Christopher M. Bell. Churchill and Sea Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. I'm on record as pledging to never write a book about Winston Churchill, because there seems to be another new one out every time I go to a bookshop and very few of them can have anything new or even interesting to say about the man. And yet there are exceptions, and this is one of them: his involvement with, interest in and affection for the Royal Navy is well-known but little-studied. Churchill and Airpower, anyone?
Ritchie Calder. Carry on London. London: English Universities Press, 1941. Calder was a campaigning journalist during the Blitz, who exposed many of the official civil defence failures in the New Statesman. They feature here too, but overall he gives the government much credit for eventually getting its act together. Ends with a call for Britons never to lose the sense of purpose and unity gained through fighting the Blitz.
John Crawford and Ian McGibbon, eds. New Zealand's Great War: New Zealand, the Allies and the First World War. Titirangi: Exisle, 2007. Although this is the product of a conference, it manages to be a reasonably comprehensive guide to New Zealand's experience and memory of the First World War: Gallipoli, the Somme, home defence, religion, gender, the naval war, the air war (by the late Vincent Orange), and so on. A few ring-ins from overseas help supply context.
Negley Farson. Bomber's Moon. London: Victor Gollancz, 1941. Another contemporary account of the Blitz by a journalist (apparently, the thing to do when in New Zealand is to buy books about something that happened on almost the exact opposite side of the world). This one is by an American foreign correspondent and portrays the character of Londoners under fire. Almost worth it for Tom Purvis's sketches alone. Dedicated to 'The last Nazi'.
Victor Lefebure. The Riddle of the Rhine: Chemical Strategy in Peace and War. New York: Chemical Foundation, 1923. An influential treatise on the use of chemical weapons during the First World War and the difficulties involved in making sure it never happened again. Lefebure was a company commander in the Special Brigade and then British liaison to the French on chemical warfare. I do wish I'd noticed it was the American edition though, especially since the text is available for free online.
Bob Maysmor. Te Manu Tukutuku: The Maori Kite. Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2001. Second edition. I was completely unaware of the Maori tradition of kite-flying so I couldn't not buy this. The Polynesians brought them with them in their migrations and so by the early second millennium they were being flown here in New Zealand. They mainly seem to have been used for divination and for fun. Lots of illustrations.
I've argued that in 1913 there was a perception that the Anglo-German naval arms race was becoming an aero-naval arms race which Britain was losing, and that there was a response on the part of the Navy League, the Aerial League and others to mobilise public opinion in support of an aerial defence programme in a deliberate echo of the 1909 dreadnought scare. In my AAEH talk I drew out these parallels a bit further. In the traditional naval phase:
- 1906: launch of radical HMS Dreadnought destabilises existing naval balance
- Popular/elite perceptions that hostile Germany trying to catch up/overtake Britain at sea
- 1909 press/Navy League campaign: 'we want eight and we won’t wait' (successful)
- Naval arms race over by 1912 (Britain won, detente reached)
In the aero-naval phase:
- 1908: flight of new Zeppelin LZ4 demonstrates long-range capabilities
- Popular/elite perceptions that hostile Germany has already overtaken Britain in air
- 1913 press/Navy League campaign: '£1,000,000 for aerial defence' (failed)
- However, aerial arms race just beginning (Britain losing, detente over?)
I concluded that despite the easing of tensions between the two nations at the diplomatic level, at a popular level the Anglo-German antagonism continued into 1913. Perceptions lagged reality. The naval race may have been won objectively, but it had not yet been won subjectively. And now technology again upset the balance, only this time in the air and with Britain starting from behind.
I also briefly put forward a counterfactual: that had the First World War not taken place, more aero-naval scares would have occurred in future years, replacing the more 'traditional' naval/invasion panics. We can't know that, of course. We do know that after 1918 they were replaced by pure air panics: the war both demonstrated the potential of aerial bombardment of great cities and discredited the possibility of an invasion of Britain. Without that evolution I suspect that the two would have co-existed and combined in the 1913 pattern, and the Anglo-German antagonism would have taken on a new complexion.
