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“And like no other sculpture in the history of art, the dead engine and dead airframe come to life at the touch of a human hand, and join their life with the pilot's own.”

11 Feb 1916. Imbros

Bunnie had a generally bad day at the office. In 1264, which had by now more or less become his personal machine, he spent just over an hour at the southern end of the peninsula, being tossed about and not enjoying himself very much.

Escorting M.F, over Helles. No huns or archie. Strong S wind. Very bumpy near the ground. Better high up, but air seemed very patchy. Sometimes she would be climbing a bit (well throttled down) and then at the same revs and speed she would lose height. Very bumpy landing, about the worst time I have yet had. A Nieuport cut in front of me from the wrong side and I had to go on and postpone landing. I got onto the ground all right, rather fast, and was blown up again twice.

Meanwhile Dickinson seems to have been having much more fun. His diary reads:

9th. Sunny and hot. Biscoe crashed Bristol in morning. Up in the BE (BE2C) for eighteen minutes in afternoon. Fairly satisfactory.

Biscoe's accident.

Biscoe’s accident.

10th. Very windy. Unpacked Nieuports in the morning. Walked up to Panaghia in afternoon, arriving 5.00pm. Tea in Highlife Hotel. Excellent omelettes. Hacked home late, arriving 8.45. How those little devils kept their foothold and found their way along a very rough and steep path I don’t know, especially in the dark as the moon wasn’t very bright. Very amusing. Panaghia quite a pretty place but dirty.

11th. Sunny and warm. Team came for hockey from HMS Russell; most amusing game. Went over to dine on board with Thorold, Reid, S.P., Bosley, Savory, Littleton. great fun.

Bunnie doesn’t seem to have been invited. Perhaps he was too tired after his exertions over the peninsula. Panaghia was the main – more or less the only – town on Imbros, and is around 10 miles (15km) away from the airfield, so presumably when Dickinson says he ‘hacked’ home, presumably he hired a mule or donkey.

One other area for possible investigation is the other photograph of Biscoe’s accident.

Scout C 1262.

Scout C 1262.

If you look carefully at the underside of the fuselage between the wheels, there’s a dark circle in the middle. I’d assumed it was the shadow of one of the wheels, but comparing it with other photos,  I think it may actually be a hole in the aluminium skin, and I wonder if this was the hole they were expected to aim their bombs through. It would mean we might have to do something similar to 1264, which was also used for bombing, but it’s a rather large and draughty hole, and I’d like to be absolutely sure before we get the tin snips out!

 

 

220. Fly Navy Heritage Trust

The Fly Navy Heritage Trust exists to help preserve the memory of Royal Naval aviation, from the first airship in 19112016-02-11 royal-historic-flight, the Mayfly (she didn’t!) to the Harrier and beyond. Much of their funding helps to keep the aircraft of the Royal Navy Historic flight – two Swordfishes, two Sea Furies, a Firefly, and a Sea Hawk; all owned and operated by the Royal Navy. they have also recently acquired a Sea Vixen which is privately operated.

All these are expensive to operate, as you can imagine, and the Trust’s responsibilities in this regard are huge.

But they have nothing to help represent naval aviation prior to the Swordfish, and were therefore very interested in the Bristol Scout, and particularly in 1264, which is a Royal Naval Air Service machine, and can tell the story of an important part of British naval aviation.

So I’ve been delighted to hear from their vice Chairman that they are prepared to support our efforts to get the Scout out to Thassos, and the actual airfield from which the RNAS operated, exactly 100 years after they were there.

The details of the arrangement have yet to be sorted out, but we are very grateful for their support and look forward to a fruitful co-operation in the future!

8 Feb 1916.

6 Feb.

Flt Sub Lt Dickinson arrived at the airfield, aged 19, fresh out of Eton College. He kept a diary which helps to fill in the days when Bunnie didn’t fly, and it helped to fill in more of the atmosphere of the place.

For 6 Feb, for example he says it was ‘Very cold and dark and miserable.

