Tag Archives: World War I

8 February 1918

U.S. Army Air Service national insignia, 1918–1919.
U.S. Army Air Service national insignia, 1918–1919.

8 February 1918: General Order 299 specified that all U.S. Army Air Service airplanes assigned to the AEF would be marked with a roundel (or cocarde) of three concentric circles. The outer circle was to be painted red and have a diameter approximately equal to the chord of the wing. A blue circle had a diameter two-thirds the length of the chord, and an inner white circle was one-third the chord in diameter. Two roundels were painted on the upper surface of the airplane’s top wing, just inside the aileron. Two more roundels were painted on the lower surface of the bottom wing.

In addition the airplane’s rudder was painted with three red, white and blue vertical stripes, with the red stripe adjacent to the rudder post and the blue stripe on the rudder’s trailing edge.

This national insignia was similar to the roundels used by France and England, though the order of the colors varied.

The red, blue and white roundel replaced the previous national insignia, which was a white 5-pointed star surrounded by a blue circle, with a red circle in the center. The star insignia had also been place in the same position on the wings, and the rudder also had three vertical stripes, but the order had been blue, white and red.

The new roundel was short-lived. It was replaced in 1919.

The 1918 Air Service roundels and vertical stripes on the rudder are visible on this SPAD XIII C.1, serial number 7689, Smith IV, which had just undergone restoration at the Paul E. Garber Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Mark Avino, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)
The 1918 Air Service roundels and vertical stripes on the rudder are visible on this SPAD XIII C.1, serial number 7689, Smith IV, which had just undergone restoration at the Paul E. Garber Center, Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (Photo by Mark Avino, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

19–20 January 1915

Luftschiff Zeppelin LZ24, the Imperial German Navy bomber L3. (Royal Air Force Museum)
Luftschiff Zeppelin LZ24, the Imperial German Navy bomber L3. (Royal Air Force Museum)

19–20 January 1915: The Kaiserliche Marine (Imperial Germany Navy) airship L3, under command of Kapitänleutnant Hans Fritz and Leutnant zur See v. Lynckner, departed Fuhlsbüttel, Hamburg, Germany, at 11:00 a.m., in company with L4 and L6, on a reconnaissance flight over the North Sea, then continued on to Britain, planning to attack during darkness.

Route of Zeppelins L3 and L4

L3 reached the British coast at 8:50 p.m. and proceeded to the area around Norfolk. At 9:20 p.m., Captain Fritz and his airship had reached Greater Yarmouth. Flying in rain at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters), over the next ten minutes they dropped six 110 pound (49.9 kilogram) bombs and seven incendiaries on the city below. As L3 turned to leave the area, another four 110 pound bombs were dropped. Completing the attack, L3 returned to Germany, arriving at the airship base at Fuhlsbüttel at 9:30 a.m.

L4, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Magnus von Platen-Hallermund and Leutnant zur See Kruse, dropped eleven bombs on Sheringham and King’s Lynn.

L6 had returned to Germany prior to the attack.

Reports are that a total of 4 people were killed and 16 wounded. Damage was limited.

In the short history of aerial warfare, this was the first time that a civilian population center was the target. It would not be the last.

Damage at King’s Lynn caused by the Zeppelin raid of 19–20 January 1915. (Imperial War Museum)
Damage at King’s Lynn caused by the Zeppelin raid of 19–20 January 1915. (Imperial War Museum)

It was plain that the source of the disturbance was aircraft, though precisely of what kind could only be conjectured. The opinion is generally held that it was a dirigible, for what appeared to be searchlights were seen at a great  altitude. Others, however, say that the lights were not the beams of a searchlight, but the flash of something resembling a magnesium flare.

The Times, Wednesday, 20th January 1915, at Page 8.

Artist's impression of the 19 January 1915 air raid, with Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin.
Artist’s impression of the 19 January 1915 air raid, with Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin.

zeppattyarmouth1vLuftschiff Zeppelin 24 was the third airship built for the Imperial German Navy, which designated it L3. It was operated by a crew of fifteen. The dirigible was 518 feet, 2 inches (157.937 meters) long with a diameter of 48 feet, 6 inches (14.783 meters).

