devon south coast. She was also among the first batch of women to land in France after D-Day, following the front line up through Belgium and the Netherlands. At the end of the war she was invited to join a small party led by Lady Mountbatten when it went into liberated Bergen-Belsen—something like three weeks afterwards. Mom told us a lot of stories over the years (she passed in 2004). She met Dad in the Ministry of Pensions after the war. He had been a navigator-bomb-aimer Desert Campaign (d. 1996).

  8. My mother, Marjorie Fearon, was in the ATS, but spoke very little of her wartime life. I have photos of her in uniform and a photo of her taken in Surrey but very few relevant details. She was born at the end of 1921, met my dad whilst in the forces. He told me she decoded messages but also that she did the paperwork for troops being sent abroad. How do I find further information about her time in the ATS? Many thanks for any information

  9. My Mother Agnus Miles served in the ATS on the AA guns in London and later moved over to Belgium after D-Day. Got injured while in a truck crossing a train track andgot hit by a train. She married a NZ Airforce Navigator John Simmonds in 1944. Where do I go to find out her service history and records? My email address is if anyone can help.

  10. My mum Mary Guthrie served on the guns, I remember her saying she had to shout” predictor steady” at the appropriate time, I do believe she served in Middlesex. I did ask her how many planes she shot down, her reply was well nearly one and that was a Lancaster the didn’t give the correct ID sign but he soon did!!

  11. Hi
    My grandmother was in the A.T.S and Ack Ack during the Second World War her name was Alice Passmore/Cassinelli and I believed based just outside of London somewhere? Looking for any information on her etc if anyone can help ? Thanks

  12. Nita Gudgeon,

    I’m looking for any information regarding my late mother who served in the ATS from 1947-1950. She originated from Southampton and trained at Catterick camp before being posted to Hanover in Germany where she joined the Army of the Rhine as a switchboard operator.
    She used to often speak of her adventures with the ATS and had many happy memories.
    Any information regarding my mum would be much appreciated.

  13. My mother Iris Doreen (Snell) Gilbert later married name Parsons and then Evans told me she was in the ATS and was on the searchlights in Hyde Park. Does anyone have any information about her please?s

  14. My Grandad Joe Potts was in the Royal Artillary during WW2
    He worked with the anti aircraft guns in Wales and the south coast
    He never talked about it but I do know he witnessed some of the girls being killed which upset him
    As he had my mother and Aunty at home in Northumberland
    I don’t know his service number or regiment
    His two brothers had emigrated to Canda so served with a Canadian unit
    They told us Joe had been on a ship which was sunk and he wasn’t rescued for a few days
    Wish I knew more about this
    Joe was barely Five foot tall and was born on 1902 married with five children during the war years

  15. My wonderful and so loved and missed mother Constance May Jopling was with the A.T.S. during ww2 in Richmond Park and operated on the height and range finder. I would like to ask and hope someone may be able to help me in finding more details about her time and activities and also her colleagues and friends who would have served with her.
    Thank you for your time.

  16. My mother served in the ATS as an AA Gunner, and like other women, she never talked much about it until I joined the Army in New Guinea, and later the RAAF back on the Mailand (Australia). A few things she opened up to me about (I noted some PTSD by the way) was – apart from the training and firing and rnage-finding – That she said MOST of her crewmates died of LEUKEMIA within 10 years of the war’s end… and only she (Joan Doreen Jessop) and another girl, has left the UK, and gone to either Canada or Australia, and so survived for much longer. Mum died in 1980 in Mt. Gambier, South Australia, of cancer. She had married Hermanus Koomans, a REME Sgt. but a Dutch National who had once been a POW last known in Belsen. His PTSD was really severe, it was a wonder she managed 25 years with him. She had 5 of us by Heman, and 3 more by Wally Jackway in The Mount. I have traced most of her Medal Entitlements, and would like to tally with others, as I would like to carry them on my Uniform with my own, in her memory. Please, if anyone who knows the actual entitlements, can you please contact me… even better if there are compatriots that reply as well! TYIA!

