Err, only slightly off topic

This is the place for posts that don't fit into any other category.

Moderator: RichardW

User avatar
demag
Donor 2016
Posts: 1436
Joined: 18 Oct 2004, 05:03
x 77

Re: Err, only slightly off topic

Post by demag »

IMG_20170801_142045.jpg
The Argus which reminded me of the Lysander.

James the completely useless life preserver intrigues me. :-D

Hell Razor5543
Donor 2021
Posts: 11664
Joined: 01 Apr 2012, 09:47
x 1394

Re: Err, only slightly off topic

Post by Hell Razor5543 »

It does make sense, once you know the reasoning.

Fred Boothby (the Balloonatic, as he was affectionately known) somehow ended up both in the Royal Flying Corp and in the Navy's only cavalry unit. He was a bit of an eccentric designer (although his inventions usually worked, if not as originally planned). One day the Navy bods showed him the USA life preserver known as the Mae West, asking him to design a UK preserver that was better. Well, after he examined and tested it he found that, to all intents and purposes, the Mae West was ideal, and anything he come up with was never going to better it. However, orders were orders, so he came up with what were known in the family as "Jesus Boots" (although I cannot recall what the official name was).

Jesus Boots were a pair of small inflatable pontoons which were linked by a pivot at the front, and large flippers at the rear of each pontoon. The idea (as he explained to the Brass) was that once a pilot had ditched he would remove the Jesus Boots from a hatch on the aeroplane, inflate them, strap them to his feet, and then (by marching on the spot) propel his way to shore (the aircraft experienced amongst us will know that this would take time to inflate and put on the apparel, and an aeroplane does not normally act well as a boat). The Brass liked them, and asked for a demonstration. The Balloonatic arranged for said demonstration on Lake Runnymede.

Come the day of the demonstration nobody knew were Fred was (he was around though, and had spoken to the crew of the support boat). Rather than delay the demonstration word was given for it to go ahead. The long suffering Able Seaman Baker was taken out by the support boat, he sat on the bows, inflated the Jesus Boots, strapped them on, and proceeded to walk on water! As he went past the senior staff (all with brass going up one arm and down the other) he saluted smartly (the salute was returned). Then he started dancing around, as though he was avoiding wasps, and capsized (having to be rescued by the support boat, as, with inflated pontoons strapped to his feet, he was unable to get his head above water.

Remember I said that Fred had spoken to the crew of the support boat? Well, he had seen the drawbacks of the Jesus Boots (it was very unlikely a pilot would have enough time to inflate them before the aeroplane sank, let alone put them on, and wearing inflatable apparel on your feet is unsafe in conditions other than a dead calm, and not good even then), and had got over to an island on the lake, with an air rifle. As Able Seaman Baker came into range Fred started taking pot shots at the Jesus Boots. A/S Baker was not aware of this part of the demonstration; he thought he was under attack by fast moving insects and tried to avoid and swat them. When he capsized the support boat was close by (Fred had stopped shooting the moment Baker went over) and rescued the poor man. The Admiralty now recognised the dangers of the Jesus Boots, and went with the Mae West instead (just as Fred had hoped).

I learned about this over thirty years ago (before some of my family moved over to West Germany). One evening, on Tomorrows' World, there was an article about the wearable inflatable pontoons, and Mum exclaimed "Jesus Boots!". The rest of the family demanded an explanation, and this is what we were told.
Last edited by Hell Razor5543 on 04 Aug 2017, 12:13, edited 3 times in total.

User avatar
demag
Donor 2016
Posts: 1436
Joined: 18 Oct 2004, 05:03
x 77

Re: Err, only slightly off topic

Post by demag »

He sounds like a great personality. Very 2cv! :-D

Hell Razor5543
Donor 2021
Posts: 11664
Joined: 01 Apr 2012, 09:47
x 1394

Re: Err, only slightly off topic

Post by Hell Razor5543 »

The Balloonatic was also responsible for helping to develop the first tank (accidentally!) over a period of time. During WW1 there was (as history recounts) major problems with trenches. No Mans Land was almost completely impassable. Somebody suggested using bulldozers (with caterpillar tracks) to help smooth the way (and fill in the trenches), but somebody pointed out that the driver would be vulnerable to sniper fire. The first idea was to then put together an armour plated cabin. The next flaw was that the rest of the 'dozer was also vulnerable to enemy fire, so it was decided to shield the whole vehicle (but, as the engines were not that reliable, space had to be found for an engineer). The next comment was along the lines of "If I were in that vehicle I would want to be able to shoot back, in case somebody got close with a grenade", and so weaponry was added. As the machine was now very heavy (and space was now at a premium) it was decided to remove the bulldozer blade.

Fred also flew the first regular mail service. After Paris was surrounded Fred flew his blimp (hence the nickname) between London and Paris carrying letters and such. This went on for three weeks or so. When the Royal Flying Corp was formed Fred has 'shanghai-ed' into it (mind you, being of an aeronautical mind, he did not protest very hard, if at all).