Bernhard Rieger. Technology and the Culture of Modernity in Britain and Germany, 1890-1945. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. A cultural history of the responses to three particular types of 'modern wonder': aviation, passenger liners, and cinema. I read this back when I was doing my PhD, but I've moved to a different library since then and I need my own copy now. I found it slightly frustrating at the time, because in terms of aviation it focuses almost entirely on airliners and explorers, as opposed to, say, bombers. This means that the discussion of the risk posed by this new technology is framed in terms of accidents rather than war. That said, the final chapter on technology on the nation redresses this balance somewhat, and besides, I'm probably tilted too much the other way.

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paris-30

Paris has, unfortunately, been in the news lately, which has made me think back to my visit in December 2013. Happier days. I never got around to posting any photos from that trip, so now seems like a good time to rectify that. But because you can find far more beautiful pictures of Parisian landmarks just about anywhere, I'll just focus on airminded Paris. (With the exception of the Arc de Triomphe, above.)
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[Horatio] Barber. How to Fly a Plane: The First World War Pilot's Manual. Stroud, Amberley Publishing, 2014 [1917]. Christmas present! Barber was a British aviation pioneer, holder of Aero Club Certificate no. 30, the first occupant of Hendon Aerodrome, the first Briton to get a degree in aeronautics. During the First World War he did flight training for the RFC, and in 1917 published this book under the title of The Aeroplane Speaks. Heavily illustrated, with a glossary and a selection of vintage ads at the back (the Burberry Carapace Air-Suit does look rather fetching).

John Hackett. The Third World War: The Untold Story. New York: Macmillan, 1982. A classic, bestselling piece of future-war fiction from the late Cold War, written by an eminent general (brigade commander at Arnhem, commander of NATO's Northern Group; incidentally born and raised in Australia) as a history of a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict in 1985 which goes global and ends in a limited nuclear exchange (bye-bye Birmingham and Minsk). Unfortunately this edition doesn't include the alternate ending where a nuclear-free Europe caves in to the Soviets and the US and Australia pick up the RAF and the RN.

Matthew Sweet. The West End Front: The Wartime Secrets of London's Grand Hotels. London: Faber and Faber, 2011. This has been out for a while for some reason I never got around to buying (possibly due to a lingering lack of interest in how the other half lives, but it's not as bad as all that). But $10 was the right price to change that.

J. Lee Thompson. Northcliffe: Press Baron in Politics 1865-1922. London: John Murray, 2000. Another $10 bargain find, but it would have been worth paying full price for. Northcliffe founded the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, owned the Observer and The Times among other newspapers, and was a key figure in promoting aviation in Britain, from coining the phrase 'England is no longer an island' after seeing Santos-Dumont fly in 1906, right up to giving P. R. C. Groves his start as a prophet of aerial doom in 1922.

Ian Smith Watson. The Royal Air Force at Home: The History of RAF Air Displays from 1920. Barnsley: Pen and Sword Aviation, 2010. Another book I've picked up and put down many times, mainly because the section on the Hendon displays is disappointingly slender. But now that I am thinking about aerial theatre postwar as well as interwar, it's a lot more useful to me.

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Aircraft recognition poster, c. 1914

Back to back Roads to War! This week's topic is the most airminded yet: the first German air raids on Britain. I had to cheat slightly to fit them in, as technically I'm supposed to talk about the centenary events in the week leading up to the broadcast date, i.e 23 December, but the first German bomb didn't fall on British soil until 24 December. However, if you count bombs falling pointlessly into the sea off Dover pier then 21 December 1914 was the date of the first German air raid on Britain. That's not exactly exciting, so I also talked about the slightly more interesting Christmas Eve raid (which famously destroyed a Dover cabbage patch) and the even slightly more interesting Christmas Day raid (which led to the first aerial combat in British skies). Even so, that wasn't enough to fill up 15 minutes, so I also talked about the fear of aerial attack and (of course) phantom airships, including one over Hartlepool the second night after the bombardment which led to a rumour that the Germans were back and this time had landed, and hence to a minor exodus as people fled to the relative safety of Middlesbrough.

Image source: Online Bicycle Museum (!) Note the injunction for members of the public in country districts to report hostile aircraft to the authorities.

