Mystery Photograph No. 29 was kindly provided by Phil Thompson, and is in keeping with the Centenary of RAN Naval Embarked operations theme. It showed a vessel, clearly of the last century, with an aircraft on a makeshift ramp still being worked on.
For a gold star and a mention in dispatches, we asked if you could advise:
- The name of the ship.
- The year this photograph was taken.
- The type of aircraft embarked and
- The occasion.
Mr Kim Dunstan was the first correct answer, when he identified HMS Hibernia on 02 May 1912, with a Short S27 floatplane embarked. This was the first occasion that an aircraft took off from a ship underway, and it occurred off Portland Harbour in the UK, with the vessel doing about 10 knots.
The pilot was reported to be CMDR Charles Sampson, who was a few years later to fly the Sopwith Baby carried by HMAS Brisbane – an event that marked the very beginning of embarked aircraft operations off an RAN vessel.
Above and Below: Hibernia’s aircraft. Unknown source
Whilst Hibernia’s launch was the first from a ship underway, it wasn’t the first from a stationery ship. That honour fell to the legendary and colourful Eugine Ely, who flew a Curtiss Pusher biplane off the deck of USS Birmingham some 18 months earlier (on 14 Nov 1910). Ely also did the first ever landing aboard a (stationery) warship, using a makeshift cable arrester and bicycle inner tubes as a life vest. He was killed not long after in a civilian flying accident, with a tragic twist. You can read that story here.