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Aeroplanes and Dirigibles of War by Frederick A. Talbot

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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 ts 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 suf ficiently
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. Consequentiy, 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 com
manded 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
fomidable 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 eeperiment 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 Austnan 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 apprecably 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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