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Remembered Today:

The First Carrier Borne Air Attack?


PhilB

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This was entirely new to me:-

http://www.casey.tgis.co.uk/web/dfc/tonder.htm

I`m surprised that it`s not better known as it appears to be the first carrier borne air raid and was successful. It would have been an RNAS operation but that had become the RAF, so perhaps neither RAF nor RN were able to fully claim the honours? Phil B

post-2329-1178367561.jpg

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Phil

Yes, it's always surprising to find that aspects of the War that are familiar to some are less well known to others. I suppose that we tend to specialise and then suffer from something like a sort of "I know about that, so perhaps everyone else must know about it too" syndrome.

The Tondern raid, with the destruction of the Zeppelins L54 and L60 was probably the beginning of the concept that led to the Taranto and Pearl Harbor attacks in the later war. If you can find a copy of R D Layman's Naval Aviation in the First World War, there's the interesting story of the RN/RAF plans for a big aeroplane attack on the High Seas Fleet - but the Armistice came into effect before it could be tried.

Regards

Gareth

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It all depends on how you define carrier and successful. The raid you refer to did destroy its target but did not recover any of its aircraft. On the other hand the raid on Cuxhaven 25th Dec 1914 launched by three seaplane carriers did hit the target (although the damage was certainly less) and did recover some of its aircraft. I believe that there were some other sea plane carrier launched raids during the war when the aircraft were deck launched (using trollies) and subsequently recovered when they landed (not ditched) by their carrier. Is a seaplane carrier an aircraft carrier - if not what is it?

BTW some sources suggest that the Germans thought the Christmas day raid was 'a bit unsporting' and some individuals in the RN shared this view (privately) - how things do change.

Another option is to class an aircraft carrier raid as one where the aircraft tokk off and landed (or intended to) back on their own ship (although WW2 types might then say 'what about Doolittle?'

Phil

Yes, it's always surprising to find that aspects of the War that are familiar to some are less well known to others. I suppose that we tend to specialise and then suffer from something like a sort of "I know about that, so perhaps everyone else must know about it too" syndrome.

The Tondern raid, with the destruction of the Zeppelins L54 and L60 was probably the beginning of the concept that led to the Taranto and Pearl Harbor attacks in the later war. If you can find a copy of R D Layman's Naval Aviation in the First World War, there's the interesting story of the RN/RAF plans for a big aeroplane attack on the High Seas Fleet - but the Armistice came into effect before it could be tried.

Regards

Gareth

But using Sopwith Cuckoo torpedo bombers that were intended to land back on their ship. These were already embarked when the war ended.

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There`s reference to one of the planes being washed up after crashing into the sea. Would you expect those planes to float for long periods at sea? I seem to recall WW2 planes going down fairly quickly even after a gentle landing. Phil B

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Would you expect those planes to float for long periods at sea?
Yes! WW1 planes were canvas and wood, more boyant.

There were several carrier bourne raids in the Dardanelles and carried out by the Egypt & East Indies squadron 1915 onwards.

There were also plans to build several carriers in the 1919-21 budgets that were scrapped.

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Yes , debris would wash ashore, do you think a crashed aircraft would wash ashore with the pilot sitting in the cockpit?

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Just to clarify about HMS Furious. It was not till after the war that she was given a full-length flight-deck as we understand it today; in fact for most of the interwar period she possessed no "island" superstructure at all. The photograph in Phil's first post rightly shows her in 1918 guise: with a prominent funnel and superstructure amidships - going right across the beam of the vessel. The flight deck was forward of that; i.e. aircraft could only take off from it; to land would have meant flying around the superstructure which was very hazardous indeed and resulted in fatalities when it was tried.

Behind the superstructure is another flight-deck intended for landing: but this was also impractical due to the turbulence of the airflow coming round the superstructure - and because of the danger of overshooting and hitting it. It was therefore considered safer to ditch the aircraft next to the vessel. Quite possibly a Camel could be recovered before it sank; in fact I believe they had jettisonable undercarriages to make ditching safer.

The first aircraft carrier to have a full length flight-deck was HMS Argus, which had one by October 1918.

The "Old Furious" shown in Phil's photo is a much older cruiser. The one that was converted to an aircraft carrier was a 1916-built "large light cruiser" with a main armament of two 18-inch guns - a totally impractical propostion that was one of Jackie Fisher's dafter ideas.

There were several carrier bourne raids in the Dardanelles and carried out by the Egypt & East Indies squadron 1915 onwards.

These were seaplane carriers - Ark Royal, Ben-my-Chree, Raven II.

