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Author Topic: Barrage Balloons in Medway  (Read 19864 times)

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Offline peterchall

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2012, 23:59:49 »
Aren't I a silly billy? :) I was thinking of Yantlet Creek and wondering how that could have been mistaken for the Swale, also why it was considered so important. My excuse is that it's not marked on today's OS map :)
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Offline otis

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2012, 23:44:01 »
This is Yantlet Dredged Channel....
"there was more hit than miss about this arbitrary bombardment"

Offline peterchall

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #14 on: June 27, 2012, 22:59:49 »
Not a typo this time. Quote from Minsterboy’s Reply #5: “In Dec 1939 the Thames Estuary Barrage was set up as part of No.30 (Barrage Balloon) Group…..to protect the Yantlet Dredged Channel.” I believe at that time it went right through between Thames and Medway.

Does this help?
No 30 (Balloon Barrage) Group’s dispositions at 1st October 1940:

No. 1 Balloon Centre, Kidbrooke, London. SE3
901: 45 balloons, Abbey Wood
902: 45 balloons, Kidbrooke
952: 40 balloons, Sheerness (32 waterborne)
961: 24 balloons, Dover (8 waterborne)

No. 2 Balloon Centre, Hook, Surrey.
903: 45 balloons, Forest Hill
904: 45 balloons, Clapham
905: 45 balloons, Kensington

No. 3 Balloon Centre, Stanmore, Middlesex.
906: 45 balloons, Hampstead
907: 45 balloons, Woodberry Down
956: 24 balloons, Colnbrook

No. 4 Balloon Centre, Chigwell, Essex.
908: 45 balloons, Metropolis
909: 45 balloons, East Ham
910:45 balloons, Dagenham (3 waterborne)
928: 24 balloons, Harwich (10 waterborne)

Number of balloons is the issued strength, not necessarily the number deployed.

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Offline otis

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2012, 21:42:18 »
Yep - a typo. I meant Sept 1944.
I was sure that I had read somewhere that there were 8 balloons ( one flight ? ), which were most probably waterborne, placed in the Medway at the wars start. This seems confirmed by Maid of Kent.
Presumably they were part of the unit based at Sheerness. Anyone know when they were withdrawn ? Or did they stay for the duration.
They were probably the ones protecting Yantlet Creek in December 1939, referred to by Minsterboy, and abandoned at begining of 1941. Maid of Kent was referring to after October 1943.


No these that I recall mentioned were at Chatham, not Sheppey.

Those ones at Swale mentioned by Minsterboy were post December 1940, not 1939 ( typo ? ). So were well after the wars start. So can not be the same.
"there was more hit than miss about this arbitrary bombardment"

Offline peterchall

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #12 on: June 27, 2012, 20:34:25 »
I found this in the website I mentioned at Reply #8. It takes a bit of finding so I’ve copied and pasted it here. It still needs some careful reading to follow it, but it gives an idea of the scale of the operation:

CHANNEL MOBILE BALLOON BARRAGE VESSELS, BASED AT SHEERNESS, CONTROLLLED BY C IN C NORE:
BUNGAY, DEAL, HASLEMERE, ROEBUCK, SAMBUR.
BELGIAN ASTRAL.
BALLOON BARRAGE VESSELS:

BOY SCOUT, BYNG, CITRON, COMELY BANK, CONSTANT HOPE, ELSIE AND NELLIE, EX FORTIS, GEORGE AND ALBERT, INVERUGIE,
J T HENDRY, KIDDAW, MARINUS, OUR KATE, ROSE EMMA, TRIUMPH, YOUNG ALFRED, all at Sheerness,

BALLOON BARRAGE YACHT: MEDEA at Sheerness
 
BALLOON BARRAGE VESSELS: (Thames Estuary):
BALLOON BARRAGE VESSELS:
ARROW, BETTY HUDSON, DOROTHEA, EILEENA, HELEN OF TROY, INNISSHANNON, JAMES M, KATHERINA, MARY III.
DUCH: RIAN, SAXON, SPARTON, BASED AT SHEERNESS,

DUMB BARGES: SCOTT, WESTERN, BASED AT SHEERNESS.

SERVICING VESSELS: BRITISH QUEEN, DENTON, SEATOW, THE MILLER, WILFRED, all at Sheerness
 
MARK VI BALLLOON MAINTENANCE VESSELS: “A” Barge, “A2” Barge, both at Sheerness,

CRETEACRE at Southend.