I'm shocked to see that it's already nearly two weeks since I got back from my UK research trip -- it seems like it was just a couple of days ago. It was a fairly long trip: five weeks in total, essentially all of them spent in archives in London (National Archives, British Library, Imperial War Museum), Newcastle (Tyne and Wear Archives), Middlesbrough (Teesside Archives), Woodhorn (Northumberland Archives), Durham (Durham County Record Office), Edinburgh (National Records of Scotland), Leeds (Liddle Collection, University of Leeds), and Aylesbury (Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies), as well as at a conference in Wolverhampton (British Commission for Military History). In fact my initial plan of four weeks research and one week holiday fell by the wayside, as there was just too much I still needed to do in the archives in London to waste time in Berlin. I half-expected this would happen, which is why I didn't book a holiday in advance (corollary: if I really want a holiday, I should book it in advance). But it was certainly worth it in research terms, as I found some great stuff in that extra week.

I had to adjust my plans on the fly in other ways, too. For example, I spent two weeks in Newcastle, with the intention of using it as a base from which to examine archives in the northeast for evidence of invasion, Zeppelin and spy fears. But it turned out that there wasn't a whole lot to find, either in terms of private diaries and letters or local government records. One week, with better planning, would have been enough. Because I was in Newcastle, however, it was feasible to commute to Edinburgh or to Leeds, so I spent two useful days at the National Records of Scotland and one at the Liddle Collection. A shame I didn't plan this from the start, though.
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Remember Scarborough!

After a break of a few weeks, today I recorded another Road to War episode for ABC New England, covering the period 10–16 December 1914. I focused on the German naval bombardment of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby, which caused the greatest loss of civilian loss of life due to enemy action in Britain for the entire war. As it happens, this was something I researched during my recent trip to the UK, so I was able to draw on some primary source material -- in particular, the diary of Annette Matthews, who was originally from Scarborough, and not only quoted letters from her relatives who were there during the bombardment but also recorded her thoughts on visiting her home town to see the damage a few weeks later.

Image source: Remember Scarborough!

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So, I bought so many books in the UK that I had to post some of them home to myself; here are some of them. You might ask why I didn't just note down the names of all these books and order them when I got back to Australia, but such a self-evidently absurd question wouldn't merit a response.

A to Z Atlas and Guide to London and Suburbs. Sevenoaks: Geographers' A-Z Map Company, 2008 [c. 1938]. As I've said before, I do like a good facsimile edition. This one is of the first edition of the standard London A-Z street directory, including maps of Theatreland, Cinemaland, shopping centres and parking places. It's not quite Melways, but few street directories are.

Peter Adey. Air: Nature and Culture. London: Reaktion Books, 2014. A typically wide-ranging (and also lavishly illustrated) work taking something we generally take for granted and dissecting its meaning in science, art, literature and history, from life to pollution to disease to (of course) war. Lots of unexpected things here, including a big shoutout for Airminded. Thanks, Peter, and for the free copy too!

Maggie Andrews and Janis Lomas, eds. The Home Front in Britain: Images, Myths and Forgotten Experiences since 1914. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. While in the UK I kept an eye out for books on the British home front in the First World War, since that's what I was there to research, but despite the centenary there don't appear to be many yet (at least, if you care about references). This is one that I did pick up; it has a number of chapters which should be useful, particularly the first one by Andrews on ideals of domesticity (in terms of the Second World War, Gillian Mawson's on Guernsey evacuees caught my eye).

Greg Baughen. Blueprint for Victory: Britain's First World War Blitzkrieg Air Force. Fonthill: 2014. The title is a bit silly but this looks like a sober analysis based on some substantial archival research, though it's not quite as original as the blurb would have you believe. Baughen argues that the British military before 1914 was much more committed to airpower than is often assumed, and also that the success of close air support by 1918 was neglected in favour of strategic bombing and an independent air force.

Harold Balfour. Wings over Westminster. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1973. Balfour was an RFC fighter ace during the First World War, Under-Secretary of State for Air during the Second, and an airminded Conservative MP for much of the time between (he gets three mentions in my book); these are his memoirs. 'Thank God for Munich', he says (p. 111); and I say thanks to Andrew Gray for the copy!

David Clarke. Britain's X-traordinary Files. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. Drawn largely from official records (and published in collaboration with the National Archives), this takes in many surprising topics, including the Angel of Mons, Grindell Matthews' death ray, phantom helicopters and mysterious aircraft disappearances, just to name a few. I would have liked to see some scareships in there too, though!

