В.Кондратьев Самолеты первой мировой войны
ХЭНДЛИ-ПЭЙДЖ O/400 / HANDLEY-PAGE O/400
В ходе серийного выпуска самолет продолжал совершенствоваться. После сдачи 46-го экземпляра "O/100" фирма Хэндли-Пэйдж стала производить новую модификацию, обозначенную "O/400". От своего предшественника "четырехсотый" отличался моторами повышенной мощности, усиленным силовым набором, а также рядом изменений в топливной системе. Объем бензобаков значительно увеличился, а поскольку они уже не помещались в мотогондолах, их перенесли в фюзеляж.
Стандартным оборудованием "четырехсотых" была радиотелеграфная станция. Для ее обслуживания в состав экипажа включили пятого члена - радиста, выполнявшего также обязанности бомбардира. Все эти нововведения привели к значительному росту взлетного веса, а потому пришлось отказаться от бронирования двигателей и бензобаков.
"Хэндли-Пэйдж O/400" - самый массовый тяжелый бомбардировщик Первой Мировой войны. Всего построено 554 машины данного типа. Они активно применялись на Западном фронте, отдельные экземпляры служили в Македонии и Палестине.
С августа 1918-го "Хэндли-Пэйджи" регулярно бомбили немецкие промышленные центры в Сааре и Рейнской области. При этом с сентября англичане начали применять сверхтяжелые по тем временам 750-килограммовые бомбы. К началу ноября во фронтовых дивизионах числилось 258 "Хэндли-Пэйджей O/400". В 1920-м году "Хэндли-Пэйдж O/400" сняли с вооружения.
Большой объем выпуска "Хэндли-Пэйджей O/400" обусловил широкое разнообразие силовых установок, которыми оснащали эти машины. Чаще всего ставили моторы Роллс-Ройс "Игл IV", "Игл VII" или "Игл VIII" мощностью от 285 до 375 л.с., иногда - "Либерти" по 400 л.с. или "Фиаты" A-12bis по 260 л.с. или 275-сильные Санбим "Маори".
Носовая турель со спаркой "Льюисов", задняя верхняя стрелковая точка с "Льюисом" на поперечной рельсовой направляющей (иногда такая же турель, как и спереди, или две шкворневые установки по бортам) и задняя нижняя люковая пулеметная установка. Бомбовая нагрузка - от 800 до 920 кг в зависимости от типа двигателей.
H.P.12 (O/400) H.P.12 (O/7)
Размах, м 30,0 30,48
Длина, м 18,85 19,55
Высота, м 6,70 6,70
Площадь крыла, кв.м 152,0 153,0
Сухой вес, кг 3816 3776
Взлетный вес, кг 6309 5466
Двигатель: Роллс-Ройс Роллс-Ройс
"Игл VIII" "Игл VIII"
число х мощность, л. с. 2x360 2x300
Скорость максимальная, км/ч 158 157
Дальность полета, км 1000 1000
Продолжительность полета, час,мин 8,0
Время набора высоты, мин/м 30/3000
Потолок, м 2400 2600
Экипаж, чел. 5 2
Вооружение 2-4 пулемета
810 кг бомб
Пассажировместимость, чел. - 10-14
А.Шепс Самолеты Первой мировой войны. Страны Антанты
Хендли Пейдж H.P.12 (O/400) 1917 г.
Машина являлась развитием серии O/100 и конструктивно мало отличалась от предшественника. Было усилено вооружение и установлены более мощные двигатели Роллс-Ройс "Игл III" (по 250 л. с.), а затем и "Игл VIII" (300 л. с.). Фюзеляж был короче на 0,3 м. Несколько уменьшен был и размах верхнего крыла. Благодаря более мощному двигателю бомбовая нагрузка возрасла почти в 2 раза. Улучшено было и внутреннее оборудование. Установлена более мощная радиостанция. Машина начала поступать в войска весной 1917 года и использовалась до конца войны. Всего построено 550 самолетов этого типа. Они успешно применялись как на Западном фронте, в налетах на базы германских подводных лодок, на заводы в Руре и Сааре, так и на Средиземном море, в Палестине, в налетах на Константинополь.
C.Barnes Handley Page Aircraft since 1907 (Putnam)
O/100 and O/400 (H.P.11 and 12)
Trials of 3117 at Hendon and Manston with RAF 3a engines proved disappointing, so contract No.AS.1198 was suspended and replaced by AS.20629/17 for six Cricklewood-built machines (B9446-B9451) with Sunbeam Cossacks; these were not used operationally and represented an interim stage between the O/100 and its later development, the O/400, retaining most of the features, including the nacelle tanks, of the former; one at least was used as a trainer by the Australian Flying Corps at Halton and some were issued to the Wireless Flight at Netheravon; yet another was inspected by King George V when he visited the new works at Cricklewood early in 1918. The concurrent trial installation of two 260 hp Fiat A.12bis engines in 3142 in July 1917 was a one-off job specifically ordered at the request of the Russian government, but it crashed early in its trials at Martlesham Heath, just before the October revolution ended Russia’s participation in the war; it is notable for having had a simplified four-wheeled landing gear of the pattern employed on the V/1500 and, later, the W.8. In October 1917, 3117 was flown more successfully at Farnborough after being converted to take four 200 hp Hispano-Suizas arranged back to back in tandem pairs in an installation contrived by Major Percy Bishop, Chief Inspector of Engines, AID; the pilot for these trials was Captain Frank Courtney and the main reason for them was that Hispanos were available at a time when Eagles were not. Initial flight tests showed a lower performance than predicted, because the slipstream effects of tandem pairs were not well understood, and the project was abandoned; however, wind-tunnel experiments with tandem airscrews of various diameters and pitches indicated that the front tractor should be of greater diameter and finer pitch than the rear pusher, and this was taken into account in the design of the four-engined Handley Page V/1500; this principle had already been deduced by Horace Short at Eastchurch as early as 1911, but had remained unpublished and was apparently not known at Farnborough. The most significant development was made on 3138 at Martlesham Heath by Babington and Stedman and by September 1917 this machine had been progressively modified to become the prototype of a much-improved model, the O/400. Tested initially with 320 hp Rolls-Royce Eagle IVs, it was next flown with 275 hp Sunbeam Maoris, pending the arrival of up-rated Eagles. On 14 August, 1917, after discussion since January, contract No. AS.22434 had been awarded for one hundred O/400s (C3381-C3480) with either Rolls-Royce Eagles or Sunbeam Maoris and production had begun at Cricklewood, but with definite results from 3138 still awaited from Martlesham, it was cancelled six days later. The first few sets of Cricklewood-built components were then sent to Farnborough so that twelve urgently-needed O/400s could be handbuilt under contract No.AS1198 as C3487-3498, in place of B8802-B8813, while the new Handley Page factory at Somerton Road, Cricklewood, was being finished and tooled-up. Later in 1918 the Royal Aircraft Establishment (as the Factory had by then become) received contract No.35A/88/C.43 for twelve more O/400s, which were given the reinstated serials B8802-B8813, but were built to an advanced modification standard; two of these, B8810 and B8811, were used in October 1918 to test the .improved ‘Raftite’ doping scheme.
The principal differences between the O/400 and O/100 were the substitution of 360 hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines, both rotating the same way, increased structural strength and bomb-load, and a completely revised fuel system. Final approval of the Eagle VIII was held up till December 1917 because Rolls-Royce could not produce the numbers required in both right- and left-handed versions. Then technical agreement was reached quite simply when it was shown that the counter-rotation principle, first expounded by the Wright brothers and slavishly followed by the Technical Design department of the Air Board, was, in fact, the underlying cause of directional instability in the O/100, as well as a severe handicap to increased production and serviceability. The torque effects were quite easily dealt with by offsetting the central fin, which was made adjustable on the ground; this resulted in its being repositioned a few inches farther aft than in the O/100. In the O/400's revised fuel system, the nacelle tanks were deleted and all the fuel was contained in two 130-gallon fuselage tanks and two 15-gallon gravity tanks in the centre-section leading edge. Petrol was pumped up from each main tank to its associated gravity tank by wind-driven pumps located just inside the fuselage, with horizontal rotors having four Pelton cups exposed two at a time through dumb-bell- shaped slots in the fabric panels on each side; an alternative scheme employed a pair of air-turbine wheels mounted horizontally on top of the fuselage, one for each tank, but these were out of the slipstream and stopped working during ground runs. In later production, Vickers or Rotherham air pumps driven by windmills were mounted on brackets in the slipstream. The new nacelles incorporated large-capacity front radiators with horizontal shutters and were short enough for a single large interplane strut to be used between the mainplane rear spar hinges in place of the former tubular framework; this saved both weight and drag, putting up the maximum speed to 95 mph and the ceiling to 13,000 ft.
A new Allied offensive began in Flanders on 31 July, 1917, and Nos.7 and 7A Squadrons, RNAS, had the task of disrupting the supply of enemy munitions and stores from Germany to the Ypres sector, in addition to their continued attacks on aerodromes and submarine pens around Bruges and Ostende. Fourteen O/100s set the pattern on 16 August by dropping more than nine tons of bombs on Thourout railway junction; between 2 and 5 September they followed up with 18 tons on the docks at Bruges, to which the enemy retaliated with a succesion of night raids by Gotha bombers on Kent and London, followed by a sustained assault on Coudekerque, which was under almost continuous attack from 23 September to 2 October. In spite of considerable disruption and hurried dispersal to avoid further damage, the RNAS were able to drop nearly ten tons of bombs on the Thourout-Lichtervelde-Cortemarck railway triangle on 25 September, and on the 29th 3130 of No. 7 Squadron, crewed by Flt Cmdr H. G. Brackley, Sub Lieut Bewsher and A/M Wardrop, flew 250 miles in bright moonlight to plant four 250-lb and eight 65-lb bombs on the important Meuse railway bridge at Namur. On the same night, another O/100, specially armed with five Lewis guns and crewed by a pilot and four gunners, patrolled at 10,000 ft in the path of Gotha bombers returning from a raid on England; during the four hours that this patrol lasted, three Gothas were met and two were engaged; one which passed within 150 ft dived away when attacked and was believed to have landed in Holland. This was probably the earliest use of the tactics so effectively developed 27 years later by 100 (Bomber Support) Group, RAF.
