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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

RNAS and coal.


CULVERIN
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I have some old records going back years and whose origin is now both vague and obscure stating that...

The RNAS despised operating its petrol pigeons off ships in the fleet, irrespective of type, where that ship was using coal.

Apparently, coal dust would seriously damage not only the machinery, engines and guns, of said pigeons, but more significantly, cause serious damage to the fabric of these machines.

Allied to the inherent disadvantages of operating in the sea salt environment associated with planes at sea, especially in its infancy during the 1915-18 era, did coal dust and the other nasties in this substance have a bearing on the operational efficiency of planes on ships with coal at this time. Even smoke from funnels had a detrimental effect.

No mention of the impact oil had. But then, oil produced no dust, but lots of other noxious substrates

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I think that coal dust could create lubrication problems with rotary engines.

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However given that the the sea plane carrier HMS Ben-my-Chree burned 75 tons of coal a day they seem to have been prepared to put up with it!

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In fact all but one of the seaplane carriers were coal fired

HMS Ben-my-chree Coal

HMS Engadine Coal

HMS Campania Coal

HMS Ark Royal, later Pegasus (1914–1939) Oil

HMS Riviera (1914–1919) Coal

HMS Empress (1914–1919) Coal

HMS Raven II Coal

HMS Anne (1915) Coal

HMS Hermes 1913-1914 Coal

HMS Vindex (1915) Coal

HMS Manxman (1916) Coal (converted to oil in 1921 when back in civilian use)

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If members of a ships Company, the RNAS men would also get roped in to coaling ship, a task that seemed to hated by everyofficer, seaman and marine.

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If members of a ships Company, the RNAS men would also get roped in to coaling ship, a task that seemed to hated by everyofficer, seaman and marine.

So nothing special about the RNAS then.

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Thanks for the input here.

What seemed to be the unseen concern was how coal dust could destroy the fabric to these fragile machines.

The ships when coaling would do so using traditional methods where practical, whips, hoists with bagged coal, from most colliers.

Sometimes, grabs would be used and the loose coal dumped on deck before being wheeled to the chutes to enter the bunkers. Not ideal, but if needs must.

All the seaplane carriers were ex merchant conversions, or in a couple of cases, Anne & Raven II, more a lash up. Hermes a cruiser.

So, a huge amount of coal dust could be blown all over the place afflicting the poor planes. Not good when it finds its way into the mechanics. Black syrup which would grind away at the insides of the engine, gun barrel and other moving parts.

Still a mystery how it affects the fabric though.

And then there is the disposal of the ash from the boilers, frequently just dumped over the side. Chutes were provided to prevent the ash, and clinker, from flying (sorry) all over the decks, but how often used.

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What seemed to be the unseen concern was how coal dust could destroy the fabric to these fragile machines.

Actually surprisingly robust machines.

In general one of the greatest degraders of fabric was sunlight which was why the PB dopes were developed in greenish and brownish colours. Towards the end of the war it was found that a silver dope worked best hence all those silver coloured interwar aircraft. Then wet came second. A good coat of varnish helped. One can only think that coal dust and moisture reacted with the linen some how. Given that most of the seaplane carriers could have been converted to oil firing the RNAS don't seem to have been that worried about it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The floatplanes operated from seaplane carriers were not really troubled by smoke, etc. They all had hangars.

However, towards the end of the war many cruisers and battleships were fitted to carry either Sopwith 2F1 Camels or Sopwith 11/2 Strutters. On the larger ships these were carried on turret tops andtook off from wooden ramps fitted over the guns. The smaller ships, after many experiments, were often fitted with a rotating platform, aft of or between the funnels. The Sopwith was carried on this when the ship was at sea.

Clearly, smoke could be a problem on the cruisers, but damage by the sea was probably a more major concern. The only shelters available were fragile canvas screens. The aircraft had to be launched or jettisoned before the battleships could fire their guns. Longevity was not a major concern for any of these aircraft. Once launched the pilots had little choice but to land on the sea and hope to be picked up.

