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The Sailor
28-12-2007, 03:32
Seaplane Barges

When we think of aircraft carriers and seaplane tenders, we rarely think of barges. But several barges have served in various aviation-related roles, in addition serving as aircraft transports.

The photo below: A Royal Navy "seaplane barge", circa 1918. During WWI several barges were used as small towed "carriers" along the British coast.

The artwork below depicts the take off of a Sopwith Pup about 1918.
Humble beginnings indeed.

stontamar
28-12-2007, 13:57
I am not sure what information was provided in any caption linked to the artwork but the aircraft is a Sopwith 2F.1 Camel rather than a Sopwith Pup.

Although I cannot be certain about the background to the painting it may depict Camel N6813 (Lt. Stuart Douglas Culley RNAS 1895- ) which was first successfully flown from a lighter towed by HMS TRUCULENT on 31 July 1918 and then landed at Martlesham Heath.

Five days later the same aircraft and pilot flew off lighter H3 in an attempt to intercept a Zeppelin. This action was unsuccessful, however six days later on 11 August Culley, flying N6812 from a lighter towed behind HMS REDOUBT, attacked and destroyed Zeppelin L53 10 miles south west of the Borkum Rift Light Vessel, Heligoland Blight. Twenty-one crewmembers were killed and apparently one survived in what turned out to be the last action of the war in which a Zeppelin was destroyed.

The aircraft and pilot were recovered after ditching and N6812 can still be seen as an exhibit at the Imperial War Museum. Please see the attachment. I am not sure if the painting actually depicts Culley’s take off in pursuit of L53 as by that date the aircraft had been fitted with twin Lewis machine guns on the upper wing. The picture is unfortunately quite small and may only show the aircraft fitted with the standard single Lewis in that position. [/QUOTE]
Culley, who was born in Canada, was apparently promised a VC for the action but instead received the DSO (London Gazette 2 November 1918) but action against L53 was not his only exploit. Earlier in the war Flight Sub Lt. Culley flying Sopwith Pup (9908) had crash landed his plane which was then written off charge as beyond repair and, after the end of the war against Germany, he served as a F/L in the RAF in Russia flying Sopwith 2F.1’s Camel’s from HMS VINDICTIVE, his actions included –

Bombed ANDREI PERVOSVANNY (IMPERATOR PAVEL Class Battleship 1910-23) in dry dock at Kronstadt on 2 October 1919 (N7119)
Bombed a Bolshevik destroyer and due to engine failure had top make a forced landing on 4 October 1919 (N8184)
Bombed a railway station near Petrograd on 6 October 1919 (N6612)
Bombed Kransnaya Gorka on 14 October 1919 (N7140)
Bombed Kransnaya Gorka and machine gunned fort on 15 October 1919 (N7140)
Bombed a Bolshevik destroyer off Kransnaya Gorka on 16 October 1919 (N7106)
Bombed No. 5 fort at Kronstadt on 18 October 1919 (N7140)
Bombed Kransnaya Gorka and attacked kite balloon on 19 October 1919 (N7140)
Bombed Kransnaya Gorka on 20 October 1919 (N7140)
Attacked a kite balloon near Korvisto on 25 October 1919. (N6767)
Bombed and machine gunned a Bolshevik destroyer off Greyhound Point on 29 October 1919 (N8184)

Cully survived his exploits in Russia and was promoted to Squadron Leader in March 1933 taking command of No. 39 (Bomber) Squadron, Royal Air Force and eventual rose to the rank of Group Captain.

The aircraft is also depicted on the jacket cover of Sturtivant & Page’s book Royal Navy Aircraft Serials and Unit 1911-1919. Designed by Dugald Cameron the painting shows Sopwith 2F.1 Camel N6812 piloted by Lt S.D. Culley climbing to successfully attack Zeppelin L53.

Regards

stontamar

The Sailor
29-12-2007, 02:26
You put a lot into that Stontamar. Good work. A lot of extra infomation.
Not sure how you'd pick a Pup from a Camel in that particular painting though mate, as probably both aircraft types were used on barges.
Here are a photo of each. I guessed Pup, because I couldn't tell.

stontamar
29-12-2007, 13:13
Thanks for posting reply and for asking further questions regarding the picture. The picture does depict a Camel 2F1, as in all cases positive identification is achieved by careful observation of detail.

