The German air raids on Britain, 1914–1918: a reading list

Postcard, 1916

While you're waiting for me to write Home Fires Burning, here are some other books (mostly) on the same topic, whether wholly or in substantial part. This is not meant to be in any way a comprehensive list; it's merely what I have found to be most useful. I've included links to out-of-copyright/open access versions, where available.

Official histories

Parts of two volumes of the British Official History of the First World War cover the raids, primarily in terms of air defence, though some aspects of civil defence are also included:

  • H.A. Jones, The War in the Air: Being the Story of the Part Played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force, vol. 3 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1931) -- online
  • H.A. Jones, The War in the Air: Being the Story of the Part Played in the Great War by the Royal Air Force, vol. 5 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1935) -- online

There is also a semi-official (since the author was head of Air Historical Branch) history of the raids specifically:

  • Joseph Morris, The German Air Raids on Britain, 1914–1918 (Sampson Low, Marston & Co., 1925)

Narrative/popular histories

These mostly follow the Official History in their focus on the air defence narrative, but in the last decade or two this has been joined by an increasing interest in the civilian victims of the raids.

  • Ian Castle, The First Blitz: Bombing London in the First World War (Oxford: Osprey, 2015)
  • Ian Castle, Zeppelin Onslaught: The Forgotten Blitz, 1914–1915 (Barnsley: Frontline, 2018)
  • Christopher Cole and E.F. Cheesman, The Air Defence of Britain 1914–1918 (London: Putnam, 1984)
  • Thomas Fegan, The ‘Baby Killers’: German Air Raids on Britain in the First World War (Barnsley: Leo Cooper, 2002)
  • Raymond H. Fredette, The Sky on Fire: The First Battle of Britain 1917–1918 and the Birth of the Royal Air Force (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991)
  • Neil Hanson, First Blitz: The Secret German Plan to Raze London to the Ground in 1918 (London: Doubleday, 2008)
  • David Marks, Let the Zeppelins Come (Amberley Publishing, 2017)
  • Nigel J. Parker, Gott Strafe England: The German Air Assault against Great Britain 1914–1918, 3 volumes (Solihull: Helion, 2016)
  • Mick Powis, The Defeat of the Zeppelins: Zeppelin Raids and Anti-Airship Operations 1916–18 (Philadelphia, 2018)

Local/regional studies

The experience of the raids varied greatly with geography, and the centenary of the war led to a small boom in histories of their impact in particular places.

  • Arthur G. Credland, The Hull Zeppelin Raids: 1915–1918 (Fonthill Media, 2014)
  • Mark Mower, Zeppelin over Suffolk: The Final Raid of L48 (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2016)
  • Mick Powis, Zeppelins over the Midlands: The Air Raids of 31 January 1916 (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2016)
  • Alan Simpson, Air Raids on South-West Essex in the Great War: ‘Looking for Zeppelins at Leyton’ (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Aviation, 2015)
  • Jerry White, Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War (London: The Bodley Head, 2014)

Oral histories

Many relevant oral accounts and memoirs exist in archives, but relatively few have been collected for publication.

  • Richard Van Emden and Stephen Humphries, All Quiet on the Home Front: An Oral History of Life in Britain during the First World War (London: Headline, 2004)

Academic histories

There has been little sustained interest in the raids by academic historians, which is partly why I'm writing my book. This is by far the best academic treatment of the raids, but it's short (two chapters).

  • Susan R. Grayzel, At Home and Under Fire: Air Raids and Culture in Britain from the Great War to the Blitz (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012)

The only other lengthy academic account; pioneering but very much outdated.

