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Remembered Today:

'Aeroplanes dropped bombs'


Kathie
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Tom Barbours diary describes how 'German aeroplanees came over and dropped bombs' in several entries. He records how many of 'our chaps were wounded' each time. Clearly the planes were not lliked as he records on 6th June 1917 that 'Saw a German machine catch alight today and the pilot jumped and was dashed to pieces'.

Questions:

1. How did these planes drop their bombs? Did the pilot fly and the observer or a co-pilot do the dropping or was there some organised method of unloading bombs.

2. I assume the bombs were grenades or shells or were there special bombs to be dropped by planes at that time.

3. Does anyone know of the plane whcih caught alight and the pilot jumped and was dashed to pieces. This was June 1917 and over trenches near Arras. Perhaps this was common - I have a pilot who was shot down in April 1917 (thanks to Gareth for infomration on Clive Halse) and on his gravestone his parents had engraved a quotation/saying about "falling a burnt sacrifice" although I cant find any mention that he burnt to death but his plane was seen to be shot down...

thanks

Kathie

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I am sure that our experts will give more info but the 20 lb Cooper bomb was certainly rack mounted on DH 9's in 1917 and I suspect earlier. No doubt the Germans were similarly equipped.

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A few years ago I was very lucky to be able to purchase two of Marten Hale's personal photograph albums. The main one of interest to me covered his trials of the Hales grenade (the famous No.2 'Mexican' pattern) to the Germans in 1911.

However, the second concerned his trials in 1913 of his 'Hales Patent Aircraft Bomb'. A few sample scans here:

The pasted label on the front reads: 'The first practical tests with an aircraft bomb made in the United Kingdom'.

bom1big.jpg

bom4a.JPG

bom5a.JPG

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Initially "bombs" were just lobbed over the side of the plane, as were "flechettes" before racks were fitted.

Regards.

Colin

Not true Purpose built aircraft bombs were made by the Artillerie-Pfruefungs-Kommission APK in 1912 and fitted to under fuslege racks on some Taubes. Used on exercises and trials these did not perform very well and were replaced in 1913 by bombs made by Sprengstoff A G Carbonit-Schlebusch who made a range - 4.5, 10, 20 & 50 Kg. These all had a wire handle on the tail which allowed them to be hung vertically from racks. These were fitted to some Taubes and other planes including the L.V G B1 and the Aviatik BII. This latter was somewhat advanced as the racks were in side the fuselage and aiming was carried out by the pilot using a basic sighting scale on a transparent panel. External racks with vertical bombs proved to have excessive drag. These types were used in the early part of WW1. Because of the drag some aircraft had the racks removed and the bombs were carried in the observer's cockpit. On a bombing run the observer would lean out and hold the bomb by its tail handle. On a signal from the pilot he would release the bomb. Some German 1913/14 aircraft had wire chutes allowing the observer to release the bomb in a way that would clear the prop, bracing wires etc etc. Bombs were not just 'lobbed' over the side.

The RFC and RNAS also had a similar approach (as did the French). There is a well known photo of an observer launching a bomb rather in the style of a dart. This appears to have given rise to the lobbing story. In fact the guy is in a Sea Scout non rigid airship (which used air craft fuselages as gondolas) and this is probably 'hovering' over the target ( a supposed submerged U boat)

Flechettes were dropped from canisters.

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There you have it Kathie from the experts, I knew my post would bring them out , so "bombs" were dropped from racks initially & moved on to being dropped by the observer on the say so of the pilot. They were not "lobbed" my error.!

Colin

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By the middle of the war bomb racks were quite sophisticated. For a technical description, see this article from the Australian Society of WW1 Aviation Historians:

http://asww1ah.0catch.com/Bombrack.pdf

For those of you near London, there is a similar mechanism on display in the RAF Museum, though annoyingly they don't say what aircraft it came from

Edited - the link was disallowed when I tested it, you may have to type it in manually.

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As Adrian indicates, there some problem with direct links to articles on the ASWWIAH site. The easiest option is to go to:

http://asww1ah.0catch.com

and then click on Sample Articles from the '14-'18 Journal. The most informative article in question was in the 1995 edition.

Gareth

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Can anyone advise if sophisticated bomb-sights were developed along with the racks?

Yes.

In the German case the Goerz bomb sight incorporating a telescope with a moveable viewing prisim (that allowed the target to be tracked during a run up), a spirit level bubble for leveling and a stop watch. The whole thing could be set to release the bombs at the appropriate moment. It was availble from 1915 but was heavy (so for multi engined aircraft in the main) and at first not very accurate in practice. It also required two bombing runs - the first to set the sight and calculate the bomb release point (and allow any AA in the target area to also sight themselves!) and the second to drop the bombs. It seems many crew did not use its more sophisticated features and estimated the bomb release point.

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It seems many crew did not use its more sophisticated features and estimated the bomb release point.

I don't balme them!

By 1917 both Gothas and Handley Pages were on bombing raids and so the process had been refined.

As many of the early 1914-1915 bombing raids were single seater they needed to be sophisticated: a lone man huggling controlsand bomb might make a good silent comedy but not good military sense.

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It seems many crew did not use its more sophisticated features and estimated the bomb release point.

I don't balme them!

By 1917 both Gothas and Handley Pages were on bombing raids and so the process had been refined.

As many of the early 1914-1915 bombing raids were single seater they needed to be sophisticated: a lone man huggling controlsand bomb might make a good silent comedy but not good military sense.

Nevertheless there was a certain amount of improvisation and juggling. There are accounts of early French Morane Sauliner Parasols being flown single seat with bombs on the empty observer's seat in front of the pilot who would have to lean over, select a bomb and then drop it by hand. However he would still make an atempt to aim the bomb by eye. The Germans initially seem to have been more advanced in the development of bomb racks

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Possibly worth mentioning that bombing from aircraft predates WW1. In 1911 Italian aircraft dropped bombs in Turkish forces in Libya and also bombed Turkish naval vessels. In the same year bombs were dropped in the Mexican civil war. An American mercenary pilot Hector Worden was given a bag of dynamite bombs (metal pipes with a stick of dynamite in them) and instructed to drop them on any suspicious looking groups (how he was supposed to identfy groups as suspicious has not been recorded - circle them shouting "any one down there called Zapata?" perhaps!). Bombs were also dropped in the Balkan wars - at least one Serb Bleriot monoplane being involved. I believe that Spanish aircraft involved on one of their interminable African campaigns also dropped bombs in the prewar period.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you all for such detail and such interesting information.

another footnote to ones research - its amazing how the footnotes are what keeps one happy and out of mischeif.

Kathie

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