Zeppelin Trap

Discussion in 'World War I' started by Graeme, Aug 23, 2008.

  1. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]
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    AVIATION ART HANGAR - Just Airborne, At Sea by Keith Ferris (Sopwith 2F.1 Camel)

    Just over 90 years ago (11 August 1918) Lt Stuart Culley (an 18 year old Canadian) took off from what must still be the world’s smallest flight deck to intercept and destroy Zeppelin L.53.
    Zeppelins commanders at the time knew they were immune from interception over the North Sea as the nearest British land base was at Harwich which would require a fighter aircraft with a radius of action of 500miles for interception and no such aircraft existed.
    So the British Navy hit upon the idea of towing a plane out to sea to get nearer to any Zeppelin force that approached the area. It was an ingenious trap. To lure a Zeppelin into the vicinity faked wireless message were sent out discussing tactics for a mock naval battle, which the British knew the Germans would intercept.

    The ‘carrier’ for the Sopwith Camel, was a small lighter boarded over making a 30 ft flight deck and towed out to sea by HMS Redoubt at around 30kts which was expected to be enough to get the Camel airborne.
    Sure enough at around 0830hrs the ‘lured’ Zeppelin, L53, was sighted and the Camel was ‘launched’ at precisely 0841hrs. It took Culley 49 minutes to climb and position himself 300ft below L.53’s altitude of 19,000ft.. His number one gun jammed after only seven rounds but a “double charger” from his number two gun caused the airship to erupt in flames. After searching for the task force ships (it took two hours with only one pint of fuel in his tank remaining) he ditched close by. So successful was his ditch that the Camel was easily retrieved and was flying again soon after its arrival on dry land.

    For his brave effort Culley was awarded the DSO. The man who swung the Camel’s prop on the precarious lighter was awarded the Air Force Medal for his bravery.

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    The Camel flown by Culley remains a museum piece. (in Canada now?)

    Photos: Sopwith Camel 2F1 Aircraft Pictures | Airliners.net

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    (From an article written by Geoffrey Norris for Royal Air Force Flying Review November 1956)
     
  2. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    Interesting! Thanks for sharing.
     
  3. wilbur1

    wilbur1 Active Member

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    Thats nuts!!!!!!
     
  4. Wayne Little

    Wayne Little Well-Known Member

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    Nuts! but effective! Thats great Graeme, thanks mate...
     
  5. Airfix

    Airfix Member

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    The smallest flight deck an airplane got airborne from?
    30 ft.
    Unbelievable.

    "The man who swung the Camel’s prop on the precarious lighter was awarded the Air Force Medal for his bravery."
    He earned that!
     
  6. <simon>

    <simon> Member

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    Wow! Someone has balls!!!
    Thanks for sharing that!
     
  7. timshatz

    timshatz Active Member

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    You don't have to be nutz to do it, but it helps!
     
  8. Thorlifter

    Thorlifter Well-Known Member

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    Good stuff Graeme. Thanks for posting.
     
  9. d1951

    d1951 New Member

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    Actually the take off was 5 feet or a little less than two metres. Stuart Culley was not to have been the original pilot but Commander Samson. But Samson had been injured a few days before when his skid equipped Camel fell off the lighter and he nearly drowned. There were many other pilots who wanted a crack at the Zeppelin so Samson drew the pilot by lot. Stuart Culley picked the right straw and got his Zeppelin. The Camel that he flew was a ship's Camel. It was fitted with flotation tanks so that it could float in the water and it had an armament, in this case, of two Lewis guns. The Lewis was equipped with incendiary ammunition whuich was prone to jamming. This Camel was built at Dalmuir, Scotland in June 1918, they were also called Beardmore Camels named after the builder.
     
  10. RabidAlien

    RabidAlien Active Member

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    Desperate times definitely called for desperate measures! :salute: What a story!!!
     
  11. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Sampson was involved in the testing of this idea to begin with. Note how the ramp is inclined downward. Originally it was level with the deck of the lighter, but on his first outing, Sampson actually went off the edge, stalled and fell into the water and was run over by the lighter as mentioned by d1951. Much to everyone's surprise, he survived. They sloped the deck down to give the Camel more momentum. Sampson's run took place on 30 May 1918 from behind the destroyer HMS Truculent. Culley carried out the first successful take-off on 31 July.

    The Beardmore built aeroplanes always had one distinguishing characteristic. Beardmores always painted the elevators in blue, white and red.
     
  12. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    Charles Rumney Sampson was one of the great naval aviation pioneers. he was one of the first Royal Navy officers to receive flying training and went on to become the first to fly an aeroplane from the deck of a moving warship; a Short S.27 from a platform mounted on the fo'csle of the battleship HMS Hibernia on 2 May 1912. He led the first British armoured car assaults against the Germans in occupied Belgium and France at the beginning of WW1. He even commanded a seaplane tender, the converted packet steamer HMS Ben-my-Chree. He was a bit of a legend. He was only 47 years old when he died.
     
  13. mudpuppy

    mudpuppy Member

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    Excellent story, thanks for posting.
    Derek
     
  14. vikingBerserker

    vikingBerserker Well-Known Member

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