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The Great War

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Sadurian Mike
571472.  Fri Jun 19, 2009 5:19 am Reply with quote

Early aircraft were envisaged as reconnaisance machines, supplementing cavalry to report on enemy troop movements and artillery positions.

Arming them was a later development and started simply by having the observer carry a rifle or even just a pistol. Permanently mounting a machine-gun was a logical development but one that caused its own problems; smaller, faster, aircraft had only a pilot, having dispensed with the observer. This meant that the machine gun had to be operated by the pilot himself and there were limited places it could be mounted.

Some aircraft had the machine-gun mounted on the top wing, fired by the pilot by means of a remote trigger. This had the advantage of pointing in the right direction (and allowing the pilot to aim by lining the aircraft up on the target) but it made clearing jams and reloading very awkward, with the pilot having to stand up in his seat whilst the aircraft was still flying.

Mounting the machine-gun directly in front of the pilot, however, also had problems. Unless the aircraft was a "pusher" (with propellor mounted at the back, pushing the aircraft forwards), the stream of bullets would necessarily go through the wooden propellor and destroy it. Pusher aircraft, unfortunately, were neither as fast nor as agile as those with the propellor mounted at the front, so a solution to firing through the prop had to be found.

The theory of an interruptor gear was known at the beginning of the war. The firing mechanism of the machine-gun was mechanically linked to the propellor shaft and literally interrupted the firing when the blade of the propellor would be in front of the stream of bullets. Problems with its implementation stemmed mainly from military disinterest (they wondered about the need to arm reconnaissance machines), plus the problem that contemporary ammunition often "hung", not firing when the pin struck but a little later, making any mechanism based on timing awkward to perfect.

One attempted French solution was simple; metal plates were attached to the blades of the propellor which deflected bullets away. This worked after a fashion, but not only resulted in stray rounds flying alarmingly around the firer, but required that the plates be frequently replaced. It also reduced the efficiency of the propellor because it altered the aerodynamics of the blade.

The Germans were the first to use a working interruptor gear. In 1916 they used the device and began the so-called "Fokker Scourge" where their advantage led to air superiority over the Western Front. German pilots flying aircraft fitted with the interruptor gear were told not to stray over enemy lines so as to avoid the danger of the mechanism falling into enemy hands. The theory was by no means secret, however, and Allied aircraft fitted with interruptor gear soon appeared.

Interruptor gear was not only used in forward-firing machine guns; it was also fitted to turrets in larger aircraft to stop them from firing along lines that would endanger structures on their own aircaft (such as the tail).

Interruptor gear was a standard feature on all armed propellor aircraft from WWI right up until jets replaced them.

 
Just Say No To Vorderman
574881.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:39 am Reply with quote

Incidentally, if any of you try searching for military records online for your ancestors, you may find, as I did, that if your ancestor was a survivor his records may well be lost. I've tried to find records of 4 people I know for sure served but they don't appear on the websearches, Apparently this is because a lot of survivors records were bombed in the Blitz.
I found my grandfather's military records, he was in the Royal Engineers and was in the Dardenelles, caught malaria and ended up in the Theatre Company (which was news to us). but I can find no record of another relative who was a flyer or my ex's grandfather who served in France from beginning to end.
I paid the years subs to Ancestry and would like to get my money's worth so if anyone wants a quick search doing drop me a PM.

 
Jenny
575010.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 11:14 am Reply with quote

JSNV - my father was in East Africa, stationed at Mogadishu with the Royal Artillery, during WW2. He was a sergeant-major and a gunnery instructor (I still have the book from which he learned Swahili in order to be able to 'instruct the native trooops'). His name was Ernest Albert Brown, and he was born in Hull in June 14th 1914 and died there in August (can't remember the date offhand) 1972. I was only 22 at the time and never really talked to him much about his military service - if there's anything you could find out beyond that, I'd appreciate it.

