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´╗┐Title: Aeroplanes and Dirigibles of War
Author: Talbot, Frederick Arthur Ambrose, 1880-
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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AEROPLANES AND DIRIGIBLES OF WAR

By Frederick A. Talbot



PREFACE

Ever since the earliest days of the great conquest of the air, first by
the dirigible balloon and then by the aeroplane, their use in time of
war has been a fruitful theme for discussion. But their arrival was
of too recent a date, their many utilities too unexplored to provide
anything other than theories, many obviously untenable, others avowedly
problematical.

Yet the part airships have played in the Greatest War has come as a
surprise even to their most convinced advocates. For every expectation
shattered, they have shown a more than compensating possibility of
usefulness.

In this volume an endeavour has been made to record their achievements,
under the stern test of trial, as an axiom of war, and to explain, in
untechnical language, the many services to which they have been and may
be applied.

In the preparation of the work I have received assistance from many
sources--British, French, Russian and German--from official reports and
from men who have played a part in the War in the Air. The information
concerning German military aircraft has been obtained from Government
documents, most of which were placed at my disposal before the outbreak
of war.

The use of aircraft has changed the whole art and science of warfare.
With its disabilities well in hand, with its strength but half revealed,
the aerial service has revolutionised strategy and shorn the unexpected
attack of half its terrors. The Fourth Arm is now an invaluable part of
the complex military machine.

F. A. TALBOT.



                     CONTENTS
CHAPTER

     I.     The introduction of aircraft into military operations
     II.    The military uses of the captive balloon
     III.   Germany's rise to military airship supremacy
     IV.    Airships of war
     V.     Germany's aerial dreadnought fleet
     VI.    The military value of Germany's aerial fleet
     VII.   Aeroplanes of war
     VIII.  Scouting from the skies
     IX.    The airman and artillery
     X.     Bomb-throwing from air-craft
     XI.    Armoured aeroplanes
     XII.   Battles in the air
     XIII.  Tricks and ruses to baffle the airman
     XIV.   Anti-aircraft guns. Mobile weapons
     XV.    Anti-aircraft guns. Immobile weapons
     XVI.   Mining the air
     XVII.  Wireless in aviation
     XVIII. Aircraft and naval operations
     XIX.   The navies of the air



CHAPTER I. THE INTRODUCTION OF AIRCRAFT INTO MILITARY OPERATIONS

It is a curious circumstance that an invention, which is hailed as
being one of the greatest achievements ever recorded in the march of
civilisation, should be devoted essentially to the maiming of humanity
and the destruction of property. In no other trend of human endeavour
is this factor so potently demonstrated as in connection with Man's
Conquest of the Air.

The dogged struggle against the blind forces of Nature was waged
tenaciously and perseveringly for centuries. But the measure of success
recorded from time to time was so disappointing as to convey the
impression, except in a limited circle, that the problem was impossible
of solution. In the meantime wondrous changes had taken place in the
methods of transportation by land and sea. The steam and electric
railway, steam propulsion of vessels, and mechanical movement along
the highroads had been evolved and advanced to a high standard of
perfection, to the untold advantage of the community. Consequently it
was argued, if only a system of travel along the aerial highways could
be established, then all other methods of mechanical transportation
would be rendered, if not entirely obsolete, at least antiquated.

At last man triumphed over Nature--at least to such a degree as to
inspire the confidence of the world at large, and to bring aerial travel
and transportation within range of realisation. But what has been the
result? The discovery is not devoted to the interests of peace and
economic development, but to extermination and destruction.

At the same time this development may be explained. The airship and
aeroplane in the present stage of evolution possess no economic value.
True, cross-country cruises by airship have been inaugurated, and, up to
a point, have proved popularly, if not commercially, successful,
while tentative efforts have been made to utilise the aeroplane as
a mail-carrier. Still, from the view-point of the community at large
aerial travel is as remote as it was centuries ago.

It is somewhat interesting to observe how history is repeating itself.
When the Montgolfiers succeeded in lifting themselves into the air by
means of a vessel inflated with hot air, the new vehicle was hailed not
so much as one possessed of commercial possibilities, but as an engine
of war! When the indomitable courage and perseverance of Count von
Zeppelin in the face of discouraging disasters and flagrant failures, at
last commanded the attention of the German Emperor, the latter regarded
the Zeppelin craft, not from the interests of peace, but as a military
weapon, and the whole of the subsequent efforts of the Imperial admirer
were devoted to the perfection of the airship in this one direction.

Other nations, when they embarked on an identical line of development,
considered the airship from a similar point of view. In fact, outside
Germany, there was very little private initiative in this field.
Experiments and developments were undertaken by the military or naval,
and in some instances by both branches, of the respective Powers.
Consequently the aerial craft, whether it be a dirigible airship, or an
aeroplane, can only be regarded from the military point of view.

Despite the achievements which have been recorded by human endeavour
in the field of aerial travel, the balloon per se has by no means been
superseded. It still remains an invaluable adjunct to the fighting
machine. In Great Britain its value in this direction has never been
ignored: of late, indeed, it has rather been developed. The captive
balloon is regarded as an indispensable unit to both field and sea
operations. This fact was emphasised very strongly in connection with
the British naval attacks upon the German forces in Flanders, and it
contributed to the discomfiture of the German hordes in a very emphatic
manner.

The captive balloon may be operated from any spot where facilities exist
for anchoring the paying out cable together with winding facilities for
the latter. Consequently, if exigencies demand, it maybe operated from
the deck of a warship so long as the latter is stationary, or even from
an automobile. It is of small cubic capacity, inasmuch as it is only
necessary for the bag to contain sufficient gas to lift one or two men
to a height of about 500 or 600 feet.

When used in the field the balloon is generally inflated at the base, to
be towed or carried forward by a squad of men while floating in the air,
perhaps at a height of 10 feet. A dozen men will suffice for this duty
as a rule, and in calm weather little difficulty is encountered in
moving from point to point. This method possesses many advantages.
The balloon can be inflated with greater ease at the base, where it is
immune from interference by hostile fire. Moreover, the facilities for
obtaining the requisite inflating agent--hydrogen or coal gas--are more
convenient at such a point. If the base be far removed from the spot at
which it is desired to operate the balloon, the latter is inflated at a
convenient point nearer the requisite position, advantage being taken of
the protective covering offered by a copse or other natural obstacle.

As is well known, balloons played an important part during the siege
of Paris in 1870-1, not only in connection with daring attempts to
communicate with the outer world, but in reconnoitring the German
positions around the beleaguered city. But this was not the first
military application of the aerial vessel; it was used by the French
against the Austrians in the battle of Fleurus, and also during the
American Civil War. These operations, however, were of a sporadic
character; they were not part and parcel of an organised military
section.

It is not generally known that the British War office virtually
pioneered the military use of balloons, and subsequently the methods
perfected in Britain became recognised as a kind of "standard" and
were adopted generally by the Powers with such modifications as local
exigencies seemed to demand.

The British military balloon department was inaugurated at Chatham under
Captain Templer in 1879. It was devoted essentially to the employment
of captive balloons in war, and in 1880 a company of the Royal Engineers
was detailed to the care of this work in the field. Six years previously
the French military department had adopted the captive balloon under
Colonel Laussedat, who was assisted among others by the well-known
Captain Renard. Germany was somewhat later in the field; the military
value of captive balloons was not appreciated and taken into serious
consideration here until 1884. But although British efforts were
preceded by the French the latter did not develop the idea upon accepted
military lines.

The British authorities were confronted with many searching problems.
One of the earliest and greatest difficulties encountered was in
connection with the gas for inflation. Coal gas was not always readily
available, so that hydrogen had to be depended upon for the most part.
But then another difficulty arose. This was the manufacture of the
requisite gas. Various methods were tested, such as the electrolytic
decomposition of water, the decomposition of sulphuric acid by means of
iron, the reaction between slaked lime and zinc, and so forth.

But the drawbacks to every process, especially upon the field of battle,
when operations have to be conducted under extreme difficulties and
at high pressure, were speedily recognised. While other
nations concentrated their energies upon the simplification of
hydrogen-manufacturing apparatus for use upon the battle-field, Great
Britain abandoned all such processes in toto. Our military organisation
preferred to carry out the production of the necessary gas at a
convenient manufacturing centre and to transport it, stored in steel
cylinders under pressure, to the actual scene of operations. The method
proved a great success, and in this way it was found possible to inflate
a military balloon in the short space of 20 minutes, whereas, under the
conditions of making gas upon the spot, a period of four hours or more
was necessary, owing to the fact that the manufacturing process is
relatively slow and intricate. The practicability of the British idea
and its perfection served to establish the captive balloon as a military
unit.

The British military ballooning department has always ranked as the
foremost of its type among the Powers, although its work has been
carried out so unostentatiously that the outside world has gleaned very
little information concerning its operations. Captain Templer was an
indefatigable worker and he brought the ballooning section to a high
degree of efficiency from the military point of view.

But the British Government was peculiarly favoured, if such a term
may be used. Our little wars in various parts of the world contributed
valuable information and experience which was fully turned to account.
Captive balloons for reconnoitring purposes were used by the British
army for the first time at Suakim in 1885, and the section established
its value very convincingly. The French military balloon department
gained its first experience in this field in the previous year, a
balloon detachment having been dispatched to Tonkin in 1884. In both
the Tonkin and Soudan campaigns, invaluable work was accomplished by the
balloon sections, with the result that this aerial vehicle has come to
be regarded as an indispensable military adjunct. Indeed the activity of
the German military ballooning section was directly attributable to the
Anglo-French achievements therewith.

In this work, however, the British force speedily displayed its
superiority and initiative. The use of compressed hydrogen was adopted,
and within the course of a few years the other Powers, realising the
advantages which the British department had thus obtained, decided to
follow its example. The gas is stored in cylinders under a pressure
varying from six to ten or more atmospheres; in other words from about
80 to 140 or more pounds per square inch. Special military wagons
have been designed for the transport of these cylinders, and they are
attached to the balloon train.

The balloon itself is light, and made of such materials as to reduce
the weight thereof to the minimum. The British balloons are probably the
smallest used by any of the Powers, but at the same time they are
the most expensive. They are made of goldbeater's skin, and range in
capacity from 7,000 to 10,000 cubic feet, the majority being of the
former capacity. The French balloon on the other hand has a capacity
exceeding 18,000 cubic feet, although a smaller vessel of 9,000 cubic
feet capacity, known as an auxiliary, and carrying a single observer, is
used.

The Germans, on the other hand, with their Teutonic love of the immense,
favour far larger vessels. At the same time the military balloon section
of the German Army eclipses that of any other nations is attached to the
Intelligence Department, and is under the direct control of the General
Staff. Balloon stations are dotted all over the country, including
Heligoland and Kiel, while regular sections are attached to the Navy
for operating captive balloons from warships. Although the Zeppelin and
aeroplane forces have come to the front in Germany, and have relegated
the captive balloon somewhat to the limbo of things that were, the
latter section has never been disbanded; in fact, during the present
campaign it has undergone a somewhat spirited revival.

The South African campaign emphasised the value of the British balloon
section of the Army, and revealed services to which it was specially
adapted, but which had previously more or less been ignored. The
British Army possessed indifferent maps of the Orange Free State and the
Transvaal. This lamentable deficiency was remedied in great measure by
recourse to topographical photographs taken from the captive balloons.
The guides thus obtained were found to be of extreme value.

During the early stages of the war the hydrogen was shipped in cylinders
from the homeland, but subsequently a manufacturing plant of such
capacity as to meet all requirements was established in South Africa.
The cylinders were charged at this point and dispatched to the scene of
action, so that it became unnecessary to transport the commodity from
Britain. The captive balloon revealed the impregnability of Spion Kop,
enabled Lord Roberts to ascertain the position of the Boer guns at the
Battle of Paardeburg, and proved of invaluable assistance to the forces
of General White during the siege of Ladysmith.



CHAPTER II. THE MILITARY USES of THE CAPTIVE BALLOON

Although the captive balloon is recognised as indispensable in military
operations, its uses are somewhat limited. It can be employed only in
comparatively still weather. The reason is obvious. It is essential that
the balloon should assume a vertical line in relation to its winding
plant upon the ground beneath, so that it may attain the maximum
elevation possible: in other words, the balloon should be directly
above the station below, so that if 100 yards of cable are paid out the
aerostat may be 100 yards above the ground. If a wind is blowing, the
helpless craft is certain to be caught thereby and driven forwards or
backwards, so that it assumes an angle to its station. If this become
acute the vessel will be tilted, rendering the position of the observers
somewhat precarious, and at the same time observing efficiency will be
impaired.

This point may be appreciated more easily by reference to the
accompanying diagram. A represents the ground station and B the position
of the captive balloon when sent aloft in calm weather, 300 feet of
cable being paid out. A wind arises and blows the vessel forward to the
position C. At this point the height of the craft in relation to the
ground has been reduced, and the reduction must increase proportionately
as the strength of the wind increases and forces the balloon still more
towards the ground. At the same time, owing to the tilt given to the
car, observation is rendered more difficult and eventually becomes
extremely dangerous.

A wind, if of appreciable strength, develops another and graver danger.
Greater strain will be imposed upon the cable, while if the wind be
gusty, there is the risk that the vessel will be torn away from
its anchoring rope and possibly lost. Thus it will be seen that the
effective utilisation of a captive balloon is completely governed by
meteorological conditions, and often it is impossible to use it
in weather which exercises but little influence upon dirigibles or
aeroplanes.

The captive balloon equipment comprises the balloon, together with the
observer's basket, the wire-cable whereby it is anchored and controlled,
and the winding apparatus. Formerly a steam engine was necessary for
the paying in and out of the cable, but nowadays this is accomplished by
means of a petrol-driven motor, an oil-engine, or even by the engine of
an automobile. The length of cable varies according to the capacity of
the balloon and the maximum operating height.

The average British balloon is able to lift about 290 or 300 pounds,
which may be taken to represent the weight of two observers. On the
other hand, the French and German balloons are able to carry four times
this weight, with the exception of the French auxiliaries, which are
designed to lift one observer only. The balloons of the two latter
Powers have also a greater maximum altitude; it is possible to ascend to
a height of some 2,000 feet in one of these.

The observing station is connected with the winding crew below either
by a telephone, or some other signalling system, the method practised
varying according to circumstances. In turn the winding station is
connected with the officer in charge of the artillery, the fire of which
the captive balloon is directing. The balloon observer is generally
equipped with various instruments, such as telescope, photographic
cameras, and so forth, so as to be able, if necessary, to prepare a
topographical survey of the country below. By this means the absence
of reliable maps may be remedied, or if not regarded, as sufficiently
correct they may be checked and counter-checked by the data gained
aloft.

Seeing that the gas has to be transported in cylinders, which are
weighty, it is incumbent that the waste of this commodity should be
reduced to the minimum. The balloon cannot be deflated at night and
re-inflated in the morning--it must be maintained in the inflated
condition the whole time it is required for operation.

There are various methods of consummating this end. One method is to
haul in the balloon and to peg it down on all sides, completing the
anchorage by the attachment of bags filled with earth to the network.
While this process is satisfactory in calm weather, it is impracticable
in heavy winds, which are likely to spring up suddenly. Consequently
a second method is practised. This is to dig a pit into the ground of
sufficient size to receive the balloon. When the latter is hauled in it
is lowered into this pit and there pegged down and anchored. Thus it
is perfectly safe during the roughest weather, as none of its bulk is
exposed above the ground level. Furthermore it is not a conspicuous
object for the concentration of hostile fire.

In some instances, and where the military department is possessed of
an elaborate equipment such as characterises the German army, when
reconnaissance is completed and the balloon is to be removed to another
point, the gas is pumped back into the cylinders for further use. Such
an economical proceeding is pretty and well adapted to manoeuvres, but
it is scarcely feasible in actual warfare, for the simple reason that
the pumping takes time. Consequently the general procedure, when the
balloon has completed its work, is to permit the gas to escape into the
air in the usual manner, and to draw a fresh supply of gas from further
cylinders when the occasion arises for re-inflation.

Although the familiar spherical balloon has proved perfectly adequate
for reconnoitring in the British and French armies, the German
authorities maintained that it was not satisfactory in anything but calm
weather. Accordingly scientific initiative was stimulated with a view to
the evolution of a superior vessel. These endeavours culminated in the
Parseval-Siegsfeld captive balloon, which has a quaint appearance. It
has the form of a bulky cylinder with hemispherical extremities. At one
end of the balloon there is a surrounding outer bag, reminiscent of a
cancerous growth. The lower end of this is open. This attachment serves
the purpose of a ballonet. The wind blowing against the opening, which
faces it, charges the ballonet with air. This action, it is claimed,
serves to steady the main vessel, somewhat in the manner of the tail of
a kite, thereby enabling observations to be made as easily and correctly
in rough as in calm weather. The appearance of the balloon while aloft
is certainly curious. It appears to be rearing up on end, as if the
extremity saddled with the ballonet were weighted.

British and French captive balloon authorities are disposed to discount
the steadying effect of this attachment, and, indeed, to maintain that
it is a distinct disadvantage. It may hold the vessel steadier for the
purpose of observation, but at the same time it renders the balloon a
steadier target for hostile fire. On the other hand, the swaying of a
spherical balloon with the wind materially contributes to its safety.
A moving object, particularly when its oscillations are irregular
and incalculable, is an extremely difficult object at which to take
effective aim.

Seeing that even a small captive balloon is of appreciable
dimensions--from 25 to 33 feet or more in diameter--one might consider
it an easy object to hit. But experience has proved otherwise. In the
first place the colour of the balloon is distinctly protective. The
golden or yellowish tinge harmonises well with the daylight, even in
gloomy weather, while at night-time it blends excellently with the
moonlight. For effective observations a high altitude is undesirable. At
a height of 600 feet the horizon is about 28 miles from the observer,
as compared with the 3 miles constituting the range of vision from
the ground over perfectly flat country. Thus it will be seen that the
"spotter" up aloft has the command of a considerable tract.

Various ways and means of finding the range of a captive balloon have
been prepared, and tables innumerable are available for committal to
memory, while those weapons especially designed for aerial targets are
fitted with excellent range-finders and other instruments. The Germans,
with characteristic thoroughness, have devoted considerable attention
to this subject, but from the results which they have achieved up to
the present this guiding knowledge appears to be more spectacular and
impressive than effective.

To put a captive balloon out of action one must either riddle the
envelope, causing it to leak like a sieve, blow the vessel to pieces, or
ignite the highly inflammable gas with which it is inflated. Individual
rifle fire will inflict no tangible damage. A bullet, if it finds
its billet, will merely pass through the envelope and leave two small
punctures. True, these vents will allow the gas to escape, but this
action will proceed so slowly as to permit the vessel to remain aloft
long enough to enable the observer to complete his work. A lucky rifle
volley, or the stream of bullets from a machine gun may riddle the
envelope, precipitating a hurried descent, owing to the greater number
of perforations through which the gas is able to escape, but as a rule
the observer will be able to land safely.

Consequently the general practice is to shatter the aerostat, and to
this end either shrapnel, high explosive, or incendiary shells will be
used. The former must explode quite close to the balloon in order to
achieve the desired end, while the incendiary shell must actually
strike it, so as to fire the gas. The high explosive shell may explode
effectually some feet away from the vessel, inasmuch as in this instance
dependence is placed upon the terrific concussion produced by the
explosion which, acting upon the fragile fabric of the balloon, brings
about a complete collapse of the envelope. If a shrapnel is well placed
and explodes immediately above the balloon, the envelope will be torn to
shreds and a violent explosion of the gas will be precipitated. But as
a matter of fact, it is extremely difficult to place a shrapnel shell so
as to consummate this end. The range is not picked up easily, while
the timing of the fuse to bring about the explosion of the shell at the
critical moment is invariably a complex problem.

One favourite method of finding the range of a balloon is shown in the
accompanying diagrams. The artillery battery is at B and the captive
balloon, C, is anchored at A. On either side of B and at a specified
distance, observers O1 and O2 respectively are stationed. First a shell
is fired at "long" range, possibly the maximum range of the gun. It
bursts at D. As it has burst immediately in the line of sight of B, but
with the smoke obscured by the figure of the balloon C, it is obvious
to B that the explosion has occurred behind the objective, but at what
distance he cannot tell. To O1 and O2, however, it is seen to have burst
at a considerable distance behind C though to the former it appears to
have burst to the left and to the second observer to the right of the
target.

Another shell, at "short" range, is now fired, and it bursts at E. The
explosion takes place in the line of sight of B, who knows that he has
fired short of the balloon because the latter is eclipsed by the smoke.
But the two observers see that it is very short, and here again the
explosion appears to O1 to have occurred to the right of the target,
while to O2 it has evidently burst to the left of the aerostat, as
revealed by the relation of the position of the balloon to the bursting
of the shell shown in Fig. 3.

A third round is fired, and the shell explodes at F. In this instance
the explosion takes place below the balloon. Both the observers and the
artillery man concur in their deductions upon the point at which
the shell burst. But the shell must explode above the balloon, and
accordingly a fourth round is discharged and the shell bursts at G.

This appears to be above the balloon, inasmuch as the lines of sight
of the two observers and B converge at this point. But whether the
explosion occurs immediately above the vessel as is desired, it is
impossible to say definitely, because it may explode too far behind to
be effective. Consequently, if this shell should prove abortive, the
practice is to decrease the range gradually with each succeeding round
until the explosion occurs at the critical point, when, of course, the
balloon is destroyed. An interesting idea of the difficulty of picking
up the range of a captive balloon may be gathered from the fact that
some ten minutes are required to complete the operation.

But success is due more to luck than judgment. In the foregoing
explanation it is premised that the aerial vessel remains stationary,
which is an extremely unlikely contingency. While those upon the ground
are striving to pick up the range, the observer is equally active in his
efforts to baffle his opponents. The observer follows each successive,
round with keen interest, and when the shells appear to be bursting at
uncomfortably close quarters naturally he intimates to his colleagues
below that he desires his position to be changed, either by ascending to
a higher point or descending. In fact, he may be content to come to the
ground. Nor must the fact be overlooked that while the enemy is trying
to place the observer hors de combat, he is revealing the position of
his artillery, and the observer is equally industrious in picking up the
range of the hostile guns for the benefit of his friends below.

When the captive balloon is aloft in a wind the chances of the enemy
picking up the range thereof are extremely slender, as it is continually
swinging to and fro. While there is always the possibility of a shell
bursting at such a lucky moment as to demolish the aerial target, it is
generally conceded to be impossible to induce a shell to burst within
100 yards of a balloon, no matter how skilfully the hostile battery may
be operated.

The value of the captive balloon has been demonstrated very strikingly
throughout the attack upon the entrenched German positions in Flanders.
Owing to the undulating character of the dunes the "spotters" upon the
British monitors and battle ships are unable to obtain a sweeping view
of the country. Accordingly captive balloons are sent aloft in some
cases from the deck of the monitors, and in others from a suitable point
upon the beach itself. The aerial observer from his point of vantage is
able to pick up the positions of the German forces and artillery with
ease and to communicate the data thus gained to the British vessels,
although subjected to heavy and continuous hostile fire. The difficulty
of hitting a captive balloon has been graphically emphasised, inasmuch
as the German artillerists have failed to bring down a solitary balloon.
On the other hand the observer in the air is able to signal the results
of each salvo fired from the British battleships as they manoeuvre at
full speed up and down the coastline, while he keeps the fire of the
monitors concentrated upon the German positions until the latter have
been rendered untenable or demolished. The accuracy of the British
gun-fire has astonished even the Germans, but it has been directly
attributable to the rangefinder perched in the car of the captive
balloon and his rapid transmission of information to the vessels below.

The enthusiastic supporters of aerial navigation maintained that
the dirigible and the aeroplane would supersede the captive balloon
completely. But as a matter of fact the present conflict has established
the value of this factor more firmly than ever. There is not the
slightest possibility that the captive balloon sections of the
belligerents will be disbanded, especially those which have the
fruits of experience to guide them. The airship and the aeroplane have
accomplished wonders, but despite their achievements the captive balloon
has fully substantiated its value as a military unit in its particular
field of operations.



CHAPTER III. GERMANY'S RISE TO MILITARY AIRSHIP SUPREMACY

Two incidents in the history of aviation stand out with exceptional
prominence. The one is the evolution of the Zeppelin airship--a story
teeming with romance and affording striking and illuminating glimpses
of dogged perseverance, grim determination in the face of repeated
disasters, and the blind courageous faith of the inventor in the
creation of his own brain. The second is the remarkable growth of
Germany's military airship organisation, which has been so rapid and
complete as to enable her to assume supremacy in this field, and that
within the short span of a single decade.

The Zeppelin has always aroused the world's attention, although this
interest has fluctuated. Regarded at first as a wonderful achievement
of genius, afterwards as a freak, then as the ready butt for universal
ridicule, and finally with awe, if not with absolute terror--such in
brief is the history of this craft of the air.

Count von Zeppelin can scarcely be regarded as an ordinary man. He took
up the subject of flight at an age which the majority of individuals
regard as the opportune moment for retirement from activity, and,
knowing nothing about mechanical engineering, he concentrated his
energies upon the study of this science to enable him to master the
difficulties of a mechanical character incidental to the realisation of
his grand idea. His energy and indomitable perseverance are equalled by
his ardent patriotism, because, although the Fatherland discounted his
idea when other Powers were ready to consider it, and indeed made
him tempting offers for the acquisition of his handiwork, he stoutly
declined all such solicitations, declaring that his invention, if such
it may be termed, was for his own country and none other.

Count von Zeppelin developed his line of study and thought for one
reason only. As an old campaigner and a student of military affairs
he realised the shortcomings of the existing methods of scouting
and reconnoitring. He appreciated more than any other man of the day
perhaps, that if the commander-in-chief of an army were provided with
facilities for gazing down upon the scene of operations, and were able
to take advantage of all the information accruing to the man above who
sees all, he would hold a superior position, and be able to dispose
his forces and to arrange his plan of campaign to the most decisive
advantage. In other words, Zeppelin conceived and developed his airship
for one field of application and that alone-military operations.
Although it has achieved certain successes in other directions these
have been subsidiary to the primary intention, and have merely served to
emphasise its military value.

Von Zeppelin was handicapped in his line of thought and investigation
from the very first. He dreamed big things upon a big scale. The
colossal always makes a peculiar and irresistible appeal to the Teutonic
nature. So he contemplated the perfection of a big dirigible, eclipsing
in every respect anything ever attempted or likely to be attempted
by rival countries. Unfortunately, the realisation of the "colossal"
entails an equally colossal financial reserve, and the creator of this
form of airship for years suffered from financial cramp in its worst
manifestation.  Probably it was to the benefit of the world at large
that Fortune played him such sorry tricks. It retarded the growth of
German ambitions in one direction very effectively.

As is well known Zeppelin evolved what may be termed an individual line
of thought in connection with his airship activities. He adopted what is
known as the indeformable airship: that is to say the rigid, as opposed
to the semi-rigid and flexible craft. As a result of patient experiment
and continued researches he came to the conclusion that a huge outer
envelope taking the form of a polygonal cylinder with hemispherical
ends, constructed upon substantial lines with a metallic skeleton
encased within an impermeable skin, and charged with a number of smaller
balloon-shaped vessels containing the lifting agent--hydrogen gas--would
fulfil his requirements to the greatest advantage. Model after model was
built upon these lines. Each was subjected to searching tests with the
invariable result attending such work with models. Some fulfilled the
expectations of the inventor, others resolutely declined to illustrate
his reasonings in any direction.

The inevitable happened. When a promising model was completed finally
the inventor learned to his sorrow what every inventor realises in time.
His fortune and the resources of others had been poured down the sink
of experiment. To carry the idea from the model to the practical stage
required more money, and it was not forthcoming. The inventor sought
to enlist the practical sympathy of his country, only to learn that in
Germany, as in other lands, the axiom concerning the prophet, honour,
and country prevails. No exuberant inventor received such a cold douche
from a Government as did Count Zeppelin from the Prussian authorities.
For two years further work was brought practically to a standstill:
nothing could be done unless the sinews of war were forthcoming. His
friends, who had assisted him financially with his models, now concluded
that their aid had been misplaced.

The inventor, though disappointed, was by no means cast down. He clung
tenaciously to his pet scheme and to such effect that in 1896 a German
Engineering Society advanced him some funds to continue his researches.
This support sufficed to keep things going for another two years,
during which time a full-sized vessel was built. The grand idea began
to crystallise rapidly, with the result that when a public company was
formed in 1898, sufficient funds were rendered available to enable the
first craft to be constructed. It aroused considerable attention, as
well it might, seeing that it eclipsed anything which had previously
been attempted in connection with dirigibles. It was no less than 420
feet in length, by 38 feet in diameter, and was fitted with two cars,
each of which carried a sixteen horse-power motor driving independent
propellers rigidly attached to the body of the vessel. The propellers
were both vertical and horizontal, for the purpose of driving the ship
in the two planes--vertical and horizontal respectively.

The vessel was of great scientific interest, owing to the ingenuity of
its design and construction. The metallic skeleton was built up from
aluminium and over this was stretched the fabric of the envelope,
care being observed to reduce skin friction, as well as to achieve
impermeability. But it was the internal arrangement of the gas-lifting
balloons which provoked the greatest concern. The hull was divided
into compartments, each complete in itself, and each containing a small
balloon inflated with hydrogen. It was sub-division as practised in
connection with vessels ploughing the water applied to aerial craft, the
purpose being somewhat the same. As a ship of the seas will keep afloat
so long as a certain number of its subdivisions remain watertight,
so would the Zeppelin keep aloft if a certain number of the gas
compartments retained their charges of hydrogen. There were no fewer
than seventeen of these gas-balloons arranged in a single line within
the envelope. Beneath the hull and extending the full length of
the latter was a passage which not only served as a corridor for
communication between the cars, but also to receive a weight attached
to a cable worked by a winch. By the movement of this weight the bow or
stem of the vessel could be tilted to assist ascent and descent.

The construction of the vessel subsequently proved to be the easiest and
most straightforward part of the whole undertaking. There were other and
more serious problems to be solved. How would such a monster craft come
to earth? How could she be manipulated upon the ground? How could she
be docked? Upon these three points previous experience was silent. One
German inventor who likewise had dreamed big things, and had carried
them into execution, paid for his temerity and ambitions with his life,
while his craft was reduced to a mass of twisted and torn metal. Under
these circumstances Count Zeppelin decided to carry out his flights
over the waters of the Bodensee and to house his craft within a
floating dock. In this manner two uncertain factors might be effectively
subjugated.

Another problem had been ingeniously overcome. The outer envelope
presented an immense surface to the atmosphere, while temperature was
certain to play an uncertain part in the behaviour of the craft. The
question was to reduce to the minimum the radiation of heat and cold to
the bags containing the gas. This end was achieved by leaving a slight
air space between the inflated gas balloons and the inner surface of the
hull.

The first ascent was made on July 2nd, 1900, but was disappointing,
several breakdowns of the mechanism occurring while the vessel was in
mid-air, which rendered it unmanageable, although a short flight was
made which sufficed to show that an independent speed of 13 feet per
second could be attained. The vessel descended and was made fast in her
dock, the descent being effected safely, while manoeuvring into dock was
successful. At least three points about which the inventor had been in
doubt appeared to be solved--his airship could be driven through the air
and could be steered; it could be brought to earth safely; and it could
be docked.

The repairs to the mechanism were carried out and on October 17th and
21st of the same year further flights were made. By this time certain
influential Teuton aeronautical experts who had previously ridiculed
Zeppelin's idea had made a perfect volte-face. They became staunch
admirers of the system, while other meteorological savants participated
in the trials for the express purpose of ascertaining just what the ship
could do. As a result of elaborate trigonometrical calculations it was
ascertained that the airship attained an independent speed of 30 feet
per second, which exceeded anything previously achieved. The craft
proved to be perfectly manageable in the air, and answered her helm,
thus complying with the terms of dirigibility. The creator was flushed
with his triumph, but at the same time was doomed to experience
misfortune. In its descent the airship came to "earth" with such a shock
that it was extensively damaged. The cost of repairing the vessel was
so heavy that the company declined to shoulder the liability, and as the
Count was unable to defray the expense the wreck was abandoned.

Although a certain meed of success had been achieved the outlook seemed
very black for the inventor. No one had any faith in his idea. He made
imploring appeals for further money, embarked upon lecturing campaigns,
wrote aviation articles for the Press, and canvassed possible supporters
in the effort to raise funds for his next enterprise. Two years passed,
but the fruits of the propaganda were meagre. It was at this juncture,
when everything appeared to be impossible, that Count Zeppelin
discovered his greatest friend. The German Emperor, with an eye ever
fixed upon new developments, had followed Zeppelin's uphill struggle,
and at last, in 1902, came to his aid by writing a letter which ran:--

"Since your varied flights have been reported to me it is a great
pleasure to me to express my acknowledgment of your patience and your
labours, and the endurance with which you have pressed on through
manifold hindrances till success was near. The advantages of your system
have given your ship the greatest attainable speed and dirigibility, and
the important results you have obtained have produced an epoch-making
step forward in the construction of airships and leave laid down a
valuable basis for future experiments."

This Imperial appreciation of what had been accomplished proved to be
the turning point in the inventor's fortunes. It stimulated financial
support, and the second airship was taken in hand. But misfortune still
pursued him. Accidents were of almost daily occurrence. Defects were
revealed here and weaknesses somewhere else. So soon as one trouble was
overcome another made itself manifest. The result was that the whole of
the money collected by his hard work was expended before the ship
could take to the air. A further crash and blasting of cherished hopes
appeared imminent, but at this moment another Royal personage came to
the inventor's aid.

The King of Wurtemberg took a personal interest in his subject's uphill
struggle, and the Wurtemberg Government granted him the proceeds of a
lottery. With this money, and with what he succeeded in raising by hook
and by crook, and by mortgaging his remaining property, a round L20,000
was obtained. With this capital a third ship was taken in hand, and
in 1905 it was launched. It was a distinct improvement upon its
predecessors. The airship was 414 feet in length by 38 feet in diameter,
was equipped with 17 gas balloons having an aggregate capacity of
367,000 cubic feet of hydrogen, was equipped with two 85 horse-power
motors driving four propellers, and displaced 9 tons. All the
imperfections incidental to the previous craft had been eliminated,
while the ship followed improved lines in its mechanical and structural
details.

The trials with this vessel commenced on November 30th, 1905, but
ill-luck had not been eluded. The airship was moored upon a raft which
was to be towed out into the lake to enable the dirigible to ascend.
But something went wrong with the arrangements. A strong wind caught the
ungainly airship, she dipped her nose into the water, and as the motor
was set going she was driven deeper into the lake, the vessel only being
saved by hurried deflation.

Six weeks were occupied in repairs, but another ascent was made
on January 17th, 1906. The trials were fairly satisfactory, but
inconclusive. One of the motors went wrong, and the longitudinal
stability was found to be indifferent. The vessel was brought down, and
was to be anchored, but the Fates ruled otherwise. A strong wind caught
her during the night and she was speedily reduced to indistinguishable
scrap.

Despite catastrophe the inventor wrestled gamely with his project. The
lessons taught by one disaster were taken to heart, and arrangements
to prevent the recurrence thereof incorporated in the succeeding craft.
Unfortunately, however, as soon as one defect was remedied another
asserted itself. It was this persistent revelation of the unexpected
which caused another period of indifference towards his invention.
Probably nothing more would have been heard of the Zeppelin after this
last accident had it not been for the intervention of the Prussian
Government at the direct instigation of the Kaiser, who had now taken
Count Zeppelin under his wing. A State lottery was inaugurated, the
proceeds of which were handed over to the indefatigable inventor,
together with an assurance that if he could keep aloft 24 hours without
coming to earth in the meantime, and could cover 450 miles within
this period, the Government would repay the whole of the money he had
lavished upon his idea, and liquidate all the debts he had incurred in
connection therewith.