  17. My mother Sheila Mary Bellas was in the ATS during WWII. She didn’t speak much about her experiences except to say she had to learn silhouettes of planes. She remembered the buzz bombs, and also told me that the actor Dicky Dice was one of her superior officers. Would love to know where she served. Her sister Daphne Bellas was also in the ATS. They both came from Shiney Row in Durham at the time.

  18. My Mom, May Fabian, served in the ATS in London. Would love to know if anyone’s Mom might have served with her. God Bless Them All.

  19. My Mum served in the ATS during WW2 and has always spoken with great love and pride about those best days of her life. Her name was Irene Shand. She was demobbed in Jamaica and married out there so became Irene MacDermot. I have very little detail about her rank, position, postings, training etc. She died this week on Monday (12th February) and I would very much like to have more information. I think she was posted at one time in Bovington..I’d be so grateful for any information which I can quote at her funeral in about 3 weeks time.

  20. My mother was Bettina Harris. She was a Lieutenant in the 510 Battery ATS, I believe stationed in Hull. She has mentioned a unit member called Val Turner ( male) and also knew Mary Soames. She is now 96 and quite frail, but can recall some of that time during the war. If anyone recognizes her name, I would love any contact.

  21. I was the initiator of the …Friends of Goodrest Farm/Banner Hill Heavy Ack’ Ack Gun Site, in Kenilworth Warwickshire which remains in particularly good condition today. Since I first began metal detecting there in the 2980, I have extensive research, sound recordings from some of the ATS who served there…477 and 488 Batteries… an incredible amount of other relevant material and artifacts.The farmer/landowner is fully involved with our small group of enthusiasts who are determined to keep the memories of those who served on those after cold and isolated gun sites.

    Known local ladies who served at Banner Hill included Rose Theobold, Phyils Rose, Winifred Barton and Beryl Pepper….should anyone have any further information on serving with any of these or served at Banner Hill Camp please leave a message on here.

    We are desperate for funding to make the concrete flat roof of the Command Post waterproof again; if anyone knows if grants or funds please get in touch.

    The site was kept in very good order until the ending of the Cold War, so all the gun-pits still have threaded mounts.

    Please email me if you have ANY information regarding Banner Hill Camp GOODREST Farm Kenilworth …Gun Defended Area 25 for COVENTRY.

    Cyril Hobbins

    We hold occasional Open Day’s….offer tuition during school or group visits ( by arrangement only) …

  22. Hi..I am looking for information on my mother..her name was joan kingdon…she married John grant.she served as A ack ack operator trained at Catterick and aldershot I believe..she never spoke about her time there much..but one of her friends was joan Lund…I would love to know more and have photos if possible as I have none of her war time years…I wish I had asked her more about her time during the war…I tried to get info from archives but have drawn a blank.many thanks nargaret

  23. My mum, Sylvia Taylor (universally known as Peggy) served in the ATS,B Troop 539 HY AA Battery RA and had postings around the country, Titchfield, Speke, Whitby, Weybourne, Chigwell and Stanford le Hope to name but a few. She had many ATS chums, including Renee Davidson, Mollie (my Godmother), Jean ( who lived in Canada I believe). I have her diary that she kept in 1943 when she was 22.

    I’m not sure exactly what her role was in the ATS but I believe she worked on radar. At the beginning of 1944 she attended a course on Anglesey. I would love to know if there is anyone out there who also served in her unit.

  24. When I first saw the pictures above I couldn’t belirve my eyes! When I heard of the Kine-Theodolite I contacted the Canadian Artillery about it and they had no idea what I was talking about and yet there were Canadian men in this area of service as well. I knew one of these men very well and he told me that it was a very secret part of the military and was to be kept very quiet. He was in charge of some of the girls on one of the units. A very interesting point here was that when AVRO Aircraft in Malton Ontario Canada built the ARROW the fastest aircraft built until the USA developed, their rocket program and forced Canada to drop this aircraft program as missiles were the future weapon of war . So they said. The Kine-Theodolite was used to track the speed and angle of trajectory of the test aircraft used until this program was dropped. My email address is:

  25. My mother, who is now 93, was a predictor on the ack-ack guns in London and the south-east during the war. It was a mobile battery (499 battery), and I often tease her about it being a ‘ghost battery’ because I have never found any information about it. She has a letter relaying a message from Major-General Frederick Pile and Major-General E A Tremlett – dated Tuesday, 2nd November, 1943 – congratulating her battery for shooting down the first ME.410 by ack-ack fire on the night of October 31, 1943. Her name at the time was Nancy Lord. Does anyone have any information about 499 (M) HAA Battery?

