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Hull's Own Air Force Station

© Crown Copyright/MOD
   

 




The Station Commander's records, now written by the Commanding Officer of the remaining Balloon Squadron No. 942/3 reiterates on the 6th March that 66 Balloons continued to operate with at least 35 under the control of WAAF Crews.

At the Station on Thursday 1st April a parade took place to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force in 1918. Although there was a war on, work there and at the Flights ceased at 12 Noon and during the evening a Carnival Dance at the Institute took place, which was allowed to continue until 12.30 AM the next day! No doubt such a celebration at that time relieved the boredom but it was doubtful that the balloon defence suffered; as it was unlikely that many of those men and women at the Remote Sites attended, for them it was duty as normal.

The Crews of the "Waterborne" moored in the River Humber were enduring gale force winds that had been blowing from the early hours of Thursday 7th April, and obviously their charges were very active in the storm. The balloon on a barge moored off Paull went seriously out of control at 9.30am, and although still attached to it's cable, it dived and fell onto the roof of the closed village blacksmith's shop where it exploded. The blast caused serious damage to the Smithy, while the adjoining building - the Village School, was devastated in a split second as some forty children aged from 5 to 14 years were at their lessons. The air in the classrooms became thick with dust, soot, and smoke, and the children scrambled over debris to safety in the street where they were reunited with worried parents and others who had hurriedly assembled. The black smoke from the burning balloon fabric made it difficult for the teachers who searched the school in case anyone had left behind hurt; though miraculously not one child was injured.

It was nine months before the school was repaired and reopened. However, six weeks after the explosion the children started lessons in the Village Hall.

The balloon that caused the havoc was doubtless replaced, but there was a further incident on the 25th of the same month when it was reported that in a heavy gale the "Waterborne Mobile"; HM Drifter "Thora" had foundered on the boom at Spurn. One member of the balloon, Aircraftman 1st Class Thomas William Wrighthham was reported missing presumed drowned. With a trade as a Cooper, Tom had worked for Hull Trawler Supply making and repairing wooden fish kits on St Andrews Dock. When in his early 30's he joined the AAF in 1939. He left a wife and one daughter. The "Thora" was last mentioned in 1942 on which Corporal Mould served when he had been successful with a machine gun, he did survive the sinking.

On the 25th May an E.N.S.A Show followed at which the Star was Sandy Powell and no doubt his catch phrase of "Can you hear me mother?" echoed round the Institute.

At the end of the same month they're work done, and more than likely after a small celebration, the RAF Safety Equipment Workers School left the Station.

In the Records dated 25th June, yet again Tom Mould appeared this time announcing to him - a Meritorious Award. An Air Ministry Bulletin dated 1st July 1943 announced that 870919 Corporal Thomas Herbert Mould of the Auxiliary Air Force, No. 942/3 Squadron had been awarded a DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL. The citation of the award is quoted -

'Corporal Mould has been in charge of a mobile drifter since November 1939, during which time he has displayed great courage, fortitude and devotion to duty in numerous actions against enemy mine-laying aircraft. On the 3rd June 1941, he observed a Junkers 88 approaching his vessel at an altitude of 1,500 feet. He promptly attacked the aircraft with machine-gun fire and it was seen to crash into the sea. On another occasion when a Junkers 88 flew in low to attack his vessel, he coolly withheld his fire until he was sure of his aim and destroyed the aircraft. Corporal Mould has badly damaged three other enemy aircraft and his vessel has always been to the fore in reporting enemy aircraft and mines.'

It is thought that Tom Mould remained in the Service until early in 1946, when he settled in Grimsby and obtained work in ship repairing. He went on to become a Trade Union official, entered local politics, and was elected as a Councillor. He was Mayor elect when he died, it is believed in 1963.

Unknown balloon crew posing in an ex-lifeboat

Waterborne crews board a tender Tom Bently

There was a further testimonial recorded on the 6th July, this was a letter from Air Commodore J. G. Murray. He commended Leading Aircraft Woman MacAndrews and the WAAF crew of No. 64 Balloon Site on National Avenue in Hull: who on the 24th June during an air raid, maintained operational effectiveness and also put out a fire in a local timber yard.

Marching Band 'Blackout Clocks' showing the times of thecurrent day's  blackout Cycle racks Gas transporter Have you written home recently?

On the 1st of September official record showed 56 Balloons operating in the Hull Barrage indicating a decrease by 10 in the previous six months. During 1943 the Allied Forces began to build up in the South of England to prepare for the Invasion into Europe and to deter the prying eyes of enemy reconnaissance aircraft a new Barrage was created with some equipment coming from existing barrages. The Hull area remained well protected with 41 Land Sites, 9 Waterborne and the 6 Mobiles operating afloat near Spurn Point. Air raids continued the Balloons were flown at 6.500 feet.

October saw yet another RAF School taking up residence at RAF Sutton on Hull but this one was here to stay - it was the RAF School of Fire Fighting and Rescue. The Station received a signal on the 18th advising the C.O that, "The School in No 24 Group, Technical Training Command, formation effected by transfer of Fire Fighting Courses & Equipment from No. 8 School of Technical Training, RAF Station Weeton, Lancashire. The School to be 'Lodger' Unit at RAF Station, Sutton-on-Hull."

By the 20th the School's permanent staff and Fire fighting equipment began to be moved by road & rail and upon arrival at the Station took over buildings allocated. They soon settled in as a House-warming dance in their honour took place on the 22nd! Three days later saw preparation at the Fire School for the commencement of training under the Officer Commanding and Chief Instructor - Squadron Leader J.A.W. Brooker. The duration of the training Course of Fire fighters for other ranks was 4 weeks, for Senior NCO's it was 8 weeks, and for Officers it was only 2 weeks. Courses of 5-day duration for American Servicemen to enable them to familiarise with the RAF Fire Tenders in use also took place. The members of the National Fire Service (NFS) attended at the School for 2-day courses of instruction on aircraft fire and rescue situations. An Emergency Control room was established at the Station with the purpose to reinforce the NFS in the local area if required.

Arriving in November one of the first to undertake the Fireman's Course was Hull born Corporal Ron Russell. Ron had joined the RAF in November 1937 and after doing his three-month initial training at RAF Uxbridge he served in Bomber Squadrons as an Air Gunner with the rank of Aircraftsman 1st Class. Although he flew in the biplane Handley Page Harrow and the Heyford he still had his turn on the fire tenders but after a serious illness in 1940 he was grounded and his main duty was that as a fire fighter. Taking part in drills, studying the Fire Manual and attending the occasional lecture given by Fire Officers he acquired considerable experience, attended at numerous aircraft crashes at Operational Stations during the first two years of the War and attained the rank of Corporal. With his experience his first ever Fire Course was obviously routine and with the trade of Fireman he was back on the Fire Tender at an operational Station before Christmas and he continued to serve in that capacity until he left the service in January 1946.

Apart from the influx of equipment and personnel to the Station No. 942/3 Balloon Squadron continued to operate from there to maintain the Hull Barrage which was now in the fourth year of it's being. During the year air raids had taken place but the number of them had decreased, though the Balloons continued to be flown when each occurred, four bombing raids were reported with civilian casualties of 26 dead with a further 28 seriously injured.


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