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Aeroplanes and Dirigibles of War by Frederick A. Talbot

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Aeroplanes and Dirigibles of War
Frederick A. Talbot


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.


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


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 employ ment 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 thecountry, 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

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.


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

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

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 ex tremely 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

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.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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 thelatter 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 heavierthan-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

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

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

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


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

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

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,
thisvessel 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.


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

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

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
uncontrollableit 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

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