  26. My mother, Queenie Elizabeth Bateman (Nee Luscombe) served in the ATS during the 2nd WW. Unfortunately she never talked about it other than to mention London and that she was hit on the head, by rubble presumably. It did give her some discomfort occasionally. She always referred to it as her “war wound”. She came from Newton Abbott in Devon and I wonder if anyone would have any information. She died in 2002. It would be lovely if someone could throw some light on her time in the forces.
    Thank you.

  27. Hi,

    I own the old AA Aircraft heavy gun site at Portbury near Bristol. Still plenty of remains.
    I am researching its history, would very interested in anyone who remembers it working, or simalar ones just to get the feeling of life on a AA Battery.

  28. My mother, Anne Margaret Goode was in the ats, based in London, during the war.
    I don’t have much information, although there is a photo of the regiment and my mother in uniform.
    My father, who was in the navy, on salvage tugs, would always tease her about shooting down our own aircraft. Mam would mention the fact that she had witnessed some of her regiment and friends killed by German planes bombs or bullets. I always remember here talking about doodle bug alley, how they would fly overhead and then the engine stopping, dropping onto London. Not sure of my mother’s position in the team, as mam or dad never reaĺly spoke about that period in their life.

  29. Mum was in the ATS she said she was based at one time near reading. Camp BY3 her first posting, where they had 4 anti aircraft guns. Does anyone have a list of these sites.

  30. I wish I had this site earlier. My mother, Win Hardy was in the ATS, one of the Ack-Ack girls. She married my dad in Grimsby in 1944, one of the wedding photos shows a line up 6 of her friends from the unit, 3 each side of mum and dad. She was originally Winifred Doris Huckle, her first husband was killed in the Battle of Greece. Mum died the other week in a nursing home in Whangarei, New Zealand, just weeks shy of 100. None of the family know which unit she served with, although she often relayed stories about the War, she said it was the best time of her life (apart from losing her first husband). Mum wrote that most of her postings were in Yorkshire – Scarborough, Philey, Hornsea, Bridlington and Cleethorpes and also mentioned to me the unit being sent to the west of Scotland.
    Mum was buried in a serviceman’s plot, but because the family has no written proof that mum served in the forces, she may be reburied elsewhere.
    the only thing we have is, I think, her service number, which is 185512.
    I reside in the UK, all other family is in NZ.
    If anyone can help please email me at
    Thank you

  31. My mum whose name was Jessie Williamson was in the ATS. She was from Reddish near Stockport. I know she was sent to Whitby because she talked about having to go up and down the steps at Whitby Abbey as exercise. She often used to joke about the noise of the guns. She also said that when the enemy (won’t be politically correct these days to use the terms she used) flew over so low you could see the colour of their underpants or depending on how correct she was being ‘the whites of their eyes’. She was a funny lady.

    Jessie was a fabulous pianist and was called upon, by the officers, frequently to play for their dances. So even if she had committed some army misdemeanour she was excepted to play for the officers in the mess.

    My mum married a sailor and settled around Stockport. She stayed there until about 1968 where they moved to Yorkshire. Some years later when her husband had died she moved to Canada where she spent her last years – still playing the piano and having a really full life there. She died in Canada in about 1996.

    I really wish I had spoken to my mum more about her time during WWII. Unfortunately, when you are young you are not really interested. But now I could spend hours listening to her talk about it.

    If anybody served with Jessie Williamson I would love to hear from them.

