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AIRCRAFT IN WAR AND PEACE



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

LONDON BOMBAY CALCUTTA
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY

NEW YORK BOSTON CHICAGO
DALLAS SAN FRANCISCO

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, LTD.

TORONTO



AIRCRAFT

IN WAR AND PEACE



BY

WILLIAM A. ROBSON



WITH ILLUSTRATIONS



MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED

ST. MARTIN'S STREET, LONDON

1916






COPYRIGHT



TO

D. 1R.



384684



PREFACE

IN this short book I have attempted to convey,
in plain non-technical language, a general idea
of the conditions under which aircraft is playing
its part in the War, and also to indicate the chief
directions in which it is developing.

To the general public the War has revealed,
in a startling manner, the wonderful potentiali-
ties which aircraft, and aeroplanes in particular,
possess as weapons of war. But although there
is at last plenty of enthusiasm for Aviation, there
is still very little real knowledge of the vast
possibilities which it offers. And, if we are to
have an air force as proportionately powerful
as our Navy is to-day and it is absolutely
essential that we should a better and wider
understanding will be most necessary. To-day,
for instance, people do not fully realise that
aeroplanes, as well as airships, are still in their
infancy, in spite of the extraordinary achieve-



viii AIRCRAFT

ments which they have accomplished. Then,
again, aircraft is at present regarded as being
almost entirely for use in warfare, although, as
a matter of fact, it will be of the utmost value for
civil purposes in times of peace.

I do not pretend that my book is in any way
complete. Indeed, to attempt to be complete
on the subject of Aviation is inevitably to be in-
complete, so swiftly does it progress. My inten-
tion has been to make a brief survey of Aviation
in its present-day position, and to show how
important it is that in future it should receive
a great deal more attention than hitherto.

My sincere thanks are due to Mr. J. H. Lede-
boer, A.F.Ae.S. (Editor of Aeronautics), and to
Mr. Gr. J. Pass for kindly assisting me in the
correction of proofs. I also wish to thank the
Editors of the Sunday Times, T.P.'s Weekly, The
World, and C as sell's General Press for their
courtesy in permitting me to use, in a few in-
stances, material embodied in articles appearing
in their journals.

WILLIAM A. KOBSON.
LONDON, 1916.



CONTENTS

PAET I
AIRCRAFT IN WAR

CHAP. . PAGE

I. WAR WITH AIRCRAFT .... 3

II. WHAT BRITISH AIRCRAFT HAS DONE . . 11

III. THE ROYAL FLYING CORPS AND THE ROYAL

NAVAL AIR SERVICE . . .30

IV. SCOUTING FROM THE AIR . . .44
V. AIR RAIDING . . . . .55

VI. AIRSHIP VERSUS AEROPLANE . . .74

VII. TYPES OF AIRCRAFT IN USE . . .85

PAET II
THE MAN AND THE MACHINE

VIII. How AN AVIATOR is TRAINED . . . 107

IX. THE MAKING OF AEROPLANES . . .121

PAET III

THE FUTURE OF AIRCRAFT

X. WHAT THE WAR HAS DONE FOR AVIATION . 143
XI. MILITARY AND CIVILIAN AERONAUTICS IN THE

FUTURE . . . . .150

XII. A NEW ERA . . . . .164

ix



ILLUSTRATIONS



Zeppelin L-Z III. over Lindau Harbour, Lake Constance,

near the Fried richshafen Works . . . Frontispiece



FACING PAGE



An Early Edition of one of the Fast British Scouts . 26

A Submarine seen from an Aeroplane . . . . 34

Over the Enemy's Lines 50

A French Double-Engined Caudron Biplane just after

a Combat in the Air ...... 88

Two Views of an Etrich Monoplane . . . . 93

A German Kite-Balloon about to ascend . . . 120

A New Era 166



PART I
AIRCEAFT IN WAR



B



CHAPTER I

WAR WITH AIRCRAFT

AVIATION has abolished the old methods of war-
fare, and introduced entirely new conditions, to
a far greater extent than any other science.