In two preliminary raids on London on 13 June and 7 July, daylight formations of Gotha bombers had caused many civilian casualties in the City and East End, raising a public demand for similar action against Germany, which was intensified when the enemy’s night raids began on 2 September. Although the Admiralty and War Office were opposed to purely retaliatory bombing of civilian targets, the Admiralty had always favoured strategic bombing of the Saar and Ruhr steel industry, centred round Krupps of Essen, as a means of depriving the U-boat fleet of replacements and repairs; the public outcry over the raids on London at last convinced the Air Board of the effectiveness of night bombing and it was agreed that more Handley Page O/400s should be ordered, both to re-equip existing squadrons in Flanders and for a new strategic force, the 41st Wing, RFC, to be based (as the 3rd Wing RNAS had earlier been) in the Vosges region around Nancy, south of the Metz salient. The first heavy bomber unit to be sent there was ‘A’ Squadron RNAS, formed at Manston in September 1917 from the nucleus of four O/100s detached from Coudekerque to Redcar earlier in the year. Under the command of Sqn Cmdr Savory, ‘A’ Sqn. arrived at Ochey on 17 October, 1917, with a complement of twelve O/100s, including such veterans as 1455 (the first prototype rebuilt), 1458, 1459, 1465, 1466, 3120, 3123, 3126 and 3127; this last was still piloted by Fit Cmdr F. K. Digby and had been flown by him with No. 7 Squadron continuously since its first delivery to Coudekerque on 25 May. It remained in Digby’s charge at Ochey, went on to lead a raid on Mannheim on 24/25 January, 1918, and then, in a flight lasting 8^ hours, the first raid since 1914 on Cologne; the latter exceptional feat, on 24/25 March, 1918, earned Digby a DSO; 3127 survived rebuilding, after a later forced landing, to take part in the final attack on Frescaty aerodrome on the night of 10/11 November, 1918. Not all the squadron’s O/100s were so long-lived; of the last four to be issued, 3140 crashed and 3141, flown by Sub Lieut Geoffrey Linnell, was shot down in the squadron’s first raid on Saarbriicken on 25 October, 1917, only a few days after arriving from Manston, while 3139 never arrived at all, having crashed on take-off from Manston on 3 November. Of the original dozen, the first, 1455, was destroyed on the ground at Ochey by enemy action in February 1918 and the last, 1466, returning from a raid on Frankfurt-am-Main on 22 August, 1918, was burnt out after a forced landing one mile short of Ochey, when a landing flare set light to petrol leaking from a shrapnel-punctured tank.
Many requests came from RFC squadrons for Handley Pages to replace their veteran F.E.2bs for night bombing, but the Air Board was still reluctant to order them until Sir William Weir brought up evidence from the 5th Wing RNAS showing a lower casualty rate and higher target accuracy at night than with single-engined D.H.4s by day. ‘Naval A’ was the only twin-engined strategic night-bomber unit to operate on the Vosges sector until the formation of the Independent Force, RAF, in June 1918. It remained at Ochey till March 1918, being renamed No. 16 Squadron RNAS on 8 January and 216 Squadron RAF on 1 April, by which time it had begun to receive some of the first O/400s to enter service. When the Gotha night raids on London and Kent began in September and official policy on night bombing was reversed, one hundred and fifty O/400s (C9636-C9785) were ordered from Cricklewood, together with one hundred (D4561-D4660) from the Metropolitan Wagon Co and fifty (D5401-D5450) from the Birmingham Carriage Co. To these contracts were added, early in the new year, fifty (D8301-D8350) from the British Caudron Co (neighbours of Handley Page Ltd at Cricklewood) and fifty (D9681-D9730) from Clayton & Shuttleworth at Lincoln. The first twenty O/400s did not arrive in service till April 1918, yet by the end of August over two hundred had been issued to the RAF. The expanded production programme to equip new squadrons from the spring of 1918 onwards was more than even the enlarged Cricklewood factory could cope with, and was therefore shared with firms which had already gained some experience as sub-contractors for smaller types of aircraft. A great deal of organisation and planning was necessary to ensure standardisation of methods and materials between all the contractors in view of their differing background and traditions, but agreement was finally reached in a meeting at Cricklewood on 17 January, 1918, at which the Royal Aircraft Factory and Cubitts Ltd (managers of the new National Aircraft Factory No. 1 at Waddon) were also represented. Two further batches of twenty were ordered from the Birmingham Carriage Co (F301-F320) and Handley Page Ltd (F3748-F3767) in May, and on 5 June a first batch of one hundred (F5349-F5448) was ordered from Waddon, which was to be the final assembly line for components supplied by numerous sub-contractors in the furniture and building industries. It was clear that the demand for Eagle VIIIs would greatly exceed available production so provision was made for both the last batch from Cricklewood and those from Waddon to be equipped with American Liberty 12 engines as soon as these became available. In all these later batches the nose gunner’s cockpit reverted to its original low level and permanent maintenance platforms were fitted above the engines to aid daily servicing.
In Flanders, activity became intense in March 1918 as the Germans mounted a counter-offensive against the Ypres salient and the RNAS squadrons with the British Expeditionary Force were kept at full stretch. No.7A had been renumbered No. 14 in December 1917 and No. 16’s place was filled by a new squadron, No. 15, formed in March from both Nos.7 and 14; all three remained based at Coudekerque and No. 15 was trained specifically for night bombing, although during its first few weeks it shared in combined air and naval operations aimed at blocking the entrances to Ostende harbour and the Zeebrugge canal. With the merging of the RNAS and the RFC to form the Royal Air Force on 1 April, 1918, the former naval Wing and Squadron numbers were increased by 60 and 200 respectively, so that the 5th Wing RNAS became the 65th Wing RAF, to which Nos.207, 214 and 215 Squadrons belonged. In their last operation under the White Ensign on 26 March, Nos.7 and 14 Squadrons combined to attack Valenciennes and neighbouring railway targets. On 11 April seven O/100s of Nos.214 and 215 Squadrons were detailed to bomb the Mole and coastal batteries at Zeebrugge, to distract attention from a naval force which attempted to block the harbour entrance; in particular 3129 of 214 Squadron, flown by Captain J. R. Allen, Captain Bewsher and Lieutenant Purvis, was to patrol along the coast in advance of the others, releasing 112-lb bombs at intervals to draw the enemy’s anti-aircraft fire. Unfortunately the latter was too accurate and after 2\ hours on patrol one engine stopped and the aircraft failed by a few hundred yards to reach the coast at Nieuport; Allen was swept out of the cockpit and drowned, but Bewsher and Purvis were rescued by a coastal motor boat from Dunkirk. Meanwhile rain and mist had blanketed the coast and only three of the other six bombers managed to find targets, one of them having to land beyond the Dutch frontier, where its crew were interned; the naval force also was called off because of the weather, but on the night of 22/23 April returned to make the famous St George’s Day raid on Zeebrugge, which bottled up twelve submarines and 23 motor torpedo boats in the canal. On 9 May a second attempt was made to block Ostende harbour by sinking the old cruiser Vindictive across the entrance and seven O/100s from No.214 Squadron co-operated by dropping six 550-lb and eighty smaller bombs on the German shore batteries; once more these attacks were almost frustrated by the sudden arrival of sea-fog and four returning crews failed to locate Coudekerque and had to land elsewhere, but only one aircraft was seriously damaged.
Early in June heavy enemy counter-attacks on British aerodromes were stepped up, Coudekerque being bombed for 3 1/2 hours on 5/6 June and two hangars burnt out, although no aircraft were totally lost. The RAF retaliated on 10 June, when 214 Squadron dropped three 550-lb bombs on the Zeebrugge sea-lock, 34 smaller bombs on the Bruges canal and 20 on Thourout junction. This was a sequel to experimental night raids in O/400s by Captain Cecil Darley and Captain T. A. Batchelor, using a silent gliding approach from 9,000 ft to within 80 ft of the target; the aim was to release simultaneously one bomb close to each lock and a third midway between them, so that the combined under-water blast would burst open the lock gates. For this operation Captain Batchelor had designed a special low- altitude bombsight and had carefully rehearsed its use with the aid of a full- scale model of the target marked out on the ground at Cranwell, where Darley and both crews had attended a special briefing. On the first attempt the two aircraft were spotted during their approach and heavily engaged at 500 ft by anti-aircraft guns, Batchelor and his observer being wounded and barely able to return to a safe landing at Coudekerque. Darley and his crew escaped personal damage, and on 28 May in C9666 he repeated the silent attack successfully with three 520-lb light case bombs from 200 ft, a subsequent photograph showing one of the gates being changed. Though successful in principle, such attacks could only close the canal for a few days and 10 June was the last raid until more effective ‘SN’ bombs of 1,650- lb became available; the first of these was dropped on a target at Middelkerke by C9643 flown by Sergt Dell of 214 Squadron on the night of 24/25 July, 1918. By this time No. 215 Squadron had been re-equipped with O/400s and transferred to the Independent Force, after a brief rest and retraining sojourn at Netheravon, so Nos.207 and 214 remained the only O/400 squadrons attached to the British Expeditionary Force until September, when they were joined by No. 58 on its conversion from F.E.2bs, its first O/400 being received in August.
