The third volume of the history of air war: Africa, Zeppelin Air Raids on Britain, the Western Front and more.
This magnificent appraisal of the aerial war during the First World War by H. A. Jones (1893-1945) continues in volume 3, beginning with a riveting account of the activities of the RFC and RNAS in German East and South-West Africa during 1914-16. These ‘side-show’ theatres of the war are of perennial interest to students of the period by virtue of their peculiar conditions and exotic locations. Rarely has so much valuable material about this singular aspect of those campaigns been gathered together. This is followed by a fascinating account, and an excellent resource for British local history enthusiasts, that recounts in detail the Zeppelin air raids on Britain from the perspective of the German raiders, those who suffered their deprivations and those who sought to foil them from the ground and in the air. The third volume of this essential Leonaur series concludes with the air war as it was fought over the Western Front. Particular focus is given to the battles of the winter of 1916-17 and especially to the Battle of Arras, 1917.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
In spite of the enemy activity on the 11th of April, the photography of a section of the Drocourt-Quéant line by three R.E.8’s of No. 59 Squadron met with only slight opposition. A bombing attack on Cambrai led to much fighting which was illustrative of the defensive weakness of a formation including B.E. aeroplanes incapable of putting up a fight. There were five B.E.’s of No. 4 Squadron with an escort of Sopwith ‘Pups’ of No. 3 (Naval) Squadron and Spads of No. 23 Squadron. On the way to the objective an Albatros two-seater which unhesitatingly attacked was sent down in flames by a pilot of No. 3 (Naval) Squadron. Over Cambrai, Albatros and Halberstadt fighters flew into the bombers, and a stern fight ensued. Two enemy aeroplanes were shot down by naval pilots, but two of the B.E.’s and a Spad were lost. A naval pilot, Flight Sub-Lieutenant J. S. T. Fall, who became detached from the fight in the early stages, reported as follows:
When B.E.’s were attacked at Cambrai I attacked H.A. head on at about 8,000 feet. I saw many tracers go into his engine as we closed on one another, I half looped to one side of him, and then the H.A. dived with a large trail of blue smoke. I dived after him down to about 4,000 feet and fired about fifty rounds when he went down absolutely out of control. I watched him spinning down to about 1,000 feet, the trail of smoke increasing. I was immediately attacked by three more Albatros which drove me down to about 200 feet. We were firing at one another whenever possible, when at last I got into a good position and I attacked one from above and from the right. I closed on him, turning in behind him and got so close to him that the pilot’s head filled the small ring in the Aldis sight.
I saw three tracers actually go into the pilot’s head; the H.A. then simply heeled over and spun into the ground. The other two machines cleared off. I saw two other H.A. spinning down out of control and while fighting saw two B.E.’s being attacked by H.A. Having lost sight of all the other machines and being so low, I decided to fly home at about that height (200 feet). A company of German cavalry going east along a small road halted and fired on me; also, several machine guns opened fire.
After flying west for about five minutes I was again attacked by a Halberstadt single-seater and as he closed on me I rocked my machine until he was within fifty yards. I side-looped over him and fired a short burst at him. He seemed to clear off, and then attacked me again; these operations were repeated several times with a slight variation in the way I looped over him, until within about five minutes of crossing the lines (flying against a strong wind), when he was about 150 yards behind me, I looped straight over him and coming out of the loop I dived at him and fired a good long burst. I saw nearly all the tracers go into the pilot’s back, just on the edge of the cockpit. He immediately dived straight into the ground.
I then went over German trenches filled with soldiers, and I was fired on by machine-gun, rifles, and small field guns, in or out of range. There was a lot of small artillery firing and many shells bursting in and about the German trenches, somewhere in the vicinity of the Cambrai-Arras Road. I saw many small companies of infantry and cavalry of about ten to fifty in each going east along small roads. I noticed no convoys or movement of artillery. I landed at the first aerodrome I saw, No. 35 Squadron, R.F.C. My machine was badly shot about.’