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Biggles

RFC Kite Balloon Sections

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Biggles

Hello Gentlemen,

 

I'd like to know the strength of a Kite Balloon Section, balloon numbers, aircrew etc.  Also does anyone have any detailed info on No17 KBS, in Salonika?

Were KB's equiped with any defensive armament, a lewis gun for example?  Did they ever float over enemy territory and drop hand bombs?

Thanks in advance.

 

Cheers,

Caleb 

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Biggles

Sorry, another question. Does someone have any info on the RFC/RNAS Balloon section in German East Africa? 

 

Cheers,

Caleb 

Edited by Biggles

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nieuport11

The standard establishment for four working balloon bases in the Med (AIR 1/2131) at 24.9.18 was:

HQ:

19 Flying Officers

1 Adjutant

1 Stores Officer

1 Technical Officer

5 Cpl Mechanic

30 AM

1 Sgt(non-technical)

1 Cpl (non-technical)

14 Privates

1 Sgt Clerk

3 Clerk

 

Balloon Party:

1 Chief Mechanic

3 Sgt Mechanic

6 Cpl Mechanic

39 Air Mechanic

28 Privates (non-tech)

 

Vehicles:

1 Motor Car

1 Light Tender

2 Heavy tender

1 Motor Cycle

1 Sidecar

 

For 22KBS Port Said one workshop lorry is substituted for one heavy tender

 

An earlier Establishment for an RNAS KBS prior to takeover by the RFC was; (2KBS 30.4.15)

1 Sq Commander, 1 Flight Lt, 7 Flight Sub-Lt

1 WO, 1 CPO2, 1 CPO3, 6 PO, 1 Sick berth attendant, 3 Leading mechanics, 18 1st Class mechanics, 43 2nd class mechanics

One 12hp steam tractor and trailer, 2 Jeffery chassis (one workshop, one telephone exchange), Three 5 ton Pierce Arrow lorries, 3 Lancia 40hp cars, Four motor cycles, One cookhouse, One water cart

 

I believe they carried a rifle in the balloon and were also protected by AA guns

The KBS in Salonika certainly experimented with novel ways of attack, including sending old balloons up in poor visibility in the hope of catching enemy aircraft in the wires, and also putting explosives in an old balloon that could be remotely detonated. They claimed one enemy machine this way

 

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nieuport11

A document dated 31.5.18 shows the establishment for 7 Balloon Wing at home.

It is for a HQ, 5 Balloon Squadrons and 20 Balloon bases plus the Training Depot.

 

Total staff is 4,456

 

Transport is 8 cars, 38 light tenders, 54 heavy tenders, 63 winch lorries, 68 motor cycles, 68 sidecars, 6 workshop lorries, 11 silicol plant, 11 Ford vans and 5 trailers (balloon screens) - for moving inflated nurse balloons

 

Includes some interesting occupations:

Vegetable Woman

Waitresses

Butcher

Shoemaker

Tailor

 

 

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nieuport11

And finally the establishment of an RFC Balloon Wing at 29.9.16

This comprises 4 Companies, each with 2 Sections

Wing HQ:

3 Officers, 1 Flt Sgt, 10 rank and file, 3 attached

Four Companies:

12 Officers, 76 rank and file, 12 attached

Eight Sections:

32 Officers, 32 Flt Sgt/Sgt, 672 rank and file, 32 attached

 

Vehicles:

5 motor cars, 21 light tenders, 37 heavy tenders, 34 motor cycles, 21 sidecars, 4 workshop lorries, 8 telephone lorries, 4 silicol plants, 4 trailers

 

Total breakdown:

HQ:

1 CO, 1 Adj, 1 EO2, 1 QMSgt, 2 Clerks, 1 Cook, 4 Drivers, 2 motor cyclists, 1 Storeman, 3 Batmen (attached)

2 Companies (each):

1 CO, 1 Recording Officer, 1 EO3, 1 Clerk, 1 Cook, 1 Blacksmith, 6 drivers, 2 Fitters turners, 2 motor cyclists, 6 Silicol plant detachment, 3 Batmen (attached)

8 Sections (each):

1 CO, 3 Balloon Officers, 1 FltSgt, 2 Sgts, 48 Balloon party, 3 Balloon riggers, 1 Clerk, 2 Cooks, 14 Drivers, 3 Motor cyclists, 2 Storemen, 7 Telephone detachment, 1 Wireless operator, 4 Winch drivers, 4 Batmen (attached)

 

The overall proportion of Air Mechanic grades is:

126 AM1, 194 AM2, 381 AM3 (incl cooks, and 45 of Balloon party each section) Total 701

 

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Loader

I believe a German ace was killed by a booby trapped balloon he was attacking. The story is that it was set up especially to get this man.

