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Dummy Loader

Actongrumpy

The Quinton Kid
During the war, the AA training camp at Tonfanau, Wales, was responsible for training gun crews to load and fire Anti Aircraft guns. The standard method was to use dummy shells in an actual gun but this had the drawback that, after each firing, the shell had to be levered back out with a crowbar which didn't simulate battle conditions.
My father, who was in the REME, was asked to design and manufacture a device which would enable training to be more like actual use. The Dummy Loader he produced automatically ejected the shell after firing and allowed gun crews to practice loading and firing at a realistic rate.
Has anyone any knowledge of this machine, ( I have a series of photos showing the sequence of operations).
Dummy loader.jpg
 

maypolebaz

master brummie
I wish my Dad was alive to see this picture, Actongrumpy, he was a fuzesetter on the 3.7 in the Home Guard.
There was a 3.7 in the Rotunda museum, Woolwich, when I was stationed there. It might be worth your while enquiring at the Firepower museum, they have all sorts of info archived there.
 

Actongrumpy

The Quinton Kid
My father always refered to 25 pounders; I'm guessing that they were the 3.7" cal. that you mention.
I contacted the REME museum some time ago but they had no record of the Dummy Loader. I'll try the Firepower museum as you suggest.
I'm hoping to find someone who had an ancestor who actually used the DL.
This is a picture of it from a different angle. The shell was loaded on the left and transferred right into what represented the breach. The breach moved across to the firing position, the shell was propelled up to the cone at the tip and the breach moved back so that the exit channel was back in line. The shell came down via the exit channel and was stopped by sandbags across the floor, (this was the method used during testing; it was probably refined later). An extension was fitted to the exit channel which is not shown in this picture. There a couple of winding handles on it - one appears to allow a change in elevation but I'm not sure what the other one does. My father had to demonstrate the device to a young AA officer but was elbowed out of the way when he began to flag. The officer and his men took over and were throwing shells about as if they were house bricks. I don't think the men were too pleased; practice loading had been a leisurely process before.
Dummy Loader 2.JPG
 

maypolebaz

master brummie
I think you can rest assured that your pictures are of a dummy loader for the 3.7in anti-aircraft gun mate. On the left side of the real gun would be the fuze setting mechanism, from which the shell would be dropped into the loader where it was rammed into the breech and fired.
I have been exercised on the 25pdr dummy loader and it was nowhere near as elaborate as this one !
 

Actongrumpy

The Quinton Kid
I think you can rest assured that your pictures are of a dummy loader for the 3.7in anti-aircraft gun mate. On the left side of the real gun would be the fuze setting mechanism, from which the shell would be dropped into the loader where it was rammed into the breech and fired.
I have been exercised on the 25pdr dummy loader and it was nowhere near as elaborate as this one !
That's very interesting - what was your dummy loader like? How near was the speed of operation to the real thing? I've Googled dummy loaders. They looked nothing like my pictures and it wasn't obvious how they worked. In my father's release cert. it mentions that he was, 'instrumental in inventing and perfecting an item of equipment used for training recruits of the A.A.branch Royal Artillery' which made me think it became 'standard issue' but I can't find mention of another one anywhere and you say you trained on something entirely different. I'm wondering if they made just the one and used it only at Tonfanau.
 

Actongrumpy

The Quinton Kid
I wish my Dad was alive to see this picture, Actongrumpy, he was a fuzesetter on the 3.7 in the Home Guard.
There was a 3.7 in the Rotunda museum, Woolwich, when I was stationed there. It might be worth your while enquiring at the Firepower museum, they have all sorts of info archived there.
Would you believe it? The Firepower museum closed last year! It's just re-opened on a small scale at Larkhill. I will contact them.
 

maypolebaz

master brummie
That's very interesting - what was your dummy loader like? How near was the speed of operation to the real thing? I've Googled dummy loaders. They looked nothing like my pictures and it wasn't obvious how they worked. In my father's release cert. it mentions that he was, 'instrumental in inventing and perfecting an item of equipment used for training recruits of the A.A.branch Royal Artillery' which made me think it became 'standard issue' but I can't find mention of another one anywhere and you say you trained on something entirely different. I'm wondering if they made just the one and used it only at Tonfanau.
Considering how many AA guns there were in WW2 I think it's safe to say that there would've been more than one dummy loader !
Bad luck with the Firepower museum, they seem to be closing everything down these days. Perhaps the Imperial War museum could give you some pointers.
 

Actongrumpy

The Quinton Kid
I think you can rest assured that your pictures are of a dummy loader for the 3.7in anti-aircraft gun mate. On the left side of the real gun would be the fuze setting mechanism, from which the shell would be dropped into the loader where it was rammed into the breech and fired.
I have been exercised on the 25pdr dummy loader and it was nowhere near as elaborate as this one !
Hi maypolebaz,
You were right. Had a great reply from Larkhill - I sent them all the photos of the dummy loader plus my father's release document and they confirm it's a 3.7. Hope you find some of this interesting although a lot of it is personal.

