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WWII Barrage Balloon Sites

lencops

gone but not forgotten
zzfool, Thanks for posting and sharing your super photos they mark history years, i remember barrage balloons as i was 11yrs when WW2 started a runaway balloon damaged a shop next to the original New Inn pub on the Coventry Rd, Yardley, there was a balloon site off Yew Tree Lane, Yardley. Len,
 

zzf00l

master brummie
I can't be absolutely sure but I think some of the pic's are of a balloon site in West Bromwich (I know Dad was stationed there at one point) and possibly Withy Hill park in Sutton Coldfield (just by St Georges Barracks)
 

Radiorails

master brummie
A view of the Wythall barrage balloon site as seen by a very young child.
I have no idea of my age at the time suffice to say I was small and light enough to be held in my mothers arms. This is one of the very few memories I have of my mother. I was three years old, almost, at the outbreak of war so I guess this was in the early days of the war before the blitz.

Before going to bed at night I was shown the barrage balloon that was in the sky and quite visible from my home. Knowing nothing of Wythall and the war, at that time, I must have wondered - even been frightened maybe - by this object in the sky. Whatever the reason I do remember being encouraged to say 'night, night" to this balloon who, it seemed, was called Barry.:D .
 

angelab

knowlegable brummie
I think Alan may have meant he was giving us a "word picture". (I, too, looked in vain for an image to start with!)


Am I right in presuming that a base would be in a rural spot such as Wythall to be out of harm's way, but that the balloons themselves were taken on a daily basis to more vulnerable sites in industrial areas where day or night bombing raids were to be expected? So the balloon crews, sleeping in their tents, would have been very exposed to danger from above.


Angela
 

lencops

gone but not forgotten
Angela, Barrage Balloons were not moved from place to place during air raids as it took to long to inflate them and the the needed an anchorage point, they were on static sites as far as i know. Len.
 

caggyken

master brummie
Hi phil
just reading site ref barrage ballons .no one has yet reported on the one behind lucas factory in formans rd in sparkhill.
I lived about 50 yards down from the factory during the war
 

Radiorails

master brummie
Re: WWII Barrage baloon sites

I didn't post any pics, or intend to. I was puzzled initially but I guess the pics are those posted by zzf001
 

angelab

knowlegable brummie
A view of the Wythall barrage balloon site as seen by a very young child. ....
.

I think this phrase was what misled us, Alan!
It must have been a scary sight for a small child.

I have a theory that our earliest memories are of things that frightened us; certainly mine tend to be that way. For example, I remember going with my mum to meet my father from a train at Leamington Spa, when he returned from the war well into in 1946. I was really scared of this strange man, who I suppose I had hardly ever seen.

AngelaB
 

Hurricaneplanes

knowlegable brummie
I have only just discovered this forum as part of my research into my father's WW2 activities in 911 Squadron Balloon Barrage. Frederick Thomas Harris volountered for service in 1939 at the age of 38 and was posted after training to a Balloon Site situated opposite West Bromwich Albion's football ground in a small park which lay behind a bakery. I visited the site many times as a young child. It is correct that Kenneth Horne was the Commanding Officer. My father had the unfortunate accident one day on launching or more correctly flying the Balloon to have one of the mooring ropes wrap around his wrist. He was carried up in the air sufficiently to see the WBA football ground. They were able to lower the balloon before the rope slipped off, luckily only sustaining a twisted knee. Also in 911 Squadron was Oswald Bailley, of the well known clothing and camping store. I believe that the ballon was not flown directly from the winch lorry but via a very well secured foundation in the ground alongside the winch. All winches had to be very well earthed because of static electricity. At the start of the war this Station was protected by 2 WW1 Lee Enfield Rifles, each with 5 rounds of ammunition. A generous supply of pick axe handles were also in the Guard Room. My father was moved to a site in the centre of Birmingham at Highgate Park. I also visited there but cannot recall much about it. The Squadron was moved up to Manchester , Stretford I think, before moving down to Meopham in Kent just in time for the V1's. Hope that this may be of interest.
 
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ChrisM

Super Moderator
Staff member
I do remember being encouraged to say 'night, night" to this balloon who, it seemed, was called Barry.:D .

A nice memory, Alan. Another example of how our parents protected us young children from the worst of the horrors which were occurring in the world.

Chris
 

Ann Steiner

master brummie
Did Phil ever finish his research/book on barrage balloons? A cousin of mine, around ten years old at the height of the war, sent me a written memory. At the time, she was living on Daisy Farm Road, Warstock, south of central Birmingham. She said there were barrage balloons located near Daisy Farm Park, which I believe was near Gorleston Road. There were anti-aircraft guns on Daisy Farm Road, and a German aircraft crashed in a local field, known as The Stiles. The Prince of Wales Pub was very close by. Don't know if this is in an area Phil was looking at and/or researching, or if he's maybe already done, but throw this out just in case it's of any interest.

Ann
 

willey

master brummie
Phil, If you ever update your record of Barrage Balloon Sites, there was one located on the Handsworth Grammar School Playing Field site in Romilly Avenue, Handsworth. Regards willey
 

Alan Tucker

master brummie
I stumbled across William Gell recently as an officer and then CO 1/5th Warwicks in the First World War. His medals are on display in the Fusiliers Museum at Warwick. In the Second World War he commanded all Balloon Groups in Britain. Life history below...

