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Florence Cole as a child

Observation balloons
in World War One

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Why observation balloons were necessary

One means of defence was to know at a distance what the enemy was doing. Technology was of course in its infancy in the First World War, so the answer was a steerable balloon that would carry an observer. These balloons were known as observation balloons.

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Navigation in balloons

The lack of modern technology also meant that the occupants of a balloon had to map read and steer from landmarks and the position of the sun. It was all too easy to be blown off course and get lost. One day when I was out with my father a balloon dropped down close to us. The men inside were lost.

"Where are we?" a man shouted down to my father. He shouted back up, "Edmonton, Middlesex". The man thanked by father and did something to make the balloon rise up higher and head off.

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An observation balloon station

There was an Observation Balloon Station in Hazelbury Road on the Huxley estate where we lived in Edmonton. It was next to The Latymer School. The balloons there seemed to be stationary in the sky with ropes attached to them and were not unlike the German Zeppelins, although of course much smaller.

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