In the case of Sopwith Camel's they were quite distinguishable from Pups as they had a bulkier appearance being a much heavier aircraft, they carried a larger engine which increased the size of the fuselage in front of the cockpit which also, in the case of the 2F.1 variant, incorporated the single synchronised Vickers machine gun and there was a more pronounced tapering of the fuselage towards the tail. The 2F1's also had technical detail differences which would not be immediately apparent in a low quality photograph and may not have been incorporated into a painting as the artist may have not identified the changes or they may have decided to avoid such detail.

The 2F.1 Camel was designed specifically as a shipboard fighter and as such differed from the F.1 Camel in detail. Their main operational function was the interception of Zeppelins over the North Sea and for this purpose they were carried in numerous warships flying from platforms fixed to a variety of ships including battleships cruisers and destroyers, flying off platforms and lighters towed by destroyers attached to the Harwich Force.

As far as I am aware Pup's were not flown off towed lighters but they were carried operationally at sea by various vessel and they were also used in many experiments which lead to the introduction of flying off platforms, deck landings on a vessels at sea and the use of arrester gear.

I hope the profiles help, unfortunately the 2F1 has not been drawn with the Lewis gun(s) fitted on the upper wing and the single synchronised Vickers machine gun above the engine is not apparent but I believe the differences between the Pup and Camel are well defined. the gun arrangements can v]been seen in the two photographs.

Profile 1 Sopwith Pup RNAS transferred to RFC

Profile 2 Sopwith Camel F.1 RFC

Profile 3 Sopwith Camel 2F.1 RNAS

Photo 1 Sopwith Camel F.1 N6332 RNAS trnasferred to RRFC and lost 17 July 1917 (Lt W.E. Grossett PoW - Jasta 8 Vzfw Franke)

Photo 2 Sopwith Camel 2F.1 N.6812 RNAS (Lt. S.D. Culley)


Regards

stonatamar

Batstiger
29-12-2007, 14:24
One of the attempts to make it possible to fly landplanes at sea arose from a development of John Porte's. He had designed lighters on which rested one of his flying-boats. These could be towed at sea behind a ship of the Fleet and thus increase the flying boat's range. This idea soon translated into landplane terms, similar lighters were rigged up to provide a rudimentary flying-off platform for a Sopwith Camel, when towed behind a destroyer at 30 knots. It can be seen that such an operation was hazardous in the extreme for the pilot and the lighter crew.....and in any event the flight would end up as in pic 3.

1. Flying-boat lighter.
2. Sopwith Camel lighter.
3. Result.

Batstiger
29-12-2007, 14:27
For some unknown reason (probably me) the pics weren't attached so here they are.

Bob.

stontamar
29-12-2007, 17:42
I have just noticed on looking at Bob's second photo that the lighter is numbered H3, as recounted in my original posting, and fittingly it is also the number painted up on the stern of the lighter depicted in the subject painting.

A very similar photograph is held in the Leslie/Bruce collection and is labelled –

‘Camel N6812 on Lighter H3 with inclined deck prior to the successful take-of by Lt. SD Culley on 31 July 1918’

Photographs also exist of Samson’s Camel aboard H3 prior to attempting the take off. Please see details below. These photographs can be distinguished from the later Culley sets as the deck of Lighter H3 went through a least three different configurations.

Originally when Samson made his attempted flight on 30 May 1918 H3 had a flat deck with a beam equal to the beam of the lighter.

By the 31 July 1918 the deck of H3 was still apparently horizontal but it had a wider beam compared with the lighters beam. From the photographic evidence I would judge the beam to have been increase by at least 6-8 feet..

Finally there is photographic evidence that H3 was given an inclined deck that inclined downward from the stern to the stem. This is how Lighter H3 is depicted in the subject painting.

The twin Lewis machine guns that were fitted to N6812 in the action against L53 are not fitted in Bob’s second photograph but a later photograph of N6812 shows the guns fitted. Interestingly the setting of the two Lewis guns is different in this photograph to the setting of the guns as arranged by the staff of the Imperial War Museum when they set up this exhibit and as show in the photograph of N6812.

The third photograph, showing pilot and aircraft after ditching, may show Cdr. CR Samson’s near fatal attempt at the first take off from a Lighter on 30 May 1918. The aircraft involved in this incident was Sopwith Camel 2F.1 N6623. The destroyer HMS TRUCULENT was towing Lighter H3 during this trial.

In regard to the first of Bob’s photographs; I believe this shows a Felixstowe F.2A flying boat under tow on a lighter, this arrangement first been employed on 10 March 1918. The operation need was to give the aircraft the additional range necessary to allow them to bomb the German naval bases.

