G. writes in his diary on Monday 6 november 1944 A fairish day, cold. To Toys Hill to estimate war damage by bomb + the R.A.F. balloon section. A very depressing sight T.H, chores at farm in the afternoon.
The silver coloured balloons were part of Britain’s anti-aircraft defences to protect cities, ports and industrial areas against the German aircraft. Its’ presence boosted the morale of the civilian population. The R.A.F. balloon section was established in 1938 forcing the enemy to fly into anti-aircraft fire.
The Balloon Command had trained large numbers of women. By December 1942, 10,000 men had been replaced by some 15,700 Women’s Auxiliary Air Force balloon operators. In 1944 there were several thousand of balloons.
On the website of the Balloon Barrage Reunion Club (BBRC) it says: “Barrage balloons were the cause of several different types of damage. Breakaway balloons often dragged long lengths of steel cable along roads, hedges, and streets. Consequently, the cable would scrape along and break, tiles, guttering, rainwater pipes, gates, vehicles and sometimes people and animals. Every now and again a balloon would explode and burst into flames.”
G. writes he went to Toys Hill to estimate war damage by bomb + the R.A.F. balloon section. So how should we read this? (Toys Hill was hit again on August 7)
The BBRC website explains”: “Enemy aircraft and allied aircraft could both inflict damage to property and could cause issues with barrage balloons such as punctures, fires and cable breakages. It was decided to allow those who suffered from what was -war damage- compensation. The bureaucracy that followed this decision was almost unbelievable with arguments about who should pay for such damage. While all around Britain struggled with an ongoing situation of total war. Damage incidents and subsequent decisions by various parties were often confusing and took hours of correspondence to resolve. The term -war damage- was not always clearly defined.“
In Autumn 1944, the use of barrage balloons finished in the UK and the Balloon Command disbanded in February 1945.