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Formation of a Balloon Depot at Kidbrooke
On 12th January 1937 discussion was made by Wing Commander Maude (Ret) to the D.D.Ops wherein he explained
that training of regular balloon personnel was under way with the supply of balloons and equipment being adequate
for that purpose. The most urgent requirement in connection with the barrage balloon scheme appeared to be the
establishment and formation of the four main Balloon Depots in the four sectors. This involved the selection in each
sector of a suitable site; the acquisition of the site; and the provision of the necessary buildings and accommodation,
all of which would take time.
On a rough forecast of the rate of output of balloon personnel for training and of delivery of balloons Maude estimated
that they should aim at forming the first Depot by the end of June 1937 and the second by September. He considered
the nature and extent of the accommodation required which had been agreed with DSD on 14th December 1936 and
had consulted with Works & Building it was estimated that approximately 40 acres would be needed for each Depot.
Maude had searched in the North-East and South-East and concluded that finding unrestricted sites of the required area
that were operationally suitable and could be economically purchased was extremely difficult. There were no large open
spaces with a 10-mile radius of Charing Cross other than parks, common land and sports grounds. In the South-East sector
he had found just three sites and the best of these was undeveloped land in No.1 Stores Depot at Kidbrooke along with the
acquisition of 28 acres of farmland to the East. Works & Building had prepared a plan drawing for a three Squadron Depot.
This was entitled “Kidbrooke Balloon Station”. The barracks and technical accommodation (M.T., Stores etc.) were to be in
the boundary of the No. 1 Stores Depot. The balloon sheds and balloon exercising area were to be on the newly acquired
farmland. The site had good main road access and was close to the London balloon perimeter. It was not central to the
South-East sector and lay 4.5 miles from the Eastern end of the sector and 10.5 miles from the Southern end. It meant that
auxiliary airmen from the Southern limits of the sector would have to travel longer for their weekend and other training.
An alternative site at the Sidcup by-pass at Longlands and one other at a sewage farm at Elmers End were not likely to be
acquired. In March 1937 the negotiations were underway to buy the land at the farm for No. 1 Balloon Centre at Kidbrooke.
The Centre was to form at Kidbrooke on 4th October 1937and it was to be placed in Fighter Command in No.30
(Balloon Barrage) Group.
It was given the address: - No.1 Balloon Centre, Royal Air Force, Kidbrooke, London S.E.3. Telephone Lee Green 1920.
Once opened the formation of Nos. 901, 902 and 903 Balloon Barrage Squadrons would begin.
Air Commodore J.B. Bowen was the Commanding Officer, The Adjutant was J. Evason, Equipment Officer was Flight Lieutenant Anderson, with one Flight Lieutenant R.A.F. for Accountancy. It was requested that the Equipment Officer be attached from 29th September 1937. The Airmen’s Messing arrangements should conform to the normal standard of four meals a day including a substantial supper. The cost per man per day for full messing was to be 2s-10d. Messing was to be provided by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institutes, (N.A.A.F.I).
On opening a small advance party assembled and was accommodated in temporary hutments for about two months.
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