World War 1 happened just nine years after the Wright brothers flew the first powered aeroplane, however, the benefit of air power was quickly recognised by both armies. Initially as spotters, which, inevitably led to the other side sending up aeroplanes to stop them.  The air war had begun!

Air Power of a tool of war

Inevitably, air power became a tool of war, which as war always does, it sped up development, which eventually led to one of the greatest changes in society, a change at the beginning of the last century matching the growth of the internet at the end.

The problems of the first air war

To go back to the war, in the early days this development was not easy.  Each side was looking for a way to use this very fragile invention to their advantage, with the result that on the British side alone about one in five of the 22,000 pilots who completed training died, to this must be added the thousand trainee pilots who died during their training. The development of the aeroplane was not easy.

The Germans used air balloons.

Meanwhile the Germans took a different tack developing their Zeppelins, air balloons to bomb British towns. They started on 19 January 1915, bombing Sheringham, Yarmouth, King’s Lynn along with other east coastal towns, in all there were 52 Zeppelin raids on England killing 556 people and injuring 1,357.

The balloons were vulnerable.

However, these airships were vulnerable to both wind and British fighter aircraft, so if they wanted to continue bombing the cities, they had to create aircraft that could bomb. On 25 May 1917, 23 bomber aircraft raided south-east England, killing 95 and wounding 192, then London was hit on 13 June 1917 with over 100 bombs killing 162 civilians and 18 children at a school in Poplar, East London.

Even though it resulted in lives being lost and severe damage to buildings, it had no influence in the direction of the war, but they were frightening. To quote the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Robertson,

“One would have thought the world was coming to an end.”

It didn’t and we won that war and then, the next one as air power became critical. 

Isn’t history interesting?

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© Tony Dalton