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Dive-Bombing in WW1?


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#1 Adrian Roberts

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 12:45 AM

On another forum, I was led to an essay on the development of the Dive-Bomber in this link


http://findarticles...._n19433690/pg_1

The author suggests that dive-bombing techniques were used in WW1 - as in the following quotes:


A fairly recent arrival in Naval aviation, the dive-bomber was something of a phenomenon having earned a reputation in WWI for their deadly accuracy.....

Seeing random use mostly by Royal Navy flyers in World War I, dive-bombing's unique potential was kept alive by a handful of dedicated worldwide devotees of every nationality.


I've never heard of this before. Does anyone know what he is talking about?

Adrian

#2 bob lembke

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 06:39 AM

Adrian;

Although the article appears to be well-informed; here the author seems to be speaking thru his hat. Several technical factors seems to indicate that. But I am not an air war expert, someone may know better. Successful dive bombing would seem to require precise bomb-release controlled by the pilot, which I don't think they had during WW I, more like "chuck it over the side, observer".

Bob Lembke

#3 Dolphin

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 07:34 AM

Adrian

Talking into account the performance limitations of Great War aircraft, deliberate dive-bombing, ie aiming the aeroplane at the target prior to releasing a bomb, doesn't seem realistic. Single-seaters carried their bombs under the fuselage, eg the 4 Cooper bombs often carried by RFC/RAF Sopwith Camels, and release in a dive-bombing mode would have caused the bombs to hit the propeller. As well, the stress of pulling out of a dive-bombing attack would have been rather extreme for the aircraft of the time. I wouldn't be surprised if the technique was tried on an experimental basis, but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't used in combat.

I'm think that I read somewhere that the dive-bombing concept was first explored by pilots of the US Marine Corps during a campaign in Central America in the mid 1920s, and was developed from there, but I've no idea where I came across the information.

Regards

Gareth



#4 John(txic)

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 08:34 AM

QUOTE (Dolphin @ Dec 2 2007, 08:34 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'm think that I read somewhere that the dive-bombing concept was first explored by pilots of the US Marine Corps during a campaign in Central America in the mid 1920s, and was developed from there, but I've no idea where I came across the information.

Regards

Gareth


No - if you consult some of the books by Peter C Smith (I think it would be "Dive Bomber", or "Impact" - so long since I read them, I can't remember which) you will find that dive-bombing was successfully conducted on the Western Front by the RFC. The tactic fell-out of favour as the RAF developed the concept of strategic bombing to justify its separate existence after the Armistice..... (tin hat on!).

http://www.dive-bomb.../DiveBomber.htm



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#5 Desdichado

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 04:35 PM

QUOTE
I'm think that I read somewhere that the dive-bombing concept was first explored by pilots of the US Marine Corps during a campaign in Central America in the mid 1920s, and was developed from there, but I've no idea where I came across the information.

Regards

Gareth


I believe the Americans tried out dive-bombing in 1926 with a simulated attack by Curtiss Hawks against ships of the Pacific Fleet. The technique was used in Nicaragua in 1927 against guerillas who were attacking a strongpoint garrisoned by U.S. Marines and Nicaraguan troops. The Marine pilots were flying de Havilland biplanes (I don't know which model) which formed up in line at 1,500 feet and dived into the attack. As they pulled up, the air gunners opened fire from the rear. The attack was repulsed and a new and terrifying method of waging war hade been developed.




#6 centurion

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 06:23 PM

QUOTE (bob lembke @ Dec 2 2007, 06:39 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Adrian;

Although the article appears to be well-informed; here the author seems to be speaking thru his hat. Several technical factors seems to indicate that. But I am not an air war expert, someone may know better. Successful dive bombing would seem to require precise bomb-release controlled by the pilot, which I don't think they had during WW I, more like "chuck it over the side, observer".

Bob Lembke

Sorry Bob but I think that it is your hat thats speaking.

Most bombing in WW1 was controlled by a bomb release - the bombs being in racks. Even where bombs were released by hand it was never a case of merely chucking the bomb out - there was almost always an element of aiming (for example early bombs would be hung over the side by the observer who would release on the pilot's sign)

Re dive bombing much depends how you define this. It was common practice for ground attack fighters such as the Camel to release their bombs in a shallow dive. The 45 degree dive was not adopted until much later. This gives much greater accuracy as it removes the need to calculate/estimate a release point (as the bomb effectively travels on in a straight 45 degree line) but any dive will help accuracy to some degree. The 45 degree technique was the subject of trials by the Americans in the interwar years but actually proven in action by Spanish Nationalist pilots flying Heinkel biplane fighters rejected by the Condor Legion (which never had more than 3 Ju 87s operational at any one time).

