This monument recalls a significant event that was to take aeronautical science a great step forward.
La colonne Blanchard est un symbole important de l’histoire aéronautique et un monument emblématique de la commune de Guînes. Elle témoigne de la fierté de la ville pour cet événement historique et rend hommage à la contribution de Jean-Pierre Blanchard à l’exploration aérienne.
It is a little beyond the forest house, on the south-east side of the road, that the path leads to the monument of Blanchard.
Here was the landing point, in 1785, of the first air voyage over the sea. On January 7, 1785, after leaving Dover, aeronaut Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Doctor John Jeffries crossed the English Channel in a balloon inflated with hydrogen. The Blanchard column is the memorial erected in their honor, at the place where they landed that day, in a clearing in the forest. This historical moment gave its name to this part of the wood: the Bois de Ballon.
Jean-Pierre Blanchard joined England in September 1784 with the mad hope of returning by balloon. Four months later, the dream becomes reality.
On January 7, 1785 in the early morning, the sky was clear, the temperature very cool. Despite the sailors’ advice to the contrary, Jean-Pierre Blanchard and Doctor Jeffries decided to take to the skies to reach the French coast. It is 1:05 p.m., the balloon with uncertain impermeability rises in rotation on itself above the castle of Dover with on board forty-three small kilos of objects and ballast. The balloon, fitted with wings, a rudder and a propeller, moves slowly and loses altitude from time to time, forcing the two men to part with provisions, wings, rudder, reel, ornaments of the nacelle then of the bottle to be opened in the event of a coronation. The aerostat, which is still losing height, pushes the duo to an improbable striptease over the English Channel. All they have left is their cork waistcoat. Nothing works. And it is when Jeffries proposes to sacrifice himself that the balloon takes altitude again. It is three o’clock when in a last leap, the highest of the journey, the balloon crosses the coast between capes Gris-Nez and Blanc-Nez. In a last gust of wind, the two aeronauts land somehow, without crashing, in the forest of Guînes. Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries have just made the first crossing of the English Channel by air.
(source: Guines Website)