7 August 1915 – Experiments with balloons

Following the success of HMS Manica and HMS Hector, a third balloon ship, HMS Menelaus (4,672 tons) was converted. The Menelaus differed from the first two ships in that she carried her balloon already inflated. The Menelaus was sent to assist the shelling of enemy targets on the Belgian coast under the command of Admiral Bacon. However, to be of any great use it was obvious that the balloon would have to be let up close to the coast. Unfortunately, the Menelaus was too big a target to survive for long under the eyes of the German gunners. Admiral Bacon therefore ordered that experiments should be made to see if Menelaus could pass her balloon, complete with observers, to the trawler Peary.

HMS Menelaus

This was completed successfully today. The balloon ship was laid stern to wind at a slow speed. The Peary came up alongside on a parallel course and caught a heaving line, to which she at once secured her own balloon cable. The line was hauled back to Menelaus and the trawler’s cable was attached to the balloon. The Peary then hauled in her cable until she was taking the strain of the balloon. The slip wire from Menelaus was let go and taken in by the trawler, and the control of the balloon by Peary was completed. The trawler went off for a fifteen-minute trip before passing her lofty cargo back to Menelaus, During the transfer the balloon plunged badly and the observers in the basket had an uncomfortable time. However, the practicability of handing over the balloon at sea, ready for work, had been demonstrated.


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