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harvey mills

Balloon Photography

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harvey mills

Hi. I’m currently doing some research on the use of Kite Balloons on the Western Front, specifically in their use as a photographic platform. I have a couple of questions that I hope someone may be able to answer, or point me in the right direction...

 

1. Photograph Coding: is it possible to differentiate aerial images shot from a balloon or a plane, based on the reference code printed on the photograph?

 

2. What was the optimum height for a Kite Balloon to operate for photographic purposes?

 

3. Is there any evidence that balloons were used in the Bullecourt sector in April/May 1917?

 

4. Typically, how far behind the line were balloons launched from?

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance. 

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MikeMeech
22 hours ago, harvey mills said:

Hi. I’m currently doing some research on the use of Kite Balloons on the Western Front, specifically in their use as a photographic platform. I have a couple of questions that I hope someone may be able to answer, or point me in the right direction...

 

1. Photograph Coding: is it possible to differentiate aerial images shot from a balloon or a plane, based on the reference code printed on the photograph?

 

2. What was the optimum height for a Kite Balloon to operate for photographic purposes?

 

3. Is there any evidence that balloons were used in the Bullecourt sector in April/May 1917?

 

4. Typically, how far behind the line were balloons launched from?

 

Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance. 

Hi

 

Reference Photo Coding, Peter Wright in his articles on 'Aerial Photo Coding' in Cross & Cockade International Journal in Vol. 32 No.1 in 2001, he gives two examples:

 

"...on the Western Front, aerial photos taken from Kite Balloons also usually carried a code, exampled thus:

P.10B.44

28.J16

18.3.18

     Translates to: Panoramic view 'P'. 10 KB Section '10', No 2 Balloon Company, 'B', photo number 44.  Map Sheet '28', large square 'J', small square '16'. Date.  This was in Ypres Salient."

 

Peter Cooksley's 'The RFC/RNAS Handbook 1914-18' has a chapter on 'Lighter than Air', including Kite Balloons, including:

 

"The most common operational altitude was 1,000ft, but this could vary according to the weather and activity."

 

Also:

 

"...and took photographs using cameras fitted with lenses of enormous length.  These pictures were used to to compile mosaic maps and were particularly valued as they did not suffer from the effects of vibrations associated with those taken from powered aircraft."

 

Although I suspect it was more a 'panorama' than 'map', as they were oblique photographs, although details from these could be added to vertical photos to produce more accurate trench maps.

 

Mike

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barkalotloudly

one of the first trench maps i purchased was a German map dated March 1918 an on it was indicated the limit of Balloon observation 

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Open Bolt
1 hour ago, MikeMeech said:

"The most common operational altitude was 1,000ft, but this could vary according to the weather and activity."

Very interesting. A quick pythag says that for the mean radius of the earth, the line of sight to the horizon would be 62km, but the realistic limit would be far less than this.

31 minutes ago, barkalotloudly said:

the limit of Balloon observation 

How far was this?

Edited by Open Bolt

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MikeMeech

Hi

 

Continuing from my previous post.

 

The December 1917 edition of SS 131 'Co-operation of Aircraft with Artillery', has  Section XI that concerns Kite Balloons.  On page 52 is the following:

 

"Balloons can be brought closest to the lines when most needed, i.e., during active operations, when it is difficult for the enemy to engage them systematically.  Under these conditions they have been able to carry out work 4,000 yards from the line, and even closer."

 

Also:

 

"The low height of the balloon compared with an aeroplane is a serious drawback which precludes the clock-code method of observation, and introduces questions of dead ground, but this disadvantage has been, to a certain extent, overcome by technical improvements, and 4,500 feet-instead of 2,500 feet, as formerly-should be taken as the normal height for observation under favourable conditions, and shoots have been carried out at 6,000 feet."

 

The operational performance will depend on the period of war that is being discussed due to the improvements in the balloons that was on-going during the war.  Also the type of balloon and if it was a one man or two man basket, not to mention the weather.

