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15 October 2014
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KEEPING THE BALLOONS FLYING: barrage work

by cambsaction

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Archive List > Childhood and Evacuation

Contributed by 
cambsaction
People in story: 
Mrs (Winifred) Joan Lodge
Location of story: 
Various
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A4139660
Contributed on: 
01 June 2005

[This story was submitted to the People’s War site by a volunteer from BBC Radio Cambridgeshire on behalf of Joan Lodge and has been added to the site with her permission. Mrs Lodge fully understands the site’s terms and conditions.]

My sister and I volunteered together and we stayed together through the War. We went to Cardington to do our training — it was for 13 weeks. We had to learn rope and cable splicing, and how to tie knots.

My first posting after training was in Newcastle, North Shields. We lived as a family — about 12 of us. All the ships used to sound their sirens down the Tyne when planes came over.

We had a winch to operate the flying of the barrage. We spent most of our time outdoors and wore battle dress all the time — men’s army boots in the smallest size, and sea socks. We had navy blue berets to stop our hair getting caught up. You were always on call — you could be in bed and if an instruction to raise the balloon or lower it, you had to go.

After Newcastle, we went to Swansea — it had already been badly bombed by then. Then we went to Woolwich Arsenal, and then to Portsmouth near where the submarines used to go from (Gosport). After the doodle bugs had starting coming, they didn’t use the barrage balloons as the doodle bugs could get caught and go off, instead of passing over.

I met my husband in Saffron Walden before the War — he was in the R.A.F locally. He wanted to fly but he became a gunner, a Flight Sergeant. He was from Stockport in Cheshire. He was serving in the Middle East when I had a letter in 1943 to say he had been killed in a flying accident. He was buried in Tripoli so I couldn’t go to see his grave until 1999 when Libya opened up again. Since I’ve retired, I've been able to look into it more and I found out that he had been in a Marauder which crashed on landing when the undercarriage failed. I didn’t remarry.

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