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Isle of Dogs gets ack-ack gun back to defend London Docks —70 years on

PUBLISHED: 16:00 02 July 2012 | UPDATED: 22:32 02 July 2012

Mike Barraclough shows two-year-old Christina Dittrich from Millwall how wartime gunners were on lookout for enemy aircraft

Mike Barraclough shows two-year-old Christina Dittrich from Millwall how wartime gunners were on lookout for enemy aircraft

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The Isle of Dogs has finally got an ack-ack gun back in its wartime battery site which was installed to defend the London Docks 70 years ago.

The 30ft-long anti-aircraft cannon has been restored by volunteers at Millwall’s Mudchute Farm where four ack-acks were in place during the Blitz.

The gun was found in a field in Shropshire and transported earlier this year through the streets to the Isle of Dogs where it was restored and finally unveiled to the public last week, thanks to a £50,000 heritage grant from the National Lottery.

The farm is now using the gun as part of its heritage education programme for today’s generation of schoolchildren.

Its education officer Denise Lara told the Advertiser: “The gun is a living history of the East End which is important for the young generation to know their heritage.

“We do ‘role play’ with kids as air-raid wardens and build Anderson shelters to teach them what life was like then and grow our own ‘Dig-for-Victory’ vegetables.”

She displays models of the weekly food rations the wartime gunners received, just four bacon rashers, one fresh egg, a tin of dried eggs, a small portion cheese, cooking lard, tea and sugar.

Mudchute Farm’s chairman Mike Barraclough said: “The children used to look at the old concrete gun-sites and wonder what they were.

“So the right thing was to find a genuine ack-ack gun and restore it to give a dimension of history and show how places change from war to peace.

“Churchill was concerned about public morale when the Blitz began and used these guns with their tremendous din to restore people’s confidence to show we were firing back.”

The anti-aircraft gunners, most of them just 18 or 19, were in constant danger. German pilots aiming for the docks followed the Thames and knew by the Isle of Dogs loop where to drop their bombloads.

The Mudchute today is visited by 46,000 children a year, plus the 19,000 from schools across east London taking part in its education programme.

The kids can now see a genuine ack-ack gun used to defend London when their grandparents were youngsters, to show how the East End has survived from war to peace.

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