#7 Connaught Stranger

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 07:53 PM

Post WW1 dive bombing or even bombing ships,

was being pushed by an American Officer

by the name of Billy Mitchel

Attached File  470px_Billy_Mitchell.jpg   27.09KB   0 downloads

http://en.wikipedia..../Billy_Mitchell

There was no dive-bombing as such in WW1 as there was no

effective bomb-aiming equipment other than the pilots Mark 1 eyeball.

Connaught Stranger. biggrin.gif

P.S. for those interested he has a total of 8 clasps on his Inter-Allied Victory Medal!!!





#8 centurion

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 08:23 PM

QUOTE (Connaught Stranger @ Dec 2 2007, 07:53 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
There was no dive-bombing as such in WW1 as there was no
effective bomb-aiming equipment other than the pilots Mark 1 eyeball.

1. Bomb sights did exist in WW1
2. Dive bombing uses the Mk 1 eye ball and not a bomb sight

One of the attractions of dive bombing is that it does not need a complex bomb sight. The plane is pointed at the target using a simple sight (such as a ring and bead) and there is no need for complex calculation as the bomb tends to follow the direction the plane would if it dived into the target. It's horrizontal bombing that requires a complex bomb site to calculate the optimum release point ond make corrections for air speed, wind direction etc. As dive bombing is carried out at relatively low altitude wind directions etc etc does not have time to make that much deviation in the bomb's fall. Many WW2 dive bombers had bomb aiming marks actually on the perspex of the cockpit to allow a rough and rady guide to the angle and when best to release.
To the best of my knowledge Mitchell was an advocate of horizontal bombing using complex bomb sights.

#9 APW

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 11:36 PM

Peter Smith’s book "Dive Bomber" has a chapter on WW1 dive bombing and trials that took place at Orfordness involving Camels and SE5a's in early 1918. Early instances of dive bombing included a Nov 1915 attack by Lt Grinnell-Milne of 16 Sqn on a BE2c, diving from 10,000 ft to 2,000 ft to release bombs on a railway station (using a new sight). Smith mentions an 84 sqn pilot Lt William Henry Brown as conducting the first proper dive bombing attacks using an SE5a in March 1918, his first target was ammunition barges near Bernot on which he dived from 5,000 ft, hitting them at the third attempt from 500 ft.

At the RAF Armament Experimental Station Major B M Jones and Capt C E Fairburn oversaw the trials of a Camel and an SE5a. Five pilots were involved one of them is named as Captain Oliver Stewart. The bombing dives commenced at height from 1,500-2,000 ft with release around 2-300 ft (400 on the Camel). Bombs were attached to wing racks to avoid fouling the under carriage and moving the CG. On the SE5a the tests were made with aim by the pilots eye and achieved hits 26% of the time in a 10 yd circle. The Camel tests followed using both Aldis sights and pilots eye - they concluded the former was very dangerous and had no real advantage over dead reckoning. Overall they seemed to conclude that it was too dangerous because of the low release heights. Stewart's engine stalled on one dive as he pulled up and he crashed into the beach! He survived.

From other accounts I am aware of, No 80 Sqn (Camel) pilots may have used a form of dive bombing in attacks on arms dumps, but this may have been undertaken by a few experienced individuals.

Patrick

#10 Adrian Roberts

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 01:20 AM

Thanks everyone, some food for thought here!

Patrick's quote from Peter Smith's book does seem to give definite examples, though I find it difficult to imagine a BE2c diving from 10000 to 2000 feet at any great angle. As Centurion says, it may depend how you define dive-bombing. At least the account of bombs under the wings of a Camel makes sense; normally they were carried under the fuselage and there were accounts of Cooper bombs being hung up in undercarriages even in normal practice.

If Peter Smith is right, then dive-bombing was neither a German nor a US invention but a British one! If so, it would be yet another innovation which we failed to follow up adequately in the inter-war years. I would be happier with a greater degree of corroboration than from one author, especially as his website says the "the Allies had few if any of the type [dive bombers] and were on the receiving end" - in fact the Allies probably had more dive bombers than the Axis and made good use of them.

I wonder if the German Sclactstaffeln attempted dive-bombing in WW1? Its the sort of thing the chaps on theaerodrome.com would know; maybe a visit is in order!

Adrian

#11 centurion

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 12:47 PM

QUOTE (Adrian Roberts @ Dec 3 2007, 01:20 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
If Peter Smith is right, then dive-bombing was neither a German nor a US invention but a British one!