Gerard DeGroot. Back in Blighty: The British at Home in World War I. London: Vintage Books, 2014. Another of the better home front histories. In fact DeGroot has already written one of the best around, Blighty (1996); but this update is almost an entirely new book, intended to be much more accessible to a general public and with very little in common with its predecessor. It's much more of a social history than a political or economic one.

Michael Diamond. Victorian Sensation: Or the Spectacular, the Shocking, and the Scandalous in Nineteenth-Century Britain. London: Anthem Press, 2004. Not only fun, but hopefully useful for me in terms of thinking about aerial spectacle and the public consumption of the same. It draws heavily on the press, impressively so given that it was published long before things like the British Newspaper Archive was around; but it's disappointing to find that the many newspaper citations don't include page numbers. Why treat your sources (and your readers) with such disrespect?

Alexander C. T. Geppert. Fleeting Cities: Imperial Expositions in Fin-de-Siècle Europe. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. Again, this should be useful for me, as it could be argued that the great expositions and exhibitions, as nationalistic celebrations of technology and power in the guise of mass entertainment, paved the way for the Hendon pageants (and London Defended was actually part of the British Empire Exhibition, which gets a chapter here). Interestingly one of Geppert's other research interests is what he calls astroculture, something like airmindedness but for space.

Ian Hall. Alnwick in the Great War. Alnwick: Wanney Books, 2014. As with the home front in general, there seems to be a lack of regional histories of the First World War so far. This one, about Alnwick in Northumberland, is a slender pamphlet (just 40 pages) which doesn't cite many sources, but is clearly based on some great primary sources, including plans by the local authorities in Northumberland for what to when the Germans invaded and the effect of Zeppelin raids.

Hendon: The Royal Air Force Pageants, 1920 to 1939. Strike Force Entertainment, 2011. I've had my eye on this for a while, but again it's particularly useful for my aerial theatre non-project. A DVD compilation of newsreels about the Hendon pageants (which finished in 1937, not 1939, so I assume this also covers Empire Air Day). I haven't watched it yet but it seems like it is drawn from everything but British Pathé, which is fine since the latter is easily available on the web.

Robin Higham and Mark Parillo, eds. The Influence of Airpower upon History: Statesmanship, Diplomacy, and Foreign Policy since 1903. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2013. Airpower: what is it good for? Quite a bit, even if its decisiveness has been and continues to be greatly exaggerated by many. There are chapters here on the effect of airpower in the 1930s on French (Patrick Facon) and German diplomacy (Richard Muller), as well as on the bomber in Russian (David Jones) and European (John Morrow) strategic thought more generally up to the 1940s.

Cecil Lewis. Sagittarius Rising. London: Frontline Books, 2009 [1936]. Like Balfour a decorated ace, but he went down a different path after the war, helping to found what became the BBC, winning an Oscar for adapting Pygmalion, becoming a follower of the Armenian mystic Gurdjieff, and writing one of the all-time classic aviation memoirs, which I haven't read. So I'll fix that.

Michael Locicero, Ross Mahoney and Stuart Mitchell, eds. A Military Transformed? Adaptation and Innovation in the British Military, 1792-1945. Solihull: Helion & Company, 2014. The contributors to this collection are emerging British military historians, but that doesn't mean they are unfamiliar to me as I know many of them from their blogs and/or tweets, including two of the editors, Ross Mahoney and Stuart Mitchell. They've put together a very polished book; in airpower terms the key contributions are James Pugh on naval and military aviation doctrine before 1914, Ross himself on air support after Dieppe, and Richard Hammond on air-sea cooperation in the Mediterranean, but everything else looks interesting too!

Annika Mombauer, ed. The Origins of the First World War: Diplomatic and Military Documents. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2013. A big fat book of primary sources (contextualised by Mombauer) relating to the origins of the First World War, which would have been useful last trimester when I was teaching this...

Andrew Renwick. RAF Hendon: The Birthplace of Aerial Power. Manchester: Crécy Publishing, 2012. A light but nicely illustrated history of Hendon in its various incarnations, from aerial showground to wartime factory and back again, ultimately of course becoming (more or less) the RAF Museum of today.

John Stevenson and Chris Cook. The Slump: Britain in the Great Depression. 3rd edition. Harlow: Pearson Education, 2010. A topic which seems almost marginalised in our view of Britain in the 1930s now -- or maybe that's just me, since this book has gone through three editions since 1977.

