EARLY AIRCRAFT ARMAMENT
The Aeroplane and the Gun up to 1918
Author's Amendment and Updating list
Issued 28th July 1993
[with additional notes by Anthony G Williams, January 2003]
[I had contacted Harry Woodman in order to request his help with a forthcoming book on aircraft armament (since published as Flying Guns – World War 1: Development of Aircraft Guns, Ammunition and Installations 1914-32). As well as very kindly providing much material, Harry also send the following amendments list for his classic work "Early Aircraft Armament". I thought that this deserved a wider readership, so with his permission I have reproduced it here. As it was partly intended for the publishers should they decide on a second edition, there are some references to photographs not included here.]
The book was published in Britain by Arms and Armour Press of London in 1989 and published in parallel by the Smithsonian Press of Washington DC.
As indicated in the introduction to the book, the subject is a "scrappy" one with fragments of information being found in many areas ranging from official archives to private collections. The subject is one in which one collects material over a long period of time and in some cases the actual process of collecting begins to obscure. the main purpose of the research. In simple terms, the collecting becomes an end in itself instead of a means to an end.
There is also an unfortunate but understandable tendency in some researchers to reach the stage where they are never satisfied and continue to seek for information to fill gaps in the narrative. This writer has known such cases where the person concerned has passed away with all his material unassembled and eventually lost.
To avoid this, this writer decided to publish at a certain stage fully in the knowledge that in some areas the information was less than satisfactory or complete but there must be a starting base.
After publication, a number of people some known, others complete strangers, presented the author with all kinds of fragments, photographs and text to fill in these areas and correct others. It need hardly be stated that had the original book not been published this information may have remained filed away somewhere. In some cases the suppliers of the information were not fully aware of what it was all about until they saw the book.
It was in the hope that the publishers would consider a reprint that a full list of corrections additions and amendments was compiled but in the present climate the reprint appears to be unlikely. This is despite the fact that the book is the only one which covers this important area of early aerial warfare in detail and that unlike many other books it is still being retailed (at time of writing) by dealers who still have stocks at a price above the original retail price. It should be stressed that this was the publishers price increase, not the dealers. To clarify matters, the original British retail price was £19.95. Subsequently, Arms and Armour Press raised this to the current price of £25 which explains the two retail prices of the book in Britain. It is thought that the stocks of the Smithsonian Institute Press are now exhausted.
As will be seen, the amendments cover many areas including the author's original spelling errors. It will be noted that most of these concern German words and this writer must confess that he has never been able to find that particular language easy to cope with in its written or spoken form.
The bulk of the other amendments consist of additional material which corrects or expands upon that already in the book. There is also a reference in some cases to the replacement of photographs, which of course was for the information of the publishers in the event that a reprint was being considered.
This amendment list has been provided so that dealers still selling the book may make copies (for which they are entitled to charge a fee) and pass them on to purchasers.
EARLY AIRCRAFT ARMAMENT - REVISED AMENDMENT LIST - INCORPORATING ALL CORRECTIONS TO SPELLING ETC, PARTIALLY REVISED AND TOTALLY REVISED CAPTIONS AND TEXT.
THE AMENDMENTS ALSO INCLUDE NEW MATERIAL RECEIVED SINCE ORIGINAL PUBLICATION.
Photograph used on dust jacket: this should be identified as Vizefeldwebel Ernst Hamscher of Jasta 37 behind his two LMG 08/15 guns on his Albatros D.Va during the winter of 1917 (Credit: Foundation for Aviation WW1)
PAGE 23 - Column 2 - 31st line from top - text beginning…One wonders how familiar Saulnier was with…to…there would be a complete reversal of opinion.. DELETE this section of text entirely and SUBSTITUTE the following text:-
Saulnier may not have been familiar with the mechanism of the Hotchkiss, a gas-operated weapon. As R. Gauthier of the Morane-Saulnlier design office explained in a comprehensive letter published in the March 1940 issue of l'Aeronautique, the reason for the failure lay in the tine lapse between the pulling of the trigger and the bullet emerging from the muzzle (this has been calculated to be 12 times longer than that of the Maxim). This could not be made to coincide with the position of the propeller blades except within a limited rpm range. Faulty ammunition may have contributed to the failure but the main cause was that the Hotchkiss, like the Lewis, was unsuitable for synchronisation for similar reasons. The drawing opposite was created by Gauthier from MS archives and illustrates the Saulnier system. Had Saulnier been able to use a Maxim in 1914, his system could have worked as well as the early Fokker and Challenger gears which used the same principle.