Sad to say no - an American one and pre WW1!
"American soldier of fortune Leonard Warden Bonney who, flying a Moisant pusher biplane for Mexican Gen. Carranza's government, carried out bombing attacks at Tampico and Vera Cruz against revolutionaries in the Civil War of 1913-15. Taught by the Wright Brothers to fly, Bonney hurled small bombs with shotgun shell detonators developed by Mexican mining engineers in shallow diving attacks. Diving from about 1500-ft, Bonney would aim the Moisant directly at the target without benefit of any sighting mechanism. Dropping the bombs just as he pulled out of his dive, it was not uncommon for the fearless airman to score several direct hits that sent the revolutionaries scurrying and Bonney back to base with dozens of bullet holes testifying to his adventures. Professing to have hit the target about 50% of the time, Bonney became an early proponent of dive-bombing while a Naval flight instructor during WWI. "

The first example of dive bombing in WW1 is British.

"October 1914, Royal Naval Air Service pilot Fit. Lt. R.G. Marix flying a Sopwith Tabloid carried out a daring, most successful surprise dive-bombing attack against the German Zeppelin hangars at Dusseldorf. Dropping 20-lb Cooper bombs with contact fuses out of a foggy dawn sky, Marix' small missiles caused the shed to collapse, destroying Zeppelin L. IX the process."

However another early pioneer was the American pilot Robert L. Rockwell a member of the Lafayette Escadrille using 25 lb bombs in late 1916.

Re Orfordness trial - these appear to have involved 9 pilots not 5. Of these 4 pilots were testing Dh 4s using single relatively large bombs on special bomb racks. It would seem that the report was very detailed with graphs and performance charts on every type of aircraft and technique. However the body who seem to have taken most notice of it was the Japanese Navy who as allies received a copy.

Accounts of WW1 dive bombing may be obscured by the fact that at the time its often refered to as glide bombing not dive bombing (the engine was throttled back on entering the dive or even cut, the prop would then act as an air brake to slow the dive - WW2 dive bombers had purpose built air brakes - contrary to popular or Holywood representations dive bombers do not dive at speed - its the angle of attack thats important).

#12 Desdichado

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 04:27 PM

Adrian, would the Germans have had a machine capable of dive-bombing?

#13 centurion

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 04:45 PM

Almost all the later C types, the various CL types and the J types could have been used for glide or dive bombing. If by this you mean fairly sturdy single engined types fitted with bomb racks. The CL types would probably have been best. These were used for ground attack in anycase.

#14 Adrian Roberts

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 01:14 AM

QUOTE
Adrian, would the Germans have had a machine capable of dive-bombing?


The ones that Centurion mentions were what I was thinking of. Certainly, they were very sturdily built, and the J -types were armoured.

So, the answer to my original question seems to be that Dive-Bombing was used during or even before WW1 but on an ad hoc basis, with the Orfordness trials being the most systematic of which we have a record. But it was in the late 20's that machines were developed specifically for the role.

#15 Desdichado

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 08:21 AM

QUOTE (Adrian Roberts @ Dec 4 2007, 01:14 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The ones that Centurion mentions were what I was thinking of. Certainly, they were very sturdily built, and the J -types were armoured.

So, the answer to my original question seems to be that Dive-Bombing was used during or even before WW1 but on an ad hoc basis, with the Orfordness trials being the most systematic of which we have a record. But it was in the late 20's that machines were developed specifically for the role.


Thanks Adrian,

The Japanese certainly made good use of the information they received. This brings me on to a slightly different topic. Did any side experiment with aerial torpedo attacks against shipping during WWI?

#16 J T Gray

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 09:08 AM

QUOTE (Desdichado @ Dec 4 2007, 08:21 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The Japanese certainly made good use of the information they received. This brings me on to a slightly different topic. Did any side experiment with aerial torpedo attacks against shipping during WWI?


That'll be a yes, then. Usual Wikipedia caveats apply, but this is a well-documented occasion.

http://en.wikipedia..../Short_Type_184

Another Adrian (we are taking over!)


#17 Gibbo

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 10:13 AM

The Sopwith Cuckoo, which was specifically designed to be a carrier borne torpedo bomber, was just entering RAF service at the end of WWI. 200 were on order & there were proposals, supported by Beatty, for a carrier borne strike on the German High Seas Fleet in harbour. In late 1917, early 1918, Beatty suggested converting merchant ships or armed merchant cruisers into carriers in order to launch a torpedo bomber attack on Wilhelmshaven. The idea was rejected because of the shortage of merchant ships & of shipyard resources to carry out the conversions of other ships into carriers. Also, insufficient Cuckoos were ready in 1918. A further problem would have been that although the Cuckoo could carry an 18 inch torpedo, these were only 1,000 pounds with 170 pound warheads.

Source is British Carrier Aviation by Norman Friedman, pp. 37-42. Other authors suggest that a Taranto style attack, but with more aircraft than were employed in 1940, might have been launched in 1919.

#18 Dolphin

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 11:20 AM

The German Navy used the Gotha WD14 twin-engined floatplane for torpedo attacks against Allied shipping in the North Sea and the English Channel, with some success from December 1917 until the Armistice. However, the type proved to be less than totally suitable for the role, as its comparatively slow speed when launching a torpedo made it a fairly easy target for ships' gunners.

