Classic History Books


William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

inclined. It is no uncommon occurrence for the balloon to make a considerable angle with the car
beneath.

The propeller is quite a work of art. It has a diameter of about 14 feet, and consists of a frame of hollow
steel tubes covered with fabric. It is so arranged that when out of action its blades fall lengthwise upon

the frame supporting it, but when it is set to work the blades at once open out. The engine weighs 770

pounds, and has six cylinders, which develop 100 horse-power at 1200 revolutions a minute.

The vessel may be steered either to the right or the left by means of a large vertical helm, some 80 square
feet in area, which is hinged at the rear end to a fixed vertical plane of 200 square feet area.

An upward or downward inclination is, as we have seen, effected by the ballonets, but in cases of
emergency these compensators cannot be deflated or inflated sufficiently rapidly, and a large movable

weight is employed for altering the balance of the vessel.

In this country the authorities have hitherto favoured the non-rigid air-ship for military and naval use.
The Astra-Torres belongs to this type of vessel, which can be rapidly deflated and transported, and so,

too, the air-ship built by Mr. Willows.

 

CHAPTER XIII. The Zeppelin and Gotha Raids

In the House of Commons recently Mr. Bonar Law announced that since the commencement of the war
14,250 lives had been lost as the result of enemy action by submarines and air-craft. A large percentage

of these figures represents women, children, and defenceless citizens.

One had become almost hardened to the German method of making war on the civil population - that
system of striving to act upon civilian "nerves" by calculated brutality which is summed up in the word

"frightfulness". But the publication of these figures awoke some of the old horror of German warfare.

The sum total of lives lost brought home to the people at home the fact that bombardment from air and

sea, while it had failed to shake their MORAL, had taken a large toll of human life.

At first the Zeppelin raids were not taken very seriously in this country. People rushed out of their houses
to see the unwonted spectacle of an air-ship dealing death and destruction from the clouds. But soon the

novelty began to wear off, and as the raids became more frequent and the casualty lists grew larger,

people began to murmur against the policy of taking these attacks "lying down". It was felt that "darkness

and composure" formed but a feeble and ignoble weapon of defence. The people spoke with no uncertain

voice, and it began to dawn upon the authorities that the system of regarding London and the south-east

coast as part of "the front" was no excuse for not taking protective measures.

It was the raid into the Midlands on the night of 31st January, 1916, that finally shelved the old policy of
do nothing. Further justification, if any were needed, for active measures was supplied by a still more

audacious raid upon the east coast of Scotland, upon which occasion Zeppelins soared over England - at

their will. Then the authorities woke up, and an extensive scheme of anti-aircraft guns and squadrons of

aeroplanes was devised. About March of the year 1916 the Germans began to break the monotony of the

Zeppelin raids by using sea-planes as variants. So there was plenty of work for our new defensive air

force. Indeed, people began to ask themselves why we should not hit back by making raids into

Germany. The subject was well aired in the public press, and distinguished advocates came forward for

and against the policy of reprisals. At a considerably later date reprisals carried the day, and, as we write,

air raids by the British into Germany are of frequent occurrence.

 

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