Looking to buy? See our books on amazon.com Get Reading Now! Age of Aces Presents - free pulp PDFs

“The Breguet” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on July 6, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. This time, Blakeslee presents us with more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover of the November 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3411THE BREGUET pictured on the cover was one of the most successful bombers produced by France during the war. There are several types, the 14 A 2, 14 B 2, 16 B.N.2. and the three-motored machine. The ship here shown is a 14 B 2 and is from a Signal Corps photograph.

The BREGUET was designed by M. Louis Breguet, one of the great pioneers of French aviation. He was one of the first designers to produce a satisfactory tractor biplane.

The BREGUET was very strong and sturdy, being constructed almost exclusively of aluminum. Only the upper wings were provided with ailerons. The part of the lower plane lying behind the rear spar was hinged along its total length and was pulled downward by means of 12 rubber cords fixed on the under side of the ribs; the tension of these could be adjusted by means of screws, an automatic change of aerofoil corresponding with the load and speed thus resulting with an easier control of the airplane with and without a load of bombs. The ship was equipped with a complete dual control which could be removed from the observer’s cockpit. The engine was a 260 h.p. Renault stepped up to 300 h.p. by the use of aluminum pistons and a greater number of revolutions. To the left on the outside of the body a fixed machine gun for the pilot was mounted. The observer was armed with two machine guns clutched together and mounted on a raising and turning ring. As the ring was mounted high, the firing range forward was good. The characteristic features by which the ship could be recognized were beside the usual backward stagger to be found on other airplanes, the following; the high fuselage with the right-angled rudder and forward sharp rounded keel fin, the landing gear with three pairs of struts, the triangular-fixed tail plane, the divided elevator, with cornered balance, as well as the dihedral upper planes and horizontal lower ones.

We have discussed bombs and bomb dropping; this month we shall discuss machine guns. Of the three guns carried on the BREGUET, two arc Lewis and one a Vicker. These two types were used extensively by France and England. The Lewis machine gun was an air-cooled, gas-operated, magazine fed gun, weighing about 26 lbs. with the jacket, or 18 lbs. without. The gun was used almost entirely without the jacket, without any loss of efficiency. Its extreme mobility made it a most efficient gun for airplane work, being capable of operating in any position, firing straight up or straight down, or in any position. The speed of getting into action and the ability to function automatically in any position were due to the use of detachable, drum-shaped, rotating magazines, each magazine holding 47 or 97 cartridges. When a magazine is latched on the magazine post, it temporarily becomes part of the gun requiring no further attention until empty, when it is snatched off and another snapped on, as quickly as an empty magazine.

The Vickers is a water-cooled, recoil-operated, belt-fed machine gun. Like the Lewis gun, it is capable of being fired at the rate of 300 to 500 shots per minute. Its advantage over the Lewis gun is that it is capable of being fired continuously up to 500 shots, whereas the Lewis requires changing of magazine after 97 shots. On the other hand it has the disadvantage of being belt-fed, so it does not afford the mobility which the Lewis gun afforded. The water-cooling in the Vickers, like the air-cooling device in the Lewis, was dispensed with for aerial work, as unnecessary.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Breguet: The Ship on the Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(November 1934, Dare-Devil Aces)

Next time, Mr. Blakeslee brings us the fanciful tale of “The Flying Torpedo” for the December 1934 cover. Be sure not to miss it.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 39: Gabriel Guerin” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on July 1, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the September 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of the ninth ranking French Ace—Gabriel Guerin!

Sous Lieutenant Gabriel Fernand Charles Guerin was credited with 23 confirmed victories—including five of which he shared—and a reported 10 more unconfirmed. Most of these victories were while a pilot in SPA 15. As we said he was France’s ninth ranking Ace in the First World War and was awarded the Legion d’honneur, Médaille Millitaire and the Croix de Guerre with 15 palms and two bronze stars!

Sadly, Guerin died when the aircraft he was piloting, a SPAD VII, spun out of control and plunged to the ground soon after take-off near Mont l’Eveque on the 1st of August 1918. He was 26.

“T.N.T. Wings” by Eliot Todd

Link - Posted by David on June 29, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. This time, Eliot Todd recounts the story behind Blakeslee’s October 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3410THE Bristol Fighters on this month’s cover have dropped the last of their light demolition bombs on the blazing ammunition dump below and are now battling their way through a cordon of avenging Fokker D-VII’s. Will they make the lines? Well, the Bristol Fighter was so good that it was used right up to the close of the war with very few changes and could be trusted to give a good account of itself in any show.

Perhaps the most spectacular of all war sights was the explosion of an ammunition dump. Thousands upon thousands of shells and bombs of all types and sizes were stored in these dumps. And one well-placed hit was enough to transform them from orderly, harmless looking supply depots into white-hot infernos of death and destruction.