In the south No. 216 was joined in August by Nos.97 and 115 as well as No.215, all newly equipped with O/400s and located around Nancy. No.97 was to have had special training at Netheravon in new wireless techniques, including direction-finding, but finally went to France as a normal bombing squadron; like No.215, it was based at Xaffevillers, with No.115 nearby at Roville-aux-Chenes. For the more distant targets O/400s flew singly or in pairs, notable raids being made by two aircraft of No.216 on Cologne on 21/22 August and by two of No. 215 on the Badisch Anilin und Soda Fabrik at Mannheim on 25/26 August, when direct hits were scored from only 200 ft. Also at Xaffevillers, No. 100 Squadron converted from F.E.2bs to O/400s, receiving C9697 on 13 August; with No.216, this unit came temporarily under French Army orders during September, when they moved from Ochey to Autreville and Villesneux to support the French and American counter-offensive against the German threat to Paris, being particularly valuable to the Americans in the battle for St Mihiel; after this detachment they resumed strategic bombing from Xaffevillers, where the five squadrons formed the 83rd Wing of the VIII Brigade, Independent Force, RAF, and were the true precursors of Bomber Command. By September production of new O/400s was more than keeping pace with demand and only two further contracts were awarded, No.AS.34499 for fifty (J2242-J2291) to the Birmingham Carriage Co and No.AS.35429 for seventy-five (J3542-J3616) to the Metropolitan Wagon Co, both of which firms drew their labour force from the same district and delivered their products to the same Acceptance Park at Castle Bromwich. Unfortunately not all contractors were equally efficient or happy in their labour relations, a state of affairs reflected by the fact that when the Armistice came on 11 November, 1918, the Birmingham Carriage Co had completed and delivered thirty-four of their final batch, while Metropolitan Wagon had not begun theirs. In September, October and the first ten days of November, in face of very adverse weather and well-defended targets, the five Handley Page squadrons of the 83rd Wing dropped 350 tons of bombs, including eleven 1,650-pounders, on key installations in the Saar and Ruhr basins, as far afield as Essen and Cologne, yet the number of O/400s airborne on any one night was never more than forty. In September, the average weight of bombs dropped by each of the five squadrons was 26 tons, compared with 9\ tons by the single-engined D.H.4 and D.H.9 squadrons of the Independent Force; the greatest individual weight dropped in the same month was 37 1/2 tons by the pioneer No.216 Squadron.
Handley Page operations were by no means confined to the Expeditionary and Independent Forces, and in the summer of 1918 a single O/400, C9681, following the Mediterranean trail blazed by Savory the previous year, was flown from Cranwell to Egypt in five days. This machine had been delivered new to Martlesham Heath and later detached to Cranwell for experiments by Captain Batchelor leading up to his and Darley’s low-level attacks on the Zeebrugge lock gates; it retained the special low-altitude bombsight developed by Batchelor, now to be put to good use on another front. During 1917 the force sent earlier to Egypt to protect the Suez Canal had advanced into Palestine against the occupying Turkish armies; with meagre but vigorous air support, General Allenby, after significant victories at Beersheba and Gaza, had recaptured Jerusalem just before Christmas. His advance towards Damascus was opposed in the Jordan valley by three Turkish divisions, well supported by German aircraft based at Jenin and Deraa, and No. 1 Squadron, Australian Flying Corps, had moved to Ramleh to restore the balance. Meanwhile T. E. Lawrence, the enigmatic egyptologist newly-gazetted as Colonel, was busy behind the Turkish lines organising Bedouin irregulars led by Sherif Feisal of Hedjaz, particularly in wrecking the railway which carried supplies from Damascus to Amman. Lawrence needed rapid communications between Feisal and Allenby, so he requested, and received, two of No.1 Squadron’s newly acquired Bristol Fighters; at the same time he suggested that one or more heavy bombers were urgently needed. So on 28 May, 1918, Brig-Gen A. E. Borton flew C9681 from Cranwell to Manston, where he picked up Major A. S. C. MacLaren, and continued by Savory’s route to Otranto, thence by Suda Bay and Solium to Heliopolis, finally arriving at the RAF base at Kantara on the Suez Canal on 8 August. After being serviced, C9681 was flown to Ramleh on loan to No.1 Squadron AFC, arriving there on 29 August. Piloted by Captain Ross Smith, it was promptly put to logistic use to carry one-ton loads of petrol, oil, spares and ammunition to Azrak, Lawrence’s special flight base, where its arrival profoundly improved Arab morale impaired by recent enemy bombing; like wildfire the news spread that ‘Allah has sent us THE aeroplane of which these others are foals’ and C9681’s mere presence was enough to unite the many independent Bedouin clans into a dedicated and invincible army. An early blow in the Battle of Nablus was struck by Ross Smith when C9681, with sixteen 112-lb bombs, took off an hour after midnight on 19 September, 1918, to score direct hits on the Turkish headquarters and central telephone exchange at El Afule, thus preventing the whole of the Turkish Seventh and Eighth Armies in the Plain of Sharon from getting wind of Allenby’s movements for two vital days. Ross Smith returned that evening, and again early next day, to knock out the railway and aerodrome at Jenin. On the 21st the nine-mile column of the Seventh and Eighth Armies retreating towards the Jordan was trapped in the narrow defile of Wadi el Far’a and slaughtered by three squadrons of fighters from Ramleh; the O/400 took no direct part in this daylight action, but finally obliterated the enemy’s remaining aerodrome at Deraa with a ton of bombs on the evening of the 23rd; meanwhile it had been airlifting more fuel and supplies from Ramleh, thus greatly speeding Allenby’s advance to Damascus, where Feisal’s columns entered in triumph on 1 October. For a few days C9681 remained at Haifa, thereafter flying back to Ramleh and thence to Kantara, whither Borton had meanwhile ferried from England the second O/400, C9700, to be sent to Egypt.
During these same last days, the Germans had begun a fast retreat in Flanders and on 18 October Brackley flew No.214 Squadron’s C9696 from St Inglevert to St Pol where he had the privilege of taking up King Albert and Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians to witness from the air the Allied reoccupation of Ostende, Ghent and Ghistelles, although on that day Bruges was still held by the enemy. On the 24th, No.214 Squadron flew in formation from St Inglevert to Quilen and thence on the 30th to Camphin in readiness to join with No. 58 at Provin and No.207 at Figescourt and Estrees-en-Chaussee in the final assault on Germany. Both these squadrons had effectively used 1,650-lb ‘SN’ bombs against railway targets at Valenciennes and Namur in September and October, No. 207 alone dropping seventeen of them - more than the whole Independent Force in its nightly attacks on the Saar, Ruhr and Rhineland industries, where target priority was given to railways first and blast furnaces second. Austria signed an Armistice on 3 November, when O/400 squadrons prepared to move to eastern bases near Prague, within 200 miles of Berlin, but the total end of the war eight days later saved the German capital from actual assault. On the final night, 10/11 November, all eight O/400 squadrons, in appalling weather, sent out a total of twenty-six aircraft, railway targets being taken by five from No.58 and seven from No.214 at Louvain, and six from No.214 at Namur; Nos.97, 100, 115, 215 and 216 dispatched single machines against aerodromes at Morhange, Metz-Sablon, Lellinghen and Frescaty; No.216’s representative at the last target was the O/100 veteran 3127 with 400 operational flying hours on its log, rebuilt after a forced landing and 'as good as new’.
In the last weeks of the war, new developments in night flying were impending; all national markings had been revised to exclude white circles or stripes for some months past, although the P.C.10 khaki-drab all-over colour scheme remained standard, relieved only by bright white vertical lines, considered invisible at a few hundred yards, which reinforced the standard arrows indicating the lifting and trestling points on the fuselage. In an attempt to find an 'invisible’ colour scheme trials had been made at Orfordness with a ‘dappled’ O/100 (3126) as a result of which a dull green colour showing minimum reflection in searchlight beams was evolved as the well-known Nivo finish; this was adopted as standard in June 1918 for Home Defence night fighters, but was not available for bombers until October, so few of the O/400s on active service in France carried this scheme; it was to be seen, however, on the long-range training aircraft of No.1 School of Navigation and Bomb-dropping at Stonehenge and Andover. About this time the High Altitude Drift Sight Mk IA was superseded by the Wimperis Course Setting Bombsight, incorporating a compass, which was to remain standard, with minor improvements, for another twenty years. The CSBS was originally mounted on the nose in the same position as the HA IA, but for the worst weather No.214 Squadron, and later the others, preferred a new position below the navigator’s seat, adjacent to the permanently-fitted negative-lens drift sight, since the front cockpit was rarely manned at night. Some O/400s had two, three or four spotlights tilted downwards and a variation of this for very precise low- level attacks was to have the beams set to intersect at the required height, thus anticipating the method employed 25 years later by No.617 Squadron’s ‘Dam-Busters’. It was intended to fly secret service agents and saboteurs on to German aerodromes in Alsace-Lorraine, using either Calthrop ‘Guardian Angel’ parachutes, or ladders in a quick ‘touch-and-go’ landing; the first operation was planned for the December full moon, but by then the war was over. In April 1918, when many pilots recuperating from front-line operations were employed in ferrying new aeroplanes to France, No. 1 (Southern) Aircraft Repair Depot at Farnborough had fitted out an O/400 with sixteen inward-facing bench seats in place of the internal bomb-racks, with flat rectangular fuel tanks below the seats, for use on a proposed return ferry service between Marquise and Lympne. In an alternative Handley Page ‘ferry-bus’ scheme at Cricklewood, sixteen B.E.2c-type semicircular wicker seats were strapped to the floor in two circles, so that passengers sat with their feet together as in an Army bell- tent, and could then play pontoon. An auxiliary petrol tank had already been adopted for long-range flying, to fit on top of the fuselage, and it was practicable to use this alone in place of the normal internal tanks for short cross-Channel flights, thus making more room inside for passengers. The Farnborough scheme was used by the Parachute Experimental Unit under Major Orde Lees, but the return ferry service never materialised and eventually the aircraft was reconverted to its bomber role. The Cricklewood ‘ferry-bus’ scheme, however, was applied from August 1918 onwards to several newly-built O/400s used for officially-sponsored flights by foreign and Empire press correspondents at Hendon. Only one O/400 squadron, No.207, was allocated to the Army of Occupation after the Armistice, and this unit flew from Carvin to Merheim on New Year’s Day 1919, moving on to Hangelar in May until its return to England in August. Nos.97, 115 and 215 returned to Ford, Sussex, in February and March 1919, while No. 100 was posted to Baldonnel, Ireland, in September 1919, becoming a Bristol Fighter squadron in January 1920; the remaining three waited in France for orders to proceed to Egypt.
