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Chalais-Meudon Fleurus / CBV


When war broke out in 1914, French airship equipment was entirely of the non-rigid pattern, and it was one of these that became the first Allied airship to carry out an air raid. This was the Fleurus, which had been built (like all French army craft of the lighter-than-air type) in the workshops at Chalais-Meudon two years earlier, being regarded as a smaller sister ship to L’Ad-jutant Vincenot (C.B.IV).

The Fleurus (or C.B.V. as it was officially known), had for the period a good aerodynamically efficient shape as it had been designed as a result of wind tunnel tests conducted at the Eiffel laboratory. While these results were applied to the contours of the envelope, Clement-Bayard was responsible for the design of the motor and the gondola, hence the initials of the alternative designation.

During the last year of peace, great use was made of the vessel, which participated in the army manoeuvres of that summer. It also left its base at Pau on 23 September at the beginning of a flight to Saint-Cyr, a journey which it completed in 16 hours, averaging a speed of 54 km/h (33.7 mph), rather less than its maximum, for the distance of 680 km (423 miles) at an altitude never more than 1000 m (3,281 ft).

When making its historic raid from Verdun, the F]eurus was officially an army airship, there being no equivalent naval air arm; but with effect from 1 January 1917 this was rectified and the army vessels were handed over to establish the new branch of the navy. Of the six non-rigids involved, four were at once deployed for sea patrol in much the same manner as the British ‘North Sea’ and similar types, but by now the C.B.V was five years old and obsolescent, so that with another airship it was relegated to training duties. The base for this work was far from the area where the newer airships operated — North Africa’s Mediterranean coast — being instead no further afield than Rochefort. It was here the Fleurus ended its days, destroyed in a fire as a result of an air raid in June 1918.

National insignia had not been adopted at the time of the first flight to be made by Fleurus, but when it was introduced this vessel was one of the earliest in France to be thus marked.

Chalais-Meudon Fleurus I
Engines: two 59. 7-kW (80-hp Clement-Bayard four-cylinder water-cooled piston
Diameter 12 40 m (40ft 8.2 in)
Length 77.0m (252 ft 7.5in)
Contained volume : 229580 cu.ft / 6500 cu.m
Max. speed : 32 kts / 59 km/h
Service ceiling 1005 m (3,281 ft)
Range 680 km (423 miles)
Useful lift 5200 kg (11.464 lb).

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