Tuesday, 18 June, 2024
11December 1939

Barrage balloons raised above London

With the war well into the fourth month, Britain today winched the first protective barrage balloon above the capital in an effect to protect London from low-flying Luftwaffe bombers.

Barrage balloons are huge, hydrogen-filled balloon tethered to the ground with steel cables. They can be winched to the required height in a matter of minutes. They float above locations which the enemy may target with bombers. Their steel cables are strong enough to sever the wings of low-lying aircraft. With barrage balloons visible, the enemy aircraft are forced to fly higher in the sky, allowing antiaircraft guns to target them.

The barrage balloons are maintained by the RAF Balloon Command, which has 40,000 personnel. The effectiveness of the steel cables was demonstrated by Canadian fighter pilot Flight Lieutenant John Kent, who intentionally flew into a set of cables. In one test, Kent lost three feet of wing, but was still able to land.

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