Transcript: Royal Naval Air Service - Dirigibles | May 10, 1988

(music plays)

The opening slate appears with a black and white video clip of dozens of men running pushing a wheel by pushing long pegs that stick out in order to open a warehouse door. The title reads “Retrospect: The Royal Naval Air Service, II – Dirigibles.”

A female narrator says AT THE OUTBREAK OF
THE FIRST WORLD WAR
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT
REALIZED THAT FOR THE
PURPOSES OF RECONNAISSANCE,
SUBMARINE SURVEILLANCE,
AND CONVOY ESCORT THERE
WAS A TOOL AT HAND
THAT COULD BE WELL USED
BY THE NEWLY FORMED
ROYAL NAVAL AIR SERVICE.
THIS WAS THE DIRIGIBLE,
OR AIRSHIP.

The men carry the bottom of the airship propeller and the airship begins to float outside with their guidance.

The narrator continues AND IN 1914 SEVEN OF
THEM WERE AVAILABLE.
THESE WERE THE NON-RIGID TYPE
CONSISTING OF A FLEXIBLE
ENVELOPE INFLATED WITH GAS
TO A PRESSURE SLIGHTLY
HIGHER THAN THE
SURROUNDING ATMOSPHERE.
UNDERNEATH WAS SUSPENDED A
CAR WITH A SMALL ENGINE.
VARIOUS DESIGNS WERE TRIED
BUT THE TYPE KNOWN AS THE
SEA SCOUT ZERO HAD A CAR
DESIGNED LIKE A BOAT,
AND IN AN EMERGENCY IT
COULD SIT ON THE SURFACE
OF THE WATER.

(music plays)

One airship is released and another, larger airship led by other men comes from the warehouse.

The narrator continues THE COASTAL TYPE OF
AIRSHIP WAS LARGER
AND HAD A MORE POWERFUL
MOTOR THAN THE SEA SCOUT.
DESIGNED TO WITHSTAND
THE INCLEMENT WEATHER OF
THE BRITISH ISLES, IT
COULD PATROL AT SPEEDS UP
TO 50 MILES PER HOUR, FOR
PERIODS AS LONG AS 24 HOURS.
LIKE THE SEA SCOUT, THE COASTAL
AIRSHIP HAD A REINFORCED NOSE
SO THAT IT COULD BE ANCHORED
TO A MAST OR SOME PART
OF A SHIP.

The larger airships appears as a floating triple torpedo that hovers just above the ground.

The narrator continues AIRSHIPS WERE DESIGNED
TO MEET THE GROWING THREAT
OF UNRESTRICTED
SUBMARINE WARFARE,
BOTH IN THE NORTH SEA
AND WESTERN APPROACHES.
SOME WERE ARMED WITH
LIGHT BOMBS AND RUDIMENTARY
SIGHTING DEVICES.
AIRSHIP PRODUCTION WAS
MAINTAINED THROUGHOUT THE WAR
SO THAT BY THE END OF 1916
ABOUT 50 SEA SCOUTS AND
30 COASTALS HAD BEEN BUILT
AND WERE IN OPERATION
FROM 15 STATIONS.

Men board the airship and begin to float away.

The narrator continues ALTHOUGH THEIR SLOW SPEED
ALLOWED THE AIRSHIPS TO
ADAPT TO THE SPEED OF A
CONVOY, THEIR LARGE BULK
MADE THEM AN EASY
TARGET FOR WARPLANES.
SO FOR DEFENCE PURPOSES,
A GUN POSITION WAS MOUNTED
ON THE TOP OF THE ENVELOPE.
BUT DESPITE ITS ARMOURY
THE AIRSHIP'S TASK WAS
NOT SO MUCH TO ATTACK
SUBMARINES OR SHIPS,
AS TO REPORT ON THEIR POSITION
FROM ITS LOFTY VANTAGE POINT.

An aerial view of a ship in the ocean appears on screen. Then, a man flashes a light so as to communicate through Morse code.

The narrator continues AND WHEREAS THE FLEET
COULD USE ALDIS LAMPS TO
SIGNAL MESSAGES, THE AIRSHIPS
EXPERIMENTED WITH
CARRIER PIGEONS.
AFTER THE COASTAL TYPE,
TWO FURTHER CLASSES
OF AIRSHIPS WERE BUILT.
BUT THEY SIGNALLED THE
END OF NON-RIGID
AIRSHIP CONSTRUCTION
IN BRITAIN.

(music plays)

The airship silhouette floats away into the sky.

The closing slate appears on screen with a caption that read “Retrospect: The Royal Naval Air Service material courtesy of National Film Archives, Ottawa.”

The slate changes and the caption reads “A production of TVOntario, copyright The Ontario Educational Communications Authority 1981.”

Watch: Royal Naval Air Service - Dirigibles