  32. My mum Margaret Winifred Dow passed away in December 2014 but I did write down some of the stories she told me and I have photos.

    She worked on 590 Mixed Heavy Ack Ack and was a radar operator and manned guns.
    She enlisted at Newbattle Abbey near Edinburghin 1941 and was first sent to Camberley in Surrey on a driving Course.
    She then went to work on radar in Gillingham and Upchurch Kent. She was also stationed at Hounslow and Enfield London, Chigwell Essex, and finally worked in the post office near the cricket ground in Nottingham.

    She was very proud of her time ibn the forces- I suppose it was her young life and she made many lasting friendships but also lost touch with people . Her biggest disppointment was when she applied for her medals and did not apparently qualify for the radar operator’s one and the medal they did send had her married name on instead of her maiden name which she believed meant it had not been researched properly. Who knows?

    I have wondered whether I could see her service record but don’t really know how to go about it.

  33. Hi. I am desperately trying to find information on my Mum in laws WW2 ATS record. She joined up in Worcester and was born in 1922. Her name was Hettie Harradine. Unfortunately she had a stroke last year and cannot remember her service number. Also she lost all her papers in a fire years ago so we have nothing else to find her records for her. Can you help me please? Thank you. Regards Faith Batson

  34. My Mom was ATS, one of the first Radar Operators. She was stationed down at Noss Mayo and one other gun site…can’t recall off the top of my head. She was also with the first group of women across to Normandy following D-Day, manning a mobile radar station, keeping pace with the front line as it moved forward, up through Belgium and the Netherlands and into Germany. At the end of the war she accompanied Lady Mountbatten’s party into Bergen Belsen. I keep wishing I could find photos of her. She told me stories of her group performing Oh Grady drill outside of a German POW camp in the West Country.

  35. Hi my mum was in the ATS ‘ACK ACK’ from the age of 17. She passed away recently & her favourite subject was of her time during WW11 Spotting enemy aircraft, putting the Gunners on target. The girls in her BTY became life long friends. If anyone has any info regarding mum please contact me by email.
    Marjorie Howarth 1924-2016
    Lived in Bolton, Lancs. Had 2 older brothers whom had signed up when the war broke out.
    All her family were involved in the war-Dad worked at Euxton, Nr Chorley in Munitions.
    Her mum worked in the Naffi.
    After the war ended she married my dad Jack Johnson also of Bolton, Lancs. He was a Dispatch Rider.
    They use to go to the Drill Hall in Bolton. Floral Hall, Southport – dancing.
    I dare say majority of her army buddies will have passed on now, but if you have any photos, memorabilia or remember conversations i would be so grateful if you would contact me. My younger siblings also share my enthusiasm of mum & dads time in the war.

    Yours kindly

    Ms. J Johnson, Blackpool, Lancs. Born in Bolton 1949.

  36. Standing next to Mary Soames is Joan Francis Manscell, the teams officer. She later moved to Canada, USA and Married. She has one Son. She was marred to her one and only to her passing in 2012, Elk Grove California. Her ashes was spread over the Golden Gate Bridge. Being in the ACK ACK Girls first Unit, gave her a spirt of adventure. Her and her Husband Allan Wilde, traveled world over. Her fondest story is when Prime Minister Winston Churchill, came to inspect the unit and his daughter was upset and did not who. He went to Joan and asked where is his daughter. What my mother in Law told Prime Minister Winston Churchill was quite amusing and it was a bold face lie. But, it worked for Mary Soames! That is why she was the units leader… Rebecca Wilde Elk Grove, Ca

  37. Hi, I wondered if anyone can help me. My mom was in the ATS during the WW11, her number was 36470 and stationed I think somewhere in Yorkshire? Her name was Margaret ( Peggy) Dempster born 25th May 1921 she was born in Hull. Any information about her time in the ATS would be much appreciated.. Thanking

  38. My Mum, Honora Bridgeford (m.n. Wood), born 2 Oct 1922, joined the ATS in about 1941 and left when she was 3 months pregnant with me – about May 1943. She tells me that her Regiment was 129 and her Battery was 144. She was a on the height finder, and travelled to many placed in England and Scotland doing this job during the war.
    I have a picture of her in her uniform, before she married my Dad, and the cap with the ATS badge is quite clear.
    She is now 93 years old, and has just relayed all this information to me.
    Sadly her two medals (I am not sure which ones they would be) and her cap badge are no longer to be found.
    How can I get her medal record, and her war record, if these exist?

