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HULL BALLOON BARRAGE

This defence of the Humber area saw the formation of three Balloon Squadrons of the AUXILIARY AIR FORCE on Wednesday 25th January 1939.

They were designated as: -

No’s 942, 943 & 944 (East Riding) Balloon Squadrons.

With Headquarters at Wycliffe Chambers, Campbell Street, Hull; local men between the ages of 25—50 years were recruited. The Auxiliary Air Force was embodied in to the Royal Air Force on the 24th August 1939.

On the 1st September 1939, the Hull Barrage consisted of 6 Balloons flying from War Sites; it was the 31st of July 1940 before the ultimate number of 74 was reached. At that time 24 were waterborne on the River Humber and the Estuary.

During 1942 members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force replaced some 60% of the land sites. Some of the local men assisted in the training of WAAF at the Centre while others dealt with maintenance on the Sites.

On the 1st January 1942 No’s 942 and 943 Squadrons were combined as 942/3 while on 26th April of the same year, No. 944 was disbanded.

The Hull Barrage continued to fly until the 31st July 1944 when the Squadron with all their equipment was sent to the south east of England to become part of the Anti-Diver Barrage against the V1 Flying Bombs.

The Log of the 942/3 Balloon Squadron was closed on 28th August 1944 and shortly after the Squadron was disbanded.

RAF School of Fire Fighting & Rescue.

This school was formed on the 18th August 1943 in 24 Group of Technical Training Command and to become a Lodger at the Station but it was not until 25th October that the preparation for the commencement of training began. On the 31st December 1943 the name of the school become RAF School of Firefighting and Anti-gas and there also saw the promulgation of the RAF Trade of Fire-fighter, this later changed to Fireman. As well as the training of RAF personnel courses took place for American Servicemen to familiarise with RAF Fire Tenders and instruction on aircraft fire and rescue situations to the then National Fire Service. An Emergency Control room was established with the purpose to reinforce the NFS in the local area; such co-operation continued in to the post war years. During those years the RAF School of Fire Fighting and Rescue became the primary occupier of the Station and the training there saw up to six consecutive courses taking place. June 1951 saw 202 Other Ranks in training with a Permanent Staff of 226 All Ranks with 25 Civilians. In 1953 a Unit Crest was approved and presented to the school on Wednesday 2nd December the same year.

On Wednesday 7th October 1959 the School closed ending 16 years of its existence.

 

Lodgers.

During the existence of the Station it was also the home of other RAF detachments, called in Service parlance, "Lodgers". Even if they did not actually work there, the Centre provided serviceman with the important things in their life; food to eat, a place to sleep, medical service and most important - Pay!

Training of Radio & Wireless Mechanics.

The first known Lodger was recorded on the 9th February 1941 when RAF personnel began to attend 16-week instructional courses for Radio & Wireless Mechanics at the Hull Municipal Technical College. The initial course consisted of 22 Trainees but by the following July up to three consecutive courses were running with up to 100 at any one time. Those attending were "billeted out" to lodging houses in the city including the Marina Commercial Hotel at 118 Anlaby Road, Hull. The training took place under the auspices of the College at the Boulevard Secondary School, which had been closed, for normal education in July 1939. The training was still taking place in records dated September 1942.

Starfish Units.

These units created dummy targets and decoys to draw bombs from the intended targets by the use of fires, the exposure of lights and beacons. On the 19th March 1941 one such beacon was operating at Wawne Common Farm with the RAF crew living in a caravan. A report made on the 20th September 1942 states that 36 other ranks were still manning local sites.

RAF School of Aircraft Recognition.

Opened 17th September 1942. Courses lasted for 16 days and were open to all branches and trades off the RAF, Army, Royal Observer Corp, Air Training Corp and until 1945, the US Army and Army Air Force. The School also provided printed matter on the subject of Aircraft Recognition that was distributed to Operational Stations for the information of the Air Crews.

The School left the Station on 5th February 1945 but it returned again in January 1946 and remained there until the 31st May 1948 when it moved to RAF Kirton in Lindsey.

No. 21 Embarkation Unit.

On the 20th September 1942 it was recorded that this unit was staffed with 140 all ranks of RAF and WAAF personnel. Their purpose was to control and supervise RAF equipment shipped by sea to and from the Ports in the Humber area. It is likely that some of those shipments were boxed aircraft to Russia.

RAF Safety Equipment Workers School.

This opened 17th November 1942 with the intent of the school was to retrain fabric workers, parachute packers and dinghy packers and combine them into one Trade and prepare them to appear before a Trade Test Board. At the end of 1942 the personnel involved in this was 536 of all ranks of which 450 were under training. This School closed on the 31st May 1943. (The dates of this School coincide with the introduction of WAAF personnel on to Balloon Sites, which resulted in the need for those Airmen relieved from that work to be retrained for other duties.)

62nd RAF Reserve Centre.

From March 1947 until May 1948 it was housed at the Station and it was there that 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.

No. 3 RAF Movements Unit.

From March to September 1947 this unit 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.

No. 152 ( City of Hull) Squadron Air Training Corp.

