The HMS Manica was commissioned today as the first Kite Balloon ship. On 4 March General Birdwood in the Dardanelles made a request from for a kite balloon to assist in the spotting of long-range fire, and for detecting concealed batteries.
The Board of Admiralty immediately purchased the SS Manica, which was at the time engaged unloading manure in the Manchester ship canal. A single-screw steamer, she was 3,500 tons, and capable of a speed of eleven knots.
The ship has been prepared for balloon operations ashore and afloat, with mechanical transport stowed in the after hold of the ship. She had accommodation for six kite-balloon officers, eighty-three ratings, 200 hydrogen cylinders, and, in addition, gas plant and other fittings, and is capable of taking a 28,000 cubic feet capacity kite balloon.
When the Manica was fitted out kite balloons were almost unknown in England, and Squadron Commander Mackworth was the only trained observer available. In addition, only thirty trained airship ratings could be spared, and the section had been completed by volunteers from the home anti-aircraft corps.