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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Wireless in the air


Cubby

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1 hour ago, Cubby said:

During 1914-16, did the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough make any wireless sets for aircraft use. If they didn't make any, what did they supply for RFC use?

Hi

The RFC undertook various experiments with wireless pre-war both from aeroplanes and airships, the first aeroplane wireless transmission to the ground from an aeroplane taking place during army manoeuvres in 1910.  During 1914 wireless was one of the communication methods used to signal to the ground for artillery spotting.  Early sets were fairly large and could take up the observers cockpit, therefore the pilot would fly alone.  The sets could also be attached to the side of the aeroplane at this stage.  The early wireless sets of 1914/15 were the 'Rouzet' type, which were powered off the engine.  There were also accumulator sets such as the 'Leslie-Miller and, the more famous, Sterling set that became the standard set by the autumn of 1915.

The 'Sterling' was called the Sterling because the initial production contract went to the Sterling Telephone Company.  It was devised originally by Lt. B Binyon RN at Eastchurch in October 1914.  These Sterling sets weighed less than 20 lb and could be fitted inside the aeroplane so the observer could be in the aircraft as well as the pilot, they were transmitters and used the Morse code for messages.

The wireless sets and their components were manufactured by wireless, telephone and telegraph equipment manufacturers.

Wide scale use of wireless, mainly in conjunction with artillery, was undertaken during the battle of the Somme in 1916 when 306 aeroplanes were fitted with sets.

 

Mike 

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MikeMeech could you refer me to any books or sources  on this subject please?

 

Many thanks,

 

Yperman

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10 hours ago, yperman said:

MikeMeech could you refer me to any books or sources  on this subject please?

 

Many thanks,

 

Yperman

Hi

Books you can consult include the Official History 'The War in the Air', Volume 1 by Walter Raleigh and the other 5 Volumes by H. A. Jones, you should be able to obtain these as a free download on-line.  Also free on-line is the Royal Engineers history of 'The Signal Service in the European War of 1914 to 1918 (France) by R E Priestley (1921).  Although it is about ground signalling it includes some information on RFC communications, it also puts the communication system in context.  Flight International Magazine has an archive site of their past editions and you can search that for early wireless.  For example the November 13, 1914, and December 25, 1914 editions have some interesting information on early wireless.

You could try to get a copy of 'Cross & Cockade International Journal' Volume 33, No.4 2002.  This has an article on 'Wireless and Corps Aircraft in World War One' by Peter Reynolds.

'Observers and Navigators' by C. G. Jefford (updated and expanded 2014) has some info on wireless but has good info of observers training and use, again useful for context, and can be got for a reasonable price usually.  Also 'The Eye in the Air' by Peter Mead has wireless use in the context of supporting the artillery so may be useful.  Most books on the RFC give at least some information on wireless.

I hope that is of use.

 

Mike

 

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Many thanks MikeMeech, I really appreciate your trouble.

Yperman

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MikeMeech - many thanks for your input. The reason that I asked is that in a National Archives document (AIR 1/729/176/5/76, Appendix 37) there is the following statement:

 

' Notes on RAF Short-range Wireless Apparatus, October-December 1914.

(Range was first limited by General Brancker to 10 miles. Experiments for longer ranges were stopped at the end of 1914, ...It was anticipated by SRAF [Superintendent Royal Aircraft Factory] that a longer range would be required. The short-range set was no sooner supplied to order than 20 miles was required. The RAF supplied it. ...'

 

So it seems that the Factory did supply some wireless sets - but which?

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19 hours ago, Cubby said:

MikeMeech - many thanks for your input. The reason that I asked is that in a National Archives document (AIR 1/729/176/5/76, Appendix 37) there is the following statement:

 

' Notes on RAF Short-range Wireless Apparatus, October-December 1914.

(Range was first limited by General Brancker to 10 miles. Experiments for longer ranges were stopped at the end of 1914, ...It was anticipated by SRAF [Superintendent Royal Aircraft Factory] that a longer range would be required. The short-range set was no sooner supplied to order than 20 miles was required. The RAF supplied it. ...'

 

So it seems that the Factory did supply some wireless sets - but which?

Hi

In 'Sir Sefton Brancker' by Norman Macmillan (1935), page 105, Brancker had this to say on wireless 1914/15:

 

"...before the war there had been rival camps in wireless development not only in Government Departments but in the industry.  The result was that whenever I managed to obtain the services of some wireless expert from civil life, a rival in the opposite camp would see to it that I received information to the individual concerned.  One day Murray Sueter very generously sent me a wireless expert who had evolved a new and very light transmitter, which I realized at once was going to be invaluable for artillery observation.  Almost immediately I was informed that the gentleman who brought it to me was a German spy.  However, I was case hardened by that time and took no notice, and the new set was most successfully developed into our standard artillery observation equipment and manufactured in thousands."

 

This set would have been the Sterling.

 

There would have been a number of different wireless sets during 1914/15, the ones that are named in documents from the national Archives I have mentioned.  Most sets were either from the civil industry or 'individuals' from civilian society or from the military/naval personnel with the expertise in this area.  If I come across anymore types in the documentation I have I shall post it.  However, was there no more detail in AIR 1/729/176/5/76 that you mentioned?

 

For later in the war AIR1/725/97/1 has a 'Schedule of W/T Apparatus at Present in Use for various purposes by RAF in the Field.' for July 1918, below:

 

Mike

 

ww1wireless002.jpg

ww1wireless003.jpg

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