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Biggles

Thanks guys. I appreciate the helpful info.  Just to clarify, how many balloons are in a section? I don't think you mentioned that, Nieuport.

Any info on the HMS Manica and it's balloon during the German East African campaign would also be appreciated.

 

Cheerio,

Caleb 

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nieuport11

They only had one winch per section and I'm not sure whether spare balloons were held by the Company or at the Depot.

 

I found the report regarding the destruction of an enemy aircraft.

The bomb was placed in unserviceable balloon BM/S.7 and 17KBS hauled it aloft on a couple of days in November 1917 with explosives in a 60 gallon water tank and remote detonator. A dummy observer and map case was put in the basket

Finally on the 20th an Albatross D.III attacked and they detonated the bomb from about 50 yds.

The Albatross folded up and crashed killing the pilot OberLt Von Eschwege.

Credit was given to Lt Finch, RFA and 2Lt Riley

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Gardenerbill

There have been a series of articles in The New Mosquito, magazine of the Salonika Campaign Society, on the Kite Balloon sections, if you join the society for a modest fee you can get back issues.

 

New Mosquito

Edited by Gardenerbill

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Loader
1 hour ago, nieuport11 said:

They only had one winch per section and I'm not sure whether spare balloons were held by the Company or at the Depot.

 

I found the report regarding the destruction of an enemy aircraft.

The bomb was placed in unserviceable balloon BM/S.7 and 17KBS hauled it aloft on a couple of days in November 1917 with explosives in a 60 gallon water tank and remote detonator. A dummy observer and map case was put in the basket

Finally on the 20th an Albatross D.III attacked and they detonated the bomb from about 50 yds.

The Albatross folded up and crashed killing the pilot OberLt Von Eschwege.

Credit was given to Lt Finch, RFA and 2Lt Riley

That's him. I think he was a bit of "Balloon buster" so they set this up to take him out for good.

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Gardenerbill
10 hours ago, Loader said:

I think he was a bit of "Balloon buster" so they set this up to take him out for good.

Some of the British officers thought this was poor form to take out a German fighter ace in such an underhand way.

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Dolphin

Here's an extract from an article I wrote for the Journal of the Australian Society of WWI Aero Historians, about Lt Roy Cavers, a Canadian pilot from No 150 Sqn, who was machine-gunned in Lake Doiran when attempting to swim from his shot down Bristol M.1C.  My theme was that the war in the air wasn't always knights of the sky jousting among the clouds - there were some actions that weren't chivalrous at all.

 

The German ace Ltn Rudolf von Eschwege from FA 30, the ‘Eagle of the Aegean’, was the undisputed leading fighter pilot on the Central Powers side, with twenty victories to his credit. By November 1917, von Eschwege was hunting Allied kite balloons, having downed one on 28 October and another on 15 November. To counter him, on 21 November, the British 17th Kite Balloon Section sent up an unserviceable Caquot balloon BMS 7, with an explosives-laden basket, complete with dummy observer, suspended beneath it. As expected, von Eschwege attacked, and the explosives were detonated as he drew near his target, killing the German pilot. It seems that many RFC aeroplane pilots and observers thought that the ruse was a mean trick, and quite unfair, though perhaps kite balloon observers saw it in a different light. Some days after Ltn von Eschwege’s demise, an RFC aeroplane flew over FA 30’s aerodrome at Drama, and dropped this message:

 

To the Bulgarian-German Flying Corps in Drama. The officers of the Royal Flying Corps regret to announce that Ltn von Eschwege was killed while attacking the captive balloon. His personal belongings will be dropped over the lines some time during the next few days.

 

Ltn von Eschwege’s personal items, together with photographs of his funeral, when he was buried with full military honours, were air delivered to the enemy a few days later.

 

I hope this is interesting.

 

Gareth

Edited by Dolphin

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nieuport11

Just checked a few Nominal Rolls which show that each section just had one serviceable balloon

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Biggles

Thank you Gentlemen, for your help. 

Very intersting article, Dolphin.  Events in the air did not always live up to the supposed 'Gentlemen's Air War'.  Of course there were times where pilots were chivalrous to each other.  For instance, there was a Camel that atacked a D.VII, the British pilot's guns jammed and the German saluted and flew off.

Yes, to the Balloon Observers, Lt. von Eschwege was a menace.  They would have been overjoyed to see him crash, I'm sure.

Thanks again, Chaps.

 

Cheerio,

Caleb

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