PAGE 25 - Column 2 - 33rd line from top: DELETE Birkigit SUBSTITUTE Birkigt.
PAGE 27 - Column 2 - 15th line from bottom of text: DELETE Neiuport; SUBSTITUTE Nieuport.
PAGE 39: - Column 1 - 20th line from top: The text begining : In July 1916 the larger…to…magazine was used only on air guns. DELETE this section of text and SUBSTITUTE the following text:-
In 1916 the larger 97 round magazine was developed by Major Lanoe G. Hawker VC and W.L. French. It was issued for trials in July and after modifications it was issued generally to the RFC and RNAS, this double magazine being used only on air guns. Its increased height meant that adjustments to the sighting arrangements had to be made in some cases.
PAGE 40: - Column 1 - 12th line from top: DELETE …nichrome ribbon would... SUBSTITUTE: . .nichrome ribbon wound....
PAGE 41: - Caption to photo. top right. DELETE this caption in toto and SUBSTITUTE the following caption:
The "RNAS pattern" Lewis mounted on the port Gallows Mounting of an F5 flying boat. The gun is fitted with a Scarff Compensating Sight (see page 238). Note the tall peg for the 97 round magazine. Credit: (J.M. Bruce/G.S. Leslie)
PAGE 77: - Column 2 - last line at page bottom. DELETE the sentence…several types; the French were more practical and merely…SUBSTITUTE…several types; the French copied the Fokker gear.
PAGE 78 - Column 1 - first two lines of text: DELETE:…copied the Fokker gear as soon as they could get their hands on one. N.B. This deletion allows space for enlarged caption detailed below. Caption top left, DELETE in toto. SUBSTITUTE the following caption:
A. The French (Colt-built) Vickers as used with the Alkan-Hamy gear.
B. The gun with the French pattern loading handle and a trigger motor for the Birkigt synchronisation gear, see Chapter 4.
The "C" shaped item seen behind the handle is in fact a spring bar designed by Hamy and Alkan with capitaine Raymond. It supplemented the action of the fusee spring and therefore increased the rate of fire of the Vickers.
PAGE 93 - Column 2 - Caption at bottom of page: DELETE the entire caption starting.... (Left) An Avro 504K of…to…fired both guns. SUBSTITUTE: new caption as follows:-
(Left) A Sopwith 1½ Strutter of the Red Air Fleet, circa. 1919. Over 100 of these l30hp Clerget powered machines were produced in Russia and several were captured from the Whites. Both guns are Mk II Lewis weapons, the upper being fired by a Bowden cable for the pilot's use.
PAGE 95 - Column 1 - 2nd line from top: DELETE:…War, the PV-1…SUBSTITUTE: War as the PV-1.
PAGE 96 - Column 2 - 4th caption - 2nd. line: DELETE: …Iordan…SUBSTITUTE:…who..
PAGE 123 - Column 1 - 5th line from top: DELETE:…luftgekühlte: SUBSTITUTE: luftgekühlt
PAGE 123 - Column I - 12th line from top: DELETE:…trommel : SUBSTITUTE: (Trommel)
PAGE 125: Column 1 - bottom, second caption, 1st line: DELETE luftgekühlte: SUBSTITUTE: luftgekühlt.
PAGE 129 - Column 2 - Data box at top of column: DELETE: luftgekühlte: SUBSTITUTE: luftgekühlt
PAGE 130 - Column 2 - 2nd caption, 1st line: DELETE: Begmann: SUBSTITUTE: Bergmann.
PAGE 134 - Column 2 - Middle caption: DELETE in toto caption starting... (Right) An LMG 08/15 laid out…to… trigger motor on the gun. (Peter M. Grosz). SUBSTITUTE the following caption:-
(Right) An LMG 08/15 laid out for demonstration purposes, two guns are seen with various items including part of a fabric belt and units of the Fokker Zentralsteuerung system. A two gun distribution gearbox is also shown at top right with a flexible drive shaft and coupling assembly leading to the trigger motor on the gun. (Peter M. Grosz)
PAGE 136 - Column 2 - Data box at top of column: DELETE: luftgekhült: SUBSTITUTE: luftgekühlt.
