© Crown Copyright/MOD

Hull's Own Air Force Station

© Crown Copyright/MOD
   

 




August of 1947 saw the formation at the Station of No. 3505 (East Riding of Yorkshire) Air Defence Unit of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force with its base in one of the Balloon Repair Sheds and Squadron HQ (3b). The function of this unit, one of some thirty in the UK was to man a Fighter Control and Radar reporting Centre with the personnel of both men and women coming from all works of life in Hull and the surrounding districts. In January 1950 all such Units were renamed as Fighter Control Units. In the event of a war the FCU would have maintain a constant Radar watch, plot the position of all aircraft on tables, calculate the course, height and track of enemy aircraft and direct the defending aircraft into a position where the enemy aircraft could be seen, identified and destroyed. The training for the Unit took place during evenings and at weekends at a purpose built Operational Centre at the Station and for 15 days each year it went to an operational RAF Station where the up to date control procedure was practised.

© Crown Copyright/MODAn approved Royal Auxiliary Air Force Unit Badge was presented late in 1950 to No. 3505 Fighter Control which bore the motto of 'Intercepre et Delere' - 'We Intercept and Destroy'. The Unit continued to operate at RAF Sutton on Hull until 1960.

Two changes of Command took place during 1947, Squadron Leader J.E.G. Hancock, assumed on the 1st September to be relieved on the 8th November by Squadron Leader J.K. Milne.

Another of those many Trainees who went on to make a career in the RAF Fire Service was Warrant Officer William Forbes. Bill was a native of Aberdeen and he volunteered into the RAF - as he describes on "Paddy's Day" - the 17th of March 1947. After Basic Training he took a Drill Instructors Course. Although he completed it he wasn't required and remustered in October 1948 - as Aircraftman 1 Forbes, when he was posted to RAF Sutton-on-Hull to undertake a basic Fireman's' Course. Four weeks later he was a RAF Fireman soon to be posted abroad for a tour in Egypt.

Corporals of the RAF Police provided security on the Station and they worked from the Guardhouse. In their distinctive white covers on their service dress peaked caps and with white webbing were known by Airmen either as 'Snow Drops' or 'SPs'; the later referred to the Station Police who previously dealt with the Security of RAF Stations. The Guardhouse and adjoining billet for the Police Section were not centrally heated and instead coal stoves heated the wooden buildings. The Guard Room was the report centre for Defaulters who had committed some discipline offence probably they polished the floor and cleaned the building. For more serious offences two Detention Cells in the Guardroom were of course constructed with bricks!

Fank Moss stands on the Parade Square. Corporal Frank Moss (Left) did his National Service in the RAF Police at the Station from November 1949 to July 1951. His duties included the manning of the Guardroom and the booking in and out of service personnel and visitors, security patrols on the Station and spells at the Main Gate. If on duty at the relevant times of the day he was responsible for the raising and lowering of the RAF Standard on the Main Gate Flagstaff with similar duties on secondary one at the Parade Ground at Ceremonial and Station Commander's Parades.

He and his colleagues provided Armed escorts to collect the Station's payroll from the National Provincial (Westminster) Bank on Hull's Cottingham Road; well, as Frank said, "We did carry revolvers in our holsters but the six rounds remained in a cardboard box in our ammunition pouches!"

Another unusual duty the Police Section had was "puppy-walking". The puppies, in the main Alsatians had been bred at the RAF Police own breeding kennels and were future recruits for the RAF Police Dog Sections.

West Carr Lane entrance Margaret Wray Sally Bonnie Pam Spruit Camp Sentry Unknown cyclist Ginger Mr Fussey N.A.A.F.I.

It was in July 1950 when William Forbes, who we met earlier, returned to the Fire School as a Corporal, where he was to remain for the next nine years as an Instructor on the Permanent Staff. Bill recalls that little had changed since he was last at the Station in 1948 - the training courses had been extended to six weeks but nothing had changed in the social side of the Station. As a Corporal, he was now allowed in to the Corporals' Room at the Institute - which was still thriving and dancing there was still popular. However, Bill was not to slumber in one of the Barrack Huts again - he'd married in 1950 and 'lived out'!