Such great concentrations of munitions as were to be found in 1918 were unheard of during the early days of the war. Open tactics prevailed for those first few weeks and not until the armies dug in did positions become comparatively permanent. Then the establishment of definite lines made supply centers necessary for the support of the armies.

The first dumps were just what the word means—piles of ammunition dumped on the ground, sometimes protected by canvas or some other rude shelter. No attempt was made to conceal the positions of the depots; secrecy was not considered necessary at that time.

But when aerial observation and photography developed from a curiosity into an important branch of the service, it became necessary to protect the depots from the prying eyes and tell-tale camera of the airmen.

Dumps were necessarily located near some road or railway. For that reason they were all the easier to spot from above when not camouflaged.

With the position of a dump located on a map or shown on a photograph, and with each section ranged, it was generally a simple enough matter to shell the target if within range of the artillery.

If not, planes were rolled out, courses set and bomb racks loaded.

Well aware of the vital importance of these dumps to the successful operation of their plans, the general staffs of each nation used every known device to protect their supplies. Camouflage was the answer. Roads were screened when it was necessary to bring up supplies by daylight in preparation for a big drive.

Some dumps were located underground, not only to mask their position but also to protect the ammunition in case of a raid. In some cases great tarpaulins were stretched and painted to resemble the ground.

As the art of camouflage advanced it became more and more difficult to recognize them. But in spite of all precautions, the dumps continued to be spotted and bombed by that new weapon which has done more than anything else to revolutionize modern warfare—the airplane.

The Story Behind The Cover
“T.N.T. Wings: The Story Behind The Cover” by Eliot Todd
(October 1934, Dare-Devil Aces)

Check back again. We will be presenting more Stories behind the Covers.

“Crêpe Hangars” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on June 26, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back and this time the marvel from Boonetown faces a dilema—face a court martial or transfer to the Pallbearer Squadron—the most morose lot on the Western Front—to boost their morale as only a Pinkham can.

They thought Phineas could make anybody laugh—until they sent him to the Pallbearers’ drome, where even the birds sang death marches. Yes, it looked for once as if Phineas had met his match in that bunch of Crêpe Hangars!

“The Bourges Bomber” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on June 22, 2015 @ 6:30 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. This time, Blakeslee presents us with more of the approach he used for the covers he painted for Battle Aces—telling us about the ship on cover of the September 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3409THERE is no story behind the cover this month. The scene is simply a background to display the Boulton & Paul “Bourges” bomber. You can easily pick it out, for it is the only British ship on the cover.

The “Bourges” was produced late in the war as a fighter bomber, and had it arrived at the Front in time would have given the Germans the surprise of their lives. Not only did it have the fuel and load capacity expected of a large bomber, but the speed, climb, and maneuvering qualities usually associated with a small single-seater combat ship. It not only could carry nearly a thousand pounds of bombs, but if necessary, whip into an Immelmann, a loop or any other intricate maneuver impossible for a machine of its size in those days.

The specifications for the ship follow. It had a span of 54 ft. a gap, maximum and minimum of 6 ft. 6 in. The total overall length was 37 ft. The chord of the top wing was 8 ft. while the bottom wing was 6 ft. 6 in. Span of the tail was 16 ft.

It had two 320 h.p. A. B. C. “Dragonfly” motors turning a 9 ft. 6 in. dia. prop. 1650 r.p.m. The weight of the machine empty was 3420 lbs. and its load per sq. ft. was 8 lbs. It carried 190 gallons of gas, enough to keep it aloft nine and a quarter hours. Its speed at 10,000 ft. was 124 m.p.h. and it could climb to this height in 11 minutes. At 15,000 ft. its speed was 118 m.p.h. and it took 21 minutes to climb to this height. Its landing speed was 50 m.p.h.

In our cover painting, two bombs are making a direct hit on the bridge. Had that painting been based on fact, the two hits would have been exceptional, for the art of bomb dropping was not as easy as it may sound.

For instance, a falling bomb will have an initial speed equal to and in the same direction as the airplane from which it is dropped. This force is compounded with two other forces which are constant, the resistance of the air and the acceleration due to gravity. The result will be a curved trajectory, the trajectory being the path the bomb follows from the point of discharge to the striking point. A head wind or a tail wind will cause the bomb to drift which modifies the value of the trajectory, which is again modified by the type and weight of the bomb used.

To successfully hit a target a bomber must know the normal speed of the particular airplane in which he flies; the height of the airplane from the target; the velocity of the head or tail wind and the weight and type of the bomb to be dropped.

If all this is known, it is reasonable to suppose that the bomb would hit the target, and it would if it wasn’t for the fact that perhaps a thousand feet lower from the height of the bomber, the wind may be blowing ten miles faster or change its direction. Add to this bursting “archie” and enemy ships and you will see why bombing was, and is, difficult. In fact, some authorities during the war despaired of ever being able to get results in aerial bombing comparable to the efforts made.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Bourges Bomber: The Ship on the Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(September 1934, Dare-Devil Aces)

Next time, Eliot Todd returns with the story of “T.N.T. Wings” on the October 1934 cover. Be sure not to miss it.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 38: Carl Bolle” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on June 17, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the August 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of the last leader of the Jagdstaffel Boelcke—Carl Bolle!

