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Naval Aviation

Catalogue number 45177

USS Birmingham and Eugene Ely

In 1910, Eugene Ely flew a Curtiss biplane off the deck of USS Birmingham for the first shipboard aircraft takeoff. The experiment took place whilst the ship was at anchor in Hampton Roads, Virginia. Here we can see Naval personnel and dockyard workers placing the tailless aircraft onto the sloping 85 ft long and 24 ft wide wooden platform on the bows of the ship.

Verso "Norfolk Va Dec 10th Photo of Ely's Curtiss bi-plane being taken aboard Birmingham previous to his flight from ship at Hampton Roads Va Nov 14th '10 - You may have a copy of last month's issue of our ship's paper "The Scout" if you wish one. C.R.B." Postcard stamped USS Birmingham Dec 10 1910

12.3cm x 7.4cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 100099

USS Pennsylvania and Eugene Ely

Two months after the first deck takeoff, in January 1911 Eugene Ely landed his Curtiss biplane on the deck of USS Pennsylvania, at anchor in San Francisco bay. The aircraft was equiped with a tailhook designed to catch one or more of the ropes fixed across the deck and attached to sandbags - an early form of arrestor wires - so as to bring the aircraft to a halt. After such a pionneering début, Ely was sadly killed in an aircrash the same year.

15.5cm x 10.8cm Photograph of printed image


Catalogue number 71073

Seaplane trials on USS Huntington 1917

As the performance of aircraft improved and floatplanes became available, experiments in launching aircraft from ships continued. Here on USS Huntington, a floatplane is about to take off from a narrow rail-like ramp built up over the quarter deck and stern. The trolley on which the aircraft rested can be see about to be jettisoned into the sea after running off the launching ramp.

13cm x 8cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 71074

Accident during trials on USS Huntington

Accidents were frequent in the early days of naval aviation and this floatplane from USS Huntington has come to grief and is being hauled on board. We can see that one float is missing and the wooden propellor is smashed.

13.1cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 100042

Marine Nationale Bapaume

The Bapaume was a sloop transformed into an early form of aircraft carrier by building a 35 m long flight deck forward of the bridge. This aerial view shows an aircraft on the flight deck and Bapaume is steaming across the wind - see the direction of the smoke from the funnel.

Verso "Bapaume - Un avion abord"

13.1cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 71030

Dédalo, a seaplane and balloon carrier of the Spanish Navy, 1925

If land-based aircraft were being used for take off and landing trials on ships, seaplanes with floats were also being developed but they needed a relatively calm sea to take off and land. Dédalo is seen with a group of seaplanes on the aft deck and there are two hoisting booms port and starboard to lift aircraft in and out of the sea. This ship also had a hanger forward to house observation balloons or airships and in this photograph, taken off Al Hoceima, we can see the airship mooring mast at the bows with a windsock.

Recto "Navire porte avions Espagnol"

13.1cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 28008

HMS Sussex Hawker Osprey K3629, 1935

The Hawker Osprey followed on from the Fairey IIIF seaplane in the early 1930's with a new level of performance producing a fast, two-seater fighter-reconnaissance aircraft, maximum speed 176mph as opposed to 120mph. This aircraft, K3629, had a short life and after delivery to Gosport in 1934 it went first to HMS Sussex and then to the Middle East at the end of 1935, to be struck off in April 1936.

Verso "H.M.S. Sussex Croiseur anglais" in black ink then printed "Issued 20-12-35 Eyes of the fleet. A scouting seaplane warming up on the catapult of the cruisser H.M.S. SUSSEX. This photograph illustrates the intricate mass of machinery needed to give the plane a good "push off" on launching."