Meanwhile, on 13 December, the 86th (Communication) Wing had been formed at Hendon to provide quick transport between London and Paris for Cabinet Ministers and other officials engaged in negotiating the Peace Treaty at Versailles; it had eight O/400s on its strength, of which two (or possibly three) were specially converted for VIP passengers and finished all over in aluminium dope, with small roundels instead of stripes on the rudders. These were designated ‘H.M. Airliners’ - the first official recognition of this term - D8326 being named Silver Star and another Great Britain; a third is said to have been named Silver Queen, but in the absence of photographic evidence this is unconfirmed, as this was then a popular nickname for any large aeroplane (or airship) of that colour, and was given to both the Vickers Vimys which shared the first Cairo-Cape flight. Silver Star had a cabin for six passengers round a circular table and was upholstered with chintz-covered 100se cushions; it had a large square window, with curtains, in each side. Great Britain was less luxurious, with eight side-facing leather-covered seats along the port side and four small square windows on each side. The arrangement in Silver Queen is not known, although the remainder of the eight aircraft also had side-facing bench seats, but retained their Nivo colour scheme. The 86th (Communication) Wing moved from Hendon in May 1919 and then comprised No.l (Communication) Squadron at Kenley and No.2 (Communication) Squadron at Buc, near Paris, only the former having O/400s; traffic diminished after signature of the Peace T reaty and the Wing was disbanded in October. Additionally No.214 Squadron was employed in the early months of 1919 to carry military mails between Cologne and the Armistice Commission at Spa. The first airmail flight was made by Major Brackley on New Year’s Day 1919 from Camphin, via Carvin, Lens, Arras, St Pol and Hesdin, to Ligescourt, but from 5 January the O/400s were only used nonstop between Marquise and Cologne, with D.H.9s taking the shorter stages.
The second O/400 flown from England to Egypt by Brig Gen Borton, C9700, had meanwhile pioneered the airway from Egypt to India, leaving Heliopolis on 30 November and flying via Damascus, Baghdad, Bushire, Bandar Abbas, Charbar, Karachi and Nasirabad to reach Delhi on 12 December. The credit for this flight has been wrongly attributed to the battle-scarred C9681, but in fact C9700 was the only O/400 to fly all the way from England to India. It wore roundels on its rudders instead of stripes, indicating that it was carrying Major-Gen W. G. H. Salmond, GOC RAF, Middle East, to survey the airmail route to India. The crew consisted of Ross Smith as co-pilot with Borton, and Sergts J. M. Bennett and W. H. Shiers of the Australian Flying Corps. The flight to Delhi was completed almost without incident, thanks to good advance planning of supplies of petrol, oil and spares at landing grounds en route; the only repair needed was to minor damage to the undercarriage after a heavy landing at Bandar Abbas, and Bennett and Shiers took this in their stride. On 16 December C9700 was flown on to Allahabad, and next morning to Calcutta, where the starboard wing-tip sustained slight damage from a tree while taxying in after landing on the maidan. In February Borton and Ross Smith continued their route survey to Burma by sea, while C9700 was flown to Ambala and Lahore for patrol duties along the North West Frontier, where in March Afghan rebels were threatening trouble; but soon after arriving at Lahore it was destroyed on the ground by a sudden storm.
Preparations were being made at home to develop an Empire-wide airmail and transport service as soon as international air-traffic regulations could be agreed, and the RAF made valuable contributions towards improved safety, particularly in night flying, until Treasury intervention curtailed expenditure on these activities. No. 1 (Communication) Squadron at Kenley, in its daily London-Paris service, was gaining operational experience of scheduled night flying, maintaining radio contact throughout, and No.1 School of Navigation and Bomb-dropping at Andover began a series of training flights round the British Isles. In one of the first of these, two O/400s, piloted by Captains Stewart and Snook, left Andover on 19 April at 2.20 a.m. each with a crew of seven; flying along the coast from Brighton to the Wash via Dover, Great Yarmouth and Hunstanton, they reached their first refuelling stop at Waddington by 9 a.m. Taking off again at 12.30 p.m. they continued via Cleethorpes, Whitby, Sunderland and Berwick-upon-Tweed to arrive for the night at Turnhouse by 7 p.m. Next day they left at 11.30 a.m. and flew via Dundee, Aberdeen, Longside (Fraserburgh), Inverness and the Great Glen to their second night-stop at Aldergrove, arriving at 7.30 p.m. Resuming on the third day via Dublin, Anglesey, Aberystwyth and Cardigan to their third night-stop at Tenby, they took off at 4 a.m. on 22 April to fly home via Ilfracombe, Bodmin, Plymouth, Torquay and Portsmouth to a landing at Andover at 10 a.m. Regrettably, another O/400 (F3758), starting a similar flight, had crashed in flames at Weyhill on take-off at 2 a.m. that same morning, killing the pilots Major Batchelor and Captain Adkins and three of their crew, two survivors being injured. Major Batchelor’s death was a severe loss to the peacetime RAF, as his contribution to navigational training was very great; his part in developing low-level bombing at Cranwell has already been mentioned and probably his most important invention was the Batchelor Mirror for training bomb-aimers. Another notable flight, this time by a double crew in a single O/400 (F3750, which at the time bore the legend LAST DAYS on its sides) was made by Major K. R. Park and Captain Stewart (pilots). Major B. E. Smythies and Lieutenant Wilson (navigators), with a crew of two wireless operators and three engine fitters, at the end of April. They followed the established coastwise route to Waddington and intended to make Longside for the night, but rain and low cloud over the Cheviots forced them to put down at Turnhouse. Next day they resumed their planned course via Aberdeen, Longside, Inverness and the Great Glen to the Mull of Kintyre, but found Aldergrove completely fog-bound. Arriving over Belfast at 7 p.m. with petrol running low, Major Park brought off a masterly cross-wind landing on Harland & Wolff’s wharf at Queen’s Island in a space only 400 yds long by 50 yds wide. Next day, to lighten the machine as much as possible, Park took off solo, having sent the rest of the crew by road to Aldergrove, where he landed to pick them up; the flight was then continued via Dublin, Pembroke (night-stop), Bodmin, Plymouth and Bournemouth to land at Andover at 9.30 a.m. on the fourth day; this flight covered 1,600 miles in 30 hours, averaging 66 mph and 450 miles per day. Just previously another O/400 from Andover had flown nonstop to Baldonnel in 6 1/2 hours, by dead reckoning entirely in darkness.
Such experience was urgently needed when the Allied Armistice Commission awarded the mandate for the administration of Palestine to Britain; this revived an age-long dispute incapable of just solution, for the Arabs had been encouraged to win their freedom from the Ottoman Empire by Winston Churchill’s promise, via Lawrence, that they would be given land in the Jordan valley; but the same territory had also been assigned by Arthur Balfour to the Zionist Jews of Europe, who were determined to build a new State of Israel in the Promised Land. Fifty years later this conflict was to become even more acute, but in 1919 the first essential was to enforce the mandate and secure peace by military occupation, in both Palestine and the other ex-Ottoman territory of Mesopotamia. In March 1919, No.58 Squadron was ordered to move to Egypt, and for the first time, in view of the difficulty and cost of packing O/400s for transit as deck cargo, it was decided that the squadron should fly out in formation, using the route already pioneered by Savory and Borton. So ten O/400s of 58 Squadron left their Belgian base at Provin on 3 May and flew to Paris, thence via Lyons, Marseilles, Pisa, Centocelle, Foggia, Taranto, Valona, Suda Bay, Solium and Amria to Heliopolis, where they arrived on 2 July after many vicissitudes and several casualties. Meanwhile Nos.214 and 216 had received similar orders; No.214 left Camphin on 1 July and seven of its ten aircraft (including C9666 flown by Second Lieutenant C. A. Hall) had arrived at Abu Sueir by 2 August; No.216 left Marquise on 10 July in three flights, the first of which crashed en route; the remainder struggled through to Kantara by mid-October. All three squadrons became part of the Middle East Training Brigade, but only at the cost of eleven pilots killed, including Captain Cecil Darley, another veteran of the silent raids on Zeebrugge. Accusations in Parliament by Sir William Joynson-Hicks of inefficient maintenance, and a complaint that thirty-two O/400s had been picketed out at Hendon unprotected from heavy rain in March, brought a rejoinder from his old adversary, General Seely, that these were not the aeroplanes involved and that in any case they had all been repaired at an average cost of ?52 each.
