Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

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Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 163,152 pages of information and 245,599 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

La Republic

From Graces Guide

The Lebaudy République (later known as La République) was a semi-rigid airship built for the French army in Moisson, France, by sugar manufacturers Lebaudy Freres.

She was a sister ship of the Patrie, the main differences between the two being in the dimensions of the gasbag (or 'envelope') and the ballonet.

Although she was operationally successful, the République crashed in 1909 due to a mechanical failure, killing all four crew members.

The République's predecessor, the Patrie, had been so successful that three further airships of the same design were ordered by the French government in March 1907. Two of them saw service under the names République and Liberte.

The République was completed in June 1908, flew for the first time June 24 and was handed over to the French army on 31 July of that year.

The main structural components of the République, like those of the Patrie, were the envelope (or "gas-bag"), a nickel-steel frame or keel, and a gondola suspended from the frame on steel cables. Contained within the envelope was a ballonet, the function of which was to ensure that sufficient gas pressure was maintained in the envelope at all times, irrespective of the degree of expansion or contraction of the lifting gas.

These components were essentially the same as for the Patrie, the only differences initially being in the dimensions of the envelope and the ballonet, which are given in the Specifications section below. The modular structure enabled the envelope volume to be varied without impact upon the keel or the gondola.

The République's first flight took place at the Lebaudy base at Moisson on 24 June 1908. She was flown to Chalais-Meudon to take up her military duties on 31 July 1908.

During the autumn of 1908 and the spring and summer of 1909, the République was engaged in two campaigns of peacetime military operations from her base at the French airship headquarters at Chalais-Meudon, the objectives of which were to train the pilots and the support team and to assess the airship's capabilities. These test flights included a long flight on Wed. 4 August 1909, during which she covered 130 miles (209 km) in 6 hours.

In 1909 the army decided to integrate airship reconnaissance into its military manoeuvres of that year ("Les grandes Manoeuvres du Bourbonnais") and the République was assigned to this task. A temporary hangar, comprising a metal framework over which a fabric skin was draped, was constructed at Lapalisse to accommodate the airship.

On 3 September 1909 the République set off from Chalais-Meudon for the flight to Lapalisse. After 62 miles (105 km), while over La Charité-sur-Loire, the motor overheated due to poor water circulation and had to be stopped immediately, requiring the crew to land in poor conditions at Policards, in the commune of Jussy-le-Chaudrier.

Some local farm workers who were on the scene caught the guide ropes but were unable to prevent the gondola from impaling itself on an apple tree, which damaged the airship’s keel and gondola in several places. With the keel and gondola damaged and given the loss of a quantity of gas, it was decided not to risk the République suffering the same fate as the Patrie, but to deflate the gas-bag immediately.

The gondola and keel were sent on to Lapalisse for repairs and the envelope was returned for repairs to Chalais-Meudon. The necessary repairs were made sufficiently quickly for the République to be reassembled and inflated, ready to take part successfully in the manoeuvres by 12 August 1909 as planned.

After the manoeuvres the crew which was assigned the task of returning the République to Chalais-Meudon decided to fly her back, rather than have her deflated and dismantled for the return journey by rail. While near the Château of Avrilly, one of the metal propeller blades sheared off its shaft and pierced the envelope, which deflated catastrophically, causing the République to crash into ground at high speed, killing all four crew members: Capt. Marchal, Lt. Chauré, and the 'Adjudants mecaniciens' Vincenot and Réau.

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