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Remembered Today:

Air battle training using camera-guns and doing 'puff-shoots'


Historian2
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There has been a fair amount of coverage here - IIRC photos too of the Aldis sight & camera gun. Try here:

 

 

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5 hours ago, Historian2 said:

What'd these camera guns look like and what was entailed in a puff shoots?

Hi

The book 'British Aircraft Armament Volume 2' by R Wallace Clarke, has a picture at the top of page 143 of the Hythe Camera Gun Mark III (below). The Naval & Military Press have done a reprint of the 1917 'Text Book on Air Gunnery', pages 17-21 has 'Instructions for using the Hythe Gun Camera: Mk. II.'

WW1fightinair1918025.jpg.595a5a81c1914e88100d5671e6023723.jpg

 

Mike

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14 hours ago, quemerford said:

There has been a fair amount of coverage here - IIRC photos too of the Aldis sight & camera gun. Try here:

 

 

Thanks so much for this. I failed to find it when I did a search of topics. I had not realised that my grandfather was not airborne for the exercise in this quote from his diary '... on the first days of February 1918, It was quiet on the Front then, [I was invited] to try out in practice battles and reconnaissance work. As a crack shot, I was the gunner during a mock fight with camera-guns, doing 'puff-shoots'. I had a most excellent puff-shoot, spotting every round except one, so that afternoon I did machine gun training, then I took part in air battle training. Two-thirds of the Squadron flew in formation to prevent the remaining third (flying individually) crossing a certain road. The 'plane I was in, one of the attackers, got through with the greatest of ease, and quite unmolested. I was hooked'

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10 hours ago, MikeMeech said:

Hi

The book 'British Aircraft Armament Volume 2' by R Wallace Clarke, has a picture at the top of page 143 of the Hythe Camera Gun Mark III (below). The Naval & Military Press have done a reprint of the 1917 'Text Book on Air Gunnery', pages 17-21 has 'Instructions for using the Hythe Gun Camera: Mk. II.'

WW1fightinair1918025.jpg.595a5a81c1914e88100d5671e6023723.jpg

 

Mike

Excellent, thanks so much for your quick reply. In your opinion, would the plane be likely to be a Bristol Fighter, or is the illustration too close in for identification?

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4 hours ago, Historian2 said:

Excellent, thanks so much for your quick reply. In your opinion, would the plane be likely to be a Bristol Fighter, or is the illustration too close in for identification?

Hi

The drawing does appear to be  Bristol Fighter.

The earliest version looked a bit different, image from Jefford's 'Observers and Navigators' (Updated edition 2014) page 52, a very useful book:

WW2aswusuk023.jpg.6dd298e83d8140252b22ba66f9edfd0c.jpg

Peter Liddle's book 'The Airman's War 1914-18' page 72, also has an image of the early version plus a 'target image':

WW2aswusuk022.jpg.65b3f695800e5127a11404531e4a3614.jpg

The use and instructions of working out results of the gun camera image is included in the previously mentioned 1917 'Text Book on Aerial Gunnery':

WW2aswusuk024.jpg.c965bb1821f19a35bdb16cd47a9dd349.jpg

 

Mike

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On 04/10/2022 at 15:56, Historian2 said:

What'd these camera guns look like and what was entailed in a puff shoots?

I think I can help with ‘puff shoots’.  At that time the word shoot was used generically to describe an artillery firing practice.  Puff ranges were devised as a simple form of simulation to practise correcting ‘the fall of shot’.  They were created by building a wooden frame above a rectangular pit set inside a large hut. Over the frame’s top was stretched chicken wire that was then shaped to represent a piece of ground taken from an ordnance survey map, usually covering a rectangular area of grid squares covering a few square miles with a slightly upwards slope.  Over the shaped chicken wire, which was reinforced underneath to hold its shape, was stretched wet hessian (sacking) that was then painted to represent the ground and roads/tracks, any buildings and woods, copses, hedgerows and waterways. At the lower end of this simulated piece of ground an elevated wooden platform of banked rows was constructed with a single seat at its most forward point and a few rows of seats behind that.  The former was for the student being practised and those behind for other students to observe.  Under the simulated ground, inside the pit entered by a door and some steps, was the clever part.  The floor of the pit was painted with numbered and lettered grid squares matching those of the ordnance survey map concerned and conforming to its precise layout.  In this area, that was dimly lit sufficient to see, operated two men.  One received and repeated back the morse code orders of the student sat in the single seat above who was acting as an aerial observer. The other man operated a solid brass ‘puff gun’, which looked rather like a syringe with a bulbous rubber puffer at one end, a cylindrical chamber in the middle and a thin spigot tube at the top.  Inside the chamber was a low voltage electrical coil and some oil soaked flannelette.  The cylinder was filled with smoke when the coil became hot, which former could then be emitted via the spigot through the hessian above by standing on the floor coordinates and squeezing the rubber bulb. Thus the observer above saw a puff of smoke simulating his fall of shot, to which he could apply corrections, in response to which the process in the pit beneath the frame was repeated.  The puff range principle was cheap and simple to develop and continued in use for many decades.  There were a variety of different designs for these puff ranges, some more sophisticated than others, but the basic principles and components were largely the same.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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This one was surrendered to Police in Queensland in 2017 during the firearm amnesty.