Coincidentally with the departure of 58 Squadron from Provin, Col T. E. Lawrence, who had been in attendance at Versailles, decided to return urgently to Egypt and, as was his way, ‘thumbed a lift’ with Lieutenants Prince and Spratt in D5439 of ‘B’ Flight when they called at Marquise to join formation with other O/400s flying from Hendon. The aerodromes along the Mediterranean coast were in a bad state of repair and the O/400 nearly overturned in landing at Pisa, but damage was averted; next day, 17 May, the flight proceeded, but D5439 arrived very late at Centocelle and crashed while attempting to land in the dusk. Prince was killed outright, Spratt died on arrival in hospital, and A/M Tomlin died later; the fourth crew member was less badly injured and Lawrence broke a collar-bone and several ribs. He was visited in hospital by King Victor Emmanuel, who arranged for adequate treatment and comfort, and Lieutenant Carl Dixon, the American pilot of C9745 of ‘B’ Flight, remained to attend the inquest and funeral. Although far from fit to travel, Lawrence insisted on flying on with Dixon when he resumed his journey; they reached Taranto and Valona safely, but came to grief at Suda Bay, and Lawrence was stranded once more, this time for a month. Then the Canadian crew of F318 of the 86th (Communication) Wing at Kenley was ordered to take another Middle East expert, Harry St. John Philby, very urgently to Cairo. Leaving Lympne on 21 June, Lieutenants Yates and Vance, with mechanics Stedman and Hand, set out to deliver their very important passenger to Cairo in record time. Refuelling at Lyons, they landed for the night at Marseilles and punctured two tyres taxying out to take off at dawn next day. In spite of this delay, they reached Pisa for the night and flew on to Centocelle and Taranto on the 23rd. On take-off next morning the starboard fuel pump failed, so that none of the petrol in the aft tank was available; there was not enough in the forward tank alone to reach Suda Bay, so they diverted to Athens, which was an hour nearer, but south of the Gulf of Corinth their fuel gave out and Yates pulled off a very marginal landing on a rocky plateau, puncturing one tyre and breaking the tailskid. They had no jack, but local villagers lifted the tail while the skid was repaired, and Yates then taxied the aircraft to a position where the punctured tyre overhung a pot-hole and could be removed for repair; then they transferred 3 hours’ fuel from the aft tank to the forward one, took off in the bare 50 yards available and reached Athens with Stedman and Hand manning the handpumps. Next morning both engines cut on take-off because of water in the carburettors and all the petrol had to be drained and strained through chamois leather - delaying them another ten hours. At last on the 25th they got airborne, using the handpumps all the time, but halfway to Crete a blade cracked on the port airscrew and its engine had to be throttled back to reduce vibration; they arrived at Suda Bay with only 600 ft in hand. There Lawrence helped them to take an airscrew from C9745 and, in return, Philby invited him to join his party. Because of the extra weight and high ambient temperature they made two abortive attempts to take off on the 26th and then incurred four hours’ delay from water in the carburettors; when at last they were airborne, they could not climb high enough to clear the mountains of Crete, so Yates flew round to the south of the island and set a course for Solium, which they reached in 4 hours by dead reckoning, to Lawrence’s great delight. By this time the external control cables were frayed and the fabric was worn through in patches, but they decided to risk flying 6 hours across 500 miles of desert direct to Heliopolis, arriving 1 1/2 hours after sunset and taking another 40 minutes to find the aerodrome; F318’s flying time of 36 hours in a total elapsed time of five days was a new record, the previous best being Borton and MacLaren’s in C9681. A month later another O/400 of the same batch, F304, had to ditch off Spezia and its pilot, Lieutenant Collinge, was drowned, although his navigator and two sergeants were rescued. Other casualties along the route in July were C9714 and D4591, which crashed in Italy, and C9743, destroyed by a gale at St Raphael. Such were the conditions faced by fifty-one crews of these three squadrons on the first long overseas movement by the Royal Air Force; small wonder that only twenty-six arrived, leaving a trail of fifteen wrecked and ten abandoned O/400s along the Mediterranean shores.
In the later months of 1919 No.58 Squadron began to replace its O/400s with Vickers Vimys, but two notable long-distance flights were achieved in September, one to Baghdad via Damascus using radio, and the other to Khartoum; the latter may have been an unannounced attempt to fly to the Cape in stages, but the O/400 was still at Khartoum in February 1920 and was offered to (and declined by) Brackley and Tymms as a replacement for G-EAMC; it was in a run-down state and in an ill-advised attempt to fly back to Heliopolis, it crashed at Abu Hamed on 4 April killing all its crew (Flying Officers Barclay and Sibley, Sergt Wadey and AM2 Meldrum). No.58 Squadron’s last five Handley Pages remained with the unit after it had been renumbered 70 Squadron on 1 February, 1920, and in June 1920 one O/400 was employed on a twice-weekly desert reconnaissance in liaison with the Camel Corps, who were trying to check Bedouin gun-running; as a further experiment, in September, one of No.70 Squadron’s O/400s successfully air-lifted a mountain gun weighing half a ton and demonstrated this operation to the AOC, Sir Geoffrey Salmond, at Almaza. At least four O/400s remained on the strength of 70 Squadron during 1921 and took part in an air display at Heliopolis on 3 March; two of these were later lent to Wing Cmdr P. F. M. Fellowes to supply fuel and rations to the motor convoy which first ploughed the furrow marking the desert airmail route to Baghdad; one of them was wrecked at Ramleh at the end of May and the other was scrapped later in the year. Meanwhile 214 Squadron had been disbanded at Abu Sueir in February 1920 and in October 1921 the O/400s of 216 Squadron were replaced by D.H.lOs; among the last in service was C9666, formerly bearer of the battle honour Zeebrugge.
At home O/400s still flew on liaison duties, notably to Baldonnel in Ireland, and on 17 December, 1920, J2259 ditched in the Irish Sea off Holyhead, the crew of five all being rescued by the Elder Dempster cargo ship Ijakaty. Another had come to grief on 11 January, 1920, while pegged down for the night at Werrington, near Peterborough, when a gale had uprooted it and blown it across the Great Northern Railway mainline; the southbound Flying Scotsman was held up by it for 80 minutes and the wings were sawn off to save time in clearing the track. No fewer than fourteen O/400s were equipped for trials with the Aveline auto-stabiliser, a French device which in reasonably smooth air could hold an aeroplane on a steady course for up to two hours without intervention by the pilot, but could not cope with repeated gusts. In the RAF Tournament at Hendon in July 1920 and again at the Pageant there a year later, an O/400 flown by Fit Lieut Cecil Rea from Martlesham Heath demonstrated various pyrotechnic devices, including smoke and incendiary bombs developed at the Isle of Grain by Sqn Ldr J. K. Wells. Although the ‘Geddes Axe’ interim report stated that O/400s were no longer on RAF charge in October 1921, a few had, in fact, been retained for miscellaneous and experimental duties after being superseded in squadron service by Vickers Vimys and D.H.10s. In July 1922 two O/400s were detailed to drop eight 9-lb practice bombs each in simulated attacks on the old battleship Agamemnon while steaming at 10 knots under radio control off the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth; one had to return to Leuchars, but the other scored two direct hits and six near misses from 8,000 ft, arousing much animosity in the Royal Navy, who resented the RAF’s control of naval flying before the independent Fleet Air Arm was formed. One or two O/400s had survived as the equipment of Lt-Col L. F. Blandy’s Wireless Testing Park at Biggin Hill, and one of them may have been J2260 which paid several visits to Croydon in 1922 for night landing practice without ground aids; the first was on 2 March for preliminary tests, then on 5 April it flew with eight technicians (one of whom was P. P. Eckersley, later the BBC’s first chief engineer) to test lighting and wireless facilities at Lympne and St Inglevert; these tests culminated in a demonstration to Sir Sefton Brancker, the new Director of Civil Aviation, of night flying between Croydon and Le Bourget on 1 June. J2260 was equipped with Holt landing flares, improved navigation and identification lights and the latest Marconi radio telephone and direction-finding aids. A Martlesham O/400 reappeared twelve months later to make a farewell appearance as dispenser of coloured smoke in the final item of the RAF Pageant at Hendon on 30 June, 1923, but the last two O/400s were in use at Farnborough as late as 1 August, 1923, when Flying Officer Junor crashed one while testing a gyro-stabilised rudder control system; at that date C9773 was still in commission, after completing slipstream exploration trials in the hands of Flying Officer Howard Saint, who later became test pilot to the Gloster Aircraft Company.
