Low-level attacks by enemy planes were supposed to be prevented by barrage balloons and anti-aircraft fire. Pilots who engaged in this type of thing were reviled as cowards, machine-gunning defenceless civilians who they could actually see as individual people. Such attacks did take place on occasion. As a child Alexander Hook witnessed a plane flying up the North Warwickshire Line at low level:
We had been shopping in Acocks Green ‘village’ my mother and I, and we were meandering along the Warwick Road towards home. We stopped at one point whilst mother chatted to a friend. It was while I was waiting to continue the walk home that I glimpsed a very dark coloured aircraft flying extremely low and fast. It was only a glimpse because my view of it was obstructed by buildings and houses.
As a nine year old in wartime, warplane spotting was naturally a hobby of mine and all my pals, and you could obtain booklets to help you identify war planes by their silhouettes. I knew that the one I had just seen was not one of ours because of the colour, but the air-raid warning sirens had not sounded.
Mother and I resumed our walk home, and again I had a glimpse of this low flying plane, and I mentioned it to my mother. Mom remarked that “It must be one of ours because the sirens haven’t sounded,” and we carried on our way.
Soon we were on the Warwick road bridge over the Stratford upon Avon railway branch line. Immediately after crossing the bridge we were to turn left into Tyseley Lane. When we were halfway across the bridge things really began to happen.
We saw this enemy war-plane, I think twin engined, heading for us at a tremendous speed from the direction of Small Heath. It had opened fire and was shooting up the railway track in its low level attack. We were too shocked to move for a second or two, and then we decided to run for cover. As we turned the corner into Tyseley Lane some workmen were standing in the entrance of an air-raid shelter belonging to the Methylated Spirit Company. Some of the men shouted for us to run to them in the shelter, and some shouted for us to lie flat. We ran for the shelter. I think Mom and I probably hold jointly the world record for the thirty yards sprint.
We regained our breath, and as we stood in the doorway of the shelter we saw the plane gain height rapidly and seconds later the local ack-ack battery, probably at Stockfield Barracks, opened up and scared the attacker away. We had to wait a while for the shrapnel to fall before it was safe enough for us to say goodbye to our new friends and walk home rather shaken. But what a story to tell Dad when we arrived home!
A similar incident, perhaps the same one, was witnessed by Mrs Patricia Smith, who was brought up on Ryde Grove.
I remember walking with my mum over York Road bridge, where the railway goes. There was just one plane. There were some little kids just in front of us, and my Mum went and grabbed them and ran them up an entry with me, because he was coming down and machine-gunning the railway. She just grabbed us, and fortunately we were just over the railway bridge, and there was a house with an entry, and she ran us up there.
Joan Tyler recalled this incident: I remember when working at the sweet shop on the corner of Severne Road that there was gunfire. The plane came down - how we ran for shelter.
In addition, we were told of an occasion where a man on Hazelwood Road had just got his car out of the garage, when it was machine-gunned by a low-flying plane.
Some incidents of machine-gunning may have happened accidentally in aerial dogfights.