Thomas Harold Hunt was Bormingham-born and raised. He married in 1924 and had at least one child. During the war he served in an R.A.F. barrage balloon squadron which was sent to Chelmsford in November 1942 in response to recent German raids on the town. In May 1943 he was one of three balloonists killed when their compound off New Writtle Street, Chelmsford was struck by a bomb during the 'Chelmsford Blitz'. His home was in Birminghan.
Thomas was born in Vauxhall, Birmingham in 1901, the son of Thomas Hunt and Gertrude Emma Hunt (nee Meads). His parents had married in Birmingham the previous year. Thomas had at least two younger siblings including Winifred Hunt who was born in Birmingham in 1907.
In the year of his birth the census recorded two month-old Thomas living with his parents at 15 Alma Crescent in Aston, Warwickshire. At the time his father was employed as a railway wagon repairer. A decade later the 1911 census found Thomas, aged ten, living with his parents at 99 Inkerman Street, Vauxhall in Birmingham, accompanied by his parents, sister and an uncle. His father was a railway carpenter.
In 1924 Thomas married Eleanor Alice Davis in Warwickshire. The couple had at least one child, a daughter, Barbara Mary Hunt (1936-1972).
During the Second World War Leslie served in the Royal Air Force as Leading Aircraftman 849827 in 993 (Balloon) Squadron. The squadron assembled at Horsham St. Faith in Norfolk in April 1942, and in November of that year it was at Ipswich, Suffolk, helping to protect the town from German air raids.
Following successful low-level German attacks on Chelmsford in July and October 1942, 993 (Balloon) Squadron was moved to the town from Ipswich on 4th November 1942.
The squadron established balloon barrage in Chelmsford from 31 sites across the town. The Squadron’s H.Q. was set up at ‘The Priory’ in Writtle with additional accommodation nearby at ‘Ratcliffs’ in The Green, Writtle. Each of the three Flights also had their own H.Q.s in Chelmsford. Hydrogen for the balloons was obtained from the top secret plant at Chelmsford Gas Works, and balloon repairs were undertaken by R.A.F. Felixstowe. Work on the Squadron’s vehicles was carried out at the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (R.E.M.E.) workshops in Broomfield Road, Chelmsford.
Thomas Harold HUNT, Leading Aircraftman, 993 (Balloon) Squadron, Royal Air Force
(Auxiliary Air Force). Killed in an air raid near New Writtle Street, Chelmsford, Aged 42
In the early hours of 14th May 1943 Chelmsford experienced what was to prove to be its heaviest air raid of the war. In a sharp attack that lasted for just over an hour the German air force dropped a large number of high explosive bombs, incendiaries and parachute landmines which caused extensive damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties in the town, and led to the deaths of more than 50 people; among them 35 year-old Leslie.
He was one of three balloonists killed when a 250 kg high explosive bomb fell and detonated within the compound of 993 Squadron’s barrage balloon site 26, some 273 feet north of the east end of Chelmsford City F.C.’s New Writtle Street stadium. The other men killed in the incident were Leading Aircraftmen Arthur Telford, and Leslie Samuel Hall. Another three, Leading Aircraftmen H. Potkins, F. Ashworth and H.F.L. Hobson were injured and taken to hospital. The bomb left a crater 20 feet across by 5 feet deep, while the balloon was lost and the winch badly damaged. Blast from the device seriously damaged seven maisonettes in a nearby cul-de-sac - numbers 8, 9, 10,12, 13, 14 & 16 Hayes Close.
Today Thomas lies in Solihull Cemetery in Warwickshire (Section A.6. South, Grave 112). His wife lived in Acocks Green, Birmingham.
993 (Balloon) Squadron provided a deterrent to the Luftwaffe’s low-level raids on Chelmsford until the end of January 1944 when it was redeployed as part of the preparations for the Normandy invasion. On its removal from Chelmsford the Squadron consisted of 16 officers and 388 other ranks.