 
Just Say No To Vorderman
575160.  Fri Jun 26, 2009 5:16 pm Reply with quote

Only theWW1 records are available I'm afraid.
I think to find out about WW2 veterans you have to visit the actual archives

 
Jenny
575313.  Sat Jun 27, 2009 9:39 am Reply with quote

Sparked by your post, I've emailed the Royal Artillery museum people to see if they have any records - they say they will get back to me in about a week. I can't visit the archives until I next go to the UK, and even then you have to provide ID I don't have, though I think they might accept my passport as ID.

 
bemahan
575316.  Sat Jun 27, 2009 9:45 am Reply with quote

National Archives is a good place to find various bits and pieces.
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/

 
bobwilson
575519.  Sat Jun 27, 2009 7:44 pm Reply with quote

Mike - you've missed out completely any mention of railways, perhaps the most important contributory factor to the carnage of the Western Front.

It could be argued that it was a railway that started the war (Berlin - Baghdad); that it was railways that transformed a mobilisation from a sabre-rattle to a real threat; and more definitively that it was railways that prevented the usual tactic of striking at a weak point and exploiting the advantage.

In the few days between the Archduke's assassination in Sarajevo and the actual declarations of war, and equally, before the outbreak of hostilities in earnest, there was a general feeling that this "little local difficulty" could be resolved without a major conflict. That oft-repeated mantra that "it would all be over by Christmas" wasn't just naivety - it represented the very real perception of everyone involved.

The British weren't seriously worried about the German fleet - despite the advent of the Kiel canal. The German fleet didn't consider themselves a threat to the British either - indeed, the only time they ventured out to meet the British they spent the entire time trying to avoid them.

But the railways changed everything.

The British were very worried about the Berlin to Baghdad railway which was almost complete.

Once the sabre-rattling started and mobilisations were ordered it was a very quick and easy process to move masses of troops to offensive positions - again using the railways. Railways also made it possible to move masses of troops to defensive positions.

Moreover, once the Rubicon was crossed and war was declared - it was relatively easy to bolster any threatened position by simply reinforcing a sector - again using railways.

It was a railway that started the war, a railway that made it inevitable and a railway that ensured that it was the bloodiest conflict possible. All the rest is peripheral.

 
Sadurian Mike
575558.  Sun Jun 28, 2009 2:19 am Reply with quote

That's an interesting perspective.

Railways certainly allowed mass-mobilisation, but they were nothing new and had also done so in the Amercian Civil War, Franco-Prussian War, and Boer War, as well as all the smaller wars before WWI. They certainly allowed the Russians to mobilise before Germany had knocked France out (which they hoped to do before turning and facing Russia), which probably changed the course of the war.

I would be hard-pressed to accept that they started the war, gave it it's bloody character* or made it inevitable but it certainly allowed for bigger armies to be moved than a century beforehand and so ensured the battles fought involved larger numbers of men.


*I stick to the more conventional view that it was modern artillery, quick-firing infantry weapons, machine-guns and barbed wire that did that job.

 
Ian Dunn
585794.  Sat Jul 18, 2009 2:23 am Reply with quote

Sad news. Henry Allingham has died, aged 113.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8157128.stm

 
Sadurian Mike
589369.  Sat Jul 25, 2009 4:37 am Reply with quote

One invention that came about by necessity during WWI was the military gas mask, ever since a standard issue item in just about every modern military inventory.

The first use of gas as a weapon of war came about in 1915, early in the war, but troops had no protection from it. The idea of a respirator to filter harmful airborne substances was not new; the first respirator had been around since 1799 for use in mining. Filtering poisonous gas, however, was a different matter to filtering dust and the first true "gas mask" was patented in 1849, again intended for use in mining.


1799 Humbolt Gas Mask

Back to 1915 and the German gas attacks at Ypres. As an immediate response the troops were issued with a thick cotton pad to be held by hand against the mouth to act as a filter. This was a mediocre protection at best, although it was improved when soaked in urine (which acted to negate the chlorine). A slight improvement was developed by the British in the form of a long cloth to hold a chemical-infused pad in place, an invention known as the "Black Veil Respirator".


