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Ordnance QF 3.7 inch Anti-Aircraft Gun

Originally designed in the 1930s and introduced to Royal Artillery units in 1937, a significant number of the Quick Firing 3.7” AA guns were received in New Zealand from Britain in 1942. In total, around 46 were positioned around the city of Auckland, with additional batteries also being placed in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin.

3.7 inch anti-aircraft guns in Hyde Park, London in 1939.  Photo: © Imperial War Museum (United Kingdom) [Ref. H 993]

The guns around Auckland were sited in sets of four at Takapuna, Bayswater, Northcote, Orakei Domain, Auckland Domain, Epsom Showgrounds, Ponsonby, Western Springs, Te Atatu, Hobsonville and Whenuapai. Two mobile guns were kept in reserve.As the guns were deployed they were bolted on to a concrete base that was 10 feet thick.The concrete works for each gun emplacement cost £10,000, and the sets of four guns cost £48,000. With accommodation for the personnel, each gun site cost at least £150,000.

A typical four-gun anti-aircraft gun site was manned by up to 70 men and 50 women giving coverage 24 hours a day during three shifts. During the Second World War, the gunnery crews in Auckland maintained a 30-second state of readiness at all times.

3.7 inch anti-aircraft gun in storage at the National Army Museum (New Zealand) in Waiouru.  

During the 1950s, the 3.7” was relegated to coastal defence work in New Zealand. In 1952 the Army had 193 of these 3.7” guns and several hundred spare barrels. By 1961 there were only 84 guns and 269 spare barrels, and in November that year, the last territorial AA unit was shut down. In 1966 the Coastal Artillery units were also disbanded.The guns were donated to museums and RSAs, or scrapped (with a value of only £400-£450.

At first glance the 3.7” guns look similar to Germany’s 88mm AA gun which was also used as a fearsome anti-tank weapon. However, the 3.7” gun was never used in an anti-tank role as they were around 2,000kg heavier than the 88’s, which made them unsuitable for anti-tank operations in forward areas.

Alex Smith from The Garrison Society Inc talks about the 3.7" Anti-Aircraft gun fired during the Centenary Armistice Day Commemoration on 11th November 2018 in Amberley, and talks about the work the The Garrison Society is doing at Godley Head in Christchurch.

The Germans thought so highly of the British 3.7” AA gun that after many of these guns were abandoned at Dunkirk in 1940, the Germany Army pressed them into service, going so far as to manufacture their own ammunition for the guns.

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