Errol W. Martyn. A Passion for Flight: New Zealand Aviation Before the Great War. Volume 1: Ideas, First Flight Attempts and the Aeronauts 1868-1909. Upper Riccarton: Volplane Press, 2012. I mostly bought this for the two pages on the 1909 phantom airship scare, but it also has plenty of fascinating material on early New Zealand airmindedness (of which there was not a little). In addition, there's a full discussion of the claims that Richard Pearse should be regarded as the first to achieve powered, controlled, heavier-than-air flight: Martyn, who is probably the leading expert on early aviation in New Zealand, thinks not.
Previously I looked at Excubitor's claim that in 1913 the Anglo-German naval race was turning into a more dangerous aero-naval one, and that Britain, having won the first was now in the process of losing the other. Here I'll look at some related strands of thought in the press more generally, and what the point of it all was.
Excubitor was not alone in suggesting that Germany was concentrating on airships to compensate for its inferiority in dreadnoughts. A leader in the Devon and Exeter Gazette, for example, drew on an article in Blackwood's Magazine by T. F. Farman (the journalist father of aviator Henri Farman), for its argument that Britain could not afford to be complacent:
Without impugning the sincerity of the German Chancellor's assurances, it is, nevertheless, permissible to inquire whether the alleged intention to abandon, for the time being, the project of creating a fleet equal in every respect to that of Great Britain cannot be accounted for by the creation of a German aerial fleet of dreadnoughts, which is at the present moment unrivalled, and which could, in the case of hostilities, render signal service in a naval engagement in the North Sea or English Channel, and be utilised for attack on ports, arsenals, etc. The Germans may be, indeed, justified in calculating that the proportion of ten to sixteen units is compensated for to a considerable extent by the aerial fleet they have already created, and which is being increased with extraordinary rapidity, both in the number of its units and in their power.
Relatedly, and more commonly, there were a number of commentators who also pointed to the threat posed to Britain's decisive naval superiority by Germany's even more decisive air superiority, but stopped short of claiming that this was a continuation of the dreadnought race (though, arguably, this is implicit). So, for example, an anonymous 'naval expert' interviewed by the Daily Mirror said that
'I think that the strength of the British fleet is unchallengeable [...] if you have regard solely to the old conditions of warfare — that is to say, that we have a comfortable margin of superiority ship for ship.
'Naval science, however, has recently made such rapid progress that it is not now merely a question of sea ship for sea ship; but sea ship plus the air fleet. Bear that in mind, and you will realise the gravity of the present situation.
'The plain fact is that while Germany can come over and attack us by air, we not only cannot attack Germany, but we have no air fleet to resist their attack.
'Our defence against an air attack by Germany is so insignificant as to be practically worthless.
'I believe that if Germany sent over half a dozen airships they could cripple if not destroy our battle fleet and blow up many of our fortresses, and having reduced us to a state of impotence and panic these airships could head for home again unscathed.
John Bede Cusack. They Hosed Them Out. Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2012 . An Australian war novel, originally published nearly half a century ago under the pseudonym John Beede, and republished a number of times since; this edition has been revised and edited by John Brokenmouth and includes a glossary, footnotes, appendices, and a memoir by Cusack's daughter. It's based on the author's wartime experiences as an air gunner in 2 Group, RAF Bomber Command. The title immediately evokes Randall Jarrell's poem 'The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner', but a more relevant comparison is Don Charlwood's No Moon Tonight. (Review copy.)
'Excubitor' is Latin for 'sentinel'; it was the pseudonym chosen by a frequent correspondent on naval affairs for the Fortnightly Review. In March 1908, for example, Excubitor contributed an article entitled 'The British reply to Germany's dreadnoughts'; the following January, 'The blessings of naval armaments'. By May 1913, though, a new theme had appeared. 'Sea and air command: Germany's new policy' argued that the naval arms race with Germany was over: 'the naval predominance of Great Britain in Europe to-day is greater than it was before the passage of the first of the [German] Navy Acts in 1896'. But this didn't mean that Germany was going to give up its ambitions to match Britain at sea: it just meant that it was transferring its efforts to the air:
by the development of the new aerial arm — airships and hydro-aeroplanes — they hope to turn the scales in their favour. Germany possesses already about twenty large airships and over a dozen 'docks' of a permanent character, apart from private ships and 'docks' subsidised by the Government and available for naval and military use, and it is now proposed to increase the number of aerial Dreadnoughts to forty, and to build many more 'docks.' Cuxhaven, 300 miles from England, is to become a great airship station, with revolving sheds so as to enable the vessels to be launched whatever the direction of the wind, and to set forth, armed with quick-firing guns and provided with explosives, on missions of reconnaissance over the British arsenals and the bases and the bases where British squadrons and flotillas are being prepared for action. British naval strategy is to be robbed of secrecy, and secrecy in preparation is of the essence of successful strategy. This the Admiralstab in Berlin fully realises.