DISCHARGE PAPER - INFO


Line 1: WO1 (ASM)

Comment: Warrant Officer 1st Class (Artificer Sergeant Major) [of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME)]

· He was not a Gunner but in REME.

· He achieved the highest non-commissioned officer rank.


Line 4: Att 3 Med Regt RA REME

Comment: Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers - Attached to 3 Medium Regiment, Royal Artillery (RA).

· 3 Medium Regiment RA was a Regular Army Regiment.

· Circa 1945 – a Medium Regiment RA would have been probably equipped with 5.5 inch Medium [field] Guns.

· NB

From September 1945 onwards, wartime TA and Army Emergency Gunner Regiments in Germany were being disbanded but only those individuals who had served in the Army from early in the War were sent back to UK for discharge to ‘Civvy Street’ [Demob – Demobilisation].


This enabled conscripted individuals in Regular Regiments with early Demob Dates to be replaced with individuals from disbanding units with later Demob Dates.


Your father may have served in a Field Regiment RA equipped with 25 pounders which was disbanded and then joined 3 Med Regt RA on Post War British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) internal security duties – not artillery ones – near Bochum in the Ruhr area of the British Zone of Germany.


Line 6: Called up for military service 23.03.43

Comment: Conscripted 23 March 1943 – no mention of age


Line 7: [Civil] Trade: Millwright. Service Trade: Armament Artificer (Fd)

Comment: Armament Artificer (Field) – interesting not Anti Aircraft

· Millwright – indicates a skilled civilian technician possibly under skilled apprentice training

· Millwright – may have been a reserve occupation or he may have had his call-up delayed so he could complete his apprentice training.

· Armament Artificer (Field) indicates that he was trained to service 25 pounder Field Guns not 3.7 inch Anti Aircraft Guns.

· On completing his Armament Artificer course he would have been promoted to Staff Sergeant (Sergeant Artificer)

· He must have been held in high regard as within three years, he was promoted twice:

o AQMS – Artificer Quartermaster Sergeant

o ASM – see above.

Background Info:

Until 1942, when REME was formed, Armament Artificer REME were Gunners as Artificer RA – known as ‘Tiffies’ and highly respected.

REME Attachments to RA Regiments were the predecessors of Regiment RA, Light Aid Detachments REME.

These were small workshops of about 25 men providing immediate quick repairs and periodic servicing.

They consisted of up to four sections each of about 4 to 6 men to Gun, Motor Transport and Telecommunications repairs as well as very small Stores and Vehicle Recovery facilities.

In your father’s time, your father was the lead professional and responsible for the day to day running but may have had a Gunner officer in overall charge


Last Line of Testimonial: Place: Bochum, Germany Date: 18 Aug 46

Comment: Bochum, Germany.


3.7 INCH DUMMY LOADER


Need.

To train 3.7 inch AA Gun ammunition handling teams using dummy ammunition without use of any supplementary explosive charges.

The training should include:

Unpacking ammunition.

Preparing rounds.

Presenting complete rounds to gun as it traverses.

Loading drills

Keeping area of gun platform clear of spent shell cases.


Limitations.

3.7 inch Guns are loaded manually but rely on the firing recoil to eject the spent shell cases.


Requirement.

To train 3.7 inch AA Gun ammunition handling teams to support sustained operational rates of fire for prolonged periods.


Solution

From the photos it would appear that

A 3.7 inch AA Gun breech block has been attached to a mechanism to represent the recoil action.

The traverse but not the elevation mechanism is included.

The whole system is mounted on an ad hoc base.

NB

In 1943, a 3.7 inch shell weighed approx. 28 lbs.


Further Comments.

Circa 1938, the Royal Artillery Training Brigade was moved from Woolwich in South East London to avoid the threat of bombing to North Wales.


I know that initial basic recruit and trade selection training was carried out at Oswestry;

Follow-on driver training was based on Rhyl and AA Training in the Towyn/Tonfanau area.


In 1943, it is possible that your father was posted to a Field Regiment which was training in N Wales for the forthcoming NW European campaign of 1944 to 45 when he was sent to design(?) or at least construct the 3.7 inch dummy loader for the AA training unit based at Tonfanau.

Regards

Dave
 

maypolebaz

master brummie
You must be very proud of your Dad, the ASM was, (is !), a highly respected man in a regiment.
In fact the ASM, while wearing the same badge of rank, was senior to the RSM but was never involved with the discipline side of regimental life.
Thanks for passing the Larkhill stuff on, it's of great interest to an ex-gunner of my vintage !
 
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Actongrumpy

The Quinton Kid
You must be very proud of your Dad, the ASM was, (is !), a highly respected man in a regiment.
In fact the ASM, while wearing the same badge of rank, was senior to the RSM but was never involved with the discipline side of regimental life.
Thanks for passing the Larkhill stuff on, it's of great interest to an ex-gunner of my vintage !
Thanks Baz,
I am proud of him but why is it that you never really appreciate someone until they are dead?
I have a feeling that only one of his dummy loaders was ever built at that it was used exclusively at Tonfanau but I don't think I'm going to find out.
 
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