  39. My Mother was in ATS Ack-ack. A ‘Gunner Girl’, she worked on Predictors and then on early Radar. She served in Crystal Palace and then in South Shields. She passed away yesterday peacefully.

  40. My mother was in the ATS, her name was Hilda Rowe, Exeter.

  41. my mother was in the ATS and posted to 17th ATS Training centre Warrington in March 1942. Her name was Anne Flora Elizabeth Hart – anyone have any recall?

  42. My late mother, Ann Harrison, died on 26/1/16 and was born on 1/12/20, and served as an ATS officer during the war. She spent time in Shoeburyness and in London as an ak ak gunner. Previously she had studied at The Slade. She was a Junior Commander, though may well have had the non substantive rank of Senior Commander. How can I find out more about her ATS career? Jane Jonathan.

  43. Hello everyone, I’m currently writing a book about the ATS girls who served with Anti-Aircraft Command and would absolutely love to hear from anyone who has stories, diaries, letters, papers, photos or anything relating to the service of their relatives either on the guns or searchlights during WWII. Please do get in contact with me and I can give you more details about the project. Thank you so much and I hope to hear from you soon.

  44. My mom was born soudley Glosshire May 30 1921. Joan p m Robins she was an ATS ack-ack girl and she drove the trucks. I do not have any other information about her. If any one knows her she lived in Cinderford Forest of Dean. Glos Thank you her daughter Sharon

  45. My Mum was in the ATS based at or near to Manston Airport, Kent. She was billeted at a convalescent home in Pegwell Village (Now a hotel). Her name was Fiona Mina Roger (Bunty). Her father James Baxter Roger was a Flight Sargent at the same time in Manston.

    I believe she was with an AA site near the Ramsgate end of the main runway.

    Any history of the ATS at Manston during that period would be appreciated.

  46. I am looking for information about Joan Yeates she was in the ATS 1942 until 1946, she was on ack ack gun, somewhere in East Anglia. She died last year, I am her daughter and want to make a familly record for my grand children. This is a bit like a bottle thrown into the sea!
    cara Zinkant

  47. Mum is 94 she was an ack ack from Manchester was on south coast don’t know unit number she was Joan Sykes she used to sing to entertain think she was on predictor Margaret was the sergeant from scotland

  48. Hi
    I am looking for information regarding my great aunt who sadly passed away in December this year
    Her name was Joyce Lillian Thompkins ( Utteridge when married in 1954 -Newbury )
    She was born on 22/10/1922 and served from 1941 to 1946
    Army number W207038
    I believe she was attached to the Royal Artillery but unsure where she was stationed.
    On past conversations she used to tell me that she drove lorries and drove her C O around. She also was very good with horses. We have her service book but incomplete war history,
    So in her memory my father and I are doing research (Barrie Leonard William Waite- nephew of Joyce)

  49. My Mum, Sarah Lappin was a Searchlight Operator (I think) in the ATS during the early part of WWII. She did her ATS basic training near Stafford and then worked in Edghill, Liverpool during the Blitz. She met my Dad during this time as he was a Fireman in the Auxiliary Fire Service, also based at (or near) Edghill. Niether of my Parents ever spoke about their experiences of WWII so I guess that they had a bad time.

  50. My mother served in the ATS in V Company in No 4 Camp Longtown in 1944. Her name was Anne Pettet, and she suffered a bad head injury in an accident with a gentleman riding a bicycle. She was hospitalised for some months. I would love to know anything at all about the activities of V Company or indeed Longtown itself during the war as my mother sadly died and I know so little about her days in the ATS.

