Page images

difficult to fix my sight on any particular hazards for the several voyages was object. At that distance I could see

supplied by the old sailors residing nothing of the fight.

in the city.

A typical example of the difficulties Undoubtedly the most signal and encountered and the risks run, ere successful service ever recorded of any voyage could be effectually carried balloons in warfare was that rendered out, is supplied by the memorable to the beleaguered side at the siege occasion when Gambetta accomplished of Paris. In this case reconnaissance, his escape. To begin with, no sooner though at first attempted, was at- were preparations completed than untended with little result and soon favourable weather supervened and abandoned ; but during four months not only delayed the escape but caused a regular despatch of letters from the damage to the balloon itself; and city was carried on by an aerial post when at length the ascent was athurriedly but successfully improvised. tempted and the aeronauts were fairly Upwards of sixty balloons were manu- in the air they were subjected to a factured within the walls and des- brisk cannonade with shot and shell. patched with but very few casualties. A little later when, as yet unscathed, Some two millions and a half of they were sailing over the German letters, amounting in weight to some posts they came under rifle-fire and ten tons, were conveyed through the Gambetta

was grazed by a bullet. four months, in addition to which at From this immediate danger they least an equal weight of other freight escaped by a prodigal discharge of was taken up, exclusive of actual ballast, but again had to run the passengers of whom no less than two gauntlet between vigorous volleys ere hundred were transported from the they found safe landing near Rouen. city.

Up to this time the balloon had The exceptional conditions of the found no place in the British army. case in these trials led to interesting It is true that in 1862 Mr. Coxwell, and valuable experiments in the as a civilian, had been allowed to extemporising of emergency balloons. make certain experiments at Alder

Great expedition in manufacture shot, but they proved barren of was of primary importance, as results, and though the events of the also the saving of such enormous siege of Paris induced the Governexpense as would be entailed by the ment in 1872 to appoint a commission use of silk, while it was only necessary of Royal Engineers to conduct aerothat the fabric of the balloon should nautical trials and to report upon be able to withstand a single voyage. them, these also led to no practical On this account a calico material was issue. It was not till some ten years utilised, and speedily and sufficiently later that the Government became rendered gas-tight and serviceable by fully alive to the importance of the & crude dressing of linseed oil and balloon in warfare, when the manudriers. The sewing was so arranged facture and trial of special balloons that hundreds of hands could be were entrusted to a section of Royal employed at once, and the now dis- Engineers at Woolwich. The method used railway-stations afforded ade- of making so-called pure hydrogen by quate and convenient roofed space for passing steam over red-hot iron was factories. The need of capable men fully tested, and for a time gained possessed of such training as would favour. The apparatus, weighing fit them for the emergencies and some three tons, was calculated to be




[ocr errors]

not beyond the carrying powers of the adversary's fire. It is not surthree Service-waggons, while it was prising to learn that the balloon in capable of generating enough gas to the late campaign in South Africa inflate two balloons in twenty-four proved to be at a great disadvantage, hours, a single inflation holding good and with a few notable exceptions in favourable circumstances for failed to accomplish all that was long period.

sanguinely hoped of it. No better The official trials during this year or more impartial authority could be extended to the Brighton Volunteer found than Major Baden-Powell, who Review when from a balloon held was not only actively engaged through captive at fifteen hundred feet it was the whole of the campaign but is able stated that the observation was to speak from many years' intimate excellent that “every man was clearly acquaintance with practical aeroseen,” a statement which should be nautics. In giving his opinion as to read in the light of late operations the value of the balloon this officer on the South African veldt.

quotes from his own experience. At last a grand opportunity came for trial in actual warfare. The

I remember [he writes) at the battle Egyptian Campaign was in progress of Magersfontein my company was lying during 1882 and the peculiar diffi- down in extended order towards the left culties attending reconnoitring were

of our line. We were perfectly safe from

musketry-fire as we lay perhaps two miles keenly felt and loudly cominented on,

from the Boer trenches, which were being yet for many months the War Depart- shelled by some of our guns close by. ment balloons remained in store in The enemy's artillery was practically Woolwich Dockyard, and it was not

silent. Presently on looking round I

descried our balloon away out behind us till the spring of 1885 that the first

about two miles off. Then she steadily practical trial of the balloon was rose and made several trips to a good made in actual service. This was at height; but what could be seen from that Suakin, and Lord Wolseley is reported

distance ? When a large number of our to have expressed an opinion that, troops were ranged up within eight hun