DAPHNE, GOODWIN, HELEN BIRCH, all at Sheerness, PIPER II at Southend, SCROBY, VERA, both at Sheerness
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #11 on: June 27, 2012, 20:12:22 »
Yep - a typo. I meant Sept 1944.
I was sure that I had read somewhere that there were 8 balloons ( one flight ? ), which were most probably waterborne, placed in the Medway at the wars start. This seems confirmed by Maid of Kent.
Presumably they were part of the unit based at Sheerness. Anyone know when they were withdrawn ? Or did they stay for the duration.
They were probably the ones protecting Yantlet Creek in December 1939, referred to by Minsterboy, and abandoned at begining of 1941. Maid of Kent was referring to after October 1943.

But if Sheerness was the base for seagoing balloons, it's likely that their carriers were moored in the Medway Estuary - Queenborough etc, not for defence, but for 'storage'. As the book mentions, for technical reasons they could not be brought right down, but only close-hauled. I don't know for certain, just guessing.

Another consideration regarding whether we 'deserved' balloons was that, for part of the war at least, the Dockyard had a smoke screen - couldn't expect balloons as well as that and guns. :)  See: http://www.kenthistoryforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=4296.msg34933#msg34933
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Offline otis

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2012, 17:52:59 »
Thanks for the info everyone.

I was sure that I had read somewhere that there were 8 balloons ( one flight ? ), which were most probably waterborne, placed in the Medway at the wars start. This seems confirmed by Maid of Kent.

Presumably they were part of the unit based at Sheerness. Anyone know when they were withdrawn ? Or did they stay for the duration.

Could it be, that the reason that there were no barrage balloons in the Medway/Rochester area, was because of Rochester Airport and the Esplanade, with the air testing of aircraft taking place, aircraft and balloons do not mix, possibly the reason why RAF Biggin Hill and RAF Gravesend were closed.  Just a thought.

Robin.

That is a very good point. I know there were other places where aircraft factories and barrage balloons co ex-isted ( Filton, and Brooklands off the top of my head ). Having a runway present must have severly limited where balloons could be placed though.

Very possibly, but perhaps as likely was the concentration of AA guns making them unnecessary. A quick glance at HAA gun distribution suggests that the concentration of guns in Thames & Medway North and South was more dense than anywhere else in the country – on 11/9/1940 they had a total of 120 guns, compared with 199 of the Inner Artillery Zone covering the whole of London, and with the 14 in the Dover/Folkestone area that did have a balloon barrage. It was certainly the reason for closing Biggin Hill and Gravesend, because they re-opened when the barrage was removed in September 1940.

Also very likely. ( Typo - September 1944 though ? )
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #9 on: June 27, 2012, 17:27:12 »
Thanks. It was just that a single balloon for the whole of Sheppey seems pointless, and the others were probably were you state. This interesting link shows 952 Squadron as having 32 waterborne balloons and, presumably, 8 land based ones, and I wondered where they were:
http://www.bbrclub.org/1940%20Status.htm
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Minsterboy

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2012, 16:53:15 »
That's the only site that I was aware of. I took that stuff from an short article that I had published in 1985 whereby when it was decided to bring the balloons ashore, I stated that - "Sites suggested were at Southend/Shoeburyness, the east side of the Isle of Grain and the north side of Sheppey", with the Sheppey site being as I said.

Offline peterchall

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #7 on: June 27, 2012, 16:31:13 »
Very interesting – thanks  :) The only question I would ask is, was the present site of Tesco’s the only on-shore balloon site on Sheppey? As well as the semi-static sites that you describe, the book ‘Roof over Britain’ devotes a whole chapter to seagoing balloons that sailed with coastal convoys, stating that they were based at various ports. While Sheerness is not mentioned, it seems logical that it could have been one of the bases.
Could it be, that the reason that there were no barrage balloons in the Medway/Rochester area, was because of Rochester Airport and the Esplanade, with the air testing of aircraft taking place, aircraft and balloons do not mix, possibly the reason why RAF Biggin Hill and RAF Gravesend were closed.  Just a thought.
Robin.
Very possibly, but perhaps as likely was the concentration of AA guns making them unnecessary. A quick glance at HAA gun distribution suggests that the concentration of guns in Thames & Medway North and South was more dense than anywhere else in the country – on 11/9/1940 they had a total of 120 guns, compared with 199 of the Inner Artillery Zone covering the whole of London, and with the 14 in the Dover/Folkestone area that did have a balloon barrage. It was certainly the reason for closing Biggin Hill and Gravesend, because they re-opened when the barrage was removed in September 1940.
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Minsterboy

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #6 on: June 27, 2012, 15:48:15 »
In Dec 1939 the Thames Estuary Barrage was set up as part of No.30 (Barrage Balloon) Group. Sheerness became the base of No. 952 Sqd RAF, with a temparary HQ at Tange Accommodation Buildings, Hope Street, Sheerness, led by Sqd. Ldr. R.H. Berryman. The purpose of this squadron was to protect the Yantlet Dredged Channel from mine-laying by low flying enemy aircraft and the squadron was to help man motor-barges flying barrage balloons over that channel. The mine-laying, mainly by Heinkel floatplanes, was reaching serious proportions early in the war.