[Editor's note: Robert N. Taylor has supplied the following: On p. 136 it is stated the 08/15 ejection differed from the original '08 & on p. 204 it is stated the Vickers 1pdr QF was the precursor to the 08/15 in this type of ejection. In fact the MG08, as all early Maxims, used this same system of ejecting the fired cases from front of the receiver. See the illus. on p. 42 which clearly shows the ejection tube on an early Maxim in the lower front of the receiver.]
PAGE 137 - Column 1 - 15th line from top: DELETE: Königlich: SUBSTITUTE Königliche.
PAGE 138 - Column 1 - lower photo. caption - 3rd line: DELETE: Siemens-Schukert, SUBSTITUTE: Siemens-Schuckert.
Item 20 a
PAGE 146 - Column 2 - 22nd line from top: DELETE in toto the section beginning:…The first models of 1905…to…was introduced which dispensed with the oil pump. (18½ lines) SUBSTITUTE the following text:
From the first model of 1905 the gun was provided with an oil pump which lubricated the ammunition before it entered the breech. In 1912 more weight was added to the bolt in order to provide greater force when the rounds were fed into the breech. In theory, this might have led to the need to dispense with the oil lubrication system but in practice it did not. The sub-standard quality of much of the ammunition ruled this out. As a result, when the guns were mounted in front Of the pilot with the advent of synchronisation systems, he suffered from excess oil being sprayed into his face. A report on Albatros D.III (Oef) serial no. 153:181 submitted in May 1918 by P11k 61/J included the following complaint:
"…a great disadvantage is that the (two) MGs are in the propeller slipstream and the pilot gets all the oil in his face. The Flik installed a protective metal shield between the two MGs and a drainage tube for the oil".
Despite this the great advantage of the Schwarzlose from an operational viewpoint was its simplicity which was probably appreciated on the ground rather more than it was in the air. It proved to be sensitive to weather conditions and especially malfunctions due to the variable quality of the ammunition provided.
In order to avoid confusion concerning the various models of the gun it is necessary to discuss the several forms and models. Each new version did not necessarily replace existing guns, moreover, the earliest guns were still in use at the end of the war alongside later models. The basic gun was the MG 07 which was issued in large numbers to the Army and Navy and in 1912 an improved model, the MG 07/12 was introduced.
PAGE 149 - Column 1 - Caption at top: DELETE: An M7/123 or MG 16...: SUBSTITUTE: An M7/12 or MG 16...
Column 1 - 1st line of text: DELETE: Feuewerker, SUBSTITUTE: Feuerwerker
PAGE 157 - Column 2 - 1st. caption - 5th line. DELETE: adapted SUBSTITUTE: adopted
PAGE 160 - Column 2 - 6th line of section entitled "Feed Arrangements": DELETE: Revell SUBSTITUTE: Revelli
PAGE 160 - Column 2 - 2nd line from bottom: DELETE: the text: Richtofen's guns for example were found to be charged with fabric belts in April 1918. The British copied the…SUBSTITUTE: the following text
...von Richthofen' s guns were found to be charged with fabric belts in April 1918. The British adopted the…
PAGE 161 - Column 1 - caption to drawing: DELETE in toto. SUBSTITUTE the following caption:
Disintegrating links. The upper drawing shows the first British links based on the German system but with the addition of the curved lips which held the cartridge firmly. This was an improvement on the original pattern for according to French sources, the German airmen abandoned the metal links because their fragility caused many stoppages. The lower drawing illustrates the Prideaux links in general use by 1918.
Space for this enlarged caption can be made by the following action:
Column 1 - text - line 6. DELETE the sentence starting.. .The other feed systems…to…capacity was limited.., in toto.
PAGE 163 - Column 1 - 22nd line from top; DELETE - the SmK (Kern) and SUBSTITUTE: the "SmK (Kern)"*
i.e., the revised line 22 should read as follows:[…aircraft guns, the "SinK (Kern)" comprising a steel…]
Column 1 - 17th line from bottom; DELETE the sentence... .Apart from perforating to aircraft structures and engines..., in toto. Using space saved insert the following footnote to bottom of column:- * Spitzgeschoss mit Stahlkern
PAGE 165 - Column 2 - 6th line from bottom: DELETE: . . .aeroplanes was difficult.. : SUBSTITUTE: . .aeroplanes were difficult.