So far only British production has been considered, but the O/400 was one of the only two European multi-engined bombers selected for mass production in America after the United States joined the Allies in April 1917, the other being the Caproni Ca.46. In June Colonel Raynal C. Bolling arrived in Europe with a commission to select suitable types of aircraft and in August a set of O/400 drawings was sent to McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, where the US Signals Corps Engineering Division designed a modification scheme to substitute the new Liberty 12 engine for the Rolls- Royce Eagle. Like the D.H.4 and D.H. 10, the O/400 was strong enough to accept this engine change with advantage, although some other selected types, including the Bristol Fighter and S.E.5a, were too light. In January 1918 a sample airframe was shipped to McCook Field; this was in fact B9449, an ‘intermediate’ O/100 in which most parts were the same as in O/400, those which were different being painted red. The change of engine delayed production to the extent that, of the first batch of five hundred O/400s ordered from the Standard Aircraft Corporation of Elizabeth, New Jersey, only 100 sets of components (each 85 per cent complete) were ready to be shipped to Liverpool before Armistice Day; of these, 70 sets were dispatched in five ships, but only ten sets reached their destination; the second batch of 1,000, ordered in August 1918 for the equipment of 30 US squadrons in Europe, was cancelled before any work began on it. In November 1917 a conference at Springfield, Mass, had considered the possibility of flying Standard-built O/400s across the Atlantic to Aldergrove, and Handley Page was very keen to have this done, but the project was later given up. The first O/400 (almost certainly B9449 reworked) to emerge from the Standard Corporation’s new factory at Bayway, NJ, was tested first by Colonel the Master of Sempill and Captain E. B. Waller and ceremonially launched with a bottle of champagne on 6 July by Mrs Mingle, wife of Standard’s president; immediately afterwards it was again taken up by Colonel Sempill, accompanied by Captain E. L. Austin and General L. Kenly, in the presence of Major Gen. Brancker, Sir Henry Fowler, W. A. Chamberlain of Handley Page Ltd and W. H. Workman, who was Handley Page’s agent in America. Because of the existing indigenous cotton crop and the scarcity of flax, a specially developed scoured cotton fabric (similar to madapalam) was used instead of Irish linen, and this required cellulose acetate dope, which was in short supply, instead of the more plentiful nitrate dope; for the first few flights the dope scheme was unpigmented and finished with clear varnish; the name Langley was painted on each flank and also across the nose, together with crossed Union Jack and Old Glory. The nose cockpit was of the high (Davis gun) pattern, with a Scarff ring mounting a yoked pair of Marlin 0-300 calibre machine-guns. After handing over in August for flight trials, the Langley was repainted all over in olive-drab, with red-blue roundels and full red, white and blue rudder stripes, but retained its nose and flank decorations. During the next twelve months a Bayway-built O/400 was assessed against a new Glenn Martin G.M.B. prototype, and the first of two Caproni Ca.46s also built by Standard. All three were destroyed at Hazelhurst Field, Long Island, on 28 July, 1919, when the base was struck by a hurricane, the Langley itself was stored at Wilbur Wright Field, Dayton, in November 1919; it never had a serial number.
Apart from the ten sets of components actually shipped to Liverpool, to be completed at Gorse Mill, Hollinwood and Lilac Mill, Shaw, and shipped back to New York after the Armistice, only three more O/400s were assembled in 1919 for Service trials by the US Air Service; at least one of these retained the raised nose cockpit, but twenty others with the later low gun-rings were held in store; one O/400 stationed at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, was numbered 32 and had a Gallopin’ Goose emblem painted on the nose. In 1920 seven of those in store, serials 62445-62451 were recommissioned at Langley Field, Hampton, Virginia, for trials with experimental 2,000-lb armour-piercing bombs, made at McCook Field to the order of General William Mitchell. On 21 July, 1921, after the US Navy’s F5-L flying-boats had failed to make any impression with 520- pounders on the 3-inch deck armour and 12-inch belt armour of the former German battleship Ostfriesland, while anchored in Chesapeake Bay, the US Army sent in six Martin MB-5s and a single O/400 (probably 62448), each with a 2,000-pounder 11 ft 6 in long and 18 1/2 inches in diameter, packed with 1,000 lb of TNT. Flying 98 miles from Langley Field to the target ship, they attacked in line astern with the Handley Page last; all six of the Martins’ bombs scored direct hits and the seventh, from the O/400, finished the job as the ship began to sink. In September 1921 an even more powerful 4,000 lb bomb was successfully dropped by 62448 at the Aberdeen, Maryland, proving range. Such demonstrations of the vulnerability to air attack of heavily armoured but unescorted battleships made ‘Billy’ Mitchell a marked man in US Navy circles and the vendetta leading to his court-martial and dismissal, followed too late by posthumous recognition, is a matter of history.
In the confusion following the Armistice it was inevitable that application of the break clause to cancel contracts not already started by that date, superimposed on the breakdown in labour relations which had occurred earlier in several of the Waring group of factories, should have left some of the production records incomplete. The best attempt at elucidation was made by the Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors in 1920, when Handley Page’s claim to compensation in respect of Crown user of the O and V types was investigated. In the pleadings it is recorded that a total of 840 O-type aircraft was ordered, of which 600 were manufactured and paid for by the Ministry of Munitions and 476 were delivered to Service units and stores depots. These totals include forty O/100s, six intermediate O/100-400s (i.e. B9446-B9451) and 281 O/400s manufactured by Handley Page Ltd; and 273 O/400s by other contractors. Taking into account the known cancellations under the break clause, it is evident that Handley Page Ltd received payment for 120 more O/400s than were originally ordered from them. It is known that Handley Page Ltd erected the British Caudron batch of fifty and that Cubitts’ National Aircraft Factory No. 1 at Waddon was closed down on 31 December, 1918, without having delivered any O/400s, but that seventy of the Cubitts batch were in fact completed, being assembled at Cricklewood from components manufactured by Cubitts’ sub-contractors; it is a reasonable assumption that Handley Page Ltd were credited with the manufacture of these seventy in the final reckoning; only the first, F5349, had Liberty engines, which were installed at Ford Junction, Sussex, in October 1918 by American personnel, who also erected the aircraft. This appears to have been the only British-built Liberty-engined O/400, and was test-flown at Cricklewood early in 1919. The British totals stated do not include the total of American production, which was officially recorded as 107 delivered and 1,393 cancelled.
By comparison with the D.H. 10 and Vickers Vimy, which superseded it in post-war RAF service, the O/400 was outdated and outpaced, but should not be too harshly judged. In 1914, the O/100 was a bold embodiment of the most advanced state of the art of its day; after early troubles had been overcome, it succeeded far beyond its creators’ hopes and its critics’ fears, but most of its success was due to progressive improvements in its Rolls-Royce engines. Without the constraint and compulsion of standardised wartime production schedules, there might well have been a case for developing and refining the airframe to gain more speed, increased bomb load, higher ceiling and longer range, to say nothing of an assured single-engine capability. There were schemes to reduce drag by simplifying the landing gear and tail arrangement and it is believed that the single O/400 manufactured by Harland & Wolff, J1934, was a prototype in which the longerons were McGruer tubular spars, as in the V/1500. A relatively small change in wing section from RAF 6 to RAF 15 would have enhanced the O/400’s overall performance in 1917, and it might then have competed with the D.FI.10 and Vimy; it accepted Liberty 12 engines without structural change and a successful civil conversion of D5444 to Napier Lions (as G-EASO) in 1920 showed how its post-war service, both military and commercial, could have been prolonged.
Handley Page and Volkert may have considered this possibility, but were wiser than to risk new wine in old bottles; instead, they developed the W series, combining the experience and best features of both O and V. So the O/400 remained virtually unchanged in the changing environment it had done much to create, and not till Fairey Hendon monoplanes arrived in 1936 did the RAF again have land-based bombers of 100 ft span in squadron service.
O/400 (Two Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII or two Sunbeam Maori or two Liberty 12-N)
Span 100 ft (30-5 m); length 62 ft 10 in (19-2 m); wing area 1,648 sq ft (153 m2). Empty weight 8,200 lb (3,720 kg); maximum weight 14,000 lb (6,350 kg). Speed 97 mph (156 km/h); ceiling 8,500 ft (2,625 m); endurance 8 hr. Crew four.
F.Manson British Bomber Since 1914 (Putnam)
Handley Page H.P.12 O/400
The principal difference between the Handley Page O/100 and the O/400 lay in the choice of 360hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines in place of the Eagle II and IV. Final clearance to install Eagle VIIIs was, however, delayed pending finalisation of reports on the fuel system, and because Rolls-Royce was unable to meet delivery schedules with both left- and right-handed versions of the new engine, still assumed to be essential in large twin-engine aircraft to alleviate the control asymmetry caused by engine torque.
The reasons for and process leading to the introduction of the O/400 had evolved throughout much of 1917. It is true that the arrival in service of the O/100 had betokened a marked increase in the strategic striking power of the RNAS, small though the initial effect of this power was seen to be. A total of 46 O/100s had been ordered and, although they had given good service, they were becoming short on performance by the standards of 1917 and their use of left- and right-handed engines had severely complicated maintenance and engine replacement.
A standard O/100 was therefore set aside during the summer of 1917 for the progressive development of an improved version, the period in which German bombers launched their short series of daylight attacks on south-cast England and London, it has already been recounted how this sparked a premature decision, widely misinterpreted, to expand the RFC by the creation of many new light bomber squadrons. In September that year, however, the Germans switched to night raids, a militarily insignificant campaign by seldom more than a score of aircraft, but one that was to focus the Air Board's attention on the matter of increasing the British bombing capabilities against German towns and cities much further behind the Western Front. It was at this time, incidentally, that the first decisions were being taken that led to the development of the Handley Page V/1500 - a much larger bomber than the O/400 and one that was intended to be able to reach and bomb Berlin from the west. And it was in October that Maj-Gen Hugh Trenchard was ordered to begin assembling a dedicated bombing force, and established the 41st Wing with this role in mind. With numbers of O/100s now dwindling (and the majority of these being flow n by the RNAS), there was increasing pressure to introduce the O/400 into production without delay.