Another craft was built, larger than its predecessors, and equipped with
two motors developing 170 horse-power. Upon completion it was submitted
to several preliminary flights, which were so eminently successful
that the inventor decided to make a trial trip under conditions closely
analogous to those imposed for the Government test. On June 20th, 1908,
at 8:26 a.m. the craft ascended and remained aloft for 12 hours, during
which time it made an encouraging circular tour. Flushed with this
success, the Count considered that the official award was within reach,
and that all his previous disasters and misfortunes were on the eve of
redemption.

The crucial test was essayed on August 5th, 1908. Accompanied by twelve
observers the vessel ascended and travelled without incident for
eight hours. Then a slight mishap demanded attention, but was speedily
repaired, and was ignored officially as being too trivial to influence
the main issue. Victory appeared within measurable distance: the arduous
toil of many patient years was about to be rewarded. The airship was
within sight of home when it had to descend owing to the development
of another motor fault. But as it approached the ground, Nature, as if
infuriated at the conquest, rose up in rebellion. A sudden squall struck
the unwieldy monster. Within a few moments it became unmanageable, and
through some inscrutable cause, it caught fire, with the result that
within a few moments it was reduced to a tangled mass of metallic
framework.

It was a catastrophe that would have completely vanquished many an
inventor, but the Count was saved the gall of defeat. His flight, which
was remarkable, inasmuch as he had covered 380 miles within 24 hours,
including two unavoidable descents, struck the Teuton imagination. The
seeds so carefully planted by the "Most High of Prussia" now bore fruit.
The German nation sympathised with the indomitable inventor, appreciated
his genius, and promptly poured forth a stream of subscriptions to
enable him to build another vessel. The intimation that other Powers had
approached the Count for the acquisition of his idea became known far
and wide, together with the circumstance that he had unequivocally
refused all offers. He was striving for the Fatherland, and his
unselfish patriotism appealed to one and all. Such an attitude deserved
hearty national appreciation, and the members of the great German public
emptied their pockets to such a degree that within a few weeks a sum of
L300,000 or $1,500,000 was voluntarily subscribed.

All financial embarrassments and distresses were now completely removed
from the Count's mind. He could forge ahead untrammelled by anxiety and
worry. Another Zeppelin was built and it created a world's record. It
remained aloft for 38 hours, during which time it covered 690 miles,
and, although it came to grief upon alighting, by colliding with a
tree, the final incident passed unnoticed. Germany was in advance of
the world. It had an airship which could go anywhere, irrespective of
climatic conditions, and in true Teuton perspective the craft was viewed
from the military standpoint. Here was a means of obtaining the mastery
of the air: a formidable engine of invasion and aerial attack had been
perfected. Consequently the Grand Idea must be supported with unbounded
enthusiasm. The Count was hailed by his august master as "The greatest
German of the twentieth century," and in this appreciation the populace
wholeheartedly concurred. Whether such a panegyric from such an
auspicious quarter is praise indeed or the equivalent of complete
condemnation, history alone will be able to judge, but when one
reflects, at this moment, upon the achievements of this aircraft during
the present conflagration, the unprejudiced will be rather inclined
to hazard the opinion that Imperial Teuton praise is a synonym for
damnation.

Although the Zeppelin was accepted as a perfect machine it has never
been possible to disperse the atmosphere of disaster with which it has
been enveloped from the first. Vessel after vessel has gone up in smoke
and flame: few craft of this type have enjoyed more than an evanescent
existence; and each successive catastrophe has proved more terrible than
its predecessor. But the Teutonic nation has been induced to pin its
whole faith on this airship, notwithstanding that the more levelheaded
engineers of other countries have always maintained the craft to be a
"mechanical monstrosity" condemned from its design and principles of
construction to disaster. Unshaken by this adverse criticism, Germany
rests assured that by means of its Zeppelins it will achieve that
universal supremacy which it is convinced is its Destiny.

This blind child-like faith has been responsible for the establishment
and development of the Zeppelin factories. At Friedrichshafen the
facilities are adequate to produce two of these vessels per month, while
another factory of a similar capacity has been established at Berlin.
Unfortunately such big craft demand large docks to accommodate them, and
in turn a large structure of this character constitutes an easy mark
for hostile attack, as the raiding airmen of the Allies have proved very
convincingly.

But the Zeppelin must not be under-rated. Magnificent performances have
been recorded by these vessels, such as the round 1,000 miles' trip in
1909, and several other equally brilliant feats since that date. It
is quite true that each astounding achievement has been attended by an
equally stupendous accident, but that is accepted as a mere incidental
detail by the faithful Teutonic nation. Many vivid prophecies of the
forthcoming flights by Zeppelin have been uttered, and it is quite
probable that more than one will be fulfilled, but success will be
attributable rather to accident than design.

Although the Zeppelin is the main stake of the German people in matters
pertaining to aerial conquest, other types of airships have not been
ignored, as related in another chapter. They have been fostered upon a
smaller but equally effective scale. The semi-rigid Parseval and Gross
craft have met with whole-hearted support, since they have established
their value as vessels of the air, which is tantamount to the acceptance
of their military value.

The Parseval is pronounced by experts to be the finest expression of
aeronautical engineering so far as Teuton effort is concerned. Certainly
it has placed many notable flights to its credit. The Gross airship
is an equally serviceable craft, its lines of design and construction
closely following those of the early French supple airships. There are
several other craft which have become more or less recognised by the
German nation as substantial units of war, such as the Ruthemberg,
Siemens-Schukert, and so forth, all of which have proved their
serviceability more or less conclusively. But in the somewhat
constricted Teuton mind the Zeppelin and the Zeppelin only represents
the ultima Thule of aerial navigation and the means for asserting the
universal character of Pan-Germanism as well as "Kultur."



CHAPTER IV. AIRSHIPS OF WAR

So much has been said and written concerning the Zeppelin airship,
particularly in its military aspect, that all other developments in
this field have sunk into insignificance so far as the general public is
concerned. The Zeppelin dirigible has come to be generally regarded as
the one and only form of practical lighter-than-air type of aircraft.
Moreover, the name has been driven home with such effect that it is
regarded as the generic term for all German airships.

These are grievous fallacies. The Zeppelin is merely one of a variety of
types, even in Germany, although at the moment it probably ranks as
the solitary survivor of the rigid system of construction. At one time,
owing to the earnestness with which the advantages of this form of
design were discussed, and in view of the fact that the Zeppelin
certainly appeared to triumph when all other designs failed, Great
Britain was tempted to embrace the rigid form of construction. The
building of an immense vessel of this class was actively supported
and it was aptly christened the "May-fly." Opponents of the movement
tempered their emphatic condemnatory criticism so far as to remark that
it MAY FLY, but as events proved it never did. The colossal craft
broke its back before it ever ventured into the air, and this solitary
experience proving so disastrous, the rigid form of construction was
abandoned once and for all. The venture was not in vain; it brought home
to the British authorities more convincingly than anything else that
the Zeppelin was a mechanical monstrosity. The French never even
contemplated the construction of such a craft at that time, estimating
it at its true value, and the British failure certainly served to
support French antagonism to the idea. Subsequently, however, an attempt
at rigid construction was made in France with the "Spiess" airship,
mainly as a concession to public clamour.

Even in Germany itself the defects of the Zeppelin were recognised and
a decided effort to eliminate them was made by Professor Schutte in
co-operation with a manufacturer of Mannheim named Lanz. The joint
product of their ambitions, the Schutte-Lanz, is declared to be superior
to the Zeppelin, but so far it has failed to justify any of the claims
of its designers. This vessel, which also favours the colossal, is
likewise of the rigid type, but realising the inherent dangers accruing
from the employment of metal for the framework, its constructors have
used wood, reinforced and strengthened where necessary by metallic
angle-iron, plates, and bracing; this utilisation of metal is, however,
carried out very sparingly. The first vessel of this class was a huge
failure, while subsequent craft have not proved much more successful.

In fact, one of the largest German airships ever designed, L4, is, or
rather was, a Schutte-Lanz, with a capacity of 918,000 cubic feet, but
over 6,000 pounds lighter than a Zeppelin of almost similar dimensions.
I say "was" since L4 is no more. The pride of its creators evinced a
stronger preference for Davy Jones' Locker than its designed realm. Yet
several craft of this type have been built and have been mistaken for
Zeppelins owing to the similarity of the broad principles of design and
their huge dimensions. In one vital respect they are decidedly inferior
to their contemporary--they are not so speedy.

The most successful of the German lighter-than-air machines are those
known respectively as the semi rigid and non-rigid types, the best
examples of which are the Gross and Parseval craft. Virtually they are
Teutonic editions of the successful French craft of identical design by
which they were anticipated. The Lebaudy is possibly the most famous of
the French efforts in this direction. The gas-bag has an asymmetrical
shape, and is pointed at both ends, although the prow is blunter or
rounder than the stem. The gas-bag comprises a single chamber for the
inflating agent, the distended shape of the envelope being sustained by
means of an air-ballonet. By varying the contents of the latter through
the agency of a pump the tension of the gas in the lifting envelope can
be maintained, and the shape of the inflated balloon preserved under all
conditions.

Beneath the gas-bag is a long strengthened girder, and from this in turn
the car is suspended. It is the introduction of this rigid girder which
is responsible for the descriptive generic term of "semi-rigid." On the
other hand the "non-rigid" type may be roughly described as a pisciform
balloon fitted with propelling machinery, inasmuch as the car containing
the driving machinery is suspended from the balloon in the manner of
the car in the ordinary drifting vessel. So far as the French effort is
concerned the Bayard-Clement type is the best example of the non-rigid
system; it is represented in Germany by the Parseval class.

The Gross airship has been definitely adopted as a military machine
by the German authorities, and figures in the "M" class. The "M-IV"
completed in 1913 is the largest of this type, and differs from its
prototypes in that it carries two cars, each fitted with motors, whereas
the earlier machines were equipped with a single gondola after the
French pattern. This vessel measures 320 feet in length, has a maximum
diameter of 44 1/2 feet, displaces 13 tons, and is fitted with motors
developing 450 horse-power, which is sufficient to give it a speed of
47 miles per hour. This vessel represents a huge advance upon its
predecessors of this design, inasmuch as the latter were about 245 feet
in length by 36 1/4 feet in diameter, and displaced only six tons,
while the single car was provided with a motor developing only 150
horse-power, the speed being 28 miles per hour. Thus it will be seen
that a huge development has suddenly taken place, a result due no doubt
to the co-operation of the well-known engineer Basenach. The "M-IV"
is essentially an experiment and great secrecy has been maintained
in regard to the trials which have been carried out therewith, the
authorities merely vouchsafing the fact that the airship has proved
completely successful in every respect; conclusive testimony of this
is offered by the inclusion of the vessel in the active aerial fleet of
Germany.

But it is the Parseval which is regarded as the finest type of airship
flying the German flag. This vessel is the product of slow evolution,
for it is admitted to be a power-driven balloon. Even the broad lines
of the latter are preserved, the shape being that of a cylinder with
rounded ends. It is the direct outcome of the "Drachen-Balloon,"
perfected by Parseval and Siegsfeld, the captive balloon which is an
indispensable part of the German military equipment.

The complete success of the suspension system in this captive balloon
prompted Parseval to continue his researches and experiments in regard
to the application of power to the vessel, so as to induce it to move
independently of the wind. The suspension system and the car are the
outstanding features of the craft. It is non-rigid in the strictest
interpretation of the term, although, owing to the incorporation of
the steadying hollow "mattress" (as it is called by its inventor), the
strength of the suspension system, and the substantial character of the
car, it conveys an impression of great solidity. The thinnest rope,
both manilla and steel, in the suspension system is as thick as a man's
finger, while the car, measuring 30 feet in length by 6 feet in width,
carried out in wood, is a striking example of the maximum of strength
with the minimum of weight, being as steady and as solid as a boat's
deck. The propellers are collapsible, although in the latest craft of
this class they are semi-rigid.

The mechanical equipment is also interesting. There are two propellers,
and two motors, each nominally driving one propeller. But should one
motor break down, or motives of economy, such as husbanding of fuel,
render it advisable to run upon one engine, then the two propellers may
be driven by either of the motors.

The inventor has perfected an ingenious, simple, and highly efficient
coupling device to attain this end, but to ensure that the propeller
output is of the maximum efficiency in relation to the engine, the pitch
of the propellers may be altered and even reversed while the engine is
running. When one motor only is being used, the pitch is lowered until
the propellers revolve at the speed which they would attain if both
engines were in operation. This adjustment of the propeller pitch to the
most economical engine revolutions is a distinctive characteristic, and
contributes to the efficiency and reliability of the Parseval dirigible
to a very pronounced degree.

Steering in the vertical plane is also carried out upon distinctive
lines. There are no planes for vertical steering, but movement is
accomplished by tilting the craft and thus driving the gas from one end
of the balloon to the other. This is effected by the manipulation of the
air-ballonets, one of which is placed at the prow and stem of the gas
bag respectively. If it is desired to descend the gas is driven from the
forward to the after end of the envelope, merely by inflating the bow
ballonet with air by means of a pump placed in the car. If ascent is
required, the after-ballonet is inflated, thereby driving the gas to the
forward end of the balloon, the buoyancy of which is thus increased.
The outstanding feature of the "Drachen-Balloon" is incorporated in
the airship. This is the automatic operation of the safety valve on the
gas-bag directly by the air ballonets. If these ballonets empty owing
to the pressure of the gas within the envelope, a rope system disposed
within the balloon and connecting the ballonets and the gas-valve at the
top is stretched taut, thereby opening the gas-valve. In this manner the
gas-pressure becomes reduced until the ballonets are enabled to exercise
their intended function. This is a safety precaution of inestimable
value.

The Parseval is probably the easiest dirigible to handle, inasmuch as it
involves no more skill or knowledge than that required for an ordinary
free balloon. Its movements in the vertical plane are not dissimilar
to those of the aeroplane, inasmuch as ascent and descent are normally
conducted in a "screwing" manner, the only exception being of course
in abrupt descent caused by the ripping of the emergency-valve. On one
occasion, it is stated, one of the latest machines of this type,
when conducting experimental flights, absolutely refused to descend,
producing infinite amusement both among the crowd and those on board.

The development of the Parseval is directly attributable to the
influence and intimate interest of the Kaiser, and undoubtedly this
represents the wisest step he ever made in the realm of aeronautics. It
certainly has enabled the German military machine to become possessed of
a significant fleet of what may be described as a really efficient and
reliable type of dirigible. The exact number of military Parsevals in
commission is unknown, but there are several classes thereof, in the
nature of aerial cruisers and vedettes.

The largest and most powerful class are those known as the B type,
measuring about 240 feet in length by 40 feet maximum diameter,
of 223,000 cubic feet capacity, and fitted with two motorsand two
propellers. This vessel carries about 10 passengers, can climb to a
maximum height of approximately 8,500 feet, and is capable of remaining
in the air for twenty hours upon a single fuel charge. While this is
the largest and most serviceable type of Parseval designed for
military duties, there is another, the A class, 200 feet in length with
accommodation for six passengers in addition to the crew of three, which
is capable of attaining a maximum altitude of 6,700 feet, and has an
endurance capacity of 15 hours. This class also is fitted with twin
propellers and motors. In addition there are the C and E classes,
carrying from four to eight passengers, while the vedettes are
represented by the D and F classes, which have a maximum altitude of
2,000 feet and can remain aloft for only five hours upon a single fuel
charge. These smaller vessels, however, have the advantage of requiring
only one or two men to handle them. The present military Parseval
dirigible is made in one of these five standardised classes, experience
having established their efficiency for the specified military services
for which they are built. In point of speed they compare favourably with
the latest types of Zeppelin, the speeds of the larger types ranging
from 32 to 48 miles per hour with a motor effort of 360 to 400
horse-power.

So far as the French airships of war are concerned, the fleet is
somewhat heterogeneous, although the non-rigid type prevails. The French
aerial navy is represented by the Bayard-Clement, Astra, Zodiac, and the
Government-built machines. Although the rigid type never has met with
favour in France, there is yet a solitary example of this system of
construction--the Spiess, which is 460 feet in length by 47 feet in
diameter and has a displacement of 20 tons. The semi-rigid craft are
represented by the Lebaudy type, the largest of which measures 293 feet
in length by 51 feet in diameter, and has a displacement of 10 tons.

One may feel disposed to wonder why the French should be apparently
backward in this form of aerial craft, but this may be explained by the
fact that the era of experiment had not been concluded at the time war
was declared, with the result that it has been somewhat difficult to
determine which type would meet the military requirements of the country
to the best advantage. Moreover, the French military authorities evinced
a certain disposition to relegate the dirigible to a minor position,
convinced that it had been superseded by the heavier-than-air machine.
Taken on the whole, the French airship fleet is inferior to the German
in point of speed, if not numerically, but this deficiency is more than
counterbalanced by the skill and ability of the men manning their craft,
who certainly are superior to their contemporaries in Germany, combined
with the proved character of such craft as are in service.

The same criticism may be said to apply to Great Britain. That
country was backward in matters pertaining to the airship, because its
experiments were carried out spasmodically while dependence was reposed
somewhat too much upon foreign effort. The British airships are small
and of low speed comparatively speaking. Here again it was the advance
of the aeroplane which was responsible for the manifestation of a
somewhat indifferent if not lethargic feeling towards the airship.
Undoubtedly the experiments carried out in Great Britain were somewhat
disappointing. The one and only attempt to out-Zeppelin the Zeppelin
resulted in disaster to the craft before she took to the air, while
the smaller craft carried out upon far less ambitious lines were
not inspiritingly successful. Latterly the non-rigid system has been
embraced exclusively, the craft being virtually mechanically driven
balloons. They have proved efficient and reliable so far as they go, but
it is the personal element in this instance also which has contributed
so materially to any successes achieved with them.

But although Great Britain and France apparently lagged behind the
Germans, appreciable enterprise was manifested in another direction.
The airship was not absolutely abandoned: vigilance was maintained for
a superior type of craft. It was an instance of weighing the advantages
against the disadvantages of the existing types and then evolving for a
design which should possess the former without any of the latter. This
end appears to be achieved with the Astra type of dirigible, the story
of the development of which offers an interesting chapter in the annals
of aeronautics.

In all lighter-than-air machines the resistance to the air offered
by the suspension ropes is considerable, and the reduction of this
resistance has proved one of the most perplexing problems in the
evolution of the dirigible. The air is broken up in such a manner by
the ropes that it is converted into a brake or drag with the inevitable
result that the speed undergoes a severe diminution. A full-rigged
airship such as the Parseval, for instance, may present a picturesque
appearance, but it is severely unscientific, inasmuch as if it were
possible to eliminateor to reduce the air-resistance offered by the
ropes, the speed efficiency might be raised by some sixty per cent and
that without any augmentation of the propelling effort. As a matter
of fact Zeppelin solved this vexatious problem unconsciously. In his
monster craft the resistance to the air is reduced to a remarkable
degree, which explains why these vessels, despite all their other
defects are able to show such a turn of speed.

It was this feature of the Zeppelin which induced Great Britain to
build the May-fly and which likewise induced the French Government to
stimulate dirigible design and construction among native manufacturers,
at the same time, however, insisting that such craft should be equal at
least in speed to the Zeppelins. The response to this invitation was the
Spiess, which with its speed of 45 miles per hour ranked, until 1914, as
one of the fastest dirigibles in the French service.

In the meantime a Spanish engineer, Senor Torres, had been quietly
working out a new idea. He realised the shortcomings of the prevailing
types of airships some eleven years ago, and unostentatiously and
painstakingly set out to eliminate them by the perfection of a new type
of craft. He perfected his idea, which was certainly novel, and then
sought the assistance of the Spanish Government. But his fatherland was
not adapted to the prosecution of the project. He strove to induce the
authorities to permit even a small vessel to be built, but in vain. He
then approached the French Astra Company. His ambition was to build a
vessel as large as the current Zeppelin, merely to emphasise the value
of his improvement upon a sufficiently large scale, and to enable
comparative data concerning the two designs to be obtained. But the
bogey of expense at first proved insuperable. However, the French
company, decided to give the invention a trial, and to this end a small
"vedette" of about 53,000 cubic feet displacement was built.

Although an unpretentious little vessel, it certainly served to
emphasise the importance of the Torres idea. It was pitted against the
"Colonel Renard," the finest ship at that time in the French aerial
service, which had proved the fastest airship in commission, and
which also was a product of the Astra Company. But this fine craft was
completely outclassed by the puny Astra-Torres.

The builders and the inventor were now additionally anxious to
illustrate more emphatically the features of this design and to build
a far larger vessel. The opportunity was offered by the British
Government, which had been following the experiments with the small
Astra-Torres in France. An order was given for a vessel of 282,500
cubic feet displacement; in this instance it was ranged against another
formidable rival--the Parseval. But the latter also failed to hold its
own against the Spanish invention, inasmuch as the Astra-Torres built
for the British authorities exceeded a speed of 50 miles per hour in the
official tests. This vessel is still doing valuable duty, being attached
to the British air-service in France.

The achievements of the British vessel were not lost upon the French
Government, which forthwith placed an order for a huge vessel of 812,200
cubic feet capacity, equipped with motors developing 1,000 horse-power,
which it was confidently expected would enable a speed of 60 miles per
hour to be attained. Thus France would be able to meet the Germans upon
fairly level terms, inasmuch as the speed of the latest Zeppelins does
not exceed 60 miles per hour. So confident were the authorities that a
second order for an even larger vessel was placed before the first large
craft was completed.

This latter vessel is larger than any Zeppelin yet built, seeing that
it displaces 38 tons, and is fitted with motors developing 1,000
horse-power. It has recently been completed, and although the results
of the trials, as well as the dimensions of the craft have not been
published, it is well known that the speed has exceeded 60 miles per
hour, so that France now possesses the speediest dirigible in the world.

The Torres invention has been described as wonderful, scientifically
perfect and extremely simple. The vessel belongs to the non-rigid class,
but the whole of the suspension system is placed within the gas-bag, so
that the air-resistance offered by ropes is virtually eliminated in its
entirety, for the simple reason that practically no ropes are placed
outside the envelope. The general principle of design may be gathered
from the accompanying diagram. It is as if three sausage-shaped
balloons were disposed pyramidally--two lying side by side with one
super-imposed, with the bags connected at the points where the circular
sections come into contact. Thus the external appearance of the envelope
is decidedly unusual, comprising three symmetrical ridges. At the points
where the three bags come into contact cloth bands are stretched across
the arcs, thereby forming a cord. The suspension system is attached to
the upper corners of the inverted triangle thus formed, and converges
in straight lines through the gas space. The bracing terminates in
collecting rings from which a short vertical cable extends downwards
through a special accordion sleeve to pass through the lower wall of the
envelope. These sleeves are of special design, the idea being to permit
the gas to escape under pressure arising from expansion and at the
same time to provide ample play for the cable which is necessary in a
flexible airship.

This cable emerges from the envelope only at the point or points where
the car or cars is or are placed. In the British airship of this type
there is only one car, but the larger French vessels are equipped
with two cars placed tandem-wise. The vertical cable, after extending
downwards a certain distance, is divided, one rope being attached
to one, and the second to the other side of the car. The two-bladed
propellers are disposed on either side of the car, in each of which a
500 horse-power motor is placed.

The Astra-Torres type of dirigible may be said to represent the latest
expression in airship design and construction. The invention has given
complete satisfaction, and has proved strikingly successful. The French
Government has completed arrangements for the acquisition of larger
and more powerful vessels of this design, being now in the position to
contest every step that is made by Germany in this field. The type has
also been embraced by the Russian military authorities. The Astra-Torres
airship has a rakish appearance, and although the lines of the gas-bag
are admitted to increase frictional resistance, this is regarded as a
minor defect, especially when the many advantages of the invention are
taken into consideration.



CHAPTER V. GERMANY'S AERIAL DREADNOUGHT FLEET

Although Germany, as compared with France, was relatively slow
to recognise the immense possibilities of aircraft, particularly
dirigibles, in the military sense, once the Zeppelin had received the
well-wishes of the Emperor William, Teuton activities were so pronounced
as to enable the leeway to be made up within a very short while. While
the Zeppelin commanded the greatest attention owing to the interesting
co-operation of the German Emperor, the other types met with official
and royal recognition and encouragement as already mentioned. France,
which had held premier position in regard to the aerial fleet of
dirigibles for so long, was completely out-classed, not only in
dimensions but also in speed, as well as radius of action and
strategical distribution of the aerial forces.

The German nation forged ahead at a great pace and was able to establish
a distinct supremacy, at least on paper. In the light of recent events
it is apparent that the German military authorities realised that the
dawn of "The Day" was approaching rapidly, and that it behoved them to
be as fully prepared in the air as upon the land. It was immaterial that
the Zeppelin was the synonym for disaster. By standardisation its cost
could be reduced while construction could be expedited. Furthermore,
when the matter was regarded in its broadest aspect, the fact was
appreciated that forty Zeppelins could be built at the cost of one
super-Dreadnought, so that adequate allowance could be made for
accidents now and then, since a Zeppelin catastrophe, no matter how
complete it may be, is regarded by the Teuton as a mere incident
inseparable from progressive development.

At the beginning of the year 1914 France relied upon being strengthened
by a round dozen new dirigibles. Seven of these were to be of 20,000
cubic metres' capacity and possessed of a speed of 47 miles per hour.
While the existing fleet was numerically strong, this strength was more
apparent than real, for the simple reason that a large number of craft
were in dry-dock undergoing repair or overhaul while many of the units
were merely under test and could not be regarded therefore as in the
effective fleet. True, there were a certain number of private craft
which were liable to be commandeered when the occasion arose, but they
could not be considered as decided acquisitions for the simple reason
that many were purely experimental units.

Aerial vessels, like their consorts upon the water, have been divided
into distinctive classes. Thus there are the aerial cruisers comprising
vessels exceeding 282,000 cubic feet in capacity; scouts which include
those varying between 176,600 and 282,000 cubic feet capacity; and
vedettes, which take in all the small or mosquito craft. At the end
of 1913, France possessed only four of the first-named craft in actual
commission and thus immediately available for war, these being the
Adjutant Vincenot, Adjutant Reau, Dupuy de Lome, and the Transaerien.
The first three are of 197,800 cubic feet. All, however, were privately
owned.

On the other hand, Germany had no fewer than ten huge vessels, ranging
from 353,000 to 776,900 cubic feet capacity, three of which, the
Victoria Luise, Suchard, and Hansa, though owned privately, were
immediately available for war. Of these the largest was the Zeppelin
naval vessel "L-1" 525 feet in length, by 50 feet diameter, of 776,900
cubic feet capacity, equipped with engines developing 510 horse-power,
and with a speed of 51.8 miles per hour.

At the end of 1913 the effective aerial fleet of Germany comprised
twenty large craft, so far in advance of the French aerial cruisers as
to be worthy of the name bestowed upon them--"Aerial Dreadnoughts." This
merely represented the fleet available for immediate use and did not
include the four gigantic Suchard-Schutte craft, each of 847,500 cubic
feet, which were under construction, and which were being hurried
forward to come into commission early in 1914.

But the most interesting factor, apart from the possession of such a
huge fleet of dirigible air-craft, was their distribution at strategical
points throughout the Empire as if in readiness for the coming combat.
They were literally dotted about the country. Adequate harbouring
facilities had been provided at Konigsberg, Berlin, Posen, Breslau,
Kiel, Hamburg, Wilhelmshaven, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Frankfort, Metz,
Mannheim, Strasburg, and other places, with elaborate headquarters, of
course, at Friedrichshafen upon Lake Constance. The Zeppelin workshops,
harbouring facilities, and testing grounds at the latter point had
undergone complete remodelling, while tools of the latest type had
been provided to facilitate the rapid construction and overhaul of the
monster Zeppelin dirigibles. Nothing had been left to chance; not an
item was perfunctorily completed. The whole organisation was perfect,
both in equipment and operation. Each of the above stations possessed
provision for an aerial Dreadnought as well as one or more aerial
cruisers, in addition to scouts or vedettes.

Upon the outbreak of hostilities Germany's dirigible fleet was in a
condition of complete preparedness, was better organised, and better
equipped than that of any of her rivals. At the same time it constituted
more of a paper than a fighting array for reasons which I will
explain later. But there was another point which had escaped general
observation. Standardisation of parts and the installation of the
desired machinery had accomplished one greatly desired end--the
construction of new craft had been accelerated. Before the war an
interesting experiment was carried out to determine how speedily a
vessel could be built. The result proved that a dirigible of the most
powerful type could be completed within eight weeks and forthwith the
various constructional establishments were brought into line so as to
maintain this rate of building.

The growth of the Zeppelin, although built upon disaster, has been
amazing. The craft of 1906 had a capacity of 430,000 cubic feet and a
speed of 36 miles per hour. In 1911 the creator of this type launched
a huge craft having a capacity of 627,000 cubic feet. In the meantime
speed had likewise been augmented by the use of more powerful motors
until 52 miles an hour was attained. But this by no means represented
the limit. The foregoing vessels had been designed for land service
purely and simply, but now the German authorities demanded similar craft
for naval use, possessed of high speed and greater radius of action.
Count Zeppelin rose to the occasion, and on October 7th, 1912, launched
at Friedrichshafen the monster craft "L-I," 525 feet in length, 50 feet
in diameter, of 776,900 cubic feet capacity, a displacement of 22
tons and equipped with three sets of motors aggregating more than 500
horse-power, and capable of imparting a speed of 52 miles per hour.

The appearance of this craft was hailed with intense delight by the
German nation, while the naval department considered her to be a
wonderful acquisition, especially after the searching reliability trial.
In charge of Count Zeppelin and manned by a crew of 22 officers and men
together with nearly three tons of fuel--the fuel capacity conveys
some idea of her possible radius of action--she travelled from
Friedrichshafen to Johannisthal in 32 hours. On this remarkable journey
another point was established which was of far-reaching significance.
The vessel was equipped with wireless telegraphy and therewith she
kept in touch with the earth below throughout the journey, dropping and
picking up wireless stations as she progressed with complete facility.
This was a distinct achievement, inasmuch as the vessel having been
constructed especially for naval operations she would be able to keep
in touch with the warships below, guiding them unerringly during their
movement.

The cross-country trip having proved so completely successful the
authorities were induced to believe that travelling over water would be
equally satisfactory. Accordingly the "L-I" was dispatched to the island
of Heligoland, the intention being to participate in naval manoeuvres
in order to provide some reliable data as to the value of these craft
operating in conjunction with warships. But in these tests German
ambition and pride received a check. The huge Zeppelin was manoeuvring
over the North Sea within easy reach of Heligoland, when she was caught
by one of those sudden storms peculiar to that stretch of salt water. In
a moment she was stricken helpless; her motive power was overwhelmed
by the blind forces of Nature. The wind caught her as it would a
soap-bubble and hurled her into the sea, precipitating the most
disastrous calamity in the annals of aeronautics, since not only was the
ship lost, but fifteen of her crew of 22 officers and men were drowned.

The catastrophe created consternation in German aeronautical circles.
A searching inquiry was held to explain the disaster, but as usual it
failed to yield much material information. It is a curious circumstance,
but every successive Zeppelin disaster, and their number is legion,
has been attributable to a new cause. In this instance the accident was
additionally disturbing, inasmuch as the ship had been flying across
country continuously for about twelve months and had covered more miles
than any preceding craft of her type. No scientific explanation for the
disaster was forthcoming, but the commander of the vessel, who sank with
his ship, had previously ventured his personal opinion that the
vessel was over-loaded to meet the calls of ambition, was by no means
seaworthy, and that sooner or later she would be caught by a heavy
broadside wind and rendered helpless, or that she would make a headlong
dive to destruction. It is a significant fact that he never had any
faith in the airship, at least for sea duty, though in response to
official command he carried out his duties faithfully and with a blind
resignation to Fate.

Meantime, owing to the success of the "L-I" in cross-country operations,
another and more powerful craft, the "L-II" had been taken in hand, and
this was constructed also for naval use. While shorter than her consort,
being only 487 feet over all, this vessel had a greater beam--55 feet.
This latter increase was decided because it was conceded to be an easier
matter to provide for greater beam than enhanced length in the existing
air-ship harbours. The "L-II" displaced 27 tons--five tons in excess of
her predecessor. In this vessel many innovations were introduced, such
as the provision of the passage-way connecting the cars within the hull,
instead of outside the latter as had hitherto been the practice, while
the three cars were placed more closely together than formerly. The
motors were of an improved type, giving an aggregate output of 900
horse-power, and were divided into four separate units, housed in two
engine-rooms, the front car being a replica in every detail of the
navigating bridge of a warship.

This vessel was regarded as a distinct improvement upon the "L-I,"
although the latter could boast some great achievements. But her glory
was short-lived. In the course of the Government trials, while some 900
feet aloft, the huge vessel suddenly exploded and was burned in the air,
a mass of broken and twisted metal-work falling to the ground. Of the
28 officers and men, including members of the Admiralty Board who were
conducting the official trials, all but one were killed outright, and
the solitary exception was so terribly burned as to survive the fall for
only a few hours.

The accident was remarkable and demonstrated very convincingly that
although Count Zeppelin apparently had made huge strides in aerial
navigation through the passage of years, yet in reality he had made no
progress at all. He committed the identical error that characterised the
effort of Severo Pax ten years previously, and the disaster was directly
attributable to the self-same cause as that which overwhelmed the
Severo airship. The gas, escaping from the balloons housed in the hull,
collected in the confined passage-way communicating with the cars, came
into contact with a naked light, possibly the exhaust from the motors,
and instantly detonated with terrific force, blowing the airship to
fragments and setting fire to all the inflammable materials.

In this airship Zeppelin committed an unpardonable blunder. He had
ignored the factor of "internal safety," and had deliberately flown in
the face of the official rule which had been laid down in France after
the Severo disaster, which absolutely forbade the inclusion of such
confined spaces as Zeppelin had incorporated. This catastrophe coming so
closely as it did upon the preceding disaster to the pride of the German
aerial fleet somewhat shook public confidence in these craft, while
aeronautical authorities of other countries described the Zeppelin more
vehemently than ever as a "mechanical monstrosity" and a "scientific
curiosity."

The Zeppelin has come to be feared in a general manner, but this result
is due rather to stories sedulously circulated, and which may be easily
traced to Teutonic sources. Very few data of a reliable character have
been allowed to filter through official circles. We have been told
somewhat verbosely of what it can accomplish and of its high degree of
efficiency and speed. But can credence be placed in these statements?

When Zeppelin IV made its unexpected descent at Luneville, and was
promptly seized by the French authorities, the German War office evinced
distinct signs of uneasiness. The reason was speedily forth coming. The
captain of the craft which had been captured forgot to destroy his
log and other records of data concerning the vessel which had been
scientifically collected during the journey. All this information
fell into the hands of the French military department, and it proved a
wondrous revelation. It enabled the French to value the Zeppelin at its
true worth, which was by no means comparable to the estimate based on
reports skilfully circulated for the benefit of the world at large.

Recently the French military department permitted the results of their
expert official examination to be made public. From close investigation
of the log-book and the diagrams which had been prepared, it was found
that the maximum speed attained by Zeppelin IV during this momentous
flight was only 45 miles per hour! It was ascertained, moreover, that
the load was 10,560 pounds, and the ascensional effort 45,100 pounds.
The fuel consumption had averaged 297 pounds per hour, while the fuel
tanks carried sufficient for a flight of about seven hours. The airship
had attained a maximum height of about 6,230 feet, to reach which 6,600
pounds of ballast had to be discarded. Moreover, it was proved that a
Zeppelin, if travelling under military conditions with full armament and
ammunition aboard, could carry sufficient fuel for only ten hours at the
utmost, during which, if the slightest head-wind prevailed, it could not
cover more than 340 miles on the one fuel charge.