  51. My mother was called Anne Warburton, she was born in Bolton 31.10.1921.she was a seamstress by profession, and loved to stitch and sew. Anne joined the ATS AKKAK 1940, served in London, Canvey Island Essex, and Bradford West Yorkshire during World War 2. Anne did her duty and had lots of good memories serving with the ATS AKKAK, she enjoyed the NAFFY remember Anne telling me. Anne died March 2009.

  52. I am looking to track down anyone who did their ATS training at Newbattle Abbey, Dalkeith during WWII. Here at Newbattle Abbey college we are undertaking a HLF funded project to research that area of our history and are hoping to record the memories of those who were here for their training or had family members who were here.
    Anyone wishing to get in contact can email me on
    Charlotte Johnson
    Project Co-ordinator

  53. My mother, Winnifred Edwards-Collins was there, too. She was from Liverpool and a competitor in ballroom dancing before enlistment. She married a Canadian soldier (Calgary Highlanders), Jess Gray. Eventually became a war bride in Canada. My first hero.

  54. I was at 478 Battery in Lowestoft from 1941and would like to know if anyone is still alive who was there.

  55. My mum was in the ATS ackack! Unfortunately she was diagnosed with dementia 2 years ago. I have photos of her time 1940-1945. She was Gunner Margaret Trudgill 1065.

  56. I should have added my mothers’ name to my last post – it was Marjorie Wynn.

  57. I am trying to trace any information regarding my mothers’ service in the ATS during WW11. She was serving on ack ack guns protecting London during the early part of the war and I have a photograph of her with others with the notation “608 Btry” but I have no further info regarding others in the photograph possibly including my biological father, name unknown, who is believed to have returned to Canada at the end of the war.

    Any help/advice gratefully received.


  58. My mother Mary Margaret Pope was an officer on Ack Ack gunsites around the south east in the approaches to london and some airfields. She has just passed away. Does anyone have any knowledge of her srvice?

  59. Thanks for the interesting article.

    As historian and writer I am researching the defense of Belgium against the V1 flying bombs. I am looking for stories of allied men and women who came to Antwerp, Brussels or Liège to defend our country. If you know such a witness story, please contact me:

    Best wishes,


  60. my mum KATHLEEN BAKER w/14583 was a spotter on the cliffs of dover does anyone remembers her

  61. Hello everyone,

    I’m an assistant producer from a UK production company called Arrow Media. We’re producing a new UK TV documentary about the Battle of Britain to commemorate the 75th anniversary. I’m looking to speak to any Ack-Ack gunners who served during the Battle of Britain who would like to talk to me about possible telling their story in our documentary. If a relative of an ack-ack gunner is reading this and would like to get in touch on their behalf I’d love to hear from you also.

    Please email or call me on 07925419164

    Thank you,


  62. My mum (Elsie V Mellor also called Connie or Ginger, because of her red hair) was a Sergeant in the ATS and I have very little information about what she did but she was in No 1 Coy, A.C.A and was in Rome, Aquilla, Cortina and Perugia (Staff college) during 1945 and 1946. Her best friend was Kay (Kathleen) Hewitt who married Bill Mansey after the war, her other friends were Anna Meyer and Brenda Rand – I have photos I am happy to scan and send to them or their relatives. I think she supervised the work of clerks in the Military Government Courts Branch and the Ministry of Justice Branch of the Allied Commission for Austria in 1946, when stationed in Vienna, possibly this was war crime work. Would welcome any ideas for finding out more and filling in the gaps.

  63. I have just come across this website while looking for information about my mother, Minnie Wall, who I know was serving in the ATS having joined at the beginning of WW11 after lying about her age (as I know so many did).
    I know very little of her experience during this time, only that I believe she was a cook, involved with Heavy Ack-Ack, her best friend was Betty Clark and they were both stationed in Bournemouth at the end of the war where they were demobbed.
    I don’t suppose anyone has any information about their Unit, other postings or does anyone even remember them? Sadly they have both now passed.
    Many thanks for an interesting website.