Navy Nos 1617-1628 were delivered between December 1917 and Match 1918, while Nos 1651-1662 were delivered between March and June 1918. A further batch of twenty-five was ordered in autumn 1918, but probably not delivered.

Gareth



#19 Tom W.

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 12:01 PM

According to Windsock Datafile No. 50, the Airco DH5 could dive nearly perpendicularly when it performed ground-attack missions.

Page 14 has a quote by somone named Oliver Stewart:
QUOTE
This aeroplane could dive. That might be written in memory of the DH5. It may have been because of its backward stagger or for some other aerodynamic reason, or it may have been for some optical reason, but it is certain that the sight of a formation of DH5s going down on an enemy formation was one of the most impressive things of the air war. They appeared to stand vertically on their noses and to fall out of the sky like a flight of bombs.


The DH5 was first used as a ground-attack aircraft during the Battle of Ypres, July 31, 1917.

On August 9 three DH5s of No. 41 Squadron performed a well-coordinated ground attack near Boiry-Notre-Dame right before the British infantry left their trenches; on August 19 five DH5s of No. 41 Squadron, nine of No. 24 Squadron, and four FE2bs of No. 18 Squadron fired 9000 rounds into enemy positions south of Vendhuille; and on November 20 four DH5s of No. 64 Squadron wrought great destruction on German gun pits at Flesquières.

The aircraft didn't serve as a dive bomber, but this information shows that near-vertical dives were possible in some World War I types.

#20 centurion

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 02:18 PM

The Short 184 carried out a number of succesful torpedo attacks, Unfortunately the 14 inch torpedo it carried was not powerful enough to be used against major armoured warships. The Sopwith Cuckoo carried the more powerful 18 inch torpedo. The first British aircraft to carry and successffully drop a torpedo was the Short Folder Seaplane.This being done on 28/06/1914 with a 14 inch torpedo. The Sopwith Admiralty Type 860 Seaplane in service 1915/16 also carried the 14 inch torpedo as did the Wight Admiralty Type 840 Seaplane (1915 -17).
German torpedo operations were carried out in the Baltic as well as the North sea and Channel. German loses in this type of operation were very high and torpedo attacks were discontinued as being too costly for the results achieved. The Germans prefered twin engined torpedo bombers - types including
Albatros W5
Brandenberg GW
Brandenberg GDW
Friedrichshafen FF53
Gotha WD 14

#21 centurion

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 02:43 PM

QUOTE (Tom W. @ Dec 4 2007, 12:01 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
The aircraft didn't serve as a dive bomber, but this information shows that near-vertical dives were possible in some World War I types.

The Airco Dh5 was capable of a near vertical dive because it had a relatively high drag in this in this attitude and therefore did not achieve dive speeds that could cause structural failure. It was also very sturdy. ALL WW1 aircraft could achieve vertical dives but not many could dive at steep angles under power and avoid breaking up or loosing control.
In fact most WW1 dive or glide bombing was at angles of less than 45 degrees. dives of around 40 - 55 degrees are quite effective in anycase. as I've said earlier the dive is NOT a means of achieving speed but of aiming and ensuring a relatively straight bomb path. At low altitude the distance over which the bomb has to travel is sufficiently short that 45 degrees ensures an effectively straight line over its path (before the effects of gravity and air resistance start to significantly increase the angle at which it falls). So that aiming is fairly simple and accurate results can be achieved

#22 GregH

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 09:03 PM

Not strictly a "dive" as you seem to be talking about in this thread, but 100 Squadron (and doubtless other bomber squadrons with the RFC / RAF) did use a technique in 1917-18 whereby they would "glide" into a target and release their bombs. Both the squadron raid reports of the time, and the book "Annals of 100 Squadron", make mention of cutting the engine once over the target, "diving swiftly, releasing our bombs, switch on the engine and climb away".

I suspect that the "diving swiftly" was more of a glide in, and that the engine was at idle rather than switched off (thus requiring it to be "restarted"!!), but it nevertheless demonstrates that bombs were dropped other than on the straight and level.

L/O

Greg

#23 centurion

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Posted 04 December 2007 - 11:04 PM

Greg

As I've said somewhere else in this thread, the distinction betwen glide and dive bombing was somewhat loose at the time. (latter dive bombeing was defined as greater thab 45 degrees and glide as less than 45.) Throttling back, as I said, allowed the prop to serve as a dive brake. Thanks for confirming an example of where this technique was used in WW1.

#24 APW

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Posted 05 December 2007 - 11:16 PM

Just to add to this thread, Peter Smith mentions in his book British definitions from the WW1 period describing bombing approaches as shallow glide, steep glide and dive, all being characterised by their angles - the dive being in the 60 to 90 degree bracket.

Patrick