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'M' Balloon Unit.

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Selected entries from the Operations Record Book of the RAF's 'M' Balloon Unit.


January 1940 On only two nights during the month was the wind favourable for operations. The weather during the whole month was intensely cold, the lowest temperature recorded being -8°F. The personnel of the Unit were engaged in digging A.R.P. trenches, inspecting the seams of all balloons held in stock, and in various duties in connection with transport.
01/02/40 to 01/04/40 In BUHL (near SARREBOURG, FRANCE).
02/04/40 to 16/05/40 In SARREBOURG.
27/04/40 F/Lt WILSON relinquished command. F/Lt BAIRD assumed command.
16/05/40 Unit moved to NANTES arriving 23/05/40.
27/05/40 F/Lt BAIRD relinquished command.
30/05/40 Unit entrained for CHERBOURG.
01/06/40 Unit arrived at SOUTHAMPTON and proceeded to CARDINGTON.
28/06/40 F/Lt H.S. ELTON, MC, assumed command of re-formed Unit.
07/08/40 Unit at MANSTON.
24/08/40 In a dive bombing raid on Manston Camp on this day some Jerry heavy bombers scored direct hits on the hangar and storage hut causing two fires to break out at once. Balloons were scattered in all directions but were of no salvage value, many being badly burnt and others torn to shreds. All stocks of Nickels were completely destroyed together with all equipment - except one pair of scissors which were found amidst the ruins, undamaged.
25/08/40 Unit arrives in KIDBROOKE via Sheerness.
19/09/40 Unit moves to Grenham House School, BIRCHINGTON, KENT.
December 1940. Conditions during this month were ideal and the frequency of favourable winds was above average. The supplies of Nickels, Hydrogen and Balloons were adequate and satisfactory.



January 1941

Total releases for the month were 487 balloons, carrying 1,690,500 Nickels.

31 Jan: 5 balloons released carrying postcards, destination HULL, to check releases and direction of travel.

February 1941

Operations carried out on 12 occasions during month, which is above average. 1,414 Balloons released, carrying 4,595,000 leaflets.

12 Feb, 19:00 hrs: 5 balloons released carrying postcards to check direction of travel and releases. Destination: MIDDLESBOROUGH

March 1941 The experiments with Postcard carrying Balloons over this country have proved of great value and interest, but insufficient data has yet been collected for a complete report.

855 Balloons released, carrying 2,645,000 leaflets.

9 Mar, 20:00 hrs, 5 balloons released carrying green postcards to check direction and releases. Destination: CARDIFF

11 Mar, 20:00 hrs, 5 balloons released carrying pink postcards to check direction and releases. Destination: DENBIGH

14 Mar, 20:00 hrs, 5 balloons released carrying pink postcards to check direction and releases. Destination: DOLGELLY

April 1941 Balloons released on 23rd March, destination BELFORT, reported to have dropped leaflets over SWITZERLAND & ITALY (550 miles). Two Balloons dropped leaflets in NAVARRE in SPAIN (650 miles).
May 1941 A characteristic of the month has been the almost entire absence of winds which would carry balloons over HOLLAND and GERMANY and the long periods during which the winds have been very light. In spite of the reduction in the number of balloons released there has been great difficulty in obtaining accessories especially destructor fuses and releases. This lack of equipment has held up operations on two occasions. Had the winds been more favourable operations would have been considerably restricted thereby.
July 1941 J. M. WOODCOCK becomes C.O. of 'M' Balloon Unit and made acting Flight Lieutenant (5th July 1941).

Supplies of some items have been restricted owing to manufacturing difficulties. No opportunities for operating have been missed through this delay.

1,750,000 leaflets distributed over HOLLAND.

2,175,000 leaflets distributed over GERMANY.

August 1941 Largest number of balloons so far released for any month. Supplies of equipment have generally been up to standard as regards both quantity and quality. There was some curtailment of operations at the beginning of the month owing to difficulties in the manufacture of release mechanisms.
October 1941 Equipment generally has been up to standard in quality with the exception of a small batch of balloons which had to be returned to the makers, owing to the tape patches being insecurely attached to the balloons.
November 1941 24/11/41 The new 'Papyrus' weather forecast has been issued to the Unit.

1,465,000 leaflets were distributed.

December 1941 A record number of releases this month, 4,449,000 leaflets.



February 1942 Five experimental releases have been made during the latter part of the month. 20 balloons released on each occasion:- 5 'M' Type - 5 'B' Type with automatic ballaster - 5 'B' Type with mark II release - 5 N.P.L. with liquid valve and automatic ballasters.
June 1942 Owing to diminishing stocks of 'M' Type equipment, owing to rubber shortage, operations have now been limited to a maximum of 200 releases per opportunity, until such time as a suitable substitute has been found. Experiments are now being made at CARDINGTON by the BALLOON DEVELOPMENT ESTABLISHMENT, with some success. Pending a decision on policy leaflet operations over FRANCE, both Occupied and Unoccupied territory, have been temporarily suspended.
10 June 1942 Unit moved by road to new H.Q. at GENERALS MEADOW, WALMER, KENT.
July 1942 From 4th to 27th July 1942, all operations were suspended. During that period 8 operations over GERMANY and 7 over FRANCE could of been carried out.
December 1942 The destruction of one of the operational huts by fire on the night of the 7/8th has not interfered with operations in anyway. Approximately 200 'M' Type balloons were discovered to be manufactured of poor proofed material, and were declared unsuitable for use by the Ministry of Aircraft Production.



July 1943 Propaganda operations were suspended on 30/07/43 until further notice by D.D.C.P. Air Ministry.
August 1943 The P.W.E. of the F.O. and D.D.C.P., Air Ministry have decided that the Unit shall cease the dissemination of ordinary propaganda leaflets in favour of leaflets of a special and most secret nature. For this reason all operations during the first three weeks of the month were suspended, and up to the end of the month only two favourable opportunities were offered for making releases neither of which could be used owing to the very high surface wind. It is anticipated that future operations will probably be on a reduced scale, least until the end of the year, and releases will be made over GERMANY only.
September 1943 60 operations have been carried out during the month. 290 balloons were released, carrying 496,500 leaflets of the new 'Q' type, as distinct from the GERMAN and FRENCH propaganda leaflets formerly dropped. The present operational policy is to distribute a maximum of 500,000 units of 'Q' type per month. The remaining stocks of rubber 'M' Type balloons are sufficient to enable this policy to be carried out, until the new supplies of nitro-cellulose balloons are received.
9 October 1943 A number of trail flights with experimental equipment have been carried out with the co-operation of the Admiralty which have been very satisfactory.



January 1944 During the month, the first batch of the new type 'M' balloon have been delivered. A small modification will be necessary before these balloons are as strong as the former type, but should prove very satisfactory.
30 January 1944 A number of the new 'M' Type nitro-cellulose balloons were used for this operation.
June 1944 The number of leaflets disseminated by this Unit during the period August 1940 to June 1944 has reached the figure of 129,210,000. 52,000 balloons and ancillary equipment and approximately 28,000,000 cu. ft. of hydrogen have been used.
September 1944 Operations were suspended on 29th September, until further notice by the D.D.C.P. Air Ministry.
November 1944 During the month the Unit has been transferred from Balloon Command to 2nd T.A.F. preparatory to commencing operations on the Continent.



February 1945 Operations resumed from BUNSBEEK, TIREMONT, BELGIUM.



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