To accomodate the squadron's personnel, the General Steam Navigation Company's ship "Golden Eagle" was requisitioned  and moored off of Sheerness. 50 300-ton motor-barges were also requisitioned, with their four man crews, and cooking facilities, etc, were supplied on both the barges and the depot ship. Communications between the barges and depot ship were by short-wave radio sets and Aldis Signal Lamps. The crews were divided into two watches and would spend 24 hrs on watch before being relieved by the other two crew.

Six flight squadrons were formed to man the barges with eight balloons per flight. The balloons were only flown at full height from the barges during the hours of darknessand hauled down during the day. Although heights constantly varied, the normal night-time height was some 4,500 feet and the day-time height 2,500 feet, although when firing practise at nearby shore-based ranges was due to take place the balloons were often hauled in as low as 200 feet or more.

During December 1940 increased mine-laying at the eastern end of Sheppey, off Whitstable, gave cause tp speculation that perhaps the enemy were mistaking the entrance to The Swale as the Yantlet Dredged Channel. As a result, six Drifters with balloons were anchored there to help encourage the enemy that it was indeed the Yantlet. By just a month later however, this ruse clearly hadn't worked because mining of the Yantlet had increased and a change of plan was again necessary. This was necessary because not only had the mining made movement between the barges very hazardous but also because the barge crews were were showing signs of mutiny. They were originally only requisitioned with their barges for a six month pperiod and yet after a year there were feeling the effects. It was therefore decided to bring the balloon sites ashore in various places, and on Sheppey the site chosen was where Tescos now stands.

That is all I know, except that Ralph Reader, who later created the Gang Shows, was a member of the Balloon Squadron at that time.

Offline Robin

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #5 on: June 27, 2012, 14:51:26 »
Could it be, that the reason that there were no barrage balloons in the Medway/Rochester area, was because of Rochester Airport and the Esplanade, with the air testing of aircraft taking place, aircraft and balloons do not mix, possibly the reason why RAF Biggin Hill and RAF Gravesend were closed.  Just a thought.

Robin.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #4 on: June 27, 2012, 09:56:00 »
Addition to above: No952 Squadron had 40 balloons at Sheerness during the first year of the war up to September 1940. I don't know how long they were there after that. However, 32 of the balloons were waterborne, so Sheerness may have been just the location of Squadron HQ for those mentioned above.
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Offline peterchall

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #3 on: June 27, 2012, 08:44:09 »
During WWII there were no barrage balloons in the Medway area before the 1944 V1 attacks........Can I write to my MP and complain retrospectively ?  :)
I think you would have done the opposite and asked for them to be taken away. :) The noise of the wind over their cables from those across the river in 1944 could be heard in Rochester.

Apart from short term deployment at Canterbury after the raid in June 1942, the only balloons in Kent before 1944 that I’m aware of were those of No961 Squadron at Dover.

Even the Anti-diver Belt was not over the Medway Towns, but was a 20 mile long x 4 mile deep belt running south or south-west from Cobham, made up of balloons drawn at short notice from all over the UK in June 1944. It necessitated the closure of Biggin Hill and Gravesend airfields, which became Nos 22 and 23 Balloon Centres.

The balloons that Maid of Kent saw must have been water-borne. They were deployed from trawlers to protect convoys forming up in the Thames Estuary, and which accompanied them while on the move. They were distinguishable from the standard balloons by being smaller, with pointed rigid tails not dependent on the wind to fill them.
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Offline Maid of Kent

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Re: Barrage Balloons in Medway
« Reply #2 on: June 26, 2012, 21:28:38 »
There definately were some barrage ballons in the Medway area before 1944 because although only a little girl I remember seeing them. How long they were there I cant tell you, but they were there! How do I know it was before 1944 - because my mother and I moved from there in Oct 1943. What  they were over, that I couldnt say for sure but I could see them from the front garden of East Court Farm to the North West over the barn which is where the Speirs is now. I suppose that would have been on the approach to the Dock Yard, over the Medway

 

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