In 1914 war broke out between all the major powers of Europe. Tension had been building up for a long time for many reasons.
I have chosen to do my project on “War in the Air”, because I was interested by how much air technology advanced as a direct result of the demands of war.I have divided up my project into three sections:1. Air technology in 1914.2. Use of aircraft in the early part of the war.3. (a) How the use of aircraft changed the war,(b) New development’s that allowed aircraft to take on new roles.During my research I went to the local library, I also went to the main library in Cambridge and used the school library and resources to see what books and information were available on this subject.
I searched the internet for relevant sites, and I contacted Duxford Air Museum and the RAF Hendon Museum.It is clear that in 1914 Germany was far better equipped that the Allies. Despite hindsight being easy, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that Britain was very slow to recognise the potential importance of the aeroplane to warfare.The use of ‘lighter-than-air’ machines such as balloons and kites had been used in warfare to a limited degree since the beginning of the 18th Century. It was not long after the Wright brothers successfully developed the first ‘heavier-than-air’ machine that some countries recognised the potential of aircraft in war.
Even after Bleriot’s flight across the Channel in 1909, the British Military establishment was slow to recognise their potential. The Royal Flying Corps was not set-up until May 1912. However, other governments were far quicker to see the potential. The U.S.
was buying aircraft as early as 1908 and Italy was using them in combat as early as 1911.ReconnaissanceIn August 1914 the long expected war broke over the European continent. Armies marched across Europe in time-honoured tradition, but this time with them came heavier-than-air machines. High above the soldiers, these early flying machines made their solitary way back and forth tracking the movements of the columns of soldiers. Often the generals refused to accept the reports it they indicated the enemy was doing the unexpected and not what they had predicted.This began to change when the Royal Flying Corps provided vital information that saved the French army from being caught in a pincer movement near Mons.Separately, on 2nd September, 1914 Corporal Louis Breguet reported field-grey columns were marching from west to east – away from Paris towards the valley of the Ourcq – this was confirmed by other flights. General Joseph-Simon Gallieni, commander of Paris and the Sixth Army, used this intelligence and set in motion what resulted in the battle of the Marne.
On the eastern front German reconnaissance aircraft located and tracked the Russian forces enabling the Hindenburg’s Eighth army to encircle and destroy them at Tannenburg.BombingBombing was used by both sides early on in the war. On the 30th August 1914, Parisians were amazed as a small monoplane, a Rumpler-built Taube, dropped three bombs on the Quai de Valmy, killing two people.
It then released a shower of leaflets announcing the the Germans were “at the gates of Paris”. The pilot was Lt. Ferdinand von Hiddesen.
As the German army attacked Liege, Zepplins from Cologne arrived overlhead to bomb the Belgians. However, on 8th October the Royal Naval Air service made their first strategic bombing raids. Two Sopwith Tabloids took off from Antwerp. Swn. Cdr. Grey bombed Cologne railway station, while Flt. Lt.
Marix took revenge for France, and destroyed Zeppelin LZ.25 in its shed at Dusseldorf. On 21st November the R.N.A.S. attacked again.
Led by Sqd. Cdr. E.F.
Briggs, three Avro 504’s flew in sub-zero temperatures 125 miles to bomb the Zepplin factory at Friedrichshafen. They caused much damage and destroyed the hydrogen gas plant but Briggs was shot down and captured.Because the bomb payload of the small, low-powered aircraft was small, the damage done by bombing, though sometimes effective, was limited.Aerial combatThe first aerial combat recorded was on 25th August, 1914. Lt.
C.W. Wilson closed on a Taube whilst his observer Lt. Rabogliati stood up and fired his rifle at it.
The Taube was forced to land beside a British column near Le Quesnoy. The same day three aircraft from No. 2 Sqn. forced an enemy aircraft to land.
One of the three aircrafts landed beside it and the pilot and navigator chased the German pilot into a wood but then lost him. They did, however, set fire to his aircraft before flying back to their base at Le Cateau.On 5th October, 1914 a German Aviatik became the first aircraft to be shut down by another. Sgt.