IMG_0267.JPG.0442cab7d3cde11d0b865cee575

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P.S.  The puff ranges were popular and especially useful in inclement weather, as they could often be quickly swapped for an outdoor period and so provide flexibility within a training programme.

The cigarette smoke anecdote is one of those humorous old soldier stories that gets better with the telling.  In reality it doesn’t work and it was the burning oil cloth in the cylinder that created puffs of smoke dense enough to be seen. 

Edited by FROGSMILE
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  • 3 weeks later...
On 10/10/2022 at 08:39, FROGSMILE said:

I think I can help with ‘puff shoots’.  At that time the word shoot was used generically to describe an artillery firing practice.  Puff ranges were devised as a simple form of simulation to practise correcting ‘the fall of shot’.  They were created by building a wooden frame above a rectangular pit set inside a large hut. Over the frame’s top was stretched chicken wire that was then shaped to represent a piece of ground taken from an ordnance survey map, usually covering a rectangular area of grid squares covering a few square miles with a slightly upwards slope.  Over the shaped chicken wire, which was reinforced underneath to hold its shape, was stretched wet hessian (sacking) that was then painted to represent the ground and roads/tracks, any buildings and woods, copses, hedgerows and waterways. At the lower end of this simulated piece of ground an elevated wooden platform of banked rows was constructed with a single seat at its most forward point and a few rows of seats behind that.  The former was for the student being practised and those behind for other students to observe.  Under the simulated ground, inside the pit entered by a door and some steps, was the clever part.  The floor of the pit was painted with numbered and lettered grid squares matching those of the ordnance survey map concerned and conforming to its precise layout.  In this area, that was dimly lit sufficient to see, operated two men.  One received and repeated back the morse code orders of the student sat in the single seat above who was acting as an aerial observer. The other man operated a solid brass ‘puff gun’, which looked rather like a syringe with a bulbous rubber puffer at one end, a cylindrical chamber in the middle and a thin spigot tube at the top.  Inside the chamber was a low voltage electrical coil and some oil soaked flannelette.  The cylinder was filled with smoke when the coil became hot, which former could then be emitted through the hessian above by standing on the floor coordinates and squeezing the rubber bulb. Thus the observer above saw a puff of smoke simulating his fall of shot, to which he could apply corrections, in response to which the process in the pit beneath the frame was repeated.  The puff range principle was cheap and simple to develop and and continued in use for many decades.  There were a variety of different designs for these puff ranges, some more sophisticated than others, but the basic principles and components were largely the same.

Apologies for the tardy reply, I've been in France. This is a really great post, thanks so much. From this and other replies, I can see that I had completely the wrong end of the stick and my grandfather didn't take to the skies until the afternoon for a mock battle. Since his expertise was gauging distance to target in 51st heavy brigade, it's not surprising he was good at it. 

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3 hours ago, Historian2 said:

Apologies for the tardy reply, I've been in France. This is a really great post, thanks so much. From this and other replies, I can see that I had completely the wrong end of the stick and my grandfather didn't take to the skies until the afternoon for a mock battle. Since his expertise was gauging distance to target in 51st heavy brigade, it's not surprising he was good at it. 

I’m glad to help and yes, judging distance was a very important skill to have.  Before the introduction of computerised fire control simulators puff ranges were still used at schools of artillery and air observation, where the skills necessary for judging distance were still a part of the curriculum.

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