Buoyancy was created by 18 gas cells filled with hydrogen, which had a total volume of 794,500 cubic feet (22,497.3 cubic meters). The empty weight of the airship was 37,250 pounds (16,896 kilograms) and it had a payload of 20,250 pounds (9,185 kilograms).

Three water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 22.921 liter (1,398.725 cubic inches) Maybach C-X six-cylinder inline engines, each producing 207 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m., gave L3 a maximum speed of 47.4 miles per hour (76.3 kilometers per hour).

The Zeppelin’s maximum altitude, limited by the gas cells’ ability to contain the hydrogen as it expanded with increasing altitude, was 6,560 feet (2,000 meters). The maximum range was 1,366 miles (2,198 kilometers).

L3 made its first flight at Friedrichshafen 11 May 1914. On 17 February 1915, the loss of two engines in high winds forced it to ground at Fanoe Island, Denmark, where the crew abandoned it and Captain Fritz set it afire. The crew was interred for the duration of the war.

The crew of L3 was interred for the duration.
The crew of L3 was interred in Denmark for the duration of the war.

L4 (Luftschiff Zeppelin 27) was of the same airship class as L3. It was very slightly heavier and its Maybach C-X engines slightly more powerful. It was retired from service 17 February 1915, the same day that L3 was lost.2187996026

Note: Steve Smith’s Internet blog, “Great War Britain NORFOLK Remembering 1914–18”  https://stevesmith1944.wordpress.com/about/ has a series of detailed articles about the Zeppelin raids, as well as many other events of World War I. Recommended.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

21 December 1916

Sopwith Camel. (Royal Air Force)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394. (Royal Air Force)

21 December 1916: Harry George Hawker, M.B.E., A.F.C., made the first flight of the Sopwith Camel at Brooklands Aerodrome, Surrey, England. This airplane would become the Royal Air Force’s most successful fighter of World War I.

The Sopwith Camel F.1 was a British single-place, single-engine biplane fighter, produced by the Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Canbury Park Road, Kingston-on-Thames. The airplane was constructed of a wooden framework, with the forward fuselage being covered with aluminum panels and plywood, while the aft fuselage, wings and tail surfaces were covered with fabric.

The length of the Camel F.1 varied from 18 feet, 6 inches (5.639 meters) to 19 feet, 0 inches (5.791 meters), depending on which engine was installed. Both upper and lower wings had a span of 28 feet, 0 inches (8.534 meters) and chord of 4 feet, 6 inches (1.372 meters). They were separated vertically by 5 feet (1.524 meters) at the fuselage. The upper wing had 0° dihedral, while the lower wing had 5° dihedral and was staggered 1 foot, 6 inches (0.457 meters) behind the upper wing. The single-bay wings were braced with airfoil-shaped streamline wires. The overall height of the Camel also varied with the engine, from 8 feet, 6 inches (2.591 meters) to 8 feet, 9 inches (2.667 meters).

The heaviest Camel F.1 variant used the Le Rhône 180 h.p. engine. It had an empty weight of 1,048 pounds (475 kilograms). Its gross weight of 1,567 pounds (711 kilograms). The lightest was equipped with the Gnôme Monosoupape 100 horsepower engine, with weights of 882 pounds (400 kilograms) and 1,387 pounds (629 kilograms), respectively.

Front view of a Sopwith Camel F.I (Unattributed)

The first Camel was powered by an air-cooled 15.268 liter (931.72 cubic inches) Société Clerget-Blin et Cie Clerget Type 9 nine-cylinder rotary engine which produced 110 horsepower at 1,200 r.p.m. and drove a wooden two-bladed propeller. Eight different rotary engines ¹ from four manufacturers, ranging from 100 to 180 horsepower, were used in the type.

The best performance came with the Bentley B.R.1 engine (5.7:1 compression ratio). This variant had a maximum speed of 121 miles per hour (195 kilometers per hour) at 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), and 114.5 miles per hour (184 kilometers per hour) at 15,000 feet (4,572 meters). It could climb to 6,500 feet (1,981 meters) in 4 minutes, 35 seconds; to 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) in 8 minutes, 10 seconds; and 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) in 15 minutes, 55 seconds. It had a service ceiling of 22,000 feet (6,706 meters). Two other Camel variants could reach 24,000 feet (7,315 meters).

