As Defence Journal
describes it, at the outbreak of the First World War (WW1) in 1914, military aviation consisted of light wooden bi/tri planes with maximum speeds of under 100 mph and very limited load carrying capacity.
Their roles were initially restricted to reconnaissance and artillery observations.
While there may not have been any air power doctrine on the eve of WW1, there was no shortage of alarming speculations about strikes from the sky, thanks to pre-war novels from H.G Wells and others.
Within seven weeks of WW1 beginning, Sopwith Tabloids of Britain's Royal Naval Air Service conducted an air raid on the Zeppelin (airship) sheds in Germany. A year later Germany retaliated when Zeppelins in turn bombed English cities.
The actual damage in all these raids may have been minimal but the psychological impact on civilians and populations was profound.
With both sides using increasing numbers of aircraft for reconnaissance, artillery observations and occasional bombing raids, the inevitable happened and aircraft started to shoot at each other to prevent the adversary from taking military advantage of the new medium. This marked the birth of fighter aircraft whose numbers proliferated whilst their performance took a quantum leap. The battle for control of the air had truly begun. The writing was clearly on the wall for military tactics and precepts that had stood for hundreds of years as the full flower of air power's potential to change the course of events and even win wars had to be acknowledged.
The Air War assumed a giant scale on both sides. By way of example, the British had upwards of 2,000 planes active by war end. And the war saw many tactics and strategies develop that were further developed in the Second World War.
Recovering names and details from over 100 years ago is a big task. If you have additions or corrections, or know of places we can contact to request their data, please let us know via the Helpdesk.
Searching here is powerful. Check the Search Tips first. You can search on single items (a surname for example, or a country) and you can search on combinations: thus a search on 'Australia and Camel' will find all records where BOTH Australia and Camel are mentioned.
You can search on 2 characters or more
Searching is possible on French squadrons, but with some care. The French named their squadrons for the plane each flew, thus N95 was a squadron flying Nieuport, SPA 150 flew the SPAD. To search for squadron N95 search for 'Nieuport N95'. Squadrons flying the Caudron were designated C50 for example, so in this case search for 'Caudron C50'.
Be aware we have used dozens of different sources. Some use special characters (such as umluats on German), others use Anglicized versions of the word. Thus some use Göring, and some use Goering. Try different approaches.
Countries/Nationalities Included: Agentina, Australia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Bulgaria, Canada, Canada Newfoundland, Canada French Canada, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Germany Bavaria, Germany Sudetenland, Great Britain (Wales, Scotland, Ireland separately listed), Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritius, Mexico, Netherlands, Slovakia, Hungary, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Swaziland, Switzerland, Turkey Ottoman Empire, USA, Venezuela, Vietnam.
The reader is referred to a site of great scholarship on WWl aviation. airhistory.org
is comprehensive and valuable.