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Thread: Rigger RFC Kite Balloons & Airships

  1. #1
    Chris Woods Guest

    Default Rigger RFC Kite Balloons & Airships

    As a mariner I understand the term 'rigger' in the sea-going context, and would be interested to learn how it compares with the RFC/RAF during WW1.

    I have a person (am researching on behalf of a friend) who
    "enlisted in the R.F.C. in June 1916" where he was posted as a "Kite Balloon section [Rigger]"
    In "November 1917 he was promoted Corporal" -is this an R.F.C. rank?
    and later was
    "transferred to the RAF on it's formation, 1st. April 1918, when his trade was re-designated as a Rigger (Airship)"

    He apparantly served overseas in France, and family history said that he was an observer in tethered balloons. Would that coincide with his designation of Rigger, which I thought would be a ground based job? My friend does not have his service record.

    So, can anyone enlighten me about these positions as a rigger during WW1, what their 'job description' would incorporate, whether they might have doubled up as aerial observer, and whether he would might have had to serve aloft as an airship rigger?
    Was there a specific training school for balloon/airship riggers? Would he have worn any specific badges of rank as a rigger?

    As always, so many questions... and any information which would give a better idea of what this rigger'swork might have involved will be much appreciated.
    Thank you,
    Chris

  2. #2
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    Chris,

    I'm sure someone will have the answer for you, but if not your could try the Aerodrome forum at http://www.theaerodrome.com/forum/forum_index.php . This deals almost exclusively with WW1 aviation.

    Brian

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    Chris,

    "Corporal -is this an R.F.C. rank?"
    Yes, an Army rank, of which the Royal Flying CORPS was a part of.

    "family history said that he was an observer in tethered balloons."
    Seems to me extremely unlikely that a rigger would be used in this role. More likely perhaps that he may have occasionally gone up with an Observer officer as a 'passenger' as a reward or some such.

    "My friend does not have his service record."
    A copy might survive and be held at The National Archives at Kew.

    "'job description"
    Found this modern day description which I think would be equally applicable to WWI - Riggers need to know the proper methods of securing items like cable, aka wire rope, to other objects without the possibility of slipping.

    "whether he would might have had to serve aloft as an airship rigger?"
    Possibly

    "Was there a specific training school for balloon/airship riggers?"
    Presumably some of his training could have taken place at:
    At the Kite Balloon Training Depot which was redesignated on 21 Oct 16 as...
    ...the Balloon Training Wing at Pole Pavillion, Roehampton Club,k Roehampton, London
    At the Airship Depot at White City, Shepherds Bush, London

    "Would he have worn any specific badges of rank as a rigger?"
    Don't think so.

    Errol

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    You are correct that the term rigger comes from the nautical world, as do many aeronautical terms.

    Originally, aircraft riggers handled the installation, repair and adjustment of the many cables and wires in the aircraft structure and control system, and the fabric covering. The other early trade was fitter (again borrowed from the nautical world), who looked after the mechanical bits. For many years this just meant the engine. Given the design of early airplanes, the hours spent rigging far outwayed the hours spent fitting, so the term rigger became a generic term for airplane mechanic.

    Other readers can probably describe in more detail how these terms became formal trades in the RFC/RAF/RCAF etc., and the many hyphenated terms that arose from them (rigger-fitter, electrician-fitter, engine-fitter, etc.).

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    Generally the description should fit. Rigger should be able to set everything correctly, so no ropes will be tangled up. Another similar trade is parachute rigger.

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    As described, the title “rigger” was applied to the ground crew members of all flying craft in the earlier days. I had a conversation in 1966 with a crusty old character who described himself as “…an original rigger: you know, warping the wings for trim. Very skilled job, took weeks to learn.” He added… “They should never have accepted ailerons, too many cables for their own good.” He liked balloons, they stayed up longer and gave him a chance to sharpen knives, which he did to supplement his pay.

    Bruce

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    Can you give us the mans name as I and others have ancestry.com accounts and might be able to get his service record online, maybe pension record and a medal index card.

    Also, it might be worth searching for the term 'kite balloon' on the Flight Archives, narrow the search to 1914 to 1919 for a start and you will find some contemporary articles which might enlighten you more about them.

    http://www.flightglobal.com/pdfarchive/

    Cheers

    Dennis
    Dennis Burke
    - Dublin

    Foreign Aircrew and Aircraft Ireland 1939-1945
    www.ww2irishaviation.com

  8. #8
    Chris Woods Guest

    Default Rigger RFC Kite Balloons & Airships

    Gentlemen,

    Thank you all very much for your comprehensive and helpful replies, and for the additional resources for me to look into.

    This is very much appreicated,
    regards,
    Chris

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