 

John Christopher's 'Balloons at War', page 66, mentions the use of cameras from balloons, suggesting that:

 

"As the war progressed these cameras became ever more powerful with lenses starting at 300mm and culminating with 1,200mm - making them look like bulky canon as they poked over the sides of the baskets."

 

Mike

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harvey mills
5 hours ago, MikeMeech said:

Hi

 

Reference Photo Coding, Peter Wright in his articles on 'Aerial Photo Coding' in Cross & Cockade International Journal in Vol. 32 No.1 in 2001, he gives two examples:

 

"...on the Western Front, aerial photos taken from Kite Balloons also usually carried a code, exampled thus:

P.10B.44

28.J16

18.3.18

     Translates to: Panoramic view 'P'. 10 KB Section '10', No 2 Balloon Company, 'B', photo number 44.  Map Sheet '28', large square 'J', small square '16'. Date.  This was in Ypres Salient."

 

Peter Cooksley's 'The RFC/RNAS Handbook 1914-18' has a chapter on 'Lighter than Air', including Kite Balloons, including:

 

"The most common operational altitude was 1,000ft, but this could vary according to the weather and activity."

 

Also:

 

"...and took photographs using cameras fitted with lenses of enormous length.  These pictures were used to to compile mosaic maps and were particularly valued as they did not suffer from the effects of vibrations associated with those taken from powered aircraft."

 

Although I suspect it was more a 'panorama' than 'map', as they were oblique photographs, although details from these could be added to vertical photos to produce more accurate trench maps.

 

Mike

Excellent, thanks Mike. That’s confirmed my suspicions about the coding and makes sense with the images I’ve been studying. Harvey

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Open Bolt

Thank you for the extra information. I am still interested in the range of practical observation, but perhaps they do not enter into this.

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Open Bolt

This Western Front Assoc article is the best place I have found online for information:

http://westfrontassoc.mtcdevserver.com/the-great-war/great-war-on-land/weapons-equipment-uniform/313-ob-bal-west.html#sthash.nA2ztH6n.dpbs

 

The kite balloons were usually located 5.5-km metres (3 miles) behind the front line trenches at a distance apart of 20 to 25km (12 to 15 miles). At these bases they would await suitable wind and weather conditions so the observation balloons could ascend bearing a tethering cable and a telephone line. The optimal operating altitude varied between 1,000 and 1,500 metres (3,000 and 4,000 feet)...

The original Caquot was 28m long (92 feet) and 10m (32 feet) in diameter and cost ?450. It had a capacity of around 23,200 cubic feet of hydrogen gas. It could support two observers and their telecommunications and mapping equipment at an operational level of between 300m (1000 feet) and 1,200m (4000 feet). It is said that at this upper height, in good clear weather, and with reasonably flat terrain, large objects at 80km (50 miles) distance could be spotted through binoculars. However, the normal, optimal, operational observation circle was about 10km (6.5miles) in diameter.

 

We could speculate 1) that if flash spotting a 5.9" normal to the frontline then this would be possible at 14.3km / 9 miles (5.5km to the front + effective range of a 15cm at 8.8km)

2) That on flat ground, 5.5km behind a straight front line, 25km apart, a) two balloons could see their entire front with an observation range of 14.7km (clearly this would involve spotting small objects) and b) two balloons could flash spot along their front as in (1) above with an observation range of 19km (12 miles).

 

On ‎12‎/‎12‎/‎2018 at 13:37, Open Bolt said:
On ‎12‎/‎12‎/‎2018 at 13:07, barkalotloudly said:

the limit of Balloon observation 

How far was this?

 

Apologies if you thought this uncivil, it was intended as a straight forward question.

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Open Bolt

I've just noticed the unit conversion in the Western Front article is suspect. I wonder if it came from a continental source (km and metres expressed first) so that the metric units are the more accurate, or the other way around?

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