PAGE 167 -Photo. at bottom of page. DELETE caption. SUBSTITUTE the following caption.
Loading up a Fokker E.I with a 500 round belt.
PAGE 177 - Column 1 - 27th line down; the line should read: […Maxim by providing a new firing pin and assembly. The drawing (C)…]
PAGE 181 - Column 2 - 5th line down. DELETE: Hebel SUBSTITUTE: Heber.
PAGE 181 Column 2 -- 9th line down. DELETE: Stangensteuring~ SUBSTITUTE: Stangensteuerung
PAGE 182 - Column 2 - Part caption. DELETE entirely from... .doing pulled back…to…Reinickendorf, Berlin. SUBSTITUTE the following part caption:-
…doing pulled back the pylon attached to the bridge piece. This action connected the front lever (i) with the rear extension (o) which was attached to the trigger bar of the gun (p). This then pushed the gun's trigger and it fired. This system was used on the early Fokkers and on some two-seaters where the cam had to be fixed to the front of the inline engine. The lower drawing shows elements of the late Zentralsteuerung system. The large drawing shows in abbreviated form a distribution gear box (left) with three drive pads, two for the guns and one for the tachometer. The coupling system with the cable leading to the control column is shown. Pressing the firing, button engaged the system, the revolving flexible drive operating the cam attachment fitted to the gun which activated the trigger bar. The item at right is another form of gearbox, all the components were manufactured by the Fokker Flugzeug-Waffen-Fabrik at Reinickendorf, Berlin.
Item 30 a
PAGE 183 Column 2 - 11th line down. DELETE: text starting.. .Until early 1916 Fokker…to…Siemens company was experimenting with a motor-operated gun... on the following page, a total of 22 lines. SUBSTITUTE: the following text:
Until early 1916 Fokker had a monopoly on the provision of synchronising gears but the new Albatros scouts fitted with two guns used the Albatros-Hedtke steuerung, designed by Albatros Werkmeister Hedtke. The system was a variation of the rigid push-rod system. Up until August 1917 the Hedtke system was used on all Albatros "D" types. With the advent of the Albatros D.V, another system was employed which also originated in the Albatros factory. This was conceived by Werkmeister Semmler and bore his name. It was basically an improved version of the Hedtke gear. Eventually the later Fokker system was employed.
In December 1916 the Fokker-Flugzeug-Waffen-Fabrik of Reinickendorf Ost managed by Lübbe, went into production and soon started to turn out improved gun gears such as the Zentralsteuerung device which employed a central gear driven from the engine and connecting with two flexible drive shafts (shades of Saulnier!) This system was installed on the Fokker Dr.I in the autumn of 1917. Variations of this system continued to be developed until the end of the war.
The Germans also developed electrical synchronizing systems and a British Air Staff intelligence report dated 25th June 1918 described an LVG two-seater brought down near Ailly-sur-Seine which was fitted with two foward guns, one of which was fitted with an electrical gear driven from the engine. The other gun lacked the gear but had been drilled to accept it. In fact it is known that LVG built 40 C.IV two-seaters fitted with the Siemens electrical synchronising system.
In addition, the Aviatik company received instructions to install 50 of their own electrical synchronisation system on to DFW C.Vs (Av).
At the end of the war Siemens was experimenting with a motor-operated machine gun and there can be little doubt that several other systems were in the process of being developed when the war ended suddenly on November 11th, 1918.
There is an interesting tailpiece to this information on the work of the Siemens organization. Under the slightly misleading title Einrichtung fur Schusswaffen auf Flugzeugen (Arrangement for firearms on aircraft) a patent was applied for on 13th May 1915 by the Siemens-Schuckertwerke Gmbh of Siemensstadt B., Berlin. This patent (numbered 360526, not published until 3rd October 1922) advocated the same system as that patented by Saulnier eleven months earlier. The gun was to be fired by a system of rods activated by the engine or part of it and suggested that an electrical system could be employed. As Hank Volker (who unearthed the patent) commented, this device was patented at the same time as appearance of the Fokker system
PAGE 188 - Column 2 - 2nd caption, 5th line down: the line should read:
[ ...lever (as shown) caused a third (B) to draw back the trigger bar (C)... ]
PAGE 195 - Column 1 - 2nd caption - 1st. line: DELETE: (Type 8): SUBSTITUTE: (Type B).