Incidentally reliable sources report that one of these aircraft, N4291 operating out of Killingholme, also destroyed a Zeppelin (L62) over the Heligoland near Borkum Deep on 10 May 1918. However it needs to be pointed out that some sources give the reason for the loss of L62 to unknown causes! L62 had participated in two reconnaissance missions and two attacks on England, dropping 5,923 kg of bombs and on this final flight all the crew of twenty two were all lost.

Regards

stontamar

Batstiger
29-12-2007, 19:33
Lt C.R. Samson RN accelerates his Short Biplane down staging over the front gun-turret of HMS Africa at Sheerness on January 10th, 1912. This was typical of Lt Samson's pioneering ingenuity aimed at applying aviation to the problems of naval aviation. However, as can be seen, the staging incapacitated the ship's fore turret, the dominant factor in the minds of the Admiralty at the time.

The other picture shows Commander C. R. Samson at Tenedos in front of a Nieuport Scout.

Batstiger
29-12-2007, 20:06
Pic 1. Lt S.D. Culley, seen with a Camel and lighter crew standing by the platform for transfer to a lighter, shot down Zeppelin L.53 in 1918. His Camel (not the one here)is preserved in the Imperial War Museum.

Pic 2. A glorious Naval compromise. HMS Furious completed as a combined Battle cruiser and Aircraft carrier. Note the big 18" gun aft and the flying-off platform forward. The intention was still to ditch the aircraft alongside on landing.

Pic 3. The Navy's aviators were not satisfied with this idea and Sqn Cdr E.H. Dunning made attempts at flying around the funnel and landing on the downward-sloping in that tractable little fighter, the Sopworth Pup. He made his first successful deck-landing on August 2nd, 1917. Five days later, on repeating the trials, he went over the side and was drowned.
The picture of the August 2nd landing shows the leather toggles under the ailerons and tailplane which were grabbed by crewmembers, literally pulling the aircraft out of the sky ( the original "sky hooks" maybe).

The Sailor
30-12-2007, 03:38
You guys sure know your stuff. Great assets to the forum.
A few days ago I knew nothing about aviation from barges during WW1.
Now I know everything.
Very impressive.
Graeme

DaveC
16-09-2009, 23:06
In "Tyrwhitt of the Harwich Force" Page 88-89 It states that The first primitive seaplane carriers were not converted barges, but three cross channel passenger ferries, the Engadine, Riviera, and Empress, which were taken over and fitted with steel hangers capable of housing 3 seaplanes each, and sent to Harwich to await favourable weather. The carriers sailed on November 23rd 1914, I think, but during the night the sea became to rough for the seaplanes , so the carriers were ordered back to port. This was repeated again in March 1915, using just the Empress, but dense fog prevented the seaplanes taking off, and the whole attempt to bomb the Zeppelin Sheds at Cuxhaven, failed when the Destroyer Landrail ran into the Undaunted at 18 knots. By the end of May 1915, it appears that the idea of launching seaplanes from the carriers was put on the backburner, as 7 attempts had failed. During November 1915 a new Carrier the Vindex arrived at Harwich, converted from the Isle of man passenger steamer Viking 2900 tons designed to carry 4 large seaplanes and one small one aft and 2 single seat fighters forward with a flying off deck. The first trial was partially successful, but 2 planes were wrecked, mainly due to fog.

I can remember my Grandfather telling me about towing seapanes across the North Sea, he was a Stoker PO on the Landrail during WW1 and I enclose a couple of photos he took of what I think are Felixstowe F2b's. Apologies for the quality. Hope this of interest

Dave

barracuda
27-09-2009, 22:07
This is an interesting thread. Now the ship and the biplane in the photo I'm posting (from an old book) look very much like those in the photo that Bob (batstiger) posted, though I may be wrong. The photo caption just reads "A seaplane being hoisted from a pinnace". No clue as to what or where.

Peter Thomas

Jan Steer
30-09-2009, 17:50
A fascinating thread chaps and you've stirred a memory. When I was a teenager and home for the weekend, Dad and I went for a pint in the local. I was proudly wearing my nos ones and an elderly gentleman came across to tell me that he too was once in the navy. Apparently he had been a pilot with the RNAS in WW1 and he told me all about spotting for the fleet. He told me that whilst training and with an obvious lack of navigational aids, he asked his instructor how they could be absolutely sure of their position. He was told that if he could see men with spikes on their helmets they were above the Germans. If he could see women wearing mantillas they were obviously over Spain and if he could see men hitting each other over the head he was over Ireland! Whether he was telling the truth or just pulling my leg I never knew!

best wishes
Jan

stontamar
30-09-2009, 21:22
[QUOTE=barracuda;76004]T"A seaplane being hoisted from a pinnace". No clue as to what or where.

