Airships ahoy!

Some recent airship sightings:

Holden airship

An airship is currently gracing Melbourne skies, thanks to Holden. I've seen it but not with a camera handy, so this picture by Dr Snafu will have to serve. It's nice to see it floating around, but at only 54 metres in length, I'm forced to say: that's not an airship. THIS is an airship! Still, I'd love to fly in it ...

Great War Fiction has the trailer for the upcoming First World War aviation movie, Flyboys. Looks like great fun, with Nieuports and Fokkers slugging it out over the Western Front. And towards the end of the trailer, there's even a Zeppelin! While the producers seem to have done at least some research, it would be wise not too expect too much in the way of historical accuracy. I see they've gone for the usual massive Hollywood explosion with the Zep -- maybe they should have watched the Hindenburg disaster footage a few more times.

The Avia-Corner reports on an upcoming expedition to examine the wreckage, via submersible, of the USS Macon -- last of the US Navy's flying aircraft carriers. It crashed off the Californian coast in 1935. For understandable reasons none of the great airships of the early twentieth century have survived (aside from their unfortunate propensity for catastrophic failure, they take up rather a lot of room), so seabed wrecks are about all we have left, aside from a few fragments here and there.

Finally, Boing Boing notes that today is the 90th anniversary of the tank's combat debut. Or should I say "travelling caterpillar fort" instead? No, I probably shouldn't -- like many somewhat insecure nations, Australia sometimes likes to take credit for inventions it oughtn't to. Yes, Lance de Mole did come up with the basic idea, but so did a few others, even earlier. And he didn't build it -- others did. Which is the (rather tenuous) link with airships here: one of the men who did help make the tank a practical device was Commodore (later Rear-Admiral) Murray Sueter, who was the Royal Navy's first Inspecting Captain of Airships in 1909. He also helped develop torpedo bombers and anti-aircraft defence. His claim to be a co-inventor of the tank rests on his work on armoured cars for the defence of airfields in Flanders, and in persuading Churchill that caterpillar tracks were the way to go, rather than rollers or a giant wheel! After the war, Sueter was a long-serving and outspoken Conservative MP; his Airmen or Noahs: Fair Play for our Airmen; The Great "Neon" Air Myth Exposed (London: Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1928) is a rollicking good read on these and other matters.

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4 thoughts on “Airships ahoy!

  1. Chris Williams

    I see Sueter as one of the biggest fools in UK history. He made the RNAS into a private army: inventing the tank has to be one of the most stunning examples of mission creep ever. Thus, when the Gothas arrived and (for a time) looked threatening, Smuts and Henderson invented the RAF to get DLG out of a hole. Owing to Sueter's antics, the Navy were happy (for a time) to lose the semi-detached RNAS. The RAF has been an almost unmitigated disaster for the British Empire. No, really. Think about it.

  2. Post author

    Yes, it was major mission creep, but remember the RNAS, like the RN as a whole, didn't have a lot to do early in the war. So it was casting around for something, anything, to do. (Strategic bombing was another thing they tried their hand at.)

    I don't know if Sueter can be held responsible for the RAF. The antics to which you refer (mainly writing a petulant letter to the King about not getting any credit for the tank) came when he was in charge of RNAS units in Italy. While that's a senior position, he wasn't then in the position to treat the RNAS as a private army, as he was earlier in the war; and this is well after the tank/armoured car business too. So I'm not sure why Sueter's tomfoolery would have tainted the RNAS as a whole, in the Admiralty's eyes, to the extent that they wanted rid of the whole thing. And anyway, if it did, more fool them, since they spent the next two decades trying to get it back!

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