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Go Back   The Aerodrome Forum > Archives > 2001


2001 Closed threads from 2001 (read only)

 
 
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Old 16 January 2001, 05:53 AM   #1 (permalink)
Denny
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Okay, forumites, I need your help to put aviation into a context beyond aces racking up kills, technical changes and color schemes.** I think we can all agree that aviation was a small part of a bigger picture, and the things mentioned above all sprang from that larger picture. Scores were racked up during intense activity surrounding offensives, many technical developments can from aviation's support of the PBI, and bombing at the end of the war, at least to the Americans, was more a tactical than strategic use of aviation.** Can you help me draw parallels between changes in aviation/aviators and the bigger picture?
** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** DD
 
Old 16 January 2001, 07:01 AM   #2 (permalink)
Mark
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An interesting topic subject to debate. If one assumes that the primary goal of the men fighting a war is to kill their enemy, then those actions responsible for the most death and destruction should be considered most important to the cause. In this light, artillery fire would seem to have been the most important factor in the war. Recce spotters were the only aviators directly associated with this activity. The extent of their usefullness in this action is beyond my knowledge and is probably also subject to debate.

Not certain of exact figures, but if 8 million died in the war, I would guess than roughly 100,000 or so died directly at the hand of fighter and bomber crews. If even close to accurate, the effect of such action on the outcome of the war was not significant. To their credit as seen in future wars, both sides visualized and utilized strategic bombing, but lack of quantity and technology minimized its effectiveness in the first** war.
 
Old 16 January 2001, 01:39 PM   #3 (permalink)
Barton Stano
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Air power had little or no effect in the outcome of WW1. It is likely the war would have turned out the same with or without aircraft. Air power did have some minor effects on the war. Pilots/aces were great for propaganda uses (MVR, Ball, Bishop, Luke). Aircraft were used for contact patrols which were vital during advances as telephone communication often broke down. Aircraft were used for the vital task of photo/recon for planning ground attacks. Aircraft were used for suppling ground troops. Some people would argue that fighters had a huge impact, I am not one of them. In WW1 the airplane was too primitive, it contribution was limited to helping the troops on the ground. Infantry won and lost this war.
 
Old 16 January 2001, 02:14 PM   #4 (permalink)
Hugh A. Halliday
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I am of the school that believes that military aviation was very importanrt in the conduct of the war. The technology of weaponry had, by 1914, evolved to a point where mutual seige warfare (for that was the essence of trench warfare) was bound to take hold on the Western Front. Few things are inevitable, however, but the important role of aerial reconnaissance in late Auguust and early September 1914 turned a problematical German victory (based on the Schleiffen Plan) into a dead-certain near-miss - and thus the stalemate that followed. In that stalemate, the traditional reconnaissance tool - cavalry - could not penetrate the front. Aircraft thus replaced cavalry as the strategic "eyes of the army", and thus ensured that there would be very few surprise offensives. Artillery (which indeed caused 60-70 percent of all casualties) would have been firing blind, but for the mapping and directing done by aircraft.

Perhaps the best way to appreciate the role of the airpane is to imagine what would have been the course of the war if all things had been the same - EXCEPT WITH NO AIRCRAFT (a similar exercise would be to imagine the American Civil War or the Franco-Prussian War fought without cavalry). The Battle of the Marne might never have happened, but even if it had (and been an Allied victory), the war thereafter would have been marked by fewer casualties in trenches (because artillery would have been firing blind). Lack of reconnaissnace is harder to guage. Would generals, lacking such reconnaissnace, be more or less inclined to attack ? To what degree would offensives have been more effective, given the greater likelihood of at least tactical surprise ?

Granted that the fighter pilots were the least important element in air power, I would still argue that air power, as such, was a major influence in shaping the conduct of the war - and because the next generation of generals was desperate to avoid a repeat of 1914-1918, it helped shape warefare thereafter.
 
Old 16 January 2001, 03:10 PM   #5 (permalink)
Mark Daymont
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Amen, Hugh!
The recon missions are not the glorius missions but in my understanding are far more important, for they provide battleplanners with the information which decides the fates of thousands, and provide battleleaders with information to react to the opponents... etc. In my mind the ultimate example is Midway in WW2 where the recon scoutplanes and seaplanes decided the fates of the fleets. Midway was certainly a turning point in the war. Now I am looking forward to learning more about reconaissance aircraft contributions in WW1. Good point again, Hugh.

