Despite all the publicity and attention directed to the pilots of the Royal Flying Corps, Kite Balloons remain a vital part of the Army observation capacity, particularly when spotting for artillery as they have a direct link to the ground. Life may not be quite as risky for the balloon officer as for the pilot, but the danger from enemy fire and accidents remains, particularly in poor weather.
Today two officers from 1 Kite Balloon Section got a clear demonstration of that. Following some early morning spotting on the Western Front, a storm was obseved approaching from the south west at about 0815. Ground crews started to haul down the balloon. Progress was slow due to worsening winds, and after about half an hour the stays holding the parachute attached to 2nd Lieutenant Cecil Wilfred Hayne broke, through a combination of the jerking around of the basket and the approaching storm,
<a href=”http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205247569?cat=photographs” target=”_blank”><img alt=”THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS ON THE WESTERN FRONT, 1914-1918″ class=”” src=”http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib/237/media-237658/standard.jpg?action=e&cat=photographs” /></a><span>A similar Kite Balloon showing the parachute<a href=”http://www.iwm.org.uk/corporate/privacy-copyright” target=”_blank”>© IWM (Q 12027)</a></span>
The parachute fell out of the balloon and opened to the wind pulling the basket up until it touched the tail. 2nd Lieutenant Hayne attempted to cut himself loose from the parachute but before he was able to do so, it pulled him out of the basket and he started to descend. He got entangled with the tail line and was held up in the air for about five minutes. Eventually the tail line broke and he descended by the parachute and landed on the top of a tree. Lt Hayne was admitted to hospital suffering from shock and abrasions of the arm.
While this was all happening, the remaining stays on the other parachute broke and it too opened to the wind. This was all too much for the winch and the strain on the cable stopped it. The crew could not get it started again and had to haul the balloon down from 800ft by hand. Lieutenant George Sydney Meyler Warlow, still in the basket, eventually managed to free the second parachute and the balloon landed at 09.05. Lieutenant Warlow was unharmed.
The balloon only suffered some minor damage.