Carl Bolle started his military career in the cavalry, later transfering to the air service. During his time in the air service he is credited with 36 victories rising to the rank of Oberleutnant and transfered to command Jasta 2—the very squadron Oswald Boelcke had commanded.

After the war, Bolle became a flying instructor and in the 1920’s director of German Air Transport School—the Deutsche Verkehrsfliegerschule. Subssequently helping in the covert training of pilots for the Luftwaffe with which he served as an advisor during the second World War, reporting to Hermann Goring himself!

Carl Bolle passed away on the 9th of October 1955 in his native city of Berlin.

“Suicide Buzzards” by Eliot Todd

Link - Posted by David on June 15, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. This time, Eliot Todd recounts the story behind Blakeslee’s July 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3407MOTORS thundering, four giant Handley-Pages trundled across the 89th’s field at St. Contay. They were off to do the impossible—bomb the enemy rail center at Harvencourt.

For months a thorn in the side of G.H.Q., Harvencourt was now the mainspring in the Germans’ last stab at victory. Every other attempt to destroy it had ended in disaster. Now G.H.Q. was pinning their faith on a bold daylight raid.

Thirty minutes later the rail center slid into view. The air became charged with flying steel as German batteries came to life. Jagged chunks of shrapnel and Maxim slugs crashed through wings, shredding fabric, smashing struts and ribs to splinters. Grimly the H.P.’s held their course through the maelstrom of lead and steel, laying egg after egg.

By now the ground was a blazing inferno, the network of tracks a mass of twisted junk. But the dump, the all important store of ammunition, was untouched.

A gunner snatched the release and the last bomb spun true to its mark. Magically a solid sheet of flame leaped upward as hundreds of tons of H.E. ignited. When the smoke and debris cleared there was nothing to mark the dump but a tremendous crater.

During the early years of the war, bombing was more or less haphazard and unreliable. Equipment was crude. Bombs consisted mainly of hand grenades, and bomb sights were nothing more than a couple of nails and a few pieces of wire.

But with the rapid strides made in aviation during 1917-18, bombing leaped from the hit or miss, hope-we-get-there-stage, into a powerful weapon of offense. Very few things got more respect than the bombers as they droned overhead with a cargo of eggs along about two ack emma.

When objectives were deep in enemy territory, as happened in the story depicted on this month’s cover, the bombers were forced to leave their escorts after crossing the lines, and, because of the shorter cruising range of the smaller ships, penetrate miles behind the lines alone. As early as 1916 one R.F.C. outfit flew more than ninety miles to reach its objective.

And if the objective happened to be an important one they were usually met with a hot reception. Batteries of ground defences flung up shrapnel, flaming onions and Maxim slugs until the air was literally charged with flying steel. In many instances the crews were trapped in the pits of their lumbering busses and blasted out of the sky by Fokkers.

Even if they sucecded in reaching their objective, escaping anti-aircraft fire and the savage attacks of Fokkers, they were still faced with many minutes of flying over hostile territory that was by tins time fully aroused to their presence.

Crouched in the pits of their clumsy, sometimes crippled crates, the crews fought their way mile after mile back to the Front until they contacted their escort over the lines.

In that case the escort went into action, driving off the Boche planes. But when they missed the escort, as they sometimes did, the entire job was up to them.

The odds against them and the difficulties that faced them were all in the day’s—or night’s—work to the men who flew in those giant crates. They were real airmen and they did a real job.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Suicide Buzzards: The Story Behind The Cover” by Eliot Todd (July 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more Stories behind the Covers.

“Raid of the Unseen” by Kenneth Brown Collings

Link - Posted by David on June 12, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

This week we have a tale from the pen of a dare-devil adventurer, aviator, soldier and war correspondent—Kenneth Brown Collings, whose interest in aviation began in childhood when he saw the Wrights brothers and their flying machine perform at Fort Myer, Va., in 1908. From the pages of the February 1935 number of Flying Aces, it’s a smashing yarn of night bombers—”Raid of the Unseen!”

The C.O. of the 7th Marines Squadron was not new at the fighting game. He’d taken lessons from blood-crazed Moros in the Philippines, from slant-eyed Boxers in China. And he’d learned one thing—you’ve got to hit what you shoot at, whether you’re on the ground or in the air. And because he’d learned that lesson so well—he was faced with a court-martial!

“The Yellow Comet” by Eliot Todd

Link - Posted by David on June 8, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. This time, Eliot Todd recounts the story behind Blakeslee’s April 1934 cover for Dare-Devil Aces. . . .

th_DDA_3404SUNSET. The lone Spad droned on, headed directly into the blazing rays of a dying sun that flushed the western skies with crimson. A Yank pilot sat in the Spad’s tiny “office,” his back to Germany, his two hour evening patrol over. From time to time he turned and searched the sky for enemy ships. He had nearly reached the lines when he saw them—four black specks, one larger than the others, all spinning about in crazy gyrations.