Joseph Frantz and his observer Cpt. Louis Quenault of Escadrille VB.24 took off in their Voisin to test its new fitted Hotchkiss machine gun. Over Brimont they saw the enemy.
As they drew near, the observer in the Aviatik opened fire, however, the Hotchkiss shot the Aviatik down in flames.Directing ArtilleryIn December the first use of radio from an aircraft to control indirect artillery fire was reported.Aircraft had made a considerable impact on events of 1914. This was a great achievement as it was not until 1910 that heavier-than-air machines even possessed any capabilities that could have aided military organisations. At the time it was generally considered that the war would be short and mobile. As a result of this the military organisations used their entire air forces leaving little in reserve for reconstitution and expansion.
As we know this assumption proved to be very wrong.At the beginning of the war aircraft were a weapon of “great promise but of minimal performance”. If the war had been over quickly the aeroplane would have received little attention by historians due to its minimal contribution. However, the length of the war, due to the stalemate on the ground, created a great need for reconnaissance and artillery spotting. This need for intelligence created the struggle for control of the air. Proportionally huge losses of aircrew and aircraft led to demands for drastic improvements in quantity and quality of aircraft manufacture.
Improvements were made in all areas: aircraft design, engine performance, aircrew training and proficiency. There was a huge increase in the importance of aircraft to the battle.For example, in April 1917 the French loss of control of the air led to a disastrous result on the battle along the Chemin des Dames. Air services began to use aircraft to attack their enemy’s rear areas. They also began to attack their enemy’s population and industrial base i.e.
the battlefront’s main support. Technology was not advanced enough for the military requirements, huge difficulties in waging strategic bombing campaigns were experienced. However, air services had charted the way for future combat.
Some would say it was the opening of ‘Pandora’s Box’, because after the developments achieved during the 1st World War, any future war between major powers was inconceivable without the aeroplane.Developments That Allowed Aircraft To Take On New RolesBy the nature of war, most of the developments were caused by need; ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.BombersAll major powers involved in the air war pursued the development of strategic bombing to some degree. This was due to a desire to escape the hideous slaughter and stalemate of the trenches.
The Germans had an advantage over the Allies, in that their air bases, located on the territory acquired in the 1914 advance of German troops, were relatively close to London and Paris. Berlin or even the Ruhr, on the other hand, were quite a distance from Allied air bases.Germany put considerable investment into preparing a force of ‘heavy’ bombers, the Gothas. From 1917 they used these twin-engined bombers to make daylight raids on targets in southern England. This was met with outrage from the press, the nation’s sense of security had been shaken.
In response to the public outcry, the Cabinetordered two fighter squadrons to return from France. The outcome was that after three German led raids, the Germans lost nearly a third of their ‘heavy’ bombers. Nevertheless, there was uproar in British political circles that eventually resulted in the creation of the Royal Air Force. The German attacks also led to the creation of an effective air-defence system.
The development of real bombers capable of dropping large bomb payloads a long way from base (as opposed to the limited bombing early in the war), only became possible due such things as the development of bigger, more efficient engines, better structures and better aero-dynamicsThe Synchronised Machine GunIn 1913 a Frenchman, Raymond Saulnier invented the first synchronisation system. He patented his idea that year. Later, in 1915 in Germany a monoplane was fitted with an updated version of this. Unfortunately it was destroyed in an accident and never rebuilt. Back in France, Raymond Saulnier could not get enough funding from the government to progress his idea so he went for a cheaper alternative, and put metal deflectors on his propellers. Therefore, if a bullet did hit it, it would not matter. In 1915 he was forced to land behind enemy lines after being shot from the ground.Before he could burn the plane the Germans arrested him and his plane was examined.
They took the idea of the deflectors to a Dutch designer, who had been turned down by the British and French, Anthony Fokker. They told him to copy this idea, but he found that eventually the propeller would fall off, because of being hit by the bullets. So he said that he would develop the synchronised machine gun idea. He did this and fitted it to one of his own planes. The Fokker MSK monoplane.
This was a revolutionary development in the advancement of air-combat. The aircraft was now a fighting machine.