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Hubert Arthur Finney (1905-1991):
Tethered barrage balloon, 1940
Framed (ref: 6647)
Signed and dated 1940
18 1/2 x 12 in. (47 x 30.5 cm)
Provenance: The artist's son
Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 135.
Literature: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 135, page 178.
During the war Finney served in the Ambulance Crews of the Air Raid Precautions Service, later named Civil Defence, for a period of four years until in 1945 he got pleurisy. Barrage balloons were deployed around London towards the end of the First World War, but they were developed as an effective anti-aircraft defence during the inter-war period. They were operated from winches either from static sites - concrete platforms - or from lorries.
The convenience of the latter method was that they could be moved around to protect areas that unexpectedly came under attack, but it also allowed them to be positioned where the attacking force -the Luftwaffe - would not expect them. The appearance of the balloons themselves had a deterrent effect in making attacking aircraft fly higher to avoid them and they therefore made it more difficult to bomb accurately. This was particularly the case in relation to dive- bombing attacks, which depended upon the bomber descending in a steep dive to low altitude before releasing its bombs.
Although their principal purpose was to deter or impede an attack, if an aeroplane struck a balloon cable an ingenious destructive weapon was brought into operation. The tethering cable was designed to part in two places, above and below the wing of the ensnared aeroplane. The substantial steel wire itself might do some harm to the wing structure, but the upper end of the cable was fitted with a small parachute and the lower end with an explosive charge. As the aircraft flew on, its slip-stream inflated the parachute which streamed out behind drawing the charge up against the wing of the aeroplane. When it made contact, the explosives were detonated causing catastrophic damage and bringing the aeroplane down.
We are grateful to Nicholas Finney and Andrew Cormack for assistance