He snatched for binoculars. Three Fokker D-7’s were ganging a French Salmson. One, a blue Fokker, was just dropping on the Salmson’s tail. Spandaus flamed. Twin Lewises flashed in the sun. The Fokker seemed to shudder. The motor belched a billowy sheet of livid flame, then, falling into a right-hand spin, the Boche plane blazed its final trail across the sky like a fiery comet.

Instantly the two remaining Fokkers caught the Salmson in a deadly cross-fire. That was enough for the Yank. He stood the Spad on its prop, spun around and roared toward the fight.

A blue Fokker swelled in his ring-sight. He estimated the distance. Two hundred yards, one hundred yards. He reached for the trips. But just as his fingers tightened on the stick a red ship appeared like magic at his right. Spandaus steel smashed into his motor. The Hisso ground to a stop with a grating of metal parts.

Numb terror gripped the Yank’s heart. Engine dead, he was cold meat for those Boches. The red ship had looped upward, probably intending to swoop in a death-dealing dive; and from the corner of his eye the Yank could see the blue Fokker swinging in on his tail. He began gliding earthward.

As he flashed past the Salmson, he glanced up—and gasped. For the French observer had aimed his guns and was riddling the belly of the red Fokker with lead. The Boche ship hung for a moment in the sky, almost motionless—then it began to fall in a series of crazy side-slips, pilot fighting the controls.

But the blue Fokker was fast on the Spad’s tail now, raking the crippled ship with burst after burst. The Yank felt the tiny shocks of slugs smash up the camel-back toward the fuselage. Grimly he turned to face the final burst. As he did so the Salmson whipped around in a vertical bank not fifty yards away. Again twin Lewises flamed; feathery tracers impaled the blue Fokker’s cockpit. The Boche pilot slumped forward. His ship plunged down, guns still yammering, a dead hand clutching the trips.

Breathing a sigh of heartfelt relief, the Yank eased the stick and sought a place to set down. There wasn’t much time to choose. Two miles inside the German lines, with 500 feet altitude and a dead stick, it was pretty much of a hit and miss proposition.

A clearing showed ahead. He landed in it, jumped out and touched a match to the ship just as a squad of Germans rushed into the open, waving their rifles. But before they could reach him the Salmson came hurtling over the trees, Vickers snarling. The Boches faltered and broke, running for cover. The Salmson banked, bouncing past the Yank, who ran after it. Bullets pinged around his head but he flung himself on the wing.

A few minutes later on the tarmac of his own drome, he gripped the French pilot’s hand in a gesture that expressed his thanks more eloquently than words.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Yellow Comet: The Story Behind The Cover” by Eliot Todd (April 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more Stories behind the Covers.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 37: Lt. Col. Barker” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on June 3, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Back with another of Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” from the pages of Flying Aces Magazine. The series ran for almost four years with a different Ace featured each month. This time around we have the July 1935 installment featuring the illustrated biography of the most decorated Canadian Ace—Lt. Col. William Barker, V.C., D.S.O. M.C.!

William George “Billy” Barker was a fighter pilot credited with 53 aerial victories during WWI, but is mostly remembered for the epic, single-handed combat on October 27th 1918 against some 60 German aircraft that won him the Victoria Cross.

After the war he joined Canada’s other Ace named Billy—William Bishop in an ill-conceived commercial aviation venture in Toronto, but in June 1922 he accepted a commission in the Canadian Air Force and was briefly the acting director of the RCAF.

Barker was fatally injured when his new two-seater Fairchild aircraft he was demonstrating crashed at Rockcliffe air station, Ottawa. He was 35.

As a bonus—here is the feature on Lt. Col. William Barker from Clayton Knight’s newspaper feature Hall of Fame of the Air which ran Sundays from 1935 to 1940. This strip is courtesy of Stephen Sherman’s acepilots.com which has a large collection of HFA strips that his father had clipped and saved at the time.

Great stuff!

“Hell On Wings” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on June 1, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. . . .

th_DDA_3403THE cover this month shows an S.E.5 diving on the tail of a Fokker which is on the tail of another S.E. A split second later—

Early in 1918 there appeared at a British squadron a group of replacements, among them a youngster whom we shall call Jones. After several practice flights near the lines, Jones eventually took his place in a formation that was out for real trouble. As they crossed the Front, archie was particularly active and very accurate. Shells burst close to the formation, too close for comfort, and Jones proceeded to zigzag madly. The patrol leader turned about to pick him up, but Jones was headed for home at full speed.

