Discussion:
Parachutes during WWI.
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t***@go.com
2017-07-13 16:39:48 UTC
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I watched 'Hell's Angels' by Howard Hughes
recently. All three main characters had
something to not like about them, but they
showed some interesting factoids about airships
and aircraft during WWI that I did not notice
before.

The Zepplins were slow and could explode, but
they had a greater lift capacity for bombs than
heavier than air aircraft and so could be used
as long range bombers under cover of darkness,
for there was no RADAR.

The main thing I found when double checking
some scenes with accounts on Wikipedia was that
pilots of heavier than air aircraft generally did
not have parachutes during WWI. They had to land
the plane without crashing into the ground at too
high a speed or they died.

They did have observation balloons on the front
lines that people exited using parachutes, but
a cord that enabled a heavier than air pilot to
clear the craft before deploying had not been
perfected yet. Without it the parachute got
tangled with the disabled aircraft.

If the state of parachutes at the beginning of
WWI had been at the same state as in our time
line during the early 1920s, could this have
started parachute drops of soldiers from heavy
aircraft behind lines during WWI? Could this
have changed the nature of the mobility of
the lines during that war? Maybe even a
small paratrooper invasion of the U.K. from
Zepplins?

So someone studies parachutes and perfects designs
for them at the beginning of WWI rather than the
end of WWI.

What is different about WWI in this timeline?
Rich Rostrom
2017-07-13 17:58:47 UTC
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but a cord that enabled a heavier than air pilot to
clear the craft before deploying had not been
perfected yet. Without it the parachute got
tangled with the disabled aircraft.
My understanding is that the higher-ups in the
air forces thought that if pilots had parachutes,
they would bail out of planes too quickly,
abandoning aircraft that could have been landed.
--
The real Velvet Revolution - and the would-be hijacker.

http://originalvelvetrevolution.com
Insane Ranter
2017-07-13 18:51:21 UTC
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Post by Rich Rostrom
but a cord that enabled a heavier than air pilot to
clear the craft before deploying had not been
perfected yet. Without it the parachute got
tangled with the disabled aircraft.
My understanding is that the higher-ups in the
air forces thought that if pilots had parachutes,
they would bail out of planes too quickly,
abandoning aircraft that could have been landed.
Correct. But didn't they also use them for artillery observers that "jumped' from balloons?
kenney@ cix.co.uk (Kenneth Young)
2017-07-13 19:10:00 UTC
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Post by Insane Ranter
Correct. But didn't they also use them for artillery observers that "jumped' from balloons?
The balloons in question were hydrogen ones. A different situation from
heavier than air aircraft though IIRC Zeppelin crew were not issued with
parachutes.
The Horny Goat
2017-07-17 04:43:21 UTC
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Post by kenney@ cix.co.uk (Kenneth Young)
Post by Insane Ranter
Correct. But didn't they also use them for artillery observers that
"jumped' from balloons?
The balloons in question were hydrogen ones. A different situation from
heavier than air aircraft though IIRC Zeppelin crew were not issued with
parachutes.
That's correct.

Did the British figure out before 1918 that inciendaries were
particularly effective against balloons? James Dunnigan in his
Richthofen's War game guide insisted they were but I don't recall
hearing biplane pilots regularly used them against balloons from any
other source.

For all his other manifold faults Dunnigan wasn't known for being "out
there" on his historical writing.
kenney@ cix.co.uk (Kenneth Young)
2017-07-17 13:04:00 UTC
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Post by The Horny Goat
Did the British figure out before 1918 that inciendaries were
particularly effective against balloons?
The point was that observation balloons were a special case, they were
sitting ducks with the only defence against attack being wound down to
ground level. AFAIK the earliest use of special bullets (explosive as
well as incendiaries) was against Zeppelins in 1916 see Gunson "Night
Fighters" for more information.
The Old Man
2017-07-17 15:10:40 UTC
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Post by kenney@ cix.co.uk (Kenneth Young)
Post by The Horny Goat
Did the British figure out before 1918 that inciendaries were
particularly effective against balloons?
The point was that observation balloons were a special case, they were
sitting ducks with the only defence against attack being wound down to
ground level. AFAIK the earliest use of special bullets (explosive as
well as incendiaries) was against Zeppelins in 1916 see Gunson "Night
Fighters" for more information.
There were incendiaries and also the solid-fuel Le Prieur rocket invented by Frenchman Lt. Yves Le Prieur and first used in April 1916. Rockets were attached to each outboard strut of a biplane fighter aircraft and fired through steel tubes using an electrical trigger. The rockets' inaccuracy was such that pilots had to fly very close to their target before firing.
For an illustration of these, Google Aurora Models Nieuport 11