Short S38 T2 conducting trials aboard HMS HIBERNIA in Weymouth Bay during May 1912.

Regards

stontamar

barracuda
01-10-2009, 21:13
[QUOTE=barracuda;76004]T"A seaplane being hoisted from a pinnace". No clue as to what or where.

Short S38 T2 conducting trials aboard HMS HIBERNIA in Weymouth Bay during May 1912.

Regards

stontamar

Thank you, stontamar. I haven't been a member of this website for very long but the interest, depth of knowledge and helpfulness of other members of this website absolutely amazes me.

Regards,

Peter Thomas

qprdave
01-10-2009, 21:22
Small pieces from The Times Archive re above trials in dated 13th May 1912

Nieuport
23-09-2010, 11:09
Hello,

I plan to build a Sopwith Camel lighter, 1/72 scale.
I am looking for information, drawings, details and everything that could help me for this project.
About the colour, i plan to use a battleship grey above the floating line and black below. Any advice ?

Thank you in advance

Doc
23-09-2010, 15:03
With the regards to the Seaplane Lighter. There is one currently being preserved at the Fleet Air Arm Museum at RNAS Yeovilton. As far as I am aware it is the only known example in a museum.

From their website "Cobham Hall also houses the world's oldest survivng aircraft carrier, the Lighter T3 which is on the National Register of Historic Vessels. This sixty feet long streamlined craft was towed behind fast RN destroyers, allowing aircraft to take off at sea during World War 1.

Nieuport
23-09-2010, 18:37
Hello,

Thank you for the information.
I found some pictures on the National Register of Historic Vessels website.
I still need more information but it helps me a lot.

All the very best

David Hathaway
06-09-2011, 10:02
Not sure if you are still looking for information and drawings, but the journal "Cross and Cockade" Vol 26 No 2 has drawings of the lighters as used with Camels and a lot of relevant data. Volume 12 No 2 has drawings of the lighters as used with Felixstowe F2/3 aircraft.

Back issues of the journal can be bought online and are sent as pdf documents. A "Google" should find the relevant site - but I think it is www.crossandcockade.com

Note I belive the preserved lighter in Yeovilton is a docking lighter not a towing lighter (used for storage and repair, not flying off).

Hope this helps

David Hathaway

astraltrader
06-09-2011, 14:28
This link briefly touches on Seaplane Barges as well as the USN equivalent called the Seaplane sledge!!


http://www.hazegray.org/navhist/carriers/odd/index3.htm

Even more interesting is this article from the Daily Mail of 1st March this year, where the remains of a 1918 Thorneycroft Seaplane Lighter was discovered on the edge of the river Thames!!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1361523/Worlds-oldest-aircraft-carrier-discovered-rusting-River-Thames.html

Give the article a read - it is both fascinating and also contains a couple of worthwhile pictures!!

astraltrader
06-09-2011, 14:47
During WW2 the USN used huge pontoon barges to transport seaplanes such as the PBM.

Recently whilst exploring some pictures from the USN Seabee Museum I came across these two excellent pictures showing both the type of seaplane pontoon barge used by the USN in 1945 as well as a picture of a barge actually carrying a PBM.

The pictures were taken at Okinawa. :cool:

TCC
11-09-2011, 15:39
At the risk of thread creep or swinging off-topic, I have a relevant query to the other type of aircraft barge or lighter.

How do they get the aircraft from under the barrel to on top of the same turrets crown?

This question also applies to a lot of the RN capital ship with aircraft atop turrets. There are no cranes or boat derricks at the ends of the ship, so how are they moving aircraft about?

Anyone?

astraltrader
11-09-2011, 18:42
At the risk of thread creep or swinging off-topic, I have a relevant query to the other type of aircraft barge or lighter.

How do they get the aircraft from under the barrel to on top of the same turrets crown?

This question also applies to a lot of the RN capital ship with aircraft atop turrets. There are no cranes or boat derricks at the ends of the ship, so how are they moving aircraft about?

Anyone?


You say there were no cranes or boat derricks on Malaya but this was taken a decade or so later....:confused:

TCC
11-09-2011, 19:44
You say there were no cranes or boat derricks on Malaya but this was taken a decade or so later....:confused:

Sorry, I wasn't specific as regards the era I'm referring to. When aircraft were first used aboard RN battleships and battlecruisers, theey were placed on little plaatforms on the crowns of turrets.. generally one forwaard, a 2nd aft.