  • Barry D. Powers, Strategy Without Slide-Rule: British Air Strategy 1914–1939 (London: Croom Helm, 1976) -- review

The offical and popular air defence narratives listed above should be supplemented with airpower histories, including:

  • Tami Davis Biddle, Rhetoric and Reality in Strategic Air Warfare: The Evolution and Reality of British and American Ideas about Strategic Bombing, 1914–1945 (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2002)
  • John Ferris, ‘Airbandit: C3I and strategic air defence during the First Battle of Britain, 1915–18’, in Strategy and Intelligence: British Policy During the First World War, ed. Michael Dockrill and David French (London: Hambledon Press, 1996), 23–66

There has also been been some research into the legal and ethical aspects of the raids.

  • Amanda Alexander, ‘The genesis of the civilian’, Leiden Journal of International Law 20, no. 2 (2007): 359–376
  • Joel Hayward, ‘Air power, ethics, and civilian immunity during the First World War and its aftermath’, Global War Studies 7, no. 2 (2010): 102–130
  • Isabel V. Hull, A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law during the Great War (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2014)

Similarly, the emotional and psychological effects of the raids seem to be of increasing interest to historians (including me).

  • Stefanie Caroline Linden, ‘When war came home: air-raid shock in World War I’, History of Psychiatry (9 March 2021) -- online
  • Assaf Mond, ‘“It is at night-time that we notice most of the changes in our life caused by the war”: War-time, Zeppelins, and children’s experience of the Great War in London’, in War Time: First World War Perspectives on Temporality, ed. Louis Halewood, Adam Luptak, and Hannah Smyth (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018), 91–110
  • Michael Reeve, Bombardment, Public Safety and Resilience in English Coastal Communities during the First World War (Springer Nature, 2021)

The German perspective

These address German perspectives of the German raids on Britain and the British (and French) raids on Germany.

  • Roger Chickering, The Great War and Urban Life in Germany: Freiburg, 1914–1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
  • Christian Geinitz, ‘The first air war against noncombatants: strategic bombing of German cities in World War I’, in Great War, Total War: Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front, 1914–1918, ed. Roger Chickering and Stig Förster (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 207–226
  • David Marks, The Zeppelin Offensive: A German Perspective in Pictures & Postcards (Barnsley: Air World, 2019)
  • Douglas H. Robinson, The Zeppelin in Combat: A History of the German Naval Airship Division, 1912-1918 (Atglen: Schiffer Military/Aviation History, 1994)
  • Guillaume de Syon, Zeppelin! Germany and the Airship, 1900-1939 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002)

My perspective

I've already written about my reasons for writing this book. Several of my published articles will correspond fairly closely to sections of Home Fires Burning, while my first book (and the thesis it was based on) examines some of the same topics but in a very different way, primarily in parts of chapters 2, 8 and 10.

  • Brett Holman, The Next War in the Air: Britain’s Fear of the Bomber, 1908–1941 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016) -- download (PhD version)
  • Brett Holman, ‘The phantom airship panic of 1913: imagining aerial warfare in Britain before the Great War’, Journal of British Studies 55, no. 1 (2016): 99–119 -- download
  • Brett Holman, ‘Constructing the enemy within: rumours of secret gun platforms and Zeppelin bases in Britain, August–October 1914’, British Journal for Military History 3, no. 2 (2017): 22–42 -- download
  • Brett Holman, ‘William Le Queux, the Zeppelin menace and the Invisible Hand’, Critical Survey 32, no. 1–2 (2020): 99–118

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

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2 thoughts on “The German air raids on Britain, 1914–1918: a reading list

  1. Two more reading suggestions:

    Ray Rimell: Zeppelin!: A battle for air supremacy in World War I
    Conway Maritime Press (1984)
    ISBN 10: 0851772390 / ISBN 13: 9780851772394

    Raymond H. Fredette: The Sky on Fire: The First Battle of Britain, 1917–1918, and the Birth of the Royal Air Force
    Harcourt (1976)
    ISBN 10: 0156827506 / ISBN 13: 9780156827508

  2. Post author

    Thanks, Nick - Fredette is on the list already (it's my go-to for the Gotha raids). I haven't seen Rimell, but I notice he's written quite a few books on this general topic. I'll check it out!

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