War in the air




Before the Great War in 1914, aeroplanes had never before been used as a weapon in battle. However, the Great War brought about a huge change in the aeroplane and a new era of warfare was begun. 
At the outset of the war many military leaders viewed the aeroplane as a novelty and couldn't visualise the benefits of such a machine in battle. Soon the aircraft proved itself effective for reconnaisance missions to spy on enemy trenches, spot artillery emplacements and take photographs of enemy positions. Both the Allies and Germans were soon developing more effective and reliable  aircraft for use in the war.

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Airbattle 1914.

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Pilot's Greetings.

The step to fighter aircraft and bombers was only a short one. Fighting between aircraft began as pilots carried projectiles to throw at ennemy planes. Soon both sides were fixing machineguns to aeroplanes to fight in the air. Small bombs were also developed that could be dropped from an aircraft onto enemy supply dumps and trenches. Bigger and better planes were soon being built to carry heavier loads and to travel longer distances over enemy lines. 

When the British went to war against Germany on August 4, 1914, they fully anticipated that the skies over England would soon be aswarm with giant Zeppelin bombers. The German public enjoyed similar expectations; even the school children favored a lusty song that urged the mighty airships to fly against the enemy. "England," they sang, "will be destroyed by fire."
In fact, Germany was ill-prepared to mount such an onslaught. The Navy had lost two of its three airships in peacetime accidents, and four of the Army's six Zeppelins were brought down by hostile fire during the first weeks of warfare. 
All this was to change drastically, owing largely to the passionate faith and ruthless dynamism of a single officer: Commander Peter Strasser.

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Peter Strasser.

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Zeppelin over

The Zeppelin Company responded to the challenge of war by agreeing to build 26 military airships, of an enlarged and improved design, by 1915. The eight British rigids that flew during the War were technically about five years behind the German models and had little impact on the conflict. Germany's Army, not to be outdone by the Navy, expanded its airship service too, although - lacking a Strasser - it would never match the Navy's in size or effectiveness.

(Source: The Giant Airships - Douglas Botting - Time Life Books 1980)



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