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AA

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Hello,

The British pilots had some interesting names for the German AA according to the type. One of them was "flaming onions". To which type of AA does this refer and how did it get its name?

Regards,

Jan

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Jan,

I found this reference, from a ww2 memoir. It doesn't give any particulars but does, at least, give some idea of why.

'the anti aircraft fire exploded in the night sky, we called the shells “Flaming Onions” because of the way they looked and came towards us in a string.'

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Jan, It applied to the 3.7cm Maschinen Flak. It was originally a weapon used on torpedoboats of the quick firing variety, approximately 5 shots per second.

Tracer ammunition was used to assist in aiming the weapon and these were the shells known as 'flaming onions'. It had an effective range of 9,000 feet and was primarily used in the defense of observation balloons.

I saw an account from the 26th Reserve Division that these were unpopular weapons as the shells often came down and endangered the men on the ground.

Ralph

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Mate,

I have a book some where written by a german Flak officer on the Western Front. I can not find it at the moment and I'll get back to you.

It gives details of the life of a AA unit during the war.

S.B

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Hi, Bishop describes them as a coming up in strings of ten. At the time, he thought they might have been fired from some sort of rocket tube. I haven't been able to find much information on them either. A typical German AA gun of the time was the Krupp 75mm. They had played around with the use of tracer ammunition. I don't know if this was in any way connected.

Cheers,

Kev

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I think the book S.B. is thinking of is 'Fritz', The World War I Memoirs of a German Lieutenant by Fritz Nagel. He used rebored French 75's, 7.7cm German field guns and 8.8cm Flak guns in his career.

I will try to scan a photo of the 3.7cm Maschinen Flak and post it here.

Ralph

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"Archie" was the unofficial term for anti-aircraft fire. What was the official expression during the Great War? Was it AA or AAA? I think AAA or Triple A is a realatively recent term, and don't recall reading it in contemporary WW1 or WW2 accounts.

I think flak was coined in WW2 from fliegerabwerkanone, but was the expression ever used in the Great War? Flak has now moved into the English language meaning to verbally give someone a hard time. The military don't seem to use it now in respect of AA, and in interviews with pilots flying in the recent Gulf War the expression was "Triple A"

Are there any other expressions for Archie, AA, AAA, flak or Triple A?

Tim

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With respect to the RFC's term 'Archie' for German anti-aircraft fire, there is a claim that the nickname was coined by [then] Lieutenant Amyas 'Biffy' Borton of No 5 Sqn in October or November 1914. See "My Warrior Sons" edited by Guy Slater:

'During a reconnaisance flight Biffy had made the relatively simple discovery that if he did a 45 degree turn every time he saw the flash of the anti-aircraft guns on the ground, the shells would always explode harmlessly to one side of him. On this particular occasion every time the trick worked successfully he and his observer broke into a chorus of a popular music-hall song of the day called 'Archibald - certainly not!' The alliteration of Archibald the anti-aircraft gun proved irresistible, and the name stuck.'

It could be right - someone had to be the first to use the term.

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First of all, I would like to thank you all for the answers.

The term I encountered on all battle reports, bombing reports etc. I saw from WWI (I think I saw about 70% of all bombing reports still preserved to look for Bisseghem), is definitely AA. I've never seen Flak or AAA used in those documents.

Regards,

Jan

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Are there any other expressions for Archie, AA, AAA, flak or Triple A?

Tim

Hi Tim,

You may be aware of the British signalling "alphabet" of WWI. As in Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta etc. Different countries have used different systems - the US in WW2 used Dog, Easy, Fox where they would now use Delta, Echo, Foxtrot.

Anyhoo, the British used a system in WWI that had "Ack" for A.

Hence it was often referred to as Ack-Ack (for AA).

Also hence those other references like Pip-Emma (P.M.) and Toc H (TH - Talbot House - the H was just H).

cheers

Duckman

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Thanks Duckman

I had forgotten about Ack Ack. I think in WW2 our own AA was usually refered to as Ack Ack, and aircrew refered to enemy AA as Flak.

Would it have been the same in the Great War, ours known as Ack Ack, the enemy's as Archie?

Cheers

Tim

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A typical German AA gun of the time was the Krupp 75mm.

In addition, there were a variety of other calibres, ranging from the 2cm Becker automatic gun, through 3.7, 7.62 (captured Russian ordinance), 7.7 (including bored out French 75mm guns), 8, 8.8 (not the WW2 version), and 10.5 cm Flak guns. Of relevance is that the 3.7mm range included automatic Maxims and the 3.7cm Luftshiff Flak. The latter had a magazine and looked something like a Bren gun in profile. If weapons such as this fired several shells in close succession, presumably the drift after each explosion would create the impression of a string of smoke bursts?

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Would it have been the same in the Great War, ours known as Ack Ack, the enemy's as Archie?

Hi Tim,

Wouldn't have a clue I'm afraid. I doubt they made such an exact distinction, though - as far as I recall the two terms are thrown about with out any great pattern that I noticed. About the only other thing I know about AA in WWI was the comment by W.E. Johns (Bomber pilot and "Biggles" author) that German AA burst with black smoke and British with white smoke.

I assume that is from the different warheads, Amatol -v- whatever the stock German H.E. was called.

cheers

Duckman

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Are there any other expressions for Archie, AA, AAA, flak or Triple A?

