Barrage Balloons and Wartime Rumours

Eric was keen to record the spread of wartime rumours amongst local people, which arose in part because of the news blackout. The following notes, found amongst his 1940 papers, record a barrage balloon incident in Colchester:

One Wednesday afternoon in November 1939, a barrage balloon, partly deflated, came drifting over Colchester. I went up onto the roof of the Castle with a pair of glasses, and watched its progress across the southern part of the town. Two RAF planes were circling round it, but once it was clear of the town they turned and went west.

The balloon went on towards the east, and as it went over a line of high-tension wires there was a bright flash, so no doubt the trailing cables had touched them. I watched until the balloon became obscured in the gathering dusk, and finally vanished over the horizon some 6 or 7 miles away.

Within two hours I was told by a lady that as the balloon was actually over Colchester RAF planes machine-gunned it, and the bullets were picked up in Maldon Road; by 6 o’clock that evening persons in a bus going to Fingringhoe were heard to say that the balloon had been brought down in Wivenhoe Park, just over the river from Colchester, and that evening there were persons in the pubs of Wivenhoe and other villages nearby showing pieces of the actual balloon fabric, which they themselves had taken.

All these tales were told to me with great solemnity, in spite of the fact that I myself had seen the balloon drift out of sight far away from the town.

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