Sopwith Camel F.1 FG394, left rear quarter. © IWM (Q 63822)
Sopwith Camel F.1 F6394, left rear quarter. © IWM (Q 63822)

The Bentley B.R.1 rotary engine was designed by Lieutenant Walter Owen Bentley, Royal Naval Air Service (later, Captain, Royal Air Force), based on the Clerget Type 9, but with major improvements. It used aluminum cylinders shrunk on to steel liners, with aluminum pistons. The Bentley B.R.1 (originally named the Admiralty Rotary, A.R.1, as it was intended for use by the Royal Navy) was an air-cooled, normally-aspirated 17.304 liter (1,055.948 cubic inches) right-hand tractor, nine-cylinder rotary engine with a compression ratio of 5.7:1. It was rated at 150 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m. The B.R.1 was 1.110 meters (3 feet, 7.7 inches) long, 1.070 meters (3 feet, 6.125 inches) in diameter and weighed 184 kilograms (406 pounds.) The engine was manufactured by Humber, Ltd., Coventry, England, and Vickers, Ltd., Crayford.

The instruments and armament of a Sopwith Camel from No. 4 Squadron, AFC. (Australian War Memorial)
The instruments and armament of a Sopwith Camel from No. 4 Squadron, AFC. (Australian War Memorial)

The Camel was armed with two fixed, forward-firing .303-caliber (7.7×56mmR) Vickers machine guns, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller. These guns were modified for air cooling. Some night fighter variants substituted Lewis machine guns mounted above the upper wing for the Vickers guns. Four 25 pound (11.3 kilogram) bombs could be carried on racks under the fuselage.

The Sopwith Camel was a difficult airplane to fly. Most of its weight was concentrated far forward, making it unstable, but, at the same time making the fighter highly maneuverable. The rotary engine, with so much of its mass in rotation, caused a torque effect that rolled the airplane to the right to a much greater degree than in airplanes equipped with radial or V-type engines. A skilled pilot could use this to his advantage, but many Camels ended upside down while taking off.

Major William G. Barker, RAF, with an upside-down Sopwith Camel F.1 of No. 28 Squadron, Italy, 1918. (Library and Archives Canada)
Major William G. Barker, RAF, with an upside-down Sopwith Camel F.1 of No. 28 Squadron, Italy, 1918. (Library and Archives Canada)

Twelve manufacturers ² produced 5,490 Sopwith Camels between 1916 and 1920. By the end of World War I, it was becoming outclassed by newer aircraft, however it was the single most successful fighter of the war, shooting down 1,294 enemy aircraft.

One single fighter, Major William Barker’s Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Camel F.1 B.6313 shot down 46 enemy aircraft, more than any other fighter in history.

It is believed that only seven Sopwith Camels still exist.

Wing Commander William George Barker, VC, DSO with Bar, MC with 2 Bars, Croix de Guerre (Library and Archives Canada)
Wing Commander William George Barker, V.C., D.S.O. with Bar, M.C. with 2 Bars, Croix de Guerre, with his Sopwith Camel F.1. (Library and Archives Canada)

¹ Humber, Ltd., Bentley B.R.1 150 h.p., B.R.1 (5.7:1 c.r.); Clerget 9B, 130 h.p.; Clerget 9Bf, 130 h.p. (long stroke); Gnôme Monosoupape, 100 h.p.; Gnôme Monosoupape, 150 h.p.; Le Rhône, 110 h.p.; and Le Rhône 180 h.p.

² Sopwith Aviation Co., Ltd., Kingston-on-Thames; Boulton and Paul, Ltd., Norwich; British Caudron Co., London; Clayton and Shuttleworth, Ltd., Lincoln; Hooper and Co., Ltd., London; March, Jones and Cribb, Ltd., Leeds; Nieuport and General Aircraft Co., Ltd., London; Ruston, Proctor and Co., Ltd., Lincoln; Fairey Aviation Co., Ltd.; Portholme Aerodrome Ltd., Huntingdon; Wm. Beardmore & Co., Ltd., Glasgow; Pegler & Co., Ltd., Doncaster.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

13 December 1918

Handley Page V/1500. (Royal Air Force)
Handley Page V/1500. (Royal Air Force)
Archibald Charles Stuart MacLaren.
Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren, Squadron Leader, Royal Air Force.