20.6cm x 14.2cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number *****

HMS Neptune Hawker Osprey K2777, 1934

Working aircraft from warships presented numerous problems including the large amount of space taken up by the aircraft and its catapult, the fire risk due to fuel storage, the need for suitable conditions to catapult and especially to recover the seaplane as well as the risk of blast damage from the ship's guns. Compressed air acting on fluid-filled rams propelled the 2,526 kg Osprey along the catapult. The aircraft is supported on a cradle and in this photograph, the aircraft has just left its cradle, the front legs of which have fallen forward to allow the fuselage and tailplane to pass over. This aircraft, K2777, spent much of its time attached to the RAF School of Naval Cooperation where pilots and observers were trained for the Royal Navy.

Catalogue number 54068

Avro Bison mkII N9969, 1926

This Avro Bison mkII, N9969, was with HMS Eagle in 1926 and came to grief during exercises when, en route from Gibraltar to Malta, it developed engine trouble and came down into the sea off Valletta. All six aboard were killed although the usual crew was three or four. The Bison was an ungainly beast developed as a fleet spotter with a large cabin for observers and wireless operators and all their paraphernalia - maps, plotting tables, wireless sets in an exceptionally large cabin with big windows. The body of the Bison was set so high for the pilot, it was necessary to provide an aiming rod parallel to the line of flight to assist the pilot in landing and taking off. This rod can be seen to port of the centreline at the level of the windscreen. The Bison was armed with a free-mounted Lewis machine gun on a Scarf ring amidships - here by one of the lifting points - and a single fixed Vickers machine gun firing through the propeller - seen here as a raised cover on the engine cowling just starboard of the centreline.

13cm x 7.7cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 94124 & 94125

Marine Nationale Levasseur PL14/PL15, 1934

Top PL15: Although the sleek lines of this torpedo-bomber floatplane contrast with the Avro Bison, its performance - maximum speed 118 mph, cruising speed with full load 99 mph - was weak. This aircraft carried a crew of two when in the torpedo-bomber role, three and four when on observation and reconnaissance missions, respectively. We can see the twin 7.7mm Lewis guns in the rear mounting and a bomb fixed under the fuselage. Note the rearview mirror fixed to the pilot's windscreen. The four handles just forward of the gunner's post may be for releasing the bombs and the torpedo - the PL15 could carry either one 750kg torpedo or three bombs (1 x 450 kg and 2 x 150kg). It was too heavy to be catapulted and had to be lowered into the sea for take off.

Bottom PL14: The PL15 was derived from the PL14and in this photograph, the aircraft is armed with a 45cm torpedo but it could carry 450kg of bombs and was armed with a single 7.7 Vickers machine gun.

Top 94124 Verso "Pierre Levasseur Hydravion PL15 - à moteur Hispano Suiza 650 C.V. en service dans l'Aviation Maritime", in ink and blue ink stamp "PIERRE LEVASSEUR Constructions aéronautiques S.A. au Capital de 5,560,00 Frs 17 à 21 Place Félix-Faure, PARIS-XV R.C. Seine 250.791 B" and "1934" in red crayon

Bottom 94125 Verso "Pierre Levasseur Constn. Aeronautiques" "Hydravion bombardier torpilleur 600 CV" in blue crayon and "P.L.14" in blue ink"

94124 22.8cm x 16.7cm Gelatin silver print

9412 17.8cm x 12.4cm Gelatin silver print



Catalogue number 35182

US Navy Grumman FF

This biplane had several modern develpments compared to the older Naval aircraft which included an all-metal fuselage and a much appreciated enclosed cockpit as well as a retractable undercarriage. The Grumman FF did not stay long in first-line service and was withdrawwn to the Naval reserve aviation at the end of 1936. This aircraft is with the Reserve Aviation at Saint Louis, Missouri, Naval Air Station and shows the rear gunner with a single 7.62mm Browning machine gun. The pilot is watching the ground crew as he cranks up the Wright Cyclone radial engine.

16.8cm x 11.5cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 100041, 21043 & 21043

Marine Nationale Gourdou-Leseurre GL812

Top The Gourdou-Leseurre GL812 also had a light alloy fuselage on a steel tube structure. We can see the pilot and the gunner at their posts, the observer is doing something on the wing. Initially, the observer had the centre post but was moved back in the L-3 model. Note the flying helments and the headrests for pilot and gunner, very useful during catapult launches. This aircraft doesn't seem as yet to have been allotted to a squadron as the only identification is the number 57.

