When we look back at Titchfield history we usually think about the 6th century Village, Abby, market and small port, established by the Jutish tribe from Denmark. Although throughout its rich heritage, Titchfield played a major role in wartime Britain, one being RAF Titchfield: The No. 12 Balloon Centre.
The establishment covered the following areas;
The 924 Squadron, with 24 Balloons covering the Eastleigh area.
The 930 Squadron, with 40 land-based balloons and 10 waterborne ones, covered Southampton.
The 932 Squadron, with 32 Balloons, covered Portsmouth.
The 933 Squadron, with 24 Balloons, covered Gosport.
By the end of the Battle of Britain, it was decided to train and use the WAAF: Woman’s Auxiliary Air Force, instead of the ready to fight men. One of these women was Josephine Holman.
Defender of the Skies
At the outbreak of World War 2, Josie was living with her family at 120 San Diego Rd, Gosport. Young girls were being invited to sign up to the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, known as the WAAF and with her younger sister, Vera, in tow, they both volunteered for the M T section, chiefly because she wanted to learn how to drive!
In 1941 Josie was in Morecambe, Lancashire undertaking her three weeks training which included square bashing along the seafront every morning! The girls were taught to drive and learnt all about mechanics to enable them to do a quick repair of their trucks, if necessary.
By 1943 Josie had left her original posting of RAF Market Drayton in Shropshire and was sent to RAF Titchfield which was sighted in the fields where Plessey was built. Right from the start, it was known that aerial bombing by the Luftwaffe was Britain’s main concern so, in 1938 Ballon Command was formed.
Josie was soon fully employed, putting her new driving skills to the test, delivering deflated Barrage Balloons to sites around Gosport and being sent alone to retrieve shot down ones! Being only 5 foot 2 inches tall that must have taken some doing. Like many other female drivers, she used a brick behind her to keep herself firmly forward on the lorry seat so she could reach the pedals!
She was billeted in Hut 8 and made many good friends there. A night out in Southsea, at the RAF Dance with her friends must have been a real treat. From the signatures of her dance partners on the back of the ticket, it looks like Josie had a wonderful evening before she had to return to Hut 8 and continue hauling those Barrage Balloons into her truck once more!