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Barrage balloon at Wormwood Scrubs (late 1960s) | by sixthland
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Barrage balloon at Wormwood Scrubs (late 1960s)

This is a photograph I’ve been wanting to see again for years and years. I recently came across a collection of slides my father had taken and had them scanned.


This must be in the late 1960’s. We went to Wormwood Scrubs, an area of open ground - not really a park in those days, in west London near the prison which bears the same name. The Scrubs, as it was known locally, was open fields and common land for a long time. It was leased from local government by the military for exercising cavalry horses and other types of manouvres. At some point it was even officially mandated as duelling grounds.


I’m not sure now exactly what was going on, but army men were sending people up with the Barrage balloon, who were then jumping off and returning to the ground on tethered parachutes. Whether the parachutists were from the army, or cadets, or members of the public, I can’t now recall. All are equally likely. Health and safety wasn’t really a thing back then.


Its original purpose was to defend against aircraft attack during the Second World War (and earlier) by raising aloft steel cables to ensnare attacking aircraft, making their approach more difficult. During the war, there would have been hundreds visible over London to defend against air raids.

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Taken on March 13, 2019