When the war started, the different warring nations used aircraft solely to observe enemy troop movements on the ground. With the passage of time, they have started also using them to drop bombs on enemy targets, both civilian and military. And increasingly the fliers of aeroplanes are trying to shoot down enemy aircraft.
Aerial combat is difficult. In a fast moving aeroplane, it is hard to aim a gun accurately at an enemy craft unless you are firing directly forward. But most aeroplanes have their engines at the front, so firing forward risks shooting out the blades of the propeller. Some aeroplanes have the engines at the back, leaving a gunner free to shoot forward, but the performance of these aircraft is more limited. The problem seems insuperable: the best aircraft will never be able to shoot successfully at the enemy.
French pilot Roland Garros has a possible way of resolving this conundrum. Working with his mechanic, Jules Hue, Garros engages with the Morane-Saulnier company to attach armoured blades to his aircraft’s propellers. Now he can fire his gun directly forward, knowing that the strengthened blades will not be destroyed by any bullets that strike them.
Today he sets forth to test his armoured propellers. Flying over the Western Front, he chances upon a German aeroplane. He pursues his prey, catches up with it and then with his forward firing gun is able to shoot it down, killing both of its crew. The age of the fighter pilot has begun.
Roland Garros (Wikipedia)