German propaganda poster with a vibrant and striking image depicting swarms of British aircraft bombing an industrial site to illustrate the following quote, by British Labour Leader Johnston Hicks [sic], which appeared in the 'Daily Telegraph' on January 3rd 1918: 'One must bomb the Rhineland industrial regions with one hundred aircraft day after day, until the treatment has had its effect!’

In the previous post, I discussed some of my objections to the idea that the air raids on Britain in the FIrst World were the 'First Blitz'. I don't think my arguments were completely persuasive, even to myself (which is why I decided to work through them in public like this). But I ended by saying I had another concern, and this one I think carries more weight. However, it's not really about the First World War at all, but the Second. And it's this: the Blitz is too British.

...continue reading

Borough of Ramsgate ... Public meeting ... To consider recommendations to the responsible authorities for the more adequate protection of the coast against hostile aircraft. T. S. Chayney, Mayor. 26th March 1916.

I admit the term 'First Blitz' is a convenient label for the air raids on Britain in the First World War, both as a shorthand and because there really were many similarities with the later Blitz. But nevertheless, I don't really like it, and I'm avoiding it in my own book on the topic. Why?

...continue reading

Thanet Advertiser, 29 April 1916, 5

The above facsimile letter was published in the Ramsgate Thanet Advertiser on 29 April 1916. It reads:

April 7th. The writer of the first 'German messages' has been absent from Ramsgate some time now, so the 'Alien’s post-card' is by another hand. If I did not fear prosecution for "failing to register an alien," I could give the police his address to find him, as he is due to return this Wedy. here. The enclosed I found in his overcoat pocket the night before the raid (after he left here on 18th ult.)
To the Editor.((Thanet Advertiser (Ramsgate), 29 April 1916, 5.))

The enclosure referred to was a second letter, 'another foreign missive, addressed to “Herr Chaney, Burgomeister von Ramsgate.” It states that the Zeppelins have a nightly victory and contains some abusive epithets'.((Ibid., 22 April 1916, 2.))

...continue reading


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.

...continue reading


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.

...continue reading

Eric Thake, Vimy flight stamp, 1969

Michael Molkentin. Anzac and Aviator: The Remarkable Story of Sir Ross Smith and the 1919 England to Australia Air Race. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin, 2019.

[Disclaimer: Michael is a friend of mine. But I wouldn't have agreed to review his book if I wasn't confident, based on everything else that he has published, that it was going to be excellent. And I was right.]

Anzac and Aviator is a new biography of Ross Smith, the first Australian aviation pioneer to find global fame.1 This fame rested largely on just one flight in 1919, but it was a truly epic one: the first flight from Britain to Australia. At around 18,000 km, it was the longest to date (albeit carried out in stages, unavoidably). Despite being accompanied by his older brother (and fellow pilot), Keith, Ross -- it's hard to avoid using first names in this review! -- was the driving force behind the flight. With the centenary of the flight this December almost upon us, this biography is timely.
...continue reading

  1. With the possible exception of Harry Hawker. []


Australian Air Squadrons Fund leaflet

This is the cover of a leaflet produced in 1916 by the Australian Air Squadrons Fund, the Australian arm of the Imperial Air Flotilla which raised funds around the British Empire for presentation 'battle-planes' for the Royal Flying Corps. My interest in it is not so much for its own sake, though I am struck by the slightly confusing promise that this aircraft 'will carry your name and message of sympathy and support over the heads of our troops into the enemy capitals', as well as the sadly forlorn hope that 'This is, please God, the only war in which we will be able to take part'. Rather, it's here as an example of the aviation records to be found in the Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP), which is being digitised and made freely available through Trove.
...continue reading

Hendon, July 1928

Above is a pair of stereo photos kindly sent to me by Tim Lees, who found them in his father's collection. There's a slight mystery as to the occasion. The label at the top reads 'Hendon - July '28', which suggests they were taken at the RAF Display at Hendon in 1928, but that year it was held in June. So there's an error somewhere: either the day (it was on the last day of June) or the year (the 1927 and 1929 Hendons were both held in July). Or perhaps it wasn't at Hendon at all, but at one of the regional displays where RAF squadrons sometimes reprised their Hendon performances? It might not have been labelled until some years after the event. There's no real way to tell.

The photos themselves show reasonably well-dressed spectators standing in amongst their motor cars, watching two vics of what look like Armstrong Whitworth Siskins, judging from the sesquiplanes (click to zoom in). There's not enough detail to say much more, but that certainly fits the period: Siskins were highly maneuverable (the RCAF even used them for an early aerobatic team) and they featured at Hendon between 1925 and 1931.
...continue reading

A bit of aerial theatre from Dan Todman's (excellent) Britain's War: Into Battle, 1937-1941:

Newton Abbot, Devon, February 1941. The town is holding its War Weapons Week to promote the National Savings movement. It has been set the aim of increasing savings by £100,000 during seven days. To publicize the event, local organizers arrange a fly-over by RAF bombers from a nearby airbase. They drop 10,000 advertising leaflets, with instructions about how to take part in the savings drive. Each is headlined 'THIS MIGHT HAVE BEEN A BOMB'. Whether this is a plea or a threat, it works: Newton Abbot smashes its target, with £216,000 invested by the time the War Weapons Week ends.1

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find a picture of one of these leaflets, or evidence of their use elsewhere in Britain, but the same phrase was used in other leaflets dropped on Hamilton in Ontario, Canada, in the very same month, by a member of the local aero club as publicity for War Savings Certificates:

War Savings Certificates leaflet

The leaflets dropped on Newton Abbot may have been something similar, though the message here is obviously slightly different ('help destroy Hitler's murderous bombers ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ATLANTIC') -- and would be different again when dropped on Reedsburg, Wisconsin, in January 1944 by the Civil Air Patrol ('Join the Womens' Army Corps') and when dropped on Los Angeles in December 1951, again by the Civil Air Patrol ('These could have been REAL BOMBS! EVEN A-BOMBS!') A little bit of aerial theatre travelling a long way.

  1. Daniel Todman, Britain's War: Into Battle, 1937-1941 (London: Allen Lane, 2016), 603. The source is given as TNA, NSC 7/78, 'War Weapons Weeks: Items of Special Interest'. []