Barrage Balloons in Lincolnshire ~ A look at this specific form of defence against German air raids during World War II
A very interesting picture also accompanies this article
We’ve already looked at World War II German Air Raids on Grimsby but here we’ll deal with the specifics of how nad why Barrage Balloons were deployed.
Firstly, what were they ? They were quite simply large airships tethered by steel cables.
Their primary purpose was to provide defence against low-level German bombing raids with the steel cables actually causing the plane to crash or at least making for difficult navigation.
Some versions would be fitted with explosive charges that would be dragged into the bomber should it make contact with the cables thereby ensuring the aeroplane was ‘downed’. Due to the practicalities of altitude they were unsuitable for high altitude bombers those were dealt with by sites like Barrow Haven.
Heavy Anti-Aircraft Guns were simply not capable of reacting quickly enough to high speed low altitude dive bombers, they just couldn’t always track the planes successfully, this is why the balloons spread across the country in 1938.
They were used mainly in key defensive areas and here in Lincolnshire that included the River Humber. Already identified by the government as a key area of defence and a prime target for the German Luftwaffe.
The Humber Barrage Command was headquartered in Hull and known as 17 Balloon Centre
It had strategic command over all the balloon sites in the area, including those in North Lincolnshire. The command control reacted to warnings provided by Radar Stations and also the Royal Observer Corps who had numerous ROC Lookout Posts scattered throughout the county.
Some balloons were moored on ships in the Humber and other were mobilized. In total there were 15 land balloon sites located in the top half on Lincolnshire including one at North Killingholme Haven. Some still have surviving features I read so I’ll have to track some down and get myself down there with a camera and record them separately.
Were Barrage Balloons and effective defence, well thanks to something sent to me by Val Mercer we can see what they were capable of:
The above German bomber was brought down by a barrage balloon at Immingham on March 22 1941 and crash-landed in a field near the Bluestone Inn.
Two of the crew lost their lives and the rest were taken prisoner of war. The two men who lost their lives that night were Fritz Danzenberg and Walter Kösling, scroll down through comments for a link to see their gravestones - this information, and pictures, kindly supplied by our own ‘History Hunter’
On the same night the HAA gunners also brought down another plane so a bad night for the Luftwaffe over Lincolnshire !
If you know anything at all about barrage balloons then please do leave a comment. I should especially love to hear related stories and anecdotes from people who remember them or those that remember family stories - once again please do share what you know and preserve it for future generations - thank you
Yours, always full of hot air