© Crown Copyright/MOD

Hull's Own Air Force Station

© Crown Copyright/MOD
   

 




Sports Day Wednesday afternoons in the RAF was always reserved for sport and the Station had pitches for the playing of Soccer, Rugby and Cricket with teams from the Permanent Staff and the Fire School playing in RAF Leagues. The Cricket XI also participated in local competitions and during there existence they won the Hull Thursday League and were runners-up in the Hull Tuesday Evening League and came to be joint winners of the Tuesday Knockout Cup. For indoor games there was a Gymnasium installed in one of the old Balloon Repair Sheds (3a): this had the space for Badminton and even Five-a-side with still enough room for vaulting horses, parallel bars and 50 feet long climbing ropes. Occasional Boxing bouts were staged in the same building and even at other times, the floor of it was used for roller-skating.

The Trainees were offered in their free time the delights of the NAAFI, which also had a first rate Concert / Dance Hall circa 1939. Dances were held every Thursday in the winter and every alternate Thursdays in the summer which all attracted good attendance. On occasions the necessary female dance partners were offered transport to and from the Station starting and finishing at the Hull City Centre. From time to time, concert parties and repertory companies were engaged to put on shows at the Institute.

During the winter months a Record Request Programme of popular music was broadcast over the Station's Tannoy loudspeaker system and airmen took the opportunity of sending their best wishes and greetings to their mates. For those who preferred more serious music a Classical Music Circle was held at the Education Section. There were two libraries: a Reference and Text Book library where those wishing to do some serious study could find books of many technical and literary subjects and a Recreation Library which contained a large number of popular works of fiction by well known authors. New books were purchased every month with the opportunity for airman to suggest which books should be obtained.

A Camera Club also flourished and it was said that the latest equipment was available for members to do their own developing and enlarging etc., more expert members were allowed to take photographs at functions which were sold to upkeep the Club funds.

The Information room was another place were airmen were able to relax in comfort and as recorded, " to improve their knowledge of World and Local Affairs from a comprehensive arrangement of poster displays and literature." Popular daily newspapers were available with a wide section of periodicals and other publications.

The Station surrounded by fields on rising ground from Foredyke Stream to Wawne Road, was a very bleak and exposed location. The road lighting within the establishment was reasonable but the surrounding country lanes did not have such illumination. It an airman had the necessary pass and he sought other form of entertainment he had to do quite a bit of walking. If he fancied a glass or two of beer it meant him turning left after leaving the Guard Room, walk towards the North and turning right on to Wawne Road, eventually Sutton Village which did and still boasts, three hostelries would be reached. If a right turn out of the Main Gate was taken this offered a similar walk to the South on West Carr Lane which after crossing the Foredyke Stream Bridge, yet another public house could be reached. From that point the more adventurerous Airman who wished to see the big lights, visit a cinema or even to meet a girl, would cross Sutton Road, continue along the meandering West Carr Lane to eventually reach the Band Stand in Stoneferry where a bus to the City might be available! For them to make the 23.59 Hrs deadline, their return journey often meant walking the whole way back to the Station!

Sergeant Ray Blackburn from Spalding, joined the RAF in 1943 and after a spell in an operational fire section he attended a 4-week Course at the No. 2 School of Fire Fighting at RAF Ismalia in Egypt. After doing well in his exams he became an Instructor and rose to become an Acting Sergeant.

Officers & Instructors 1946 Ray Blackburn Flt Lt Morrell Helmut Leslie Gilson

Late in 1945 he was posted back to the UK and by diverse means he received a posting to the Fire School to continue as an Instructor. Ray confirms that during 1946/7 the School was providing one basic fire course for about 35 Airmen. Also the continuation of the training, first afforded in 1943, to the National Fire Service. On the first visit he made to the city of Hull he was aghast at the terrible damage of the wartime bombing but of a happier visit to the town he recalls:

"I suppose one of the highlights, for some, was a visit to Hull City Fire Station (Worship Street) at the end of the exams! They saw how a civilian fire station operated and above all a chance to stand on the platform of the 100-foot Merryweather turntable ladder and ascend to some 85 feet, a great experience."

The co-operation continued with the local Fire Brigade and their 150-foot Leyland TML Metz turntable ladder became a welcome visitor to the Fire School during its existence.

One Airman arrived in 1945 to be on the Permanent Staff was LAC Fred Moorcroft. Fred was a Hull man who had entered the RAF in 1941 as a Driver of Motor Transport (DMT). He recalls that after driving some of the RAF's largest lorries over some of the worst terrain in North Africa, he was to finish his service driving Fire Tenders whilst the Fire School Trainees manned them during their tuition. As he was continually on this duty, he become very conversant with the fire drills that the trainees were taught and accordingly, he acted as an Instructor until de-mobbed in 1947. He also remembered that fire tenders from surrounding Stations were serviced and repaired at the Motor Transport Section.