In addition, no other great discovery was
brought into military use with anything like
such astonishing rapidity as that of flying. Even
such comparative novelties in actual warfare as
the high-explosive shell, the submarine, and the
motor-car to name but a few have all been
developed gradually, sometimes through the
experience gained in other wars. In conse-
quence, they are factors which great armies and
navies are at any rate accustomed to use, and,
to a certain extent, protect themselves against.
But aviation was so new, strange, and unaccount-
able, that it seldom entered seriously into the
calculations of military experts, until the arrival



4 AlllGRAFT

of the War suddenly 'revealed its tremendous
possibilities, and upset the theories of all but a
few who had hitherto been regarded more or less
as cranks.

In fact, just as flying will, in time to come,
when aeroplanes are at least as numerous as
motor-driven vehicles, alter the course of our
everyday civilian lives, so it has to-day, even
in its comparatively undeveloped condition, re-
volutionised the art and science of warfare.

To state it shortly, the use of aircraft has dis-
pelled the " fog of war." Perhaps the most out-
standing result of this has been that warfare has
developed into practically a series of sieges ;
and, when special efforts are made, they are
generally attempts to break through the opposing
siege-line rather than the pitched battles of
previous wars.

Aircraft has two distinct functions in the
present campaign ; primarily, for all branches of
reconnaissance work, and, secondly, as a weapon
in itself. Compared to its indispensable and
marvellous capabilities as a scout, the latter use
of the aeroplane is not at present of so much
importance, and this can be said even when
bearing in mind the very valuable raids which



WAR WITH AIRCRAFT 5

aviators have frequently carried out with con-
spicuous military success.

There is certainly no doubt that in time to
come the aeroplane will be easily the most im-
portant and effective weapon which it will be
possible to use ; but to-day it is the eyes of the
army rather than its weapon. How tremend-
ously powerful it may be when used offensively
can be surmised.

With the advent of the aeroplane the element
of surprise has practically disappeared from
modern warfare, except in a few cases of minor
importance. With an efficient air service, the
commanding officer is accurately aware, not only
of the enemy's strength in the immediately
opposed firing line, but of his transports, convoys,
food and ammunition supplies, lines of com-
munication, and the approximate number of his
reserves for a very long way behind the actual
front. In addition to this, an accurate know-
ledge of the disposition of the enemy's troops is
available. The present-day commander knows
exactly what is going on behind every fortifica-
tion, hill, or parapet. It is now no longer possible
to bluff your enemy, by pretending to have
troops evenly disposed along a certain line,



6 AIRCRAFT

while in reality massing them along one wing
and from there delivering an unexpected flank
attack.

It would seem, therefore, that the chances of a
decisive victory solely owing to superior strategy
were hardly possible between two well-matched
armies, now that, for the first time in history,
war is in reality a game of chess and not one of
blindman's buff ; and it would thus appear that
to beat your enemy you can do so only by
fighting better or longer than he can, or with
more munitions, without relying on the usual
strategy of taking him by surprise.

This, however, is not the case ; for, after all,
surprise is not essentially a necessary element in
gaining the advantageous strategical position
which may decide the victory. As has been
demonstrated several times since war broke out,
by the Allies most notably at Neuve Chapelle
arid La Bassee and by the Germans on the
Eastern Front, what is essential for success is the
great speed at which a special attack must be
delivered. The opposing General may be fully
aware, from the information supplied to him by
his air scouts, of the enemy's intentions and
movements, and yet be powerless to counteract



WAR WITH AIRCRAFT 7

them successfully. He may not be able to risk
sending sufficient troops to meet the onslaught ;
he may know that it is not possible to get his
forces there in time ; or he may even send them
there and be too late. Swiftness and mobility in
an army are to-day more than ever necessary to
realise to the full the enormous advantages of the
aeroplane in war.

Purely as a weapon in itself and in time to
come this will be its chief use for military pur-
poses aircraft has not yet come fully to its own.
At present, aeroplanes are too scarce in every
country for an effective quantity to be used often
enough as an offensive weapon to accomplish a
victory in the widest sense of the word. To-day
it is necessary for large flights of them to con-
centrate on a single object in order to destroy it
successfully, and these large flights cannot always
be spared from their supremely valuable recon-
naissance work to undertake raids, important as
they are ; for we have to put our supply to the
use which is of the greatest military value in the
long run. When aeroplanes are made large
enough to carry a much heavier weight of explo-
sives without loss of flying and climbing speed, a
handful of them will of course be able to inflict



AIRCRAFT



FT. 1



damage on a greater military area than is at
present possible even with a considerable number.