Adrian

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As well as the flotation bags a returning Camel would have a large and almost empty fuel tank that would also provide considerable bouyancy. The RN deployed more than 120 2F1 Camels on board ships their main role being to intercept German Naval airships over the North Sea the majority being flown off launching rails mounted on ships gun turrets (althogh a very successful interception was launched from a lighter towed behind a destroyer) This was very much a pre cursor of the WW2 MAC ships where rail mounted Hurricanes were launched against German Condor marine recce aircraft. In both wars the pilot had to hope that he could either reach land on the fuel in his tank or ditch close enough to a ship to be picked up. Sopwith Pups and the ocasional One and a Half Strutter were used in the same manner. To give the pilot the best chance of becoming air borne on launch it was common for a handling crew of sailors to hang onto the tail of the aircraft whilst the engine warmed up to full power and then release it down the railed ramp. On one occasion this resulted in a group of sailors hanging onto to a detached tail section whilst the rest of the air craft careered over the side.

It was planned to extend the carrying of interceptor aircaft to destroyers and torpedo boats and two aircraft were built and flown in prototype form - the Port Victoria and the Eastchurch Kittens. These were probably the smallest fighter aircraft ever built. Unfortunately the engine chosen was the ABC Gnat which rarely managed to complete a flight without the plugs oiling up or the pistons jamming or some other nasty and the idea was dropped. There was a story that one of the Kittens was sent to America but this is due to another different American designed small aircraft also being called a Kitten

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Yes , debris would wash ashore, do you think a crashed aircraft would wash ashore with the pilot siting in the ccckpit??

use your head!!!

I never actually considered a pilot "SITING in the CCCKPIT", whatever that means :P but it`s an interesting possibility, I`m sure. Phil B

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These were seaplane carriers

Yes they were, sorry for not making it clearer.

Other seaplane carriers in those waters included Anne and City of Oxford. See Dick Cronin, 'Royal Navy Shipboard Aircraft Developments 1912-1931' Air-Britain, 1990 (ISBN: 0851301657) for some more details.

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in fact I believe they had jettisonable undercarriages to make ditching safer.

The first aircraft carrier to have a full length flight-deck was HMS Argus, which had one by October 1918.

The "Old Furious" shown in Phil's photo is a much older cruiser. The one that was converted to an aircraft carrier was a 1916-built "large light cruiser" with a main armament of two 18-inch guns - a totally impractical propostion that was one of Jackie Fisher's dafter ideas.

These were seaplane carriers - Ark Royal, Ben-my-Chree, Raven II.

Adrian

The F2 normally did not have a jettisonable undercarriage. Experiments were caried out at Port Victoria into various ways of making ditching easier and safer including fitting hydrofoils to the undercarriage but as far as I am aware none of these saw WW1 service. The prototype Beardmore Pup, the first ever fighter specifically designed for carrier operations, did have a droppable carriage but this was replaced in production models with a rearward retracting carriage to allow it to be folded for hanger storage in the carrier (and not in flight). The Beardmore Pup also had folding wings. It was not a good flyer and had an undistinguished WW1 service. The F2 Camel had a fuselage rear half that could be detached easily for below deck storage, the wing camber differd from that of an F1 and some only had one Vickers 'under the hump' with a Lewis on the top section for attacking Zepp from below. However I think that the F2s on the Tondern raid were conventional two gun Camels.

"Large Light Cruiser" was a subterfuge title to allow Fisher to slip two more battlecruisers under the Treasury's radar. (The same method was used some time ago to slip three carriers past as "through deck cruisers") The resulting ships could effectively be called light battle cruisers. The 'mad scheme' was a landing in the Baltic with a very large raid on Berlin (in much the same way as British and Canadian troops raided Washington in 1814). The original armament would have been two conventional 15 inch twin gun turrets. These ships had a very shallow draught for inshore operations. Firing the 18 inch gun was problematic as damage control parties had to be on hand to deal with the damage done to the ship (lights shattered, piping ruptured, the ship was filled with paint flakes, WT doors jammed, small electical fires etc etc - and worst of all the capatain's cut glass decanters shattered).

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Was there some kind of test carried out on new gun turret designs to see how much shock was transmitted to the hull when the guns fired? Or was it a case of keeping fingers crossed and hoping things held together? Phil B

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As far as I can tell the 18 inch was a bit of a leap in the dark and Furious was in effect the test bed.

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However I think that the F2s on the Tondern raid were conventional two gun Camels.

Centurion

The standard armament of the 2F.1 Camel, also called the Ship's Camel, was one Vickers mounted in the fuselage above the engine, and a Lewis above the upper wing.