13 December 1918: Major Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren, Captain Robert (“Jock”) Halley, D.F.C., A.F.C., accompanied by Brigadier General Norman D.K. MacEwan (later, Air Vice Marshal Sir Norman Duckworth Kerr MacEwen C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., R.A.F.), who would be the new Air Officer Commanding in India, left Martlesham Heath, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, for India aboard a Handley Page V/1500 heavy bomber, J1936, HMA Old Carthusian. Also aboard were Flight Sergeant Smith and Sergeant Crockett, fitters, and Sergeant Thomas Brown, rigger.

N.D.K. MacEwan, Lieutenant Colonel, Royal Air Force
N.D.K. MacEwan, Lieutenant Colonel, Royal Air Force

The route of flight was Rome, Malta, Cairo, Baghdad, and finally, Karachi. They would arrive on 15 January 1919.

2nd Air Mechanic Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren was issued Aviator’s Certificate No. 1310 by The Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, 4 June 1915. He trained in a Caudron Biplane at the British Flying School, Le Crotoy, France.

Group Captain Robert Halley, R.A.F., had been a cyclist with the Royal Highlanders. He requested flight training and was accepted as a probationary Flight Officer. He was trained at RNAS Vendome. During World War I, Halley flew more than twenty long range night bombing missions over Germany, for which he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

On 24 May 1919, during the Third Afghan War, Halley flew Old Carthusian through the Khyber Pass in pre-dawn darkness with observer Lieutenant Ted Villiers and the three sergeants, Smith, Crockett and Brown.

The Handley Page V/1500 was armed with a bomb load of four 112 pound (50.8 kilogram) and sixteen 20 pound (9.1 kilogram) bombs. The target was the royal palace of Amanullah Khan in Kabul. The bombs were released from an altitude of 700 feet (213 meters) and did little damage, but with the resulting panic, the Khan surrendered. The single bombing raid is credited with ending the war.

Cockpit of a Handley Page V/1500.
Cockpit of a Handley Page V/1500.

The Handley Page V/1500 first flew 22 May 1918. The designation comes from the original name, Type 5, combined with the total horsepower of its engines. It was a three-bay biplane with four engines mounted in two nacelles between the upper and lower wings. The bomber was 64 feet, 0 inches (19.507 meters) long with a wingspan of 126 feet, 0 inches (38.405 meters) and was 23 feet, 0 inches (7.010 meters) high. Empty weight was 17,600 pounds (7,983 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 30,000 pounds (13,608 kilograms).

The engines were water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,240.536-cubic-inch-displacement (20.329 liter) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12s, each rated at 360 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. Maximum engine speed was 1,900 r.p.m. The Eagle VIII had a propeller gear reduction ratio of 0.6:1. Two of the engines were at the forward end of the nacelles in tractor configuration, and two were at the rear in pusher configuration. The propellers were two-bladed units with fixed pitch.

Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII aircraft engine (serial number 5272) at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

The V/1500 had a maximum speed of 99 miles per hour (159.3 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and its service ceiling was 11,000 feet (3,353 meters). It carried fuel to remain airborne for 17 hours. Maximum range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The V/1500 was armed with three .303-caliber Lewis machine guns. The maximum bomb load was 7,500 pounds (3,402 kilograms).

Handley Page built 63 V/1500 bombers. J1936, being constructed primarily of wood and fabric, finally succumbed to termites.

Handley Page V/1500 (Bain News Service/Library of Congress)
Handley Page V/1500. (Bain News Service/Library of Congress)
Handley Page V/1500 with wings folded. (Royal Air Force)
Handle Page V/1500 (Bain New Service/Library of Congress)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

1 November 1918

Sous-Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck. (Agence Meurisse)

1 November 1918: At 2:20 p.m., Lieutenant Paul-René Fonck, Escadrille 103,  Aéronautique Militaire, shot down a Luftstreitkräfte Halberstadt C, east of Vouziers, France. Its pilot, Gefreiter W. Schmidt of Flieger-Abteilung 297b, was killed.