Perhaps the most important thing, from an
aeronautical standpoint, which aircraft has ac-
complished in the War has been to establish itself
firmly and absolutely. There is no longer the
question of an efficient air force being a luxury,
for it is now recognised as a national necessity.
Its supreme importance is at last acknowledged
by every one, and most emphatically by men in
high official positions who are best able to judge
the great part it is playing in the War.

For, although a distinction has been drawn
between aircraft as it is to-day, and as it will be
when it is perfectly developed, it must above
all be remembered that, generally speaking,
our arms can even to-day only act effectively
and successfully with the assistance and co-
operation of aircraft. When Mr. Lloyd George
visited an aeroplane factory a short time ago,
in thanking the workmen he said, " The more
of these machines you can turn out the better
it will be for our brave fellows in France. It
is the only way we can detect the hidden gun
emplacements of the enemy. Those splendid
airmen and observers find out exactly where the



WAR WITH AIRCRAFT 9

trenches and the guns are, and then our artillery
gets to work, and when they have smashed away
defences, our infantry will turn the Germans out
of the trenches."

One thing has been demonstrated to this
country in particular, and that is the altered
conditions which now concern us as an Island
Power. We realise clearly, although it is not so
easy to do so, that aircraft knows not the division
of land and sea ; that the air is the domain of all.
In that respect alone it is perhaps well for us that
the War came when it did ; for it has shown us
the methods which a nation will have to adopt
in the future to preserve its power and safety.

It is true, of course, that our Navy will always
prove a source of the greatest strength to us, and
that sea power will, to a certain extent, remain
what it is ; but we now see that, just as we must
always have a strong fleet on the sea, so we must
have a proportionately strong one in the air.

It is not easy to realise what real righting in
the air means ; that is to say, a battle, not
between two or three aeroplanes, but between
two or three hundred or between two or three
thousand. In the domain of the air there are no
geographical advantages, no mountains, rivers,



10 AIRCRAFT P*.I

valleys, cliffs, woods, towns, fortresses or rail-
ways ; no boundaries, fortifications, frontiers or
limitations. No retreat is possible, and no
escape, between well-matched aircraft. In the
future, we can see from this present War, the force
that conquers the upper air conquers all beneath
it. And although there will always be a land
army, it will be as auxiliary to the air force, as
is the flying corps to the land army to-day ;
for the great battles, with their consequent
results and issues, will take place in the air.

These few remarks regarding the altered con-
ditions which now prevail, and the develop-
ments which it is clear must proceed from the
present campaign, are intended to show that the
possibilities of aircraft cannot only be judged from
its actual performance in this War itself ; for some
people do not apparently realise the very imma-
ture stage from which aviation has still to emerge.
The War came far too soon, as it were, for the
science in general, for aviation was no more ready
for war than was this country prepared for it.

We can now pass on to the wonderful achieve-
ments which aircraft has performed since that
memorable August in 1914, and to the conditions
which surround it in the War.



CHAPTER II

WHAT BRITISH AIRCRAFT HAS DONE

EVERY branch of our Navy and Army has through-
out the war maintained the best traditions of its
history. But British aircraft has established its
own tradition during the campaign ; and the Air
Services have made a reputation which to-day
stands unrivalled, not only for continuous hard
work, but for almost consistent success in the face
of the most arduous difficulties.

It is really somewhat difficult to appreciate
the significance of all that the Royal Flying Corps
has achieved at the Western Front. The whole
existence of our Army, and everything that it
has to accomplish, is directly or indirectly de-
pendent on the efforts of the Flying Corps. In
every operation, great or small, in every attack,
in all the early successful rearguard actions, the
Corps has played a conspicuous part. From the



11



12 AIECRAFT

very beginning, when it saved the British Expedi-
tionary Force from being cut up in the retreat
from Mons, the Flying Corps showed the stuff it
was made of, and after only two months of war
Sir John French was able to write that "... the
British Flying Corps has succeeded in establishing
an individual ascendancy which is as serviceable
to us as it is damaging to the enemy."

It is extremely instructive to examine one or
two aspects of the campaign, in order to realise
fully the direct and definite material influence
which the war in the air exerts on the fortunes of
the armies on their several Fronts.