Very Best Regards,
Mark Daymont
 
Old 16 January 2001, 05:00 PM   #6 (permalink)
GMcManus
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Yes, Hugh, and many are with you. Remember, fighters were developed to keep air-recon going.
And the other unasked question; if aircraft were
so unimportant why did every belligerant nation
make sure they had one and worked to make it
better/superior? Are we to believe they were
acting out of ignorance?
 
Old 16 January 2001, 10:30 PM   #7 (permalink)
Denny
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Thanks, guys. The points are well taken. In Arthur Gould Lee's book "No Parachute," he makes reference to the very dirty job of contact patrols. Does anyone have any idea about how effective they were? What impact they had on the battle? Did this tactical development spur the Germans to develop their C-planes?
 
Old 17 January 2001, 12:53 AM   #8 (permalink)
Hugh A. Halliday
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Without being able to cite chapter and verse, it is my understanding that both sides recognized the need for contact patrols about the same time. Simultaneously but independant of one another, they then proceeded to develop along differing lines. The British (I do not know about the French) favoured use of existing types; the Germans, though using existing machines, began to develop specialized tactical support aircraft. Late in the war the British also began development of such "dedicated" contact patrol and trench straffing machines (notably the Sopwith Salamander) but too late for them to see action.

Effectiveness of contact patrols. Again, without citing chapter and verse, I would suggest they were very effective when employed (remember the limitations of other means - unreliable pidgeons, non-existant radio telephones, bulky field telephones which had limited wire length and wires often cut. The battlefields were too large for every battalion to have constant aerial support, but if you believe that every strategic victory is composed of countless small tactical victories, then the more such local triumphs the better.

To cite but one example, consider the case of Lieutenant Clarence Stewart Bolsby (DFC, London Gazette of 8 February 1919 for services in No.7 Squadron). The published citation read:

"This officer has rendered most valuable service on numerous contact patrols. Handicapped on many occasions by difficult visibility and smoke, and subjected to severe hostile fire, he has invariably displayed marked determination and devotion to duty, locating our own and enemy troops and furnishing most reliable reports which were of the greatest assistance in our operations."

Not very detailed. HOWEVER, Public Record Office Air 1/1580 has recommendation sent by Headquarters, Second Brigade to Headquarters, Royal Air Force, 9 November 1918:

"1 November 1918. In spite of bad visibility located our advanced troops and those of the French at seven positions, Peteghem area, flying at a height of 100 to 1,000 feet.

"31 October 1918. In spite of bad visibility, located our troops in eleven positions, coming down to 300 feet in mist, rain and in a heavy smoke barrage. His machine was much shot up by rifle and machine gun fire. Ingoyghem-Anseghem area.

"27 October 1918. Did an excellent reconnaissance specially asked by Headquarters, II Corps at a low altitude of the Scheldt Bridges and locks from Avelghem to Berchem furnishing a complete report.

"25 October 1918. In spite of bad visibility, located our troops from Coteghem to Sterhoek, dropping reports at the Headquarters, II Corps and the 9th and 36th Divisions.

"17 October 1918. On the morning carried out an excellent reconnaissance of the bridges over the River Lys from Courtrai up to Oyghem furnishing a complete report in spite of bad visibility necessitating flying at 1,000 feet and under. In the afternoon he carried out another Contact Patrol and brought back valuable information as to our troops and the situation.

"14 October 1918. During the attack on Moorseele-Ledeghem-Winkle St.Eloi-Lendelede-Gullechem. In the morning on Contact Patrol, flying from 300-600 feet in spite of smoke and heavy machine gun fire from Moorseele, located out troops along the right Division front of the Corps, the left being completely obscured by smoke. On the afternoon on Counter Attack patrol when the situation was obscure and our line west of Salines, he reconnoitred the Corps front up to the Courtrai-Iseghem Railway and located our troops along the whole Corps front from a height of 300 to 700 feet. At that time Salines was strongly held by the enemy with machine guns.

"1 October 1918. In the morning made a good report on the position of our troops round Ledeghem, in spite of heavy machine gun fire. Two machine gun positions he attacked from 200 feet and the enemy were seen to leave.

"During this flight he took 108 oblique photographs covering the whole Corps front. These photographs were taken from a height of about 1,000 feet, a large part of them being over the enemy's lines."



 
Old 17 January 2001, 10:13 AM   #9 (permalink)
Mark Daymont
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Hugh,
What aircraft was Lt. Bolsby flying? Was he making do with what was available?

Regards,
Mark Daymont
 
Old 17 January 2001, 02:16 PM   #10 (permalink)
Hugh A. Halliday
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My library does not compare with those of other Forumites, but I believe No.7 was flying RE.8s.
 
 

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