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                2089738 Leading Aircraftwoman Rosina Alice May Cuming


            Rosina Alice May Cuming age 16                    Rosina Alice May Cuming and sister Jessie Emily Cuming after Demobilisation


She was born 13th May 1924, and she enlisted in Balloon Command on 18th March 1942 at Preston.

Her civilian occupation was that of Usherette. Her religion was given as Church of England.

Her medical stated she was 5 feet 7 inches tall, with a 32-inch chest, dark auburn hair, blue-green eyes, and a fresh complexion. It was noted that there were three vaccination scars on her left arm. She was graded Medical Category Grade one.

She was given the number 2089738, this was from the range of service numbers 2000000 to 2099999, issued from May 1941 and ending with 2099997. These were enrolments by the W.A.A.F. Inspectorate of Recruiting. This suggests she would have filled in a form advertising W.A.A.F. opportunities in a newspaper.

On the 19th March 1942 she was posted to the Reserves and on 26th March 1942 she was called up and posted from the Reserves to the No.1 , W.A.A.F. Depot, , Bridgnorth. This would have been for kitting out.

She was mustered as an Aircraft charge hand / Balloon Operator.

 On 30th March 1942 she was posted to No. 3  W.A.A.F. Depot, Morecambe.

After one months basic training she was posted to No.1 Barrage Balloon Training Unit at Cardington. This was usually a ten-week course. She passed out as a Balloon Operator on 16th July 1942.

Her first proper posting was then to No. 938 Squadron. This was at a time when “Waffisisation” or the substitution programme of women for the men in Barrage Balloon Squadrons, was well underway. She was one of six fully trained W.A.A.F. crews who arrived at No. 938 Squadron for service on 16th July 1942. This was based at Hartburn, Stockton-on-Tees. This was given the task of defending the I.C.I. Works among other areas.

They immediately took over balloon sites Nos. 3, 26, 32, 42,45,and 47.

On the night of 27th July 1942 they experienced their first enemy attack. From 0027 to 0149 on 27th July between 25 and 30 enemy aircraft came in from the North at heights between 3,000 and 13,000 feet. Initially a series of flares was dropped. A total of 6 high explosive bombs fell along with some explosive incendiaries. A total of three plants in the I.C.I. Works were damaged.

“B” Flight Headquarters at No.90 Belasis Avenue, had the roof blown off and No. 112 Belasis Avenue had the windows blown out along with other damage. An unexploded bomb was in the back garden of No. 19, Hood Crescent. All telephonic connections were out of action.

In “B” Flight the Billet for No. 10 Balloon Site was damaged by bomb blast. On No.18 Balloon Site, the balloon was damaged by shrapnel. On Site 8 the balloon broke away when an enemy aircraft  flying North to South hit the cable at between 3,000 to 4,000 feet.  At No. 16 Balloon Site there was an unexploded bomb. The anti-aircraft fire was spasmodic and at times the shells were exploding below the Balloon Barrage.

Later that day there was a Local Trade and Test Board for all W.A.A.F. personnel.

The Squadron had been under attack on 8th July 1942 and the W.A.A.F. were praised by Air Marshall Sir Leslie Gossage for their efforts that night.

On 18th July 1942 there was concern by the Medical Officer over the collection and emptying of bucket latrines.

On 26th July 1942 between 0045 and 0145 there was a short, sharp attack by enemy aircraft over the barrage area. High explosive bombs were dropped on the Haverton Hill area near “B” Flight Headquarters, causing it to be evacuated. An unexploded bomb was on the Billet for Balloon site 10. Many incendiaries were dropped causing fires in “D” Flight areas. An aircraft hit the cable on Balloon Site 8 and came down on the site.   

On 3rd July 1942 No. 2054298 Aircraftwoman 2nd Class K. N. Brenton had been injured when she was being taken to No.14 Balloon Site on a lorry when there was an accident causing a broken skull and concussion. She was taken to Stockton & Thornaby Emergency Medical Services Hospital. On 27th July 1942 it was decided to transfer her to the Head Injuries Clinic at Newcastle General Hospital. The Squadron medical Officer accompanied her in the ambulance.

As the W.A.A.F.’s arrived they had been re-examined for the standard  “Free From Infection” (F.F.I.) inspection and 75 W.A.A.F.’s needed urgent dental work.

At the end of July, 26 new W.A.A.F. Crews had arrived and there were now 490 men and 412 women on site.

On 16th July 1942 she attained 48% in her Balloon Operator examination. On 3rd August 1942 at 1906 hours a Dornier 217 flew through the entire barrage at 800 feet narrowly missing several balloon cables. It dropped four high explosive bombs. Two landed on Middlesborough Railway Station and two near to it. Four civilians were killed and 15 injured.