8 Feb.

Bunnie had a busy day. with three flights in three different machines. Firstly, a flight in 1259 escorting a Maurice Farman over Fusilier Bluff and Hunter Weston Hill. Secondly, a ten minute hop in 1264 testing the engine, which was OK. He also ‘…meant to fly alongside the Caudron to compare speeds, but never saw him in the air at all.‘ This may come as a bit of a surprise that another aircraft can get completely lost just within five minutes of the airfield, but anyone who’s tried flying in company with another machine will know that it’s all too easy!

Finally, he got to go for a joy ride in the Caudron for ten minutes, presumably with the aforesaid Littleton. ‘First time in any type of Caudron. Second time this particular machine has been in the air out here. Very heavy on controls, especially rudder. Does about 60 knots level, perhaps a little more. Seems to climb well, but I had no watch and did not have her below 45 knots, though I am sure she would climb much steeper than that. Very pleasant engines. Had great difficulty keeping her straight just before landing. This difficulty would probably have disappeared if I had wangled the engines. Rather unwieldy in the air, but with proper use of engines she might become fairly controllable.

The Caudron, serial 3898, was a twin-engined Caudron G4, developed from the single-engined G3.

It’s no wonder it was a bit squirrelly in the landing phase, with those enormous wings, wing warping control, and a very short tail with very small surfaces on the back, even though it had four rudders!

This Caudron G4 is at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, at the Udvar-Hazy Centre. The photo is by Jarek Tuszynski from the Wikipedia page.

This Caudron G4 is at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, at the Udvar-Hazy Centre. The photo is by Jarek Tuszynski from the Wikipedia page.

Dickinson reports ‘Reid and Kinkead off to Gallipoli. Twin Caudron ready afternoon. Walk towards Kephalo Point after tea. Admiral Freemantle visited aerodrome.’

(The aerodrome was known as sometimes known as Kephalo after the bay near which it was located. Kephalo Point was the most southweterly tip of the island of Imbros.)

 

219. Transparency

Back in September I visited the RAF Museum in Hendon to look at the Bruce Collection – the incomparable collection of photographs by Jack Bruce, probably the pre-eminent WWI Aviation historian.

They had pulled out for me the pages relating to the Bristol Scout, and I’ve been going through them, and come across all sorts of pleasurable surprises.

In particular, it’s been noted that the wings of original aircraft don’t look as transparent as ours, so I was delighted to find this one which does!

2016-02-05 Scout C

IMG_0051 (800x447)

218. Events listing

Some of you have been asking about the Scout’s public appearances, so today I’ve added a menu at the top of the page which lists the things we’re hoping to achieve this year.

See you there, I hope!

217. End of a Chapter

It’s only eight months ago I bought a Land Rover Discovery to tow the Scout trailer, after my lovely Octavia estate proved to be too light.

The Disco has a reputation as the best tow vehicle in the world.

Since then, it’s had to have replaced:

  • transfer box,
  • prop shaft,
  • two tyres,
  • rear brake shoes & discs
  • front brake shoes, discs & calipers,
  • one front wheel bearing,
  • suspension bushes,
  • suspension compressor,
  • two front suspension units complete,
  • drive shaft boot,
  • LP fuel pump,
  • towhitch and crossmember,
  • and the sunroof drip tray drains have had to be cleared.

But above all, I never felt happy towing the trailer at speeds above 45mph.

Its replacement, a Hilux which has a reputation for being a bit light at the back end, tows it on rails. I felt utterly confident towing at 52mph for a couple of hundred miles in all conditions.

And it’s all been unplanned expenditure. essentially it amounts to almost half of what I’ve put into the Scout, and – unlike the investment in the Scout – I’ll see very little of it back.

But today a nice man came and took the Disco away and I’ll never have to look at it again, and while the Hilux may be an expensive luxury, at least I have complete confidence in it.

Hooray!

4 Feb 1916. Imbros

29 Jan.

Escorting M.F. over Helles. Strong N.E. wind but not nearly so bumpy as I thought it would be. Bumps off Helles as on Jan 24th again rather bad. Landing quite fair. I was feeling rather unwell yesterday, and today I was evidently not as well as I thought I was as I did not enjoy myself much, though I was flying quite well.