On the whole I suspect that the long term effect of smoke damage was of secondary importance.

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The floatplanes operated from seaplane carriers were not really troubled by smoke, etc. They all had hangars.

However, towards the end of the war many cruisers and battleships were fitted to carry either Sopwith 2F1 Camels or Sopwith 11/2 Strutters.

Which had been preceded in 1917 by Sopwith Pups as on HMS Repulse and also the Beardmore SPD3. It should be noted that the 2F1 and the SPD3 both folded so they could be kept below decks until they were needed. Whilst the SPD3 was not a success it should also be noted that it went on to be the IJN's first carrier fighter and hence the ancestor of the Zero

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Agreed. I did provide a very brief overview. Several years were in fact spent on trials and experiments, commencing with flying off decks on the seaplane carriers. Several light cruisers were built with a small hangar for a folded single seater, take off was to be by means of two troughs, to guide the wheels, fitted over the foredeck ahead of the forward gun. It's a long involved story that cannot be properly covered in the forum format.

Incidentally the correct designation is Beardmore WBIII, however that was the factory designation and the RNAS decided that they should be S.B.3D (Sopwith-Beardmore). The D was for 'dropping undercarriage' indicating that the undercarriage could be jettisoned after take off. There was also the S.B.3F or folding undercarriage, but only the first few had this modern convenience - the undercarriage track was narrowed so the the wheels could tuck up into the fuselage.

Whatever it designation, the Beardmore was in effect a bastardised Sopwith Pup redesigned to have folding wings. No matter what undercarriage was fitted, all machines had folding wings. The modifications necessary to permit this almost totally destroyed the performance and delightful handing of the parent Sopwith Pup.

The Sopwith 2F1 Camel was an equally peculiar compromise. In order not to change the handling, it was arranged so that the fuselage could fold aft of the cockpit. To ease storage the wings were also reduced in span.

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Agreed. I did provide a very brief overview. Several years were in fact spent on trials and experiments, commencing with flying off decks on the seaplane carriers. Several light cruisers were built with a small hangar for a folded single seater, take off was to be by means of two troughs, to guide the wheels, fitted over the foredeck ahead of the forward gun. It's a long involved story that cannot be properly covered in the forum format.

Incidentally the correct designation is Beardmore WBIII, however that was the factory designation and the RNAS decided that they should be S.B.3D (Sopwith-Beardmore). The D was for 'dropping undercarriage' indicating that the undercarriage could be jettisoned after take off. There was also the S.B.3F or folding undercarriage, but only the first few had this modern convenience - the undercarriage track was narrowed so the the wheels could tuck up into the fuselage.

Whatever it designation, the Beardmore was in effect a bastardised Sopwith Pup redesigned to have folding wings. No matter what undercarriage was fitted, all machines had folding wings. The modifications necessary to permit this almost totally destroyed the performance and delightful handing of the parent Sopwith Pup.

The Sopwith 2F1 Camel was an equally peculiar compromise. In order not to change the handling, it was arranged so that the fuselage could fold aft of the cockpit. To ease storage the wings were also reduced in span.

In fact the S B 3 F came first and the S B 3 D afterwards - just to confuse matters some S B 3 Fs were subsequently fitted with a dropable undercarriage but not re designated.but given that they were usually referred to as the Beardmore Folding Pup anyway it probably didn't matter. The Camel 2F1 fuselage was detachable for shipboard storage rather than simply folding. However the point is that neither spent much time on flying of platforms so that smoke and spray wasn't that big a problem.

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  • 3 months later...

A bit late to join this topic, but it may be of interest to note that when Ark Royal was sent to the Dardanelles the top of the chimnys on its two steam cranes had open funnels. However, soon after the first few operations someone obviously decided to put mesh guards on these, presumably because of problems with the escape of hot embers on to the deck area, and consequently onto the aircraft themselves whilst their engines were being run up.

At the end of the war, when she was at Piraeus these had been removed, and i can only guess that this was because she was no longer operating aircraft.

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