THE WAR IN THE AIR (1914-1918)
This page contains links to online resources about the war in the air during the First World War (WW1). The War Letters 1914-1918 series will include two books based on the letters of pilots. The first will be published in the spring of 2015, the second in the autumn of 2016. The resources listed are, therefore, just an initial selection. This collection will be continually added to and expanded when I begin working on the books properly. In the meantime, if you come across any resources that you think should be included please let me know.
Report of the Committee on Royal Aircraft Factory, and Report to the War Committee by the Air Board on the Subject of the Royal Aircraft Factory (HMSO, London, 1916)
OFFICIAL HISTORIES [top]
The War in the Air, Vol. I starts with a short history of powered flight and continues with the formation of the Royal Flying Corps and the role of aircraft in the first months of the war.
The War in the Air, Vol. II tells the air story of the Gallipoli campaign, and the role of aircraft on the Western Front from the winter of 1914–1915 to the end of the Battle of the Somme. It also details the role of aircraft in home waters during 1916.
The War in the Air, Vol. III tells of the part played by aircraft in the campaigns against German East Africa and German South-West Africa. It also gives an account of the air attacks on Great Britain in 1914–16. In addition it reviews the problems of supply, administration, recruitment, and training during this period and outlines the air developments and operations on the Western Front in the winter of 1916–17,and during the battle of Arras, 1917.
The War in the Air, Vol. IV covers naval air developments and operations in home waters throughout 1917 and the first quarter of 1918. It also deals with air warfare on the Western Front, starting with the battle of Messines in June 1917 and ending with the German offensives in March and April 1918.
The War in the Air, Vol. V tells the story of the German air attacks on Britain during 1917 and 1918.
The British National Archives have digitised the service records of RFC officers who served between 1914 and March 1918. These can be searched online for free, but payment is required to see the full record.
UNIT RECORDS [top]
Brief histories of each of the squadrons in the Australian Flying Corps are provided on the Australian War Memorial website.
An Avaiator’s Field Book is a short book based on the field notes of the German pilot Oswald Bölcke offering a valuable insight into the role and activities of a German pilots during the first two years of the war.
Der rote Kampfflieger are the wartime memoirs of the of the German pilot Manfred von Richthofen, more famously known as the Red Baron.
The Red Fighter Pilot, is an English translation of von Richthofen’s book.
In the Royal Naval Air Service is a collection of letters written to his parents by Harold Rosher describing his life as a pilot in the RNAS during the first two years of the war before his death in early 1916.
R.F.C. H.Q. 1914–1918 by Maurice Baring is a highly readable account of his time as Staff Officer to both General Henderson and General Trenchard when they commanded the Royal Flying Corps in France.
The War of the Air by Edgar Middleton, a pilot in the RFC, is written ‘to help the young man who wants to adopt “Flying” as a profession … a profession that offers an irresistible appeal to the healthy minded, sport-loving youth of Great Britain, to whom adventure is the nectar of existence.’ The second part of the book is Middleton’s account of his own adventures in the air over France.
Winged Warfare – Hunting the Hun in the Sky is the war-time memoir of Major William A. Bishop, later Air Marshal William Avery “Billy” Bishop, VC, CB, DSO & Bar, MC, DFC, ED. Officially credited with shooting down 72 enemy aircraft, Bishop was the top Canadian ace of the war.
OTHER EBOOKS [top]
Aerial Observation; the Airplane Observer, the Balloon Observer, and the Army Corps (19121) by Harold E. Porter, a former pilot in the US Air Service, is a detailed look at observation and the central role it played, an Porter believed should play in the future.
Aeroplanes and Dirigibles of War by Frederick A. Talbot, written in 1915, is one of the first histories of military aircraft and as such offers an important insight into how the rapid developments taking place were seen at the time.
The German Air Force in the Great War, an English translation of the German book Die Deutschen Luftstreitkräfte im Weltkriege by Major Neumann of the German Air Force. The English translation, published in 1920, is a third the size of the original and is geared to what the translator thought would most interest English readers.
The British Library Electronic Theses Online Service has a small number of Ph.D theses about the war in the air that can be directly downloaded from their site. Registration for the service is required, but this is free.
The Conceptual Origins of the Control of the Air: British Military and Naval Aviation, 1911– 1918, Pugh, James Neil
(Ph.D., University of Birmingham, 2013).
Army Co-operation Missions of the Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force 1914–1918, Jordan, David John (Ph.D., Birmingham University, 1997)
Cross and Cockade International is the quarterly journal of the First World War Aviation Historical Society. Published since 1970, the journal is a fantastic source for those interested in the war in the air. Journals are free to members who pay a £25 annual subscription. Individual back issues can be bought as PDFs for £3.
An index to all the 172 journals can be downloaded as free a PDF from the Cross and Cockade website.
Flight, the British aviation magazine, is another essential source of information. Published since 1909, every issue up to 2005 has been scanned and made freely available as PDFs by Flightglobal. The issues can be fully searched or browsed by individual year.
An invaluable index to the issues between 1909 and 1919 has been compiled by Derek Riley of the First World War Aviation Historical Society.
War in the Air is one of the series of IWM podcasts based on interviews from their archive. This episode has men who flew with the RFC and RAF describing their training and the many and varied roles played by aircraft in the war.
The British Pathe WW1 aerial warfare collection has original footage showing British, French and American airmen, zeppelins, balloons, plane wrecks and the Royal Navy Air Service. All 31 short films can be viewed online at no cost.
The European Film Gateway has links to over 200 items of film about the war in the air taken at the time. The films come from archives throughout Europe and have been digitised with EU funding. They are free to view.
WW1 Aviation.com, a site created and maintained by the tireless William Ira Boucher, has numerous images, produced by Boucher himself, of the vast range of different aircraft used by all sides in the conflict.