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LEINSTER LEADER EDITORIAL 29 APRIL 1916

NAAS, SATURDAY, APRIL 29, 1916.

AERIAL CRAFT IN THE WAR

The part played be aerial craft in the war is, perhaps, one of the most remarkable and outstanding features of mighty conflict, and the importance of the flying machine for offensive as well as defensive purposes, is steadily growing day by day until now it is an essential of the belligerent nations involved, and ultimately is likely to be a great factor in the conclusion of the struggle. The most modern mode of warfare, the outcome of one of man’s greatest inventive genius in piping peace times, when the pursuit of scientific study and research was undisturbed by war’s alarms, has been both used and abused to an extent undreamt of a few years ago, and even the most daring flights of imagination amongst the great writers of the day in depicting for us the wars of the future, fail to keep pace with the actual rapidity of development and lofty terror and destructiveness, which have attended the employment of the aeroplane and the Zeppelin as aerial engines of war. The uses to which flying machines have been put in the prosecution of the war on all sides are varied, and unlike warships and mobile machines employed with armies on land, whose uses are confined to these earthly elements, air craft are equally capable of employment over land and sea. In scouting, observation, reconnaissance, dispatch bearing, guarding attacking, defending, etc., they are commonly successful, and have been employed in the performance of duties in these different departments. Whether over land or sea their use in these different capacities has been put to practical test and proof. Their abuse has been brought home to us in the destruction of the homes of non-combatants, and the wanton waste of life and property, which cannot conceivably have the remotest effect on the course of the war, or the ultimate issues which have given rise to it, but which on the other hand must leave a bitterness, which the conclusion of the war on any terms, can scarcely eradicate, and leave a stain on the reputation of the perpetrators which time can hardly obliterate. This must be the conviction of every neutral power, and the admission of every impartial observer of the course of the conflict, not to speak of the innermost feeling of the most pronounced partisan of the power that abuses this latest form of warfare. The raids over England, and their growing frequency, are events which from the very nature of their wanton daring and terrorism, serve to bring home forcibly to the mind the rapid development of the flying machine, and its capacity for causing widespread destruction even at home despite all attempts at defence. The navy may be still reckoned on to save the country from a German descent with warships and the army may be relied on to do its bit in keeping the military legions of the Kaiser too busy to find time to attempt invasion, but they are both powerless to prevent the aerial raiders from exacting their periodical toll of human life from the very hearthstones of England. The growing frequency and daring of these raids make this quite clear, and hence it is that the English people having this fact brought practically home to them in this terrible fashion, have resolved to meet this menace to national safety and to immunity from invasion by the only conceivable means it can be met, namely, by a development of the air service along similar lines to those followed by the Germans. The return of Mr. Pemberton Billing to Parliament for an English constituency, as an advocate of the expansion of the air service, was the first success secured for the promotion of this policy and likely in subsequent contests whether in bye-elections or a General Election, it will be a prominent issue. In like manner more of the time and attention of Parliament will be given to questions affecting reconstruction and re-organisation of the air service. These anticipations must not, however, be taken as indicating that the science of aviation has not received the recognition due to it as an arm of the service, or as an art worthy of study for practical utility by Great Britain. Some of the most notable achievements in the science of aviation have fallen to its students, and it is only when we begin to recall these circumstances that we realize the rapidity with which it has developed, and that what was being merely speculated upon some few years ago in the conquest of the air has been raised the region of theory to the realities of actual accomplishment. It is only 13 years ago that the late Mr. Wilbur Wright accomplished the first flight in a modern aeroplane in America, and his ability to remain aloft for some minutes was marveled at by the world. Santos Dumont might be described as having in every sense risen to an eminent position when he circled the Eiffel Tower, but his fame was higher in the realm of aviation, when, three years after Wright had demonstrated the possibilities of the aeroplane, he was the first to follow his example in Europe, by rising in an aeroplane. The struggles of Coady, who eventually became one of the many British martyrs to ambitions to master the science, and the sensations created by the first crossing of the English Channel, and later on, the Irish Sea by aeroplanes, read as if they were events only of yesterday. Yet the tremendous progress made since then as exemplified in the frequent crossings from the Continent to the coasts of England and Scotland by airships, and their return thence, without the necessity to alight for replenishing supplies of any kind to accomplish such lengthy journeys renders the exploits of the pioneers of a few years ago, remote and commonplace. Of course the dirigibles differ in essential principles of construction control and flight, from the aeroplane, but both types of flying machine have developed and improved at the same time, the Germans merely paying more attention to lighter than-air machines and apparently having more confidence in the efficiency of the Zeppelin than the aeroplane. They have, however, pressed both into service in the war, and have it appears reserved to themselves some of the vital secrets of the Zeppelin, so that the opposing nations may not be able to meet them in this sphere of aerial activity. The aeroplane, notwithstanding, has been proved to be quite capable of meeting the Zeppelin on level terms as seen in the destruction of one of the recent raiding Zeppelins in the Thames. When all these incidents are considered as showing the diverse uses of the flying machine in war times, it may be safely predicted that when at length peace smiles again on the war-worn nations and their peoples return to those commercial and industrial pursuits, which the war has interrupted, civilisation and progress will be equally benefited by the employment of the flying machine in many directions. It is yet too soon to speculate on particular uses to which they may be put, but some of their possibilities will readily suggest themselves to the reader, such as more rapid transit greater postal facilities, and a general linking up and closer relations between the nations commercially and socially. For the time being all these advantages must be sacrificed to the exigencies of war, and we can only hope and pray that the day is drawing near when the glut of blood must cease and the danger of disaster to the world by a continuance of the war having passed. We may once more return to the cultivation of those morals and sciences which will help to prevent a repetition of the calamity in the future.

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