History Behind The Card: “Morning Post” Airship, 1910 (Lebaudy III.)
Card #69 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series 1911, Capstan Navy Cut – Black-back issue
- Marie Paul Jules Lebaudy, July 4, 1858 in Engheim, France – October 17, 1937 in Rosny-sur-Seine, France;
- Pierre Joseph Marie Lebaudy, October 6, 1865 in Versailles, France – August 1, 1929, in XXXX;
- Henri Julliot, 18xx (?) – 19xx (?), (Birthplace?), France
It seems strange to me that airships like dirigibles and zeppelins were still being purchased when the new and exciting technology of aircraft was all the rage, but I keep forgetting that despite the fact that Wills’s put out the 50-, and later extended sets of 75- and 85-cards on aviation—it was really pretty new… and despite moderate success, aeroplanes had not proven their worth yet as of the time of the card set’s printing in 1911.
Aircraft motors simply weren’t powerful enough or the aircraft frames weren’t sturdy enough to haul anything more than two people up in the air at a time… and could only fly for a couple of hours maximum until they had to land and refuel.
But zeppelins, hot-air balloons and dirigibles not only had more carrying capacity, but could stay aloft a far greater length of time, making them much more practical than the hopping and sputtering aeroplane.
It’s probably the reason why French manufacturer Lebaudy Frères (The Lebaudy Brothers) were building their semi-rigid airships.
Pierre (left) and Paul Lebaudy are honored on this postage stamp from Cuba in 2000… but I could not find photographic images of these aviation pioneers, and was, after discovering this Cuban stamp surprised there wasn’t one issued by France.
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, with the first airship built in 1902.
The dirigible pictured in Card No. 69 above is the Lebaudy Morning Post, then the largest airship built in France. It was the seventh dirigible built by the Lebaudy brothers.
It was actually commissioned by the British newspaper The Morning Post, who created a fund to purchase and present the dirigible to the British Army. Aww… how patriotic.
Designed by Henri Julliot, the Lebaudy Morning Post was similar in design to such dirigibles as the earlier Lebaudy République and Lebaudy Patrie but was both larger and faster.
The Morning Post was built in September 1910 and purchased by a national newspaper subscription service for the London Morning Post.
Despite what the Wills’s card states on the revers of the card, the dimensions are different:
- Capacity: 20 people;
- Length: 337 feet 10 inches (102.97 meters);
- Diameter: 39 feet 4 inches (12 meters);
- Volume: 353,168 cubic feet (10,000.6 cubic meters);
- Powerplant: 2 × Panhard & Levassor 4M 4-cylinder in-line water-cooled piston engines, 135 hp each;
- Propellers: 2-bladed 2x Chauvière Integrale, 16 feet 5 inches (5 meters) in diameter each;
- Speed: 55 kilometers (34.2 miles) per hour.
The Morning Post always flew well… but parking… yeesh.
The Morning Posts Delivery
To deliver the airship, flew 370 kilometers in five-and-a-half hours between Moisson, France to Aldershot, England.
Leaving on October 26, 1910, it carried right people including pilot Louis Capazza. The passengers included the dirigible designer Henri Julliot; the just-appointed commander of the British Army Balloon Works Major Sir Alexander Bannerman; and a representative of the Morning Post newspaper.
The take-off, flight and landing all went well, but… there’s always a but…
There were strong winds that day and landing was difficult, but after a few comical attempts by the ground crew trying to catch hold of the mooring ropes, they managed to safely secure it.
The passengers disembarked – happy at the successful flight.
The Morning Post dirigible was then towed to a special shed that was built specifically to house the aircraft.
While it seemed to shock them that it was going to be a tight fit – because they swear they measured it… they simply needed to make sure they took care.
You know… like even if my garage didn’t have stuff in it and I tried to park a car there, I would still have to carefully enter and exit the facility because you don’t want to damage the vehicle.
Now… this is what you get for paying someone $0.25 an hour (I’m guessing)…
As the dirigible was being maneuvered into the tight shed—with just 10 more feet (~3 meters) to squeeze in… a large hiss could be heard meaning either the world’s largest snake was somehow in the shed, or the dirigible got caught on an overhead girder.
The balloon quickly lost its gas and buoyancy and collapsed on a men below, but luckily there were no injuries.
Canceling My Subscription To The Morning Post
It took until May 4, 1911, but the Morning Post was finally fixed up and ready to embark on its second voyage.
Up in the air with a crew of seven, and approaching the end of its one-hour test flight, all had gone well…
The crew dropped down the mooring ropes to allow the ground crew (soldiers), to grab hold and steady it.
But again… winds… or maybe just a strong gust… but the grounds crew couldn’t steady her losing control of the mooring ropes… the Morning Post drifted into some nearby trees.
Fortunately, there was no hiss… but there was an explosive ka-pow, as the gas envelope burst.
The dirigible collapsed quickly over the trees and a house, which I’m sure must have amused the homeowners and their home insurance company.
“A what-now landed on your roof? Uh-huh… I’m pretty sure you aren’t covered for falling dirigibles.”
I joke, but the crew aboard the Morning Post were tossed around quite a bit, with one mechanic receiving some pretty bad burns.
Luckily the motors missed landing on the house.
And yeah… that’s it for the Morning Post. Kaput.
Seems to me like what the world needed more of in 1911 were better places to park a dirigible.
Below you’ll see some additional Wills’s Aviation cards from different 1911 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.
75-card series – Vice Regal black back issue 1911.
85-card series – Vice Regal black back issue 1911.
Per above, you can see how collecting the cards is more than it seems… and I’m not even talking green backs… I don’t have any of this card… or of the Havelock tobacco series.
For more information on all the Lebaudy dirigibles, see my blog HERE.