I don’t know what height he was at over Helles, but a northeasterly wind would have been coming straight down the peninsula, and at low level this would have caused a good deal of turbulence. But Bunnie says that his height was 8000ft, and I would expect that he would have been maintaining this sort of height within range of the Archie, so the turbulence would have been from some other cause. He carried out a similar sortie on 3 Feb.

4 Feb.

Accompanied two Nieuports to bomb Galata aerodrome. Carried 4 sixteen pound bombs. Made for Suvla, then went up S of Saros (the Gulf of Saros) where I picked up the Nieuports and cut across Peninsula. I thought aerodrome was on Galata Burnu so kept rather to the left of Nieuports. When I got to Galata Burnu I turned down coast and then saw the aerodrome. I went inland a bit and approached the aerodrome from the west. Before arriving I saw Hun machine just leaving ground, but could not make out what it was. Had great difficulty aiming machine as I had to fly with left hand, looking down through hole in bottom of fuselage. Dropped bombs too soon and too far to left. However I think they were close enough to be a bit of a trouble. Beautifully calm day. When the engine was started up for a run in the afternoon it refused to go and two obturator rings were found to be broken. Some luck! My first go at bomb dropping. I have never even practiced it before. Climbed 8000 ft in 16 min.

Having now fitted the bombs to the bottom of 1264, I can say with some authority that they are a very tight fit under the forward fuselage, and must have had a significant effect on her performance, particularly when she only had the underpowered Gnome engine. This was Bunnie’s ninth flight in a Scout, and – as he said in his logbook – he’d never flown with bombs before!

His route looks something like this.

2016-02-04 Gallipoli Map

 

I’ve been unable to find the precise location of the aerodrome but it was presumably near the town of Galata, and Bunnie attacked it from the land side.

I’ve been intrigued by his description of having to fly the machine with his left hand in order to release the bombs, which raises a number of  interesting questions of detail.

The factory drawings show the Gnome engine controls to be on the starboard side of the cockpit, with the throttle mounted on the top longeron. In most aeroplanes – even at this time – the engine controls were on the port side, to suit right-handed pilots. So how did right-handed pilots fly the Scout? Clearly, they normally had the stick in their right hand, or Bunnie wouldn’t have mentioned switching hands to bomb. When we were trying to decide on the engine controls, I sat in the cockpit and experimented with operating the throttle in the position shown, and it was acutely uncomfortable with my right hand – my elbow contacted the back of the cockpit surround.

In the end, using this scrap of information, I came to the conclusion that the throttle was operated with the left hand reaching across one’s body, and indeed it was relatively comfortable once one had got used to the unusual configuration. (For 1264, we decided to place the engine controls conventionally, low down on the port side. The linkage shown on the drawing simply wouldn’t have worked with the bloc-tube carburettor on the le Rhone engine, and we felt justified in using the standard Tampier controls which would have been in plentiful supply at that time).

The bomb release was a piece of wire (presumably on the starboard side of the cockpit) which one pulled to release the bombs sequentially. Anyone who’s tried dropping flour bombs at local flying club competitions will understand how very, very difficult it must have been trying to squint through a hole in the floor while continuing to fly the aeroplane and get the bombs anywhere near the target, particularly if he was keeping sufficiently high to be out of range of rifle fire.

Another interesting fact is that his total time in the air was 1hr 10 min, though the distance he travelled, as far as I can judge, was about 90 miles. Allowing 10 minutes for the takeoff and landing, that’s an average speed of 90mph, based on his statement that it was a ‘beautifully calm day’. Currently our maximum speed is around 75kt (86mph); and yet our le Rhone engine is supposed to be about 40% more powerful.

He also says it took 16 minutes to get to 8000ft, which is a reasonable match for the official data which says 11 minutes to 6500ft. It’s an average of 400 feet per minute, compared with out maximum of 400 feet per minute at ground level.

I wish we could get that extra horespower!

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