© Crown Copyright/MOD

Hull's Own Air Force Station

© Crown Copyright/MOD
   

 




When WW 2 ended RAF Sutton on Hull had provided from 1939 to 1944 a means of defence, the Hull Balloon Barrage and it was seen in 1943 that the Station was ideal for the training of RAF Firemen. In 1944 it was transferred to No. 24 Group of Technical Training Command with the RAF School of Firefighting and Rescue, as the primary occupier of RAF Sutton on Hull. It became known as the Fire School as which it continued to operate the first fourteen Post War Years.

The old 17th Balloon Centre had the space for such an establishment. It seems that in 1943 all that was needed to adapt it for its new use was the addition of a Fire Tower and that arrived with all the Fire Tenders and equipment by road and train from Weeton. The original Balloon Hangars became storage for Fire Tenders, another to simulate a fire to aircraft within it and later, one housed a mock up of a Nuclear disaster area for Rescue training purposes. New uses of Balloon Repair Sheds were found - one became the Gymnasium (3a) with the attached Squadron Headquarters as the Education Section; another displayed fire-fighting equipment and similarly attached building became the Fire School Headquarters (3c). A larger Parade Square, complete with Flagstaff was established between the MT Yards and the Winch and Lorry Garage, which with its very spacious undercover area, was used as a Drill Shed and for some fire drills. Later, part of it was used to park the permanent staff's private cars as their pay improved!

The Hard Standings, where Balloons once flew, later adapted for a completely different purpose - the remains of an aircraft were set alight on them for the trainees to extinguish and rescue the 'occupants' as a finale to their Course.

Fire practice aircraft wreckage Balloon Hanger Retired bomber Boiler house & chimney Supermarine Spitfire wreckage Fire Tower Sergeants Mess Married Quarters Baloon hanger

For that the Station received aircraft, the initial to arrive in 1943 were airframes of a Tiger Moth, two Gliders, Typhoon and a Spitfire but during the remaining war years redundant and crashed aircraft found their way to the Fire School. With the war over there was no shortage of all types of aircraft and even twin and four engine aircraft in pristine condition arrived and some were put on display, not one of them were flown in - there was no runaway! Instead, they were transported on "Queen Marys" the RAF 's extremely long low-loader road trailer.

In the Autumn of 1945 there was no break in the training of Firemen, one Course of 4 weeks duration was taking place at the School. On 20th October 1945, Squadron Leader R.W. Flegg was appointed as the Station Commander of RAF Station Sutton on Hull.

The Station Commander was also the Chief Instructor and two lines of command were in place. His Adjutant dealt with the day to day running of the Station where as his Senior Training Officer dealt with training matters at the Fire School. The Station's senior NCO, "He who must be obeyed", was the Station Warrant Officer whose word was gospel relating to discipline however it was slightly different at the Fire School, the W.O (Training) dealt with the Trainees who had blotted their copy books!

The Warrant Officer (Training) also had at his disposal a team of NCO Instructors, all of whom had trained and served as RAF Firemen. It was their task to prepare recruits in all aspects of fire fighting, from hand Extinguishers to Foam Fire Tenders, to undertake a Trade Test to enable them in turn, to serve in the RAF Fire Service. Eventually the Fire School became capable of the consequently running of six Basic courses each of 30 - 35 trainees who received their tuition from one Sergeant and two Corporals. The School also ran Advance courses attended by Officers, NCOs and other ranks after experience in their Trade at other Stations.

Fresh from some home leave after their RAF Initial Training (Square-Bashing), new trainees for the Basic Courses arrived at the School on a Wednesdays and when directed to a wooden barrack hut circa 1939, it is possible that they were surprised to find they were centrally heated!

Their daily routine would start with inspection by the Officer i/c Training on the Parade Square, after which they were marched in courses by the NCO Instructors to one of the 25 classrooms on the Station. However the Trainees first day at the School would be different, as on a Thursday there was a slight change, it was the Commanding Officer's Inspection. This probably entailed a longer duration on the Square as it had the additional attendance of the Station's Church of England Padre. He offered prayers after those of other religions were invited to leave the ranks and stand with their backs to the parade on the edges of the Square. The Trainees spent the next hour of that day in the Padre's Room, while the Instructors had a meeting - no doubt all minds were refreshed and it was then back to the classrooms!

As well as the break for dinner, the trainees looked forward to enjoying a mid-afternoon "wet and a wad" from the NAAFI Van, which was regularly parked at one of the 48 doorways of the Winch and Lorry Shed.

Water was an important element in the fighting of fires - the supply of which had to be obtained from the Foredyke Stream that bordered the station, from where it was pumped into static water tanks that had been installed. Maintaining this supply was all part of the training of a RAF Fireman.

Saturday mornings were included in the curriculum and were reserved for the cleaning of fire tenders. Guess who did that - the trainees of course! The afternoon - as was Sunday appeared to be free for them!

One of the highlights of their training was to jump off the top of the 30-foot Fire Tower using the David Escape Line, while later at a lower level on their hands and knees crawled in thick smoke through the Smoke Chamber. During that exercise the only breathing apparatus visible was used by the Instructor, for safety reasons he had to remain in the building.

For the Trainee Fireman there were many things to learn - the aptly named Wet and Dry Drill, the use of the foam making branch pipe, to learn how to tie knots, identify the various couplings, how to prime pump units, ladder drill, the use of hand extinguishers and that was but a few!

It is also recorded that Competitive Training Methods were in use that not only speeded up the various drills carried out; it was also a means of fixing the training in the minds of the trainees. Hose Drills, was an example that took place in a form of a competition between the trainees in the very early stages of their training.

A group of trainee firemen Tom Lilburn of Hull Chalkie White from Scarborough Malcolm Lawson (now deceased) George Ingham of Hull

Tom Lilburn Tom Lilburn Ray Morris


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