The First Blitz, Andrew P Hyde

The First Blitz, Andrew P Hyde

The German Air Campaign against Britain, 1917-1918

During the First World War the Germans carried out two bombing campaigns against Britain, the first using Zeppelins and the second with aircraft, most famously the Gotha bombers. In reality little damage was done, but this was the first time that hostile action had threatened London since the Dutch fleet entered the Thames, over three hundred years earlier. The public reaction was thus very strident, and the German campaigns had a impact well beyond their direct military impact, after the British military was strengthen the defensive forces around London. The public reaction had much to do with the nature of some of the casualties. On 13 June 1917 a bomb hit the North Street School in Poplar, killing eighteen very young pupils.

The title is a little misleading. The book actually starts with the pre-war development of aircraft and early fears of aerial attack, before looking at the airship raids and the efforts made to counter them. We are perhaps a third of the way into the book before we reach the formation of the Gotha squadron and the preparation for its first attacks on Britain. There is interesting material on the aircraft involved on both sides, the difficulties of intercepting Zeppelins and the planning of the German raids, both under the Gotha squadron's original leader and under later less able commanders.

The author has a family connection to this campaign - his uncle was killed by the bomb that hit North Street School. One side effect of the author's original focus on the Poplar raid is that the account rather speeds up after that, with the remaining year and a half of the war covered quite quickly. A more positive result of this original interest are the very strong sections on the results of the most effective raids on the grounds, with eyewitness accounts of the destruction and rescue efforts, and details of the casualties. There are also good sections on the main German raids as seen from the attacker's point of view, tracing the often difficult journeys faced by these flimsy bombers as they struggled across the Channel, sometimes with success but just as often failing to reach any significant targets.

This is an interesting account of the German air raids of the First World War, with a better focus on the human face of the raids than is often the case, including material on the victims, the defenders and the attackers.

Chapters
1 - A Power That Controls the Fate of Nations
2 - Aeroplanes May Come Over This Country
3 - The Present Form of Parachute Is Not Suitable
4 - Eat More Slowly, You Will Need Less Food
5 - An Airship Raid Upon London Has Become Impossible
6 - That's Right In Tontine Street
7 - The Guns Were Well Fought
8 - That's One Of Hours
9 - Good Old Jerry! Good Old Lloyd George!
10 - We Are All In This Business Together

Appendices
1 - Performance Ratings of Aircraft in Service with the Home Defence Squadrons
2 - Teachers and Staff Present at Upper North Street School on 13 June 1917
3 - Pupils who died at Upper North Street School on 13 June 1917

Author: Andrew P Hyde
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 192
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2012 edition of 2002 original


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