The O/100, No 3138, was test flown, first with 320hp Rolls-Royce Eagle IVs and then with 275hp Sunbeam Maoris, and on the strength of preliminary reports of these trials an order for one hundred O/400s was placed with Handley Page. However, as the company's Cricklewood works could not tool up quickly to cope with this production, Handley Page-built components were immediately despatched to Farnborough so that the first twelve urgently needed aircraft could be hand-built at the Royal Aircraft Factory.
It then emerged that the assumed benefit of handed engines was erroneous, and had in fact been the cause of directional instability in the O/100, and that the torque effects of two identical engines and propellers could be overcome by adjusting the incidence angle of the central fin of the O/400. Indeed, the benefit of handed propellers had originally been propounded by the Wright brothers, and blindly perpetuated by the Air Board's Technical Department. The exposure of this fallacy immediately ended Rolls-Royce's difficulties and enabled the delivery schedule of single-type Eagle VIIIs to be met, albeit after some three months' delay had already been occasioned.
The other significant change introduced in the O/400 involved the fuel system. It will be recalled that fuel for the O/100's engines was carried in each engine nacelle; in the O/400 the nacelle tanks were replaced by two 130-gallon tanks located in the fuselage, enabling the nacelles to be significantly shortened. The nacelles also now incorporated large frontal radiators with horizontal shutters.
In the event the first hand-built O/400s from Farnborough were only a few weeks ahead of the Cricklewood aircraft, and it was April 1918 before the first aircraft reached the new Royal Air Force's squadrons. In that month Nos 207 and 215 Squadrons took delivery of their full complements at Netheravon, the former being issued with Farnborough-built O/400s, and the latter with Handley Page aircraft. Almost simultaneously No 216 began receiving its first aircraft at Cramaille in France.
By April 1918, as these squadrons began working up on their new bombers, the 41st Wing had increased in size to become the VIII Brigade. On 6 June the Independent Force officially came into being, and by the end of August comprised four day bombing squadrons, equipped or equipping with D.H.9s and D.H.9As, and four with O/400 night bombers (Nos 97, 115, 215 and 216 Squadrons). Elsewhere in France, Nos 100, 207 and 214 were also flying O/400s, temporarily but separately from the Independent Force.
Although the O/400's airframe was little changed from that of the O/100, and the internal bomb load was the same (despite the presence of the fuel tanks in the fuselage), the new aircraft's greater power and improved specific fuel consumption enabled it to carry heavier bomb loads without fuel penalty. The increased power of the engines and reduced drag of the nacelles with their associated mounting struts brought an increase of 12 per cent in the cruising speed which, with the endurance remaining at about eight hours, resulted in a range increase of some 100 miles with the same bomb load.
Production of the 520 lb light case and 550 lb heavy case bombs had increased five-fold during 1917. When carrying three of these bombs internally in the O/400, it was also possible to load two 112 lb bombs on external racks under the fuselage, and still carry full fuel. Another bomb which had been tested in 1917 was the 1,650 lb SN but, using a heavy cast case, this large weapon was not available until July 1918; an improved version, the 1,800 lb SN(Mod), specially tailored to the O/400 and, like the standard SN, normally carried on Gledhill slips under the fuselage, became available in August 1918.
The remaining naval O/100s continued to serve alongside the new O/400s and flew a number of outstanding raids, particularly against the submarine base at Zeebrugge, both before and after the famous amphibious raid of 22/23 April. On account of much strengthened gun defences, widely introduced as the result of increasing Allied bombing, new tactics were being evolved and, on No 214 Squadron, Capts Cecil Curtis Darley (later Air Cdre, CBE, AM, RAF) and T A Batchelor, using a special low-level bombsight, designed by the latter and tested at Cranwell, evolved a form of surprise attack against such heavily defended targets as lock gates; this involved a steep glide approach to the target from 9,000 feet to 80 feet to release their 520 lb bombs in a carefully sequenced pattern, eventually gaining excellent results, despite heavy antiaircraft fire.
The first 1,650 lb SN bomb was also dropped by No 214 Squadron when on the night of 24/25 July Sgt Dell attacked Middelkerke; the first such bomb dropped by a squadron of the Independent Force was delivered in September, and on the night of 21 / 22 October three SN bombs were dropped on Kaiserslautern.
It is perhaps interesting to note that, in contrast to the manner in which Bomber Command operated at night during the Second World War, the O/400 Squadrons based in France during the last five months o f the Kaiser's War seldom attacked a single target with more than four or five aircraft, even though up to forty aircraft might be attacking targets elsewhere. In this way Trenchard believed that the largest number of targets would be attacked (and the Air Council had compiled a list of over 100 strategic targets to be bombed) but that the greatest disruption would be caused to the German war industry and transportation system with the minimum losses. To these targets were also added enemy bomber bases, and the damage caused among these substantially reduced enemy air support during the last great Allied advance during the final weeks of the War.
It is, moreover, often overlooked, when quoting the well-publicised bombing figures achieved by the Independent Force, which fielded around seventy O/400s during the last three months of the War, that at least forty other O/400s and O/100s were also flying bombing raids by non-attached squadrons.
During those last months, such were the relatively light losses among the O/400s that supply was outstripping wastage, and at any time sufficient spare aircraft were available to create two new squadrons at a moment's notice.
Of course the statistics and economics favouring the use of night bombers were incontestable. To deliver the same load of bombs carried by a single O/400, itself costing ?9,600 and crewed by four men, would require five D.H.9As, together costing ?16,000 and crewed by ten men, while the loss rate from all causes during the last five months of the War was almost four times higher among the single-engine aircraft, capable of carrying nothing heavier than a couple of 230 lb bombs. Such statistics were, not unnaturally, bound to shape the overall bombing philosophy of the Royal Air Force for the next half-century.
The Handley Page O/400 was the outstanding large bomber of the War. It was, however, recognised that its technology was fundamentally over three years old at the time of the Armistice and, within the limits of that technology, was not capable of further significant development, even though there had been trial installations of alternative powerplants, including a pair of American 350hp Liberty 12-N engines; this was followed by 70 sets of components being manufactured by The Standard Aircraft Corporation of New Jersey and shipped before the Armistice to Britain where they were assembled as Liberty-powered O/400s at the National Aircraft Factory, Waddon. The Vickers Vimy, with its ability to lift a 25 per cent greater bomb load at significantly lower production cost, was selected to remain in production to meet the needs of the peacetime RAF at home and overseas, while production of the O/400 was allowed to run out in 1919, the last remaining aircraft serving with No 216 Squadron in Egypt in October 1921.
Type: Twin-engine, four/five crew, three-bay biplane heavy bomber.
Manufacturers: Handley Page Ltd, Cricklewood, London; The Birmingham Carriage Co, Birmingham; British Caudron Co Ltd, Cricklewood, London N.W.2; Clayton and Shuttleworth Ltd, Lincoln; The Metropolitan Waggon Co, Birmingham; National Aircraft Factory No 1, Waddon; and the Royal Aircraft Factory, Farnborough, Hants. (Also The Standard Aircraft Corporation, Elizabeth, New Jersey, USA).
Powerplant: Two 360hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII twelve-cylinder, water-cooled, in-line engines driving four-blade tractor propellers. 275hp Sunbeam Maori; 350hp Liberty 12-N.
Structure: All-wood box girder fuselage structure with spruce longerons. Twin wooden wing box spars with steel tubular engine nacelles; wings folded outboard of the engines.
Dimensions: Span, 100ft 0in; length, 62ft 10 1/4in; height, 22ft 0in; wing area, 1,648 sq ft.
Weights (Eagle VIII): Tare, 8,502 lb; all-up (sixteen 112 lb bombs), 13,360 lb.
Performance (Eagle VIII): Max speed, 97.5 mph at sea level, 87 mph at 5,000ft; climb to 5,000ft, 23 min; service ceiling, 8,500ft.
Armament: Standard gun armament was five 0.303in Lewis guns, two double-yoked on nose Scarff ring, two on midships dorsal position with separate pillar mountings, and a single gun firing rearwards through ventral hatch. The bomb load could comprise one 1,650 lb SN bomb, three 550 lb, three 520 lb, eight 250 lb or sixteen 112 lb bombs.
Production: A total of 554 O/400s was built: RAF (RAE), Farnborough, 24 (B8802-B8813 and C3487-C3498); Handley Page, 211(C9636-C9785, D8301-D8350 and F3748-F3758); Metropolitan Waggon, 100 (D4561-D4660); Birmingham Carriage, 102 (D5401-D5450, F301-F318 and J2242-J22751); Clayton & Shuttleworth, 46 (D9681-D9726); Standard, USA (assembled at NAF No 1), 70 (F5439-F5418). One other aircraft, J1934, was ordered from Harland & Wolff Ltd and delivered by Handley Page Ltd.
Summary of Service: O/400s served with Nos 58, 97, 100, 115, 207, 214, 215 and 216 Squadrons, RAF, with IX Brigade and VIII Brigade (the Independent Force) in France. A small number, possibly only one, served with No 144 Squadron in the Aegean in October 1918, and with No 70 Squadron in Egypt after the War. (No 134 Squadron was scheduled to receive O/400s at Ternhill in 1918, but it is believed that none was delivered before the Squadron disbanded on 4 July that year.)
J2276-J2291 cancelled; J2265-J2275 delivered to No 1 Aircraft Acceptance Park for storage.
O.Thetford Aircraft of the Royal Air Force since 1918 (Putnam)
HANDLEY PAGE O/400
Standard heavy bomber of the R.A.F. in the First World War, the О/400 raided Germany with the Independent Air Force and in October 1918 equipped Nos. 58,97,115,207,214,215 and 216 Squadrons. It remained in service for a short period post-war before being Supplanted by the Vimy and Amiens and was serving with No. 216 Squadron in Egypt until 1920. Two 322-h p Rolls-Royce Eagle engines and a loaded weight of 14,022 lb. Max. speed, 974 m.p.h. Endurance, 8 hours. Service ceiling, 8,000 ft. Span, 100 ft. Length, 62 ft.