In November 1946 No. 152 (City of Hull) Squadron of the Air Training Corps became a "Lodger" unit at RAF Sutton-on-Hull. The ATC Squadron was assigned two buildings at the Station for their use and 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 - the cadets were "on ration strength". The Cadets entered into the life of the Station with the Squadron’s Drums and Trumpet Band providing martial music at displays and parades. In 1951 the Squadron moved to other accommodation in the City of Hull but the Cadets drill took place at the Station; they continued to like the RAF food! After the Air Ministry disposed of the Station in 1961 using the Guardroom and Headquarters buildings an Air Training Corps Centre was established. In June 1962, No. 152 (City of Hull) ATC Squadron returned again to West Carr Lane and resided there for seven useful years until the Centre was closed in July 1969. The Squadron still operates in 2002.

 

No. 3505 (East Riding of Yorkshire) Air Defence Unit.

Formatted in August 1947 this Unit of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force with its base in one of the old Balloon Repair Sheds / Squadron HQ on the Station. 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.

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.

An approved Royal Auxiliary Air Force Unit Badge was presented late in September 1950 to No. 3505 Fighter Control which bore the motto of "Intercepre et Delere" – "We Intercept and Destroy". The Unit was disbanded in 1961.

A decoration was also awarded. The "Air Efficiently Award" was awarded to members of Air Defence Units such as 3505. The ribbon was dark green with two vertical white stripes in the centre. It was of silver, showing the Queen's head on front and 'Air Efficiently Award' lettering on the back. The edge carried the recipient's serial number, name and initials and the letters RAF, and the medal was awarded to members of the Auxiliary Air Force and WAAF. I'm indebted to Len Bacon for his research and information on this little-known RAF award. A picture will follow, if someone can supply me with one.

 

The Main Gate of RAF Sutton on Hull.

East Park, Kingston upon Hull. OS TA116313 (107)

Gates at East Park, Hull, commemorate their use at the site of RAF Sutton on Hull, 1939 to 1969>

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The late Squadron Leader A. W. Varey DSM, had commanded the No.152 (City of Hull) ATC Squadron during the existence of the ATC Centre built on the site of the Station. He witnessed the removal of the gates when the Centre closed and the installation of them at the their present location. During August 1998, the author saw the gates for the first time and because they were in such a dilapidated state, he felt the owners, Kingston upon Hull City Council, should be reminded of their history. This was well received, repairs were possible, and the addition of plaques was suggested. On Friday 30th April 1999 the Lord Mayor of Kingston upon Hull, Councillor Brian Petch, declared them re-opened. That year, 1999, also marked the 60th anniversary of the opening of the —

17th Balloon Centre / RAF Sutton on Hull.

Plaque on Gates at East Park, Hull, commemorate their use at the site of RAF Sutton on Hull, 1939 to 1969>

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Memories of RAF Sutton on Hull

Some memories of RAF Sutton on Hull were sent to me by Terry King, now living in Germany. He grew up in Sutton as a lad, and tells me the name to Sutton residents was nothing like so formal. They knew it simply as the "Balloon Barrage", after it's former wartime role. There used to be regular dances at the camp. No, not a derogatory term, all RAF and army bases were also known as camps and only the very biggest were bases or depots. These dances were held in the NAAFI Institute, known to all local folk and lasses as "The Institute". It was special in that the dance hall had a sprung floor and was one of the very best dance floors in the whole area. And very popular with the local lasses, if not the lads !

Another memory Terry has, and there must be many more that can verify this, is of going onto the airfield and prowling around the scrapped and fire-damaged fighters and bombers to 'salvage' perspex. Yes, the perspex or clear plastic windscreens and observation domes, was a rare and useful product in those days, and thick enough to carve. Men and boys used to carve this easily pliable material and make models out of them, often Spitfires or Hurricanes, which were then mounted on a stick on a stand or base, and used as a desk ornament.

There must be many still about. Does anyone still possess a clear plastic aeroplane that was their father's or grandfathers and wondered where it came from ? I'm not being sexist here ... I'll bet any money that no girl in Hull or Sutton would have been seen dead making anything out of a dead aeroplane. Making dresses and underslips out of 'salvaged' parachute silk was another matter. That was romantic.

It may surprise some that there were no airfield fences or security in those days. The smartly turned out sentry or Regulating Policeman on the main gate by the Guardhouse, and the red and white pole, was just for show. There was no problem stopping people from going onto the camp .. fences such as they were were mostly for stopping airmen "Confined to Camp" from getting out to part-take of a few jars at The Ship when they were supposed to be on Jankers. .. no, not a German bomber, that was a Junkers. Jankers was punishment, sweeping up, peeling spuds and veg and general cookhouse duty, cleaning latrines, etc, for various minor misdemeanours, like being slovenly or late on parade, smoking on duty, absent without leave. Or even ... youngsters don't know this word ... insubordination.

That could be as little as raising an eyebrow when given an order by an officer, or to be seen to be questioning an order in any way. No one questioned the wisdom or common sense of an order, however daft it might seem. The mildest Insubordination could get you confined to camp or barracks for at least a weekend. Can't be done these days, or the MOD would be taken to the European Court of Human Rights.

Anyway ... one memory of my own, as a boy .. there is nothing, but NOTHING, that compares with the taste of airfield mushrooms. That was RAF Spittalgate, in 1955 ! And I daresay those that grew on the fertile fields of RAF Sutton on Hull were just as tasty.



There is now an excellent Website devoted entirely to
RAF Sutton on Hull
and the Balloon Squadron stationed there.
It contains photos, station plan and a full history by Leonard Bacon.
It comes Highly Recommended.





A disputed controversy ... ? a link to a page of comment to put things in perspective following some silly media speculation in which some historians were quoted out of context.

The Battle of Britain ... who really won it ?





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