This information has certainly proved a revelation and has contributed
to the indifference with which the Parisians regard a Zeppelin raid. At
the outbreak of war the Zeppelin station nearest to Paris was at Metz,
but to make the raid from that point the airship was forced to cover
a round 500 miles. It is scarcely to be supposed that perfectly calm
weather would prevail during the whole period of the flight, so that
a raid would be attended by considerable risk. That this handicap was
recognised in German military circles is borne out by the fact that a
temporary Zeppelin hangar was established at a point considerably nearer
the French capital, for the purpose of enabling a raid to be carried out
with a greater possibility of success.

The capture of Zeppelin IV revealed another important fact. The critical
flying height of the airship is between 3,300 and 4,000 feet. To attempt
a raid at such an altitude would be to court certain disaster, inasmuch
as the vessel would have to run the gauntlet of the whole of the French
artillery, which it is admitted has a maximum range exceeding the flying
altitude of the Zeppelin. That the above calculation is within reason is
supported by the statements of Count Zeppelin himself, who has declared
that his airships are useless at a height exceeding 5,000 feet.
Confirmatory evidence upon this point is offered by the raid upon the
British East Coast towns, when it is stated that the aircraft were
manoeuvring at a height not exceeding 2,000 feet.



CHAPTER VI. THE MILITARY VALUE OF GERMANY'S AERIAL FLEET

Although the Zeppelin undoubtedly has been over-rated by the forces to
which it is attached, at the same time it must not be under-estimated by
its detractors. Larger and more powerful vessels of this type have been,
and still are being, constructed, culminating, so far as is known, in
the "L-5," which is stated to have a capacity of about 1,000,000 cubic
feet, and to possess an average speed of 65 miles per hour.

While it is generally maintained that the Zeppelins will prove
formidable in attack, greater reliance is being placed upon the
demoralising or terrifying effect which they are able to exercise. Owing
to the fact that from 3 to 5 tons of fuel--say 900 to 1,500 gallons of
gasoline or petrol--can be carried aboard, giving them a wide radius of
action, it is doubtful whether they could travel from Cologne to London
and back upon a single fuel charge, since such a raid would entail a
journey of about 600 miles. The latest types of this craft are said to
possess a high ascensional speed, which offers a distinct protection
against aeroplane attack. According to such official information as
has been vouchsafed, a Zeppelin, when hard pressed, is able to rise
vertically 3,500 feet in about three minutes. This is far in excess of
the ascensional speed of even the speediest aeroplane, of course, the
penalty for such a factor has to be paid: the loss of gas is appreciable
and may lead to the craft's ultimate undoing. At the same time, however,
it is able to maintain the superior position as compared with the
aeroplane for a considerable period: the upper reaches of the air are
its sanctuary.

Nor must the nocturnal activities of the Zeppelin be overlooked. So far
as night operations by these vessels are concerned, little has leaked
out, so that the possibilities of the airship in this direction are
still somewhat hypothetical. The fact remains, however, that it is
night movements which perhaps are the most to be dreaded by the enemy.
According to official German sources of information the latest types of
Zeppelins are engined by "noiseless" motors. There is nothing remarkable
in this feature, since the modern motor-car virtually answers to this
description, although in this instance quietness is obtained for the
most part by recourse to the sleeve-valve engine. Still, the ordinary
Otto-cycle internal combustion engine can be rendered almost silent by
the utilisation of adequate muffling devices, which, in the Zeppelin,
are more possible of incorporation than in the aeroplane, because the
extra weight imposed by this acquisition is a minor consideration in
comparison with the lifting power of the vessel.

Night operations, however, have not proved eminently successful. The
very darkness which protects the aerial prowler also serves a similar
purpose in connection with its prey. But aerial operations under the
cover of darkness are guided not so much by the glare of lights from
below as betrayal by sound. The difference between villages and cities
may be distinguished from aloft, say at 1,500 to 3,000 feet, by the hum
which life and movement emit, and this is the best guide to the aerial
scout or battleship. The German authorities have made a special study
of this peculiar problem, and have conducted innumerable tests upon the
darkest nights, when even the sheen of the moon has been unavailable,
for the express purpose of training the aerial navigators to discover
their position from the different sounds reaching them from below. In
other words, the corsair in the skies depends more upon compass and
sound than upon compass and vision when operating after dark. The
searchlights with which the Zeppelins are equipped are provided merely
for illuminating a supposed position. They are not brought into service
until the navigator concludes that he has arrived above the desired
point: the ray of light which is then projected is merely to assist the
crew in the discharge of the missiles of destruction.

The Zeppelin, however, owing to its speed, both in the horizontal and
vertical planes, is essentially a unit for daylight operations. The
other airships which Germany possesses, and which for the most part are
of the non-rigid type, are condemned to daylight operations from
the character of their design. Owing to their low speeds they may be
dismissed as impossible aerial vessels for hazardous work and are not
regarded by the German authorities as all-round airships of war.

Craft of the air are judged in Germany from the one standard only. This
may be a Teutonic failing, but it is quite in keeping with the Teutonic
spirit of militarism. Commercialism is a secondary factor. To the German
Emperor an airship is much what a new manufacturing process or machine
is to the American. Whereas the latter asks, "How much will it save
me on the dollar?" to the War Lord of Germany--and an airship
notwithstanding its other recommendatory features is judged solely from
this standpoint--the question is "What are its military qualifications?"

When the semi-rigid airship "V-I" was brought before the notice of the
German military department the pressing point concerning its military
recommendations arose at once. The inventor had foreseen this issue and
was optimistic. Thereupon the authorities asked if the inventor were
prepared to justify his claims. The retort was positive. Forthwith the
Junkers decided to submit it to the test.

This ship is of quite a distinctive type. It is an aerial cruiser, and
the inventor claims that it combines all the essential qualifications
of the Zeppelin and of the competitors of the latter, in addition to the
advantage of being capable of dissection, transportation in parts, and
rapid re-erection at any desired spot. The length of the vessel is about
270 feet; maximum diameter approximately 42 feet, and capacity about
300,000 cubic feet. The outstanding feature is a rigid keel-frame
forming a covered passage way below the envelope or gas-bag, combined
with easy access to all parts of the craft while under way, together
with an artificial stiffening which dispenses with the necessity of
attaching any additional cars. The frame is so designed that the load,
as well as the ballast and fuel tanks, may be distributed as desired,
and at the same time it ensures an advantageous disposition of the
steering mechanism, far removed from the centre of rotation at the
stern, without any overloading of the latter.

The lifting part of the airship comprises a single gas bag fitted with
two ballonets provided to ensure the requisite gas-tension in the main
envelope, while at the same time permitting, in times of emergency,
a rapid change of altitude. Self-contained blowers contribute to the
preservation of the shape of the envelope, the blowers and the ballonets
being under the control of the pilot. Planes resembling Venetian blinds
facilitate vertical steering, while the suspension of the keel is
carried out in such a manner as to secure uniformity of weight upon the
gas bag. The propelling power comprises two sets of internal combustion
engines, each developing 130 horse-power, the transmission being through
rubber belting. The propellers, built of wood, make 350 revolutions per
minute, and are set as closely as possible to the centre of resistance.

But the most salient characteristic of this machine is its portability.
It can be dismantled and transported by wagons to any desired spot,
the suspension frame being constructed in units, each of which is
sufficiently small to be accommodated in an ordinary vehicle. Upon
arrival the parts may be put together speedily and easily. The
authorities submitted the airship to exacting trials and were so
impressed by its characteristics and the claims of the inventor that
undoubtedly it will be brought into service during the present crisis.

At the same time the whole faith of the German military staff so far
as airship operations are concerned, is pinned to the Zeppelin.
Notwithstanding its many drawbacks it is the vessel which will be used
for the invasion of Great Britain. Even the harbour question, which is
admitted to be somewhat acute, has been solved to a certain degree.
At strategical points permanent harbours or airship sheds have been
established. Seeing that the airships demand considerable skill in
docking and undocking, and that it is impossible to achieve these
operations against the wind, swinging sheds have been adopted.

On water the practice is to anchor a floating harbour at one end,
leaving the structure to swing round with the wind. But on dry land such
a dock is impossible. Accordingly turntable sheds have been adopted.
The shed is mounted upon a double turn-table, there being two circular
tracks the one near the centre of the shed and the other towards its
extremities. The shed is mounted upon a centre pivot and wheels engaged
with these inner and outer tracks. In this manner the shed may be swung
round to the most favourable point of the compass according to the wind.

In the field, however, such practices are impossible, and the issue
in this connection has been overcome by recourse to what may be termed
portable harbours. They resemble the tents of peripatetic circuses and
travelling exhibitions. There is a network of vertical steel members
which may be set with facility and speed and which are stayed by
means of wire guys. At the top of the outer vertical posts pulleys
are provided whereby the outer skin or canvas forming the walls may
be hauled into position, while at the apex of the roof further pulleys
ensure the proper placing of the roofing. The airship is able to enter
or leave from either end according to conditions. The material is
fireproofed as a precautionary measure, but at the same time the modern
aerial bomb is able to penetrate the roofing without any difficulty and
to explode against the airship anchored within.

The one great objection to the Zeppelin harbour is the huge target it
offers to hostile attack, which, in the event of a vessel being moored
within, is inevitably serious. Thus, for instance, upon the occasion of
the air raids conducted by Lieutenant Collet and of Squadron
Commander Briggs and his colleagues at Dusseldorf and Friedrichshafen
respectively, little difficulty was experienced in destroying the
airships riding at anchor. The target offered by the shed is so
extensive that it would be scarcely possible for a flying enemy to miss
it. A bomb dropped from a reasonable height, say 500 feet, would be
almost certain to strike some part of the building, and a Zeppelin is
an easy vessel to destroy. The firing of one balloon is sufficient
to detonate the whole, for the simple reason that hydrogen gas is
continuously oozing through the bags in which it is contained. According
to a recent statement the Germans are said to be utilising an inert
or non-inflammable gas, equal in lifting power to hydrogen, for the
inflation of military craft, but scientific thought does not entertain
this statement with any degree of seriousness. No gas as light as
hydrogen and non-explosive is known to commerce.

Will Germany invade Great Britain by air? This is the absorbing topic of
the moment--one which has created intense interest and a certain feeling
of alarm among the timorous. Although sporadic raids are considered
to be possible and likely to be carried out with a varying measure
of success--such as that made upon the British East Coast--eminent
authorities ridicule an invasion in force. The risk would be enormous,
although there is no doubt that Germany, which has always maintained
that an invasion of this character will be made, will be compelled to
essay such a task, in order to satisfy public opinion, and to justify
official statements. It is a moot point, however, whether the invaders
ever will succeed in making good their escape, unless Nature proves
exceptionally kind.

The situation is best summed up in the unbiassed report of General
George P. Scriven, Chief Signal officer of the United States Army to the
U.S. Secretary of War. In this report, which deals exhaustively with the
history, construction and achievements of airships, such an invasion
is described as fantastic and impracticable. Writing on November 10th,
1914, the officer declares that "he is not prepared to recommend
the American Army to take up seriously the question of constructing
dirigibles, as they are not worth their cost as offensive machines,
while for reconnaissance or defence they are of far less value than
aeroplanes." In his words, "Dirigibles are seemingly useless in defence
against the aeroplane or gun-fire."

In order to be able to make an invasion in force upon Great Britain's
cities extremely favourable weather must prevail, and the treacherous
nature of the weather conditions of the North Sea are known fully well
both to British and Teuton navigators. Seeing that the majority of the
Zeppelin pilots are drawn from the Navy and mercantile marine, and
thus are conversant with the peculiarities and characteristics of
this stretch of salt water, it is only logical to suppose that their
knowledge will exert a powerful influence in any such decision, the
recommendations of the meteorological savants not withstanding.

When the Zeppelin pride of the German Navy "L-1" was hurled to
destruction by a typical North Sea squall, Captain Blew of the Victoria
Luise, a Zeppelin with many great achievements to her credit, whose
navigator was formerly in the Navy, and thus is familiar with the whole
issue, explained that this atmospheric liveliness of the North Sea
prevails for the most part in the latitude of Norway, but that it
frequently extends as far south as the gate of the Channel. He related
furthermore that the rain squalls are of tropical violence, while the
vertical thrusts of air are such that no dirigible as yet constructed
could ever hope to live in them. Under such conditions, he continued,
the gas is certain to cool intensely, and the hull must then become
waterlogged, not to mention the downward thrust of the rain. Under such
conditions buoyancy must be imperilled to such a degree as to demand the
jettisoning of every piece of ballast, fuel and other removable weight,
including even the steadying and vertical planes. When this has been
done, he pointed out, nothing is left with which to combat the upward
vertical thrusts of the air. To attempt to run before the wind is to
court positive disaster, as the wind is certain to gain the mastery.
Once the airship loses steering way and is rendered uncontrollable it
becomes the sport of the forces of Nature, with the result that
destruction is merely a matter of minutes, or even seconds.

Every navigator who knows the North Sea will support these conclusions.
Squalls and blizzards in winter, and thunderstorms in summer, rise
with startling suddenness and rage with terrific destructive fury.
Such conditions must react against the attempt of an aerial invasion
in force, unless it be made in the character of the last throw by a
desperate gambler, with good fortune favouring the dash to a certain
degree. But lesser and more insignificant Zeppelin raids are likely
to be somewhat frequent, and to be made at every favourable climatic
opportunity.



CHAPTER VII. AEROPLANES OF WAR

Owing to the fertility of inventors and the resultant multiplicity of
designs it is impossible to describe every type of heavier-than-air
machine which has been submitted to the exacting requirements of
military duty. The variety is infinite and the salient fact has already
been established that many of the models which have proved reliable and
efficient under normal conditions are unsuited to military operations.
The early days of the war enabled those of doubtful value to be
eliminated, the result being that those machines which are now in
use represent the survival of the fittest. Experience has furthermore
emphasised the necessity of reducing the number of types to the absolute
minimum. This weeding-out process is being continued and there is no
doubt that by the time the war is concluded the number of approved types
of aeroplanes of military value will have been reduced to a score or
less. The inconveniences and disadvantages arising from the utilisation
of a wide variety of different types are manifold, the greatest being
the necessity of carrying a varied assortment of spare parts, and
confusion in the repair and overhauling shops.

The methodical Teuton was the first to grasp the significance of these
drawbacks; he has accordingly carried standardisation to a high degree
of efficiency, as is shown in another chapter. At a later date France
appreciated the wisdom of the German practice, and within a short time
after the outbreak of hostilities promptly ruled out certain types of
machines which were regarded as unsuitable. In this instance the process
of elimination created considerable surprise, inasmuch as it involved an
embargo on the use of certain machines, which under peace conditions
had achieved an international reputation, and were held to represent the
finest expression of aeronautical science in France as far as aeroplane
developments are concerned.

Possibly the German machine which is most familiar, by name, to the
general public is the Taube, or, as it is sometimes called, the Etrich
monoplane, from the circumstance that it was evolved by the Austrian
engineer Igo Etrich in collaboration with his colleague Wels. These two
experimenters embarked on the study of dynamic flight contemporaneously
with Maxim, Langley, Kress, and many other well-known pioneers, but it
was not until 1908 that their first practical machine was completed.
Its success was instantaneous, many notable flights being placed to its
credit, while some idea of the perfection of its design may be gathered
from the fact that the machine of to-day is substantially identical
with that used seven years ago, the alterations which have been effected
meanwhile being merely modifications in minor details.

The design of this machine follows very closely the lines of a bird in
flight--hence its colloquial description, "Taube," or "dove." Indeed the
analogy to the bird is so close that the ribs of the frame resemble the
feathers of a bird. The supporting plane is shaped in the manner of
a bird's distended wing, and is tipped up at the rear ends to ensure
stability. The tail also resembles that of a bird very closely.

This aeroplane, especially the latest type, is very speedy, and it has
proved extremely reliable. It is very sharp in turning and extremely
sensitive to its rudder, which renders it a first-class craft for
reconnoitring duty. The latest machines are fitted with motors
developing from 120 to 150 horse-power.

The "Taube" commanded attention in Germany for the reason that it
indicated the first departure from the adherence to the French designs
which up to that time had been followed somewhat slavishly, owing to the
absence of native initiative.

The individuality of character revealed in the "Taube" appealed to the
German instinct, with the result that the machine achieved a greater
reputation than might have been the case had it been pitted against
other types of essentially Teutonic origin. The Taube was subsequently
tested both in France and Great Britain, but failed to raise an equal
degree of enthusiasm, owing to the manifestation of certain defects
which marred its utility. This practical experience tended to prove that
the Taube, like the Zeppelin, possessed a local reputation somewhat of
the paper type. The Germans, however, were by no means disappointed by
such adverse criticism, but promptly set to work to eliminate defects
with a view to securing an all-round improvement.

The most successful of these endeavours is represented in the
Taube-Rumpler aeroplane, which may be described as an improved edition
of Etrich's original idea. As a matter of fact the modifications were of
so slight, though important, a character that many machines generically
described as Taubes are in reality Rumplers, but the difference is
beyond detection by the ordinary and unpractised observer.

In the Rumpler machine the wings, like those of the Taube, assume
broadly the form and shape of those of the pigeon or dove in flight. The
early Rumpler machines suffered from sluggish control, but in the later
types this defect has been overcome. In the early models the wings were
flexible, but in the present craft they are rigid, although fitted with
tips or ailerons. The supporting truss beneath the wings, which was such
an outstanding feature of its prototype, has been dispensed with, the
usual I-beam longitudinals being used in its stead. The latest machines
fitted with 100-120 horse-power Mercedes motors have a fine turn of
speed, possess an enhanced ascensional effort, and are far simpler to
control.

Other German machines which are used in the military service are the
Gotha and the Albatross. The former is a monoplane, and here again
the influence of Etrich upon German aeroplane developments is strongly
manifested, the shape of the bird's wing being retained. In the Gotha
the truss which Etrich introduced is a prominent characteristic. The
Albatross is a biplane, but this craft has proved to be somewhat slow
and may be said to be confined to what might be described as the heavier
aerial military duties, where great endurance and reliability are
essential. As the war proceeds, doubtless Teuton ingenuity will
be responsible for the appearance of new types, as well as certain
modifications in the detail construction of the existing machines, but
there is every indication that the broad lines of Etrich's conception
will be retained in all monoplanes.

There is one point in which Germany has excelled. Wood is not employed
in the construction of these heavier-than-air craft. Steel and the
lighter tough alloys are exclusively used. In this way the minimum of
weight consistent with the maximum of strength policy is carried
out. Moreover the manufacture of component parts is facilitated and
accelerated to a remarkable degree by the use of metal, while the
tasks of fitting and repairing are notably expedited by the practice of
standardisation. Germany is also manifesting commendable enterprise in
the perfection of light powerful motors for these dynamic machines. The
latest types of explosion-motors range from 100 to 150 horse-power; the
advantages of these are obvious.

Upon the outbreak of hostilities the French possessed an enormous number
and variety of aeroplanes and this aerial fleet had been brought to
a high standard of organisation. The aerial fleet is sub-divided into
squadrons called "escadrilles," each of which comprises six machines and
pilots. These units are kept up to strength, wastage being made up from
reserves, so as to maintain the requisite homogeneity.

But ere the war had been in progress many weeks an official order was
issued forbidding the employment of the Bleriot, Deperdussin, Nieuport,
and R.E.P. monoplanes. Those which received official approval included
the Caudron, Henry, and Maurice Farman, Morane-Saulnier, and Voisin
machines.

This drastic order came somewhat as a thunderbolt, and the reason for
the decree has not been satisfactorily revealed. Suffice to say that in
one stroke the efficiency and numerical strength of the French aerial
navy were reduced very appreciably. For instance, it is stated that
there were thirty escadrilles of Bleriot monoplanes together with pilots
at the front, in addition to thirty mixed escadrilles of the other
prohibited types with their fliers. Moreover a round 33 escadrilles of
all the various types were in reserve. The effect of the military order
was to reduce the effective strength by no fewer than 558 aeroplanes.

Seeing that the French aerial force was placed at a great disadvantage
numerically by this action, there seems to be ample justification for
the hostile criticism which the decree of prohibition aroused in certain
circles, especially when it is remembered that there was not an equal
number of the accepted machines available to take the place of those
which had been ruled out of court. One effect of this decree was to
throw some 400 expert aviators upon the waiting list for the simple
reason that machines were unavailable. Some of the best aviation skill
and knowledge which France possesses were affected by the order. It
is stated that accomplished aviators, such as Vedrines, were unable to
obtain machines.

It will be seen that the ultimate effect of the French military decree
was to reduce the number of types to about four, each of which was
allotted a specific duty. But whereas three different bi-planes are on
the approved list there is only one monoplane--the Morane-Saulaier.
This machine, however, has a great turn of speed, and it is also able to
climb at a very fast pace. In these respects it is superior to the crack
craft of Germany, so that time after time the latter have refused battle
in the skies, and have hurried back to their lines.

The Morane-Saulnier is the French mosquito craft of the air and like the
insect, it is avowedly aggressive. In fact, its duties are confined to
the work of chasing and bringing down the enemy, for which work its high
manoeuvring capacity is excellently adapted. Its aggressive armament
comprises a mitrailleuse. Unfortunately, however, the factory
responsible for the production of this machine is at present handicapped
by the limitations of its manufacturing plant, which when pushed to the
utmost extent cannot turn out more than about ten machines per week. No
doubt this deficiency will be remedied as the war proceeds by extension
of the works or by allotting orders to other establishments, but at the
time of the decree the manufacturing capacity was scarcely sufficient to
make good the wastage, which was somewhat heavy.

As far as biplanes are concerned the Caudron is the fastest in flight
and is likewise extremely quick in manoeuvring. It is a very small
machine and is extremely light, but the fact that it can climb at the
rate of over 330 feet per minute is a distinct advantage in its favour.
It supplements the Morane-Saulnier monoplane in the specific duty of the
latter, while it is also employed for discovering the enemy's artillery
and communicating the range of the latter to the French and British
artillery. In this latter work it has played a very prominent part and
to it is due in no small measure that deadly accuracy of the artillery
of the Allies which has now become so famous. This applies especially
to those tactics, where the field artillery dashes up to a position,
discharges a number of rounds in rapid succession, or indulges in rafale
firing, and then limbering up, rushes away before the enemy can reply.

As is well known the Farman biplanes possess high endurance qualities.
They can remain aloft for many hours at a stretch and are remarkably
reliable. Owing to these qualities they are utilised for prolonged and
searching reconnoitring duties such as strategical reconnaissances as
distinct from the hurried and tactical reconnaissances carried out by
fleeter machines. While they are not so speedy as the monoplanes of the
German military establishment, endurance in this instance is preferable
to pace. A thorough survey of the enemy's position over the whole of
his military zone, which stretches back for a distance of 30 miles or so
from the outer line of trenches, is of incalculable value to a commander
who is contemplating any decisive movement or who is somewhat in doubt
as to the precise character of his antagonist's tactics.

The French aerial fleet has been particularly active in its work of
raiding hostile positions and submitting them to a fusillade of bombs
from the clouds. The machine which is allotted this specific task is
the Voisin biplane. This is due to the fact that this machine is able to
carry a great weight. It was speedily discovered that in bomb-raids
it is essential for an aeroplane to be able to carry a somewhat large
supply of missiles, owing to the high percentage of misses which attends
these operations. A raid by a machine capable of carrying only,
say, half-a-dozen projectiles, is virtually a waste of fuel, and
the endurance limitations of the fast machines reacts against their
profitable use in this work. On the other hand, the fact that the Voisin
machine is able to carry a large supply of bombs renders it an ideal
craft for this purpose; hence the official decision to confine it to
this work.

So far as the British efforts in aerial work are concerned there is no
such display of rigid selection as characterises the practice of the
French and German military authorities. Britain's position in the air
has been extensively due to private enterprise, and this is still being
encouraged. Moreover at the beginning of the war Britain was numerically
far inferior both to her antagonist and to her ally. Consequently it was
a wise move to encourage the private manufacture of machines which had
already established their value. The consequence is that a variety
of machines figure in the British aerial navy. Private initiative is
excellently seconded by the Government manufacturing aeroplane factory,
while the training of pilots is likewise being carried out upon a
comprehensive scale. British manufacture may be divided into two broad
classes--the production of aeroplanes and of waterplanes respectively.
Although there is a diversity of types there is a conspicuous
homogeneity for the most part, as was evidenced by the British raid
carried out on February 11-12, when a fleet of 34 machines raided the
various German military centres established along the coast of Flanders.

Considerable secrecy has been displayed by the British Government
concerning the types of machines that are being utilised, although
ample evidence exists from the producing activity of the various
establishments that all available types which have demonstrated their
reliability and efficiency are being turned to useful purpose. The Avro
and Sopwith warplanes with their very high speeds have proved remarkably
successful.

So far as manufacturing is concerned the Royal Aerial Factory may be
said to constitute the back bone of the British aerial fleet. This
factory fulfils various purposes. It is not only engaged in the
manufacture of machines, and the development of aeroplanes for specific
duties, but also carries out the inspection and testing of machines
built by private firms. Every machine is submitted to an exacting test
before it is passed into the service.

Three broad types of Government machines are manufactured at this
establishment. There is that designed essentially for scouting
operations, in which speed is the all-important factor and which is
of the tractor type. Another is the "Reconnoitring" machine
known officially as the "R.E." to-day, but formerly as the "B.E"
(Bleriot-Experimental), a considerable number of which are in
commission.

This machine is also of the tractor type, carrying a pilot and an
observer, and has a maximum speed of 40-50 miles per hour. If required
it can further be fitted with an automatic gun for defence and attack.
The third craft is essentially a fighting machine. Owing to the
introduction of the machine-gun which is fixed in the prow, with the
marksman immediately behind it, the screw is placed at the rear. The
pilot has his seat behind the gunner. The outstanding feature of these
machines is the high factor of safety, which attribute has astonished
some of the foremost aviation experts in the world.

Great Britain lagged behind her Continental rivals in the development
of the Fourth Arm, especially in matters pertaining to motive power.
For some time reliance was placed upon foreign light highspeed explosion
motors, but private enterprise was encouraged, with the result that
British Motors comparing favourably in every respect with the best
productions upon the Continent are now available. Development is still
proceeding, and there is every evidence that in the near future entire
reliance will be placed upon the native motor.

Undoubtedly, as the war progresses, many valuable lessons will be
learned which will exercise an important bearing upon the design
and construction of warplanes. The ordeals to which the machines are
submitted in military duties are far more severe than any imposed by the
conditions of commerce. Accordingly there is every indication that
the conflict upon the Continent will represent a distinctive epoch in
aeroplane design and construction. Many problems still await solution,
such as the capacity to hover over a position, and it is quite possible
that these complex and baffling questions will be settled definitely
as the result of operations in the field. The aeroplane has reached a
certain stage of evolution: further progress is virtually impossible
unless something revolutionary is revealed, perfected, and brought to
the practical stage.



CHAPTER VIII. SCOUTING FROM THE SKIES

From the moment when human flight was lifted from the rut of experiment
to the field of practical application, many theories, interesting and
illuminating, concerning the utility of the Fourth Arm as a military
unit were advanced. The general consensus of expert opinion was that
the flying machine would be useful to glean information concerning the
movements of an enemy, rather than as a weapon of offence.

The war is substantiating this argument very completely. Although
bomb-dropping is practised somewhat extensively, the results achieved
are rather moral than material in their effects. Here and there
startling successes have been recorded especially upon the British side,
but these triumphs are outnumbered by the failures in this direction,
and merely serve to emphasise the views of the theorists.

The argument was also advanced that, in this particular work, the
aeroplane would prove more valuable than the dirigible, but actual
campaigning has proved conclusively that the dirigible and the
heavier-than-air machines have their respective fields of utility in the
capacity of scouts. In fact in the very earliest days of the war,
the British airships, though small and slow in movement, proved more
serviceable for this duty than their dynamic consorts. This result
was probably due to the fact that military strategy and tactics were
somewhat nonplussed by the appearance of this new factor. At the time
it was an entirely unknown quantity. It is true that aircraft had been
employed in the Balkan and the Italo-Ottoman campaigns, but upon such a
limited scale as to afford no comprehensive idea of their military value
and possibilities.

The belligerents, therefore, were caught somewhat at a disadvantage,
and an appreciable period of time elapsed before the significance of
the aerial force could be appreciated, while means of counter acting
or nullifying its influences had to be evolved simultaneously,
and according to the exigencies of the moment. At all events, the
protagonists were somewhat loth to utilise the dirigible upon an
elaborate scale or in an aggressive manner. It was employed more after
the fashion of a captive balloon, being sent aloft from a point well
behind the front lines of the force to which it was attached, and
well out of the range of hostile guns. Its manoeuvres were somewhat
circumscribed, and were carried out at a safe distance from the enemy,
dependence being placed upon the advantages of an elevated position for
the gathering of information.

But as the campaign progressed, the airships became more daring. Their
ability to soar to a great height offered them complete protection
against gun-fire, and accordingly sallies over the hostile lines were
carried out. But even here a certain hesitancy became manifest. This
was perfectly excusable, for the simple reason that the dirigible, above
all, is a fair-weather craft, and disasters, which had overtaken these
vessels time after time, rendered prudence imperative. Moreover, but
little was known of the range and destructiveness of anti-aircraft guns.

In the duty of reconnoitring the dirigible possesses one great advantage
over its heavier-than-air rival. It can remain virtually stationary in
the air, the propellers revolving at just sufficient speed to off-set
the wind and tendencies to drift. In other words, it has the power of
hovering over a position, thereby enabling the observers to complete
their task carefully and with deliberation.

On the other hand, the means of enabling an aeroplane to hover still
remain to be discovered. It must travel at a certain speed through the
air to maintain its dynamic equilibrium, and this speed is often too
high to enable the airman to complete his reconnaissance with sufficient
accuracy to be of value to the forces below. All that the aeroplane can
do is to circle above a certain position until the observer is satisfied
with the data he has collected.

But hovering on the part of the dirigible is not without conspicuous
drawbacks. The work of observation cannot be conducted with any degree
of accuracy at an excessive altitude. Experience has proved that the
range of the latest types of anti-aircraft weapons is in excess of
anticipations. The result is that the airship is useless when hovering
beyond the zone of fire. The atmospheric haze, even in the clearest
weather, obstructs the observer's vision. The caprices of this obstacle
are extraordinary, as anyone who has indulged in ballooning knows fully
well. On a clear summer's day I have been able to see the ground beneath
with perfect distinctness from a height of 4,500 feet, yet when the
craft had ascended a further two or three hundred feet, the panorama was
blurred. A film of haze lies between the balloon and the ground beneath.
And the character of this haze is continually changing, so that the
aerial observer's task is rendered additionally difficult. Its effects
are particularly notice able when one attempts to photograph the view
unfolded below. Plate after plate may be exposed and nothing will be
revealed. Yet at a slightly lower altitude the plates may be exposed and
perfectly sharp and well-defined images will be obtained.

Seeing that the photographic eye is keener and more searching than the
human organ of sight, it is obvious that this haze constitutes a very
formidable obstacle. German military observers, who have accompanied
the Zeppelins and Parsevals on numerous aerial journeys under varying
conditions of weather, have repeatedly drawn attention to this factor
and its caprices, and have not hesitated to venture the opinion that it
would interfere seriously with military aerial reconnaissances, and also
that it would tend to render such work extremely hazardous at times.

When these conditions prevail the dirigible must carry out its work upon
the broad lines of the aeroplane. It must descend to the level where a
clear view of the ground may be obtained, and in the interests of safety
it has to keep on the move. To attempt to hover within 4,000 feet of
the ground is to court certain disaster, inasmuch as the vessel offers
a magnificent and steady target which the average gunner, equipped with
the latest sighting devices and the most recent types of guns, scarcely
could fail to hit.

But the airman in the aeroplane is able to descend to a comparatively
low level in safety. The speed and mobility of his machine constitute
his protection. He can vary his altitude, perhaps only thirty or forty
feet, with ease and rapidity, and this erratic movement is more than
sufficient to perplex the marksmen below, although the airman is
endangered if a rafale is fired in such a manner as to cover a wide
zone.

Although the aeroplane may travel rapidly it is not too fleet for a keen
observer who is skilled in his peculiar task. He may only gather a
rough idea of the disposition of troops, their movements, the lines
of communication, and other details which are indispensable to his
commander, but in the main the intelligence will be fairly accurate.
Undulating flight enables him to determine speedily the altitude at
which he is able to obtain the clearest views of the country beneath.
Moreover, owing to his speed he is able to complete his task in far less
time than his colleague operating in the dirigible, the result being
that the information placed at the disposal of his superior officers is
more to the moment, and accordingly of greater value.

Reconnoitring by aeroplane may be divided into two broad categories,
which, though correlated to a certain degree, are distinctive, because
each constitutes a specific phase in military operations. They are known
respectively as "tactical" and "strategical" movements. The first is
somewhat limited in its scope as compared with the latter, and
has invariably to be carried out rapidly, whereas the strategical
reconnaissance may occupy several hours.

The tactical reconnaissance concerns the corps or divisional commander
to which the warplane is attached, and consequently its task is confined
to the observation of the line immediately facing the particular corps
or division. The aviator does not necessarily penetrate beyond the lines
of the enemy, but, as a rule limits his flight to some distance from
his outermost defences. The airman must possess a quick eye, because
his especial duty is to note the disposition of the troops immediately
facing him, the placing of the artillery, and any local movements of the
forces that may be in progress. Consequently the aviator engaged on
this service may be absent from his lines for only a few minutes,
comparatively speaking; the intelligence he acquires must be speedily
communicated to the force to which he is attached, because it may
influence a local movement.

The strategical reconnaissance, on the other hand, affects the whole
plan of campaign. The aviators told off for this duty are attached to
the staff of the Commander-in-Chief, and the work has to be carried out
upon a far more comprehensive and elaborate scale, while the airmen
are called upon to penetrate well into the hostile territory to a point
thirty, forty, or more miles beyond the outposts.

The procedure is to instruct the flier either to carry out his
observations of the territory generally, or to report at length upon a
specified stretch of country. In the latter event he may fly to and
fro over the area in question until he has acquired all the data it is
possible to collect. His work not only comprises the general disposition
of troops, defences, placing of artillery, points where reserves are
being held, high-roads, railways, base camps, and so forth, but he is
also instructed to bring back as correct an idea as possible of what
the enemy proposes to do, so that his Commander-in-Chief may adjust
his moves accordingly. In order to perform this task with the requisite
degree of thoroughness it is often necessary for the airman to remain in
the air for several hours continuously, not returning, in fact, until he
has completed the allotted duty.

The airman engaged in strategical aerial reconnaissance must possess,
above all things, what is known as a "military" eye concerning the
country he traverses. He must form tolerably correct estimates of the
forces beneath and their character. He must possess the ability to
read a map rapidly as he moves through the air and to note upon it all
information which is likely to be of service to the General Staff.
The ability to prepare military sketches rapidly and intelligibly is
a valuable attribute, and skill in aerial photography is a decidedly
useful acquisition.

Such men must be of considerable stamina, inasmuch as great demands
are made upon their powers of endurance. Being aloft for several hours
imposes a severe tax upon the nervous system, while it must also be
borne in mind that all sorts and conditions of weather are likely to
be encountered, more particularly during the winter. Hail, rain, and
blizzards may be experienced in turn, while the extreme cold which often
prevails in the higher altitudes during the winter season is a
fearful enemy to combat. Often an airman upon his return from such a
reconnaissance has been discovered to be so numbed and dazed as a result
of the prolonged exposure, that considerable time has elapsed before
he has been sufficiently restored to set forth the results of his
observations in a coherent, intelligible manner for the benefit of the
General Staff. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that the
most skilful and experienced aviators are generally reserved for this
particular work. In addition to the natural accidents to which the
strategical aerial observer is exposed, the dangers arising from hostile
gun-fire must not be overlooked. He is manoeuvring the whole time
over the enemy's firing zone, where anti-aircraft weapons are disposed
strategically, and where every effort is made by artillery to bring him
down, or compel him to repair to such a height as to render observation
with any degree of accuracy well-nigh impossible.