Consider first the movements on the Eastern
Front, when Russia was passing through a very
critical period, and it was uncertain not only
whether her armies would be surrounded and
destroyed, but whether the Germans would be
able to penetrate into Central Russia. It was
common talk that our Ally was badly in need
of munitions ; but while everybody was quick
enough to explain that the Russians were short
of field-guns and shells, rifles, machine-guns,
howitzers, and so forth, scarcely any one pointed
out that they were very short of aeroplanes,
although it was perfectly plain that Russia's



BRITISH AIRCRAFT 13

bad position at the time was to a large degree
due to her lack of aeroplanes and to Germany's
possession of a good supply. Because people
were under the impression that Sikorsky was a
Russian, apparently it followed for them that
Russia had in consequence a good supply of
military aeroplanes. Of course, even Germany's
supply of aeroplanes on the East Front was only
adequate as compared to Russia's. So many
machines to the mile of Front were not at any
time used in the East as in the West. Con-
sidering the vast length of the former, this is
only to be expected. It is worth while to add
that Russia could never have recovered as she
has done if her supply of aeroplanes had not
increased considerably after her worst reverses ;
but for a long time she was hopelessly handi-
capped by this tremendous disadvantage, and
her early successes against the Austrians are
explained in part by the fact that Austria had
no more aeroplanes than Russia herself possessed
at that time.

The significance of aircraft's part in the war
was never demonstrated so strikingly as it was
in an almost unnoticed incident connected with
the successful British advance south of the La



14 AIRCRAFT

Bassee canal. Two days before this great attack
took place the Germans announced as was
mentioned and contradicted in the British official
communique that the British had undertaken
an offensive south of the La Bassee canal and
had been repulsed. Apart from the German
motives in announcing this falsehood, it clearly
shows that German aeroplanes had observed
the preparations and massing of troops at certain
places, preparatory to the great push forward.
The success attending our offensive is plainly
consistent with the statement that the dis-
appearance of the element of surprise in modern
warfare does not mean the withdrawal of strate-
gical advantage in attack. In the case in point,
the Germans were warned of the coming attack
by their aircraft, but they were unable to move
sufficient reinforcements to the threatened points
in time to resist it.

The very high praise which Sir John French
bestowed on the Royal Flying Corps and its work
on this occasion, in an Order of the Day, was
thoroughly well deserved. For weeks preceding
the actual day of the offensive, our aviators
had exerted every effort to clear the air of
German machines, and in the month of September



CH.II BRITISH AIRCRAFT 15

1915 alone there were about two hundred and
forty duels in the air, in almost every instance
of which the enemy's machines were either
chased off, forced to descend, or destroyed, with-
out loss to us. However, the work of our aviators
did not end there by any means. What was the
good of the hailstorm of shells which we fired
as the opening note of the attack, unless those
shells were going to strike home in the German
trenches ? To this purpose, therefore, our Flying
Corps officers applied themselves to the task of
directing our artillery fire with even greater
disregard for danger and more persistence than
ever. In addition, they succeeded in destroy-
ing many vital points in the enemy's lines of
communication.

For the success of every venture in modern
war, it is essential that a partial supremacy in
the air should be gained, although without this
a temporary advantage may sometimes be ob-
tained at enormous cost. Aerial supremacy is
obviously of the utmost importance, operating
as it does in two directions ; that is to say, every
increase in air power on one side means a pro-
portionate decrease in the air power of the other
side.



16 AIRCRAFT

It is not too much to say that, viewing the
campaign from the beginning, the British Flying
Corps has almost consistently maintained an
ascendancy over that of the enemy. Before
showing just what that ascendancy means, a
few words may be said regarding ai* power as it
exists to-day.

