History Behind The Card: French Dirigible Lebaudy Type
Card #12 of 50, W.D. & H.O. Wills, Aviation series 1910
Paul Lebaudy, 1858 – 1937, (Birthplace?) France;
Pierre Lebaudy, 1865 – 1929, Versailles, France
Henri Julliot, 18xx (?) – 1xxx (?), (Birthplace?), France
Sigh… let’s just file this card under yet another one that merely touches the bloody surface of history. I thought it would a be a simple matter to present – but no… there’s a lot to dig up… and even more I couldn’t quite dig up. And, quite frankly I feel I would be doing us all a disservice if I didn’t try my best. I think I’m at over 20 hours of research on this one. Finding images has been the biggest obstacle, as well as trying to verify (to the best of my abilities) data. I trust some sources more than others, I suppose. Okay… ready for take-off!
So… there are indeed three key people involved with this particular Wills aviation card, and as you can see from the attempt at dating one Mr. Henri Julliot, I have not had much luck in discovering his date of birth or date of death, which is strange considering his background, and the fact that he has been honored on stamps in various countries. I would assume a stamp collector might have these stamps, and would also receive a card denoting Julliot’s background, history and place in history. He’s actually more important than the Lebaudy brothers.
The other two… they are brothers:
1) Marie Paul Jules Lebaudy is an industrial and French politician born in Enghien July 4, 1858 and died at the castle of Rosny Rosny-sur-Seine, October 17, 1937.
2) Pierre Joseph Marie, born in Versailles on October 6, 1865 and died on 1 August 1929, is a French industrial and philanthropist.
Well… at least I have more than their birth and death dates…
Brothers Paul and Pierre Lebaudy—wealthy French sugar refiners, who seemed to have deep pockets and acted the sugar daddy to the actual chief engineer and designer Henri Julliot, who in the first decade of the 1900s built what eventually became known as the Lebaudy-style of dirigible that was uniquely a semi-rigid aircraft.
While Germany preferred Count Zeppelin’s rigid self-named Zeppelin with its permanent frame within a gas envelope, the Lebaudy craft was a semi-rigid aircraft whereby it is dependent on its framework and the form of its envelope.
Basically, that means that the bottom of the balloon has flat framework with planes attached, and has its car, engine and propeller suspended from it. You can actually get a clear view of that in the Wills’ card above.
The Lebaudy and other semi-rigid craft have a partial framework consisting of a rigid or flexible keel frame along the long axis under the aerodynamic hull envelope.
The Lebaudy or Lebaudy-Julliot dirigibles were built in France between 1902 and 1910.
The Lebaudy dirigibles designed by Julliot were unique. While contemporary craft used propellers at the prow to pull it, and others placed them at the stern to push it, Julliot affixed the propellers on each side of the craft near the center allowing for less air disturbance.
As well, the Lebaudy balloons were not quite round, having the lower area flattened and resting on the frame suspending the car. In fact, the balloons were divided into three sections to stop heavier air from moving into another area when it is tilting during altitude alterations.
All told, there were 12 different dirigibles built by Lebaudy brothers:
The first ship built in 1902 was the ‘Lebaudy I’ – though it also had the nickname ‘Le Jaune’ (The Yellow) because of the yellow lead chromate paint on its cloth envelope .
Lebaudy I when it was initially built was 56.5-meters (185.37-feet) long, 9.8-meters (32.15-feet) in diameter with a volume of 2,285-cubic meters (80,694-cubic feet). Featuring twin screws (propellers) powered by a 40 horsepower Daimler motor, it was able to achieve a top speed of 42-kilometers per hour (25-miles per hour) – though some accounts pit it at only 35 kph (21 mph).
Now… in case you have $42… you can purchase an original copy of the December 5, 1903 Scientific American magazine that contains a long article on the Lebaudy craft, complete and detailed specifications of the aircraft: HERE. And… for the record… two weeks later, on December 17, 1903, the same magazine reported the first heavier-than-air flight by the Wright Bros.
Back to the Lebaudy I. The craft’s first flights seem to have taken place in November 1902. And, despite having footed the bill, the Lebaudy’s hired a pilot Monsieur Juchmès, who was aided by Monsieur Rey, the mechanic.
Just below is the front and reverse of a 1972 card series: History of Aviation issued by Brooke Bond Tea, of what I am guessing is the Lebaudy I dirigible. You can purchase the whole 50-card series, including postage (from the UK) for around $5.
