Army Balloon Company 1950's.
I was really pleased to find a small number of memos attached to some of the sheets in the station Operations Record Books (ORBS) for the years 1950-1955. These throw up some interesting facts which would have remained undiscovered otherwise.
For example, there are several mentions of an “Army Balloon Command” between the years 1951-1953. This command is mentioned in the notes for a station exercise to defend a simulated attack on the station to take place on Wednesday June 27th 1951. For this exercise the Unit was led by a Captain M L Dunbar and the instructions given were as follows:
“The Army Balloon Unit is to be sited in No 4 Defended Locality. It is to be prepared to fight in this locality or counter attack any of the defended localities.
On Friday 24th October 1952 the Balloon Company is still on the site. In another simulated attack exercise there is mention that:
“The Officer Commanding, Army Balloon Company, is the Chief Umpire, and will act as Exercise Director as required.”
Another similar defence exercise was scheduled for Feb 28th 1953 and although the Army Balloon Company is shown on the plan distribution list it does not appear to have been involved in the actual proceedings. However in the same month following the Great Flood on February 1st 1953 the command worked alongside RAF staff providing assistance to residents in Canvey Island who were displaced when coastline defences were breached. Over 300 lives were lost in the natural disaster.
The Army Balloon Command was based at the station to train Territorial Army airborne units – the huge sheds being an ideal height for parachute drop practice. At some stage in the early 50’s it was renamed the Parachute Training Unit and remained at the station until 1955. Further mentions reveal that this Unit came under the Airborne Forces Command at Aldershot.
More details can be found on the Parachute Regiment website www.paradata.org.uk