Photos from a Marine Observation Balloon

This large bound document is a set of photographs taken from a German Marine Observation balloon at the border between occupied Belgium and the Netherlands, which are separated by the canal.  The document measures 13.5" x 30.5" unfolded.  On the cover, it is entitled "Ballonrundbild vom Kiervitte Polder-Zwarte Polder-Cadzand. Aufnahme des Lichtbildtrupps der Mar.-Fesselb.-Abt."  and bears the stamp "Kaiserliche Marine Fesselballon-Abteilung."  On the inside, upper left corner is a stamp with the location repeated and the date given of 2 February 1917 with an altitude of 1,100 meters over Siska Karte. 

It would not be surprising that the Germans are observing the neutral Dutch across the border.  However, on the very same date of this photo study and as reported in the book French Aircraft of the First World War, page 364, Netherlands: On 2 February 1917 a Nieuport 11 of A-Squadron Number 1 Wing of the RNAS landed at Cadzand in the Netherlands.  The Dutch authorities purchased it from the British."  Was it just a coincidence that the German observers were looking at Cadzand on the exact date that a Nieuport has landed there or are they looking for it?

Eddy Lambrecht of Knokke, Belgium, provided the terrific photo below and explained "The Marine Fessel Ballon unit at Knokke its task was to direct and observe the shooting of the Wilhelm II Battery ( 4 x 30,5 cm). These naval long range guns could engage British war vessels from Ostend to the Schelde estuary. As the Germans feared a British attack in the rear from the Netherlands, they also kept an eye over the frontier. In March/April 1917 the Ballon unit moved to the region of Ostend, and was replaced by a Grenz Schutz Ballon unit. The name 'Siska' appears in the German text. This was and still is a well known coffee and Belgian waffel house in Knokke (hamlet called Oosthoek). If the ballon was situated at this particular spot, then your positioning on the map is wrong ( has to be more to the left)."

Mr. Lambrecht obtained this photo from the album of a member of a Matrosen Regiment stationed at Knokke.  He explains further "The waffle house is not on the photo, the building on the left of the photo is the first golf clubhouse of Knokke. The balloon was kept in the hangar situated at the cross-roads at the extreme left of the map, left of the red line running vertically on the map. 'SISKA' was situated to the left of the 'projetierter position' where you can read 'Ancien Fort St. Paul (old fort St. Paul - Spanish built). There was the waffle house, and near the spot was also an AA battery. So the waffle house is not so far from the red indicated position. Cadzand : It is the same place, several British planes with engine trouble or without petrol landed, or combat damaged landed over the border. I am not sure they were watching the Nieuport, but it is very possible. I have already seen several photos in collections, taken by this balloon over the frontier. It had a good camera working and they made use of it!"

The photo below left shows the coast today and below right is a map of the coast today; the red dot marks the approximate spot over which the balloon was floating and the direction of its photos is shown by the red arrow, pointing at Cadzand.