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Hull's Own Air Force Station

© Crown Copyright/MOD
   

 




The New Year saw that the Barrage was maintained at 50 Balloons with the 6 Mobile in operation.

During the preparation of the invasion into Europe the No. 942/3 Balloon Squadron was engaged in the training of Parachutists for the Airborne Divisions. This took place at Tatton Park near RAF Ringway (now Manchester Airport) and for this operation a Mobile Unit would be provided from Sutton on Hull. Such a unit would consist of a Winch lorry towing two trailers of Hydrogen, a folded balloon and the crew. This was another use of the docile barrage balloon; it now provided the means of lifting a wicker basket suspended below it containing up to six would be parachutists in training. The Winch Operator would then "fly" the balloon with its passengers and one by one they would drop through a hole in the bottom of the basket to descend by parachute. Records show that each day, 400 such descents took place which, for the crew, meant nearly 70 up and downs of the balloon and on top of that, a cross country drive of 120 miles, inflate the balloon and when finished, deflate it again and drive back to base. It certainly was a long tedious day for the Crew, but they undertook such duty cheerfully, as many more did in times of war.

The Fire School Log recorded the strength of personnel on the last day of March as being 12 Officers, 40 Senior and 86 Junior NCOs, 72 other ranks and 7 members of the WAAF. Itemised in the same report were the nationalities of those they're at that time - 6 Canadians, 5 Polish and a lone Norwegian.

On the 16th July - Wing Commander Palmer handed over the command of No. 942/3 Balloon Squadron to Squadron Leader J. Hardy. On the 31st of the same month he was to lead the last remaining East Riding Balloon Squadron to the South East of England to join the majority of those in the Balloon Command in the United Kingdom to combat the menace of the Flying Bombs (V 1's) that was threatening London. The skies over Hull and the Humber were now void of the "Silver Monsters" - the Barrage was no more.

This "Anti-Diver" barrage over Kent had come into being on the 16th June 1944 using some 500 balloons that had been operating in the western part of the country. Its was quickly discovered that there was not enough of them so the barrage was thickened to nearly 2,000 balloons by the end of July, which then included those of the No. 942/3 Balloon Squadron who had left the Humber Area.

Ably supported by the members of the WAAF, each balloon was manned by RAF Airmen only and they flew their charges against the "Doodle Bugs" to form the last line of defence of London. They successfully stopped 15 per cent - 278 V 1's. The newspapers at that time proclaimed that,

"In the Flying Bombs the balloons had the opportunity they had been waiting for, and the saving of life and property had more than repaid the effort in manpower and material devoted to the balloons in the previous four years. This was the Balloon Command's Finest Hour"

On the movement of No. 942/3 Squadron as described some 600 members of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force who served in the Hull Barrage remained at Hull, their commendable work on the Balloons had finished. The finding of other trades and duties for them took time but eventually all left for different Stations and in a very short time there was no establishment for WAAFs' at RAF Sutton on Hull!

The threat of the V1's abated when in August the Allies in Europe captured the launch sites, and by the end of September the disbanding of the Balloon Squadrons commenced.

For the RAF Balloon Operators who had exemplary service in the Hull Barrage in No 942/3 Squadron it was the end of their work on the Barrage Balloons, and it was then their turn for other duties for them to be found. It is thought that some did return to the Hull area but in most instances jobs at distant establishment were found. However both RAF and WAAF s' for their remaining service retained their ranks and continued to receive pay equal to the Trade of Balloon Operators.

The last entry in No. 942/3 Balloon Squadron Log was the movement South on the 31st July 1944 and finally it was closed on the 28th August the same year.

During the same month of the Officer Commanding of the RAF Fire and Rescue School, Squadron Leader J. R. Brooker became the Commanding Officer of RAF Station Sutton on Hull. As the end of the first year of the School's tenure approached, the other "Lodgers" were the RAF School of Aircraft Recognition and No. 21 Embarkation Unit. There were no reports of bombing air raids during 1944.


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