H.King Armament of British Aircraft (Putnam)
O/100 and O/400.
September 1917 saw the emergence of the essentially similar O/400 with revised nacelles and tankage arrangements. This was officially slated to carry four Lewis guns and 17 double drums of ammunition. There was a Scarff ring-mounting in the nose; the two dorsal guns were carried on brackets, one on each side of the fuselage (alternatively, a single gun on a rocking pillar); and the ventral gun was officially described as being on a swivelling bar for firing under the tail. For the dorsal guns two separate firing platforms were provided. One official document gave the weight of the four Lew is guns as 66 lb, ammunition as 108 lb and mountings as 61 lb. Trial installations were made of a 6-pdr and a 2-pdr Davis recoilless gun. These guns were regarded as offensive weapons, but bombs were judged superior. The gun mounting in the nose sometimes had two Lewis guns, and in the nose position also, mounted on the cockpit rim, was a Bomb Sight, High Altitude, Mk.1A. There was at least one instance of the sight being transferred to the trapdoor position in the floor of the forward fuselage, where it was shielded from the main force of the air stream. Provision was made for the following alternative loads: sixteen 112-lb or eight 250-lb (internal), or three 520 550-lb or one 1.650-lb (external). On earlier aircraft more varied loads were carried; in one raid on Ostend in 1917 four Handley Pages dropped sixteen 112-lb, eight 100-lb and sixteen 65-lb bombs between them. There follows a contemporary account of crew and armament provisions on the O/400:
'Accommodations are made for one pilot and two or three gunners, and an observer who operates the bomb-dropping devices. Their placing is as follows: At the forward end of the fuselage is the gunner who operates a pair of Lewis guns. Bowden cables at one side of the cockpit permit the release of bombs. Behind the gunner is the pilot's cockpit from which the gunner's cockpit is reached through an opening in the bulkhead segregating the two compartments The pilot is seated at the right side of the cockpit. Beside him is the observer's seat, hinged so it may be raised to permit access. Bomb-releasing controls are placed on the left side of the observer, extending to the forward gunner's compartment and running back to the bomb racks, located in the fuselage between the wings. The forward compartments arc reached via a triangular door in the under-side of the fuselage.
'Aft of the bomb-rack compartment the rear gunners are placed. Two guns are located at the top of the fuselage and a third is arranged to fire through an opening in the underside of the fuselage. One gunner may have charge of all the rear guns, although usually two gunners man them. A platform is set half-way between the upper and lower longerons, upon which the gunner stands when operating the upper guns.'
The same account gives the dimensions of the 'bomb section' as: 3 ft 5 3/4 in x 5 ft 2 15/16 in x 4 ft 5 in.
In May 1918 the newly established Air Ministry issued an impressive document entitled Bombing Gear in Handley Page Machine. The massive, bewildering equipment installed in this true 'giant battle plane' is thus described:
'The Bomb Crates are built into the fuselage and are not detachable, the framework on which the bomb slips are supported being built into the framework of the centre section. The framework of the Bomb Crate consists at its top of two longitudinal members of 3 in x 4 in spruce 5 ft 2 in long, one on either side of the machine. On these two longitudinal members are carried four transverse members, also of spruce, termed Bomb Beams . . .
'From each of the bomb beams are suspended four metal supports or brackets; these brackets are called Adapters. The adapters extend downwards nine inches and at their ends arc carried the bomb slips, on which the bombs are hung.
'From each of these adapters is also supported a bomb cell skeleton framework constructed of four 5/8 in steel tubes. The upper ends of these tubes are shaped to the approximate outline of the nose of the bomb. These tubes are termed the Bomb Guides, and are fitted with narrow strips of ash bolted to them, the latter being named guide plates. The function of the bomb guides and guide plates is to steady the bomb when it is released, preventing it falling sideways as it slips through the bomb crate. The lower ends of the bomb guides forming each bomb cell skeleton framework are in each case secured to the centres of their corresponding squares in a series of shallow cells arranged on the floor level between the longerons immediately below the bomb beams. These enclosed cells are called the Honeycomb, their purpose being to give lateral support to the bombs as they fall through the crate when released, and also to check any tendency on the part of the bomb to rotate.
'The walls of the honeycomb cells are aluminium, reinforced with wood, and fill in the space between the bottom longerons.
'Each bomb slip is actuated by an individual control cable consisting of Bowden Standard No.51 wire of 270-lbs strength. The bombs are released in salvos of four, or separately as desired. Dropping bombs singly is not easy, and cannot be relied on, but they may be released positively in pairs, if the release handle is pulled over only one point on the ratchet on top of the control box in place of pulling it over two points, as in the release of a salvo. In either case the order of release is the same, i.e., the aft port side bomb is the first to fall, and is followed in order by the next three bombs to starboard of it; this completes the first salvo. In the second salvo the port side bombs of the second transverse row of bomb cells working forward is the first to be released, followed by the remaining three bombs of the second salvo. The third and fourth salvos are released in the same order, always from port to starboard, and always opening with the port side bomb.'
'The control cables are sixteen in number', it is explained, 'and run from port to starboard in four distinct groups of four cables each.'
There ensues a lengthy dissertation on the disposition of these, involving a set of four pulleys 'termed the Pulley Nest Block', from which the control cables ran through fairlead blocks to the salvo release gear. Devices termed Safety Springs and Tension Springs were involved.
Next followed an account of 'Salvo Release Gear. Mark IV', which the reader may be spared for the present, though a description and picture will appear in Volume 2. There could be no more dramatic illustration than this of advances in bomb-dropping technique during the First World War.
Instructions are given for 'Alterations for Stowing 250 lb Bombs' on a remaining set of eight bomb slips; and there is a concluding item headed 'Handley Page Bomb Slip' which has a particular fascination. This declares in essence:
'The bomb slip is the mechanism on which the bomb is retained, and by means of which the bomb is released. The slip has five parts: Framework; suspension hook; retaining trigger; retaining trigger spring; electro-explosive release. The electrical release is never used and need not be considered. It will not be present in the latest designs.'
Fascinating, as remarked, when Handley Page's post-war successes with electrical bomb- and torpedo-release gear is recalled; and this was not taken into RAF service until 1930. It may be added that during 1921 the Handley Page company was awarded royalties on a war-time invention which permitted 'locking of the release gear so that the bombs were held steady until the moment the release was complete'.
Official loading instructions may now be quoted for bombs. H.E.R.L., 112-lb. Mks.III, V, VI and VII (all heavy-case). The last two marks of bombs, it may be mentioned, differed considerably from the others and could be identified by their angular fins. The instructions ran:
'The total number of bombs to be carried, having been carefully fused, should be laid gently on the ground with safety pins in position at a convenient distance from the aeroplane. The release slips on the earning gear should now be tested before stowing the bombs. If the slips are found to be working satisfactorily the suspension hooks of all slips should now be placed open in readiness for stowing bombs. The bombs may then be stowed in order of the salvos, from port to starboard. The safety pin in the nose fuse of each bomb should not be removed until it is actually being handled for stowing, when, with the nose fuse safety pin removed, the bomb is pushed up into its cell from beneath the centre section by two or more men, as required. The suspension lug on the nose fuse now engages with the suspension hook of the release slip, which it automatically closes and locks, so retaining the bomb. Before allowing the weight of the bomb to fall on the release slip, the greatest care must be taken by the Officer or NCO superintending the stowing to ascertain that the arm of the suspension hook is securely locked by the locking arm of the release slip. The tail fuse arming vanes are now prevented from rotating by a locking arm, the fingers of which go over one of the arming vanes. The nose fuse arming vane is automatically held from rotating by the fact of its suspension lug being engaged in the release slip.'
As for the heavy externally carried bombs, it is known that a load of three 550-pounders was aimed at the lock gates at Zeebrugge, and Aircraftman Welland, who served with a Handles Page squadron in 1918, has recalled:
'About September a bomb was delivered to the squadron which weighed about 1,750-lb and was about twenty feel long. When it was first seen, the astonishment was great, and many doubts were expressed about a Handley ever getting off the ground with it. The armourers fitted a couple of chains under a plane and the idea was to sling it, as no proper bomb rack had been supplied...'
This reminiscence need only be qualified by noting that the weight of the bomb (nominally 1.650 lb) was almost exact, although the length was much overstated; and although it was stated that 'no proper bomb rack had been supplied' it is known that 'Carrier. Bomb. S.N.. Mk.I' was in existence or in prospect during October 1918.
For the O/400 in post-war years an electrical bombing aid was developed. The bomb-aimer was in a prone position some six feet behind the pilot, who was kept on the desired course by coloured lights on his instrument panel. How this system failed on one important occasion, and how a string was attached to the pilot's ankles with remarkable effect, will be related in Volume 2.
One of the last O/400s in RAF service was used at the Isle of Grain for gas and smoke experiments and a vastly spectacular feat of pyrotechnics was performed by such an aircraft at the RAF Pageant of 1921. It was thus described:
'The stolid Handley Page was forging slowly ahead, when, from about 100 ft below it, there was a shattering explosion, and, gradually swelling upward from the centre of the burst, a beautiful cumulus cloud appeared. From it a million rain-streams of pale fire descended in an umbrella shape. Behind the cloud the great form of the R.33 disappeared quickly from view, and was soon completely obliterated by the smoke.'