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The Bale Family

“Dear Jane,

I have been looking at the RAF Cardington website for around a year and decided you may find some of our story and photos interesting.

My father, Flt Lt. Edward Charles Bale, was stationed at Cardington at different times between 1938 and 1952. As I was only born in 1950 my eldest brother, Nick, nine years older than me, knew more about that time than I ever did and his thoughts follow. Dad initially trained at the Rollestone Camp Balloon School in Wiltshire which is where he met my Mum who lived in Shrewton, just a couple of miles away.

3. Gift to Ted Balloonatics Jan 1952

My recent interest in Cardington came when I re-discovered, three years or so ago in my attic, the silver beer tankard which sat on a dresser throughout my childhood and I seem to have inherited.

It intrigued me with its inscription;

‘To TED. From The Balloonatics. January 1952’

We, my brothers and I had always assumed The Balloonatics were Dad’s balloon crew (and presented to him before we were posted to Egypt later in 1952) but, thanks to your website, we now know they were an entertainments group. How our father was involved, however, we have no idea.

Left - the engraved tankard presented to Edward Bale by the Balloonatics.

2. Bale profficiency certificate 29.05.1947

Nick’s recollections are now of interest.

“I don't know when he was first posted there, from The Balloon School presumably, but Mum and Dad had their first house together after they married, in Bedford sometime in 1938, the house in Brackley Rd. During the war, Mum moved back to Green Meadows (Shrewton, Wiltshire) and Dad spent his war on the Balloon Barrage in East London. He was billeted somewhere in Stratford. There is a letter to Mum from him there, that I found after she died.

After the war Dad went back to Cardington, and sometime in 1947 we moved up there from Shrewton and moved into 10, The Crescent in Shortstown and I went to school at Elstow Primary.

As far as I can recall, Dad always worked on the Balloons while stationed there and I remember going up in the basket of one inside one of the Airship sheds one time and also outside once on a Battle of Britain Day show on the Airfield. I also remember Dad being in charge of Balloon Flight convoys to other RAF camps on B of B days to do demonstrations, and travelling with him in one of the vehicles. I think we went to Oakington or Waterbeach, both near Cambridge.
Even though Balloon Command was disbanded in 1945, Cardington was still used to train Balloon Operators and Army Paratroopers. Its main purpose though was as a National Service Recruit reception centre, but I don't think Dad had anything to do with that side of things there.You will see that the certificate bears the stamp "Research and Development Establishment Cardington" dated 1947 which was the year we joined him there. Now we know the name of the unit he was in!

There are three more pictures of a Helium [I think] Balloon called 'CARD 1' that was launched at the Festival of Britain on the South Bank in London in 1951. Dad was involved in that project at Cardington, and we all went down to the exhibition to see it. Can't really remember if I actually saw the balloon go up though.These photos are to do with the launching of CARD 1 at The Festival of Britain, 1951. In the Pathe News clip we think that he officer on the left (at 0.8 seconds) could be our Dad.

0015 Card1 at Festival of Britain 1951 01
0016 Card1 at Festival of Britain 1951 03
0014 Card1 at Festival of Britain 1951 02

The Card 1 balloon at The Festival of Britain in 1951. Edward Bale was part of a team who worked on this at RAF Cardington.

I would just like to say a huge thank you to both Nick and Jonathan for taking the time to send us these photographs and information about their father. It is always a treat to hear from former residents and Nick and Jonathan have done us proud! - Jane.