Air power differs from sea power inasmuch
as it is not ubiquitous. The British Navy, for
example, has obtained absolute command of
nearly all the seas and trade-routes in every
part of the world, whereas at present it is
only possible for even the strongest air fleet to
command the air to a strictly limited extent,
owing to the all-round scarcity, or comparative
scarcity, of aeroplanes. The most that can be
done is to distribute aeroplanes behind an army,
and, if these aeroplanes and their pilots are
superior to those of the enemy, they will defeat,
or more probably frighten off, the enemy's air-
craft from those parts. When, as at the West
Front in the present campaign, the opposing line
is so close that keeping hostile aircraft away
from your own lines also means keeping it away
from the enemy's lines, it can be realised how
extremely important this measure of air power



BRITISH AIRCRAFT 17

shows itself to be. Although it would, of course,
be far more effective and satisfactory actually
to destroy or capture the enemy's aeroplanes
rather than only to frighten them from ap-
proaching the sphere of action, the latter is also
extremely valuable, and, after all, is the principle
on which our sea power is maintained. But
another difference in this respect must be noted
between air and sea operations ; for, while the
German Fleet is securely bottled up in the Kiel
Canal, German aeroplanes, even if they may
not care to venture within striking distance of
British or French aircraft (when over either our
own lines or over the German lines) still remain
free to be used in various other directions, either
at another Front, or for performing raids and
other operations which can be carried out
without coming too near our airmen.

It can be realised that it is extraordinarily
difficult to achieve even that measure of air
power which is possible under present condi-
tions, and the fine work of the Royal Flying
Corps in accomplishing a partial but decided
supremacy cannot be valued too highly. But
it must be added that our ascendancy in the air

cannot be, and has not been, positively and

c



18 AIRCRAFT

permanently fixed to our advantage, as in the
case of our sea supremacy. There are too many
constantly changing factors for that. In fact,
the degree of our supremacy fluctuates con-
siderably, now growing weaker, now stronger,
although as a whole it has strengthened im-
mensely with every month of war.

The reasons for this fluctuation are various.
For example, when a large portion of the German
Army was transferred to the East for the Russian
adventure, many of the best German aeroplanes
went with it ; so, for a time, the Royal Flying
Corps had the air almost to itself. Then again
it varies with the production of more powerful
and improved aeroplanes on each side ; thus,
when the Germans first brought out their " battle
plane " with a two hundred horse-power engine,
for a short period we completely lost our ascend-
ancy, which for the time being was transferred
to the enemy.

However, with the exception of a few in-
tervals, we have undeniably maintained an
ascendancy in the air ; and in order to show
how marked this has been, a quotation may be
made from another despatch written nearly a
year after the outbreak of war and selected



BRITISH AIRCRAFT 19

from the many in which Sir John French paid
tribute to the Flying Corps : " The Royal
Flying Corps is becoming more and more an
indispensable factor in combined operations.
In co-operation with the artillery in particular,
there has been continuous improvement both
in the methods and in the technical material
employed. . . . During this period (two months)
there have been more than sixty combats in
the air, in which not one British aeroplane has
been lost. ... In spite of the opposition of
hostile aircraft, and the great number of anti-
aircraft guns employed by the enemy, air
reconnaissance has been carried out with regu-
larity and accuracy."

This clearly shows that if an absolute domin-
ance of the air is impossible, a comparative one
is perfectly feasible.

The scope of our ascendancy comes under
three heads :

1. RECONNAISSANCE.

2. DIRECTING ARTILLERY FIRE.

3. BOMB-DROPPING.

In the case of scouting, it means that day
after day the commanding officers are able to
receive a supply of increasingly accurate infor-



20 AIRCRAFT

mation as to the enemy's movements and where-
abouts, due to the observers becoming more
and more familiar with each particular part of
the country from above. In directing artillery
fire the advantage obtained is equally great.
To be able to fly for hours at a stretch " spot-
ting " for the gunners below, and signalling the
results to them, until the gunfire is so directed
that every shell strikes home, is obviously of
the greatest possible value. In bomb-dropping
the ascendancy enables flights of our aeroplanes
to travel long or short distances into the enemy's
territory, to drop their bombs, and to return in
safety, though, occasionally, with the loss of a
raider. As a matter of fact, the total number
of casualties in our flying services during the
War has been surprisingly low, and less, in
proportion to the distance flown, than in time
of peace.

Our aviators prove a great hindrance to the
enemy's aeroplanes, for they not only bring
down or chase off those attempting reconnais-
sance over our lines, but they also attack hostile
machines which have been deputed to direct
the artillery fire of the German batteries. And,
as any one can see from the official communiques,



BRITISH AIRCRAFT 21

the enemy has carried out extraordinarily few
raids of any note whatever in the Western


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