R.A.F Sutton on Hull

The Sqn Logo is used and produced under licence from the MOD 

Getting Ready For War



As early as 1929 the Air Defence of Great Britain recommended that a balloon barrage should form part of the defence of Cities.

Balloon Barrage was a Great form of defence, which caused enemy Planes to fly higher and to bomb less accurately, and Hopefully to deterred dive-bombing.  The balloons forced enemy aircraft up to a higher altitude where they could be more easily dealt with by defending searchlights, anti-aircraft guns and fighter  planes.  It was later realised that balloons deterred the sowing of Sea-Mines in the Estuaries. The basic method of sitting the balloons was to place them on the perimeter of the area to be defended..


 Unfortunately the down side of the barrage was that the balloons were also lethal to our own aircraft and the balloons were also guides to enemy planes to identify targets.   In 1936 the Air Council made plans for a balloon barrage initially for the London Area under the operational control of Fighter Command. The planning of this was extended to provide similar barrages in the United Kingdom at areas vulnerable to air attack on main cities, ports and industrial areas.


There was a need for local bases from which the barrages could be maintained and in 1938 - 1940 this resulted in the building of eighteen identical Balloon Centre, the master plans for which were prepared to support up to four Mobile Balloon Squadrons. The plans were amended to fit within the land available at each location, all of which were near to city centers.


The City of Hull, with its Docks was a prime target for such enemy attacks and the base for that area was designated as the RAF  17 Balloon Centre, which was planned to accommodate and support three Balloon Squadrons. Construction of it started late in 1938 with RAF Personnel reporting for duty early in January 1939. Wing Commander J. M. Brickman was appointed as the first Commanding Officer, assumed command on 17th May 1939 and was responsible to 33 Group of Balloon Command.


The Centre was officially opened on Wednesday 28th June 1939.


Above: Ariel photo pre war

It was built on over eighty acres of land, previously tenanted by Stamford Smith of Mount Pleasant Farm. Wawne Road, West Carr Lane and the Foredyke Stream - bordered it, north west of the village of Sutton, which was within the City and County of Kingston upon Hull. The land was never again to be used for agriculture.


This defense 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 31stDecember 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.


Above: Lancaster & Spitfires destin for destruction for fire practace


Above: A poor ending for this Spitfire


Above: Fire crews in training

I trained with the RAF school of fire fighting and rescue at RAF Sutton on Hull, a former balloon centre used to defend Hull in World War 2. I wish I’d taken some photos of the aircraft on base now, there were literally hundreds of Spitfires and Lancasters on base and some were Ace’s aircraft and bombers that completed many missions.  They all suffered the same fate though, they were filled with straw and had fuel poured over them and had a dummy put inside the cockpit and torched. It was then our job to get the dummy out and put the fire out:- George 'Gibbo' Gibbs - RAF Fire Service 1954-1958


Find out more about George 'Gibbo' Gibbs @




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





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.


Other Pictures of R.A.F Sutton on Hull:

The main gate now in situ at the entrance to East Park, Hull (James Reckitt Av)

An overlay of where R.A.F Sutton on Hull pre war over 2013 Bransholme


Passing out


Plaque on view at Bransholme Library


More information on R.A.F Sutton on Hull can be found at