dred yards of the trenches, and many though in a windy country balloons

more at all points behind them, what are of little use, yet that had he been useful information could be obtained by able to employ balloons in the earlier means of the balloon four miles off ? stages of the Soudan campaign the affair would not have lasted as many This same authority further insists months as it did years. Before the on the necessity of an observing outbreak of the Boer War military balloon making short ascents. The methods had undergone great and balloon, in his opinion, should be important changes. Magazine rifles allowed to ascend rapidly to its full and other deadly weapons of to-day height, and with as little delay as required that troops should lie hidden possible be hauled down again. so far as possible behind cover, while It is here, then, that the question the use of smokeless powder often arises whether the increased facilities rendered it almost impossible to locate of the present day would not render the position of the enemy's batteries. the earlier form of the balloon not Thus reconnaissance became a difficult only more serviceable but in many matter, and more particularly so in ways more desirable. It needs no the case

of balloons of the type insisting on that the methods of hitherto in vogue which could scarcely inflating a military balloon with gas operate within practicable range of hitherto attempted, whether this be


conveyed under high pressure in great burning vaporised petroleum in pernumbers of heavy and dangerous fect safety and under complete concylinders, or whether it be produced trol, has now been utilised to inflate by troublesome and tedious process a balloon of no less than sixty-five in the field, is attended with the most thousand cubic feet capacity in an serious drawbacks and difficulties. interval measured by minutes only Many Service-waggons are required and at a cost not exceeding a few and the attendance of a large staff shillings. It will at once be seen of men.

Moreover the fabric of the that the possibilities of this method balloon itself, generally composed of are very great indeed. The complete several thicknesses of gold-beater's vaporisation, under pressure, of about skin, is not only very costly but four gallons of petroleum per hour, fragile, and when damaged cannot so long as the heat is continuously readily be repaired. On the other maintained, supplies sufficient heathand the hot-air balloon being con- units to keep the balloon fully inflated, structed of inexpensive and strong and a few occasional strokes of material, unbleached calico even à force-pump preserves the requisite serving for the purpose--and dis

pressure in the oil-tank; while pensing with the addition of a net or mere tap, regulating the flame, gives other covering, can be handled with- the aeronaut the power of controlling out risk of damage, and should & rent the ascent or descent of his machine. occur this can be at once set right by Presumably the chief use of the mere needle and thread. Its equip

Its equip. balloon in warfare will, as heretofore, ment is inconsiderable, and so portable be while being held captive; but a that the whole plant could be rapidly new and all important development conveyed by hand wherever a few of this military engine here suggests men could push their way. It has itself. been the inflation of this balloon, as Not only may a free balloon effect hitherto practised, that has put it out an escape from a beleaguered town, of court so far as military operations but, when made more portable and are concerned. A large, long covered

A large, long covered manageable, it may be utilised to trench has first to be constructed by convey tidings to other stations when way of flue with a bricked aperture; other modes of communication are not less than a cart-load of dried interrupted. Referring once again firewood is next needed to be con- to Major Baden-Powell as

a first sumed in a pit at the far end of the authority we may quote from a letter trench ; and when all has been done written from the front in South and the balloon despatched aloft its Africa and published in The AERObuoyancy is rapidly lost and it returns NAUTICAL JOURNAL. to earth again in a very brief period. It is true that at the first introduc- There is one more matter to call atten. tion of this balloon, and on occasions tion to and that is free ballooning in war. subsequently, a stove burning wood

I believe it was never attempted during or straw was taken up and the life

the campaign, but there were several

occasions on which it might have proved of the balloon thus prolonged, but of use. Thus, if a balloon had ascended this was only effected at extreme risk during a favourable wind at Modder River to the aeronauts.

it should have had but little difficulty in Recently, however, all former

arriving within the precincts of Kimberley,

and thus much valuable information obdifficulties have been successfully tained of the exact position of the Boers overcome, and a very portable heater, between those places, which information No. 536.-VOL. XC.





could have been signalled back. I imagine, not unreasonably, supposed that a too, that the Ladysmith balloon could

balloon which has been hit by mere have been the means of obtaining most important details of the Boer positions

rifle-shot is hopelessly maimed if not north of the Tugela had a free ascent

practically destroyed.