Item 32 a
PAGE 200 - Column 1 - 2nd line up from bottom: DELETE: text starting: Early models of the gun…to… gear was to be developed. SUBSTITUTE: the following text:
As mentioned earlier, the gun was provided with an oil reservoir and round lubrication spray which became a rather uncomfortable feature when the gun was mounted in front of the pilot. As the rate of fire was progressively increased, essential if an acceptable synchronization system was to be developed, the oil spray inconvenience would have increased.
PAGE 202 - Column 1 - 4th line up from bottom: After Propeller-Fehlschussanziger System, add Kravitz.
[Editor's note: PAGES 204-5 Vickers 1 Pdr QF Gun: this section and the data table imply that the gun fitted to aircraft (correctly illustrated on Page 204) was the naval weapon. In fact, it was the Vickers 1 Pr Mk.III, an entirely different and much smaller weapon firing a less powerful cartridge]
PAGE 208 - Column 1 - The Vickers-Crayford Rocket Gun. PLEASE NOTE In view of information received after publication, the entire text concerning this weapon has to be deleted and replaced with the text below. In addition, the drawing (p.208) and photo. (p. 209) are to be deleted and replaced by new items.
PAGE 208 - Columns 1 and 2 - entire text re. Vickers-Crayford Gun to be DELETED. In addition the drawing at bottom of page 208 is also to be deleted in order to make room for enlarged and revised text. SUBSTITUTE the following text:
The Vickers-Crayford "Rocket Gun"
This weapon posed a problem as so little information seemed to be available under the title above which was used in contemporary documentation. In fact, this popular name concealed its official nomenclature which was the "1.59 inch Breech-Loading Vickers Q.F. Gun, Mk II".
The weapon was conceived early in the war for use by infantry in trenches to attack pill boxes and machine gun positions. However, this concept gave way to the simpler and more effective trench mortar which was cheaper and easily portable, it acted as a miniature howitzer.
As in the parallel case of the French Puteaux (see page 214) an aerial use was sought for the Vickers weapon.
The gun was not automatic and was of light construction, to achieve this lightness it was designed as a low muzzle velocity weapon. The breech assembly was of simple block type with percussion gear, the whole being mounted on a non-recoiling frame composed of a hydraulic buffer, trunnion block and rear guide tube on which were mounted the hand grips.
For air use, three types of ammunition were provided, these were shells of the cartridge type (i.e. the shell and case were in one piece like a rifle round). The proposed targets for the gun were airships, balloons, ground objects such as trains, dumps and tanks as well as home defence duties. The three shells available were, AP, HE, and Incendiary, the latter emitting an intensely hot flame during its flight from two apertures in the shell base. The shower of sparks which resulted led to the gun's popular name. The light construction of the gun could not withstand the explosive power of the usual propellants so Vickers used the somewhat less violent charge of "Ballistite" packed in cambric bags. This explosive, derived from blasting gelatine was patented by Alfred Nobel in 1880.
The consequence was of course that the muzzle velocity was low and the range was short.
The gun was fitted to some FE2bs of Nos. 100 and 102 squadrons in April 1917 and tested on night operations. Captain T.J.C. Martin of 102 Squadron reported rather enthusiastically on the weapon, his observer firing about 30 rounds at a train and stopping it. He also remarked that it took 30 minutes to fire 50 aimed rounds.
The reports from No. 100 Squadron were not so enthusiastic.... "Sometimes the shell does not leave the barrel for some time after the striker has been released, in one case it was thought that a misfire had taken place, but just as the gunner was about to open the breech the shell went off in a shower of sparks. Thereafter a mandatory time period of five minutes was allowed before a misfire was taken out.
Weak trigger springs and defective primers were also reported. The gun was also mounted on the Vickers FB25 a two-seat pusher night fighter but it crashed in May 1917 and no further models were built. Another gun was mounted on Farnborough's NE1, another night fighter project, however, this was also abandoned and no more is heard of the "Rocket Gun" which appears to have been totally withdrawn by the end of the war.