According to Excubitor, the danger is grave:
Sea-power is costly, while air-power is cheap: for the cost of a single Dreadnought of the sea, a dozen Dreadnoughts of the air, each with a revolving shed of the latest type, can be constructed. German expert opinion believes that by command of the air Germany can neutralise our superiority on the sea, besides unnerving the civil population and thus embarrassing the Government by cruising over these islands — high above the reach of artillery — and dropping bombs. This is the confessed policy of Germany, and we have not a single long-range airship by which we can take the only effective defensive action — the strong offensive.
And the hour is late:
We cannot reply to the aerial danger by developing our naval or military strength, but we must take the offensive in the air, threatening with our superior airships, in numbers proportionate to our naval strength, any potential enemy. We are now open to attack by Germany, and we must lose no time in placing ourselves in a position to retaliate.
But not yet too late:
if immediate steps are taken there is no reason why we should not make as secure our command of the air as we are making secure our command of the sea, convinced that the future will show that aerial power and naval power are interdependent and inseparable. The essential point is that we must adopt in aerial matters our well-tried policy in naval matters — the bold offensive. Our airships, like our sea-ships, must be able to carry war to the enemy's frontiers and thus free us from its horrors. This is the only policy compatible with safety, and to that policy we must bend all our splendid industrial and scientific resources if we are not to incur the risk of our naval supremacy passing from us.
As I'll discuss in another post, Excubitor was far from alone in asserting an 'interdependent and inseparable' connection between aerial strategy and naval strategy, that Germany was attempting to use its mastery of the air to overcome its inferiority to Britain at sea.
Charles Emmerson. 1913: In Search of the World Before the Great War. New York: PublicAffairs, 2013. Another case where a book seems an apposite purchase, given that it is about the year I'm currently researching. This one has generated a bit of buzz. It's certainly an interesting approach, providing snapshots of a couple of dozen major cities around the world (Melbourne gets half a chapter, paired with Winnipeg; London gets two chapters, framing the book). The danger is that 1914 will overshadow 1913, that dark foreboding will prevail throughout; but flipping through it seems the author has avoided this pitfall.
In my article about the commercial bomber concept, I began my discussion of the idea that airliners could be turned into bombers in 1918, with the report of the Civil Aerial Transport Committee. But it turns out that it appeared some years earlier, though in a far more fragmentary and undeveloped form than in the interwar period. And it involved airships, not aeroplanes.
In December 1912, the Admiralty received a joint report from the military and naval attachés in Berlin about the wartime disposition and employment of Germany's airship fleet. They suggested that the German government was paying subsidies to airship manufacturers so that their civilian production would be built to the minimum standard required for military service. So, in the next war,
the naval and military authorities will thus have at their disposal not only the Government aircraft, but also a number of dirigible airships belonging to private firms fully manned and equipped and ready for instant service[.]
The attachés estimated that this would yield a German fleet of between 21 and 23 airships, though as it's unclear how many of these were civilian it's equally unclear how much of a difference their inclusion would make. But generally speaking, they increased the aerial threat to Britain:
A number of vessels in this formidable array of airships would be capable of sailing from Germany to Sheerness, Woolwich, or any other desired point in England and return without the necessity of an intermediate descent to the earth.