Another Hull man to serve on the Permanent Staff was Corporal Vincent Scholey. He joined the RAF in February 1946 and after training as a Cook at RAF Halton - his first posting was back to Hull in June the same year. He was to work at the Airman's Mess at a very busy Fire School until January 1948. He recalls that there were more than 20 cooks of various ranks who worked in the Airmen's, Sergeant's and Officer's Messes. At that time German ex-P.O.W was still at Sutton and acted as orderlies in the Mess while others worked as gardeners on the station. The Airmen's Mess could accommodate 360 in one sitting - the stoves were coal fired, which caused problems during the bad winter of 1946 - the snow was so deep the coal man could not call! The shortage of fuel and the terrible cold weather caused a halt in the training at the Fire School; Trainees, together with unnecessary Staff were sent to their homes leaving a skeleton staff to maintain the Station.

Many similar training sites were closed during that winter, which caused during 1947 a backlog of almost three months in RAF training. Vincent remembers that the winter of 1947/8 was nearly as bad as the last one but a different coal supply had been found and training continued without a break, possibly with the exception of the trainees, armed with spades dug out the Station from the heavy snow falls. This task of digging snow was probably added to the curriculum up to the winter of 1957/8 when Colin Hall did his basic course at the Fire School during another bad winter. He relates his training and some of the hardship, which all Trainees endured during the cold winter weather.

"The regime of training was necessarily hard, but we were young and fit and mostly enjoyed it. During my time there, the road to Sutton was closed due to very heavy snowfalls, which stopped training while we airmen dug out the road! I received my first and only issue of Rum from the RAF!

Training with trailer pumps in that sort of weather meant pouring boiling water over pumps before they would turn to be started, but cuts and bruises went unnoticed until your hands warmed up."

RAF Ismalia, Suez

After completing his training, Colin, as a Fireman went on to serve five years in the RAF Fire Service. He then transferred to the Royal New Zealand Air Force and after serving another five years in the same trade he was commissioned to become the RNZAF first Commissioned Fire Officer. He went on to become, as a Squadron Leader the Chief Fire Officer. His final comments is, " My career was perhaps a little different to some who trained at Sutton."

The RAF Central School of Aircraft Recognition had been at the Station from 1942 to February 1945 and with only the absence of a year, it returned to the Station in January 1946 to continue it's work there until 31st May 1948.

In November 1946 No. 152 (City of Hull) Squadron of the Air Training Corps became a "Lodger" unit at RAF Sutton-on-Hull. This Squadron had come into being in June 1939 in the Air Defence Cadet Corps (ADCC) which had been founded a year earlier to foster Military Aviation. By 1940 there were over 200 Squadrons, with 20,000 Cadets. The Air Ministry noted the success of the ADCC and on 1st February 1941 they assumed responsibility of control under the title of the Air Training Corps. The original aim of the ATC was to act as a reservoir from which the Fleet Air Arm and the RAF could draw their future air and ground crew. The necessary training was given to the Cadets in preparation for Military Service and with the later advent of National Service, it continued.

The ATC Squadron was assigned two buildings at the Station for their use. The larger of the two had previously been a bulk barrage balloon shed, one of the two on the Station (circa 1939) - the second one provided is shown to have been the Cycle Store - this was used as the Squadron's Office. A suitable parade area had also been designated, including the use of the Winch and Lorry Shed when wet! Classrooms were available and were of importance in the training of the Cadets.

Permission was granted for parades on two weekday evenings, on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday - when the cadets were "on ration strength" and no doubt they enjoyed their dinner at the Airman's Mess. The Cadets entered into the life of the Station while the Squadron's Drums and Trumpet Band provided martial music at displays and parades which some of the details are recorded elsewhere. Although in 1951 the Squadron moved to other accommodation in the City of Hull the Cadets drill took place at the Station and they continued to like the RAF food!

From March 1947 until May 1948 the Station also housed the 62nd RAF Reserve Centre at which local Reservists of the RAF if called, reported for duty to be mobilised. There the Reservist would be issued with extra kit and travel documents to allow them to travel to required locations. The Official Map of the Station, amended in 1950 shows the existence of a Mobilisation Store (32) and although not recorded, it could be possible that during its existence, the Station continued to be a Mobilisation Centre.

The Station also provided from March to September 1947 Lodger status to the 3rd RAF Movement Unit, which dealt with the necessary disembarkation and movement of RAF Personnel. It was during that year that many Servicemen were travelling to and from Europe and troop ships carrying them berthed in Hull's Alexandra Dock and the Riverside Quay. The latter had been completely destroyed by war time bombing, however the direct passenger railway link used by pre-war boat trains was still available and there troop ships moored at relocated Pier Heads from the Mulberry Harbours that was created for the 1944 invasion into Europe.

The Auxiliary Air Force, embodied in the RAF in August 1939 was reformed as a separate entity during 1946 and one-year later, in recognition of its distinguished war service it was honoured with a prefix “ROYAL”. 


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