  64. My Mum was a member of the ATS I have her cap badge but no info .My mum met my Father while recuperating from a bombing incident and fell in love . Her name was Mary Milnes. the only thing he ever talk about was her experience was that she drove trucks and motorcycles.. I do not have her service number or any other information.
    I would love to hear from anyone who might have known her .

  65. Recently renovated Dome trainer at Langham in North Norfolk is now open as a visitor attraction. It tells the story of how the Dome was developed for anti-aircraft gunnery simulation and the story of RAF Langham and the squadrons that served here. Many AA gunners passed through the Dome before being allowed to fire live rounds at drones towed by aircraft, or radio controlled aircraft known as Queen Bees, on the coastal ranges at Stiffkey and Weyborne.
    If any of your readers trained here we would be delighted to hear from them. Check out our website –

  66. My mother served in the ATS during WW2 serving in Kent, Scotland and outside Antwerp in Belgium. Mum has just told me that she was still on duty looking for enemy aircraft on VE day. My father came to take her into Brussels to celebrate but her officer would not release her from duty as he hadn’t had a direct order to stand down and didn’t officially know the war was over in Europe! There unit had been machine gunned only the day before by a German pilot.

    Mum is 94 and still has a good memory. I have only just found this wonderful website & I will ask her to write a contribution with me if you are still looking for information?

    Mum also has some photographs (of people not equipment). If anyone knew my mother known as “Mac” – Norah McManus, from Manchester or of my father who she met on radar – he was at that time Major Peter Eggitt REME I would love to make contact with them.

  67. My mum was in the ATS joined at commencement of the war and she was a predictor on the ack ack guns. Her maiden name was Doris Gibson, later become Thompson when she married my dad who was in the RAF. She originated from stoke on Trent and later settled in Ellesmere Port in Cheshire. She has a good many photos of her band of friends in the ATS along with a very good memory of her time during the war in the UK and also stationed in Germany. If anybody would like to get in contact please email me especially anybody out there who was in the ATS at this time. She is now 91 years of age.

  68. I would love to see any photographs of my mother who served in the ATS during the war. She came from Birkenhead Wirral Merseyside. Her maiden name was Gladys Lindsey. We have no photos of mum as they were lost in a fire and no info as she died fairly young. If anyone can help please get in touch. Thank you.

  69. My big sister, before she passed on, said to me to look at the pictures at the museum on the hill and see what I thought. A year or two after, I was visiting Fort Nelson with my god son, and as we approached the Ack-ack gun I was explaining that my Mum was in the ATS and manned one of these on Southsea Seafront, I was taken aback to see a photo of her in full colour. I have since tracked down two images of her, presumably taken on the same occasion, and would love any further information anyone may have. Mum always insisted she had done a bit of “modelling” in her youth! Here is a link to one of those images…

  70. i live in Orillia Ontario Canada and had the pleasure of knowing a man named Ray Williams who had been in a Kine Theodolite group of women in England. He had a bundle of pictures of the girls that were assigned to him. The interesting thing was that he was a Canadian who was sent to England and due to his small stature he only qualified for this type of action. He passed away last year but had some fabulous stories to tell while he was alive. Interestingly enough was that during the building the Avro Arrow the Theodolite was used extensively to determine angle and distance traveled of some of the propulsion rockets to be used in developing the aircraft and the Iroquios engine. I would like to hear from anyone alive that had anything to do with this piece of equipment or the people who were involved with it.

  71. @Charlotte

    As I say in my FAQ if the details of an image are available I include it in the file information attached to the image. In this case they were from:

    Malindine E G (Lt)
    Tanner (Lt)
    War Office official photographer

  72. Hello, I am having a hard time believing the full authenticity of these photos. I am far from an expert in this period of history, but the only photographs I have seen from WWII with this level of definition and color accuracy are those that have been restored an colorized by artists like Dave Hall ( ). Do you mind if I ask their origin, or any other details you have that could explain their appearance?

    Thank you,

  73. Hello

    im currently at drama school in my 3rd year at the Arden School of Theatre in Manchester. And for our final show we are doing the play ‘The Passing Out Parade’ By Anne Valery which is all about the ATS women during world war 2.