When the patrol returned an hour later, the leader proceeded to read the riot act to Jones. He was told that it was a pilot’s duty to keep formation, not only for his own sake, but for the sake of the rest of the flight. If the patrol got into a scrap, one machine missing would be serious— perhaps fatal. He was also told what became of stragglers, who were the Boche’s favorite dish. He was threatened with all manner of unpleasant things if he broke formation again. The lad promised to do his best.

That same day he was again a member of the flight. He kept formation despite archie—which was not as severe as earlier—and completed the patrol.

The next day, however, when archie plastered the sky a little more vigorously, Jones again broke formation and sped for home. This time the lack of one ship missing had serious consequences for the flight. They ran into seven Boches and the battle raged for half an hour. When the flight drew off for home, one of their number had gone to the happy hunting ground.

The straffing Jones received from the entire squadron is history. After long deliberation, the youngster was given one last chance to save himself from disgrace.

The flight left the field with Jones the next day. He had been moved in position to give him confidence and he stayed in place during the usual archie. Some half hour later the flight leader saw several Pfalz scouts 8,000 feet below. After a look around he gave the signal and down they went, Jones with them. During the fight two of the Germans were shot down, one in flames.

Them from above dove three Fokkers. One of these got on the tail of the flight leader, and before he realized what had happened he received a burst of Boche lead that put his Vickers out of action. He put his plane through every maneuver he could think of—and some he didn’t think of—but one of the Fokkers always clung to his tail.

There was nothing he could do but spin down and try to hedge hop home.

Down he went in a spin. At fifty feet he flattened out and with throttle wide open, streaked for home. But he was not alone. The Fokker still rode his tail, pumping steel into his S.E.

Nothing, apparently, could save the Yank. His Vickers were out of action and his Lewis drum was empty. Gas was getting low, also. As he turned, a burst went through the fairing back of his head just missing his shoulder. In desperation he swung in a steep right turn. Just as the Fokker turned to follow, out of the sky hurtled an S.E. The flight leader recognized the number—Jones . . . .

—the S.E. crashed into the Fokker; the wreckage dove deep into the ground. And so Jones died, that a comrade might live.

The Story Behind The Cover
“Hell On Wings: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (March 1934)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

“Spy Larking” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on May 29, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

“Haw-w-w-w-w!” You heard right! That marvel from Boonetown, Iowa is back and there is a spy in their midst—surely it’s not the latest recruit to the 9th Pursuit Squadron—Lt. Harold Bartholomew Cheeves, the one man on the base that truely gets Pinkham!

Haul out the solid ivory and strike off the International Crack-Brain Medal for Lieut. Harold Bartholomew Cheeves, newcomer with the Fighting 9th. For here’s a man who APPRECIATES Phineas! In fact, the more cockleburs he finds in his hash, the more he admires the Boonetown Barbarian.

“Bombing of Oberndorf” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on May 18, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. Every one of those covers told a story, and Blakeslee had a page inside the issue with which to do so. We present Blakeslee’s second cover for Dare-Devil Aces—the March 1932 issue—and The Bombing of Oberndorf!”

th_DDA_3203THE night raid on Oberndof, Germany, home of the Mauser gun and ammunition works, was perhaps one of the most daring—and effective—feats of its kind during the early part of the War. Forty French and British planes took part in this expedition—and thirty-three returned. The picture on the cover shows the bombing at its height.

During part of the journey to Oberndorf, the Allied bombers were without protection, as the combat ships scheduled to guard them could not carry fuel enough for the entire trip. The ships left them at a certain point, therefore, and met them again on the way back.

Immediately before the raid, the Allies had staged offensive operations all along the lines in order to draw as many Boche squadrons as possible from the route to be taken by the bombers. The ruse was successful, and on October 12th, 1916, the bombers took off into skies that were practically clear of enemy planes. It wasn’t long, however before the Germans realized what was going on. Hurriedly they mustered enough combat ships to give resistance. So, not long after the bombers had left their protection behind, they flew into a running fight. But, keeping in tight formations, which made it difficult for the Jerries to get at them, they eventually reached Oberndorf. Here they were met by everything the Germans had—archies, machine guns, anti-aircraft, etc. Despite this, the raid was highly successful and the Intelligence Department later reported that effective work in slowing down productions of German munitions of war had been accomplished.

After dropping their bombs, the ships streaked for home, harassed by the enemy. The protection, on meeting them, took over the battle and changed the tune, driving the Boches off with heavy casualties. And on the night of the 12th, thirty-three of the original forty bombers landed at their airdromes.

Bombing of Oberndorf
“Bombing of Oberndorf” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (Dare-Devil Aces, March 1932)

“How The War Planes Flew” by Robert Sidney Bowen

Link - Posted by David on May 13, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

From the pages of the June 1933 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

FORMATION FLYING

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, June 1933)

WELL, maybe I’m getting good, or maybe you buzzards have ganged up together and decided to kid your old Uncle Wash-out. But anyway, I’m certainly getting a flock of letters asking me all sorts of questions. And would you believe it?—most of them are real sensible. They almost make me believe that you apes keep your ears buttoned back when I start to talk. As I said, maybe I’m getting good, and then again maybe I’m—! Oh, well, we’ll let that one go this time.