In reality, been made during a northerly wind. however, if the envelope of the

balloon were fairly riddled by bullets, Before these words were penned near the mouth only, the leakage of the writer had experimented with a gas would be inconsiderable, as may free balloon designed to convey be readily understood from the fact messages which might be signalled that the large mouth of a balloon in across the sky over long distances, flight is always of necessity kept fully so that should the despatched balloon open to allow for the expansion of be carried wide of its true goal its gas during the ascent. It is only in purpose could still be effected. The

the case of a balloon badly hit above instrument adopted was essentially the waist that the loss of gas would the collapsing drum as used in the be serious, and even thus, were the Navy, but modified to suit the

rents small, the balloon would colrequirements of the case. A large lapse in no dangerous haste. Pomskeleton frame capable of being poms are considered to deliver the quickly extended or collapsed by the most deadly fire in the case of a operation of a cord, much

balloon, but as at present used they umbrella is made to open or shut, are incapable of being elevated suffiwas covered with a dark material ciently to hit any object floating well which would show readily in unob- aloft. scured sky in all ordinary conditions Another popular error, and of illumination. The extended drum, that relates to the possibilities of a which was visible at fully ten miles balloon employed in warfare, is apt to distance, would vanish practically possess the minds of those who have out of sight when collapsed, and no practical experience in the science thus the ordinary Morse Code signals of aeronautics. It is supposed that as constantly practised in the Service, a high flying balloon could be used, indicated by long and short strokes and with deadly effect, to discharge of the drum, could be readily carried missiles upon an enemy beneath; and out and as readily interpreted. A even so practical an aeronaut as the further development of this method late John Wise of America, allowof aerial signalling available when- ing such a plausible idea to warp ever ordinary heliographing is pos- his better reason, actually proposed sible has

been made by to the United States Government, substituting a large silvered glass during the Mexican War, a scheme globe which, by means of a suitable for the capture of Vera Cruz by occulter, can be made to reflect long balloon. His plan was drawn out in or short flashes of sunlight visible full detail : a monster balloon capable under favourable conditions over long of raising thirty thousand pounds was distances.

somehow to be manœuvred over the In any discussion as to the utility fortress at a mile high in the sky, and of the military balloon under the when in position explosives were to altered conditions introduced by be cast down in sufficient quantity to modern weapons of precision and long

of precision and long reduce the stronghold. range a common misapprehension has read well enough on paper; the exto be removed. It is popularly, and treme difficulty, however, of directing


This may

a balloon at that height so that mis- balloon is poised aloft it will always siles at the end of so long a drop be found that owing to the natural might hit a given mark needs no twist of the cord the stand and its pointing out, and when it is further camera are slowly and steadily rotatconsidered that each discharge of com- ing after the fashion of a bottle-jack. bustibles would require for compensa

If now there has been affixed to the tion an exactly regulated amount of stand some indicator always showing gas to be liberated, it becomes obvious the direction in which the camera is that such a method is altogether pointing, it will be perfectly easy to impracticable.

determine the exact moment at which One most feasible and at the same any desired view is in the field, and time most serviceable development of the button being pressed the required the military balloon, whether captive photograph is instantly secured. A or free, will be in the direction of more elaborate apparatus would prophotographing an enemy's position or vide arrangement for causing the fortification, or any ground which camera at this moment to automaticannot be reconnoitred by other means. cally set itself for a fresh exposure, The rapidity with which a photograph but recent experience has shown that can now be taken ; the almost equal this is scarcely desirable. With expedition with which it can be devel- modern weapons of rapidity and preoped on the field, and still more the cision it is seen that a balloon, if at fidelity with which it may be made to all within near range of the enemy, portray objects brought within suit- should only be exposed to fire for the able range, give the camera the utmost briefest possible interval, and it would value as an instrument for purposes of therefore be preferable to haul down observation. But its greatest advan

the balloon and camera after each tage in this connection is made mani- exposure, and send them aloft afresh fest when we consider that if used for further photographs, and, if in conjunction with a captive balloon possible, from an altered position. it is not even necessary that the Any discussion as to the capabilities operator should be exposed to fire. of a balloon duly equipped and conAn unmanned balloon, and this of trolled by modern methods, to render the smallest proportions, suffices to special service in possible exigencies lift the camera and its necessary of war, would be incomplete without fittings to any desired height, when it record of certain experiments carried can be operated electrically from out last summer on old lines traversed below. The requisite apparatus in its anew. At the time already referred simplest form consists essentially of to when balloons were being dismissed an electro-magnet fixed to the camera from Paris carrying despatches over and controlling the trigger of an the enemy's line and descending into instantaneous shutter. To this elec- safe country beyond, the converse tro-magnet is attached a twin insulated feat was also more than once essayed wire the other end of which remains but without success. That is, in on the earth, connected with a battery effectual attempts were made to desand push or button.

The camera,

patch a balloon from some distant which is mounted on a stand capable point which should pass over the of canting it to any desired angle, is enemy's line and drop within the besuspended by a short length of laid leaguered city carrying in intelligence cord beneath the balloon before it is from without. To all intents and dismissed into the sky, and when the purposes this idential experiment was


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »