The German Air Assault Against Great Britain 1914-1918
Volume 1 1914-1916
By Nigel J Parker
Helion & Co, 2015
This book is the first in two volumes providing a comprehensive account of the German air raids on Britain during the First World War. This volume is split into three parts, each covering one year. The development and construction of German and British airships is covered, as is the development of counter-measures such as anti-aircraft guns, searchlights, and the role of the Royal Naval Air Service in home defence.
Chronological accounts of each airship flight is given, as are details of British attempts to take out the threat through bombing the airship sheds themselves, with mixed results. Specifics about each attack are supported by official reports as well as personal accounts. These are incredibly detailed accounts of the raids, including directions and route and even the wind conditions. Each raid has a useful summary table noting the location, number of bombs dropped, and any casualties and damage sustained. Corresponding anti-aircraft battery activity is also recorded.
The book draws heavily on the wealth of primary evidence available at The National Archives, and is superbly illustrated – from pictures of the ordnance used to the individuals involved; the zeppelins themselves, photos of bomb damage, and relevant maps. There is an amazing amount of information that can be learnt from the text, from the supplies and equipment carried by the German pilots, to the fact that Zeppelin L10 caught fire after being hit by lightning in September 1915.
What becomes clear is actually how difficult it was for the defending forces to locate and catch the airships, particularly at night. Where airships were brought down a number of first-hand accounts of these still exist and these are used to good effect.
No less than 13 appendices accompany the text. A comprehensive index of aeroplanes, airships, ships, people and places make it easy to dip into particular areas of interest. The bibliography is testament to the extensive primary and secondary sources that have been consulted.
What is not really examined is the effect that the raids had on the civilian population. Although early bombing raids were largely unsuccessful in terms of hitting targets, their almost indiscriminate nature (due to problems locating targets) must have been terrifying, and some examination of this impact would have been beneficial.
Nevertheless, this is not just a narrative account of the bombing raids on Britain, but rather a comprehensive, almost encyclopaedic, work of reference. The two volume collection will no doubt be an essential addition to the bookshelf of anyone with an interest in the air war.
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Gott Strafe England. The German Air Assault Against Great Britain 1914-1918 Volume 1