Middle The GL812 could be catapulted off a ship, here the seaplane carrier Commandant Teste. Note the aircraft rests on the trolly by the float supports as opposed to the fuselage as for the Hawker Osprey shown above and as a result, a strengthened float structure was required. The ramp used to propel the trolly forward can be seen through the lattice structure of the catapult.

Bottom This aircraft is from the 7S2 squadron and is being recovered onto the Commandant Teste in the port of Arzew in 1937. Just left of centre in the foreground is one of the unshielded 3.9 inch guns and on the raised deck are two quick-firing guns, whilst a sailor seems to be painting the underside of this structure.

Top Verso "Gourdou-Leseurre" in pencil

Top 100041 10.7cm x 6.3cm Gelatin silver print

Middle 21043 16.4cm x 10.9cm Gelatin silver print

Bottom 21043 16.4cm x 10.9cm Gelatin silver print



Catalogue number 94061 & 87

Marine Nationale Breguet 521 Bizerte

Top The Breguet 521 Bizerte was a French development of the British Short Calcutta flying boat built under licence by Breguet. This long-range reconnaissance aircraft had a two-tier flight deck and an open bow gun position initially. Note the impressive span of the upper wing - over 35m.

Bottom This photograph shows one (N°18) of the batch that were ordered in 1936 with the elimination of the open bow gun position and the extended cockpit canopy which was well-adapted for the role of long-range reconnaissance. Note the important dihedral angle of the upper wing, the radio direction finding aerial on the top of the wing, the wolf emblem of the E1 squadron on the hull and the gun blister just aft of the cockpit. This aircraft is flying over the Iles du Frioul off the coast of Marseille in 1937.

Top 94061 Verso : " Bréguet " Bizerte " in pencil, " 1934 " in red crayon and " Hydravion Breguet " Bizerte " de Haute Mer 1938" (sic) in blue ink

Bottom 87 Verso: "Bréguet-Bizerte Poids total: 17 tonnes Force moteurs: 2550 CV." in black ink

Top 94061 20.8cm x 15.7cm Gelatin silver print

Bottom 87 37.8cm x 27.9cm Gelatin silver print



Catalogue number 44252

US Navy Submarine with a Martin MS-1 on deck

Between 1923 and 1926, the US Navy experimented with the use of a small observation and scouting seaplane carried and launched from a submarine. The Marin MS-1 biplane was carried in a water-tight container on the submarine's deck and once on the surface, the aircraft was to be quickly assembled and launched by balasting down the submarine until the seaplane could float off. This is the manoeuvre that we can see in the photograph of A-6325 floating off the submarine S1.

Verso: "here it is Eddie with the plane on the after deck this is the V2. please write and give me your opinion" in pencil

13.7cm x 7.9cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 96095, 31008, 66039, 95038 & 94090

Saunders-Roe SR.A/1

One. The Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 was a revolutionary, water-based aircraft with a top speed in excess of 500 mph. Construction began in 1946 to produce this single-seater, twin jet-propelled flying boat fighter. It had no official name and was referred to as the "Squirt" but the project came to an end in the early 1950s as the Squirt lost out in the competition with the new land-based jet fighters that were appearing on the scene plus the success in war of the aircraft carrier. Shown here is one of the three prototypes (TG263) with the initial Perspex bubble canopy. It had two Metropolitan-Vickers F.2/4 Beryl axial flow turbojets placed side by side in the fuselage and sharing the same nose air intake but with separate exhausts. Surprisingly, it is said that there was no problem with water ingestion but the SR.A/1 was not designed to operations in choppy seas.

Two. The first test flight took place on 16th July 1947 and the test pilot Geoffrey Tyson reported satisfactory handling of the flying boat both in the air and on water. Here, the flying boat is just sitting on the step of the planing hull.