This was the 75th confirmed enemy aircraft which Fonck had destroyed. (As many as 52 aircraft claimed by Fonck, including another Halberstadt C over Semuy, fifteen minutes later, were not confirmed.) Lieutenant Fonck was the highest-scoring Allied fighter pilot of World War I.¹

Lieutenant René Fonck with a SPAD S.XVII, 1918. (Photo SHD section Air de Vincennes transmise par Jon Guttman)

The chasseur flown by René Fonck on this date was a Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés SPAD S.XVII, Nº. 682. The S.XVII was an improved S.XIII, with stronger wings and fuselage, additional bracing wires and a more powerful engine. Its more closely-spaced longerons gave the fuselage a more circular cross-section and a bulkier appearance.

The S.XVII had the same length, wing span and height as the S.XIII, but was heavier. Its empty weight was 687 kilograms (1,515 pounds) and the gross weight was 942 kilograms (2,077 pounds).

The S.XVII was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 18.473 liter (1,127.265 cubic inch displacement) Société Française Hispano-Suiza 8Fb single-overhead camshaft (SOHC) 90° V-8 engine. This was a right-hand-tractor, direct-drive engine with a compression ratio of 5.3:1, and was rated at 300 cheval vapeur (296 horsepower) at 2,100 r.p.m. The Hispano-Suiza 8Fb was 1.32 meters (4.33 feet) long, 0.89 meters (2.92 feet) wide and 0.88 meters (2.89 feet) high. It weighed 256 kilograms (564 pounds).

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (flyingmachines.ru)

The S.XVII had a maximum speed of 221 kilometers per hour (137 miles per hour) at 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). It could climb to 2,000 meters in 5 minutes, 24 seconds, and to 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 8 minutes, 20 seconds. Its ceiling was 7,175 meters (23,540 feet).

Armament consisted of two water-cooled, fixed Vickers 7.7 mm (.303 British) machine guns above the engine, synchronized to fire forward through the propeller arc. The guns’ water jackets were left empty.

The SPAD S.XVIIs were delivered to Escadrille 103 in June 1918. It is believed that 20 were built.

Société Pour L’Aviation et ses Dérivés (SPAD) S.XVII C.1 (aviafrance)

Paul-René Fonck was born 27 March 1894 at Salcy-de Meurthe, the first of three children of Victor Felicien Fonck, a carpenter, and Marie Julie Simon Fonck. His father was killed in an accident when he was four years old, leaving Mme. Fonck to raise Paul-René and his two sisters. He was sent to an uncle who placed him in a religious boarding school in Nancy. He was a good student. After six years, he returned to live with his mother and finished his education in a public school.

At the beginning of World War I, Fonck joined the French Army. He was assigned to an engineering regiment, building roads and bridges and digging trenches. In February 1915 Corporal Fonck was transferred to flight school at St. Cyr. He received his military pilot rating 15 May 1915 and was assigned to Escadrille C47, an observation squadron, where he flew the twin-engine Avion Caudron Type G. 4.

Caudron G.4 en vol, 1915. Les avions utilisés durant les premières années du conflit ne sont pas spécifiquement conçus pour l’observation. C’est le cas du Caudron G.4, mis au point pour le bombardement mais affecté à la reconnaissance quelques mes après sa mise en service en 1915. (© Droits réservés / Coll. musée de l’Air et de l’Espace–Le Bourget, noº MA 23532.)

In 1917, Fonck was transferred to Escadrille 103. He flew the SPAD S.VII, S.XII, S.XIII and the S.XVII.

For his military service during World War I, René Fonck was awarded the Croix de Guerre avec 28 Palmes, Croix de Guerre (Belgium); and Great Britain awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Military Cross and Military Medal.

René Paul Fonck died in Paris 23 June 1953. He was buried at the Saulcy-sur-Meurthe Cemetery, near the place of his birth.

René Fonck with a SPAD S.XII Canon fighter. The stork painted on the fuselage is the insignia of Escadrille 103, “Les Cignones.” (Historic Wings)

¹ Rittmeister Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen, Luftstreitkräfte, had 80 confirmed victories and was the leading fighter ace of World War I. Captain (Acting Major) William George Barker, Royal Air Force, is credited with 50. Count Maggiore Francesco Baracca, of Italy’s Corpo Aeronautico Militare was officially credited with 34 before being killed 18 June 1918. Captain Edward V. Rickenbacker, Air Service, American Expeditionary Force, shot down 20 airplanes and 6 balloons. Alexander Alexandrovich Kazakov was the leading ace of Imperial Russia with 20 confirmed victories (another 12 were not officially credited).

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather