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TOPIC: 930 Balloon Sqn

930 Balloon Sqn 01 Mar 2016 21:13 #1

  • ww2ni
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On 12 August 1940 the Luftwaffe commenced attacking Royal Air Force Fighter Command airfields and radar stations during the Battle of Britain.
At 11.51 a raid of 150+ aircraft was plotted 30 miles north of Cherbourg. These aircraft then split into a number of smaller groups before crossing the English coastline with some going to Portsmouth and nearby Gosport in Hampshire.
These attacks by the Luftwaffe incorporated Air Raids involving large numbers of Aircraft and were planned so that as one group had dropped all their bombs then the next group would replace them in an ongoing stream.
All of this was taking place on the day before what was to be “Eagle Day”, Tuesday 13th August, as directed by Adolf Hitler as the day when the invasion of Britain would begin.

Leading Aircraftsman Gerald McElrea from Antrim was serving in Gosport with 930 Balloon Squadron and was at the Barrage Balloon Site at St Vincent Sports Ground, Forton Road when the site received a direct hit by a large Bomb.
The timing of this raid is remembered by Aircraftsman Second Class A.W. Kemp who on Remembrance Day 1988 recalled the attack saying:-
“The day was fine one with plenty of sun and we were out most of the time, drilling and getting used to our webbing equipment. The powers that be had decided that we were to be trained as much as possible for a line of defence should the German army invade. It was tiring but well worthwhile as we got used to our rifles and equipment very quickly.
Just before midday, we had two corporals who were instructors to help us with our training. They had been with us only a short while when the red alert was sounded, as the sirens blared out. This usually happened well before a raid, but this time it was almost immediately that the guns opened up and we could hear the noise of the planes diving. Our NCO quickly ordered us all to retire to our air raid shelter.
After a short while Frank Offord and I decided to go outside and find out what all the noise was about. We went around the back of the shelter into a slit trench, which was about 4 foot deep. The noise was deafening; we saw a parachute come down and then another - it was very exciting to watch at the time because it all seemed so far away. Frank and I spotted the Hun planes coming from the back of the site and one was dive bombing.
The next thing I remember was a terrific explosion and we both lost consciousness. We must have been out for quite a while because as I came to Frank was shouting "I'm drowning!" I could see he was up to his waist in soil, his face was covered in blood, his nose was bleeding and he was in great pain. All this of course had also happened to me, and I felt terrible.
We managed to struggle out of the trench and Frank said we'd better get to the sick bay as soon as we could. As we stood up ready to go, we looked at the shelter in front of us and all we could see was a great big hole. I said to Frank "We'd better get help quickly as the others may be buried and badly injured". As we passed the balloon winch we saw it was on fire, and the house opposite had been hit.
When we entered the Naval sick bay they had their hands full as there were casualties everywhere, and all they could do for us was to bathe out wounds and tell us that our centre at Titchfield was coming to collect us. We told them about the air raid shelter and they sent someone to investigate. Meanwhile the air raid sirens started again and we were sent to the air raid shelter were we saw civilians from the row of houses on the edge of the site. The mums did their best to comfort us, because they realised there was no hope for the rest of our crew. We were in so much pain; all we wanted was treatment to ease it. Eventually our R.A.F. ambulance turned up and took us to Titchfield where we were given drugs and treatment.”
Leading Aircraftsman Gerald McElrea was killed along with Nine of his Comrades and a similar number of Civilians.
Some of the above information is from the Barrage Balloon Reunion Club.

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Last Edit: by ww2ni.

930 Balloon Sqn 01 Mar 2016 23:07 #2

  • Dietmar Morley
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Fascinating! Thanks for posting that.

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