How It Works

The First World War from the air

The First World War can be considered the birthplace of aerial combat. Prior to 1914, the idea was only remotely considered but as the Great War continued, this new type of warfare went from strength to strength.

A Sopwith Camel
A Sopwith Camel

The first evidence of aerial warfare was the 1911 Italian invasion of Libya where bombs were dropped from a monoplane. Primitive perhaps but this demonstrated that there was now a third way to fight a war as well as on land and sea.

When war broke out, every nation only had an airforce that numbered at most, in the 100’s. The Wright brothers first ever flight was only 10 years prior and even the RAF wasn’t formed until 1917!

A Fokker D7f
A Fokker D7f

Planes were originally only used for reconnaissance missions but as German Zeppelin raids began to devastate southern England, something needed to be done. The result was a fleet of airplanes from the new Royal Flying Corps (RFC) such as the BE2c and Sopwith Camel. Highly manoeuvrable and agile, the damage from Zeppelin raids were soon nullified.

As the war continued on, aircraft became more and more important in seeking out enemy positions, dogfighting and bombing ground targets. The Germans actually had better planes than the British with their Fokker’s and Albatros’s boasting much better handling and weaponry than their ‘Tommy’ counterparts. This was all turned around at the 1917 Battle of Arras when the RFC finally turned the tide.

To learn more about the different types of airplanes in World War One, the amazing acrobatics they carried out and the best fighter aces of the war, check out our ‘WW1 Dogfights’ article in issue 61 of HIW A sneak peek of the article is below!