William Charles Coleman Gell, 1/5th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment
1888 July 10. Born Birmingham. Son of William James Gell (born 1856) of Cora Lyn, Solihull and Catherine born at Maidstone in 1859. Parents were married in 1885.
1891 Census records him living with his Birmingham born grandfather, Joseph C Gell, a retired accountant, at 45, Wordsworth Road, Bordesley, Birmingham and his wife, Catherine. His parents were at 172, Golden Hillock Road, Bordesley at the time of the census.
1901. Census records him living with his parents at 111, Gough Road, Edgbaston, his older sister Catherine and his younger sister, Mary. His father was a manager of an umbrella works. There were two servants.
Educated Malvern College and Caius College, Cambridge where he achieved a law degree. Also OTC there.
1911 May 12 Joined the 1/5 Royal Warwicks as a Second Lieutenant. At the same address as 1901. He was described as a solicitor’s articled clerk. His father was now director of a firm which manufactured umbrella ribs and ‘furniture wire files’.
1913 Articled in Birmingham and London. Passed the solicitor’s final examination with honours.
1914 January-August. Solicitor in London
1914 December 16. Lieutenant
1916 June 1. Captain
1916 Wounded on the Somme
1916 October 3 to June 28 1917. Acting Major
1917-19 Commanded 1/5 Warwicks from August 23 1917 having held acting command summer 1917. Served in France and Italy. DSO (January 1 1918) with bar(June 3 1919) and MC (January 1 1917). Italian Silver Medal for Valour. Mentioned in despatches
1923 Married Edith Maud, daughter of William Francis Gosling
1928 Became official referee under the Landlord and Tenant Act
1924-9 Commanded 1/5 Royal Warwicks
1929 Son William Roy Gell born (also daughters Diane and Sheila)
1934. Recorded as a solicitor at 36, Waterloo Street, Birmingham practicing since 1919 (Johnson and Company) and living at Dorridge House, Dorridge. Deputy Lieutenant of Warwickshire (from 1931).
1935 Joined the Anti-Aircraft Service (TA) as an officer
1938 Transferred to the Auxiliary Air Force when Balloon Command formed
1940 September 1. By this date Group Captain with No 5 Balloon Centre
1941 Commanded No 6 Balloon Centre
1941 July 1. Became A.O.C No 30 (Balloon Group) - London area
1944 February 1. Air Officer Commanding RAF Balloon Command
1944 June 8. Awarded the CB
1944 September. Attends service of thanksgiving and parade on the anniversary of the Battle of Britain
1945 March 26. Resigned his commission but retained his rank
1945 December. Still at Dorridge House
1954 August. Now living at The Knoll, Warwick Road, Solihull
1969 Died May 16.
 

bewdley

master brummie
Is there anyone who remembers a barrage balloon site on the fields in Kitwell Lane (now Clent Way)?
I have been chatting to my mum who has many memories of our time in Bartley Green from February 1952 – 1979. We lived at 186 Hasbury Road next door to the midwives Phyllis Dell and Pat Igoe, sadly both no longer with us.
She said she remembers Mrs James, who lived in one of the Kitwell cottages at the time, telling my father about the barrage balloons that were there during the war. She said Mrs James thought they were there because of the Birmetals factory and Bartley Reservoir. I remember the huge concrete slabs with metal rings in that we used to play on in the fields down Kitwell Lane. In fact they were there until they built the houses in Clent Way on that side of the road and I am sure many locals will remember them too.
 

Patsi

knowlegable brummie
Only just found this thread.

Brings back memories of watching the barrage balloon from our garden in Kingsbury Road Erdington.
 

arrow

Brummie babby
My family was living in Handsworth Wood at the time that WW2 was declared. I cannot remember the name of the road on which we lived, but the house was called Highfield, and backed onto a large recreation field, on the other side of which was a council housing estate. A barrage balloon was sited on the rec. field just behind the house, and my mother used to make cakes, etc., for the men manning the site. As a mark of gratitude, the balloon was named Susie after my mother, which led to a rather amusing incident involving my sister (who was 15 years my senior) when she was returning home from a party with a boy friend, who remarked "I see Susie's still up", to which my sister responded "Oh no, Mum wouldn't stay up this late for me". If anyone can suggest what the name of the road was, I would be very grateful.

Arrow
 

willey

master brummie
Arrow, I believe the barrage balloon site in Handsworth Wood was sited on the Handsworth Grammar School playing field in Romilly Avenue. Not 100% sure but I think it to be so. Regards. willey
 

Shortie

master brummie
Romilly Avenue off Wood Lane - my parents lived in Wood Lane, and my mother in law lived in Handsworth Wood for 59 years, so I know it fairly well. I have to say I am not aware of any council housing in Handsworth Wood at all. Is it possible that you could mean somewhere around Cherry Orchard Road perhaps? - the open land at the back is I think Perry Barr Park, and there are houses the other side of that, in Perry Barr, but I don't think they are council houses. There was open land off Beauchamp Avenue (some still there). Is there anything else you remember about the area, that could give us a clue? Then we might be able to locate the road, between us.
 

arrow

Brummie babby
Hello Shortie and Willey, Thank you for your responses. Romilley Avenue rang no bells, although Wood Lane caused a faint tinkle (but that might be due to it being such a common street name). Looking at the area on Google Earth, it appears that the area has been considerably redeveloped. All I remember about the houses that were there then was that they appeared to my very young eyes to be very tall and thin. As I remember them, they were probably late Edwardian, on three floors, semi-detached, with sloping front gardens, and long narrow rear gardens at the end of which was a rough access lane, on the other side of which was the rec. Many of the houses had garages at the end of the garden, opening onto the lane.
 
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