Classic History Books


William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

Though, from outside, a rigid air-ship looks to be all in one piece, within it is divided into numerous
compartments. In Zeppelin L1 there were eighteen separate compartments, each of which contained a

balloon filled with hydrogen gas. The object of providing the vessel with these small balloons, or

ballonets, all separate from one another, was to prevent the gas collecting all at one end of the ship as the

vessel travelled through the air. Outside the ballonets there was a ring-shaped, double bottom, containing

non-inflammable gas, and the whole was enclosed in rubber-coated fabric.

The crew and motors were carried in cars slung fore and aft. The ship was propelled by three engines,
each of 170 horse-power. One engine was placed in the forward car, and the two others in the after car.

To steer her to right or left, she had six vertical planes somewhat resembling box-kites, while eight

horizontal planes enabled her to ascend or descend.

In Zeppelin L2, which was a later type of craft, there were four motors capable of developing 820
horse-power. These drove four propellers, which gave the craft a speed of about 45 miles an hour.

The cars were connected by a gangway built within the framework. On the top of the gas-chambers was a
platform of aluminium alloy, carrying a 1-pounder gun, and used also as an observation station. It is

thought that L1 was also provided with four machine-guns in her cars.

Later types of Zeppelins were fitted with a "wireless" installation of sufficient range to transmit and
receive messages up to 350 miles. L1 could rise to the height of a mile in favourable weather, and carry

about 7 tons over and above her own weight.

Even when on ground the unwieldy craft cause many anxious moments to the officers and mechanics
who handle them. Two of the line have broken loose from their anchorage in a storm and have been

totally destroyed. Great difficulty is also experienced in getting them in and out of their sheds. Here,

indeed, is a contrast with the ease and rapidity with which an aeroplane is removed from its hangar.

It was maintained by the inventor that, as the vessel is rigid, and therefore no pressure is required in the
gas-chamber to maintain its shape, it will not be readily vulnerable to projectiles. But the Count did not

foresee that the very "frightfulness" of his engine of war would engender counter-destructives. In a later

chapter an account will be given of the manner in which Zeppelin attacks upon these islands were

gradually beaten off by the combined efforts of anti-aircraft guns and aeroplanes. To the latter, and the

intrepid pilots and fighters, is due the chief credit for the final overthrow of the Zeppelin as a weapon of

offence. Both the British and French airmen in various brilliant sallies succeeded in gradually breaking

up and destroying this Armada of the Air; and the Zeppelin was forced back to the one line of work in

which it has proved a success, viz., scouting for the German fleet in the few timid sallies it has made

from home ports.

 

CHAPTER XI. The Semi-rigid Air-ship

Modern air-ships are of three general types: RIGID, SEMI-RIGID, and NON-RIGID. These differ from
one another, as the names suggest, in the important feature, the RIGIDITY, NON-RIGIDITY, and

PARTIAL RIGIDITY of the gas envelope.

Hitherto we have discussed the RIGID type of vessel with which the name of Count Zeppelin is so
closely associated. This vessel is, as we have seen, not dependent for its form on the gas-bag, but is

maintained in permanent shape by means of an aluminium framework. A serious disadvantage to this

type of craft is that it lacks the portability necessary for military purposes. It is true that the vessel can be

 

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