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History

Epilogue

In spite of the constant bickering between the RAF and Admiralty about Operation Outward, after the program had been shut down there was a glimmer of good will between the two services. On 16 September 1944, although he must have been gritting his teeth, Captain Banister wrote to Air Marshal Gell that his staff would “…always look back upon the good fellowship which has prevailed throughout our combined operations with pleasure.” Gell wrote back “The helpful and friendly cooperation I have received from the Naval Authorities at all times in carrying out these tasks, has been greatly appreciated.”

And thus ended the saga of Britain's not-so-top-secret, trailing-wire, offensive balloon weapon.

Since the launch of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine in January 2003, the “History” column has offered articles on the development, expansion, and improvement of the electric power system and the utilization of electric power to do productive work. We have featured inventors, engineers, and entrepreneurs who created what has become known as the “Electrical Age” and have showcased many outstanding electrical innovations and achievements.

This issue's “History” column represents a change of pace in that it is a fascinating account, authored by Raoul E. Drapeau, of a beleaguered Great Britain using its ingenuity and limited resources during World War II to devise and implement a program specifically intended to disrupt the supply of electric power and damage or destroy electrical infrastructure.

Operation Outward was a British Admiralty program that, between March 1942 and September 1944, manufactured and launched almost 46,000 inexpensive hydrogen-filled meteorological balloons trailing a length of wire intended to contact and short circuit overhead high-voltage and lower-voltage transmission and distribution lines in Germany and in occupied Europe. By all accounts, this campaign succeeded in randomly disrupting target electrical systems, was conducted with relative safety to Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) personnel involved, and was extremely cost effective. In addition to the actual damage caused and the loss of electric power, Operation Outlook had significant harassment value by imposing extra demands on German air defenses and aviation fuel supplies.

Raoul Drapeau is a businessman, lecturer, author, inventor, and former naval officer. He holds a B.S.E.E. degree from Cornell University and an M.S.E.E. degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He also holds 13 U.S. and foreign patents and is an active inventor. He has taught adult education courses in the history of engineering and invention for many years.

He has authored numerous articles on business and the history of technology, including a recent article in WW II History Magazine on the famous but controversial formerly top-secret Norden bombsight. He recently authored Your Invention, an educational book for inventors on the development, protection, and marketing of inventions, and has also recently published The Fat Man's Disk, a fictional mystery thriller set in the Middle East.

We are pleased and honored to welcome Raoul Drapeau to these pages as our guest history author for this issue of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine.

—Carl Sulzberger

Associate Editor, History

For Further Reading

The National Archives of the UK. (2011, 23 Feb.). Operation Outward. Folder ADM 199-848. [Online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/-Operation_Outward

G. Goebel, (2010, 1 Feb.). Balloons in peace and war 1900:1945. [Online]. Available: http://www.vectorsite.net/avbloon_2.html

A. Porter. (2004, 10 Oct.). Tuppence a day danger money, WWII people's war (An archive of World War II memories). [Online]. Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/-stories/19/a32112219.shtml

J. Halley, “Operation outward,” Aviation News, 31 Oct.–13 Nov. 1986, p. 590.

J. Christopher, Balloons at War. Stroud, Gloucestershire, U.K.: Tempus Publications, 2004.

J. P. Foynes, The Battle of the East Coast (1939–1945). Self-published, 1994, pp. 209–211.

Private Papers of Sheila Bywater (transcript, 7 pp). London: Imperial War Museum, 2005.

C. Peebles, The Moby Dick Project—Reconnaissance Balloons Over Russia. Washington: Smithsonian, 1991, pp. 52–57.

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