However, it all leads up to the fact that I’ve just received a note from Tony Battagalia out in Chicago. Now there is a buzzard who does his sleeping in the night time only. He keeps his eyes open while the sun is shining—and even on rainy days, too. In his note he tells me what a wonderful war eagle I must have been (which of course is quite correct), and then he asks me to get in a few words about formation flying.

Well, I was going to speak about knitting woolen helmets for high altitude flying, but in view of the fact that Tony wants to hear about formation flying then that’s what he’s going to hear about. Of course some of you other buzzards may think that you know all about that sort of thing. If you do just stick your chins in your vests and don’t snore too loud. Tony and the other lads crave information, so take a tip and shut up.

FORMATION flying is, of course, just what the two words signify—flying together in a group in a definitely arranged group. And why? Of course you can guess. When soldiers march they don’t go along the street in mob fashion, half of them in the gutter and the other half shuffling across peoples’ front lawns. No, they march in closed order. And the main idea is so that the whole group will execute an order as though they were one man. The same idea holds true for cavalry, gun batteries, tanks, etc. Formation is maintained so that the group will act as a solid unit.

Now, that is great stuff for the fighting forces on the ground. They can march into battle in formation positions, and in some cases they can fight a battle and still keep their formation. In the case of infantry going over the top, they go over in what are known as waves. The first wave is a line of soldiers spaced so many feet apart. In some cases it may be two lines. Then comes the second wave, and if necessary a third wave. But what I’m trying to bring out is that the soldiers advance upon the enemy in formation. When they meet the enemy and it becomes a case of hand to hand conflict, their original formation is of course broken up. But up to that point, the soldiers that were not killed while advancing across no man’s land kept an advancing formation that made it possible for their officers to maneuver them as a solid group.

THAT is exactly what happens in the air—planes fly in formation not because it looks pretty, but so that all of them will maneuver as a fixed body when the signal comes from the pilot in command. Troops on the ground march behind their commanding officer. The reasons for that are, first; an officer leads his men. That’s why he’s an officer. Second, so that they will be able to see or hear his commands and execute them as a unit.

So naturally, it follows that the commanding air officer leads his pilots through the air. And the best way to lead them is when they are flying behind him in formation position. When in formation they can see his signals, and by looking back he can see them.

Now, that brings us up to the matter of the various types of aerial formations, their names, and their uses.

The first is, of course, the most common one of all. It is called the V formation. (Fig. 1) A V formation can be made up of any number of planes, from three to six billion, if you want that many. The officer in command flies at the peak of the V. On his left and on his right, just behind him, are usually two experienced pilots. And then behind each of them is a new or inexperienced pilot. And behind each of them is a veteran. Now, because of prop wash (which is simply air churned up and disturbed by the revolving propeller) it is impossible for one plane to fly directly behind another and at the same altitude. Believe it or not, the air just back of the first plane is like a greased pole. You just can’t stay on it. Your plane will slide off to the right or the left. Therefore, in order that the plane behind will maintain its position, it flies a few feet above the level of the plane ahead, and a bit to the right or left such as the case may be. And the plane behind that flies a bit high. And so forth, right back to the last plane. In other words the planes on both sides form a flight of steps that slant outward and upward from the leading plane.

WHEN you speak of the left and right side of a formation you speak of them in reference to the right or left side of the leading plane. And the left or right side of a plane is its pilot’s left or right when facing forward. Therefore No 1 plane on the right is the first plane on the leader’s right. No. 2 plane is the next one back, and so forth. And the same numbering holds true for the left side. So by checking back on what I said about the two inexperienced pilots, you will note that in that seven plane flight one inexperienced pilot, was No. 2 plane on the right. And the other was No. 2 on the left.

Now, don’t rush me. I’m going to tell you why.

It’s simply for this reason. The greenhorns are protected in front and in the rear. In other words in case the flight is attacked from either the front or the rear, the attackers will smack into veterans first. They won’t be able to slip down and take a crack at the greenhorns when veterans aren’t looking.

AND as an added precaution against that, there is sometimes a veteran who flies what is called Top-cover position. You will note that that position is shown in Fig. 1. He flies in the center of the V, but at an altitude higher than any of the others. And so, in that particular formation you have the leader and two veterans keeping a weather eye on the air above and in front. You have two more veterans doing the same thing behind and above. And you have a lone veteran riding herd above the center of them all.