Two Vickers guns was the standard armament of the F.1 Camel, the variant used from land aerodromes.

Cheers

Gareth

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Centurion

The standard armament of the 2F.1 Camel, also called the Ship's Camel, was one Vickers mounted in the fuselage above the engine, and a Lewis above the upper wing.

Two Vickers guns was the standard armament of the F.1 Camel, the variant used from land aerodromes.

Cheers

Gareth

Yes I can suck eggs :) but some F2s were fitted with two guns under the hump

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To expand a bit

Droppable undercariages were developed, these can be distinguished in photos as they were plain tube steel. Unless someone has other evidence they only seemto have been fitted operationally post 1918. Some of the 2F1 Camels that went to Russia may have had them. Fleet cooperation camels operating from lighters 1919 1920 had detachable undecarts (this also included F1s).

The 2F1 Camel could be (and was) fitted with three types of armament

a) One syncronised Vickers in the hump and one Lewis on the top wing on a swing down mounting

b.) Two fixed Lewises on the top wing

c) Two synchronised Vickers under the hump

All 2F1s were equiped to have the swing down Lewis mount but it was not always fitted. The Lewises advantage whether in the twin fixed or single swing down mount was that they could fire Buckinham explosive rounds wherreas the Vickers could not. Consequently if the Camel was likely to be used for anti airship work it would have a Lewis or two. Culley's 2F1 with which he shot down a Zeppelin was fited with the twin fixed Lewis mounting (sorry all those modellers who built the Airfix kit straight out of the box). Camel 2F1s that were used for other purposes could be fitted with twin Vickers giving greater fire power, this included some used for patrol work where they might encounter U boats or enemy sea planes. Interestingly all photos of 2F1 Camels I've seen with jettisonable undercarts are twin Vickers armed. If the 2F1s used used in the Tondern raid were twin Vickers armed this would be sensible as the only Zeppelins they would encounter would be on the ground (and dealt with with bombs) but there would be a possibility of meeting defending aircaft. The use of all three types of armament is supported by reports by Commander Sampson who was ic anti zeppelin operations in the North Sea. Thera are also reports of 2F1 Camel pilots straffing suspected U boat targets with twin Vickers.

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Droppable undercariages were developed, these can be distinguished in photos as they were plain tube steel. Unless someone has other evidence they only seemto have been fitted operationally post 1918.

Vice-Admiral Richard Bell-Davies VC says in his autobiography Sailor in the Sky that the Tondern Camels had jettisonable wheels (not whole undercarriages), and implies that he developed this system himself. I do realise that such first-hand accounts need to be treated with caution.

FWIW, Culley's 2F1 Camel in which he shot down L53 is displayed in the Imperial War Museum with twin Lewis' on the upper wing. I saw it a few months ago, and checked just now by going the IWM website and using their virtual tour.

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Vice-Admiral Richard Bell-Davies VC says in his autobiography Sailor in the Sky that the Tondern Camels had jettisonable wheels (not whole undercarriages), and implies that he developed this system himself. I do realise that such first-hand accounts need to be treated with caution.

FWIW, Culley's 2F1 Camel in which he shot down L53 is displayed in the Imperial War Museum with twin Lewis' on the upper wing. I saw it a few months ago, and checked just now by going the IWM website and using their virtual tour.

Interesting. Culley and an unkown Warrant Officer at Felixstowe developed the jettisonable under carriage for the 2F1 Camel (photo attached of those involved with the aircraft - a 2 gun 2F1). This was demoed on 20th Sept 1918 (by Lt Keyes)and is the type fitted to post war F1 and 2F1 Camels. I can find no mention in various histories of the 2F1 (or F1) of Bell-Davies 'dropping wheels'. One wonders if Culley's detachable under carriage was already available why an alternative scheme would be developed but stranger things have happend. One assumes that the Bell-Davies approach involved dropping the wheels and the axle as just detaching the wheels would be quite difficult. Even dropping the axle would require quite a significant alteration to the under carriage.

post-9885-1178810760.jpg

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If you can find a copy of R D Layman's Naval Aviation in the First World War, there's the interesting story of the RN/RAF plans for a big aeroplane attack on the High Seas Fleet - but the Armistice came into effect before it could be tried.

Regards

Gareth

The curator of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, David Hobbs, gave a most interesting talk on that very topic during a day of seminars at Portsmouth Dockyard (England) a few years ago.

Another interesting speaker that day was Andrew Gordon who based his talk on the themes of his then new book 'The Rules of the Game' which is highly recommended reading for any interested in the Battle of Jutland and the development during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods of what became the Jutland RN chain of command.