In a number of cases, there was no derrick or crane in the area of the turret to hoist the aaircraft atop the ramp. My photo example is them using a gun barrel as a crane ... but that would only lift the aircraft off the lighter and onto the ship. How would they lift them onto the turret tops?

Terrys image shows a dedicated crane for the job. I'd expect this was amidships and near the purposely installed aircraft catapult?

patroclus
12-09-2011, 02:44
Sorry, I wasn't specific as regards the era I'm referring to. When aircraft were first used aboard RN battleships and battlecruisers, theey were placed on little plaatforms on the crowns of turrets.. generally one forwaard, a 2nd aft.

In a number of cases, there was no derrick or crane in the area of the turret to hoist the aaircraft atop the ramp. My photo example is them using a gun barrel as a crane ... but that would only lift the aircraft off the lighter and onto the ship. How would they lift them onto the turret tops?

Terrys image shows a dedicated crane for the job. I'd expect this was amidships and near the purposely installed aircraft catapult?

Dealing with your photo of MALAYA's B turret crane, the aircraft was hoisted onto the roof of A turret and then manhandled onto the ramp on B turret. (See: Cronin- "Royal Navy Shipboard Aircraft Developments 1912-1931").
This must have been an interesting evolution, perhaps using the guns of B turret at maximum depression - 5%?.

TCC
12-09-2011, 15:49
Dealing with your photo of MALAYA's B turret crane, the aircraft was hoisted onto the roof of A turret and then manhandled onto the ramp on B turret. (See: Cronin- "Royal Navy Shipboard Aircraft Developments 1912-1931").
This must have been an interesting evolution, perhaps using the guns of B turret at maximum depression - 5%?.

Thanks P, You've answered my question but not in the way I expected. 'manhandled'? If by that you mean a gang of men all got 2 hands on it and lifted it? You called it an 'interesting evolution', I wasn't totally convinced... too fraglie, expensive, high, dangerous. I think there's too many openings for bad luck and failure in the above for it to be a recognised naval evolution. Does your source put this method for Malaya specificaly or is it all ships in general?

I'm agnostic on this so went to look through my 'collection' for a turret equipped ramp with either a steel wire strung over it or a derrick nearby (I think both methods were used but would like to see a photo of the former)

I found this of Tiger. This is what I expected. A safe, reliable way.

In the image of Malaya, I think there will have been a derrick out of frame to the right (on the port side) that would have taken the aircraft from off of 'A's roof. It looks like there are men already up there with lines waiting for it. And if you look to the deck in front of Bs barbette, you can see a line secured to an eyebolt in the deck.

In the Tiger image, it looks like the AC came straight off the barge.

This is HMAS Australia:
http://www.worldnavalships.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=102074&d=1311152151

patroclus
12-09-2011, 21:58
The statement about manhandling comes from Cronin (and he reproduces that exact MALAYA picture). If MALAYA was equipped with a suitable derrick she could have used it to lift the aircraft from the barge onto the roof of B turret and there would have been no need for the laborious use of B turret guns as a crane.

I agree that "manhandling" covers a multitude of sins and, unfortunately, Cronin does not expand on the exact method but it seems to me that it could have involved lifting it onto B turret's guns at maximum 5 degrees depression. This would not have been a big lift from the roof of A turret. All guesswork!

c1951
17-09-2011, 21:23
I am sorry about getting in so late but may I add some information. Stuart Culley visited his Beardmore built 2F-1 Camel at the IWM in 1963. He was interviewed. He said he was English, not Australian nor Canadian. He wondered where the innacuracy had come from. He also said that most of his Air Force appointments after the Great War were admininistrative and he only flown once up to the time he retired.
He also said his Camel was the wrong colour underneath. He encouraged the curator to scrape the paint away from one of the cabne struts - it was blue. At the time it had been restored as an accurate 2F-1 and not as today's example. Truly he deserved the promised VC and not the DSO

JayceyF
02-02-2017, 12:44
My grandfather served on SSBI, which was the barge acting as seaplane headquarters during the North Russia Intervention. Here is a picture of the crew, also a menu (it looks as if they weren't quite living on 'hardtack & swill'...;)).

https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/563/31720857083_93f7215615_n.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/Qk4FF2) https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/506/31720139553_d9624fd6c9_m.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/Qk11nP)

An interesting contemporary account of this campaign can be found in the February 1921 edition of the Naval Review (http://www.naval-review.com/issues/1920s/1921-1.pdf) (Vol IX, No. 1, Chapter 17) - there is quite a lot of information about the valuable work of the seaplane barges there (SSBI is mentioned on page 147).