James Templer (balloon aviator)

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James Templer
Aviation in Britain Before the First World War RAE-O956.jpg
Born 27 May 1846
Greenwich, Kent, England[1]
Died 2 January 1924[1]
Lewes, Sussex, England[1]
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Rank Colonel
Unit King's Royal Rifle Corps
Royal Engineers
Battles/wars Second Boer War

Colonel James Lethbridge Brooke Templer (27 May 1846 – 2 January 1924) was an early British military pioneer of balloons.[2] He was an officer in the King's Royal Rifle Corps[3] and Royal Engineers.[4] Templer set out a scientific foundation for British military ballooning. In particular, he worked out routines for balloon handling, how to use hydrogen in cylinders and methods for training observers.[5]


James Templer was the son of John Templer. He was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge.[6] Whilst serving in the King's Royal Rifle Corps Templer became interested in military ballooning.[7]

In 1878 Captain Templer and Captain C M Watson started the first regular British Army balloon school at Woolwich.[8] The school was started with Templer's own balloon, the Crusader.[9] At the same time, Templer was appointed Instructor in Ballooning to the Royal Engineers.[10] The following year Captain Templer took command of the newly established military balloon department at Chatham.[11]

On 10 December 1881 Captain Templer was accompanied by Walter Powell the MP for Malmesbury and Mr. A. Agg-Gardner, brother of James Agg-Gardner – then between terms as MP for Cheltenham – in the balloon Saladin. The group departed Bath and headed towards Dorset. In time they found themselves within half a mile of the sea near Eypesmouth which is to the west of Bridport. As the balloon was rapidly drifting seaward, they attempted to descend. The balloon touched the ground a mere 150 yards from the cliff edge. The balloon dragged along and ground and Templer exited the basket holding the valve line in his hand. As the balloon had just been lightened, it rose about eight feet and Agg-Gardner jumped out breaking his leg. Powell was now the only occupant of the balloon. Templer, who had still hold of the line, shouted to Powell to climb down the line. Powell made a move for the rope but the balloon rose, tearing the line out of Templer's hands. The balloon climbed rapidly and Powell was taken out to sea. He was never seen again.[2]

In February 1885, Templer was promoted to the rank of major.[12] During the British Army's expedition to the Sudan in 1885, Templer took three balloons. He was mentioned in despatches for his actions during the Hasheen engagement.[7][13]

In 1888 Templer was accused, arrested and charged with providing the Italian Government with British secrets about military ballooning. The case was found to be without foundation and Templer was honourably acquitted.[14]

At the start of the Second Boer War (1899–1902), Templer served in the Scientific and Departmental Corps as a lieutenant colonel.[15] He was promoted to full colonel in December 1899[16] and was able to put his interest in steam traction to use when he served as Director of Steam Road Transport during the war.[3] He was mentioned in despatches (29 November 1900) by Lord Roberts, Commander-in-Chief during the early part of the War.[17]

In 1902, Templer decided that it was time to construct a British military airship. Under Templer's direction, in 1905 the Balloon Factory relocated to Farnborough.[18] where work could be started on an airship shed. This, and a shortage of money, delayed the project. Work on the British Army Dirigible No 1, named Nulli Secundus ("Second to none") was not complete until 1907 by which time Templer was no longer the superintendent of the Balloon Factory, Colonel Capper having taken over in 1906.[19]

Templer continued as the superintendent of the Balloon Factory until retiring from service in 1908.

He died at Laughton Grange in the Sussex town of Lewes on 2 January 1924.[1]


Templer married Florence Henrietta Gilliat at Chorley Wood in Watford on 12 January 1889.[1] Their daughter Ursula Florence Templer was born in London the following year on 29 August 1890.[20]


  1. ^ a b c d e http://www.templerfamily.co.uk/Templer%20Trees/Templer%20A/GGtextGC.htm#I0309
  2. ^ a b http://www.templerfamily.co.uk/Templers/People/James%20Lethbridge%20Brooke%20Templer/James_LB_Templer.htm
  3. ^ a b http://www.remuseum.org.uk/corpshistory/rem_corps_part8.htm
  4. ^ http://myancestors.wordpress.com/2007/11/25/fatal-balloon-accident-near-bridport/
  5. ^ http://www.crossandcockade.com/pdf/Observers.pdf
  6. ^ "Templer, James Lethbridge Brooke (TMLR865JL)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  7. ^ a b Burke, Edmund; Ivison Stevenson Macadam (1925). The Annual Register of World Events. Longmans, Green. p. 109.
  8. ^ Turner, Charles Cyril (1972) [1927]. "XXII". The Old Flying Days. Ayer Publishing. pp. 5 and 6. ISBN 0-405-03783-X.
  9. ^ http://www.century-of-flight.freeola.com/new%20site/balloons/Military%20balloons%201850.htm
  10. ^ http://www.flying-museum.org.uk/the_early_days.htm
  11. ^ http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/etext97/aadow10.htm
  12. ^ "No. 25448". The London Gazette. 3 March 1885. p. 922.
  13. ^ http://www.aerodacious.com/Left002.HTM
  14. ^ "Major Templer's Escape; Discussion of the Case in English Army Circles. The Feeling Toward His Accuser-- Curious Social Ethics—Drill Reform—Coming To Boston" (PDF). The New York Times. 29 April 1888.
  15. ^ http://www.angloboerwar.com/Other/transvaal_war_album.htm
  16. ^ "No. 27141". The London Gazette. 5 December 1899. p. 8185.
  17. ^ "No. 27443". The London Gazette. 17 June 1902. pp. 3965–3967.
  18. ^ http://www.aiaa.org/Participate/Uploads/Sites-by-state-for-web4.doc
  19. ^ Turner, Charles Cyril (1972) [1927]. "XXII". The Old Flying Days. Ayer Publishing. p. 294. ISBN 0-405-03783-X.
  20. ^ http://www.templerfamily.co.uk/Templer%20Trees/Templer%20A/GGtextGC.htm#I0419

External links[edit]

Military offices
New title
School established
Superintendent of the Balloon School
Initially with Capt C M Watson

Succeeded by
J E Capper