The methods practised by the German aerial scout vary widely, and are
governed in no small measure by the intrepidity and skill of the airman
himself. One practice is to proceed alone upon long flights over the
enemy's lines, penetrating just as far into hostile territory as the
pilot considers advisable, and keeping, of course, within the limits of
the radius of action of the machine, as represented by the fuel supply,
the while carefully taking mental stock of all that he observes below.
It is a kind of roving commission without any definite aim in view
beyond the collection of general intelligence.

This work, while productive and valuable to a certain degree, is
attended with grave danger, as the German airmen have repeatedly found
to their cost. Success is influenced very materially by the accuracy
of the airman's judgment. A slight miscalculation of the velocity
and direction of the wind, or failure to detect any variations in the
climatic conditions, is sufficient to prove his undoing. German airmen
who essayed journeys of discovery in this manner, often failed to regain
their lines because they ventured too far, misjudged the speed of the
wind which was following them on the outward run, and ultimately were
forced to earth owing to the exhaustion of the fuel supply during the
homeward trip; the increased task imposed upon the motor, which had to
battle hard to make headway, caused the fuel consumption per mile to
exceed calculations.

Then the venturesome airman cannot neglect another factor which is
adverse to his success. Hostile airmen lie in wait, and a fleet of
aeroplanes is kept ready for instant service. They permit the invader
to penetrate well into their territory and then ascend behind him to
cut off his retreat. True, the invader has the advantage of being on the
wing, while the ether is wide and deep, without any defined channels
of communication. But nine times out of ten the adventurous scout is
trapped. His chances of escape are slender, because his antagonists
dispose themselves strategically in the air. The invader outpaces one,
but in so doing comes within range of another. He is so harassed that he
either has to give fight, or, finding his retreat hopelessly cut off,
he makes a determined dash, trusting to his high speed to carry him
to safety. In these driving tactics the French and British airmen have
proved themselves adepts, more particularly the latter, as the chase
appeals to their sporting instincts. There is nothing so exhilarating as
a quarry who displays a determination to run the gauntlet.

The roving Teuton scout was considerably in evidence in the early days
of the war, but two or three weeks' experience emphasised the sad fact
that, in aerial strategy, he was hopelessly outmatched by his opponents.
His advantage of speed was nullified by the superior tactical and
strategical acumen of his antagonists, the result being that the German
airman, who has merely been trained along certain lines, who is in
many cases nothing more than a cog-wheel in a machine, and who is
proverbially slow-witted, has concluded that he is no match for the
airmen of the Allies. He found from bitter experience that nothing
afforded the Anglo-French military aviators such keen delight as to lie
in wait for a "rover," and then to swoop into the air to round him up.

The proportion of these individual scouts who were either brought down,
or only just succeeded in reaching safety within their own lines, and
who were able to exhibit serious wounds as evidence of the severity of
the aerial tussle, or the narrowness of the escape, has unnerved the
Teuton airmen as a body to a very considerable extent. Often, even when
an aeroplane descended within the German lines, it was found that the
roving airman had paid the penalty for his rashness with his life, so
that his journey had proved in vain, because all the intelligence he
had gained had died with him, or, if committed to paper, was so
unintelligible as to prove useless.

It was the success of the British airmen in this particular field
of duty which was responsible for the momentous declaration in
Field-Marshal Sir John French's famous despatch:--"The British Flying
Corps has succeeded in establishing an individual ascendancy, which is
as serviceable to us as it is damaging to the enemy.... The enemy have
been less enterprising in their flights. Something in the direction of
the mastery of the air has already been gained."

The methods of the British airmen are in vivid contrast to the
practice of the venturesome Teuton aerial rovers described above. While
individual flights are undertaken they are not of unknown duration or
mileage. The man is given a definite duty to perform and he ascends
merely to fulfil it, returning with the information at the earliest
possible moment. It is aerial scouting with a method. The intelligence
is required and obtained for a specific purpose, to govern a
contemplated move in the grim game of war.

Even then the flight is often undertaken by two or more airmen for the
purpose of checking and counterchecking information gained, or to ensure
such data being brought back to headquarters, since it is quite possible
that one of the party may fall a victim to hostile fire. By operating
upon these lines there is very little likelihood of the mission
proving a complete failure. Even when raids upon certain places such as
Dusseldorf, Friedrichshafen or Cuxhaven are planned, complete dependence
is not placed on one individual. The machine is accompanied, so that
the possibility of the appointed task being consummated is transformed
almost into a certainty.

The French flying men work upon broadly similar lines. Their fleet is
divided into small squadrons each numbering four, six, or more machines,
according to the nature of the contemplated task. Each airman is given
an area of territory which is to be reconnoitred thoroughly. In this way
perhaps one hundred or more miles of the enemy's front are searched for
information at one and the same time. The units of the squadron start
out, each taking the appointed direction according to the preconceived
plan, and each steering by the aid of compass and map. They are urged to
complete the work with all speed and to return to a secret rendezvous.

Later the air is alive with the whirring of motors. The machines are
coming back and all converging to one point. They vol-plane to the earth
and gracefully settle down within a short distance of each other at the
rendezvous. The pilots collect and each relates the intelligence he has
gained. The data are collated and in this manner the General Staff is
able to learn exactly what is transpiring over a long stretch of the
hostile lines, and a considerable distance to the rear of his advance
works. Possibly five hundred square miles have been reconnoitred in
this manner. Troops have been massed here, lines of communication extend
somewhere else, while convoys are moving at a third place. But all has
been observed, and the commanding officer is in a position to re-arrange
his forces accordingly. It is a remarkable example of method in military
tactics and strategy, and conveys a striking idea of the degree to which
aerial operations have been organised.

After due deliberation it is decided that the convoys shall be raided,
or that massed troops shall be thrown into confusion, if not dispersed.
The squadron is ordered to prepare for another aerial journey. The roads
along which the convoys are moving are indicated upon the map, or the
position of the massed troops in bivouac is similarly shown. The airmen
load their machines with a full charge of bombs. When all is ready the
leader ascends, followed in rapid succession by the other units, and
they whirr through the air in single file. It now becomes a grim game of
follow-my-leader.

The leader detects the convoy, swoops down, suddenly launches his
missiles, and re-ascends. He does not deviate a foot from his path to
observe the effects of his discharge, as the succeeding aeroplane is
close behind him. If the leader has missed then the next airman may
correct his error. One after another the machines repeat the manoeuvre,
in precisely the same manner as the units of a battleship squadron
emulate the leading vessel when attacking the foe. The tactical
evolutions have been laid down, and there is rigid adherence thereto,
because only thereby may success be achieved. When the last war-plane
has completed its work, the leader swings round and repeats the dash
upon the foe. A hail of bullets may scream around the men in the air,
but one and all follow faithfully in the leader's trail. One or more
machines may fail in the attack, and may even meet with disaster, but
nothing interferes with the movements of the squadron as a whole. It is
the homogeneity of the attacking fleet which tells, and which undermines
the moral of the enemy, even if it does not wreak decisive material
devastation. The work accomplished to the best of their ability, the
airmen speed back to their lines in the same formation.

At first sight reconnoitring from aloft may appear a simple operation,
but a little reflection will reveal the difficulties and arduousness of
the work. The observer, whether he be specially deputed, or whether
the work be placed in the hand of the pilot himself--in this event the
operation is rendered additionally trying, as he also has to attend to
his machine must keep his eyes glued to the ground beneath and at the
same time be able to read the configuration of the panorama revealed to
him. He must also keep in touch with his map and compass, so as to be
positive of his position and direction. He must be a first-class judge
of distances and heights.

When flying rapidly at a height of 4,000 feet or more, the country below
appears as a perfect plane, or flat stretch, although as a matter of
fact it may be extremely undulating. Consequently, it is by no means a
simple matter to distinguish eminences and depressions, or to determine
the respective and relative heights of hills.

If a rough sketch is required, the observer must be rapid in thought,
quick in determination, and facile with his pencil, as the machine, no
matter how it may be slowed down, is moving at a relatively high speed.
He must consult his map and compass frequently, since an airman who
loses his bearings is useless to his commander-in-chief. He must have
an eagle eye, so as to be able to search the country unfolded below, in
order to gather all the information which is likely to be of value to
his superior officers. He must be able to judge accurately the numbers
of troops arrayed beneath him, the lines of the defensive works, to
distinguish the defended from the dummy lines which are thrown up to
baffle him, and to detect instantly the movement of the troops and
the direction, as well as the roads, along which they are proceeding.
Reserves and their complement, artillery, railway-lines, roads, and
bridges, if any, over streams and railways must be noted--in short
he must obtain an eye photograph of the country he observes and grasp
exactly what is happening there. In winter, with the thermometer well
down, a blood-freezing wind blowing, wreaths of clouds drifting below
and obscuring vision for minutes at a time, the rain possibly pelting
down as if presaging a second deluge, the plight of the vigilant human
eye aloft is far from enviable.

Upon the return of the machine to its base, the report must be prepared
without delay. The picture recorded by the eye has to be set down
clearly and intelligibly with the utmost speed. The requisite
indications must be made accurately upon the map. Nothing of importance
must be omitted: the most trivial detail is often of vital importance.

A facile pencil is of inestimable value in such operations. While
aloft the observer does not trust to his memory or his eye picture, but
commits the essential factors to paper in the form of a code, or what
may perhaps be described more accurately as a shorthand pictorial
interpretation of the things he has witnessed. To the man in the street
such a record would be unintelligible, but it is pregnant with meaning,
and when worked out for the guidance of the superior officers is a mass
of invaluable detail.

At times it so happens that the airman has not been able to complete
his duty within the time anticipated by those below. But he has gathered
certain information which he wishes to communicate without coming to
earth. Such data may be dropped from the clouds in the form of maps or
messages. Although wireless telegraphy is available for this purpose,
it suffers from certain drawbacks. If the enemy possesses an equipment
which is within range of that of the air-craft and the force to which
it belongs, communications may be nullified by the enemy throwing out
a continuous stream of useless signals which "jamb" the intelligence of
their opponents.

If a message--written in code--or a map is to be dropped from aloft it
is enclosed within a special metallic cylinder, fitted with a vane tail
to ensure direction of flight when launched, and with a detonating head.
This is dropped overboard. When it strikes the ground the detonator
fires a charge which emits a report without damaging the message
container, and at the same time fires a combustible charge emitting
considerable smoke. The noise attracts anyone in the vicinity of the
spot where the message has fallen, while at the same time the clouds of
smoke guide one to the point and enable the cylinder to be recovered.
This device is extensively used by the German aviators, and has proved
highly serviceable; a similar contrivance is adopted by French airmen.

There is one phase of aerial activity which remains to be demonstrated.
This is the utilisation of aerial craft by the defenders of a besieged
position such as a ring of fortifications or fortified city. The utility
of the Fourth Arm in this province has been the subject of considerable
speculation. Expert opinion maintains that the advantage in this
particular connection would rest with the besiegers. The latter would
be able to ascertain the character of the defences and the defending
gun-force, by means of the aerial scout, who would prove of inestimable
value in directing the fire of the besieging forces.

On the other hand it is maintained that an aerial fleet would be useless
to the beleaguered. In the first place the latter would experience
grave difficulties in ascertaining the positions of the attacking
and fortress-reducing artillery, inasmuch as this could be masked
effectively, and it is thought that the aerial force of the besieged
would be speedily reduced to impotence, since it would be subjected to
an effective concentrated fire from the ring of besieging anti-aircraft
guns and other weapons. In other words, the theory prevails that an
aerial fleet, no matter how efficient, would be rendered ineffective for
the simple reason that it would be the initial object of the besieger's
attack. Possibly the stem test of experience will reveal the fallacy of
these contentions as emphatically as it has disproved others. But there
is one point upon which authorities are unanimous. If the artillery of
the investing forces is exposed and readily distinguishable, the aerial
forces of the beleaguered will bring about its speedy annihilation, as
the defensive artillery will be concentrated upon that of the besiegers.



CHAPTER IX. THE AIRMAN AND ARTILLERY

There is one field in which the airman has achieved distinctive
triumphs. This is in the guidance of artillery fire. The modern battle
depends first and foremost upon the fierce effectiveness of big-gun
assault, but to ensure this reliable direction is imperative. No force
has proved so invaluable for this purpose as the man of-the-air, and
consequently this is the province in which he has been exceptionally and
successfully active.

It will be recalled that in the Japanese investiture of Port Arthur
during the Russo-Japanese war, thousands of lives were expended upon the
retention and assault of 203 Metre Hill. It was the most blood-stained
spot upon the whole of the Eastern Asiatic battlefield. General Nogi
threw thousands after thousands of his warriors against this rampart
while the Russians defended it no less resolutely. It was captured and
re-captured; in fact, the fighting round this eminence was so intense
that it appeared to the outsider to be more important to both sides than
even Port Arthur itself.

Yet if General Nogi had been in the possession of a single aeroplane
or dirigible it is safe to assert that scarcely one hundred Japanese or
Russian soldiers would have met their fate upon this hill. Its value to
the Japanese lay in one sole factor. The Japanese heavy guns shelling
the harbour and the fleet it contained were posted upon the further
side of this eminence and the fire of these weapons was more or less
haphazard. No means of directing the artillery upon the vital points
were available; 203 Metre Hill interrupted the line of sight. The
Japanese thereupon resolved to capture the hill, while the Russians,
equally appreciative of the obstruction it offered to their enemy, as
valiantly strove to hold it. Once the hill was captured and the fire
of the Japanese guns could be directed, the fate of the fortress was
sealed.

Similar conditions have prevailed during the present campaign,
especially in the western theatre of war, where the ruggedness of the
country has tended to render artillery fire ineffective and expensive
unless efficiently controlled. When the German Army attacked the line of
the British forces so vehemently and compelled the retreat at Mons,
the devastating fire of the enemy's artillery was directed almost
exclusively by their airmen, who hovered over the British lines,
indicating exactly the point where gun-fire could work the maximum
of havoc. The instant concentration of massed artillery fire upon
the indicated positions speedily rendered one position after another
untenable.

The Germans maintained the upper hand until at last the aerial forces of
the British Expeditionary Army came into action. These airmen attacked
the Teuton aerial craft without the slightest hesitation, and in a
short while rendered cloudland absolutely unhealthy. The sequel
was interesting. As if suddenly blinded, the German artillery fire
immediately deteriorated. On the other hand, the British artillery,
now having the benefit of aerial guidance, was able to repay the
German onslaughts with interest, and speedily compelled that elaborate
digging-in of the infantry lines which has now become so characteristic
of the opposing forces.

So far as the British lines are concerned the men in the trenches keep a
sharp look-out for hostile aeroplanes. The moment one is observed to
be advancing, all the men seclude themselves and maintain their
concealment. To do otherwise is to court a raking artillery outburst.
The German aeroplane, detecting the tendency of the trenches describes
in the air the location of the vulnerable spot and the precise
disposition by flying immediately above the line. Twice the manoeuvre
is repeated, the second movement evidently being in the character of a
check upon the first observation, and in accordance with instructions,
whereupon the Tommies, to quote their own words, "know they are in for
it!" Ere the aeroplane has completed the second manoeuvre the German
guns ring out.

The facility with which artillery fire can be concentrated through the
medium of the aeroplane is amazing. In one instance, according to the
story related to me by an officer, "a number of our men were resting in
an open field immediately behind the second line of trenches, being in
fact the reserves intended for the relief of the front lines during the
following night. An aeroplane hove in sight. The men dropped their kits
and got under cover in an adjacent wood. The aeroplane was flying at a
great height and evidently laboured under the impression that the kits
were men. Twice it flew over the field in the usual manner, and then
the storm of shrapnel, 'Jack Johnsons' and other tokens from the Kaiser
rained upon the confined space. A round four hundred shells were dropped
into that field in the short period of ten minutes, and the range was
so accurate that no single shell fell outside the space. Had the men not
hurried to cover not one would have been left alive to tell the tale,
because every square foot of the land was searched through and through.
We laughed at the short-sightedness of the airman who had contributed
to such a waste of valuable shot and shell, but at the same time
appreciated the narrowness of our own escape."

The above instance is by no means isolated. It has happened time after
time. The slightest sign of activity in a trench when a "Taube" is
overhead suffices to cause the trench to be blown to fragments, and time
after time the British soldiers have had to lie prone in their trenches
and suffer partial burial as an alternative to being riddled by
shrapnel.

The method of ascertaining the range of the target from the indications
given by the aeroplane are of the simplest character. The German method
is for the aerial craft to fly over the position, and when in vertical
line therewith to discharge a handful of tinsel, which, in falling,
glitters in the sunlight, or to launch a smoking missile which answers
the same purpose as a projectile provided with a tracer. This smoke-ball
being dropped over the position leaves a trail of black or whitish smoke
according to the climatic conditions which prevail, the object being to
enable the signal to be picked up with the greatest facility. The height
at which the aerial craft is flying being known, a little triangulation
upon the part of the observer at the firing point enables him to
calculate the range and to have the guns laid accordingly.

When the aerial craft has been entrusted with the especial duty of
directing artillery-fire, a system of communication between the aerial
observer and the officer in charge of the artillery is established,
conducted, of course, by code. In the British Army, signalling is both
visual and audible. In daylight visual signalling is carried out by
means of coloured flags or streamers and smoke-signals, while audible
communication is effected by means of a powerful horn working upon the
siren principle and similar to those used by automobiles. Both flags and
sound-signals, however, are restricted owing to the comparatively short
distances over which they can be read with any degree of accuracy. The
smoke-signal therefore appears to be the most satisfactory and reliable,
as the German airmen have proved conclusively, for the simple reason
that the trail of smoke may be picked up with comparative ease, even
at a distance, by means of field glasses. The tinsel too, is readily
distinguishable, particularly in bright weather, for the glittering
surface, catching the sun-light, acts some what in the manner of a
heliograph.

The progress of the airman is followed by two officers at the base from
which he started. One is equipped with the director, while the
second takes the range. Directly this has been found as a result of
calculation, the guns are laid ready for firing. In those cases where
the enemy's artillery is concealed perhaps behind a hill, the airman is
of incalculable value, inasmuch as he is able to reveal a position which
otherwise would have to be found by considerable haphazard firing, and
which, even if followed by a captive balloon anchored above the firing
point, might resist correction.

The accuracy of the airman's work in communicating the range has been
responsible for the high efficiency of the British and French artillery.
The latter, with the 75 millimetre quick-firing gun, is particularly
adapted to following up the results of the aeroplane's reconnaissance,
especially with the system of rafale fire, because the whole position
can be searched through and through within a minute or two. According
to information which has been given to me by our artillery officers, the
British system also has proved disastrous to the enemy. The practice
is to get the range as communicated by the aeroplane, to bring the
artillery into position speedily, to discharge salvo after salvo with
all speed for a few minutes, and then to wheel the artillery away before
any hostile fire can be returned. The celerity with which the British
artillery comes into, and goes out of, action has astonished even
our own authorities. This mobility is of unique value: it is taking
advantage of a somewhat slow-witted enemy with interest. By the time
the Germans have opened fire upon the point whence the British guns were
discharged, the latter have disappeared and are ready to let fly from
another point, some distance away, so that the hostile fire is abortive.
Mobility of such a character is decidedly unnerving and baffling even to
a quick-witted opponent.

In his search for hostile artillery the airman runs grave risks and
displays remarkable resource. It is invariably decided, before he sets
out, that he shall always return to a certain altitude to communicate
signals. Time after time the guns of the enemy have been concealed
so cunningly from aerial observation as to pass unnoticed. This trait
became more pronounced as the campaigns of the Aisne progressed.
Accordingly the airman adopts a daring procedure. He swoops down over
suspicious places, where he thinks guns may be lurking, hoping that the
enemy will betray its presence. The ruse is invariably successful. The
airman makes a sudden dive towards the earth. The soldiers in hiding
below, who have become somewhat demoralised by the accuracy of the
British aerial bomb-throwers, have an attack of nerves. They open a
spirited fusillade in the hope of bringing the airman to earth. But
their very excitement contributes to his safety. The shots are fired
without careful aim and expend themselves harmlessly. Sweeping once more
upwards, the airman regains the pre-determined level, performs a certain
evolution in the air which warns the observer at his base that he has
made a discovery, and promptly drops his guiding signal directly over
the point from which he has drawn fire.

Operations at night are conducted by means of coloured lights or an
electrical searchlight system. In the former instance three lights
are generally carried--white, red, and green--each of which has a
distinctive meaning. If reliance is placed upon the electric light
signalling lamp, then communications are in code. But night operations
are somewhat difficult and extremely dangerous, except when the elements
are propitious. There is the ground mist which blots everything from
sight, rendering reconnaissance purely speculative. But on a clear night
the airman is more likely to prove successful. He keeps a vigilant eye
upon all ground-lights and by close observation is able to determine
their significance. It is for this reason that no lights of any
description are permitted in the advance trenches. The striking of a
match may easily betray a position to the alert eye above.

So far as the British Army is concerned a complete code is in operation
for communicating between aeroplanes and the ground at night. Very's
lights are used for this purpose, it being possible to distinguish the
respective colours at a distance of six miles and from an altitude of
2,000 feet. The lights are used both by the aeroplane and the battery of
artillery.

The code is varied frequently, but the following conveys a rough idea of
how communication is carried out by this means under cover of darkness.
The aeroplane has located its objective and has returned to the
pre-arranged altitude. A red light is thrown by the airman. It indicates
that he is directly over the enemy's position. A similarly coloured
light is shown by the artillery officer, which intimates to the airman
that his signal has been observed and that the range has been taken.

In observing the effects of artillery fire a code of signals is employed
between the airman and the artillery officer to indicate whether the
shot is "long" or "short," to the right or to the left of the mark,
while others intimate whether the fuse is correctly timed or otherwise.
It is necessary to change the code fairly frequently, not only lest
it should fall into the enemy's hands, but also to baffle the hostile
forces; otherwise, after a little experience, the latter would be able
to divine the significance of the signals, and, in anticipation of being
greeted with a warm fusillade, would complete hurried arrangements
to mitigate its effects, if not to vacate the position until the
bombardment had ceased.

Sufficient experience has already been gathered, however, to prove the
salient fact that the airman is destined to play an important part
in the direction and control of artillery-fire. Already he has been
responsible for a re-arrangement of strategy and tactics. The man aloft
holds such a superior position as to defy subjugation; the alternative
is to render his work more difficult, if not absolutely impossible.



CHAPTER X. BOMB-THROWING FROM AIR-CRAFT

During the piping times of peace the utility of aircraft as weapons of
offence was discussed freely in an academic manner. It was urged
that the usefulness of such vessels in this particular field would
be restricted to bomb-throwing. So far these contentions have been
substantiated during the present campaign. At the same time it was
averred that even as a bomb-thrower the ship of the air would prove
an uncertain quantity, and that the results achieved would be quite
contrary to expectations. Here again theory has been supported by
practice, inasmuch as the damage wrought by bombs has been comparatively
insignificant.

The Zeppelin raids upon Antwerp and Britain were a fiasco in the
military sense. The damage inflicted by the bombs was not at all in
proportion to the quantity of explosive used. True, in the case of
Antwerp, it demoralised the civilian population somewhat effectively,
which perhaps was the desired end, but the military results were nil.

The Zeppelin, and indeed all dirigibles of large size, have one
advantage over aeroplanes. They are able to throw bombs of larger size
and charged with greater quantities of high explosive and shrapnel than
those which can be hurled from heavier-than-air machines. Thus it has
been stated that the largest Zeppelins can drop single charges exceeding
one ton in weight, but such a statement is not to be credited.

The shell generally used by the Zeppelin measures about 47 inches in
length by 8 1/2 inches in diameter, and varies in weight from 200 to
242 pounds. Where destruction pure and simple is desired, the shell
is charged with a high explosive such as picric acid or T.N.T., the
colloquial abbreviation for the devastating agent scientifically known
as "Trinitrotoluene," the base of which, in common with all the high
explosives used by the different powers and variously known as lyddite,
melinite, cheddite, and so forth, is picric acid. Such a bomb, if it
strikes the objective, a building, for instance, fairly and squarely,
may inflict widespread material damage.

On the other hand, where it is desired to scatter death, as well as
destruction, far and wide, an elaborate form of shrapnel shell is
utilised. The shell in addition to a bursting charge, contains bullets,
pieces of iron, and other metallic fragments. When the shell bursts,
their contents, together with the pieces of the shell which is likewise
broken up by the explosion, are hurled in all directions over a radius
of some 50 yards or more, according to the bursting charge.

These shells are fired upon impact, a detonator exploding the main
charge. The detonator, comprising fulminate of mercury, is placed in
the head or tail of the missile. To secure perfect detonation and to
distribute the death-dealing contents evenly in all directions, it is
essential that the bomb should strike the ground almost at right
angles: otherwise the contents are hurled irregularly and perhaps in
one direction only. One great objection to the percussion system, as
the method of impact detonation is called, is that the damage may be
localised. A bomb launched from a height of say 1,000 feet attains
terrific velocity, due to the force of gravity in conjunction with its
own weight, in consonance with the law concerning a falling body, by the
time it reaches the ground. It buries itself to a certain depth before
bursting so that the forces of the explosion become somewhat muffled as
it were. A huge deep hole--a miniature volcano crater--is formed,
while all the glass in the immediate vicinity of the explosion may be
shattered by the concussion, and the walls of adjacent buildings be
bespattered with shrapnel.

Although it is stated that an airship is able to drop a single missile
weighing one ton in weight, there has been no attempt to prove the
contention by practice. In all probability the heaviest shell launched
from a Zeppelin has not exceeded 300 pounds. There is one cogent reason
for such a belief. A bomb weighing one ton is equivalent to a similar
weight of ballast. If this were discarded suddenly the equilibrium of
the dirigible would be seriously disturbed--it would exert a tendency
to fly upwards at a rapid speed. It is doubtful whether the planes
controlling movement in the vertical plane would ever be able to
counteract this enormous vertical thrust. Something would have to submit
to the strain. Even if the dirigible displaced say 20 tons, and a bomb
weighing one ton were discharged, the weight of the balloon would be
decreased suddenly by approximately five per cent, so that it would
shoot upwards at an alarming speed, and some seconds would elapse before
control was regained.

The method of launching bombs from airships varies considerably. Some
are released from a cradle, being tilted into position ready for firing,
while others are discharged from a tube somewhat reminiscent of that
used for firing torpedoes, with the exception that little or no
initial impetus is imparted to the missile; the velocity it attains is
essentially gravitational.

The French favour the tube-launching method since thereby it is stated
to be possible to take more accurate aim. The objective is sighted and
the bomb launched at the critical moment. In some instances the French
employ an automatic detonator which corresponds in a certain measure to
the time-fuse of a shrapnel shell fired from a gun.

The bomb-thrower reads the altitude of his airship as indicated by his
barometer or other recording instrument, and by means of a table at his
command ascertains in a moment the time which will elapse before the
bomb strikes the ground. The automatic detonator is set in motion and
the bomb released to explode approximately at the height to which it
is set. When it bursts the full force of the explosion is distributed
downwards and laterally. Owing to the difficulty of ensuring the
explosion of the bomb at the exact height desired, it is also made to
explode upon impact so as to make doubly sure of its efficacy.

Firing timed bombs from aloft, however, is not free from excitement and
danger, as the experience of a French airman demonstrates. His dirigible
had been commanded to make a night-raid upon a railway station which was
a strategical junction for the movement of the enemy's troops. Although
the hostile searchlights were active, the airship contrived to slip
between the spokes of light without being observed. By descending to a
comparatively low altitude the pilot was able to pick up the objective.

Three projectiles were discharged in rapid succession and then the
searchlights, being concentrated, struck the airship, revealing its
presence to the troops below. Instantly a spirited fusillade broke out.
The airmen, by throwing ballast and other portable articles overboard
pell-mell, rose rapidly, pursued by the hostile shells.

In the upward travel the bomb-thrower decided to have a parting shot.
The airship was steadied momentarily to enable the range to be taken,
the automatic detonator was set going and the bomb slipped into the
launching tube. But for some reason or other the missile jambed.

The situation was desperate. In a few seconds the bomb would burst and
shatter the airship. The bomb-thrower grabbed a tool and climbing into
the rigging below hacked away at the bomb-throwing tube until the whole
equipment was cut adrift and fell clear of the vessel. Almost instantly
there was a terrific explosion in mid-air. The blast of air caused the
vessel to roll and pitch in a disconcerting manner, but as the airman
permitted the craft to continue its upward course unchecked, she soon
steadied herself and was brought under control once more.

The bomb carried by aeroplanes differs consider ably from that used by
dirigibles, is smaller and more convenient to handle, though considering
its weight and size it is remarkably destructive. In this instance
complete reliance is placed upon detonation by impact. The latest types
of British war-plane bombs have been made particularly formidable, those
employed in the "raids in force" ranging up to 95 pounds in weight.

The type of bomb which has proved to be the most successful is
pear-shaped. The tail spindle is given an arrow-head shape, the vanes
being utilised to steady the downward flight of the missile. In falling
the bomb spins round, the rotating speed increasing as the projectile
gathers velocity. The vanes act as a guide, keeping the projectile in as
vertical a plane as possible, and ensuring that the rounded head shall
strike the ground. The earlier types of bombs were not fitted with these
vanes, the result being that sometimes they turned over and over as they
fell through the air, while more often than not they failed to explode
upon striking the ground.

The method of launching the bomb also varies considerably, experience
not having indicated the most efficient method of consummating this
end. In some cases the bombs are carried in a cradle placed beneath the
aeroplane and launched merely by tilting them in a kind of sling, one by
one, to enable them to drop to the ground, this action being controlled
by means of a lever. In another instance they are dropped over the side
of the car by the pilot, the tail of the bomb being fitted with a swivel
and ring to facilitate the operation. Some of the French aviators favour
a still simpler method. The bomb is attached to a thread and lowered
over the side. At the critical moment it is released simply by severing
the thread. Such aeroplane bombs, however, constitute a menace to the
machine and to the pilot. Should the bomb be struck by hostile rifle or
shell fire while the machine is aloft, an explosion is probable; while
should the aero plane make an abrupt descent the missiles are likely to
be detonated.

A bomb which circumvents this menace and which in fact will explode
only when it strikes the ground is that devised by Mr. Marten-Hale.
This projectile follows the usual pear-shape, and has a rotating tail to
preserve direction when in flight. The detonator is held away from the
main charge by a collar and ball-bearing which are held in place by the
projecting end of a screw-releasing spindle. When the bomb is dropped
the rotating tail causes the spindle to screw upwards until the
projection moves away from the steel balls, thereby allowing them to
fall inward when the collar and the detonator are released. In order to
bring about this action the bomb must have a fall of at least 200 feet.

When the bomb strikes the ground the detonator falls down on the charge,
fires the latter, and thus brings about the bursting of the bomb. The
projectile is of the shrapnel type. It weighs 20 pounds complete, is
charged with some four pounds of T.N.T., and carries 340 steel balls,
which represent a weight of 5 3/4 pounds.

The firing mechanism is extremely sensitive and the bomb will burst
upon impact with the hull of an airship, water, or soft soil. This
projectile, when discharged, speedily assumes the vertical position, so
that there is every probability that it will strike the ground
fairly and squarely, although at the same time such an impact is not
imperative, because it will explode even if the angle of incidence be
only 5 degrees. It is remarkably steady in its flight, the balancing and
the design of the tail frustrating completely any tendency to wobble or
to turn turtle while falling.

Other types of missile may be used. For instance, incendiary bombs have
been thrown with success in certain instances. These bombs are similar
in shape to the shrapnel projectile, but are charged with petrol or some
other equally highly inflammable mixture, and fitted with a detonator.
When they strike the objective the bursting charge breaks up the shell,
releasing the contents, and simultaneously ignites the combustible.

Another shell is the smoke-bomb, which, up to the present, has been used
only upon a restricted scale. This missile is charged with a certain
quantity of explosive to burst the shell, and a substance which, when
ignited, emits copious clouds of dense smoke. The scope of such a shell
is somewhat restricted, it is used only for the purpose of obstructing
hostile artillery fire. The shells are dropped in front of the artillery
position and the clouds of smoke which are emitted naturally inter fere
with the operations of the gunners. These bombs have also been used
with advantage to denote the position of concealed hostile artillery,
although their utility in this connection is somewhat uncertain, owing
to the difficulty of dropping the bomb so accurately as to enable the
range-finders to pick up the range.

Dropping bombs from aloft appears to be a very simple operation, but
as a matter of fact it is an extremely difficult matter to strike the
target, especially from a high altitude. So far as the aeroplane is
concerned it is somewhat at a disadvantage as compared with the airship,
as the latter is able to hover over a position, and, if a spring-gun
is employed to impart an initial velocity to the missile, there is a
greater probability of the projectile striking the target provided it
has been well-aimed. But even then other conditions are likely to arise,
such as air-currents, which may swing the missile to one side of the
objective. Consequently adequate allowance has to be made for windage,
which is a very difficult factor to calculate from aloft.

Bomb-dropping from an aeroplane is even more difficult. If for instance
the aeroplane is speeding along at 60 miles an hour, the bomb when
released will have a speed in the horizontal plane of 60 miles an hour,
because momentarily it is travelling at the speed of the aeroplane.
Consequently the shell will describe a curved trajectory, somewhat
similar to that shown in Fig. 7.

On the other hand, if the aeroplane is travelling slowly, say at 20
miles an hour, the curve of the trajectory will be flatter, and if a
head wind be prevailing it may even be swept backwards somewhat after it
has lost its forward momentum, and describe a trajectory similar to that
in Fig. 8.

A bomb released from an altitude of 1000 feet seldom, if ever, makes
a bee-line for the earth, even if dropped from a stationary airship.
Accordingly, the airman has to release the bomb before he reaches the
target below. The determination of the critical moment for the release
is not easy, inasmuch as the airman has to take into his calculations
the speed of his machine, his altitude, and the direction and velocity
of the air-currents.

The difficulty of aiming has been demonstrated upon several occasions at
aviation meetings and other similar gatherings. Monsieur Michelin,
who has done so much for aviation in France, offered a prize of
L1,00--$5,000--in 1912 for bomb-dropping from an aeroplane. The target
was a rectangular space marked out upon the ground, measuring 170 feet
long by 40 feet broad, and the missiles had to be dropped from a height
of 2,400 feet. The prize was won by the well-known American airman,
Lieutenant Riley E. Scott, formerly of the United States Army. He
dropped his bombs in groups of three. The first round fell clear of the
target, but eight of the remaining missiles fell within the area.

In the German competition which was held at Gotha in September of the
same year the results were somewhat disappointing. Two targets were
provided. The one represented a military bivouac occupying a superficies
of 330 square feet, and the other a captive balloon resembling a
Zeppelin. The prizes offered were L500, L200, and L80--$2,500, $1,000
and $400--respectively, and were awarded to those who made the greatest
number of hits. The conditions were by no means so onerous as those
imposed in the Michelin contest, inasmuch as the altitude limit was set
at 660 feet, while no machine was to descend within 165 feet. The first
competitor completely failed to hit the balloon. The second competitor
flying at 800 feet landed seven bombs within the square, but only one
other competitor succeeded in placing one bomb within the space.

Bomb-dropping under the above conditions, however, is vastly dissimilar
from such work under the grim realities of war. The airman has to act
quickly, take his enemy by surprise, avail himself of any protective
covering which may exist, and incur great risks. The opposing forces are
overwhelmingly against him. The modern rifle, if fired vertically into
the air, will hurl the bullet to a height of about 5,000 feet, while
the weapons which have been designed to combat aircraft have a range of
10,000 feet or more.

At the latter altitude aggressive tactics are useless. The airman is
unable to obtain a clear sharp view of the country beneath owing to the
interference offered to vision by atmospheric haze, even in the dearest
of weather. In order to obtain reasonable accuracy of aim the corsair
of the sky must fly at about 400 feet. In this respect, however, the
aeroplane is at a decided advantage, as compared with the dirigible. The
machine offers a considerably smaller target and moves with much greater
speed. Experience of the war has shown that to attempt to hurl bombs
from an extreme height is merely a waste of ammunition. True, they do a
certain amount of damage, but this is due to luck, not judgment.

For success in aerial bomb operations the human element is mainly
responsible. The daring airman is likely to achieve the greatest
results, as events have proved, especially when his raid is sudden and
takes the enemy by surprise. The raids carried out by Marix, Collet,
Briggs, Babington, Sippe and many others have established this fact
incontrovertibly. In all these operations the airmen succeeded because
of their intrepidity and their decision to take advantage of cover,
otherwise a prevailing mist or low-lying clouds. Flight-Lieutenant
Collet approached the Zeppelin shed at Dusseldorf at an altitude of
6,000 feet. There was a bank of mist below, which he encountered at
1,500 feet. He traversed the depth of this layer and emerged therefrom
at a height of only 400 feet above the ground. His objective was barely
a quarter of a mile ahead. Travelling at high speed he launched his
bombs with what proved to be deadly precision, and disappeared
into cover almost before the enemy had grasped his intentions.
Lieutenant-Commander, now Flight-Commander, Marix was even more daring.
Apparently he had no mist in which to conceal himself but trusted almost
entirely to the speed of his machine, which probably at times notched 90
miles per hour. Although his advent was detected and he was greeted with
a spirited fusillade he clung to his determined idea. He headed straight
for the Zeppelin shed, launched two bombs and swung into the higher
reaches of the air without a moment's hesitation. His aim was deadly,
since both bombs found their mark, and the Zeppelin docked within was
blown up. The intrepid airman experienced several narrow escapes, for
his aeroplane was struck twenty times, and one or two of the control
wires were cut by passing bullets.

The raid carried out by Commanders Briggs and Babington in company with
Lieutenant Sippe upon the Zeppelin workshops at Friedrichshafen was even
more daring. Leaving the Allies' lines they ascended to an altitude of
4,500 feet, and at this height held to the pre-arranged course until
they encountered a mist, which while protecting them from the alert eyes
of the enemy below, was responsible for the separation of the raiders,
so that each was forced to act independently and to trust to the compass
to bring him out of the ordeal successfully. Lieutenant Sippe sighted
Lake Constance, and taking advantage of the mist lying low upon the
water, descended to such an extent that he found himself only a few feet
above the roofs of the houses. Swinging round to the Lake he descended
still lower until at last he was practically skimming the surface of the
Lake, since he flew at the amazingly low height of barely seven feet
off the water. There is no doubt that the noise of his motor was heard
plainly by the enemy, but the mist completely enveloped him, and
owing to the strange pranks that fog plays with sound deceived his
antagonists.

At last, climbing above the bank of vapour, he found that he had
overshot the mark, so he turned quickly and sped backwards. At the same
time he discovered that he had been preceded by Commander Briggs, who
was bombarding the shed furiously, and who himself was the object of
a concentrated fire. Swooping down once more, Lieutenant Sippe turned,
rained his bombs upon the objective beneath, drawing fire upon himself,
but co-operating with Commander Babington, who had now reached the
scene, he manoeuvred above the works and continued the bombardment until
their ammunition was expended, when they sped home-wards under the
cover of the mist. Considering the intensity of the hostile fire, it
is surprising that the aeroplanes were not smashed to fragments.
Undoubtedly the high speed of the machines and the zigzagging courses
which were followed nonplussed the enemy. Commander Briggs was not
so fortunate as his colleagues; a bullet pierced his petrol tank,
compelling a hurried descent.

The most amazing feature of these aerial raids has been the remarkably
low height at which the airmen have ventured to fly. While such a
procedure facilitates marksmanship it increases the hazards. The airmen
have to trust implicitly to the fleetness of their craft and to their
own nerve. Bearing in mind the vulnerability of the average aeroplane,
and the general absence of protective armouring against rifle fire at
almost point-blank range, it shows the important part which the human
element is compelled to play in bomb-dropping operations.

Another missile which has been introduced by the French airmen, and
which is extremely deadly when hurled against dense masses of men,
is the steel arrow, or "flechette" as it is called. It is a fiendish
projectile consisting in reality of a pencil of solid polished steel, 4
3/4 inches in length. The lower end has a sharp tapering point, 5/8ths
of an inch in length. For a distance of 1 1/8th of an inch above this
point the cylindrical form of the pencil is preserved, but for the
succeeding three inches to the upper end, the pencil is provided with
four equally spaced angle flanges or vanes. This flanging of the upper
end or tail ensures the arrow spinning rapidly as it falls through the
air, and at the same times preserves its vertical position during its
descent. The weight of the arrow is two-thirds of an ounce.

The method of launching this fearsome projectile is ingenious. A hundred
or even more are packed in a vertical position in a special receptacle,
placed upon the floor of the aeroplane, preferably near the foot of the
pilot or observer. This receptacle is fitted with a bottom moving in the
manner of a trap-door, and is opened by pressing a lever. The aviator
has merely to depress this pedal with his foot, when the box is opened
and the whole of the contents are released. The fall at first is
somewhat erratic, but this is an advantage, as it enables the darts to
scatter and to cover a wide area. As the rotary motion of the arrows
increases during the fall, the direct line of flight becomes more
pronounced until at last they assume a vertical direction free from all
wobbling, so that when they alight upon the target they are quite plumb.

When launched from a height they strike the objective with terrific
force, and will readily penetrate a soldier's helmet and skull. Indeed,
when released at a height of 4,000 feet they have been known to pierce a
mounted soldier's head, and pass vertically through his body and that
of his horse also. Time after time German soldiers have found themselves
pinned to the ground through the arrow striking and penetrating their
feet. Owing to the extremely light weight of the darts they can be
launched in batches of hundreds at a time, and in a promiscuous manner
when the objective is a massed body of infantry or cavalry, or a
transport convoy. They are extremely effective when thrown among horses
even from a comparatively low altitude, not so much from the fatalities
they produce, as from the fact that they precipitate a stampede among
the animals, which is generally sufficiently serious and frantic to
throw cavalry or a transport-train into wild confusion.

Although aerial craft, when skilfully handled, have proved highly
successful as weapons of offence, the possibilities of such aggression
as yet are scarcely realised; aerial tactics are in their infancy.
Developments are moving rapidly. Great efforts are being centred upon
the evolution of more formidable missiles to be launched from the
clouds. The airman is destined to inspire far greater awe than at
present, to exercise a still more demoralising influence, and to work
infinitely more destruction.



CHAPTER XI. ARMOURED AEROPLANES

The stern test of war has served to reveal conclusively the fact that
aerial craft can be put out of action readily and effectively, when once
the marksman has picked up the range, whether the gunner be conducting
his operations with an anti-aircraft gun stationed upon the ground,
or from a hostile machine. It will be remembered that Flight-Commander
Briggs, on the occasion of the daring British raid upon the Zeppelin
sheds at Friedrichshafen, was brought to the ground by a bullet which
penetrated his fuel tank. Several other vessels, British, German,
French, and Russian alike, have been thrown out of action in a similar
manner, and invariably the craft which has been disabled suddenly in
this way has fallen precipitately to earth in the fatal headlong dive.

Previous to the outbreak of hostilities there was considerable
divergence of opinion upon this subject. The general opinion was that
the outspread wings and the stays which constituted the weakest parts of
the structure were most susceptible to gun-fire, and thus were likely to
fail. But practice has proved that it is the driving mechanism which is
the most vulnerable part of the aeroplane.

This vulnerability of the essential feature of the flying machine is a
decisive weakness, and exposes the aviator to a constant menace. It
may be quite true that less than one bullet in a thousand may hit the
machine, but when the lucky missile does find its billet its effect is
complete. The fact must not be overlooked that the gunners who work the
batteries of anti-aircraft guns are becoming more and more expert as a
result of practice, so that as time progresses and improved guns for
such duty are rendered available, the work of the aviator is likely to
become more dangerous and difficult. Experience has proved that the high
velocity gun of to-day is able to hurl its projectile or shell to an
extreme height--far greater than was previously considered possible--so
that considerable discretion has to be exercised by the airman, who
literally bears his life in his hands.

Although elaborate trials were carried out upon the testing ranges with
the weapons devised especially for firing upon flying machines, captive
balloons being employed as targets, the data thus obtained were neither
conclusive nor illuminating. The actual experiences of airmen have given
us some very instructive facts upon this point for the first time.

It was formerly held that the zone of fire that is to be considered as
a serious danger was within a height of about 4,500 feet. But this
estimate was well within the mark. Airmen have found that the modern
projectiles devised for this phase of operations are able to inflict
distinctly serious damage at an altitude of 9,000 feet. The shell itself
may have but little of its imparted velocity remaining at this altitude,
but it must be remembered that when the missile bursts, the contents
thereof are given an independent velocity, and a wide cone of
dispersion, which is quite sufficient to achieve the desired end,
inasmuch as the mechanism of the modern aeroplane and dirigible is
somewhat delicate.

It was for this reason that the possibility of armouring the airship was
discussed seriously, and many interesting experiments in this field were
carried out. At the same time it was decided that the armouring
should be effected upon lines analogous to that prevailing in warship
engineering. The craft should not only be provided with defensive but
also with aggressive armament. This decision was not viewed with general
approbation. It was pointed out that questions of weight would arise,
especially in relation to the speed of the machine. Increased weight,
unless it were accompanied by a proportionate augmentation of power
in the motor, would react against the efficiency and utility of the
machine, would appreciably reduce its speed, and would affect its
climbing powers very adversely. In some quarters it was maintained
that as a result the machine would even prove unsuited to military
operations, inasmuch as high speed is the primary factor in these.

Consequently it was decided by the foremost aviating experts that
machines would have to be classified and allotted to particular spheres
of work, just as warships are built in accordance with the special
duty which they are expected to perform. In reconnaissance, speed is
imperative, because such work in the air coincides with that of
the torpedo-boat or scout upon the seas. It is designed to acquire
information respecting the movements of the enemy, so as to assist the
heavier arms in the plan of campaign. On the other hand, the fighting
corsair of the skies might be likened to the cruiser or battleship. It
need not possess such a high turn of speed, but must be equipped with
hard-hitting powers and be protected against attacking fire.

One attempt to secure the adequate protection against gun-fire from the
ground assumed the installation of bullet-proof steel plating, about one
fifth of an inch thick, below the tank and the motor respectively.
The disposition of the plating was such as to offer the minimum of
resistance to the air and yet to present a plane surface to the ground
below. So far as it went this protection was completely effective, but
it failed to armour the vital parts against lateral, cross and downward
fire while aloft. As the latter is more to be feared than the fire from
the ground, seeing that it may be directed at point blank range, this
was a decided defect and the armour was subsequently abandoned as
useless.

The only effective method of achieving the desired end is to armour the
whole of the carriage or fuselage of the adroplane, and this was the
principle adopted by the Vickers Company. The Vickers military aeroplane
is essentially a military machine. It is built of steel throughout.
The skeleton of the machine is formed of an alloy which combines the
qualities of aluminium and steel to ensure toughness, strength, and
lightness. In fact, metal is employed liberally throughout, except in
connection with the wings, which follow the usual lines of construction.
The body of the car is sheathed with steel plating which is bullet proof
against rifle or even shrapnel fire. The car is designed to carry two
persons; the seats are therefore disposed tandem-wise, with the observer
or gunner occupying the front seat.

The defensive armament is adequate for ordinary purposes. Being fitted
with a 100 horse-power motor, fairly high speeds are attainable,
although the velocity is not equal to that of machines constructed upon
conventional lines, inasmuch as there is an appreciable increase in
weight.

The car is short and designed upon excellent stream lines, so that the
minimum of resistance to the air is offered, while at the same time the
balancing is perfect. The sides of the car are brought up high enough
to protect the aviators, only their heads being visible when they are
seated. The prow of the car follows the lines generally adopted in high
speed torpedo boat design; there is a sharp knife edge stem with an
enclosed fo'c's'le, the latter housing the gun.

Another craft, designed for scouting operations, may be likened to
the mosquito craft of the seas. This machine, while a biplane like
the military aeroplane, is of lighter construction, everything
being sacrificed to speed in this instance. It is fitted with a 100
horse-power motor and is designed to carry an observer if required.
There is no offensive armament, however. The fuel tank capacity,
moreover, is limited, being only sufficient for a two or three hours'
flight. While this is adequate for general reconnoitring, which for the
most part entails short high speed flights, there are occasions when
the Staff demands more prolonged observations conducted over a greater
radius. This requisition can be met by eliminating the observer, whose
duties in this instance must be assumed by the pilot, and substituting
in place of the former, a second fuel tank of sufficient capacity for a
flight of four or five hours, thereby bringing the term of action in the
air to about 6 1/4 hours. This machine travels at a very high speed and
is eminently adapted to its specific duty, but it is of limited service
for general purposes.

The arming of an aeroplane, to enable it to defend itself against
hostile attack or to participate in raiding operations upon the aerial
fleet of the enemy, appears to be a simple task, but as a matter of
fact it is an undertaking beset with difficulties innumerable. This is
especially the case where the aeroplane is of the tractive type, that is
to say where the propellers are placed in the forefront of the machine
and in their revolution serve to draw the machine forward. All other
considerations must necessarily be sacrificed to the mounting of the
propeller. Consequently it is by no means easy to allot a position for
the installation of a gun, or if such should be found there is grave
risk of the angle of fire being severely restricted. In fact, in many
instances the mounting of a gun is out of the question: it becomes a
greater menace to the machine than to the enemy.

The French aeronautical section of the military department devoted
considerable study to this subject, but found the problem almost
insurmount able. Monsieur Loiseau met with the greatest measure of
success, and his system is being practised in the present campaign. This
principle is essentially adapted to tractor aeroplanes. Forward of the
pilot a special position is reserved for the gunner. A special mounting
is provided towards the prow, and upon the upper face of the body of the
machine. The gun mounting is disposed in such a manner that it is able
to command a wide arc of fire in the vertical plane over the nose of the
machine and more particularly in the downward direction.

The marksman is provided with a special seat, but when he comes into
action he has to stand to manipulate his weapon. The lower part of his
body is protected by a front shield of steel plate, a fifth of an inch
in thickness, while a light railing extending upon either side and
behind enables the gunner to maintain his position when the aeroplane is
banking and climbing. The machine gun, of the Hotchkiss type, is mounted
upon a swivel attached to a tripod, while the latter is built into the
bracing of the car, so as to ensure a fairly steady gun platform.

While the gun in the hands of a trained marksman may be manipulated with
destructive effect, the drawbacks to the arrangement are obvious. The
gunner occupies a very exposed position, and, although the bullet-proof
shield serves to break the effects of wind when travelling at high
speed which renders the sighting and training of the weapon extremely
difficult, yet he offers a conspicuous target, more particularly when
the enemy is able to assume the upper position in the air as a result of
superior speed in travelling. The gun, however, may be elevated to about
60 degrees, which elevation may be accentuated by the inclination of the
aeroplane when climbing, while the facility with which the weapon may be
moved through the horizontal plane is distinctly favourable.

But the aerial marksman suffers from one very pronounced defect: he has
a severely restricted survey of everything below, since his vision is
interrupted by the planes. The result is that an enemy who has lost
ascendancy of position is comparatively safe if he is able to fly
immediately below his adversary: the mitrailleuse of the latter cannot
be trained upon him. On the other hand the enemy, if equipped with
repeating rifles or automatic pistols, is able to inflict appreciable
damage upon the craft overhead, the difficulties of firing vertically
into the air notwithstanding.

In the Vickers system, where the propeller is mounted behind the car,
the aeroplane thus operating upon the pusher principle, the nose of the
car is occupied by the arm, which is a rifle calibre machine gun fitted
upon a special mounting. The prow is provided with an embrasure for
the weapon and the latter is so installed as to command an angle of 30
degrees on all sides of the longitudinal axis of the machine when
in flight. In this instance the marksman is provided with complete
protection on all sides, inasmuch as his position is in the prow, where
the hood of the fo'c's'le shields him from overhead attack. The gun
is protected by a special shield which moves with the gun barrel. This
shield is provided with mica windows, through which the gunner is able
to sight his arm, so that he is not inconvenienced in any way by the
wind draught.

One shortcoming of such methods of arming an aeroplane will be observed.
Ahead firing only is possible; the weapon cannot be trained astern,
while similarly the line of fire on either broadside is severely
limited. This is one reason why the machine-gun armament of aerial craft
of the heavier-than-air type has not undergone extensive development.
In many instances the pilot and observer have expressed their preference
for repeating high velocity rifles over any form of fixed gun mounting,
and have recourse to the latter only when the conditions are extremely
favourable to its effective employment.

Efforts are now being made to equip the military type of aeroplane with
both forward and astern firing guns. The urgency of astern fire has
been brought home very vividly. Suppose, for instance, two hostile
aeroplanes, A and B, are in the air. A has the advantage at first, but
B is speedier and rapidly overhauls A. During the whole period of the
overhauling movement the gun of B can be directed upon A, while the
latter, owing to the arc of training being limited to c d cannot reply.
Obviously in the running fight it would be to the advantage of B,
although the fleeter machine, to keep behind A (position 1), but the
latter is making towards its own lines.

Under these circumstances A must be headed off, so B crowds on speed
to consummate this end. But in the overtaking process B renders his
gun-fire ineffective, inasmuch as B passes beyond the arc of his gun
which is represented by e f. But in so doing B comes within the firing
arc of A (position 9). To minimise this danger B ascends to a higher
level to obtain the paramount position.

If, however, B were equipped with an astern gun the aeroplane A would
be within the fire of B when the forward gun of the latter could not
be used. Similarly if A were also fitted with an astern gun it would be
able to attack its pursuer the whole time B was to its rear and in
this event, if its gun-fire were superior, it would be able to keep
the latter to a safe distance, or compel B to manoeuvre into a superior
position, which would entail a certain loss of time.

An astern firing gun would be valuable to B in another sense. Directly
it had passed A or brought the latter within the zone of its astern gun
it could maintain its fire at the most advantageous range, because owing
to its speed it would be able to dictate the distance over which shots
should be exchanged and if mounted with a superior weapon would be able
to keep beyond the range of A's guns while at the same time it would
keep A within range of its own gun and consequently rake the latter. In
the interests of self-preservation A would be compelled to change
its course; in fact, B would be able to drive it in any direction he
desired, as he would command A's movements by gun-fire.

The value of combined ahead and astern firing has been appreciated, but
there is one difficulty which at the moment appears to be insuperable
the clearance of the propeller. At the moment astern-firing, if such it
may be called, is maintained by repeating rifles, but this armament
is not to be compared with machine-gun firing, as the latter with
its capacity to pour 400 to 600 shots a minute, is far more deadly,
particularly when the weapon is manipulated by a crack gunner.

Up to the present the offensive armament of aeroplanes has been confined
to light machine guns such as the Hotchkiss, Berthier, Schwartlose,
and Maxim weapons. So far as the arming of aeroplanes is concerned the
indispensable condition is light weight. With airships this factor is
not so vital, the result being that some dirigibles are mounted with
guns, throwing one pound bursting shells, fitted either with delay
action or percussion fuses, the former for preference. These shells are
given a wide cone of dispersion. Experiments are also being made with a
gun similar to the pom-pom which proved so useful in South Africa, the
gun throwing small shells varying from four to eight ounces in weight at
high velocity and in rapid succession. While such missiles would not be
likely to inflict appreciable damage upon an armoured aeroplane, they
would nevertheless be disconcerting to the aviators subjected to
such fire, and in aerial combats the successful undermining of the
adversary's moral is of far greater importance than in land operations,
since immediately ascendancy in the artillery operations is attained the
final issue is a matter of moments.

But the most devastating arm which has yet been contrived for aerial
operations is the light machine gun which has recently been perfected.
The one objective with this weapon is to disable the hostile aircraft's
machinery. It fires an armour piercing projectile which, striking the
motor of any aircraft, would instantly put the latter out of action. The
shell has a diameter of about.75 inch and weighs about four ounces. The
gun is a hybrid of the mitrailleuse and the French "Soixante-quinze,"
combining the firing rapidity of the former with the recoil mechanism
of the latter. This missile has established its ability to penetrate
the defensive armouring of any aeroplane and the motor of the machine
at 1,000 yards' range. This offensive arm is now being manufactured, so
that it is likely to be seen in the near future as the main armament of
aeroplanes.

At the moment widespread efforts are being made in the direction of
increasing the offensive efficiency of aircraft. It is one of the phases
of ingenuity which has been stimulated into activity as a result of the
war.



CHAPTER XII. BATTLES IN THE AIR

Ever since the days of Jules Verne no theme has proved so popular in
fiction as fighting in the air. It was a subject which lent itself to
vivid imagination and spirited picturesque portrayal. Discussion might
be provoked, but it inevitably proved abortive, inasmuch as there was a
complete absence of data based upon actual experience. The novelist
was without any theory: he avowedly depended upon the brilliance of his
imagination. The critic could only theorise, and no matter how dogmatic
his reasonings, they were certainly as unconvincing as those of the
object of his attack.

But truth has proved stranger than fiction. The imaginative pictures
of the novelist have not only been fulfilled but surpassed, while the
theorising critic has been utterly confounded. Fighting in the air has
become so inseparable from the military operations of to-day that it
occurs with startling frequency. A contest between hostile aeroplanes,
hundreds of feet above the earth, is no longer regarded as a dramatic,
thrilling spectacle: it has become as matter-of-fact as a bayonet melee
between opposed forces of infantry.

A duel in the clouds differs from any other form of encounter. It is
fought mercilessly: there can be no question of quarter or surrender.
The white flag is no protection, for the simple reason that science and
mechanical ingenuity have failed, so far, to devise a means of taking
an aeroplane in tow. The victor has no possible method of forcing the
vanquished to the ground in his own territory except driving. If such a
move be made there is the risk that the latter will take the advantage
of a critical opportunity to effect his escape, or to turn the tables.
For these reasons the fight is fought to a conclusive finish.

To aspire to success in these combats waged in the trackless blue,
speed, initiative, and daring are essential. Success falls to the swift
in every instance. An aeroplane travelling at a high speed, and pursuing
an undulating or irregular trajectory is almost impossible to hit from
the ground, as sighting is so extremely difficult. Sighting from another
machine, which likewise is travelling rapidly, and pursuing an irregular
path, is far more so. Unless the attacker can approach relatively
closely to his enemy the possibility of hitting him is extremely remote.
Rifle or gun-fire must be absolutely point blank.

When a marauding aeroplane is espied the attacking corsair immediately
struggles for the strategical position, which is above his adversary. To
fire upwards from one aeroplane at another is virtually impossible,
at least with any degree of accuracy. The marksman is at a hopeless
disadvantage. If the pilot be unaccompanied and entirely dependent upon
his own resources he cannot hope to fire vertically above him, for
the simple reason that in so doing he must relinquish control of his
machine. A rifle cannot possibly be sighted under such conditions,
inasmuch as it demands that the rifleman shall lean back so as to obtain
control of his weapon and to bring it to bear upon his objective. Even
if a long range Mauser or other automatic pistol of the latest type be
employed, two hands are necessary for firing purposes, more particularly
as, under such conditions, the machine, if not kept under control, is
apt to lurch and pitch disconcertingly.

Even a colleague carried for the express purpose of aggression is
handicapped. If he has a machinegun, such as a Maxim or a mitrailleuse,
it is almost out of the question to train it vertically. Its useful
vertical training arc is probably limited to about 80 degrees, and
at this elevation the gunner has to assume an extremely uncomfortable
position, especially upon an aeroplane, where, under the best of
circumstances, he is somewhat cramped.

On the other hand the man in the aeroplane above holds the dominating
position. He is immediately above his adversary and firing may be
carried out with facility. The conditions are wholly in his favour.
Sighting and firing downwards, even if absolutely vertically, imposes
the minimum physical effort, with the result that the marksman is able
to bring a steadier aim upon his adversary. Even if the machine be
carrying only the pilot, the latter is able to fire upon his enemy
without necessarily releasing control of his motor, even for a moment.

If he is a skilled sharpshooter, and the exigencies demand, he can
level, sight, and fire his weapon with one hand, while under such
circumstances an automatic self-loading pistol can be trained upon the
objective with the greatest ease. If the warplane be carrying a second
person, acting as a gunner, the latter can maintain an effective rifle
fusillade, and, at the same time, manipulate his machine-gun with no
great effort, maintaining rifle fire until the pilot, by manoeuvring,
can enable the mitrailleuse or Maxim to be used to the greatest
advantage.

Hence the wonderful display of tactical operations when two hostile
aeroplanes sight one another. The hunted at first endeavours to learn
the turn of speed which his antagonist commands. If the latter is
inferior, the pursued can either profit from his advantage and race away
to safety, or at once begin to manoeuvre for position. If he is made of
stern stuff, he attempts the latter feat without delay. The pursuer, if
he realises that he is out classed in pace, divines that his quarry will
start climbing if he intends to show fight, so he begins to climb also.

Now success in this tactical move will accrue to the machine which
possesses the finest climbing powers, and here again, of course,
speed is certain to count. But, on the other hand, the prowess of the
aviator--the human element once more--must not be ignored. The war has
demonstrated very convincingly that the personal quality of the aviator
often becomes the decisive factor.

A spirited contest in the air is one of the grimmest and most thrilling
spectacles possible to conceive, and it displays the skill of the
aviator in a striking manner. Daring sweeps, startling wheels,
breathless vol-planes, and remarkable climbs are carried out. One
wonders how the machine can possibly withstand the racking strains to
which it is subjected. The average aeroplane demands space in which
to describe a turn, and the wheel has to be manipulated carefully and
dexterously, an operation requiring considerable judgment on the part of
the helmsman.

But in an aerial duel discretion is flung to the winds. The pilot
jambs his helm over in his keen struggle to gain the superior position,
causing the machine to groan and almost to heel over. The stem stresses
of war have served to reveal the perfection of the modern aeroplane
together with the remarkable strength of its construction. In one or two
instances, when a victor has come to earth, subsequent examination has
revealed the enormous strains to which the aeroplane has been subjected.
The machine has been distorted; wires have been broken--wires which have
succumbed to the enormous stresses which have been imposed and have
not been snapped by rifle fire. One well-known British airman, who was
formerly a daring automobilist, confided to me that a fight in the
air "is the finest reliability trial for an aeroplane that was ever
devised!"

In these desperate struggles for aerial supremacy the one party
endeavours to bring his opponent well within the point-blank range of
his armament: the other on his part strives just as valiantly to keep
well out of reach. The latter knows fully well that his opponent is at
a serious disadvantage when beyond point-blank range, for the simple
reason that in sighting the rifle or automatic pistol, it is difficult,
if not impossible while aloft, to judge distances accurately, and to
make the correct allowances for windage.

If, however, the dominating aviator is armed with a machine gun he
occupies the superior position, because he can pour a steady hail of
lead upon his enemy. The employment of such a weapon when the contest is
being waged over friendly territory has many drawbacks. Damage is likely
to be inflicted among innocent observers on the earth below; the airman
is likely to bombard his friends. For this very reason promiscuous
firing, in the hope of a lucky shot finding a billet in the hostile
machine, is not practised. Both parties appear to reserve their fire
until they have drawn within what may be described as fighting distance,
otherwise point blank range, which may be anything up to 300 yards.

Some of the battles between the German and the French or British
aeroplanes have been waged with a total disregard of the consequences.
Both realise that one or the other must perish, and each is equally
determined to triumph. It is doubtful whether the animosity between the
opposing forces is manifested anywhere so acutely as in the air. In some
instances the combat has commenced at 300 feet or so above the
earth, and has been fought so desperately, the machines climbing and
endeavouring to outmanoeuvre each other, that an altitude of over 5,000
feet has been attained before they have come to close grips.

The French aviator is nimble, and impetuous: the German aviator is
daring, but slow in thought: the British airman is a master of strategy,
quick in thought, and prepared to risk anything to achieve his end. The
German airman is sent aloft to reconnoitre the enemy and to communicate
his information to his headquarters. That is his assigned duty and he
performs it mechanically, declining to fight, as the welfare of his
colleagues below is considered to be of more vital importance than his
personal superiority in an aerial contest. But if he is cornered he
fights with a terrible and fatalistic desperation.

The bravery of the German airmen is appreciated by the Allies. The
French flying-man, with his traditional love for individual combat,
seeks and keenly enjoys a duel. The British airman regards such a
contest as a mere incident in the round of duty, but willingly accepts
the challenge when it is offered. It is this manifestation of what may
be described as acquiescence in any development that enabled the British
flying corps, although numerically inferior, to gain its mastery of the
air so unostentatiously and yet so completely.

All things considered an aeroplane duel is regarded as a fairly equal
combat. But what of a duel between an aeroplane and a dirigible? Which
holds the advantage? This question has not been settled, at any rate
conclusively, but it is generally conceded that up to a certain point
the dirigible is superior. It certainly offers a huge and attractive
target, but rifle fire at its prominent gas-bag is not going to cause
much havoc. The punctures of the envelope may represent so many
vents through which the gas within may effect a gradual escape, but
considerable time must elapse before the effect of such a bombardment
becomes pronounced in its result, unless the gas-bag is absolutely
riddled with machine gun-fire, when descent must be accelerated.

On the other hand, it is to be presumed that the dirigible is armed.
In this event it has a distinct advantage. It has a steady gun-platform
enabling the weapons of offence to be trained more easily and an
enhanced accuracy of fire to be obtained. In order to achieve success
it is practically imperative that an aeroplane should obtain a position
above the dirigible, but the latter can ascend in a much shorter space
of time, because its ascent is vertical, whereas the aeroplane
must describe a spiral in climbing. Under these circumstances it is
relatively easy for the airship to outmanoeuvre the aeroplane in the
vertical plane, and to hold the dominating position.

But even should the aeroplane obtain the upper position it is not
regarded with fear. Some of the latest Zeppelins have a machine gun
mounted upon the upper surface of the envelope, which can be trained
through 360 degrees and elevated to about 80 degrees vertical. Owing to
the steady gun platform offered it holds command in gun-fire, so that
the aeroplane, unless the aviator is exceptionally daring, will not
venture within the range of the dirigible. It is stated, however, that
this upper gun has proved unsatisfactory, owing to the stresses and
strains imposed upon the framework of the envelope of the Zeppelin
during firing, and it has apparently been abandoned. The position,
however, is still available for a sniper or sharpshooter.

The position in the sky between two such combatants is closely analogous
to that of a torpedo boat and a Dreadnought. The latter, so long as it
can keep the former at arm's, or rather gun's, distance is perfectly
safe. The torpedo boat can only aspire to harass its enemy by buzzing
around, hoping that a lucky opportunity will develop to enable it to
rush in and to launch its torpedo. It is the same with the aeroplane
when arrayed against a Zeppelin. It is the mosquito craft of the air.

How then can a heavier-than-air machine triumph over the unwieldy
lighter-than-air antagonist? Two solutions are available. If it can
get above the dirigible the adroplane may bring about the dirigible's
destruction by the successful launch of a bomb. The detonation of the
latter would fire the hydrogen within the gas-bag or bags, in which
event the airship would fall to earth a tangled wreck. Even if the
airship were inflated with a non-inflammable gas--the Germans claim
that their Zeppelins now are so inflated--the damage wrought by the bomb
would be so severe as to destroy the airship's buoyancy, and it would be
forced to the ground.

The alternative is very much more desperate. It involves ramming the
dirigible. This is undoubtedly possible owing to the speed and facile
control of the aeroplane, but whether the operation would be successful
remains to be proved. The aeroplane would be faced with such a
concentrated hostile fire as to menace its own existence--its forward
rush would be frustrated by the dirigible just as a naval vessel parries
the ramming tactics of an enemy by sinking the latter before she reaches
her target, while if it did crash into the hull of the dirigible,
tearing it to shreds, firing its gas, or destroying its equilibrium,
both protagonists would perish in the fatal dive to earth. For this
reason ramming in mid-air is not likely to be essayed except when the
situation is desperate.

What happens when two aeroplanes meet in dire combat in mid-air and one
is vanquished? Does the unfortunate vessel drop to earth like a stone,
or does it descend steadily and reach the ground uninjured? So far as
actual experience has proved, either one of the foregoing contingencies
may happen. In one such duel the German aeroplane was observed to start
suddenly upon a vol-plane to the ground. Its descending flight carried
it beyond the lines of the Allies into the territory of its friends.
Both came to the conclusion that the aviator had effected his escape.
But subsequent investigation revealed the fact that a lucky bullet
from the Allies' aeroplane had lodged in the brain of the German pilot,
killing him instantly. At the moment when Death over took him the
aviator had set his plane for the descent to the ground, and the machine
came to earth in the manner of a glider.

But in other instances the descent has been far more tragic. The
aeroplane, deprived of its motive power, has taken the deadly headlong
dive to earth. It has struck the ground with terrific violence, burying
its nose in the soil, showing incidentally that a flying machine is an
indifferent plough, and has shattered itself, the debris soaked with
the escaping fuel becoming ignited. In any event, after such a fall the
machine is certain to be a wreck. The motor may escape damage, in
which event it is salvaged, the machine subsequently being purposely
sacrificed to the flames, thereby rendering it no longer available
to the enemy even if captured. In many instances the hostile fire has
smashed some of the stays and wires, causing the aeroplane to lose its
equilibrium, and sending it to earth in the manner of the proverbial
stone, the aviators either being dashed to pieces or burned to death.

What are the vulnerable parts of the aeroplane? While the deliberate
intention of either combatant is to put his antagonist hors de combat,
the disablement of the machine may be achieved without necessarily
killing or even seriously wounding the hostile airman. The prevailing
type of aeroplane is highly susceptible to derangement: it is like a
ship without armour plate protection. The objective of the antagonist is
the motor or the fuel-tank, the vital parts of the machine, as much as
the aviator seated within.

A well-planted shot, which upsets the mechanism of the engine, or a
missile which perforates the fuel tank, thereby depriving the motor of
its sustenance, will ensure victory as conclusively as the death of the
aviator himself. Rifle fire can achieve either of these ends with little
difficulty. Apart from these two nerve-centres, bombardment is not
likely to effect the desired disablement, inasmuch as it cannot be
rendered completely effective. The wings may be riddled like a sieve,
but the equilibrium of the machine is not seriously imperilled thereby.
Even many of the stays may be shot away, but bearing in mind the slender
objective they offer, their destruction is likely to be due more to
luck than judgment. On the other hand, the motor and fuel tank of the
conventional machine offer attractive targets: both may be put out of
action readily, and the disablement of the motive power of an enemy's
craft, be it torpedo-boat, battleship, or aeroplane, immediately places
the same at the assailant's mercy.

Nevertheless, of course, the disablement of the airman brings about
the desired end very effectively. It deprives the driving force of its
controlling hand; The aeroplane becomes like a ship without a rudder: a
vessel whose helmsman has been shot down. It is unmanageable, and likely
to become the sport of the element in which it moves. It is for this
reason that aviators have been urged to direct their fire upon the men
and mechanism of a dirigible in the effort to put it out of action.
An uncontrolled airship is more likely to meet with its doom than an
aeroplane. The latter will inevitably glide to earth, possibly damaging
itself seriously in the process, as events in the war have demonstrated,
but a helpless airship at once becomes the sport of the wind, and anyone
who has assisted, like myself, in the descent of a vessel charged with
gas and floating in the air, can appreciate the difficulties experienced
in landing. An uncontrolled Zeppelin, for instance, would inevitably
pile up in a tangled twisted ruin if forced to descend in the manner of
an ordinary balloon. Consequently the pilot of a dirigible realises to
the full the imperative urgency of keeping beyond the point-blank fire
of aerial mosquito craft.

The assiduity with which British aviators are prepared to swarm to the
attack has been responsible for a display of commendable ingenuity
on the part of the German airman. Nature has provided some of its
creatures, such as the octopus, for instance, with the ways and means
of baffling its pursuers. It emits dense clouds of inky fluid when
disturbed, and is able to effect its escape under cover of this screen.

The German aviator has emulated the octopus. He carries not only
explosive bombs but smoke balls as well. When he is pursued and he finds
himself in danger of being overtaken, the Teuton aviator ignites these
missiles and throws them overboard. The aeroplane becomes enveloped in
a cloud of thick impenetrable smoke. It is useless to fire haphazard
at the cloud, inasmuch as it does not necessarily cover the aviator. He
probably has dashed out of the cloud in such a way as to put the screen
between himself and his pursuer.

In such tactics he has merely profited by a method which is practised
freely upon the water. The torpedo boat flotilla when in danger of being
overwhelmed by superior forces will throw off copious clouds of smoke.
Under this cover it is able to steal away, trusting to the speed of the
craft to carry them well beyond gunshot. The "smoke screen," as it is
called, is an accepted and extensively practised ruse in naval strategy,
and is now adopted by its mosquito colleagues of the air.



CHAPTER XIII. TRICKS AND RUSES TO BAFFLE THE AIRMAN

The airman has not been allowed to hold his undisputed sway in military
operations for long. Desperate situations demand drastic remedies and
already considerable and illuminating ingenuity is being displayed to
baffle and mislead the scout of the skies.

It is a somewhat curious and noteworthy fact, that the Germans were
among the first to realise the scope of the airman's activities, and the
significance of their relation to the conveyance of intimate information
and the direction of artillery fire. Consequently, they now spare no
effort to convey illusory information, in the hope that the hostile
force may ultimately make a false move which may culminate in disaster.

Thus, for instance, as much endeavour is bestowed upon the fashioning of
dummy trenches as upon the preparation of the actual lines of defence.
And every care will be taken to indicate that the former are strongly
held. The dug-outs are complete and at places are apparently cunningly
masked. If the airman is flying swiftly, he is likely to fail to
distinguish the dummy from the real trenches. To him the defences appear
to be far more elaborate and more strongly held than is the actual case.

The advantage of this delusion is obvious when a retreat is being made.
It enables the enemy to withdraw his forces deliberately and in perfect
order, and to assume another and stronger position comparatively at
leisure. The difficulty of detecting the dummies is emphasised, inasmuch
as now, whenever the sound of an aeroplane is heard, or a glimpse
thereof is obtained, the men keep well down and out of sight. Not a sign
of movement is observable. For all the airman may know to the contrary,
the trenches may be completely empty, whereas, as a matter of fact,
they are throbbing with alert infantry, anxious for a struggle with the
enemy.

This is one instance where the dirigible is superior to the aeroplane.
The latter can only keep circling round and round over the suspicious
position; the movement through the air interferes with close continuous
observation. On the other hand, the dirigible can maintain a stationary
position aloft for hours on end. Then the issue is resolved into a
contest of patience, with the advantage to the airman. The soldiers in
the trenches fret and fume under cover; confined concealment is irksome
and is a supreme test of the nerves. Unless the soldiers are made of
very stern stuff, physical endurance succumbs. Some rash act--apparently
very trivial--may be committed; it suffices for the vigilant
sentinel overhead. He detects the slender sign of life, forms his own
conclusions, and returns to his headquarters with the intelligence that
the enemy is playing "Brer Rabbit."

It has also become increasingly difficult for the airman to gather
absolutely trustworthy data concerning the disposition and movement of
troops. Small columns are now strung out along the highways to convey
the impression that the moving troops are in far greater force than is
actually the case, while the main body is under the cover offered by
a friendly wood and is safe from detection. The rapidity with which
thousands of men are able to disappear when the word "Airman" is passed
round is astonishing. They vanish as completely and suddenly as
if swallowed by the earth or dissolved into thin air. They conceal
themselves under bushes, in ditches, lie prone under hedgerows, dart into
houses and outbuildings--in short, take every cover which is available,
no matter how slender it may seem, with baffling alacrity. The
attenuated column, however, is kept moving along the highway for the
express purpose of deceiving the airman.

Advancing troops also are now urged to move forward under the shelter
of trees, even if the task entails marching in single or double file, to
escape the prying eyes of the man above. By keeping close to the line
of trunks, thus taking full advantage of the overhanging branches, and
marching in such a manner as to create little dust, it is possible to
escape the aerial scout.

The concealment of cavalry, however, is somewhat difficult. An animal,
especially if he be unaccustomed to the noise of the aeroplane,
is likely to become startled, and to give vent to a frightened and
vociferous neighing which invariably provokes a hearty response from
his equine comrades. The sharp ear of the airman does not fail to
distinguish this sound above the music of his motor. Again, he has come
to regard all copses and stretches of undergrowth with suspicion. Such
may or may not harbour the enemy, but there is no risk in making an
investigation. He swoops down, and when a short distance above the
apparently innocent copse, circles round it two or three times. Still
undecided, he finally hurls a bomb. Its detonation invariably proves
effective. The horses stampede and the secret is out. Even foot
soldiers must be severely trained and experienced to resist the natural
inclination to break cover when such a missile is hurled into their
midst.

Frequently a force, which has laboured under the impression that it is
safe from detection, has revealed its presence unwittingly and upon the
spur of the moment. If the men be steeled against the bomb attack, it
is almost impossible to resist the inclination to take a shot when the
airman, swooping down, ventures so temptingly near as to render him
an enticing target almost impossible to miss. As a rule, however, the
observer is on the alert for such a betrayal of a force's existence.
When the bomb fails to scatter the enemy, or the men are proof against
the temptation to fire a volley, a few rounds from the aeroplane's
machine gun often proves effective. If the copse indeed be empty no harm
is done, beyond the abortive expenditure of a few rounds of ammunition:
if it be occupied, the fruits of the manoeuvre are attractive. Cunning
is matched against cunning, and the struggle for supremacy in the art of
craftiness is keen.

The French Flying Corps have had recourse to an ingenious ruse for
accomplishing two ends--the one to draw concealed artillery fire, and
the other to pre-occupy the airmen. Two German aerial scouts observed a
French machine flying at a somewhat venturesome height over their masked
artillery. Divining the reason for the hostile intrepidity they
gave chase. Circling round the French machine they assailed it with
machine-gun fire. The enemy appeared to take no notice but continued his
gradual descent in a steady line.

Presently the German airmen, having drawn sufficiently near, observed
that the French aviator was inert. Had he been killed? Everything
pointed to such a conclusion, especially as they had raked the aeroplane
fore and aft with bullets. But still suspicious they continued their
circling movements, their attention so concentrated upon their quarry
that they had not observed another move. It was the crash of guns from
their masked artillery which broke in upon their absorption. Looking
round, they observed three French aeroplanes soaring around and above
them at high speed. Scarcely had they realised the situation before
a spirited mitraireuse fire was rained upon them. One of the German
aeroplanes was speedily disabled. Its fuel tank was riddled and it sank
rapidly, finally crashing to earth in the deadly dive head foremost,
and killing both its occupants in the fall. The second aeroplane hurried
away with its pilot wounded. In the excitement of the aerial melee the
first French aeroplane had been forgotten. It was now scarcely 100 feet
above the German artillery. A capture appeared to be imminent, but the
Germans received a rude surprise. Suddenly the aeroplane exploded and a
hail of shrapnel burst over the heads of the artillerymen.

The circumstance was decidedly uncanny, but after two or three such
experiences of exploding aeroplanes the matter was explained. The
apparently helpless aeroplane was merely a glider, which, instead of
carrying a man, had a booby-trap aboard.

It appears that the French airmen have found a use for the aeroplanes
which are considered unsafe for further use. The motor and propeller are
removed and the dummy of explosives is strapped into position. The
laden glider is then taken aloft by means of an airship, and in the
concealment of the clouds is released, the rudder being so set as to
ensure a gradual vol-plane towards the suspicious position below. The
explosive cargo is set with a time fuse, the arrangement being that the
contents will be detonated while the machine is near the ground, unless
this end is accelerated by a well-planted shell from an anti-aircraft
gun. The decoy glider is generally accompanied by one or two aeroplanes
under control, which keep under the cover of the clouds until the
hostile aviators have been drawn into the air, when they swoop down
to the attack. The raiders are fully aware that they are not likely to
become the target of fire from the ground, owing to the fact that the
enemy's artillery might hit its friends. Consequently the antagonistic
airmen are left to settle their own account. In the meantime the
dummy machine draws nearer to the ground to explode and to scatter its
death-dealing fragments of steel, iron, and bullets in all directions.

Possibly in no other phase of warfare is subterfuge practised so
extensively as in the concealment of guns. The branches of trees
constitute the most complete protection and guns are placed in position
beneath a liberal cover of this character. The branches also offer a
screen for the artillerymen, who can lurk beneath this shelter until the
aeroplane has passed. To complete the illusion dummy guns fashioned
from tree trunks and the wheels of useless limbers are rigged up, and
partially hidden under branches, the idea being to convey the impression
to the man aloft that they are the actual artillery.

The aerial scout observes the dummies beneath the sparse covering of
branches. Congratulating himself upon his sharp eyesight, he returns
to his base with the intelligence that he has found the enemy's guns
he indicates their position upon the map, and in some cases returns to
notify the position of the weapons by smoke-ball or tinsel, when they
are immediately subjected to a severe bombardment. He follows the
shell-fire and sees the arms put out of action. He returns to camp
satisfied with his exploit, oblivious of the smiles and laughter of the
hostile artillerymen, who have their guns safely in position and
well masked some distance away. The dummies are imperfectly concealed
purposely, so that they may be discovered by the aerial scout, while the
real guns are completely masked and ready to belch forth from another
point. In one or two cases the dummies have been rigged up in such a
manner as to convey the impression, when seen from aloft, that a whole
battery has been put out of action, barrels and wheels as well as broken
limbers strewing the ground in all directions.

Moving masses of soldiers are also resorting to cunning in order to
mislead the airman or to escape his observation. At the battle of
Haelen, during which engagement the German warplanes were exceptionally
active, the Belgian soldiers covered their heads with bundles of wheat
snatched from the standing stooks, and under this cover lurked in a
field where the corn was still standing. From aloft their forms defied
detection: the improvised headgear completely covered them and blended
effectively with the surrounding wheat. In another instance the French
misled a German airman somewhat effectively. What appeared to be
cavalry was seen to be retreating along the country road, and the airman
returned hurriedly to report. A German squadron was dispatched in hasty
pursuit. But as it rounded a copse skirting the road it received a
murderous fire at close quarters, which decimated the ranks and sent the
survivors flying for their lives along the road up which they had ridden
so confidently. Had the aviator been in a position to observe the horses
more closely, he would have found that what appeared to be riders on
their backs were in reality sacks stuffed with straw, dressed in old
uniforms, and that a mere handful of men were driving the animals
forward. The cavalrymen had purposely dismounted and secreted themselves
in the wood in anticipation of such a pursuit as was made.

While the Germans do not appear to be so enterprising in this form
of ingenuity they have not been idle. A French airman flying over the
Teuton lines observed the outermost trenches to be alive with men whose
helmets were distinctly visible. The airman reported his observations
and the trench was subjected to terrific shell fire. Subsequently
the French made a spirited charge, but to their dismay found that the
outermost German trench was occupied by dummies fashioned from all sorts
of materials and crowned with helmets! This ruse had enabled the German
lines to be withdrawn to another position in safety and comparatively at
leisure.

Before war was declared the German military experts were emphasising
the importance of trees for masking troops and guns against aerial
observation. One of the foremost authorities upon military aviation
only a few months ago urged the German Military Staff to encourage the
planting of orchards, not for the purpose of benefiting agriculture or
in the interests of the farmers, but merely for military exigencies.

He pointed to the extensive orchards which exist in Alsace-Lorraine
and Baden, the military covering value of which he had determined from
personal experience, having conducted aerial operations while military
were moving to and fro under the cover of the trees. He declared that
the cover was efficient and that under the circumstances the laying
out of extensive orchards in strategical places should be carried out
without any delay. This, he urged, was a national and not a private
obligation. He advocated the bestowal of subsidies on the farmers to
encourage the planting of fruit trees. He suggested that the trees
should be provided by the State, and given to all who were prepared to
plant them; that substantial prizes should be awarded to encourage the
rapid growth thereof, and that annual prizes should be awarded to the
man who would undertake their cultivation and pruning, not from the
fruit-yielding point of view, but for facilitating the movement of
troops beneath their dense branches.

He even urged the military acquisition of suitable land and its
determined, skilful, and discreet exploitation by those who loved the
Fatherland. He emphasised the necessity for keeping such orchards
under military control, only vouchsafing sufficient powers to the local
authorities to ensure the desired consummation. He maintained that, if
the work were prosecuted upon the right lines and sufficient financial
assistance were given, the purpose in view could be achieved without
saddling the war department with any unremunerative or excessive burden.
He admitted that the process of raising fruit trees to the stage
when they would afford adequate cover would be tedious and somewhat
prolonged, but argued that the military advantages, such as enabling
troops to move below the welcome shelter with absolute freedom and
without physical fatigue, would be an ample compensation.

The utility of such cover to artillery was another factor he did not
fail to emphasise. He dwelt seriously upon the difficulty of rendering
permanent gun emplacements and heavy artillery invisible to the airman
by resort to the usual type of gun shields. The latter may be located
with ease by alert airmen, whereas if the guns were under cover of fruit
trees they would be able to accomplish their deadly mission without
betraying their presence to the aerial scout. Moreover, by pruning the
trees in such a manner as to ensure free movement beneath, the artillery
would be able to advance without betraying the fact to the enemy.

This authority vigorously insisted that the work should be carried out
without a moment's delay as it was vital to the Fatherland. In the
light of recent events, and the excellent cover which is offered by the
orchards of the territory he cited as an illustration of his contention,
such a disclosure is pregnant with meaning. It throws a new light upon
the thorough methods with which the Germans carried out their military
preparations, and incidentally shows that they were fully alive to
every possible development. Fruit-raising as a complement to military
operations may be a new line of discussion, but it serves to reveal the
German in his true light, ready for every contingency, and shows how
thoroughly he appreciates the danger from the man in the clouds.



CHAPTER XIV. ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS. MOBILE WEAPONS.

When the airship and the aeroplane became accepted units of warfare it
was only natural that efforts should be concentrated upon the evolution
of ways and means to compass their destruction or, at least, to restrict
their field of activity. But aircraft appeared to have an immense
advantage in combat. They possess virtually unlimited space in which to
manoeuvre, and are able to select the elevation from which to hurl their
missiles of destruction.

There is another and even more important factor in their favour. A
projectile fired, or even dropped, from a height, say of 5,000 feet,
is favourably affected by the force of gravity, with the result that
it travels towards the earth with accumulating energy and strikes the
ground with decisive force.

On the other hand, a missile discharged into space from a weapon on the
earth has to combat this action of gravity, which exercises a powerful
nullifying influence upon its flight and velocity, far in excess of
the mere resistance offered by the air. In other words, whereas the
projectile launched from aloft has the downward pull of the earth or
gravitational force in its favour, the shell fired from the ground in
the reverse direction has to contend against this downward pull and its
decelerating effect.

At the time when aircraft entered the realms of warfare very little
was known concerning the altitudes to which projectiles could be
hurled deliberately. Certain conclusive information upon this point was
available in connection with heavy howitzer fire, based on calculations
of the respective angles at which the projectile rose into the air and
fell to the ground, and of the time the missile took to complete its
flight from the gun to the objective. But howitzer fire against aircraft
was a sheer impossibility: it was like using a six-inch gun to kill a
fly on a window pane at a thousand yards' range. Some years ago
certain experiments in aerial firing with a rifle were undertaken
in Switzerland. The weapon was set vertically muzzle upwards and
discharged. From the time which elapsed between the issue of the bullet
from the muzzle until it struck the earth it was possible to make
certain deductions, from which it was estimated that the bullet reached
an altitude of 600 feet or so. But this was merely conjecture.

Consequently when artillerists entered upon the study of fighting
air-craft with small arms and light guns, they were compelled to
struggle in the dark to a very pronounced extent, and this darkness was
never satisfactorily dispelled until the present war, for the simple
reason that there were no means of getting conclusive information. The
German armament manufacturers endeavoured to solve the problem by using
smoking shells or missiles fitted with what are known as tracers. By
following the ascensional path of the projectiles as revealed by the
smoke it was possible to draw certain conclusions. But these were by no
means convincing or illuminating, as so many factors affected the issue.

Despite the peculiar and complex difficulties associated with the
problem it was attacked some what boldly. In this trying field of
artillery research the prominent German armament manufacturers, Krupp
of Essen and Ehrhardt of Dusseldorf, played a leading part, the result
being that before the airship or the aeroplane was received within the
military fold, the anti-aircraft gun had been brought into the field
of applied science. The sudden levelling-up serves to illustrate the
enterprise of the Germans in this respect as well as their perspicacity
in connection with the military value of aircraft.

Any gun we can hope to employ against aircraft with some degree of
success must fulfil special conditions, for it has to deal with a
difficult and elusive foe. Both the lighter-than-air and the heavier
than-air craft possess distinctive features and varying degrees of
mobility. Taking the first-named, the facility with which it can vary
its altitude is a disconcerting factor, and is perplexing to the most
skilful gunner, inasmuch as he is called upon to judge and change the
range suddenly.

On the other hand, the artilleryman is favoured in certain directions.
The range of utility of the airship is severely limited. If its avowed
mission is reconnaissance and conclusive information concerning the
disposition of forces, artillery and so forth is required, experience
has proved that such work cannot be carried out satisfactorily or with
any degree of accuracy at a height exceeding 5,000 feet, and a distance
beyond six miles. But even under these circumstances the climatic
conditions must be extremely favourable. If the elements are
unpropitious the airship must venture nearer to its objective. These
data were not difficult to collect, inasmuch as they were more or
less available from the results of military observations with captive
balloons, the conditions being somewhat similar. With the ordinary
captive balloon it has been found that, in clear weather, a radius of
about 3 3/4 miles at the maximum elevation constitutes its range of
reliable utility.

With the aeroplane, however, the conditions are very dissimilar. In the
first place the machine owing to its diminutive size as compared with
the airship, offers a small and inconspicuous target. Then there is
its high independent speed, which is far beyond that of the airship.
Furthermore its mobility is greater. It can wheel, turn sharply to the
right or to the left, and pursue an irregular undulating flight in the
horizontal plane, which renders it well nigh impossible for a gunner to
pick it up. The machine moves at a higher relative speed than that at
which the gun can be trained. It is the rapid and devious variation
which so baffles the gunner, who unless he be highly skilled and
patient, is apt to commence to fire wildly after striving for a few
moments, and in vain, to pick up the range; he trusts to luck or depends
upon blind-shooting, which invariably results in a waste of ammunition.

A gun, to be of tangible destructive efficiency when directed against
aircraft, especially those depending upon the gas-bag for equilibrium,
must be of special design. It must be capable of firing at an angle only
a few degrees less than the absolute vertical, and in order to follow
the rapid and involved movements of its objective, must be so mobile
that it can be trained through a complete circle at any angle of
inclination less than its maximum. At the same time, if the weapon is
being used in field operations it must be mounted upon a carriage of
adequate mobility to enable it to follow the airship, and thereby keep
pace with the latter, so that the aerial craft may be sorely harassed if
not actually hit. The automobile is the obvious vehicle for this duty,
and it has accordingly been extensively used in this service.

The automobile and the gun mounted thereon follow widely different
lines. Some vehicles are designed especially for this duty, while others
are improvisations, and be it noted, in passing, that many of the latter
have proved more serviceable than the former. Still, the first-named
is to be preferred, inasmuch as necessarily it is designed to meet the
all-round requirements imposed, and consequently is better able to
stand up to the intended work, whereas the extemporised vehicle is only
serviceable under favourable conditions.

The Krupp Company has evolved many designs of anti-aircraft motor-driven
guns--"Archibalds" the British airmen term them with emphatic levity.
They are sturdily-built vehicles fitted with heavy motors, developing
from 40 to 50 horse-power, with the chassis not widely dissimilar from
that adopted for motor-omnibus traffic. Consequently, they are not
necessarily condemned to the high-roads, but within certain limits
are able to travel across country, i.e., upon fields or other level
expanses, where the soil is not unduly soft.

But the very character of the problem rendered the evolution of the
vehicle a somewhat perplexing matter. There were many factors which had
to be taken into consideration, and it was possible to meet the imposed
requirements only within certain limits. In the first place, the weight
of the gun itself had to be kept down. It was obviously useless to
overload the chassis. Again, the weight of the projectile and its
velocity had to be borne in mind. A high velocity was imperative.
Accordingly, an initial velocity varying from 2,200 to 2,700 feet per
second, according to the calibre of the gun, was determined.

Moreover, as mobility was an indispensable condition, the gun had to be
so mounted that it could be fired from the motor-car even if the
latter were travelling at high speed. This requirement entailed another
difficulty. The gun had to be mounted in such a manner as to enable the
gunner to train it easily and readily through the complete circle and
through its complete range of vertical inclination. As the result
of prolonged experiments it was ascertained that the most suitable
arrangement was a pedestal mounting, either within a turret or upon an
open deck. To meet the weight of the gun, as well as the strains and
stresses incidental to firing, the chassis was strengthened, especially
over the rear axle near which the mounting is placed.

The heaviest gun of this type is the 10.5 centimetre (4 1/4-inch)
quick-firer, throwing a shell weighing nearly forty pounds, with an
initial velocity of 2,333 feet per second. This "Archibald" is totally
unprotected. The gun is mounted centrally upon the carriage over the
rear axle, and occupies the centre of the deck between the driver's seat
and that of the gun crew behind. The whole of the deck is clear, thereby
offering no obstruction to the gunner in training the weapon, while the
space may be widened by dropping down the wings of the vehicle. At the
rear is a seat to accommodate the gun crew, beneath which the ammunition
is stowed. When travelling and out of action, the gun lies horizontally,
the muzzle pointing from the rear of the car.

To reduce the strains arising from firing, the arm is fitted with
what is known as the "differential recoil." Above the breach is an air
recuperator and a piston, while there is no hydraulic brake such as is
generally used. The compressor is kept under compression while the car
is travelling with the gun out of action, so that the arm is available
for instant firing. This is a departure from the general practice in
connection with such weapons. When the gun is loaded the bolt which
holds the compressor back is withdrawn, either by the hand for manual
firing, or by the action of the automatic closing of the breech when the
arm is being used as a quick-firer. In firing the gun is thrown forward
under the pressure of the released air which occurs at the moment of
discharge. The energy of the recoil brings the gun back and at the same
time recharges the compressed air reservoir.

The gun is so mounted upon its pedestal as to enable a maximum vertical
inclination of 75 degrees to be obtained. The mounting system also
enables the weapon to be trained in any desired direction up to the
foregoing maximum elevation throughout a complete circle, and it can
be handled with ease and celerity. A smaller "Archibald" is the 7.5
centimetre (3-inch gun) throwing a 14.3 pound shell at an initial
velocity of about 2,170 feet per second.

The turret anti-aircraft gun carried upon a motor-car differs from the
foregoing very considerably. This is a protected arm. The gun of 7.1
centimetres--approximately 2.75 inches--is mounted in the same manner
upon the car-deck and over the driving axle, but is enclosed within a
sheet steel turret, which is proof against rifle and machine-gun
fire. This turret resembles the conning-tower of a battleship, and is
sufficiently spacious to house the whole of the gun crew, the internal
diameter being about seven feet. Access to the turret is obtained
through a rear door. This gun has a maximum elevation of about 75
degrees, while its operation and mechanism are similar to those of the
unprotected weapon.

The vehicle itself is practically identical with the armoured motor-car,
which has played such an important part during the present campaign, the
driver being protected by a bullet-proof steel screen similar in design
to the ordinary glass wind-screen fitted to touring automobiles. This is
carried sufficiently high to offer complete protection to his head when
seated at the wheel, while through a small orifice in this shield he is
able to obtain a clear view of the road. The engine and its vital
parts are also adequately protected. The ammunition is carried in a
cupboard-like recess forming part of the driver's seat, encased in
bullet-proof steel sheeting with flap-doors. This device enables the
shells to be withdrawn readily from the side of the car and passed to
the crew within the turret. The caisson is of sufficient dimensions to
receive 69 shells.

The Ehrhardt airship fighting ordnance is similarly adapted to motor-car
operations, one type being especially powerful. The whole of the vehicle
is encased in armour-plating impervious to rifle and machine-gun fire.
The driver is provided with a small orifice through which he is able to
obtain a clear uninterrupted view of the road ahead, while the armouring
over the tonneau is carried to a sufficient height to allow head-room to
the gun crew when standing at the gun. All four wheels are of the disk
type and fashioned from heavy sheet steel. The motor develops 40-50
horse-power and, in one type, in order to mitigate the risk of
breakdown or disablement, all four wheels are driven. The gun, a small
quick-firer, is mounted on a pedestal in a projecting conning-tower. The
mounting is placed behind the driver's seat, and is trained and operated
from the tonneau. The maximum elevation is 75 degrees, and like the
gun carriage bearing the tube guide it can be moved through a complete
circle, being free to rotate in the fixed pivot jack to enable this end
to be attained.

The foregoing may be said to represent the most powerful types of mobile
anti-aircraft weapons used by the Austro-German forces to-day. Arms of
similar design, roughly speaking, have also been introduced into the
French and Russian services. In addition many semi-armoured weapons
of this character are in operation, some specially built for the work,
while others have been improvised. In the semi-armoured motor-car the
carriage follows the usual lines; it has an open top, the armouring
comprising the body of the tonneau and the diskwheels, which are made of
light bullet-proof steel. Here again the prevailing practice is to mount
the gun as nearly above the rear axle as possible, and to work it from
the tonneau. The maximum elevation is also 75 degrees, with training
throughout the entire circle.

Another type comprises a very light machine gun of rifle calibre, and
this is intended for attachment to an ordinary motor car. There is a
pedestal mounting which can be set within the tonneau, while the weapon
is pivoted in an outrigger, the latter being free to rotate in its pivot
jack. This arrangement enables the arm to cover a wide range, while it
also admits of training through an extensive angle of elevation.

The Allied forces improvised travelling anti-aircraft offences by
mounting the latest types of Vickers, Hotchkiss, and other machine guns
in armoured motor cars. Some of these have the domed turret form, with
the gun projecting through the roof, while others are protected against
hostile attack from the side only, the carriage being panelled with
bullet-proof steel sheeting. While such weapons are useful, inasmuch as
they can maintain a hot fire ranging up to 750 shots per minute, they
are not to be compared with the "Archibalds," which are able to throw
heavy shrapnel and incendiary shells, and have a vertical range of about
6,000 to 8,000 feet.

The improvised motor-gun has not proved a complete success, except
in those instances when the hostile aircraft has ventured to approach
somewhat closely to the ground. The more formidable weapons cannot be
mounted upon ordinary vehicles, inasmuch as the increase in weight,
which is appreciable, impairs the efficiency of the vehicle, and at the
same time enhances the possibility of breakdown at a critical moment.
For such arms a special and substantial chassis is imperative, while the
motive power and gearing must be adapted to the circumstances.

Motor-mounted anti-aircraft weapons, however, have not proved an
unqualified success. The fact that the vehicles are condemned to the
high roads, or at least to comparatively smooth and level ground,
constitutes a severe handicap. Again, when travelling at high speed, and
this is essential when pursuing a fast aeroplane, the accurate laying
of the weapon is extremely difficult, owing to the oscillation of the
vehicle itself, especially if the road surface is in a bad condition.
The sighting arrangements are of a wonderfully complete character, as
described elsewhere, but the irregular rolling movement arising from
high speed is a nullifying quantity. It is tolerably easy for the
aircraft, especially an aeroplane, to evade successful pursuit, either
by rising to an elevation beyond the range of the gun, or by carrying
out baffling evolutions such as irregular undulating flight, wheeling,
and climbing. According to the reports of the British and French airmen
the "Archibald" has failed to establish the glowing reputation which was
anticipated, for the simple reason that, unless it has a clear straight
road and can maintain its high speed, it can easily be out-distanced by
the fleet human bird.

The motor-car suffers from another serious disability. It cannot
manoeuvre with sufficient celerity. For instance, if it is necessary to
turn round in a narrow lane, valuable time is lost in the process, and
this the airman turns to account. In hilly country it is at a still
greater disadvantage, the inclines, gradients, and sinuosities of the
roads restricting its effectiveness very pronouncedly. It must also be
remembered that, relatively speaking, the "Archibald" offers a better
target to the airman than the aeroplane offers to the man behind the
anti-aircraft gun on the motor below. A few well-placed bombs are
sufficient to induce the pursuers to cease their activities. Even if the
missiles fail to strike the motor-car itself they can wreak disaster in
directly by rendering the road impassable or dangerous to negotiate
at high speed. On the whole therefore, the "Archibald" is a greatly
exaggerated weapon of offence against aircraft, and, so far as is known,
has failed to fulfil expectations. In fact, the Germans have practically
abandoned the idea of using it in the manner of a pursuing arm; they
work the weapon as a fixture, depending upon the car merely as a
means of moving it from point to point. Thus, in reality, it has been
converted into a light field-piece, and may almost be included in the
category of fixed weapons for combating aerial operations.



CHAPTER XV. ANTI-AIRCRAFT GUNS. IMMOBILE WEAPONS

The immobile anti-aircraft gun, as distinct from that attached to a
travelling carriage such as a motor-car, may be subdivided into two
classes. The one is the fixed arm which cannot be moved readily, mounted
upon a permanent emplacement; the other is the field-piece which, while
fired from a stationary position, may be moved from point to point
upon a suitable carriage. The distinction has its parallel in ordinary
artillery, the first-named weapon coinciding with the heavy siege
gun, which is built into and forms part and parcel of the defensive or
offensive scheme, while the second is analogous to the field artillery,
which may be wheeled from position to position.

In this phase of artillery the Germans led the way, for the simple
reason that they recognised the military value of aerial navigation
years in advance of their contemporaries. Again, in this field the
Krupp Organisation has played a prominent part. It embarked upon actual
construction of weapons while its rivals in other countries were content
to prepare their drawings, which were filed against "The Day." But it
must not be thought that because the German manufacturers of armaments
were ahead of their contemporaries they dominated the situation. Far
from it. Their competitors in the market of destruction were every whit
as keen, as ingenious, and as enterprising. Kruppism saw a commercial
opportunity to profit from advertisement and seized it: its rivals were
content to work in secret upon paper, to keep pace with the trend of
thought, and to perfect their organisations so as to be ready for the
crisis when it developed.

The first Krupp anti-aircraft field-piece was a 6.5 centimetre (2 9/16
inch) arm. It possessed many interesting features, the most salient of
which was the design of the axle of the carriage. The rigid axle for
the two wheels was replaced by an axle made in two sections, and
joined together in the form of a universal coupling, so that each
wheel virtually possessed its own axle, or rather half-axle. This was
connected with the cradle of the gun in such a manner that the wheels
were laterally pivoted thereon.

The result is that each axle can be turned forward together with its
wheel, and thus the wheels have their rims brought into line to form an
arc of a circle, of which the rear end of the spade of the gun carriage
constitutes the centre. This acts as a pivot, about which the gun can
be turned, the pair of wheels forming the runners for the achievement of
this movement. The setting of the weapon in the firing position or its
reversion to the travelling position can be easily and speedily effected
merely by the rotation of a handwheel and gearing.

With this gun a maximum elevation of 60 degrees is possible, owing to
the trunnions being carried well behind the breech in combination with
the system of long steady recoil. The balancing spring which encloses
the elevating screw is contained in a protected box. The recoil brake,
together with the spring recuperator, follows the usual Krupp practice
in connection with ordinary field pieces, as does also the automatic
breech-closing and firing mechanism. In fact there is no pronounced
deviation from the prevailing Krupp system, and only such modifications
as are necessary to adapt the arm to its special duty. When the gun
is elevated to high angles the shell, after insertion the breech is
prevented from slipping out by means of a special device, so that the
proper and automatic closing of the breech is not impaired in any way.

In such an arm as this, which is designed essentially for high-angle
firing, the sighting and training facilities require to be carried
out upon special lines, inasmuch as the objective is necessarily at a
considerable altitude above the horizon of the gun. In other words, in
firing at a high inclination, distance between the gun and the target
cannot be utilised directly for the back sight. On the other hand, it is
essential that in proportion as the angle from the horizontal increases,
the back sight should be lowered progressively in a manner corresponding
to the distance.

To assist the range-finder in his task of sighting it is necessary that
he should be provided with firing tables set out in a convenient form,
which, in conjunction with the telemeter, serve to facilitate training
for each successive round. In this way it is possible to pick up the
range quickly and to keep the objective in the line of fire until it
either has been put hors de combat, or has succeeded in retiring beyond
the range of the gun.

The sighting arrangements of these Krupp anti-aircraft guns are carried
out upon these lines. Beneath the barrel of the back-sight is an
observing glass with an eye-piece for the artillerist, while above
and behind the observing glass is another eye-piece, to be used in
conjunction with the manipulation of the back-sight. The eye-piece
of the observation glass is so made that it can be turned through a
vertical plane in proportion as the angle of fire increases in relation
to the horizontal. The determination of the distance from the objective
and from the corresponding back-sight as well as the observation of
the altitude is carried out with the aid of the telemeter. This again
carries an observation glass fitted with an eye-piece which can
be turned in the vertical plane in the same manner as that of the
fore-sight. By means of this ingenious sighting device it is possible to
ascertain the range and angle of fire very easily and speedily.

The weight of the special Krupp anti-aircraft field-piece, exclusive
of the protecting shield, is approximately identical with that of the
ordinary light artillery field-piece. It throws a shell weighing 8.8
pounds with an initial velocity of about 2,066 feet per second.

Although the German armament manufacturers were among the first to enter
the field with an anti-aircraft gun of this character they were speedily
followed by the French, who devised a superior weapon. In fact, the
latter represented such a decisive advance that the German artillerists
did not hesitate to appropriate their improvements in sundry essential
details, and to incorporate them with their own weapons. This applies
especially to the differential recoil system which is utilised in the
small anti-aircraft guns now mounted upon the roofs of high buildings
of cities throughout Germany for the express purpose of repelling aerial
attack.

The French system is admitted by the leading artillery technicians of
the world to be the finest which has ever been designed, its remarkable
success being due to the fact that it takes advantage of the laws of
Nature. In this system the gun is drawn back upon its cradle preparatory
to firing. In some instances the barrel is compressed against a spring,
but in the more modern guns it is forced to rest against a cushion of
compressed air contained within a cylinder. When first bringing the
gun into action, the barrel is brought into the preliminary position by
manually compressing the air or spring by means of a lever. Thereafter
the gun works automatically. When the gun is fired the barrel is
released and it flies forward. At a critical point in its forward travel
the charge is fired and the projectile speeds on its way. The kick or
recoil serves to arrest the forward movement of the barrel and finally
drives it back again against the strong spring or cushion of compressed
air within the cylinder to its normal position, when it is ready for the
introduction of the next shell.

The outstanding feature of this system is that the projectile is given
a higher initial velocity than is possible with the barrel held rigid at
the moment of discharge, because the shell is already travelling at the
moment of firing.

The fixed anti-aircraft guns such as are stationed upon eminences and
buildings are of the quick firing type, the object being to hurl
a steady, continuous stream of missiles upon the swiftly moving
aeroplane. Some of the weapons throw a one-pound shell and are closely
similar to the pom-pom which proved so effective during the South
African war. Machine guns also have been extensively adopted for this
duty by all the combatants, their range of approximately 2,000 yards and
rapidity of fire being distinctly valuable when hostile aircraft descend
to an altitude which brings them within the range of the weapon.

The greatest difficulty in connection with this phase of artillery,
however, is not so much the evolution of a serviceable and efficient
type of gun, as the determination of the type of projectile which
is likely to be most effective. While shrapnel is employed somewhat
extensively it has not proved completely satisfactory. It is
difficult to set the timing fuse even after the range has been found
approximately, which in itself is no easy matter when the aircraft is
moving rapidly and irregularly, but reliance is placed thereon in the
hope that the machine may happen to be within the cone of dispersion
when the shell bursts, and that one or more of the pieces of projectile
and bullets may chance to penetrate either the body of the airman or a
vital part of the mechanism.

It is this uncertainty which has led to a preference for a direct
missile such as the bullet discharged from a machine gun. A stream of
missiles, even of rifle calibre, maintained at the rate of some 400
shots per minute is certain to be more effective, provided range and aim
are correct, than shrapnel. But the ordinary rifle-bullet, unless the
objective is within very close range, is not likely to cause much harm,
at least not to the mechanism of the aerial vessel.

It is for this reason that greater attention is being devoted,
especially by the French artillerists, to the Chevalier anti-aircraft
gun, a weapon perfected by a Swiss technician resident in Great Britain.
It projects a formidable missile which in fact is an armour-piercing
bullet 1/2- to 3/4-inch in diameter. It is designed for use with an
automatic machinegun, which the inventor has devised more or less upon
the well-known French system. The bullet has a high velocity--about
2,500 feet per second--and a maximum range of 6,000 to 8,000 feet at
the maximum elevation. Should such a missile strike the motor or other
mechanism of the vessel it would wreak widespread havoc, and probably
cause the machine to come to earth. This arm has been designed for the
express purpose of disabling the aeroplane, and not for the subjugation
of the airman, which is a minor consideration, inasmuch as he is
condemned to a descent when his craft receives a mortal wound.

Attempts have been and still are being made to adapt an explosive
projectile to this gun, but so far the measure of success achieved has
not proved very promising. There are immense difficulties connected
with the design of an explosive shell of this class, charged with a
high explosive, especially in connection with the timing. So far as
dependence upon percussive detonation is concerned there is practically
no difficulty. Should such a missile strike, say, the motor of an
aeroplane, or even the hull of the craft itself, the latter would be
practically destroyed. But all things considered, it is concluded that
more successful results are likely to be achieved by the armour-piercing
bullet striking the mechanism than by an explosive projectile.

The Krupp company fully realised the difficulties pertaining to the
projectile problem in attacks upon aerial craft. So far as dirigibles
are concerned shrapnel is practically useless, inasmuch as even should
the bag be riddled by the flying fragments, little effective damage
would be wrought--the craft would be able to regain its haven.
Accordingly efforts were concentrated upon the perfection of two new
types of projectiles, both of which were directed more particularly
against the dirigible. The one is the incendiary shell--obus
fumigene--while the other is a shell, the contents of which, upon coming
into contact with the gas contained within the gas-bag, set up certain
chemical reactions which precipitate an explosion and fire.

The incendiary shells are charged with a certain compound which is
ignited by means of a fuse during its flight. This fuse arrangement
coincides very closely with that attached to ordinary shrapnel, inasmuch
as the timing may be set to induce ignition at different periods, such
as either at the moment it leaves the gun, before, or when it strikes
the envelope of the dirigible. The shell is fitted with a "tracer,"
that is to say, upon becoming ignited it leaves a trail of smoke,
corresponding with the trail of a rocket, so that its passage through
the air may be followed with facility. This shell, however, was designed
to fulfil a dual. Not only will it fire the gaseous contents out of the
dirigible, but it has an explosive effect upon striking an incombustible
portion of the aircraft, such as the machinery, propellers or car, when
it will cause sufficient damage to throw the craft out of action.

The elaborate trials which were carried out with the obus fumigene
certainly were spectacular so as they went. Two small spherical
balloons, 10 feet in diameter, and attached to 1,000 feet of cable, were
sent aloft. The anti-aircraft guns themselves were placed about 5,100
feet distant. Owing to the inclement weather the balloons were unable
to attain a height of more than 200 feet in a direct vertical line above
the ground. The guns were trained and fired, but the one balloon was
not hit until the second round, while the third escaped injury until the
fifth round. When struck they collapsed instantly. Though the test was
not particularly conclusive, and afforded no reliable data, one point
was ascertained--the trail of smoke emitted by the shell enabled its
trajectory to be followed with ease. Upon the conclusion of these
trials, which were the most successful recorded, quick-firing tests
in the horizontal plane were carried out. The best performance in this
instance was the discharge of five rounds in eight seconds. In this
instance the paths of the projectiles were simple and easy to follow,
the flight of the shell being observed until it fell some 18,670 feet
away. But the Krupp firm have found that trials upon the testing ground
with a captive balloon differ very materially from stern tests in the
field of actual warfare. Practically nothing has been heard of the two
projectiles during this war, as they have proved an absolute failure.

Some months ago the world was startled by the announcement that the
leading German armament firm had acquired the whole of the interest in
an aerial torpedo which had been evolved by the Swedish artillerist,
Gustave Unge, and it was predicted that in the next war widespread havoc
would be wrought therewith. Remarkable claims were advanced for this
projectile, the foremost being that it would travel for a considerable
distance through the air and alight upon the objective with infallible
accuracy. The torpedo in question was subjected to exacting tests in
Great Britain, which failed to substantiate all the claims which were
advanced, and it is significant to observe that little has been heard
of it during the present conflict. It is urged in certain technical
quarters, however, that the aerial torpedo will prove to be the most
successful projectile that can be used against aircraft. I shall deal
with this question in a later chapter.

During the early days of the war anti-aircraft artillery appeared to
be a much overrated arm. The successes placed to its credit were
insignificant. This was due to the artillerymen being unfamiliar with
the new arm, and the conditions which prevail when firing into space.
Since actual practice became possible great advances in marksmanship
have been recorded, and the accuracy of such fire to-day is striking.
Fortunately the airman possesses the advantage. He can manoeuvre beyond
the range of the hostile weapons. At the moment 10,000 feet represents
the extreme altitude to which projectiles can be hurled from the arms
of this character which are now in use, and they lack destructiveness at
that range, for their velocity is virtually expended.

Picking up the range is still as difficult as ever. The practice
followed by the Germans serves to indicate the Teuton thoroughness of
method in attacking such problems even if success does not ensue. The
favourite German principle of disposing anti-aircraft artillery is to
divide the territory to be protected into equilateral triangles, the
sides of which have a length of about six miles or less, according to
the maximum effective range of the pieces at an elevation of 23 1/2
degrees.

The guns are disposed at the corners of the triangles as indicated
in Figs. 13-14. Taking the one triangle as an example, the method of
picking up the range may be explained as follows. The several guns at
the comers of the triangle, each of which can be trained through the
360 degrees in the horizontal plane, are in telephonic touch with an
observer O stationed some distance away. The airman A enters the area
of the triangle. The observer takes the range and communicates with the
gunner B, who fires his weapon. The shell bursts at 1 emitting a red
flame and smoke. The observer notes the altitude and relative position
of the explosion in regard to the aircraft, while gunner B himself
observes whether the shell has burst to the right or to the left of the
objective and corrects accordingly. The observer commands C to fire,
and another shell is launched which emits a yellow flame and smoke. It
bursts at 2 according to the observer, while gunner C also notes
whether it is to the right or to the left of the target and corrects
accordingly. Now gunner D receives the command to fire and the shell
which explodes at 3 throws off a white flame and smoke. Gunner D
likewise observes whether there is any deviation to right or left of
the target and corrects in a similar manner. From the sum of the three
rounds the observer corrects the altitude, completes his calculations,
and communicates his instructions for correction to the three gunners,
who now merely train their weapons for altitude. The objective is to
induce the shells hurled from the three corners of the triangle to burst
at a common point 4, which is considered to be the most critical spot
for the aviator. The fire is then practically concentrated from the
three weapons upon the apex of a triangular cone which is held to bring
the machine within the danger zone.

This method of finding the range is carried out quickly--two or three
seconds being occupied in the task. In the early days of the war the
German anti-aircraft artillerymen proved sadly deficient in this work,
but practice improved their fire to a marvellous degree, with the result
that at the moment it is dangerous for an aviator to essay his task
within an altitude of 6,000 feet, which is the range of the average
anti-aircraft gun.

The country occupied by a belligerent is divided up in this manner
into a series of triangles. For instance, a machine entering hostile
territory from the east, enters the triangle A-B-C, and consequently
comes within the range of the guns posted at the comers of the triangle.
Directly he crosses the line B-C and enters the adjacent triangle he
passes beyond the range of gun A but comes within the range of the gun
posted at D, and while within the triangular area is under fire from the
guns B-C-D. He turns and crosses the line A-C, but in so doing enters
another triangle A-C-E, and comes range of the gun posted at E.

The accompanying diagram represents an area of country divided up into
such triangle and the position of the guns, while the circle round the
latter indicate the training arc of the weapons, each of which is a
complete circle, in the horizontal plane. The dotted line represents
the aviator's line of flight, and it will be seen that no matter how he
twists and turns he is always within the danger zone while flying over
hostile territory. The moment he outdistances one gun he comes within
range of another.

The safety of the aviator under these circumstances depends upon his
maintaining an altitude exceeding the range of the guns below, the most
powerful of which have a range of 8,000 to 10,000 feet, or on speed
combined with rapid twisting and turning, or erratic undulating flight,
rendering it extremely difficult for the gun-layer to follow his path
with sufficient celerity to ensure accurate firing.

At altitudes ranging between 4,000 and 6,000 feet the aeroplane comes
within the range of rifle and machine-gun firing. The former, however,
unless discharged in volleys with the shots covering a wide area, is not
particularly dangerous, inasmuch as the odds are overwhelmingly against
the rifleman. He is not accustomed to following and firing upon a
rapidly moving objective, the result being that ninety-nine times out
of a hundred he fails to register a hit. On the other hand the advantage
accruing from machine-gun fire is, that owing to the continuous stream
of bullets projected, there is a greater possibility of the gun being
trained upon the objective and putting it hors de combat.

But, taking all things into consideration, and notwithstanding the
achievements of the artillerist, the advantages are overwhelmingly
on the side of the aviator. When one reflects upon the total sum of
aircraft which have been brought to earth during the present campaign,
it will be realised that the number of prizes is insignificant in
comparison with the quantity of ammunition expended.



CHAPTER XVI. MINING THE AIR

While the anti-aircraft gun represents the only force which has
been brought to the practical stage for repelling aerial attack, and
incidentally is the sole offensive weapon which has established its
effectiveness, many other schemes have been devised and suggested to
consummate these ends. While some of these schemes are wildly fantastic,
others are feasible within certain limitations, as for instance when
directed against dirigibles.

It has been argued that the atmosphere is akin to the salt seas; that
an aerial vessel in its particular element is confronted with dangers
identical with those prevailing among the waters of the earth. But such
an analogy is fallacious: there is no more similarity between the air
and the ocean than there is between an airship and a man-of-war. The
waters of the earth conceal from sight innumerable obstructions, such as
rocks, shoals, sandbanks, and other dangers which cannot by any means be
readily detected.

But no such impediments are encountered in the ether. The craft of the
air is virtually a free age in the three dimensions. It can go whither
it will without let or hindrance so long as the mechanical agencies of
man are able to cope with the influences of Nature. It can ascend to
a height which is out of all proportion to the depth to which the
submarine can descend in safety. It is a matter of current knowledge
that a submarine cannot sink to a depth of more than 250 feet: an aerial
vessel is able to ascend to 5,000, 8,000, or even 10,000 feet above the
earth, and the higher the altitude it attains the greater is its degree
of safety. The limit of ascension is governed merely by the physical
capacities of those who are responsible for the aerial vessel's
movement.

It is for this reason that the defensive measures which are practised in
the waters of the earth are inapplicable to the atmosphere. Movement
by, or in, water is governed by the depth of channels, and these may be
rendered impassable or dangerous to negotiate by the planting of mines.
A passing ship or submarine may circumvent these explosive obstructions,
but such a successful manoeuvre is generally a matter of good luck. So
far as submarines are concerned the fact must not be over looked
that movements in the sea are carried out under blind conditions: the
navigator is unable to see where he is going; the optic faculty is
rendered nugatory. Contrast the disability of the submarine with the
privileges of its consort in the air. The latter is able to profit from
vision. The aerial navigator is able to see every inch of his way, at
least during daylight. When darkness falls he is condemned to the same
helplessness as his confrere in the waters below.

A well-known British authority upon aviation suggested that advantage
should be taken of this disability, and that the air should be mined
during periods of darkness and fog to secure protection against
aerial invasion. At first sight the proposal appears to be absolutely
grotesque, but a little reflection will suffice to demonstrate its
possibilities when the area to be defended is comparatively limited. The
suggestion merely proposes to profit from one defect of the dirigible.
The latter, when bent upon a daring expedition, naturally prefers to
make a bee-line towards its objective: fuel considerations as a matter
of fact compel it to do so. Consequently it is possible, within certain
limits, to anticipate the route which an invading craft will follow: the
course is practically as obvious as if the vessel were condemned to a
narrow lane marked out by sign-posts. Moreover, if approaching under
cover of night or during thick weather, it will metaphorically "hug the
ground." To attempt to complete its task at a great height is to court
failure, as the range of vision is necessarily so limited.

Under these circumstances the mining of the air could be carried out
upon the obvious approaches to a threatened area. The mines, comprising
large charges of high-explosive and combustible material, would be
attached to small captive balloons similar to the "sounding balloons"
which are so much used by meteorologists in operations for sounding the
upper strata of the atmosphere. These pilot balloons would be captive,
their thin wires being wound upon winches planted at close intervals
along the coast-line. The balloon-mines themselves would be sent to
varying heights, ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 feet, and with several
attached to each cable, the disposition of the mines in the air in
such an irregular manner being in fact closely similar to the practice
adopted in the mining of a channel for protection against submarines and
hostile ships.

The suggestion is that these mines should be sent aloft at dusk or upon
the approach of thick and foggy weather, and should be wound in at dawn
or when the atmosphere cleared, inasmuch as in fine weather the floating
aerial menace would be readily detected by the pilot of a dirigible, and
would be carefully avoided. If the network were sufficiently intricate
it would not be easy for an airship travelling at night or in foggy
weather to steer clear of danger, for the wires holding the balloons
captive would be difficult to distinguish.

The mines would depend upon detonators to complete their work, and here
again they would bear a close resemblance to sea-mines. By looping the
mines their deadliness could be increased. The unsuspicious airship,
advancing under cover of darkness or thick weather, might foul one of
the wires, and, driving forward, would tend to pull one or more mines
against itself. Under the force of the impact, no matter how gentle, or
slight, one or more of the detonating levers would be moved, causing the
mine to explode, thus bursting the lifting bag of the vessel, and firing
its gaseous contents. An alternative method, especially when a cable
carried only a single mine, would be to wind in the captive balloon
directly the wire was fouled by an invading aerial craft, the process
being continued until the mine was brought against the vessel and
thereby detonated.

Another proposed mining method differs materially in its application. In
this instance it is suggested that the mines should be sent aloft, but
should not be of the contact type, and should not be fired by impact
detonators, but that dependence should be placed rather upon the
disturbing forces of a severe concussion in the air. The mines would
be floating aloft, and the advance of the airship would be detected. The
elevation of the mines in the vicinity of the invading craft would be
known, while the altitude of the airship in relation thereto could be
calculated. Then, it is proposed that a mine within d certain radius
of the approaching craft, and, of course, below it, should be fired
electrically from the ground. It is maintained that if the charge were
sufficiently heavy and an adequate sheet of flame were produced as a
result of the ignition, an airship within a hundred yards thereof would
be imperilled seriously, while the other mines would also be fired,
communicating ignition from one to the other. The equilibrium of the
airship is so delicate that it can be readily upset, and taking into
account the facts that gas is always exuding from the bag, and that
hydrogen has a tendency to spread somewhat in the manner of oil upon
water, it is argued that the gas would be ignited, and would bring about
the explosion of the airship.

Another method has even been advocated. It is averred in authoritative
circles that when the aerial invasion in force of Great Britain is
attempted, the Zeppelins will advance under the cover of clouds. Also
that the craft will make for one objective--London. Doubtless advantage
will be taken of clouds, inasmuch as they will extend a measure of
protection to the craft, and will probably enable the invading fleet
to elude the vigilance of the aeroplane scouts and patrols. Under these
circumstances it is suggested that balloon-mines should be sent aloft
and be concealed in the clouds. It would be impossible to detect the
wires holding them captive, so that the precise location of the lurking
danger would not be divined by the invader. Of course, the chances are
that the invading airship would unconsciously miss the mines; on the
other hand the possibilities are equally great that it would blunder
into one of these traps and be blown to atoms.

An English airman has recently suggested a means of mining invading
Zeppelins which differs completely from the foregoing proposals. His
idea is that aeroplanes should be equipped with small mines of the
contact type, charged with high explosives, and that the latter should
be lowered from the aeroplane and be trawled through the atmosphere. As
an illustration I will suppose that a hostile aircraft is sighted by a
patrolling aeroplane. The pilot's companion in the latter immediately
prepares his aerial mine, fixing the detonator, and attaching the mine
to the wire. The latter is then dropped overboard, the wire being paid
out from a winch until it has descended to the level of the hostile
craft. The airman now manoeuvres in the air circling about the airship,
dragging his mine behind him, and endeavouring to throw it across or
to bring it into contact with the airship below. Naturally the latter,
directly it observed the airman's object, would endeavour to elude the
pursuing trawling mine, either by crowding on speed or by rising to a
greater altitude. The aeroplane, however, would have the advantage both
in point of speed and powers of climbing, while there is no doubt that
the sight of the mine swinging in the air would exert a decisive moral
effect upon those in the airship.

Attempts to render the mine harmless by discharging it prematurely with
the aid of rifle and machine-gun fire would, of course, be made by the
crew of the airship, but the trawling mine would prove a very difficult
target to strike. If such a missile were used against an airship of the
proportions of a Zeppelin the mine would inevitably be trawled across
the vessel sooner or later. Once the airship had been fouled, the
aviator would merely have to drive ahead, dragging the wire and its
charge across the gas-bag until at last one of the contact levers of the
mine was moved by being dragged against some part of the vessel, when
the mine would be exploded. In such operations the aviator would run a
certain risk, as he would be more or less above the airship, and to a
certain degree within the zone of the ultimate explosion. But there is
no doubt that he would succeed in his "fishing" exploit within a very
short time.

This ingenious scheme has already been tested upon a small scale and has
been found effective, the trawling bomb being drawn across its target
and fired by contact within a few minutes. The experiment seems to prove
that it would be simpler and more effectual to attack a hostile aircraft
such as a Zeppelin in this manner than to drop free bombs at random.
Moreover, we cannot doubt that the sight of a mine containing even ten
or twelve pounds of high explosive dangling at the end of a wire would
precipitate a retreat on the part of an airship more speedily than any
other combative expedient.

The advocate of this mine-trawling method, who is a well-known aviator,
anticipates no difficulty in manoeuvring a mine weighing 30 pounds at
the end of 300 feet of fine wire. Success depends in a great measure on
the skill of the aviator in maintaining a constant tension upon the line
until it falls across its objective.

The process calls for a certain manifestation of skill in manoeuvring
the aeroplane in relation to the airship, judgment of distance, and
ability to operate the aeroplane speedily. The rapid ascensional
capability of the airship, as compared with that of the aeroplane, is a
disadvantage, but on the other hand, the superior mobility and speed of
the aeroplane would tell decisively for success.

Among the many wonders which the Krupp organisation is stated to have
perfected, and which it is claimed will create considerable surprise, is
the aerial torpedo. Many of the Krupp claims are wildly chimerical,
as events have already proved, but there is no doubt that considerable
effort has been expended upon this latest missile, for which the firm is
said to have paid the inventor upwards of L25,000--$125,000. Curiously
enough the projectile was perfected within gunshot of the British
aerodrome of Hendon and is stated to have been offered to the British
Government at the time, and to have met with a chilling reception. One
fact, however, is well established. The inventor went to Germany, and
submitted his idea to Krupp, by whom it was tested without delay. Upon
the completion of the purchase, the great armament manufacturers did not
fail to publish broadcast the fact that they had acquired a mysterious
new terror of the skies. That was some three years ago, and in the
interval the cleverest brains of the German firm have been steadily
devoting their time and energies to the improvement of the missile, the
first appearance of which was recorded, in a somewhat hazy manner, in
the closing days of December.

While the exact mechanism of this missile is a secret, the governing
principles of its design and operation are known to a select few
technicians in this country. Strange to say, the projectile was designed
in the first instance in the interests of peace and humanity, but while
engaged upon his experiments the inventor suddenly concluded that it
would be a more profitable asset if devoted to the grim game of war. At
the time the military significance of the airship and the aeroplane
were becoming apparent; hence the sudden diversion of the idea into a
destructive channel.

This aerial torpedo is a small missile carrying a charge of high
explosive, such as trinitrotoluene, and depends for its detonation upon
impact or a time fuse. It is launched into the air from a cradle in the
manner of the ordinary torpedo, but the initial velocity is low. The
torpedo is fitted with its own motive power, which comes automatically
into action as the missile climbs into the air. This self-contained
energy is so devised that the maximum power is attained before the
missile has lost the velocity imparted in the first instance, the result
being that it is able to continue its flight in a horizontal direction
from the moment it attains the highest point in its trajectory, which is
naturally varied according to requirements. But there is no secret
about the means of propulsion. The body is charged with a slow-burning
combustible, in the manner of the ordinary rocket, whereby it is given a
rapid rotary motion.

Furthermore it is stated to be fitted with a small gyroscope in the
manner of the torpedo used in the seas, for the purpose of maintaining
direction during flight, but upon this point there is considerable
divergence of opinion among technicians, the general idea being that
the torpedo depends upon an application of the principle of the ordinary
rocket rather than upon a small engine such as is fitted to the ordinary
torpedo. The employment of a slow combustible ensures the maintenance
of the missile in the air for a period exceeding that of the ordinary
shell. It is claimed by the Germans that this projectile will keep aloft
for half-an-hour or more, but this is a phantasy. Its maintenance of
flight is merely a matter of minutes.

The belated appearance of this much-lauded projectile and its restricted
use suggest that it is unreliable, and perhaps no more effective than
the aerial torpedo which appeared in the United States during the
Spanish-American War, and proved a complete failure. An effective and
reliable means of combating or frustrating a dirigible attack, other
than by gun-fire or resort to the drastic remedy of ramming the enemy,
has yet to be devised.



CHAPTER XVII. WIRELESS IN AVIATION

In a previous chapter the various methods of signalling between the
ground and the airman aloft have been described. Seeing that wireless
telegraphy has made such enormous strides and has advanced to such a
degree of perfection, one naturally would conclude that it constitutes
an ideal system of communication under such conditions in military
operations.

But this is not the case. Wireless is utilised only to a very limited
extent. This is due to two causes. The one is of a technical, the other
of a strategical character.

The uninitiated, bearing in mind the comparative ease with which
wireless installations may be established at a relatively small expense,
would not unreasonably think that no serious difficulties of a technical
character could arise: at least none which would defy solution. But
these difficulties exist in two or three different fields, each of which
is peculiarly complex and demands individual treatment.

In the first place, there is the weight of the necessary installation.
In the case of the dirigible this may be a secondary consideration,
but with the aeroplane it is a matter of primary and vital importance.
Again, under present conditions, the noise of the motor is apt to render
the intelligent deciphering of messages while aloft a matter of extreme
difficulty, especially as these are communicated in code. The engine
noise might be effectively overcome by the use of a muffler such as,
is used with automobiles, but then there is the further difficulty of
vibration.

This problem is being attacked in an ingenious manner. It is proposed to
substitute for audible signals visual interpretations, by the aid of an
electric lamp, the fluctuations in which would correspond to the dots
and dashes of the Morse code. Thus the airman would read his messages by
sight instead of by sound.

This method, however, is quite in its infancy, and although attractive
in theory and fascinating as a laboratory experiment or when conducted
under experimental conditions, it has not proved reliable or effective
in aeronautical operations. But at the same time it indicates a
promising line of research and development.

Then there are the problems of weight and the aerial. So far as present
knowledge goes, the most satisfactory form of aerial yet exploited is
that known as the trailing wire. From 300 to 700 feet of wire are coiled
upon a reel, and when aloft this wire is paid out so that it hangs below
the aeroplane. As a matter of fact, when the machine is travelling at
high speed it trails horizontally astern, but this is immaterial. One
investigator, who strongly disapproves of the trailing aerial, has
carried out experiments with a network of wires laid upon and attached
to the surface of the aeroplane's wings. But the trailing wire is
generally preferred, and certainly up to the present has proved more
satisfactory.

The greatest obstacle, however, is the necessary apparatus. The average
aeroplane designed for military duty is already loaded to the maximum.
As a rule it carries the pilot and an observer, and invariably includes
a light arm for defence against an aerial enemy, together with an
adequate supply of ammunition, while unless short sharp flights are to
be made, the fuel supply represents an appreciable load. Under these
circumstances the item of weight is a vital consideration. It must be
kept within a limit of 100 pounds, and the less the equipment weighs the
more satisfactory it is likely to prove, other things being equal.

The two most successful systems yet exploited are the Dubilier and the
Rouget. The former is an American invention, the latter is of French
origin. Both have been tested by the British Military Aeronautical
Department, and the French authorities have subjected the French system
to rigorous trials. Both systems, within their limitations, have proved
satisfactory.

The outstanding feature of the Dubilier system is the production of sine
waves of musical frequency from continuous current, thus dispensing
with the rotary converter. The operating principle is the obtaining of
a series of unidirectional impulses by a condenser discharge, the
pulsating currents following one another at regular intervals at a
frequency of 500 impulses per second, which may be augmented up to 1,000
impulses per second. The complete weight of such an apparatus is 40
pounds; the electric generator, which is no larger than the motor used
for driving the ordinary table ventilating fan, accounts for 16 pounds
of this total. Under test at sea, upon the deck of a ship, a range of
250 miles has been obtained. The British Government carried out a series
of experiments with this system, using a small plant weighing about 30
pounds, with which communication was maintained up to about 20 miles.

In the French system the Reuget transmitter is employed. The apparatus,
including the dynamo, which is extremely small, weighs in all 70 pounds.
A small alternator of 200 watts and 100 volts is coupled direct to the
aeroplane motor, a new clutch coupler being employed for this purpose.
By means of a small transformer the voltage is raised to 30,000 volts,
at which the condenser is charged. In this instance the musical spark
method is employed.

The whole of the high tension wiring is placed within a small space
so as not to endanger the pilot, while the transformer is hermetically
sealed in a box with paraffin. The aerial comprises a trailing wire 100
feet in length, which, however, can be wound in upon its reel within 15
seconds. This reeled antenna, moreover, is fitted with a safety device
whereby the wire can be cut adrift in the event of an accident befalling
the aeroplane and necessitating an abrupt descent. With this apparatus
the French authorities have been able to maintain communication over a
distance of 30 miles.

In maintaining ethereal communication with aeroplanes, however, a
portable or mobile station upon the ground is requisite, and this
station must be within the radius of the aerial transmitter, if
messages are to be received from aloft with any degree of accuracy and
reliability. Thus it will be recognised that the land station is as
important as the aeroplane equipment, and demands similar consideration.

A wide variety of systems have been employed to meet these conditions.
There is the travelling automobile station, in which the installation
is mounted upon a motor-car. In this instance the whole equipment is
carried upon a single vehicle, while the antenna is stowed upon the roof
and can be raised or lowered within a few seconds. If motor traction is
unavailable, then animal haulage may be employed, but in this instance
the installation is divided between two vehicles, one carrying the
transmitting and receiving apparatus and the generating plant, the other
the fuel supplies and the aerial, together with spare parts.

The motive power is supplied by a small air cooled petrol or gasoline
motor developing eight horse-power, and coupled direct to a 2-kilo watt
alternator. At one end of the shaft of the latter the disk discharger is
mounted, its function being to break up the train of waves into groups
of waves, so as to impart a musical sound to the note produced in the
receiver. A flexible cable transmits the electric current from the
generator to the wagon containing the instruments. The aerial is built
up of masts carried in sections.

The Germans employ a mobile apparatus which is very similar, but in
this instance the mast is telescopic. When closed it occupies but little
space. By turning the winch handle the mast is extended, and can be
carried to any height up to a maximum of about 100 feet. The capacity
of these mobile stations varies within wide limits, the range of the
largest and most powerful installations being about 200 miles. The
disadvantage of these systems, however, is that they are condemned to
territories where the ground at the utmost is gently undulating, and
where there are roads on which four-wheeled vehicles can travel.

For operation in hilly districts, where only trails are to be found,
the Marconi Company, has perfected what may be described as "pack" and
"knapsack" installations respectively. In the first named the whole of
the installation is mounted upon the backs of four horses. The first
carries the generator set, the second the transmitting instruments, the
third the receiving equipment, and the fourth the detachable mast and
stays.

The generator is carried upon the horse's saddle, and is fitted with a
pair of legs on each side. On one side of the saddle is mounted a
small highspeed explosion motor, while on the opposite side, in axial
alignment with the motor, is a small dynamo. When it is desired to
erect the installation the saddle carrying this set is removed from the
horse's back and placed upon the ground, the legs acting as the support.
A length of shaft is then slipped into sockets at the inner ends of the
motor and dynamo shafts respectively, thus coupling them directly, while
the current is transmitted through a short length of flexible cable to
the instruments. The mast itself is made in lengths of about four feet,
which are slipped together in the manner of the sections of a fishing
rod, and erected, being supported by means of wire guys. In this manner
an antenna from 40 to 50 feet in height may be obtained.

The feature of this set is its compactness, the equal division of the
sections of the installation, and the celerity with which the station
may be set up and dismantled in extremely mountainous country such as
the Vosges, where it is even difficult for a pack-horse to climb to
commanding or suitable positions, there is still another set which has
been perfected by the Marconi Company. This is the "knapsack" set,
in which the whole of the installation, necessarily light, small,
and compact, is divided among four men, and carried in the manner of
knapsacks upon their backs. Although necessarily of limited radius,
such an installation is adequate for communication within the restricted
range of air-craft.

Greater difficulties have to be overcome in the mounting of a wireless
installation upon a dirigible. When the Zeppelin was finally accepted
by the German Government, the military authorities emphasised the great
part which wireless telegraphy was destined to play in connection with
such craft. But have these anticipations been fulfilled? By no means, as
a little reflection will suffice to prove.

In the first place, a wireless outfit is about the most dangerous piece
of equipment which could be carried by such a craft as the Zeppelin
unless it is exceptionally well protected. As is well known the rigidity
of this type of airship is dependent upon a large and complicated
network of aluminium, which constitutes the frame. Such a huge mass
of metal constitutes an excellent collector of electricity from the
atmosphere; it becomes charged to the maximum with electricity.

In this manner a formidable contributory source of danger to the airship
is formed. In fact, this was the reason why "Z-IV" vanished suddenly in
smoke and flame upon falling foul of the branches of trees during
its descent. At the time the Zeppelin was a highly charged electrical
machine or battery as it were, insulated by the surrounding air.
Directly the airship touched the trees a short circuit was established,
and the resultant spark sufficed to fire the gas, which is continuously
exuding from the gas bags.

After this accident minute calculations were made and it was ascertained
that a potential difference of no less than 100,00 volts existed between
the framework of the dirigible and the trees. This tension sufficed
to produce a spark 4 inches in length. It is not surprising that the
establishment of the electric equilibrium by contact with the trees,
which produced such a spark should fire the hydrogen inflation charge.
In fact the heat generated was so intense that the aluminium metallic
framework was fused. The measurements which were made proved that the
gas was consumed within 15 seconds and the envelope destroyed within 20
seconds.

As a result of this disaster endeavours were made to persuade Count
Zeppelin to abandon the use of aluminium for the framework of his
balloon but they were fruitless, a result no doubt due to the fact that
the inventor of the airship of this name has but a superficial
knowledge of the various sciences which bear upon aeronautics, and fully
illustrates the truth of the old adage that "a little learning is a
dangerous thing." Count Zeppelin continues to work upon his original
lines, but the danger of his system of construction was not lost upon
another German investigator, Professor Schiitte, who forthwith embarked
upon the construction of another rigid system, similar to that of
Zeppelin, at Lanz. In this vessel aluminium was completely abandoned in
favour of a framework of ash and poplar.

The fact that the aluminium constituted a dangerous collector of
electricity rendered the installation of wireless upon the Zeppelin not
only perilous but difficult. Very serious disturbances of an electrical
nature were set up, with the result that wireless communication between
the travelling dirigible and the ground below was rendered extremely
uncertain. In fact, it has never yet been possible to communicate over
distances exceeding about 150 miles. Apart from this defect, the danger
of operating the wireless is obvious, and it is generally believed in
technical circles that the majority of the Zeppelin disasters from fire
have been directly attributable to this, especially those disasters
which have occurred when the vessel has suddenly exploded before coming
into contact with terrestrial obstructions.

In the later vessels of this type the wireless installation is housed
in a well insulated compartment. This insulation has been carried, to
an extreme degree, which indicates that at last the authorities have
recognised the serious menace that wireless offers to the safety of the
craft, with the result that every protective device to avoid disaster
from this cause has been freely adopted.

The fact that it is not possible to maintain communication over a
distance exceeding some 20 miles is a severe handicap to the progressive
development of wireless telegraphy in this field. It is a totally
inadequate radius when the operations of the present war are borne in
mind. A round journey of 200, or even more miles is considered a
mere jaunt; it is the long distance flight which counts, and which
contributes to the value of an airman's observations. The general
impression is that the fighting line or zone comprises merely two or
three successive stretches of trenches and other defences, representing
a belt five miles or so in width, but this is a fallacy. The fighting
zone is at least 20 miles in width; that is to say, the occupied
territory in which vital movements take place represents a distance of
20 miles from the foremost line of trenches to the extreme rear, and
then comes the secondary zone, which may be a further 10 miles or
more in depth. Consequently the airman must fly at least 30 miles in
a bee-line to cover the transverse belt of the enemy's field of
operations. Upon the German and Russian sides this zone is of far
greater depth, ranging up to 50 miles or so in width. In these
circumstances the difficulties of ethereal communication 'twixt air and
earth may be realised under the present limitations of radius from which
it is possible to transmit.

But there are reasons still more cogent to explain why wireless
telegraphy has not been used upon a more extensive scale during the
present campaign. Wireless communication is not secretive. In other
words, its messages may be picked up by friend and foe alike with
equal facility. True, the messages are sent in code, which may be
unintelligible to the enemy. In this event the opponent endeavours to
render the communications undecipherable to one and all by what is known
as "jambing." That is to say, he sends out an aimless string of
signals for the purpose of confusing senders and receivers, and this
is continued without cessation and at a rapid rate. The result is that
messages become blurred and undecipherable.

But there is another danger attending the use of wireless upon the
battlefield. The fact that the stations are of limited range is well
known to the opposing forces, and they are equally well aware of the
fact that aerial craft cannot communicate over long distances. For
instance, A sends his airmen aloft and conversation begins between the
clouds and the ground. Presently the receivers of B begin to record
faint signals. They fluctuate in intensity, but within a few seconds B
gathers that an aeroplane is aloft and communicating with its base. By
the aid of the field telephone B gets into touch with his whole string
of wireless stations and orders a keen look-out and a listening ear to
ascertain whether they have heard the same signals. Some report that the
signals are quite distinct and growing louder, while others declare that
the signals are growing fainter and intermittent. In this manner B is
able to deduce in which direction the aeroplane is flying. Thus if those
to the east report that signals are growing stronger, while the stations
on the west state that they are diminishing, it is obvious that the
aeroplane is flying west to east, and vice versa when the west hears
more plainly at the expense of the east. If, however, both should report
that signals are growing stronger, then it is obvious that the aircraft
is advancing directly towards them.

It was this ability to deduce direction from the sound of the signals
which led to the location of the Zeppelin which came down at Luneville
some months previous to the war, and which threatened to develop into a
diplomatic incident of serious importance. The French wireless stations
running south-east to north-west were vigilant, and the outer station on
the north-west side picked up the Zeppelin's conversation. It maintained
a discreet silence, but communicated by telephone to its colleagues
behind.

Presently No. 2 station came within range, followed by Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6,
and so on in turn. Thus the track of the Zeppelin was dogged silently
through the air by its wireless conversation as easily and as positively
as if its flight had been followed by the naked eye. The Zeppelin
travellers were quite ignorant of this action upon the part of the
French and were surprised when they were rounded-up to learn that they
had been tracked so ruthlessly. Every message which the wireless of the
Zeppelin had transmitted had been received and filed by the French.

Under these circumstances it is doubtful whether wireless telegraphy
between aircraft and the forces beneath will be adopted extensively
during the present campaign. Of course, should some radical improvement
be perfected, whereby communication may be rendered absolutely
secretive, while no intimation is conveyed to the enemy that ethereal
conversation is in progress, then the whole situation will be changed,
and there may be remarkable developments.



CHAPTER XVIII. AIRCRAFT AND NAVAL OPERATIONS

When once the flying machine had indicated its possibilities in
connection with land operations it was only natural that endeavours
should be made to adapt it to the more rigorous requirements of the
naval service. But the conditions are so vastly dissimilar that only a
meagre measure of success has been recorded. Bomb-throwing from
aloft upon the decks of battleships appeals vividly to the popular
imagination, and the widespread destruction which may be caused by
dropping such an agent down the funnel of a vessel into the boiler-room
is a favourite theme among writers of fiction and artists. But hitting
such an objective while it is tearing at high speed through the water,
from a height of several thousand feet is a vastly different task from
throwing sticks and balls at an Aunt Sally on terra firma: the target is
so small and elusive.

Practically it is impossible to employ the flying machine, whether it
be a dirigible or an aeroplane, in this field. Many factors militate
against such an application. In the first place there is a very wide
difference between dry land and a stretch of water as an area over which
to manoeuvre. So far as the land is concerned descent is practicable at
any time and almost anywhere. But an attempt to descend upon the open
sea even when the latter is as calm as the proverbial mill-pond is
fraught with considerable danger. The air-currents immediately above the
water differ radically from those prevailing above the surface of
the land. Solar radiation also plays a very vital part. In fact the
dirigible dare not venture to make such a landing even if it be provided
with floats. The chances are a thousand to one that the cars will become
water-logged, rendering re-ascent a matter of extreme difficulty, if not
absolutely impossible. On the other hand, the aeroplane when equipped
with floats, is able to alight upon the water, and to rest thereon for
a time. It may even take in a new supply of fuel if the elements be
propitious, and may be able to re-ascend, but the occasions are rare
when such operations can be carried out successfully.

In operations over water the airman is confronted with one serious
danger--the risk of losing his bearings and his way. For instance, many
attempts have been made to cross the North Sea by aeroplane, but only
one has proved successful so far. The intrepid aviator did succeed in
passing from the shore of Britain to the coast of Scandinavia. Many
people suppose that because an airman is equipped with a compass he must
be able to find his way, but this is a fallacy. The aviator is in the
same plight as a mariner who is compelled from circumstances to rely
upon his compass alone, and who is debarred by inclement weather from
deciding his precise position by taking the sun. A ship ploughing the
waters has to contend against the action of cross currents, the speed
of which varies considerably, as well as adverse winds. Unless absolute
correction for these influences can be made the ship will wander
considerably from its course. The airman is placed in a worse position.
He has no means of determining the direction and velocity of the
currents prevailing in the atmosphere, and his compass cannot give him
any help in this connection, because it merely indicates direction.

Unless the airman has some means of determining his position, such as
landmarks, he fails to realise the fact that he is drifting, or, even
if he becomes aware of this fact, it is by no means a simple
straightforward matter for him to make adequate allowance for the
factor. Side-drift is the aviator's greatest enemy. It cannot be
determined with any degree of accuracy. If the compass were an
infallible guide the airman would be able to complete a given journey
in dense fog just as easily as in clear weather. It is the action of the
cross currents and the unconscious drift which render movement in the
air during fog as impracticable with safety as manoeuvring through the
water under similar conditions. More than one bold and skilful aviator
has essayed the crossing of the English Channel and, being overtaken by
fog, has failed to make the opposite coast. His compass has given him
the proper direction, but the side-drift has proved his undoing, with
the result that he has missed his objective.

The fickle character of the winds over the water, especially over such
expanses as the North Sea, constitutes another and seriously adverse
factor. Storms, squalls, gales, and, in winter, blizzards, spring up
with magical suddenness, and are so severe that no aircraft could hope
to live in them. But such visitations are more to be dreaded by the
lighter-than-air than by the heavier-than-air machines. The former
offers a considerable area of resistance to the tempest and is caught up
by the whirlwind before the pilot fully grasps the significant chance
of the natural phenomenon. Once a dirigible is swept out of the hands of
its pilot its doom is sealed.

On the other hand, the speed attainable by the aeroplane constitutes its
safety. It can run before the wind, and meantime can climb steadily and
rapidly to a higher altitude, until at last it enters a contrary wind or
even a tolerably quiescent atmosphere. Even if it encounters the tempest
head on there is no immediate danger if the aviator keep cool. This
fact has been established times out of number and the airman has been
sufficiently skilful and quick-witted to succeed in frustrating the
destructive tactics of his natural enemy.

Only a short while ago in France, British airmen who went aloft in a
gale found the latter too strong for them. Although the machine was
driven full speed ahead it was forced backwards at the rate of 10 miles
per hour because the independent speed of the aeroplane was less
than the velocity of the wind. But a dirigible has never succeeded
in weathering a gale; its bulk, area, and weight, combined with its
relatively slow movement, are against it, with the result that it is
hurled to destruction. All things considered, the dirigible is regarded
as an impracticable acquisition to a fleet, except in the eyes of the
Germans, who have been induced to place implicit reliance upon their
monsters. The gullible Teuton public confidently believes that their
Dreadnoughts of the air will complete the destruction of the British
fleet, but responsible persons know full well that they will not play
such a part, but must be reserved for scouting. Hitherto, in naval
operations, mosquito water-craft, such as torpedo-boats, have been
employed in this service. But these swift vessels suffer from one
serious disability. The range of vision is necessarily limited, and a
slight mist hanging over the water blinds them; the enemy may even pass
within half-a-mile of them and escape detection.

The Zeppelin from its position 1,000 feet or more above the water, in
clear weather, has a tremendous range of vision; the horizon is about 40
miles distant, as compared with approximately 8 miles in the case of the
torpedo-boat. Of course an object, such as a battleship, may be detected
at a far greater range. Consequently the German naval programme is to
send the Zeppelin a certain distance ahead of the battleship squadron.
The dirigible from its coign of vantage would be able to sight a hostile
squadron if it were within visual range and would communicate the fact
to the commander of the fleet below. The latter would decide his course
according to information received; thus he would be enabled to elude
his enemy, or, if the tidings received from the aerial scout should
be favourable, to dispose his vessels in the most favourable array for
attack.

The German code of naval tactics does not foreshadow the use of
dirigible aircraft as vessels of attack. Scouting is the primary and
indeed the only useful duty of the dirigible, although it is quite
possible that the aerial craft might participate in a subsequent naval
engagement, as, indeed, has been the case. Its participation, however,
would be governed entirely by climatic conditions. The fact that
the dirigible is a weak unit of attack in naval operations is fully
appreciated by all the belligerents.

The picture of a sky "black with Zeppelins" may appeal to the popular
imagination, and may induce the uninitiated to cherish the belief that
such an array would strike terror into the hearts of the foe, but the
naval authorities are well aware that no material advantage would accrue
from such a force. In the first place they would constitute an ideal
target for the enemy's vessels. They would be compelled to draw within
range in order to render their own attack effective, and promiscuous
shooting from below would probably achieve the desired end. One or
more of the hostile aircraft would be hit within a short while. Such
disasters would undoubtedly throw the aerial fleet into confusion,
and possibly might interfere with the tactical developments of its own
friends upon the water below.

The shells hurled from the Zeppelins would probably inflict but little
damage upon the warships beneath. Let it be conceded that they weigh
about 500 pounds, which is two-thirds of the weight of the projectile
hurled from the Krupp 128-centimetre howitzer. Such a missile would have
but little destructive effect if dropped from a height of 1,000 feet.
To achieve a result commensurate with that of the 28-centimetre howitzer
the airship would have to launch the missile from a height of about
7,000 feet. To take aim from such an altitude is impossible, especially
at a rapidly moving target such as a battle-cruiser.

The fact must not be forgotten that Count Zeppelin himself has expressed
the opinion, the result of careful and prolonged experiments, that his
craft is practically useless at a height exceeding 5,000 feet. Another
point must not be overlooked. In a spirited naval engagement the
combatants would speedily be obliterated from the view of those aloft by
the thick pall of smoke--the combination of gun-fire and emission from
the furnaces and a blind attack would be just as likely to damage friend
as foe.

Even if the aircraft ventured to descend as low as 5,000 feet it would
be faced with another adverse influence. The discharge of the heavy
battleship guns would bring about such an agitation of the air above as
to imperil the delicate equilibrium of an airship. Nor must one overlook
the circumstance that in such an engagement the Zeppelins would become
the prey of hostile aeroplanes. The latter, being swifter and nimbler,
would harry the cumbersome and slow-moving dirigible in the manner of
a dog baiting a bear to such a degree that the dirigible would be
compelled to sheer off to secure its own safety. Desperate bravery and
grim determination may be magnificent physical attributes, ut they
would have to be superhuman to face the stinging recurrent attacks of
mosquito-aeroplanes.

The limitations of the Zeppelin, and in fact of all dirigible aircraft,
were emphasised upon the occasion of the British aerial raid upon
Cuxhaven. Two Zeppelins bravely put out to overwhelm the cruisers and
torpedo boats which accompanied and supported the British sea-planes,
but when confronted with well-placed firing from the guns of the vessels
below they quickly decided that discretion was the better part of valour
and drew off. In naval operations the aeroplane is a far more formidable
foe, although here again there are many limitations. The first and most
serious is the severely limited radius of action. The aeroplane motor is
a hungry engine, while the fuel capacity of the tank is restricted. The
German military authorities speedily realised the significance of this
factor and its bearing upon useful operations, and forth with carried
out elaborate endurance tests. In numerable flights were made with the
express purpose of determining how long a machine could remain in the
air upon a single fuel supply.

The results of these flights were collated and the achievements of each
machine in this direction carefully analysed, a mean average drawn
up, and then pigeon-holed. The results were kept secret, only the more
sensational records being published to the world. As the policy of
standardisation in the construction of aeroplanes was adopted the radius
of action of each type became established. It is true that variations
of this factor even among vessels exactly similar in every respect are
inevitable, but it was possible to establish a reliable mean average for
general guidance.

The archives of the Berlin military department are crowded with facts
and figures relating to this particular essential, so that the radius of
action, that is the mileage upon a single fuel charge, of any class and
type of machine may be ascertained in a moment. The consequence is that
the military authorities are able to decide the type of aeroplane which
is best suited to a certain projected task. According to the dossier
in the pigeon-hole, wherein the results of the type are filed, the
aeroplane will be able to go so far, and upon arriving at that point
will be able to accomplish so much work, and then be able to return
home. Consequently it is dispatched upon the especial duty without any
feeling of uncertainty.

Unfortunately, these experimental processes were too methodical to prove
reliable. The endurance data were prepared from tests carried out in
the aerodrome and from cross-country trials accomplished under ideal or
fair-weather conditions. The result is that calculations have been often
upset somewhat rudely by weather conditions of a totally unexpected
character, which bring home vividly the striking difference between
theory and practice.

The British and French aviation authorities have not adopted such
methodical standardisation or rule of thumb inferences, but rather
have fostered individual enterprise and initiative. This stimulation of
research has been responsible for the creation of a type of aeroplane
specially adapted to naval service, and generically known as the water
plane, the outstanding point of difference from the aeroplane being the
substitution of canoes or floats for the wheeled chassis peculiar to
the land machine. The flier is sturdily built, while the floats are
sufficiently substantial to support the craft upon the water in calm
weather. Perhaps it was the insular situation of the British nation
which was responsible for this trend of development, because so far as
Britain is concerned the sea-going aeroplane is in dispensable. But the
salient fact remains that to-day the waterplane service of Great Britain
is the most efficient in the world, the craft being speedy, designed and
built to meet the rough weather conditions which are experienced around
these islands, and ideal vessels for patrol and raiding duties.

So far as the British practice is concerned the waterplane is designed
to operate in conjunction with, and not apart from, the Navy. It has
been made the eyes of the Navy in the strictest interpretation of the
term. In any such combination the great difficulty is the establishment
of what may be termed a mobile base, inasmuch as the waterplane must
move with the fleet. This end has been achieved by the evolution of
a means of carrying a waterplane upon, and launching it from, a
battleship, if necessary.

For this purpose a docking cradle or way has been provided aft where
the aeroplane may be housed until the moment arrives for its employment.
Several vessels have been devoted to this nursing duty and are known as
parent ships to the waterplane service. All that is requisite when the
time arrives for the use of the seaplane is to lift it bodily by derrick
or crane from its cradle and to lower it upon the water. It will be
remembered that the American naval authorities made an experiment with a
scheme for directly launching the warplane from the deck of a battleship
in the orthodox, as well as offering it a spot upon which to alight upon
returning from a flight, while Wing-Commander Samson, R.N., D.S.O., the
famous British airman, repeated the experiment by flying from a similar
launching way installed upon H.M.S. Hibernia. But this practice has many
shortcomings. So far as the British and French navies are concerned, the
former process is preferred. Again, when the waterplane returns from a
flight it is admitted that it is simpler, quicker, and safer for it to
settle upon the water near the parent ship and to be lifted on board.

As a sea-scout the waterplane is overwhelmingly superior to the
dirigible as events have conclusively proved. Its greater mobility and
speed stand it in excellent stead because it is able to cover a
larger area within a shorter space of time than its huge and unwieldy
contemporary. Furthermore, it is a difficult target to hit and
accordingly is not so likely to be brought down by hostile fire. There
is another point in its favour. The experience of the war has proved
that the numerically inferior enemy prefers to carry out his naval
operations under the cover of the mist and haze which settle upon the
water, and yet are of sufficient depth to conceal his identity and
composition. Such mists as a rule comprise a relatively thin bank of
low-lying vapour, which while enveloping the surface of the water in an
impenetrable pall, yet permits the mast-heads of the vessels to stand
out clearly, although they cannot be detected from the water-level
or even from the control and fighting tops of a warship. A scouting
waterplane, however, is able to observe them and note their movement,
and accordingly can collect useful information concerning the apparent
composition of the hidden force, the course it is following, its
travelling speed, and so forth, which it can convey immediately to its
friends.

The aeroplane has established its value in another manner. Coal-burning
vessels when moving at any pronounced speed invariably throw off large
quantities of smoke, which may be detected easily from above, even when
the vessels themselves are completely hidden in the mist. It was this
circumstance which revealed the presence of the British squadron in the
affair of the Bight of Heligoland.

The German airman on patrol duty from the adjacent base on the island of
Heligoland detected the presence of this smoke, above the low-lying bank
of fog, although there were no other visible signs of any vessels. Fully
cognisant of the fact that the German Fleet was at anchor in a safe
place he naturally divined that the smoke proceeded from a hostile
squadron, evidently bent upon a raid. He returned to his headquarters,
conveyed the intelligence he had collected to his superior officers,
upon receipt of which a German cruiser squadron was sent out and engaged
the British vessels to its own discomfiture. But for the airman's
vigilance and smartness there is no doubt that the British squadron
would have accomplished a great coup.

This incident, however, served to reveal that the aerial scout is prone
to suffer from over-keenness and to collect only a partial amount
of information. Upon this occasion the German watchman detected the
presence of the British torpedo-boat and light cruiser force. Had
he continued his investigations and made a wider sweep he would have
discovered the proximity of the British battle-cruiser squadron
which routed the German force, the latter having acted on incomplete
information.

While the low-lying sea-fog is the navigator's worst enemy, it is the
airman's greatest friend and protection. It not only preserves him
against visual discovery from below, but is an excellent insulator
of sound, so that his whereabouts is not betrayed by the noise of his
motor. It is of in calculable value in another way. When a fog prevails
the sea is generally as smooth as the pro verbial mirror, enabling the
waterplanes to be brought up under cover to a suitable point from which
they may be dispatched. Upon their release by climbing to a height of a
few hundred feet the airmen are able to reach a clear atmosphere, where
by means of the compass it is possible to advance in approximately the
desired direction, safe from discovery from below owing to the fog.
If they are "spotted" they can dive into its friendly depths, complete
their work, and make for the parent ship.

Low-lying sea-fogs are favourable to aerial raids provided the scout is
able to catch sight of the upper parts of landmarks to enable him to
be sure of the correctness of his line of flight-in cases where
the distance is very short compass direction is sufficiently
reliable-because the bank of vapour not only constitutes a perfect
screen, but serves as a blanket to the motor exhaust, if not completely,
at least sufficiently to mislead those below. Fogs, as every mariner
will testify, play strange tricks with the transmission of sound. Hence,
although those on the vessels below might detect a slight hum, it might
possibly be so faint as to convey the impression that the aviator was
miles away, when, as a matter of fact, he was directly overhead. This
confusion arising from sound aberration is a useful protection in
itself, as it tends to lure a naval force lying in or moving through the
fog into a false sense of security.

The development of the submarine revealed the incontrovertible fact
that this arm would play a prominent part in future operations upon the
water: a presage which has been adequately fulfilled during the
present conflict. The instinct of self-preservation at once provoked
a discussion of the most effective ways and means of disguising its
whereabouts when it travels submerged. To this end the German naval
authorities conducted a series of elaborate and interesting experiments
off the island of Heligoland. As is well known, when one is directly
above a stretch of shallow water, the bottom of the latter can be seen
quite distinctly. Consequently, it was decided to employ aerial craft
as detectives. Both the aeroplane and the dirigible took part in these
experiments, being flown at varying heights, while the submarine was
maneouvred at different depths immediately below. The sum of these
investigations proved conclusively that a submarine may be detected from
aloft when moving at a depth of from 30 to 40 feet. The outline of the
submerged craft is certainly somewhat blurred, but nevertheless it is
sufficiently distinct to enable its identity to be determined really
against the background or bottom of the sea. To combat this detection
from an aerial position it will be necessary inter alia to evolve a
more harmonious or protective colour-scheme for the submarine. Their
investigations were responsible for the inauguration of the elaborate
German aerial patrol of harbours, the base for such aerial operations
being established upon the island of Heligoland.

So far the stern test of war as applied to the science of aeronautics
has emphasised the fact that as a naval unit the dirigible is a complete
failure. Whether experience will bring about a modification of these
views time alone will show, but it is certain that existing principles
of design will have to undergo a radical revision to achieve any notable
results. The aeroplane alone has proved successful in this domain, and
it is upon this type of aerial craft that dependence will have to be
placed.



CHAPTER XIX. THE NAVIES of THE AIR

Less than three years ago the momentous and spectacular race among
the Powers of Europe for the supremacy of the air began. At first the
struggle was confined to two rivals--France and Germany--but as time
progressed and the importance of aerial fleets was recognised, other
nations, notably Great Britain, entered the field.

Germany obtained an advantage. Experiment and research were taken up at
a point which had been reached by French effort; further experiments and
researches were carried out in German circles with secret and feverish
haste, with the result that within a short time a pronounced degree of
efficiency according to German ideals had been attained. The degree of
perfection achieved was not regarded with mere academic interest; it
marked the parting of the ways: the point where scientific endeavour
commanded practical appreciation by turning the success of the laboratory
and aerodrome into the channel of commercial manufacture. In other
words, systematic and wholesale production was undertaken upon an
extensive scale. The component parts were standardised and arrangements
were completed with various establishments possessed of the most
suitable machinery to perfect a programme for turning out aeronautical
requirements in a steady, continuous stream from the moment the crisis
developed.

The wisdom of completing these arrangements in anticipation is now
apparent. Upon the outbreak of hostilities many German establishments
devoted to the production of articles required in the infinite
ramifications of commerce found themselves deprived of their markets,
but there was no risk that their large plants would be brought to a
standstill: the Government ordered the manufacture of aeroplane parts
and motors upon an extensive scale. In this manner not only were
the industrial establishments kept going, but their production of
aeronautical requirements relieved those organisations devoted to the
manufacture of armaments, so that the whole resources and facilities of
these could be concentrated upon the supply of munitions of war.

In France the air-fleet, although extensive upon the outbreak of war,
was somewhat heterogeneous. Experiment was still being pursued: no type
had met with definite official recognition, the result being that
no arrangements had been completed for the production of one or more
standard types upon an elaborate scale comparable with that maintained
by Germany. In fact some six months after the outbreak of war there was
an appreciable lack of precision on this point in French military.
Many of the types which had established their success were forbidden by
military decree as mentioned in a previous chapter, while manufacturing
arrangements were still somewhat chaotic.

Great Britain was still more backward in the new movement. But this
state of affairs was in a measure due to the division of the Fourth Arm
among the two services. A well-organised Government manufactory for
the production of aeroplanes and other aircraft necessities had been
established, while the private manufacturers had completed preparations
for wholesale production. But it was not until the Admiralty accepted
responsibility for the aerial service that work was essayed in grim
earnest.

The allocation of the aerial responsibilities of Great Britain to
the Admiralty was a wise move. Experience has revealed the advantages
accruing from the perfection of homogeneous squadrons upon the water,
that is to say groups of ships which are virtually sister-craft of
identical speed, armament, and so on, thus enabling the whole to act
together as a complete effective unit. As this plan had proved so
successful upon the water, the Admiralty decided to apply it to the
fleet designed for service in the air above.

At the time this plan of campaign was definitely settled Great Britain
as an aerial power was a long way behind her most formidable rival, but
strenuous efforts were made to reduce the handicap, and within a
short while the greater part of this leeway had been made up. Upon the
outbreak of war Great Britain undoubtedly was inferior to Germany
in point of numbers of aircraft, but the latter Power was completely
outclassed in efficiency, and from the point of view of PERSONNEL. The
British had developed the waterplane as an essential auxiliary to naval
operations, and here was in advance of her rival, who had practically
neglected this line of experiment and evolution, resting secure in the
assurance of her advisers that the huge dirigibles would be adequate for
all exigencies on the water.

Indeed, when war was declared, all the Powers were found more or less
wanting so far as their aerial fleets were concerned. If Germany's huge
aerial navy had been in readiness for instant service when she invaded
Belgium, she would have overcome that little country's resistance in a
far shorter time and with much less waste of life. It was the Belgians
who first brought home to the belligerents the prominent part that
aircraft were destined to play in war, and the military possibilities of
the aeroplane. True, the Belgians had a very small aerial navy, but
it was put to work without delay and accomplished magnificent results,
ascertaining the German positions and dispositions with unerring
accuracy and incredible ease, and thus enabling the commander of the
Belgian Army to dispose his relatively tiny force to the best advantage,
and to offer the most effective resistance.

Great Britain's aerial navy, while likewise some what small, was also
ready for instant service. The British Expeditionary force was supported
by a very efficient aerial fleet, the majority of the vessels forming
which flew across the Channel at high speed to the British headquarters
in France so as to be available directly military preparations were
begun, and the value of this support proved to be inestimable, since it
speedily demoralised the numerically superior enemy.

France, like Germany, was somewhat dilatory, but this was attributable
rather to the time occupied in the mobilisation of the Fourth Arm than
to lack of energy. There were a round 1,500 aeroplanes ostensibly
ready for service, in addition to some 26 dirigibles. But the fleet
was somewhat scattered, while many of the craft were not immediately
available, being in the shops or in dock for repairs and overhaul.
During the period of mobilisation the so-called standing military force
was augmented by about 500 machines which were acquired from private
owners. The aeroplane factories were also, overhauled and re-organised
so as to be in a position to remedy the inevitable wastage, but these
organisation efforts were somewhat handicapped by the shortage of labour
arising from the call to arms. France, moreover, imperilled her aerial
strength by forbidding the use of 558 machines which were ready for
service.

Germany's aerial fleet was of similar proportions to that of her Gallic
neighbour, but curiously enough, and in strange contrast, there appeared
to be a lack of readiness in this ramification of the Teuton
war machine. The military establishment possessed about 1,000
machines--active and reserve--of which it is estimated 700 were
available for instant service. During the period of mobilisation a
further 450 machines were added to the fleet, drawn for the most
part from private owners. So far as the dirigibles were concerned 14
Zeppelins were ready for duty, while others were under construction
or undergoing overhaul and repair. A few other types were also in
commission or acquired during mobilisation, bringing the dirigible force
to 40 machines all told.

But the greatest surprise was probably offered by Russia. Very little
was known concerning Russian activities in this particular field,
although it was stated that large orders for machines had been placed
with various foreign manufactories. Certain factories also had been
established within the Empire, although the character of their work and
its results and achievements were concealed from prying eyes. In Russia,
however, an appreciable number of private aeroplanes were in operation,
and these, of course, were placed at the disposal of the authorities the
moment the crisis developed.

The British and French aeroplane manufacturers had been busy upon
Russian orders for many months previous to the outbreak of hostilities,
while heavy shipments of component parts had been made, the assembling
and completion of the machines being carried out in the country. It is
generally believed that upon the outbreak of war Russia had a fleet of
800 aeroplanes in hand, of which total 150 were contributed from private
sources. Even the dirigible had not been overlooked, there being nearly
20 of these craft attached to the Russian Army, although for the most
part they are small vessels.

In comparison with the foregoing large aerial navies, that of Great
Britain appeared to be puny. At the moment Great Britain possesses about
500 machines, of which about 200 are waterplanes. In addition, according
to the Secretary of the Admiralty, 15 dirigibles should be in service.
Private enterprise is supported by the Government, which maintains a
factory for the manufacture of these craft.

During the two years preceding the outbreak of war the various Powers
grew remarkably reticent concerning the composition and enlargement of
their respective aerial fleets. No official figures were published.
But at the same time it is a well-known fact that during the year 1913
France augmented her flying force by no fewer than 544 aeroplanes.
Germany was no less energetic, the military acquisition in this branch,
and during the self-same year, approaching 700 machines according to the
semi-official reports published in that country.

The arrangements concluded for the manufacture of additional craft
during the war are equally remarkable. The principal factory in Germany,
(now devoting its energies to the production of these craft, although in
happier days its normal complement of 4,000 men were responsible for
the production of another commercial article) possesses facilities for
turning out 30 complete aeroplanes per week, according to the statement
of its managing director. But it is averred that this statement is
purposely misleading, inasmuch as during the first fortnight of the
campaign it was producing over 50 aeroplanes per week. It must be
remembered that Germany is responsible for the supply of the majority of
such craft for the Austrian armies, that country purchasing these vessels
in large numbers, because in the early days of the conflict it was
notoriously weak in this arm. Since the declaration of war strenuous
efforts have been made to remedy this state of affairs, particularly
upon the unexpected revelation of Russia's aerial strength.

It is computed that upon the outbreak of war the various Powers were in
the position to show an aggregate of 4,980 aircraft of all descriptions,
both for active service and reserve. This is a colossal fleet, but it
serves to convey in a graphic manner the importance attached to the
adrial vessel by the respective belligerents. So far as Germany is
concerned she is sorely in need of additional machines. Her fleet of the
air has lost its formidable character, owing to the fact that it has to
be divided between two frontiers, while she has been further weakened by
the enormous lengths of the two battle-fronts.

Russia has been able to concentrate her aerial force, which has proved
of incalculable value to the Grand Duke Nicholas, who has expressed his
appreciation of the services rendered by his fliers. The French likewise
have been favoured by Fortune in this respect. Their aerial navy is
likewise concentrated upon a single frontier, although a pronounced
proportion has been reserved for service upon the Mediterranean
sea-board for co-operation with the fleet. France suffers, however, to
a certain degree from the length of her battle-line, which is over 200
miles in length. The French aerial fleet has been particularly active
in the Vosges and the Argonne, where the difficult, mountainous, and
densely wooded country has rendered other systems of observation of
the enemy's movements a matter of extreme difficulty. The Germans have
laboured under a similar handicap in this territory, and have likewise
been compelled to centre a considerable proportion of their aerial fleet
upon this corner of the extended battlefield.

It is in this region that the greatest wastage has been manifest. I
have been informed by one correspondent who is fighting in this sternly
contested area, that at one time a daily loss of ten German machines
was a fair average, while highwater mark was reached, so far as his own
observations and ability to glean information were concerned by the loss
of 19 machines during a single day. The French wastage, while not so
heavy upon the average, has been considerable at times.

The term wastage is somewhat misleading, if not erroneous. It does not
necessarily imply the total loss of a machine, such as its descent
upon hostile territory, but includes damage to machines, no matter how
slight, landing within their own lines. In the difficult country of the
Vosges many aeroplanes have come to earth somewhat heavily, and have
suffered such damage as to render them inoperative, compelling their
removal from the effective list until they have undergone complete
overhaul or reconstruction. Upon occasions this wastage has been so
pronounced that the French aviators, including some of the foremost
fliers serving with the forces, have been without a machine and have
been compelled to wait their turn.

I am informed that one day four machines, returning from a
reconnaissance in force, crashed successively to the ground, and each
had to be hauled away to the repair sheds, necessitating withdrawal
from service for several days. Unfortunately the French, owing to their
decision to rule out certain machines as unsuited to military service,
have not yet perfected their organisation for making good this wastage,
although latterly it has been appreciably reduced by greater care among
the aviators in handling their vessels.

The fast vessels of the French aerial fleet have proved exceptionally
valuable. With these craft speeds of 95 and 100 miles or more per hour
have been attained under favourable conditions, and pace has proved
distinctly advantageous, inasmuch as it gives the French aviators a
superiority of about 40 per cent over the average German machine. It
was the activity and daring of the French fliers upon these high speed
machines which induced the German airmen to change their tactics.
Individual effort and isolated raiding operations were abandoned in
favour of what might be described as combined or squadron attack. Six
or eight machines advancing together towards the French lines somewhat
nonplussed these fleet French mosquito craft, and to a certain degree
nullified their superiority in pace. Speed was discounted, for the
simple reason that the enemy when so massed evinced a disposition to
fight and to follow harassing tactics when one of the slowest French
machines ventured into the air.

It is interesting to observe that aerial operations, now that they are
being conducted upon what may be termed methodical lines as distinct
from corsair movements, are following the broad fundamental principles
of naval tactics. Homogeneous squadrons, that is, squadrons composed
of vessels of similar type and armament, put out and follow roughly
the "single line ahead" formation. Upon sighting the enemy there is the
manoeuvring for position advantage which must accrue to the speedier
protagonist. One then, witnesses what might almost be described as an
application of the process of capping the line or "crossing the 'T.'"
This tends to throw the slower squadron into confusion by bending it
back upon itself, meanwhile exposing it to a demoralizing fire.

The analogy is not precisely correct but sufficiently so to indicate
that aerial battles will be fought much upon the same lines, as
engagements between vessels upon the water. If the manoeuvres accomplish
nothing beyond breaking up and scattering the foe, the result is
satisfactory in as much as in this event it is possible to exert a
driving tendency and to force him back upon the lines of the superior
force, when the scattered vessels may be brought within the zone of
spirited fire from the ground.

Attacks in force are more likely to prove successful than individual
raiding tactics, as recent events upon the battlefield of Europe have
demonstrated more or less convincingly. An attack in force is likely to
cause the defenders upon the ground beneath to lose their heads and to
fire wildly and at random, with the result that the airmen may achieve
their object with but little damage to themselves. This method of
attacking in force was essayed for the first time by the British aerial
fleet, which perhaps is not surprising, seeing that the machines are
manned and the operations supervised by officers who have excelled in
naval training, and who are skilled in such movements.

No doubt this practice, combined with the daring of the British
aviators, contributed very materially to the utter demoralisation of the
German aerial forces, and was responsible for that hesitancy to attack
a position in the vicinity of the British craft which became so manifest
in the course of a few weeks after the outbreak of hostilities.

One of the foremost military experts of the United States, who passed
some time in the fighting zone, expressed his opinion that the
British aerial force is the most efficient among the belligerents when
considered as a unit, the French flier being described by the same
authority as most effective when acting individually, owing to personal
intrepidity. As a scout the French aviator is probably unequalled,
because he is quick to perceive and to collect the data required, and
when provided with a fast machine is remarkably nimble and venturesome
in the air. The British aviators, however, work as a whole, and in the
particular phases where such tactics are profitable have established
incontestable superiority. At first the German aerial force appeared
to possess no settled system of operation. Individual effort was
pronounced, but it lacked method. The Germans have, however, profited
from the lessons taught by their antagonists, and now are emulating
their tactics, but owing to their imperfect training and knowledge the
results they achieve appear to be negligible.

The dirigible still remains an unknown quantity in these activities,
although strange to relate, in the early days of the war, the work
accomplished by the British craft, despite their comparatively low speed
and small dimensions, excelled in value that achieved by the
warplanes. This was particularly noticeable in matters pertaining to
reconnaissance, more especially at night, when the British vessels often
remained for hours together in the air, manoeuvring over the hostile
lines, and gathering invaluable information as to the disposition and
movements of the opposing forces.

But it is probably in connection with naval operations that the British
aerial fleet excels. The waterplanes have established their supremacy
over the naval dirigible in a striking manner. British endeavour
fostered the waterplane movement and has carried it to a high degree
of perfection. The waterplane is not primarily designed to perform long
flights, although such may be carried out if the exigencies demand. The
practice of deputing certain vessels to art as "parent ships" to a
covey of waterplanes has proved as successful in practice, as in theory.
Again, the arrangements for conveying these machines by such means to a
rendezvous, and there putting them into the water to complete a certain
duty, have been triumphantly vindicated. At the time this idea was
embraced it met with a certain degree of hostile criticism: it was
argued that the association of the two fighting, machines would tend
towards confusion, and impair the efficiency of both.

Practice has refuted this theory. The British aerial raids upon Cuxhaven
and other places would have been impossible, and probably valueless as
an effective move, but for the fact that it was possible to release the
machines from a certain point upon the open sea, within easy reach of
the cooperating naval squadron. True, the latter was exposed to hostile
attack from submarines, but as results proved this was easy to repel.
The aircraft were enabled to return to their base, as represented by the
rendezvous, to be picked up, and to communicate the intelligence gained
from their flight to the authorities in a shorter period of time than
would have been possible under any other circumstances, while the risk
to the airmen was proportionately reduced.

The fact that the belligerents have built up such huge aerial navies
conclusively proves that the military value of the Fourth Arm has been
fully appreciated. From the results so far achieved there is every
indication that activity in this direction will be increased rather than
diminished.





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