An interesting post by Maryam Philipott on air power in the First World War. I mentioned Philpott’s book here.


2 thoughts on “Air Power in World War I

  1. The fundamental point here, not made clear enough, is that the RFC was a Corps of the army. As such their task was initially that of reconnaissance, previously carried out exclusively by cavalry, but devolving to the RFC after the war became static in the trenches. The role of the RFC was then expanded, not only to report on enemy troop movements etc, but in photograph missions to provide maps and details of the trench systems; the enemy’s back areas; the preparations and build up of troops for offensives or counter offensives, and, importantly, range for the artillery.
    Each of the combatants then attempted to destroy the enemy’s observation aircraft – to deny him his eyes – with single-seater fighter aircraft. This was countered by each side using fighter aircraft to defend their own observation aircraft. This naturally evolved into combats between fighter aircraft, the so-called dogfights.
    James McCudden, a professional soldier, well knew the importance of the need to destroy the enemy reconnaissance aircraft. In addition to his daily duties as a patrol leader, he flew many solo missions to destroy them. Out of his 57 aerial victories, 45 were German reconnaissance machines.

  2. It is an important point that actually has implications for the book itself. Philpott compares what is a corps of a service, the RFC, with a service itself, the Royal Navy. While her reasoning is based on the use of new technologies, it ends up as an unbalanced analysis as one is a distinct culture while the other, while being quite distinctive in itself, was in essence a sub-cultures based on that of its parent service. She would have been better to make a direct comparison between the two air services or with submarine service or destroyer forces. This is something I shall be exploring more in my review.

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