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William J. Claxton

"Even in the region of the air, into which with characteristic British prudence we have moved with some tardiness, the Navy need not fear comparison with the Navy of any other country. The British sea-plane, although still in an empirical stage, like everything else in this sphere of warlike operations, has reached a point of progress in advance of anything attained elsewhere.

No account of the early history of English aeronautics could possibly be complete unless it included a description of the Nassau balloon, which was inflated by coal-gas, from the suggestion of Mr. Charles Green, who was one of Britain's most famous aeronauts. Because of his institution of the modern method of using coal-gas in a balloon, Mr. Green is generally spoken of as the Father of British Aeronautics. During the close of the eighteenth and the opening years of the nineteenth century there had been numerous ascents in Charlier balloons, both in Britain and on the Continent.

I suppose many of my readers are quite familiar with the working of a steam-engine. Probably you have owned models of steam-engines right from your earliest youth, and there are few boys who do not know how the railway engine works.

The honour of being the first man to fly in this country is claimed by Mr. A. V. Roe, head of the well-known firm A. V. Roe Co., of Manchester, and constructor of the highly-efficient Avro machines.

No doubt many of those who read this book have seen an aeronaut descend from a balloon by the aid of a parachute. For many years this performance has been one of the most attractive items on the programmes of fetes, galas, and various other outdoor exhibitions.

The word "parachute" has been almost bodily taken from the French language. It is derived from the French parer to parry, and chute a fall. In appearance a parachute is very similar to an enormous umbrella.

We have seen that a very important part of the internal-combustion engine, as used on the motor-car, is the radiator, which prevents the engine from becoming overheated and thus ceasing to work. The higher the speed at which the engine runs the hotter does it become, and the greater the necessity for an efficient cooling apparatus.

The year 1912 was marked by the institution of the Royal Flying Corps. The new corps, which was so soon to make its mark in the greatest of all wars, consisted of naval and military "wings". In those early days the head-quarters of the corps were at Eastchurch, and there both naval and military officers were trained in aviation. In an arm of such rapid - almost miraculous - development as Service flying to go back a period of six years is almost to take a plunge into ancient history. Designs, engines, guns, fittings, signals of those days are now almost archaic.

The first Englishman to invent an air-ship was Mr. Stanley Spencer, head of the well-known firm of Spencer Brothers, whose worksare at Highbury, North London.

This firm has long held an honourable place in aeronautics, both in the construction of air-craft and in aerial navigation. Spencer Brothers claim to be the premier balloon manufacturers in the world, and, at the time of writing, eighteen balloons and two dirigibles lie in the works ready for use. In these works there may also be seen the frame of the famous Santos-Dumont air-ship, referred to later in this book.

In the general design and beauty of workmanship involved in the construction of aeroplanes, Britain is now quite the equal of her foreign rivals; even in engines we are making extremely rapid progress, and the well-known Green Engine Company, profiting by the result of nine years' experience, are able to turn out aeroplane engines as reliable, efficient, and as light in pounds weight per horse-power as any aero engine in existence.

In the early days of aviation larger and better engines of British make specially suited for aeroplanes were our most urgent need.

"Aeroplanes and airships would have given us an enormous advantage against the Boers. The difficulty of laying ambushes and traps for isolated columns - a practice at which the enemy were peculiarly adept - would have been very much greater. Some at least of the regrettable reverses which marked the early stages of the campaign could in all probability have been avoided."

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