Three. The SR.A/1 had semi-retractable floats to improve the aerodynamics. Each float first pivoted inwards through 90° before the arm folded into a well in the lower surface of the wing. This way, only the streamlined part of each float was exposed. In the first photograph, we can see the two dark bands of the pivoting mechanism on each float. In the lower photograph, we can see the orifice for the planed four nose-mounted Hispano 20mm cannons.

Four. TG263 was brought out of store in November 1950 and hydrodynamic tests recommenced, the last flight being in June 1951. Here we can see the underwing recess on the port wing and the float pivot points as two dark areas on the starboard float.

Five. After the initial trials, several modifications were made including replacement of the Perspex bubble canopy with a metal canopy and reducing the rudder horn balance as can be seen in this photograph. A short take-off could be attained - 26 seconds - by retracting the wing floats, and so reducing drag, once the aircraft had lateral stability.

One. Verso: "SR A1" in black ink

Two. Verso: "Britain has first jet flying boat fighter. 30.7.47. The first jet-propelled flying boat fighter in the world - the Saunders-Roe A1 - was successfully tested at Cowes, Isle of Wight, this afternoon. It is fitted with twin Metropolitan Vickers jet units known as the Beryl, but its maximum speed is a top secret. The picture shows the jet-propelled flying boat taking off on her trial flight to-day."

Three. Verso: "First flying boat tested. 31.7.47. The world's first jet-propelled flying boat fighter, the Saunders-Roe SR/A1 made its first …. appearance over the Solent yesterday, after …."hush-hush" test flights. It has ….a speed of more than 400m.p.h….in a pressurised cabin, and it….cannon. The pilot has an ejector seat."

Four. Verso: "1952" in pencil

Five. Recto: "Saunders-Roe Fighter Flying Boat A-52-C (sic)" Verso: Postcard franked 1953

One. 15.6cm x 10.5cm Gelatin silver print

Two. 21cm x 15.1cm Gelatin silver print

Three. 13.7cm x 19cm Gelatin silver print

Four. 7.2cm x 4.5cm Gelatin silver print

Five. 13.2cm x 8.2cm Gelatin silver print






Catalogue number 40130

French Aéronavale Avro Lancaster, North Africa

Minds were not totally at rest with the end of World War II and European governments, notably France, feared a revival of German aggression such that in 1947, the United Kingdom and France signed a treaty of alliance and of mutual assistance in the event of renewed attacks. As the communist threat developed, the Benelux countries joined the United Kingdom and France to form the Western Union. As part of the agreement, 54 reconditioned Avro Lancaster bombers, with the serial prefix WU, were transferred to the French Aéronavale. Along with the RAF Coastal Command, they were to protect Atlantic shipping. The French aircraft were based in North Africa and this aircraft, WU09, joined the 2F squadron at Port-Lyautey on the Atlantic coast of Morocco in 1952.

Source: Aéronautique Navale

30cm x 22cm Gelatin silver print


Catalogue number 88

French Aéronavale Lancaster WU40

The WU aircraft were modified for their new role of maritime reconnaissance with the addition of long-range fuel tanks, ASV (aviation surface vessel) radar (model APS-15) in a ventral dome and extra rear windows for observation whilst the dorsal turret was faired-over. The aircraft also carried Air-Sea Rescue equipment. We can see members of the crew looking out of the astrodome and the portside rear windows.

Source: Unknown

35cm x 25cm Gelatin silver print

Catalogue number 52118

Armed French Aéronavale Lancaster, WU-46

A rather weather-worn Lancaster. We can see three dorsal aerials for the radar and a crew member is in the astrodome. Note the different size of the machine guns, this Lancaster has retained the forward twin 0.303-inch Brownings and the tail twin 0.5-inch machine gun turrets. As for the photograph number 40130, there appears to be some kind of shoot projecting from the rear turret, is it for releasing air-sea rescue gear?

Source: Unknown

24.1cm x 17.7cm Gelatin silver print