The commercial bomber idea also appeared in the press. 'C. C. T.' (i.e. C. C. Turner) , writing in the Observer at the end of March 1913, also attempted to estimate the size of the German air fleet in the event of war. He came up with 13 government-owned airships, and
In addition, there are in Germany privately-owned airships:–
So his total came to 23 airships, which corresponds well with the (presumably confidential) estimate provided by the attachés. This could be because they were working from the same information, or perhaps Turner got his figures from the Admiralty. The basic rhetorical function of the commercial bomber is much the same here as it was later, to inflate the size of the enemy air fleet and make it seem more threatening, the better to demonstrate 'the fatal complacency and ignorance permitted, and even fostered, in this country'. However, in the 1920s and 1930s, the commercial bomber idea was useful only so long as Germany had no air force, and more or less disappeared with the creation of the Luftwaffe (or so I argue). Here, it is being claimed that it is Britain which effectively has no aerial force to speak of, since it is credited with only 2 airships '(on order)'. So piling on even more German airships hardly seems necessary. Perhaps the point is to increase the German lead over France, which has 10 airships attributed to it '(these are less powerful than Germany's').
If Turner got his information from the Admiralty, he might also have taken the idea that civilian airships could be used for military purposes from the same source. But perhaps it was obvious enough: military airships and civilian airships were in fact more or less identical at this time. Schwaben, a DELAG airliner which first flew in June 1911, was built to the same plan as two military Zeppelins, Ersatz ZII and ZIII. Two other DELAG Zeppelins, Viktoria Luise and Hansa, were indeed pressed into military service in August 1914 after a rudimentary refit. Though they were mainly used for training, it seems that Hansa, at least, flew combat missions over France and the Baltic. And Sachsen, the last DELAG Zeppelin to be built before the war, raided Antwerp on the night of 25 September 1914. So as well as being the first commercial bombers in theory, airships might have been the first, and even the only, commercial bombers in practice.
Note that abstracts are due by 1 August 2013.
EMPIRE IN PERIL:
INVASION-SCARES AND POPULAR POLITICS IN BRITAIN 1890-1914
Public Lecture & Interdisciplinary Workshop
Queen Mary, University of London, 14-15 November 2013
Bernard Porter (Newcastle (em), UK) • Nicholas Hiley (Kent, UK) • Michael Matin (Warren-Wilson, US) • Jan Rueger (Birkbeck, UK) • Matthew Seligmann (Brunel, UK)
This year marks the first centenary of one of the most popular examples of the invasion-scare genre: Saki’s (H.H. Munro) When William Came (1913). Saki’s famous account imagines the defeat of Britain at the hand of an invading German army. The cultural and political concerns of Edwardian Britain lay at the heart of the novel’s masochistic narrative: degeneration, the rise of modernity, militarism, national security, decadence, germanophobia, a battle for global hegemony, and imperial decline. As such, the narrative reflects the general convergence of popular politics, the public and the press, which coalesced around a repertoire of anxieties, embodied in the trope of the ‘German Menace’ and foreign intrigues in the metropole and in the empire.
The aim of this workshop is to facilitate a greater integration of the study of invasion-scares and popular politics at the intersection of divergent approaches. It is suggested that a more thorough investigation of the interconnectedness of press, politics and popular culture is essential to furthering our understanding of key aspects of Edwardian society and British identity on the eve of the Great War. Responding to a recent surge of interest in the pre-war period, this workshop will stimulate debate and reflection on the latest research in these areas, and identify avenues for further study, based upon a broader and more inclusive approach to historical analysis.
INVASION-SCARE LITERATURE • SPY-FEVER • ARMAMENT RACE • ANGLO-GERMAN RIVALRY • POLITICS OF THE PRESS • IMAGINING FUTURE WARS • PANIC AND ANXIETIES • POPULAR POLITICS • FOREIGN INTRIGUES AT HOME AND IN THE EMPIRE
Contributions from established scholars as well as junior researchers in all fields relevant to the broader subject are invited. Participants should submit a 300-word abstract of their proposed paper and a brief biography by 1 August 2013.
Kim A. Wagner (firstname.lastname@example.org) & Patrick Longson (email@example.com)
Dr Kim Wagner
Queen Mary, University of London
Department of History
Mile End Road
London E1 4NS
Tel no: +44(0)207 882 8428
Visit the website at http://invasionscares.wordpress.com
Image source: Island Mentalities.