1910s

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Queenslander, 8 March 1928, cover

Continuing this miscellany, on 23 August 1913 the Maitland Daily Mercury published a letter from the Reverend G. W. Payne reporting that he, his wife, and a Mr and Mrs Preston had seen 'an aeroplane with searchlight hovering fairly high over Newcastle and the Hunter Valley'.((Maitland Daily Mercury, 23 August 1913, 4.)) This was just before 4am on 22 August 1913, though Mr Preston had also seen the light at 2am on 21 August. What they were all doing at such an early (or late) hour is unclear, but it was 'A reflection of the light on the still waters of the lake' (presumably Lake Macquarie) which first caught their attention:

The four of us watched it traversing a line from the direction of Newcastle north and west. Though at a considerable distance from us and fairly high in the air, the nature of the light was quite unmistakeable. It passed away in a westerly direction after loitering some time over the Hunter Valley.((Ibid.))

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William Le Queux, The Zeppelin Destroyer (1916)

A few years back, my article 'William Le Queux, the Zeppelin menace and the Invisible Hand' was published in Critical Survey, with the following abstract:

In contrast to William Le Queux's pre-1914 novels about German spies and invasion, his wartime writing is much less well known. Analysis of a number of his works, predominantly non-fictional, written between 1914 and 1918 shows that he modified his perception of the threat posed by Germany in two ways. Firstly, because of the lack of a German naval invasion, he began to emphasise the more plausible danger of aerial attack. Secondly, because of the incompetent handling of the British war effort, he began to believe that an 'Invisible Hand' was responsible, consisting primarily of naturalised Germans. Switching form from fiction to non-fiction made his writing more persuasive, but he was not able to sustain this and he ended the war with less influence than he began it.

Now you can read the green open access version, which can be downloaded for free from here. Or you can simply enjoy the above cover of Le Queux's 1916 novel The Zeppelin Destroyer.

History of the Second World War

It seems like only last week that I was spruiking a podcast appearance -- actually, it was last month, which is also not very long ago! This time it was on the History of the Second World War podcast with Wesley Livesay, chatting about the German air raids on Britain of the First World War (and how that affected British thinking and planning for the air raids of the Second World War).

Wesley is indefatigably thorough, or possibly thoroughly indefatigable: this was his 27th interview for this podcast, on top of 97 regular episodes, and he's still only in the interwar period! (This is after doing 295 podcast episodes on History of the Great War, too: clearly he knew what he was getting into.) So there is plenty more world war content to consume -- including another five episodes on interwar airpower, and an interview with Alan Allport on 1930s Britain -- and when you've finished with all that you can go read Wesley's sources.

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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.

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Graphic, 15 May 1915, 609

So I'm writing a book. Why? There are already many histories of the German air raids on Britain in the First World War: in my proposal, I listed eleven published since the 1980s alone, and even that is hardly exhaustive. Many of these are excellent -- Ian Castle's books, in particular, are required reading on this topic -- and I would not add to the pile unless I felt I could add something original. So what will make Home Fires Burning different? Why should anyone want to read it? Here's the (lightly-edited) rationale I gave in my proposal:

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Graphic, 24 April 1915, 518

I am delighted to announce that I have signed an advance contract with Cambridge University Press((Founded in 1534. Just sayin'…)) to publish my next book, currently entitled Home Fires Burning: Emotion, Spectacle, and Britain’s First War from the Air, in their Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare series. Here's a one paragraph teaser from the (successful!) book proposal:

Home Fires Burning is the first book to provide a broader understanding of the German air raids on Britain between 1914 and 1918—the first to go beyond the purely physical impact of the bombs to show how the spectacle they created and the emotions they invoked shaped British culture and society. It describes not only what happened during the air raids, but also what happened before them, and after, how they were anticipated and how they were remembered. And it will explain how bombing transformed Britain from a place of peace to a place of war: a home front in a total war.

So Home Fires Burning will be both a logical extension of my previous work, and something quite original (and, I think, very necessary!) I'm busy completing the manuscript, and I'll have much more to say here about my plans and progress over the next couple of years. There's a lot to do; I'd better get on with it!

Image source: Graphic (London), 24 April 1915, 518.

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Art.IWM PST 13758

The ostensible purpose of the Air Services Exhibition was to raise money for 'the FLYING SERVICES HOSPITALS' and 'VISCOUNT FRENCH'S WAR CHARITIES', as you can see in the poster above. But those laudable aims didn't mean it wasn't also propaganda (as you can also see in the poster above). And, despite the name of the exhibition, it wasn't about the RFC and RNAS generally, but about the air defence of Britain. Not only did the exhibits consist largely of Zeppelin destroyers and destroyed Zeppelins (and Gothas), but two senior members of Britain's military aviation establishment gave speeches at the opening of the exhibition on 1 November 1917, which as it happened was the morning after a Gotha raid on London, Kent and Essex. Unsurprisingly, they both spoke on the topic of air defence.

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West Ham and South Essex Mail, 2 November 1917, 3

This advertisement, which appeared in the East Ham and South Essex Mail on 2 November 1917, excited my curiosity. An exhibition of German aircraft... held in the East End of London... just after the Harvest Moon raids? I'm there! Or would be if time travel was a thing. As it's not (yet...) I'll have to go via the BNA instead.

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