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Interesting. Culley and an unkown Warrant Officer at Felixstowe developed the jettisonable under carriage for the 2F1 Camel (photo attached of those involved with the aircraft - a 2 gun 2F1). This was demoed on 20th Sept 1918 (by Lt Keyes)and is the type fitted to post war F1 and 2F1 Camels. I can find no mention in various histories of the 2F1 (or F1) of Bell-Davies 'dropping wheels'. One wonders if Culley's detachable under carriage was already available why an alternative scheme would be developed but stranger things have happend. One assumes that the Bell-Davies approach involved dropping the wheels and the axle as just detaching the wheels would be quite difficult. Even dropping the axle would require quite a significant alteration to the under carriage.

I attach Bell-Davies' account below.

The Tondern Raid (for which he apparently developed this system) was 19/7/18. If Culley's system was tested on 20th Sept, it could be a simple matter of Culley's system becoming the definitive, officially-accepted one, whereas Bell-Davies' earlier one was a cruder mod made in situ and never officially approved, or used elsewhere.

As to B-D's Camel mishap in this extract: as far as I can tell from the book, he had never flown a Camel before and it sounds as though in a fit of over-confidence he was caught out by the infamous left-hand torque swing. He doesn't say that he ever flew a Camel again, either.

As to Furious' 18-inch guns:

Was there some kind of test carried out on new gun turret designs to see how much shock was transmitted to the hull when the guns fired? Or was it a case of keeping fingers crossed and hoping things held together? Phil B

In WW2, when the Japanese fitted 18-inch guns to IJN Yamato and Musashi: they put guinea pigs in a cage under the muzzles during a test-firing, just to see what would happen. The poor little blighters disintegrated. But Orientals are not known for kindness to our furry friends. And in fact it was intolerable for the AA crews to stay outside when the main armament was fired, which may have contributed to the demise of these ships. And if the 18-inch guns had that effect on the biggest battleships ever, goodness knows what they did to a "light battlecruiser"

Adrian

camel_wheels.rtf

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As far as I can tell the 18 inch was a bit of a leap in the dark and Furious was in effect the test bed.

The HMS Furious was too lightly built to safely fire her 18 inch guns for lenghty periods.

All capital ships had Main Gun fire arcs where they would do damage to themseleves, and fired in those arcs only in combat. As long as the damage was limited to blowing railings overboard, wrecking lifeboats, smashing bulleyes, deforming some deck or superstructure plates - that was OK. But cracks in the barbette or hull are a dfferent matter ...

I'm not so sure about the guinea pigs on the IJMS Yamato. Everybody with contact with big guns knew perfectly well what happens to those under the muzzle upon firing - you die. The version which I've come across is that cages with guinea pigs were used for tests to demark "safety zones" when the Main Guns were fired. But this still stinks of urban legend to me - "cruel Japs kill fluffy little animals for fun!" - the Japanese were much, much worse than that. Safety zones can be worked out with some quite simple (for gunners, not for me) math.

And in fact it was intolerable for the AA crews to stay outside when the main armament was fired, which may have contributed to the demise of these ships

This is true of all late WWII battleships, and had nothing to do with ther demise. After firing their AA rounds, the 46cm guns simply went silent, and it was time for the 5 inchers and 2,5cm guns to fire at planes. Look at 1943-45 photos of USN or RN battleships - when the extra bolt-on AA guns were manned, firing the main guns would had caused hundreds of casualties.

Fisher's Follies were a poor design (so was Yamato, but for different reasons) and too small for such guns. 40/45k tons is the lower limit for a ship with 18 inch guns.

Borys

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So it ought to be possible to spot Camels with the Bell-Davies mod as they would have wheels that appear concave rather than convex on the outside. Two things puzzles me, one the conventional arrangement was intended to have some form of aerodynamic benefit so presumably there would be some disadvantage to this arangement; two presumably somebody tested it properly - who and when. Does Bell- Davis actually say that it was used on the raid?

A further snippet on naval Camel armaments. The 2F1 that Culley used to develop his dropping cariage is seen in various ophotos with both the 1 Vickers 1 Lewis arrangement and the 2 Vickers armament suggesting that it was relatively easy to swap.

At one point in its development Furious had a single flight deck and one remaining 18in gun. One shudders to think what the effect on any parked aircraft would be if it was fired.

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At one point in its development Furious had a single flight deck and one remaining 18in gun. One shudders to think what the effect on any parked aircraft would be if it was fired.

I venture nil or minimal effect:

http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/h60000/h60606.jpg

Borys

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