How To Destroy A War Balloon

SKETCH ILLUSTRATING THE METHOD OF AIMING AT A BALLOONJust something brief here… here is a period-piece of a balloon buster from BEFORE World War I.

Yes, it’s a drawing and not a photograph, because it depicts a scene from around 1870, and yes, they had cameras back then, but this is what we have.

The above contraption is known as a ballonkanone – a balloon cannon, just in case you don’t sprechan sie Deutsch  – speak German, that is.

The idea came about during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 – a war that happened because France was worried about German unification.

At a point in the war when Paris was being swarmed by troops from Prussia just outside the city… so to communicate, they began sending up hot-air balloons to spot the action as well as to open lines of communication with soldiers on the frontlines.

Well, the Prussians sure didn’t like that… so Prussia used a canon designed by German Alfred Krup – the ballonkanone – to take out the balloons.

Ballonabwehrkanone by Krupp Krupp'sche Ballonkanone im Militärhistorischen Museum der Bundeswehr in Dresden. Photo by Billyhill - Own work

ballonkanone by Krupp
in the Militärhistorischen Museum der Bundeswehr in Dresden, Germany.
Photo by Billyhill – Own work
The actual gun/canon is mounted to the cone-shaped column.

Basically, Krupp, already an arms manufacturer was trying to sell his wares to both France and Prussia, but despite the superiority of some of his weapons – say the breech-loading canon made of cast steel – some countries, say France preferred the muzzle loading canon made of bronze.

A ticked off Krupp ended up giving one to the King of Prussia, who used it as a decorative piece.

Enter Prussia’s Wilhelm I (1797 – 1888), who ascended the throne of Prussia on January 2 1861 until March 9, 1888.

As the King of Prussia, he also became the first German Emperor and first head of state of a united Germany (under Prussia). The unification was achieved by Wilhem and his Minister President Otto von Bismarck – which would establish the German Empire.

Anyhow, Wilhelm liked Krupp’s 312 steel cannon, and named Krupp the main weapons manufacture for Prussia.

Thus, when France went to war, it was considered, at least to Krupp, an arms race – France and their cannons versus Prussia’s Krupp cannons.

So… back to Paris sending balloons out…

Krupp mounted a modified 1-pound (37mm) gun – the ballonkanone onto the top of a horse-drawn carriage – and Prussia had a field day shooting down French balloons.

Alfred Krupp

Alfred Krupp

When the war was over, Krupp continued to sell his arms to which ever country had money.

The family business, later known as Friedrich Krupp AG, was by the beginning of 1900 the largest company in Europe. Alfred Krupp was dead by this time, but his son Friedrich was now running things.

If you are wondering how the largest company in Europe doesn’t seem to be around anymore, just know that in 1999 it merged with German company Thyssen AG, to form ThyssenKrupp AG, a large industrial corporation that is involved with more industries than you know exist.

By the way, as a precursor to WWII, Paris fell to Prussian forces on January 28, 1871. Needless to say, Germanic rule and worries about it right then were all lead-ins to WWI. The excessive reparation payments and devaluation of Germany’s money led to hyper-inflation and eventually to national socialism and WWII – yes, an over-simplification, but that’s the free version.


About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
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