M Balloon Unit.

The daily entries in the ORB (Operations Record Book) for the Balloon Unit throw up some intriguing snippets in August 1939 with fleeting references to “M Balloon Unit”. The entries read as follows:

28.08.1939: Formation of “M” Unit, 1 officer and 18 airmen including 12 balloon operators of No 1 Balloon Unit. Officer A.P.O. Fowkes R.A.F.V.R from the Met Section.

30.08.1939: 2 more airmen, drivers, arrived for duty with M Unit. M Balloon Unit kitted and equipped and posted to RAF Station Abingdon at 17.30.

Just days later WW2 was declared. Although the newly formed Unit was initially based at Cardington for just two days further research reveals later connections to the station. Some very interesting facts emerge about this little known group and also shed some light on the type of work the Balloon Development Establishment was involved in. The purpose of the unit was to drop propaganda leaflets over Germany and later Holland, France and Belgium using unmanned balloons.

At the start of the war it operated from France. The expertise of the BDE at Cardington was essential for this operation to succeed as the balloons had to be capable of travelling long distances and tests began at Cardington to fulfil this requirement. The old paper and rubber balloons were found to be inadequate and eventually cotton balloons were used.

According to records the M Unit returned from France and regrouped at Cardington on 1st June 1940. From this date it would appear that they were part of the Dunkirk evacuation which was from 26th May - 4th June 1940. Six weeks later on Aug 4th the Unit moved to Manston Camp and later to other bases around Kent.

The Unit disbanded in July 1945. It is recorded that over 129 million leaflets were dropped over Europe and beyond during the war.