Black Veil Respirator

Soon this idea was taken one step further and a whole hood was developed of chemical-soaked cloth, and the 1915 British Hypo Helmet was the result. The single eyepiece was found to be too fragile for front-line service, however, and a new design was called for. This came about with US chemist James Bert Garner's gas mask which was made available to the British in 1915, and was soon modified for mass-production. The design was quickly copied by other nations and led to a huge reduction in casualties from gas attacks.


Garner's Gas Mask

As well as humans, gas masks were specially developed for use by pigeons, horses and dogs, all of which were employed in numerous capacities on the Western Front.







The filter on Garner's gas mask was filled with wood charcoal, but it was later found that charcoal from burnt nuts and fruit stones was actually better. Activated charcoal has been a standard respirator filter ever since, although asbestos was used during WWII and into the 1950s*.

* One important thing to remember about gas masks is that those dating from WWII and the 1950s should not be worn unless the filter is changed or cleaned out. Breathing through an asbestos-filled respirator is not to be recommended and we can only be grateful that they were not required to be used long term during that period.

 
Sadurian Mike
589768.  Sun Jul 26, 2009 3:08 am Reply with quote

Ian Dunn wrote:
Sad news. Henry Allingham has died, aged 113.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8157128.stm

Followed swiftly by Harry Patch, 111, the last of our survivors to have fought in the trenches in WWI.

AOL News article

It is inevitable but sad nonetheless.

 
Posital
589770.  Sun Jul 26, 2009 3:42 am Reply with quote

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred were the names given to the three metals that everyone who was in the great war received.

My grandad's war record... page 2.

EDIT - Corrected the names - as previously discussed...


Last edited by Posital on Sun Dec 26, 2010 7:28 am; edited 1 time in total

 
Feralcat
1282248.  Tue Apr 24, 2018 8:57 pm Reply with quote

589369.  Sat Jul 25, 2009 4:37

 
Garner's Gas Mask

As well as humans, gas masks were specially developed for use by pigeons, horses and dogs, all of which were employed in numerous capacities on the Western Front. 

The filter on Garner's gas mask was filled with wood charcoal, but it was later found that charcoal from burnt nuts and fruit stones was actually better. Activated charcoal has been a standard respirator filter ever since, although asbestos was used during WWII and into the 1950s*. 

* One important thing to remember about gas masks is that those dating from WWII and the 1950s should not be worn unless the filter is changed or cleaned out. Breathing through an asbestos-filled respirator is not to be recommended and we can only be grateful that they were not required to be used long term during that period.


Quoted from Sadurian Mike

 Sorry I am not good at quoting but that was very interesting.Thank you for that info about the asbestos and that fruit stones and nuts were better charcoal.

Do you know which fruit and nuts were used?

 
Jenny
1282357.  Wed Apr 25, 2018 3:48 pm Reply with quote

Feralcat - to quote another poster's post, click on the 'quote' word on that post, and it will appear correctly formatted in your own post, and you can then delete any of the content you don't want to use, or add your own comments below it before you hit the 'submit' button.

If you want to quote something that isn't in another poster's post (say, something you read) you can click on the 'quote' button above the posting box, and when it comes up [ quote ] (I've added extra spaces to make sure it shows) add into the box an = sign plus the name or subject you are quoting, in inverted commas. It should look like this [ quote="Sadurian Mike" ], and after the quoted words hit the quote button again and it will come up as [ /quote ].

When done without the extra spaces it will look like this:

Sadurian Mike wrote:

* One important thing to remember about gas masks is that those dating from WWII and the 1950s should not be worn unless the filter is changed or cleaned out. Breathing through an asbestos-filled respirator is not to be recommended and we can only be grateful that they were not required to be used long term during that period.

 
Alfred E Neuman
1282371.  Wed Apr 25, 2018 5:36 pm Reply with quote

That won't work Jenny - BBcode has been disabled by the user in their profile. Feralcat's first post here was asking about what BBcode does and should it be enabled, but they ignored the advice given then to leave it on, and subsequent advice to turn it back on.

Odd that they claim old age as an excuse for not understanding technology, but still saw fit to change the default settings, even though advised not to.

http://old.qi.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=38631&start=0

 

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