To live in London is to always have the memory of World War II with you, a whispered reminder of the unfathomable destruction and incredible bravery that was seen on the streets of this great city.
When I moved to London, the omnipresence of the war drove me to read as much about it as I could, trying to understand how it had shaped this place. It was when I picked up a book about the Gunner Girls and other British women who went into service, a seedling of a plot for The Light Over London began to grow. If you’ve never heard of the extraordinary women of Ack-Ack Command who manned the anti-aircraft guns defending London’s skies during World War II, it’s my privilege to introduce you to them.
Made up of the women from the Army’s Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the Gunner Girls were formed to fill out the ranks of the Royal Artillery’s anti-aircraft batteries stationed in Britain and across Europe.
By parliamentary decree, women were not allowed to load or fire the massive guns, but they did everything else. Each battery had a spotter who could identify German aircraft, as well as a team of women to operate the sophisticated instruments used to aim the weapon and set its fuse. These teams moved fast, executing a complex set of adjustments in a matter of seconds.
Working primarily at night, the Gunner Girls formed a special bond held together by the incredible danger of their jobs to shoot down enemy aircrafts amid air raids. They were also united in their knowledge that they were doing something few women had ever done before—standing down the enemy right in the path of bullets and bombs.
More than 350 Gunner Girls lost their lives during World War II, and their contribution and sacrifice when their country needed them most to win the war cannot be ignored. The Light Over London is my way of honoring the women of Ack-Ack Command and their incredible stories.