Now, before I go on with other formations just let me mouth a few last words about the V. That is the way a flight would go over the lines. However, maneuvering in formation is a rather ticklish job because each plane is so sensitive on the controls, and because of varying air currents. Naturally, planes used in the war were not as stabilized as the ships of the present time, and therefore any idea of fancy flying in formation was OUT. The formation could climb and dive together. It could bank to the left or the right. But looping together or rolling together wasn’t tried—and for two reasons. First, it was too risky. And second, it wasn’t of any value. However, banking to the right or the left was of value, for the simple reason that the formation had to turn some time. They didn’t go across the lines flying straight and then go right on around the world until they hit their own field. And so, of course, a way was doped out how to turn around to the left or the right and still maintain the V formation.

It was done in two ways—not both at the same time!

Once the leader signaled a bank to the right, the pilots flying ships on the inside of the turn (ships on the leader’s right in this case) would throttle their engines and more or less stall around. And the pilots flying planes on the outside of the turn (the leader’s left in this case) would speed up their engines and go fast. Naturally the reason for that was that to make the turn, they had to fly a greater distance than the ships on the inside of the turn. And then, of course, when the formation was headed straight again the pilots on the right would speed up their engines again, and the pilots on the left would slow up their engines—’and thus everybody would keep formation position.

The second way was really the most effective, because it did not necessitate the trouble of throttling or goosing the engine. And also it made it possible for the V formation to turn quicker and in a much smaller area.

It was executed this way. Again we’ll have the leader signal a turn to the right. (He’d signal by wabbling his wings and pointing his right arm to the right. Or he might just dip his right wings, and then start to turn.) But anyway, let us say that he has signaled a right turn.

As he started to turn, the planes on the inside (his right) would dip down to the left then up and over to form position on his left. At the same time the planes on the outside of the turn (his left) would climb up to the right and then down to form position on his right. In other words the right and left planes would simply change places. The ones on the inside of the turn going down to the left and up. And the planes on the outside of the turn going up to the right and then down. Of course a turn to the left was made in the opposite manner.

So much for that. Nope. One more word. The flight would cross the lines in formation but once they were attacked, or did the attacking themselves, the formation would soon break up. Because no matter how much you may slice it, a dogfight in the air is an individual against individual affair. Once a fight starts its just the same idea as when the advancing wave of soldiers reaches the enemy line. A general free-for-all with the best man winning. You can advance, attack, and retreat in formation—but during the scrap the formation goes by-by.

NOW, by squinting at Fig. 2, you will see what a V of Vs formation looks like. As in an ordinary V formation there can be as many planes as you want in each V. But in a squadron there are usually three flights; A, B, and C. Therefore, on a squadron patrol the formation flown is by individual flights, with the flight leader heading each group. And we call it a V of Vs because each group is in the form of a V, and all three groups form a large V. Maneuvering is, of course, just the same as with one V only on a larger scale.

And Fig. 3 is what is called line formation. It can start across the lines that way, or it can be formed by both sides of a V formation moving up into line with the leader in the middle. That type of formation was used for ground strafe work over a wide area. The line of ships would simply sweep forward dropping their small twenty pound Cooper bombs (usually four to each scout plane) and firing their guns at the troops below. To reverse and come back each plane simply half rolled and pulled up out of its resulting dive. (Naturally the ships flew far enough, apart to make reversing possible without tangling wings.)

Fig. 4 is a formation that was seldom used during the late mix-up on the other side of the big pond. It’s called, “line formation in echelon.” As you will note it’s simply a V formation with one-half of the V missing. The planes are like a flight of steps. And that type of formation was for ground strafing a small area. The ships came down, one after the other, and let drive with guns and bombs just before zooming up for altitude.

From echelon formation it was but a simple matter to form what was known as the Lufbery Circle, Fig. 5. (So called because it was used extensively by the great Lafayette Escadrillo ace, Raoul Lufbery.) As you can figure out for yourselves, regardless of its name, it is simply a follow-the-leader formation, or a ring-around-the-rosey affair. But its uses and its advantages were most helpful. It was used not only for trench straffing, but also for air attack defense. A pilot in a pursuit ship doesn’t have to worry much about what is in front of him, for the simple reason that he can see forward and shoot his guns forward. But, behind him it is another question. He can look behind, but he can’t shoot behind unless he turns around.

SO that makes the line formation in echelon and the Lufbery Circle, or follow the leader formation, a great help to each man’s tail. In other words you dive down on a trench, spray it with your guns, and zoom up without worrying much whether a load of nickel jacketed steel is going to crease the seat of your pants. And you don’t worry much because the pilot behind you is taking his turn at spraying the troops in the trench, with the result that they are too occupied with getting out of his way to turn around and blaze away at you as you zoom up.

And in the case of the Lufbery Circle, it wouldn’t be healthy for a Hun to try and drop down on the tail of the ship in front of you because you would simply pull up your nose a bit and chew off the soles of his field boots with your bursts. Incidentally, line formation in echelon, or follow the leader formation, was good for bombing work or photographic work. It enabled the pilots to bomb or snap, one at a time, the same spot on the ground, and while doing it be more or less protected from the rear. That is, each plane covered the ship ahead, with the exception, of course, of the last ship. But the pilot flying that ship was the only one who had to pray to Lady Luck to keep Spandaus lead away from him. And even he was protected if the planes formed the Lufbery Circle.

