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The Camp 1939-1945

Balloonatics Apr 40 cropped
Talant contest Feb 39SM

This Balloonatics article found in the Bedford Record in April 1940 cheekily refers to a concert party held at a 'certain Royal Air Force camp in Bedfordshire'.

(Both articles taken from The Bedford Record, Beds & Luton Archive Services)

Empire Air day
Empire Air Day 23 May 19392
Empire Air Day May 39 BP Box 5912

These images are of an Empire Air Day held at the base in May 1939 for the general public. This was one stop of a national tour promoting awareness of the RAF. Throughout the day there were many aerial displays. (Original images taken from Beds & Luton Archive Services Boxes 570 & 591 Photography courtesy John Day)
With a growing need for air defences over the UK it was decided to increase output of Barrage Balloons and RAF Cardington was pivotal in the success of this operation training hundreds of staff to operate them. Again with grateful thanks to Arthur Thurston who collated this information we have an informative record of the growth of this unit. In 1941 due to a shortage of male manpower to work the balloons it was decided to recruit WAAFS for these roles. The training was very intense taking three months (this was reduced to 2 months as the war progressed) and the women performed exceptionally well. After their training they were sent out to other cities around the country.

ARP Excercise 1 Oct 1940

(Original image Beds & Luton Archive Services Times & Citizen collection BP Box 94 Photography John Day.

WAAF parade July 42 Ampt 159SM

(Original image Beds & Luton Archive Services Times & Citizen collection BP 1362/4 - Photography John Day).

The caption on this picture taken in July 1942 reads RAF Cardington but the houses in the background look like those in The Crescent which would make sense as the entry to the base was at the main gate opposite.

During these years Home Front defences formed a very important part of everyone's daily lives - the camp had its own Home Guard and this picture shows ARP drills taking place back in 1940.

RAF concert party Aug 1941SM
Balloonatics Aug 1941SM

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