On the 14th August 1942 the Medical Officer was struggling to deal with an outbreak of gnat bites which are causing may W.A.A.F.’s to develop blisters and swollen legs with some being admitted to Station Sick Bay.

There was some belief that W.A.A.F.’s were likely to suffer medical issues doing Balloon Operating. In the middle of August 1942 it was ordered that all W.A.A.F.’s should under go Free From Infection examinations every 14 days. Lack of staff meant this was only possible once every four weeks.

At the end of August 1942 there were now 51 Balloon Sites occupied and there were 570 female and 441 males in the Squadron.

On the 7th September 1942 from just before midnight through to 0024 on the 8th September there was a short, sharp attack by 14 enemy aircraft. They dropped 12 high explosive bombs in the barrage area. There was some civilian casualties and balloons damaged by shrapnel.

In the early hours of 15th September 1942 two Halifaxes struck balloon cables, luckily they were fitted with cable cutters and landed safely at Middleton-St-George.

A Local Test and Trade Board was held for the Balloon  Operators on 22nd September 1942.

On 10th October 1942 at 0050 a W.A.A.F. was assaulted by a civilian on her Balloon Site. The W.A.A.F. was detained in Sick Quarters with a lacerated scalp. Wandering Romeos were often a problem for W.A.A.F.’s but generally these Romeos got swift justice from the males in the Squadron while waiting for the civilian police. The W.A.A.F.’s were not armed but given boxwood truncheons for defence and were not afraid to use them. The so called “civilian” was in fact in the army and was subsequently court martialled.

In October 1943 she attained 68% in her Balloon Operator examination.

On 23rd November 1942 the Medical Officer was concerned with the Latrines and were poorly thought out. He considered the W.A.A.F. were content to “jog” along with things as they were and that they showed little initiative in improvements and maintenance.

On 14th December 1942 at 2000 hours three high explosive bombs were dropped in the barrage area by 12 enemy aircraft. No injuries to personnel.

On New Years Eve there were 1,032 personnel , 689 females and 343 males.

At her annual review on 31st December 1942 she was mustered as a Balloon Operator with rank of Aircraftwoman 2nd Class. Her character was “Very Good”, Trade was Balloon Operator and her Proficiency was Satisfactory.

On 26th June 1942 a Wings for Victory Parade was held. A detachment of one officer and twenty-five R.A.F. and one officer and twenty-five W.A.A.F. attended from No. 938 Barrage Balloon Squadron.

On 1st July 1943 2089738 Leading Aircraftwoman Rosina Alice May Cumings was posted to No.936 Balloon Barrage Squadron.

On that day No.936 Balloon Barrage Squadron was amalgamated with No. 937 Balloon Barrage Squadron. The unit now became 936/7 Balloon Barrage Squadron. It was based at R.A.F. Hill-House, Melbury Road, Heaton, Newcastle-0n-Tyne.

There was one R.A.F. Flight (male) and five W.A.A.F. Flights (female). They flew 62  Barrage Balloons from ground-based locations and one Waterborne Flight with six Shore Servicing Stations.

They carried out much routine work but had very little interaction with the enemy.

On 1st November 1943 she was increased in rank to Aircraftwoman 1st Class.

At her annual review on 31st December 1943 she was mustered as a Balloon Operator with rank of Aircraftwoman 1st Class. Her character was “Very Good”, Trade was Balloon Operator and her Proficiency was Satisfactory.

On 1st May 1944 she was increased in rank to a Leading Aircraftwoman.

Following D-Day the Squadron ceased operational duties from 1st July 1944. The W.A.A.F.’s were given priority to be interviewed  and selected for training in other Trades. All airwomen have attended the 10 2 lectures given during July. Course were given in Biology, Mothercraft, Home Nursing and Citizenship. Some airwomen are attending a local Children’s Nursery. Cooker d Demonstrations, Leathercraft, needlework, Embroidery, and Slipper making. Some airwomen have been on visits to local historic sights. Swimming Instruction has also been popular.

She was discharged from the service on 21st July 1944 under King’s Regulations, paragraph 652 (ii)

She served for 2 years and 126 days.

Her qualifying service was 2 years and 67 days.

She was entitled to 852 days Post-War Credits.

Time forfeited was 3 days due to being absent without leave from 0001 hours on 22nd January 1944 to 2000 hours on 24th January 1944.

On discharge review on 21st July 1944 she was mustered as Balloon Operator with rank of Leading Aircraftwoman. Her character was “Very Good”, Trade was Balloon Operator and her Proficiency was Satisfactory.





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