PAGE 209 - Photo. at top spreading across Columns 1 and 2. DELETE in toto along with its caption. SUBSTITUTE new photo. REP.1 at left of space and modified drawing DREP.1 at lower right. A new data box for the Vickers Breech-Loading QF gun as detailed below is to be inserted at top right of space. A new caption see below, is also to be inserted to replace old caption.
Data Box for Vickers Breech-Loading QG Gun is as follows:
Vickers-Crayford "Rocket Gun"
Type of Feed: Manual
Weight (incl. breech): 47 lbs
Muzzle velocity: Incendiary 800fs
Length of recoil: 7-7.5 inches
(Left) The "Rocket Gun" alias the Vickers 1.59" QF gun mounted on an FE2b (J.M. Bruce/G.S. Leslie). The drawing above is part of a Farnborough drawing dated 10 December 1917.
[Editor's note: PAGES 209-214 on The Hotchkiss Cannon: the M1885 and M1902 have been confused here. The M1885 fired a low-powered 37x94R cartridge and therefore only needed a short barrel. The M1902 fired a much more powerful 37x201R round which required a longer barrel.]
PAGE 215 - Photo. at bottom of page. DELETE caption. SUBSTITUTE the following caption.
This is the American Baldwin M20 cannon mounted between the cylinder blocks of a Hispano-Suiza 8C motor of 200hp. The Baldwin was very closely modelled on the French Puteaux semi-automatic weapon.
PAGE 216 - Column 2 - 5th line of text from bottom: DELETE this line: SUBSTITUTE the following line:
[...Cruiser or MK-1 was completed and delivered for flight...]
PAGE 217 - Column 2 - caption to photo. line 1: DELETE: winter SUBSTITUTE: autumn.
PAGE 223 Column 2 - Top title. DELETE: Flugzeuge-Maschinen-Kanone Becker. SUBSTITUTE:
PAGE 223 - Column 2 - line 9 from top. DELETE: Prüfenstalt und Werft. SUBSTITUTE: Prüfanstalt und Werft.
PAGE 223 - Column 2 - line 22 from top. DELETE: Kanon, SUBSTITUTE: Kanone
PAGE 224 - Column 1 - 3rd line from bottom and Column 2 - 6th line from top. DELETE: Erhardt SUBSTITUTE: Ehrhardt
PAGE 226 - Column 1 - 9th line from bottom and Column 2 - 3rd line from bottom: DELETE: Technischen SUBSTITUTE: Technische
PAGE 231 - Column 1 - 7th line from top: DELETE this line and SUBSTITUTE the following line:
[…sight for fixed guns.* This consisted of two items…]
Column 1 - 8th line from bottom: DELETE the sentence starting: The description of the sights… to…discuss them than the researcher…in toto.
Using the space saved insert the following footnote at the bottom of the column:
* This sight was developed as a result of practical experience by Major Lanoe G. Hawker VC, Commander of No. 24 Squadron RFC
PAGE 233 - Column 2. DELETE lower photo. and its caption. SUBSTITUTE new photo. REP.2 enclosed, using only the left section of the print to show sight and Lewis gun. Original caption to be replaced by the following new caption:
(Below) Close-up of Nieuport 11 fitted with Le Prieur rockets but also revealing a Le Prieur gun sight for the Lewis with rectangular frame. Note that the sight is fixed to underside of wing.
PAGE 236 - Column 1 - text after title.. "The Neame Night Sight". DELETE the text from:…Introduced in late 1917, the Neame night sight…to…it was so dimensioned that the wing…in toto. SUBSTITUTE the following text:
Introduced in late 1917, The Neame night sight was basically a ring-and-bead sight except that the inner face of the ring was illuminated by a faint light from a small bulb in the hollow mount shining through a slit aperture at the bottom of the ring. The foresight was a hollow pillar with a pin hole at the top where another bulb provided a tiny spot of light which was aligned with the rear ring. One feature of the ring was that it was so dimensioned that the wing…
PAGE 239 - Column 2 - 7th and 8th lines from top of text. DELETE:...Optiche Anstall Oigee...SUBSTITUTE:.. .Optische Anstalt Oigee