The Lebaudy I was considered to be the first successful modern airship, making some 63 flights in all, including a memorable trip to the Champs de Mars, near the Eiffel Tower, on November 12, 1903.
Now… perhaps I jumped the gun when I said it made 63 flights.
On November 20, 1903, the airship was almost completely destroyed when it drifted into a grove of trees during a landing attempt after a flight from the Eiffel Tower to the Park at the Chalais Meudon.
Thanks to the sacks of money airlifted in by the Lebaudy Bros., the Lebaudy I was retrofitted with a new hull and made 12 more ascents until yet a storm on August 28, 1904 carried it away and badly damaged it.
Although she was repaired and slightly modified with a larger bladder, after flying again, the hull was again damaged – by another storm.
Fixed once more, Lebaudy I reached new heights when it twice flew (in succession) to an altitude of 1,370 meters (4,495 feet) on November 10, 1905. This is the fourth modified version of the Lebaudy I.
Striking while the iron was hot, they sold Lebaudy I to the French Army for Frs. 80,000 (US $16,ooo) in December, 1905. The Lebaudy I after serving the French Army, was eventually dismantled 1912.
In 1905, the Lebaudy’s offered a revised version of the ‘Lebaudy’ to the French Minister of War, who accepted it and then quickly ordered another one just like it, called ‘La Patrie’ (the true second Lebaudy craft – image below).
The La Patrie, constructed in November 1906, was 61 meters long, 10.3 m high with its volume of 3,250 cubic meters. Featuring a single Panhard-Levassor motor capable of 60 horsepower, it was able to propel the twin screws to hit a maximum of 45 kph.
Now… believe it or not, on November 20, 1907 another storm came and carried the La Patrie away – fortunately without any crew on board.
At this time, there were great fears that the La Patrie would float over Germany – not quite the enemy yet, but definitely not an ally – a look at the wondrous creation. Now, at this time, I shall send you to another website – Airminded – that has a much detailed description of what happened to La Patrie at this time – HERE. Let’s just say it landed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Undaunted with the Lebaudy luck with wind storms, the French military ordered another dirigible, the ‘Republique’ (Lebaudy craft #3), which seemed to surpass the previous two crafts built by the Lebaudy’s and Julliot. It was constructed in June of 1908.
The Republique, however, was destroyed during a flight on September 25, 1909 when at a height of 152.4-meters (500-feet) a propeller blade broke free and flew into the balloon shredding it causing it to plummet to earth killing all four crew members including the commander Captain Marchal.
The Repuiblique was 61 meters long, 10.9 meters in height, had a volume of 3,700 cubic meters, used one Panhard-Levassor engine to turn twin-screws creating 70 horsepower to fly the craft at a speed of 50 kph.
Next up, the fourth designed dirigible is the Lebedj, built for the Russian Army in May 1909. Featuring a single Panhard-Levassor motor, twin propellers capable of 70 horsepower, the Lebedj dirigible had a volume of 3,800 cubic meters, and could achieve a speed of 49 kph.
This dirigible was originally known as La Russie, and later renamed by the Russians as Lebedj, and was supposed to be an exact copy of the République, and flew for the first time in 29 May 1909.
If, and I say, if the Lebedj is an exact copy of the Republique, then its specs will also be: 61 meters long, 10.9 meters in height, with a volume of 3,700 cubic meters, using one Panhard-Levassor engine to turn twin-screws creating 70 horsepower to fly the craft at a speed of 50 kph.
The Lebed‘s initial flight was hailed by Russia as a significant step forward in its aviation history. In its June 26, 1909 issue, Flight magazine reported that the Austrian Government had ordered from Lebaudy “what appears to be a duplicate of the Russie.” For this, Austrian dirigible (M. II), see #6 below.
Just before the Republique disaster, the French Army was about to receive another dirigible called the Liberte (#5), which in August of 1909 was scheduled to be 65 meters long, 12.5 meters high, have a volume of 4,200 cubic meters, motors to achieve 120 horsepower at a rate of 45 kph.
But, with the changes, the redesigned Liberte was in June 1910 now 84 meters long, 12.8 meters high, a volume of 7,000 cubic meters. It used two Panhard-Levassor engines providing 120 horsepower to turn twin-screws to give it a top speed of 53 kph. The dirigible once flew for 8 hours straight. It was dismantled in 1914.
