Did you know gas air balloons were vital for military reconnaissance in the French Revolutionary Wars (1794) and were deployed in numerous conflicts in the 19th Century?
If the wind and weather were favourable, observational balloons filled with Town gas in WWI and WWII would slowly rise into the sky behind the front lines. Tethered to the safety of their own lines and heavily protected by ground anti-aircraft emplacements these Aerostat observatories provided artillery personnel with a greater perspective than they had on the ground.
Artillery observers in the basket beneath the canopy provided important intelligence to ground officers on the oppositional movements. This increased the range and improved the direction of artillery fire. Protecting friendly balloons while destroying the enemy balloons, therefore, became increasingly important as WWI and WWII continued.
Attacking an observational platform, however, was a high-risk mission behind enemy lines as they were protected by aircraft and could also be drawn back into the range of the ground antiaircraft guns by the mechanical winch. Even though pilots could be ordered to attack strategic balloons, these missions were largely voluntary.
According to America’s Eddie Rickenbacker, a top WWII ace, attacking a balloon was more dangerous than shooting down another aeroplane. This did not stop everyone. The most successful pilots such as Belgium’s Willy Coppens de Houthulst, America’s Frank Luke or Frenchmen Michel Coiffard and Maurice Boyau were known as Balloon Busters.
The Busters specialised in attacking, developing specialised tactics, in addition to flying in regular combat missions. What is often forgotten is that many WWI and WWII top-scoring ace pilots refused to attack them as it was extremely dangerous or that many young ambitious pilots lost their lives trying to burst a balloon.
Today, 99 years after WW1 ended and 72 years since WW2 came to a long-awaited end, we want to remember and celebrate those that gave and risked their lives in the two World Wars and all those who have died in combat since.
If you would like to experience a very safe and enjoyable Hot Air Balloon flight, you can book with Aerosaurus Balloons who have been operating for over 20 years in the South West of England, take a look at the vouchers on offer and the locations we fly from.