26 January 1917 – Buzz, buzz, buzz


The Royal Navy have been attempting to solve the problems of directing bombardments from ships.

The first problem, which had been brought out during the experiments made with Revenge in the previous year, was the need for wireless reception in the aircraft. This was overcome largely through the enthusiastic work of Lieutenant C. W. Nutting and his brother officers in the HMS Riviera.

The second was the need for a practical method of identifying the shots from each separate ship. This was solved following a simple suggestion made by Flight Lieutenant Harry Stewart, also of the Riviera.

He suggested that the air observer should buzz on his wireless at the precise moment when he saw the shell explode and then follow this signal with his spotting correction. In the ship the procedure was as follows. The control officer noted the time when his gun fired and, since he knew the time of flight, noted also when the shell might be expected to burst. When the buzz from the aeroplane was heard in the ships, each control officer compared the time it was received with his expected time of burst and, if they coincided, knew at once that the spotting correction which followed referred to his gun. To minimise the confusion which would result if two or more ships fired at the same moment, a slight time interval between the fire from each gun was essential. Twenty seconds proved sufficient and was normally adopted.

Today the system was deployed for the first time operationally as one observer registered fire for five monitors firing together in a bombardment of gun positions near Westende.


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