    We would LOVE and appreciate if anyone that was involved in this is available to do a Q & A with the cast and also come along to watch our show in December

    Look forward to hearing from you


  74. I have a picture of my mother who was an AK AK from a news article during the war. Margret Anne Eldridge is her name. She is still alive, 93 on Dec 04. I am away from home right now and can look up her regiment and email the particulars later. She is living in Elliot Lake Ontario Canada

  75. My mum is 90 in two weeks time.She served in ATS and tells wonderful stories of that time.We are all very proud of her and we are having a 1940s party to honour her birthday.Any photos would be appreciated as I am doing an ATS mural

  76. My mother, Ivy Gwyneth McAllister served in the ATS with Mary Churchill. There was a newspaper article about Mary Churchill while in Belgium, but I have been spectacularly unsuccessful in tracing; can anyone assist me? I only found out recently about the newspaper article as my mother did not talk about her wartime experiences.

  77. Thank you for such wonderful photos, I have searched a long time to find a photo of the Barr & Stroud No 10 Height and Range Finder on which I served in 350 HAA Battery in New Eltham, South London. I wanted it to put in my story for my family.
    It is so interesting reading the comments and when you come to think of it, the ATS did such a wonderful Job. I am proud to have served with them.

  78. See my FAQ about using photos, almost every photo on the website is freely available from Wikimedia Commons.

  79. I am an author looking for any information on ATS women in 1940 in Aberystwyth. Mum passed away before I could ask her more about her time, they never talked much about it. My mother was stationed there having moved from Catterick Camp. I am writing a romance novel and have some wonderful letters from my father to his mother when he joined up and eventually became a POW.

    I am also interested in the concert parties that may have taken place. Mum was into acting and dancing and she did a lot of performing during her time in Wales with the ATS. Any information for the novel would be useful.

  80. We have a photo of my grandmother Caroline Davidson in what appears to be an ATS ack-ack uniform and badge. We hope to find out more information about her and her life during 1944-45. We are also trying to gain some information as to who she may have been friends with male and female during that time. If anyone can help we would be ever so grateful. We have a photo of her in uniform if anyone thinks they might know her.
    Thankyou, Claire

  81. My mother was in the ATS during the battle of britain and during the buzz bomb period. I have no information on units or anything at all. She married a canadian soldier who was also on the ack ack guns before shipping out to invade sicily with the canadian army. My mothers maiden name was Mary Mckenna and she was from Glasgow. If anyone might be able to help me find out her history in the ATS or perhaps if they can even remember her, then i would be most appreciative.
    Sincerly…. Philip O’Hearn

  82. My Mum served in the ATS Auxilary Unit in England from 1940 – 1945….I have a picture of her and the other girls in her unit. Is there anyway that I can find out who the ladies are in the photo.? Mum will be 93 the end of this month….thx Jan

  83. Carol & Peter,
    My mother and her sister served with 478 Battery Royal Artillery B Troop Heavy Anti Aircraft. Mother served in Lound nr Lowestoft and Hastings also spent time in Wrexham and Nottingham.My Aunt married one of the men from there Battery who is still with us and one other lady from there Battery. I am also very interested in there history.

  84. My mother was in the ATS and spent time in Essex and at some point in London (doodlebug Alley). She spent time in a predictor team sending info to the gunners and also did special training before working on radar although I have no idea of her actual role. Her name: Elsie Dorothy Whitwick, if there is any info out there I would appreciate hearing about it.

  85. Peter

    Thanks for getting in touch. I am afraid I am not much of an expert in that area, I have really concentrated on finding official photographs which are now out of copyright. However somebody else out there may well be able to help.

    Do get in touch if you can. Is anyone putting old copies of Picture Post online?


  86. I wonder if you could help me. My mother was with the A.T.S. during ww2 and operated on the height and range finder, her group appeared on the cover of Picture Post and I can’t find the picture anywhere. I am hoping you could tell me were I might be able to find either the magazine or a picture of her. Thank you for your time

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