Posted by: travelrat | July 27, 2009

Up, Up and Away!


Do not watch this video if you are of a nervous disposition, or suffer from vertigo.

Bournemouth: 18th June 2009

When the origin of a particular phrase or idiom is asked for, three or four people usually have completely different answers. But, most people are pretty well agreed on the origin of ‘When the balloon goes up’.

It’s an indicator of trouble coming your way shortly, and derives from the practice of flying a fixed balloon prior to an artillery barrage, to see where the enemy were, and what they were up to. Mind you, it probably wasn’t the most popular job in the Army; being suspended in a basket, in full view of the enemy, from a bag of highly inflammable hydrogen would not, I should think, be a very good guarantee of drawing your old-age pension!

Military use of fixed balloons began in the American Civil War, and reached its peak in the First World War. The very first British military use of balloons was in 1873, when trials were held at Larkhill … just a short bus ride away from where I live. After these trials, No. 1 Balloon Company, Royal Engineers was formed, from which the present-day 1 Squadron, Royal Air Force, claims direct descent.

And, believe it or not, the Royal Air Force didn’t retire its last balloons … they used them for parachute training … until the early 1990s. But, by this time, they were using the much safer helium.

You can still take a flight in a fixed balloon at Bournemouth; it’s called the Bournemouth Eye. I still have a flight in a hot air balloon and an airship on my ‘things to do’ list, but a fixed balloon? Would I see any more than I would from a tall building? Well, if you don’t suffer from vertigo, have a look at my video.

In answer to a question by a visitor to the blog … no, you can’t see the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth from the Bournemouth Eye … but, on a clear day, you can see the spire of Salisbury Cathedral.

For more information, go to


  1. That is so cool. Nick would love that. I went on a balloon ride years ago but it was quite scary, especially the landing. The fixed scenario appeals to me a little more!

  2. It is in my Bucket list. Thanks for sharing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: