Page:EB1922 - Volume 30.djvu/47

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17
AERONAUTICS


in Germany remained in the air for 21 hours 48 minutes, while Boehm further improved on this unofficially with a time of just over 24 hours.

The Schneider Cup for seaplanes was won for England by Pixton, who covered 150 nautical m. in two hours at Monaco on a Sopwith biplane fitted with floats. The Aerial Derby, the London-Manchester-London and London-Paris-London races were all won by Brock. Notable events on the Continent were the Prince Henry Circuit of 1,125 m - in Germany, in which there were 40 competitors, and the Security competition in France; although most of the big international races had to be cancelled.

The World War. The ingenuity that sought for speed at low heights suitable to the race-course or for the maximum climb was by no one appreciated as vital for war purposes, either in France or Germany, and least of all in Britain; aeroplanes were for re,- connaissance they should fly slowly and the very inferior anti-aircraft guns would not impede their flying low; it was not till many months elapsed that the margin of speed and climb was found to be decisive as to who should be the victor in mortal com- bat held in the upper air. The diverse needs of war stimulated the development of specialized types, which were evolved as fast as production considerations would admit. The prime use remained, as foreseen, reconnaissance, but to maintain and sup- port this other craft were called into being; the possibilities of the aeroplane as a bomb-dropper were as yet hardly called for. The early war pilot went into battle armed more as a sportsman than as a soldier. But he was attacked, and had either to be made self-defensive or to be escorted by fast, high-powered, swift-climb- ing fighters.

In 1915 the artillery on the ground came to rely almost entirely on aerial " spotting," and the small single-seater fighters had to sweep hostile aircraft from the skies to allow such machines fitted with wireless to pursue their work uninterrupted. Bombing was also rapidly developed. The first time a i,ooo-lb. weight was re- leased by Goodden from an aeroplane was an event calling for a special communication to the Secretary of State that by big bombs the nerves and arteries of the enemy might be continually harassed and disorganized. Owing to freedom of movement in three dimensions air supremacy was a far more difficult and comprehensive thing than naval supremacy. It was never achieved save locally and for brief periods by any Power, and then only by concentrating organizations of the greatest mobility and flexibility at some place and time.

The requirements of quantity, coupled with the demands for change, came so rapidly that the development and expansion of the aerial arms of the Great Powers are difficult to grasp. Of the innumerable acts of courage, the endurance and self-sacrifice, the skill of the pilot in war, it is impossible here to attempt a record. Here and there the names of great pilots stand out. But if one be mentioned, a hundred others would claim justice. Such were the changing fortunes of war, so many and so astounding were the feats of daring, that with deeds not unworthy of a Ball, a McCudden, a Bishop, a Nungesser, a Garros, a Guynemer, a Vedrines, an Immelmann, a Richthof en, a Boelcke or a Voss, many a flier passed through the war without fame or praise.

It was only during 1915 that the specialized type of aeroplane began to appear. The two-seater aeroplane with an engine of up to 150 H.P. was used promiscuously; for reconnaissance, artil- lery " spotting," any bombing there was, and fighting as well. Types in use by the British were BE2C's, Avros and Bleriots, with small engines below 100 H.P.; by the French, Caudrons, Breguets, Farmans, Voisins, Bleriots and Moranes; by the Germans, LVG's and Rumplers, with engines over 120 H.P. and up to 160 H.P.; the maximum speeds seldom exceeded 80 m. per hour. Later in the year the single-seater, originally intended as a scout, was used for fighting. The 80 H.P. Bristol scout and other tractors used by the British were handicapped by their inability to fire forwards, the direction of best aim; the various models of Nieuport and Morane scouts used by the French were also adopted by the British, while the Albatross and Fokker scouts were used by the Germans. Engines up to 200 H.P. were coming in. The so-called " scout " became a real fighter; its speed and

climb became truly effective when firing through the propeller was devised by a Frenchman, adopted by Germany, and then with feverish haste by the Allies. The French and Germans, more zealous about bombing, were for this purpose introducing large twin-engined aeroplanes and experimenting with armoured ones. Speeds rose to over 100 m.p.h., and aeroplanes flew and fought at heights of 15,000 ft., whither they were driven by the increas- ing intensity of the anti-aircraft fire and by the advantage to be derived from a swift descent to pounce or to retract. Night flying, which had been tentatively practised for exhibition before the war, was taken seriously, as its potentialities for bombing, for the depositing of spies and for other conveyance were realized. Stable aeroplanes with special alighting gear and a clear forward field of view were needed for the repelling of airships by night. The loading of war aeroplanes was increased and was only limited by the absolute necessity of reasonable landing speeds; even then fast scouts taxed the skill of most pilots. Seaplanes, whose aerial performance was always poor compared with that of aeroplanes, were of great use in conjunction with naval opera- tions, and took part in the Gallipoli campaign.

In 1916 the air services came more and more into prominence. The cry for higher and yet higher performance was insistent. The French Spad flew at 130 m.p.h. and reached over 20,000 feet. The German Albatross scouts manoeuvred magnificently at great heights, and high-flying reconnaissance Rumplers with cameras photographed back areas. Bombing flights up to 800 m. were carried out, notably by the French. Night bombing and even night reconnaissance became general, first on moonlight, and then, as the flier's skill increased, on dark nights. Accessories for night flying, such as wing tip flares, were developed. Airships had already proved vulnerable to aeroplane attack, and a German airship was brought down in flames at Cuffley on Sept. 3 1916 while engaged in raiding England by night. Kite balloons were attacked and brought down with incendiary rockets and bullets. Flying became organized, and aeroplanes patrolled in larger and larger formations and in layers, each unit being allotted its re- spective duties, signals being made by coloured lights. Slower aeroplanes were escorted by fast fighters; other fighters, like hawks, moved on mobile offensive patrols.

As peace seemed no nearer in 191 7, redoubled efforts were made in the air. America joined in, and American fliers joined British squadrons, finally forming their own; the Italians had developed large twin-engined Caproni triplanes; the Austrians, the Turks, all realized what air-power meant. The British used large twin- engined flying-boats against the submarine. The Germans eventually attacked with big float-seaplanes of remarkable speed. Scouts were flown off lighters at sea against airships, and off the decks of battleships and " mother " ships. Formation flying was developed and aerial fighting of the fiercest intensity was the prelude to every big land operation. The British SEsA's and Sopwiths, the French Nieuports and Spads, the German Alba- trosses, Rolands and Fokkers, swept the sky in " circuses " 30 strong, and the effect of superiority of performance was hard to distinguish from sheer skill in handling.

As the last and bitterest struggles of the World War were being waged in 1918, aerial activity reached its zenith. The deep hum of aircraft practically never ceased by night or day, in fair weather or foul. Large twin-engined Handley Pages and German Gothas flew farther and farther afield on bomb raids; retreating armies in the East fled before the onrush of death from the air. Aeroplanes flew low and attacked anything they could find on the ground. Large flying-boats patrolled vast expanses of water. The night was full of the attackers and the attacked, for fighting scouts had learnt to seek out and fight the night bomber. Engines had become more and more powerful and had reached 400 horse-power. The height at which an aeroplane could fly was limited rather by the physical endurance of the pilot, even with the help of oxygen, than the possible " ceiling " of the aero- plane. It would hardly be an exaggeration to say of the aero- planes used in the first and last phases of the World War that their relative effectiveness as fighting implements was commen- surate with that of a bow and arrow and a modern rifle.