Adam Tooze. The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order, 1916-1931. London: Allen Lane, 2014. By contrast this topic can hardly be said to have been marginalised, yet by all accounts this is a terrific new interpretation of the attempts to sustain world peace after the First World War, and particularly of the important role played by the United States (yes, it declined to join the League of Nations, but that's not the end of the story) and the question of whether Versailles made another war inevitable (no, which is correct).

Jerry White. Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War. London: The Bodley Head, 2014. Finally, another substantial home front/local history of the First World War. And as the title suggests, Zeppelins feature!

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Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser, 24 October 1914, 7

Yesterday was the last research day proper of my big trip. Actually, I was supposed to be having a holiday, but instead I spent it in Aylesbury at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies, trying to see if I could get to the bottom of the Great Missenden affair of 18 October 1914, when villagers decided that before the war Germans had hidden either a siege gun emplacement or a Zeppelin base in their midst. I didn't find anything in the nature of a revelation, but I did find some very useful bits and pieces. For example the above photograph from the Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser shows 'the mysterious enclosure at Great Missenden' itself -- though why with all those hills and trees it was thought to be a safe landing place for an airship is anyone's guess.1 Otherwise most of the local press reports simply repeated the London Star's report, apart from the Bucks Herald which instead gave a sceptical summary, which did add some commentary, and the Bucks Advertiser which rather sniffily declared that 'little importance is attached to the rumours' and so 'it is inadvisable to pursue the matter further'.2 It probably didn't help that they all went to press nearly a week after the scare had begun and then been debunked, so it's treated as a curiosity rather than a live issue. But none of these papers, nor the South Bucks Free Press, denied that the hunt happened, though, so presumably it actually did.
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  1. Middlesex and Buckinghamshire Advertiser, 24 October 1914, 7. 

  2. Bucks Herald, 24 October 1914, 2, 8; Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News, 24 October 1914, 8. 

Weekly Mail, 22 May 1909, 7

Chatting to Andrew Gray the other day, I realised that I'd never got around to posting about a small discovery I'd made about one of the most sensational sightings from the 1909 phantom airship scare. This is the claim by a Welsh showman named Lethbridge that he had actually seen an airship on the ground, seen its crew, seen them board the airship and take off. Here's how I summarised this incident when I postblogged 20 May 1909, quoting from the London Standard (and ultimately the Cardiff Evening Express):

a travelling Punch-and-Judy salesman by the name of Lethbridge was walking back home from Senghenydd to Cardiff over Caerphilly Mountain. At about 11pm [on 19 May 1909] he saw an airship which had landed on the mountain, and its crew. At least, that seems to be the implication of the interview he gave to the Cardiff Evening Express yesterday.

At the mountain's peak, he saw 'a long, tube-shaped affair lying on the grass on the roadside, with two men busily engaged with something near by'. The men wore 'big, heavy, fur coats, and fur caps fitting tightly over their heads'. When he got within twenty yards 'they jumped up and jabbered furiously to each other in a strange lingo -- Welsh, or something else; it was certainly not English'. They picked up something from the ground, and the object started to rise into the air. The men then 'jumped into a kind of little carriage suspended from it', with wheels. Once it had cleared some telegraph lines, it turned on two lights and headed towards Cardiff.

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While looking for other things in the National Archives today, I came across a proposed 'aerial attack on Germany's next grain crop' in a War Council meeting held at 10 Downing Street on 24 February 1915.1

It was actually two proposed attacks. Mervyn O'Gorman, a civilian engineer who was in charge of the Royal Aircraft Factory, wrote to Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice Hankey, the secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, to suggest burning out the German harvest from the air:

Suppose we have crowds of aeroplanes, which I think we shall by August, say. Then if we drop thousands of little discs of gun-cotton, self-igniting by being painted over with Greek fire (a solution of phosphorus and sulphur in carbon bisulphide).

If these discs were planted on dry or nearly dry corn and hay I incline to the belief that very large destruction might with favourable winds be done, and they could not fully retaliate on us, since our food is seaborne, nor on Russia because of the great distances.2

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  1. The National Archives [TNA], CAB 22/1/15, 'Secretary's Notes of a Meeting of a War Council held at 10, Downing Street, February 24, 1915', 1. 

  2. Ibid., 7.