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Squadron 992 - RAF Barrage Balloons Defy The Luftwaffe

Sunday, 25 July 2021  |  Admin

Squadron 992 - RAF Barrage Balloons Defy The Luftwaffe

In response to a request for a film that showed the importance of balloon barrage, Harry Watt, who worked on Night Mail made this compelling drama-documentary about the training of a balloon squadron and its first assignment to South Queensferry after an unsuccessful raid on Rosyth Naval Base near the Forth Bridge in October 1939. The raid by the Luftwaffe, with Heinkel 111 high level aircraft equipped with cameras for tactical reconnaissance sorties, and Junkers JU88A-1 dive bombers is often thought to have been an attempt to destroy the Forth Bridge. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Germany would have needed the bridge in the event of a successful invasion. The real target was H.M.S. Hood which had been at Rosyth Naval Base for a re-fit. Thankfully German intelligence was out of date as the Hood had departed some three weeks earlier.

Barrage Balloon trainees lean to sew!! . . .

The raid by the Luftwaffe, with Heinkel 111 high level aircraft equipped with cameras for tactical reconnaissance sorties, and Junkers JU88A-1  dive bombers is often thought to have been an attempt to destroy the Forth Bridge. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Germany would have needed the bridge in the event of a successful invasion. The real target was H.M.S. Hood which had been at Rosyth Naval Base for a re-fit. Thankfully the German's intelligence was out of date as the Hood has departed some three weeks earlier.

In what became know as The Battle of the River Forth, RAF Squadrons 602 (City of Glasgow), newly re-located to Drem, and 603 (City of Edinburgh) based at Turnhouse, were scrambled to drive off the invaders. Two JU88s were shot down, one near Prestonpans and the other off Crail, with the loss of two crew and another injured. After the war ended it was discovered that a third JU88 had escaped, badly damaged and crash landed in The Netherlands with the loss of all three crew.

To their chagrin, the ship the Germans believed to the the Hood was H.M.S. Repulse, and safely anchored in Rosyth dock, and off limits. However, thirteen ratings and two officers were killed when the attack was turned attack on H.M.S. Mohawk.

The only other casualty of the raid was a painter in Portobello, who caught a stray bullet in the stomach, when two Spitfires engaged with a JU88, discovered flying over Squadron 603's base. Happily the painter made a full recovery.

In the wake of the attack, the first engagement over British soil of The Second World War, barrage balloon squadrons were established around key targets, including the Forth Squadrons 929 and 949, north and south of the river, which were eventually merged into Squadron 929. The film employed the pseudonym Squadron 992, presumably to confuse the Luftwaffe!

Barrage balloon squadrons at their peak comprised 43,000 men and women and were deployed until 1943, by which time air raids were no longer deemed to be a threat.

Russell Cowe, Panamint Cinema

Britain at War - Squadron 992 - DVD