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BOMBS FROM THE AIR, Issue 15629, 21 October 1914
BOMBS FROM THE AIR
THE GERMAN DIRIGIBLES. POSSIBILITY OF LONDON RAID. For the first time the great German Zeppelin airship fleet has been used for purposes of offence (wrote a correspondent of the ‘ Daily Telegraph ’ on August 27). In the dark hours of the night on Tuesday morning one of these giant craft arrived over Antwerp, eluded the vigilance of the gunners manning the far-flung lines of the forts, and dropped bombs into the centre of a populous city, inflicting some damage to property, killing 12 inoffensive citizens, and wounding many others. Within a few minutes of its return flight it was fired upon by Belgian gunners and, according to one unconfirmed report, brought down six miles from the town and its crew captured. Should the report prove true, a similar fate has befallen the second airship that has adventured itself over hostile territory for it will be remembered that last Sunday another Zeppelin, ZB, the newest and most powerful of these craft, was brought down by French gunners near Celle, a few miles on the French side of the frontier. The latter airship was only engaged in a scouting expedition, but the'former’s purpose was clearly offensive, and this would appear to indicate a change in the policy of inactivity hitherto pursued by the German airship fleet. -Perilous Work.— From French sources it is reported that before this five Zeppelins have already been destroyed during the war. Such reports should, however, 'be received with extreme caution, for no reliable information on the point is, or very well could be, to hand. In the ordinary course of events a Zeppelin would only venture to navigate over hostile country occupied by artillery during the night time. and. consequently forms a very difficult target to hit. for all its huge bulk. Hence, though it has been stated that two Zeppriins were destroyed by a storm in Belgium, that one was wrecked by the guns of the forts of Liege, and a fourth destroyed by a bomb hurled from an aeroplane into its shed at Metz, there is no tangible evidence that as yet the Zeppelin lied has suffered any loss but that of the airship ZB. brought down by the French guns at Celle.
Nevertheless, there exists a distinct possibility. notwithstanding' pervious disasters, that further raids nf a similar nature and on a more extensive scale may he adopted, more especially as the present meteorological conditions are all in favor of such attempts. Antwerp is technically a fortified city, and as such is not excluded from bombardment by an enemy under The Hague Convention. But there is no reason to suppose that this international code of laws would be respected by tlie Germans, and accordingly there is a possibility, albeit a remote one, of a similar raid being attempted on London or some coastwise town.
At the beginning of tlie-war the German Zeppelin fleet consisted of nine vessels, of which one belongs to the navy. The latter is a- sister airship to tlie lilfated 1,2, which exploded near Berlin last October, its entire crew being killed. Its cubic capacity is 950,000 cubic feet; it can carry a useful load of aproximately 10 tons, sufficient, with a full crew, for a continuous flight of 69 hours’ duration, and even allowing for material in the shape of high explosive bombs amounting to some two' tons in weight. The other craft are all of smaller size and inferior power. They range from Z2. scaling 630,000 cubic feet, lannced hi 1910, to Z7. which was only completed last year, and has a capacity of 770.CC0 cubic foot. Nevertheless, even these smaller craft are capable of extended journeys, and possess a radius of action of. fully 600 miles. —Limited Operations.— A Zeppelin airship can only operate from a fixed airship base, whither it is bound to return after completing its flight, as its frail structure does not permit it to anchor in the open. The nearest airship stations to the theatre of war in Belgium or to our North Sea coast are .situated at Cologne, Dussoldorf, and Cuxhaven. Further south there is another station at Baden. The old Frascati sheds at Metz, which French aviators are reported to have ''destroyed, were abandoned some months ago. The dirigible which operated at Antwerp no doubt came from the Cologne station, which would also bo used for any raid on London What precisely have we to fear from such a raid? Under favorable conditions a Zeppelin would reach London five hours after leaving Cologne. It could carry a number of bombs, which could inflict a certain amount of materia! damage to buildings, though not to military works.
But the attempt on Antwerp has shown that the chances of detection, even by night, are overwhelming. A Zeppelin, to execute its mission, has perforce to fly low. probably at no more than 3,oCoft; it is, in fact, incapable under the best conditions of rising higher than 5,000 ft, and at these altitudes it is well within range of ordinary artillery fire. Nor should it be forgotten that the amount of damage aerial bombs are capable of inflicting is small—at their worst they could only exert a moral effect—wherefore it may well bo doubted whether the Germans will venture to despatch any further vessels of their small airship fleet, already rapidly dwindling, on an errand which is as hazardous as its results would be profitless.
BOMBS FROM THE AIR, Issue 15629, 21 October 1914
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