Other aircraft built and labeled as Lebaudy include:
#6) M. II: a dirigible built for the Austrian Army (no construction date – but we do know it first flew in 1910), but built by the Lebaudy designs by the Motor-Luftfahrzeug Gesellschaft of Vienna. No specs available. But, again, if Flight magazine is to believed – and why wouldn’t it be? – then we do have specs for it: 61 meters long, 10.9 meters in height, with a volume of 3,700 cubic meters, using one Panhard-Levassor engine to turn twin-screws creating 70 horsepower to fly the craft at a speed of 50 kph.
#7): The Morning Post was built in September 1910 and purchased by a national newspaper subscription service for the London Morning Post, she was 103 meters long, 12 meters high, had a volume of 9,800 cubic meters. It used two Panhard-Levassor engines providing 270 horsepower to turn twin-screws to give it a top speed of 55 kph.
The dirigible once flew 370 kilometers in five and a half hours between Moisson, France to Aldershot, England – and was damaged while parking her. Fixed up, the Morning Post was completely wrecked after the pilot drove it through some trees on May 4, 1911.
You’ll notice that the reverse of the card does provide good information. It was the only image I could find – anywhere – and comes from my collection of tobacco cards (the reason for this blog concept). It is from a different Wills’s aviation card series… this one for Capstan Navy Cut, and is from a 75-card series… This is the Black-backed series. There is also a green-backed series of cards – for other Will’s tobacco companies and for both a 75 and 85 card series.
Below is a reverse of the Vice Regal 75-card series, and one from the Vice Regal 85-card series. The fronts are identical to the Capstan version above.
#8) The Kretchet (no image found), built in 1911 by the Russian Army Airship Works for the Russian Army, was 70 meters long, 14 meters high and had a volume of 5,680 cubic meters. It used two Panhard-Levassor engines providing 200 horsepower to turn twin-screws to give it a top speed of 50 kph. I believe that Kretchet is Russian for ‘falcon’, but if anyone can confirm?
#9) Capitaine-Marchal dirigible (March 1911) was a French Army aircraft named after the captain of the Republique. The dirigible was a compact 85 meters long and 12.8 meters high, and had a balloon volume of 7,200 cubic meters. It used two Panhard-Levassor engines providing 160 horsepower to turn twin-screws to give it a top speed of 50 kph. It’s designed endurance was 10 hours. It was dismantled in 1914.
#10) Lieut. Selle-de-Beauchamp was built in October 1911, and was an 89 meter long dirigible with a height of 14.6 meters and a balloon volume of 10,000 cubic meters. named after a French balloon observation officer, the dirigible used two Panhard-Levassor engines providing 200 horsepower to turn twin-screws to give it a top speed of 55 kph.
#11) The Tissandier (no image found) was constructed in June of 1914 – hmm… a three-year gap… for the French Army. This was a dirigible wholly unlike the other Lebaudy dirigibles. It was 140 meters long and 15.5 meters high, with a balloon volume of 28,000 cubic meters. This bad boy used nine (9) Salmson engines mounted on groups of three on three cars providing 1,350 horsepower to turn three sets of triple-screws (9 propellers in total) to give it a top speed of 80 kph. It’s designed endurance was a height of 2,500 meters for 15 hours. Oh yes… it was also out-fitted with four machine guns and a wireless radio/transmitter.
Consider, if you will, that France’s aeroplane fleet was estimated in August of 1914 to be between 700-800. Why would anyone need dirigibles for war? Submarine spotting and even troop transport.
#12) A Tissandier-class dirigible for the French Army… but there is no evidence it was completed or flown that I can find. No name given for this dirigible.
A lot of specification data was plumbed by myself from D’Orcy’s Airship Manual, compiled and edited by Ladislas D’Orcy, M.S.A.E. in 1917. You can download a free copy HERE. It’s quite informative!
Finally, the majority of the engines used in the Lebaudy-style dirigibles were built by Panhard-Levassor, a French manufacturer of automobiles, and is still around as part of the Peugeot Citroën automobile company. I could not find any detailed schematics of the engines – though there is a 1900 version of a water-cooled motor built for one of the Panhard cars. I could assume (but don’t really wish to) that the automobile motors were the exact same as those used for the dirigible. Anyone know differently?