While browsing through the on-line War Diaries for the artillery at Festubert in 1915, I came across the phrase "AAA Artillery" and immediately thought of this thread.

Unfortunately this is merely a demonstration of the confusion that can result from unbridled use of acronyms and abbreviations. Upon investigation, it seems that "AAA" was the code sometimes used on message pads for "Full Stop". Sometimes the practice carried over to typed reports. (If I have misunderstood this I hope someone will point out the real meaning).

Of course not everyone shares my dislike of acronyms.

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AAA is a US term that gained widespread currency with NATO (and the STANAG standardisation).

AA was used in comtemporary writings (and even memoirs written well after the war).

FLAK came into use during WW2 and originally meant only German AA fire but generally came to maen all AA.

Have seen early WW2 books written on the RAF which used the term "Archie" as well as AA.

Archie seems to have been in common use in WWI and I think appears in Downing's "Digger Dialects" written in 1921 from notes taken during his service in the AIF.

Edward

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This is a copy of formation flash for M Section, Anti-Aircraft Coy during WW1

You will see that the badge has triple A, or pure coincidence,

Geoff

post-25-1074774008.jpg

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AAA is a US term that gained widespread currency with NATO (and the STANAG standardisation).

AA was used in comtemporary writings (and even memoirs written well after the war).

FLAK came into use during WW2 and originally meant only German AA fire but generally came to maen all AA.

Have seen early WW2 books written on the RAF which used the term "Archie" as well as AA.

Archie seems to have been in common use in WWI and I think appears in Downing's "Digger Dialects" written in 1921 from notes taken during his service in the AIF.

Edward

From WH Downing's Digger Dialects edited by JM Arthur and WS Ransom OUP Melbourne 1990 ISBN 0 19 553233 3

(p8)

Archie - Anti-aircraft gun or shell [General WWI slang from 1915 Raleigh (War in the Air I 343) explains that "The anti-aircraft guns got their names from a light-hearted British pilot, who when he was fired on in the air quoted a popular music hall refrain - "Archibald, certainly not!" " The second quote below illustrate its use as a verb.]

The soldier here - "here" being Gallipoli - is string together some bright new expressions ...."Archibalds" are anti-aircraft guns of either party. They are all "Archies" for short. Bulletin 28 Oct. 1915 p22

Then you scrape over the line, getting "Archied" to hell.

The Port Hacking Cough 14 Dec 1918 p3

Edward

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This is a copy of formation flash for M Section, Anti-Aircraft Coy during WW1

You will see that the badge has triple A, or pure coincidence,

Geoff

Geoff

Is that flash for a British or American unit?

Tim

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Tim

It came from a set of cigarette cards that I bought a couple of weeks ago,

the series was called Victory Signs and shows various Formation flashes

of the British Army during WW1

So I assume that it is British.

Geoff

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A bit late I know, but I am new and someone might still be checking here.

My grandfather served in anti-aircraft and below is an extract from his Casualty Form.

It can be seen he served in eg. "F" a.a. Bty. In WW1 radio parlance a.a. was Ack Ack hence the term.

Archie was a flyers slang which I am sure originated as detailed above.

Goeff; If you have a cigarette card for "F" Section or Battery I would sure be interested in seeing that.

post-25-1097528022.jpg

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The online OED has this entry for Archie:

[abbrev. of ARCHIBALD: see quot. 1922.]

An anti-aircraft gun, orig. applied to those used by the Germans in the war of 1914-18. Hence Archie v. trans., to fire at with an anti-aircraft gun.

Occas. used in the war of 1939-45 (see ACK-ACK).

1915 H. ROSHER Let. 19 June in In R.N.A.S. (1916) 116 There are some beastly Archies..which come unpleasantly near first shot. 1917 ‘CONTACT’ Airman's Outings vi. 159 Only somebody who has been Archied from Plusprès can realise what it means to fly right over the stronghold at four thousand feet. 1918 ‘WINGS’ Over German Lines 30 The German gunners..are putting up a barrage of ‘Archie’ shells. 1920 Blackw. Mag. Dec. 757/1 So soon as they crossed the lines, they were heavily ‘archied’. 1922 RALEIGH War in Air I. 343 The anti-aircraft guns got their name of ‘Archies’ from a light-hearted British pilot, who when he was fired at in the air quoted a popular music-hall refrain 'Archibald, certainly not! 1939 News Review 30 Nov. 14/3 On each occasion fighters and heavy ‘Archie’ barrages drove the Nazis off. 1940 N. MONKS Squadrons Up! i. 29 Fly over the ‘archie’ (anti-aircraft) batteries.

Gary

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Hi Tim,

Wouldn't have a clue I'm afraid. I doubt they made such an exact distinction, though - as far as I recall the two terms are thrown about with out any great pattern that I noticed. About the only other thing I know about AA in WWI was the comment by W.E. Johns (Bomber pilot and "Biggles" author) that German AA burst with black smoke and British with white smoke.

I assume that is from the different warheads, Amatol -v- whatever the stock German H.E. was called.

cheers

Duckman

Biggles (W E Johns) also referred regulary to 'flaming onions' if I remember my childhood reading.

Gunner Bailey

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