And so there you are, a few words of wisdom (?) on formation flying. In general, formation flying- was okay before and after the scrap. In fact, as you can figure out yourselves, if you’ve kept your ears open, formation flying or flying in formation was absolutely essential to effective patroling. BUT, in a scrap?—nuts to formations! Pick your man, and go get him. That was the idea. And when it was all over but the shouting, if you were still in the air, gather around your leader and reform your formation.

“The Vickers “Vimy” Bomber” by Frederick Blakeslee

Link - Posted by David on May 11, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Editor’s Note: This month’s cover is the fifteenth of the actual war-combat pictures which Mr. Blakeslee, well-known artist and authority on aircraft, is painting exclusively for BATTLE ACES. The series was started to give our readers authentic pictures of war planes in color. It also enables you to follow famous airmen on many of their amazing adventures and feel the same thrills of battle they felt. Be sure to save these covers if you want your’ collection of this fine series to be complete.

th_BA_3208THE bombing expedition on which this cover is based is pictured in two parts. The actual raid is shown on the cover of the August issue of DAREDEVIL ACES. This month the adventure of one of the bombers on that mission is pictured.

I shall not repeat the story of the raid here, for that has been told in DAREDEVIL ACES.

Three big British bombers took off late one afternoon to bomb the reported position of a long-range gun implacement. They were flown by British pilots but were to operate in conjunction with an American outfit of fighting ships.

The bombers met the Americans high over Dun and started for the scene of operation. They flew in a tight formation and saw no enemy craft, although they were being followed by several Boches who did not dare attack such a formidable group.

The flight was deep in enemy territory when one of the bombers developed engine trouble in the right-hand motor. It fell behind and unfortunately, at this moment the top patrol was hidden by a cloud so did not observe the accident.

The pilot of the bomber, finding his trouble was getting serious, turned about and started for home, looking for a target for his load of bombs. Through an opening in the ground fog he saw what he took for a supply depot and ordered his men to let go their “eggs.” They were later to be informed that they had fired an ammunition dump.

It was not long before more serious trouble than a “sick” motor arrived. It came with a roar and blazing guns. It was a German Hannoveraner biplane (the bright red ship in the foreground); almost at the same time another ship arrived to add to the difficulties of the bomber. This was a Roland single-seater biplane (the blue and yellow plane diving in from the left).

The bomber, due to its crippled condition, was unable to maneuver and had to fight off the Boches as best it could. The Englishmen were in an uncomfortable position but not hard-pressed until the fight was joined by a Fokker D-VII and a Fokker monoplane. Then things got more serious.

The big ship flew steadily on but was sustaining a deadly fire from every direction. The motor still functioned and seemed to get no worse, but every moment increased the hazard. It was being slowly cut to pieces. Already one rudder was out of commission and a stream of bullets had cut through the center of the fuselage and weakened it. The wings looked like a sieve and many of the wires were cut, also weakening the wings. Tt was remarkable that the ship did not collapse then and there.

They shot down one Boche with their last drum of ammunition. Both gunners and pilot were wounded and they had given themselves up as lost, when help arrived in the form of a patrol of S.E-S’s, who scattered the Germans right and left in short order.

The pilot, faint from a wound in the abdomen, landed his ship on his own airdrome but cracked up in doing so, completing the wreck of an already half ruined ship. All survived, however, and they are living today, proud of their D.S.C. awarded by the American government.

The bombing ship shown on the cover is a very famous one, although most of its fame was gained in peace time persuits. It was designed as a long-distance bomber. It carried two engines in “power eggs” one each side of the fuselage. There were three types of engines used, the Fiat, Hispano-Suiza and Rolls Royce. The bomber here shown is a Vickers Vimy Rolls, which is 1 ft. 6½ in. longer than the other two, otherwise they are the same in appearance. They carried two gunners and a pilot. To prevent the machine from standing on its nose after too fast a landing, a skid was fitted under the nose of the fuselage. Span 67 ft. 2 in., gap 10 ft., overall length 44 ft., speed low down 103 m.p.h., speed at 5,000 ft. 98 m.p.h., landing speed 56 m.p.h.

The Vickers
“The Vickers “Vimy” Bomber” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (August 1932)

Now we come to its peace time fame. It was in a Vickers Vimy Rolls-Royce airplane that Captain J. Alcock and Lt. Whitten Brown, both afterwards knighted, made the first direct flight across the Atlantic from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Clifden, Galway. They traveled 1,880 miles in 15 hours 57 minutes at an average speed of 118 m.p.h., May 18th-19th, 1919.

Captain Ross Smith and three companions, in the same year, and in the same type of ship, flew from England to Australia in 30 days, flying a total of 11,294 miles. They landed at Port Darwin, North Australia and later crossed the continent to Melbourne.

Next Page »