A Civilian Clerical Assistant, John Porte arrived in 1950 to work in the Central Registry which was the largest room in the brick building at the rear of the Station HQ which, also housed the PBX and Teleprinter. He relates that the room contained two large tables with the tops of them painted in green on which, what appeared in white an outline of map of the area while in the centre of the floor there was traps door which when opened revealed cables and terminals connectors. John and his colleagues went on to use the tables as their desks for the next ten years but there is no doubt they were the war time Plotting Table and the room, the Barrage Balloon Control.

Some of the war time buildings, then redundant, could be used for other purposes with slight alterations. The Control Building, with its door protected by a blast wall, which was retained in place, only windows were added while some Air Raid Shelters had both windows and doors fitted and other out lying ones were used for fire training purposes without any changes.

On Sunday 10th September 1950 the Station was open to visitors and some 10,000 of them were attracted to enjoy displays and fly-pasts of aircraft of the year and demonstrations of Fire Fighting. The event was covered by the Hull Daily Mail, and the report in their archives is acknowledged.

The program included Precision Drill by the RAF Regiment from RAF Catterick, which no doubt one of the very early displays, which is still performed by the Queens Squadron of the RAF Regiment. It was described as;

"One of the outstanding demonstrations of drill which from start to finish not one word of command was given although there were many varied drill movements. Most of the boys were National Servicemen who had only been in uniform for six months. They were so efficient they drew praise from Lord Middleton, Lord Lieutenant of the East Riding who also took the salute when the event was opened."

Competitive Fire Drills also took place between teams from the School and those from local industry, the report continues;

"The RAF Team, comprising National Servicemen with only one month's training, won all three events. They completed the two-man hose drill in 20.9 seconds, won the four-man hose drill after the Amalgamated Box team had been disqualified, and won the four-man medium pump drill when the Shell Mex team's hose broke!"

The Flying displays were covered as well;

"Though aerobatics were impossible, Hornets, Meteors and Vampires often flew low over the camp. They thrilled the crowd as they dived to demonstrate the method used by fighter aircraft when they are going in for a "beat-up" attack."

When the field events were over the band of No. 152 (City of Hull) Squadron Air Training Corp played marching and counter-marching and the RAF Regiment Band played selections from their repertoire. The report concluded with a list of the civic and service representatives who attended.

In 1999 Corporal Frank Moss remembers that open day. His duty was on West Carr Lane covering from Wawne Road to the Main Gate and he was amazed at the numbers of the public who attended. Most of them would have travelled by bus or train to the village of Sutton to finish their journey on foot to the Station.

Back to 1951 and it was seen that on the 9th February Wing Commander G. F. Hales became the Commanding Officer but unfortunately on the 8th March while attending the morning Parade he collapsed dying the next day. Wing Commander H.F. Bishop OBE, AFC assumed the position on the 18th March.

An Air Squadron, affiliated to the University College of Hull, founded in 1951 become associated to the Station. Qualified flying instructors of the Royal Air Force staffed the Squadron and flying with de Havilland Chipmunk aircraft, took place at Brough Airfield. There spacious accommodation including flight office, crew rooms and lecture room was provided while ground training took place at the Squadron's Town Headquarters at 22 Pearson Park, Hull, where also was the Squadron's Mess.

Membership of the Squadron was open to all internal registered students between the age of 17 and 30 who expected a minimum of two years residence. The aims of the Squadron was to provide flying service training to students who were considering a RAF career and for those who had deferred their National Service and to promote and maintain liaison with the University in technical research affecting aviation. These aims, with the exception of the flying service, applied to a unit of the Air Training Corp that operated at the University during WW 2.

The RAF Volunteer Reserve, which operated this Squadron, disbanded in 1953 and local activity was transferred to the centralised Yorkshire University Air Squadron based at RAF Church Fenton.

It should be noted that the Station had been in built in 1939 for a war time purpose and, like some of the other 443 installations built in the United Kingdom alone between that year and 1945, accommodation for married servicemen was not understandably considered. However, the plans for the 17 Balloon Centre were drawn in 1937 and the Commanding Officer's house was included and built.


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