"[Science fiction] is the only kind of writing that allows you to look at the world we live in and change one piece at a time."
- Frederik Pohl
||War-Balloon (Navigable Aerostat)
||Enormous dirigible airships used for war.
Be sure to take a look at the airships from this story - the earliest example of a VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft I've ever seen.
|"There is, however, another most important element which has now for the first time been introduced into warfare, and which, although it is most unhappily arrayed amongst the forces opposed to our own country and her gallant allies, it would be both idle and most imprudent to ignore. We refer of course, to the two fleets of war-balloons, or, as it would be more correct to call them, navigable aerostats, possessed by France and Russia.
"So tremendous has been the influence which these terrible inventions have exercised upon the course of the war, that we are not transgressing the bounds of sober truth when we say that they have utterly disconcerted and brought to nought the highest strategy and the most skilfully devised plans of the brilliant array of masters of the military art whose presence adorns the ranks and enlightens the councils of the Alliance.
"Since the day when the Russians crossed the German and Austrian frontiers, and the troops of France and Italy simultaneously flung themselves across the western frontiers of Germany and through the passes of the Tyrol, their progress, unparalleled in rapidity even by the marvellous marches of Napoleon, has been marked, not by what we have hitherto been accustomed to call battles, but rather by a series of colossal butcheries.
"In every case of any moment the method of procedure on the part of the attacking forces has been the same, and, with the deepest regret we confess it, it has been marked with the same unvarying success. Whenever a large army has been set in motion upon a predetermined point of attack, whether a fortress, an entrenched camp, or a strongly occupied position in the field, a squadron of aerostats has winged its way through the air under cover of the darkness of night, and silently and unperceived has marked the disposition of forces, the approximate strength of the army or the position to be attacked, and, as far as they were observable, the points upon which the attack could be most favourably delivered. Then they have returned with their priceless information, and, according to it, the assailants have been able, in every case so far, to make their assault where least expected, and to make it, moreover, upon an already partially demoralised force.
"From the detailed descriptions which we have already published of battles and sieges, or rather of the storming of great fortresses, it will be remembered that every assault on the part of the troops of the League has been preceded by a preliminary and irresistible attack from the clouds.
"The aerostats have stationed themselves at great elevations over the ramparts of fortresses and the bivouacs of armies, and have rained down a hail of dynamite, melinite, fire-shells and cyanogen poison-grenades, which have at once put guns out of action, blown up magazines, rendered fortifications untenable, and rent masses of infantry and squadrons of cavalry into demoralised fragments, before they had the time or the opportunity to strike a blow in reply. Then upon these silenced batteries, these wrecked fortifications, and these demoralised brigades, there has poured a storm of artillery fire from the untouched enemy, advancing in perfect order, and inspired with high-spirited confidence, which has been irresistibly opposed to the demoralisation of their enemies.
"Is it any wonder, or any disgrace, to the defeated, that under such novel and appalling conditions the orderly and disciplined onslaughts of the legions of the League have in almost every case been completely successful? The sober truth is that the invention and employment of these devastating appliances have completely altered the face of the field of battle and the conditions of modern warfare. It is not in human valour, no matter how heroic or self-devoted it may be, to oppose itself with anything like confidence to an enemy which strikes from the skies, and cannot be struck in return.
|From The Angel of the Revolution,
by George Griffith.
Published by Pearson's Weekly in 1893
Additional resources -
By the end of the conflict, the war-ballons were described as being more useful for carrying heavy materiel:
Then the proclamation was issued disbanding the armies of Britain and the Federation and the forces of the Sultan. The warships steamed away westward on their last voyage to the South Atlantic, beneath whose waves they were soon to sink with all their guns and armaments for ever. The war-balloons were to be kept for purposes of transportation of heavy articles to Aeria, while the fleet of air-ships was to remain the sole effective fighting force in the world.
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