Regards,
John Braungart
The Old Man
2017-07-13 22:50:32 UTC
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Post by Rich Rostrom
but a cord that enabled a heavier than air pilot to
clear the craft before deploying had not been
perfected yet. Without it the parachute got
tangled with the disabled aircraft.
My understanding is that the higher-ups in the
air forces thought that if pilots had parachutes,
they would bail out of planes too quickly,
abandoning aircraft that could have been landed.
--
The real Velvet Revolution - and the would-be hijacker.
http://originalvelvetrevolution.com
Actually the Germans DID use them late in the war (i.e. AFTER Spring 1918 IIRC). I remember hearing stories that Ernst Udet survived an aerial battle using a chute. But you're right about the upper echelons thinking that pilots would be too quick to "give up" and bail if they could.

Regards,
John Braungart
Ingo Siekmann
2017-07-14 14:36:39 UTC
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Post by t***@go.com
If the state of parachutes at the beginning of
WWI had been at the same state as in our time
line during the early 1920s, could this have
started parachute drops of soldiers from heavy
aircraft behind lines during WWI? Could this
have changed the nature of the mobility of
the lines during that war? Maybe even a
small paratrooper invasion of the U.K. from
Zepplins?
I doubt it.

The German Forces had about 110 airships during WWI, of where 2/3 lost
(but with surprisingly low loss of life). Their main advantage was their
range and the height they could reach.
After the invention of incendiary ammunition in 1916, their cruises
became even more dangerous, and they were forced to reach even greater
heights (sometimes more than 6.000 meters / 18.000 ft.), which caused
problems for the crews - the ships had no sealed cabins.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milit%C3%A4rluftschiff

(Sorry, German language only.)

Even one of the biggest airships of its time, LZ 104, could only carry
23 tons of cargo, which is not much for an invasion.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LZ_104_(L_59)

To use them on a larger scale, the German Reich would have needed much
more ships - which was not possible, because that would have meant more
imports of goods like aluminum, rubber etc.- and this was not possible
because of the blockade.

Maybe airships could have been used for a commando raid - be it for
tactical of propaganda reasons -, but this would have meant:

- cramming inexperienced (keep in mind this whole parachute thing would
have been new) paratroopers into big, slow moving targets
- pushing them out of the airship from 6.000+ meters.
- with non - steerable parachutes

Even if the paratroopers would not have been scattered across half of
France or England, had gathered together on the ground quickly and
striked against their target (question - what would have been a good
one?), how would they have been evacuated afterwards?

Thoughts, comments?

Bye
Ingo

PS: Another movie:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeppelin_(film)

plays with the idea of a Zeppelin-against-England raid. Good SFX for its
time, but IMO a rather mediocre plot.
The Horny Goat
2017-07-18 00:33:48 UTC
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On Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:36:39 +0200, Ingo Siekmann
Post by Ingo Siekmann
Maybe airships could have been used for a commando raid - be it for
- cramming inexperienced (keep in mind this whole parachute thing would
have been new) paratroopers into big, slow moving targets
- pushing them out of the airship from 6.000+ meters.
- with non - steerable parachutes
Even if the paratroopers would not have been scattered across half of
France or England, had gathered together on the ground quickly and
striked against their target (question - what would have been a good
one?), how would they have been evacuated afterwards?
Thoughts, comments?
To steal a phrase from 1940 "himmelsfahrkommando"!!

Given the technology of 1914-18 I would think any German raiders would
have a far better chance crossing the channel in a motorboat by night.
I'm talking about one or two ship raids - not a full invasion which
would be even less likely than in 1940. Ater all - Britain has enough
coastline that the Royal Navy can't possibly prevent any landing at
all but once the German troops are landed the Royal Navy can
semi-permanently interdict resupply almost anywhere on the British
coast - and there's no way any invasion could carry enough gear itself
to produce decisive results.

On the other hand commando or demolition teams could have done
considerable damage which is why I'm surprised the Japanese didn't
attempt raids either against the Panama Canal or rail approach roots
in Canada and the United States to the Rockies. There just weren't
that many routes through the Rockies and putting 10000 tons of rubble
on any of them would really mess with Canadian or American logistics.

Western North America has far more choke points vulnerabl eto sabotage
than does the UK.

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