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Bloody Paralyser
Bloody Paralyser
By Rob Langham
Published by CjBobrow
17 April 2016
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Bloody Paralyser

Bloody Paralyser: The Giant Handley Page Bombers of the First World War
By Rob Langham
Fonthill Media, Stroud England, 2016
9.25” x 6.25” Hardcover
39 Photographs, Bibliography, Endnotes, Sources
$35.00 £20.00 Pp.192, ISBN-10: 1781550808
Language: English


Just how did the term “Bloody Paralyser” come to be associated with the O series Handley Page Bombers? There are two origin stories laid out in the beginning of Langham’s informative and comprehensive book. Regardless of which one you accept as the genuine account, they both have legitimate claims. What does matter is the phrase puts into the historic context the aircraft’s role and purpose.

In early 1915 the British Admiralty, with Winston Churchill as the First Lord, sanctioned and financed the development of a large biplane bomber that would fit in a 75 x 75 ft. shed, therefore necessitating folding wings, powered with two 150 hp engines and able to carry six 100 lb. bombs. The range desired would enable the machine to reach the German occupied channel ports, railway targets and aerodromes far behind the lines. The aircraft that quickly evolved from these original requirements was far superior than had been anticipated. With a 600 mile range and capable of carrying 2,000 lbs of bombs it would become the heavy lifter in the British Independent Bombing Force.

The author details the evolution of the HP firm itself as well as its initial foray in building the prototype of the O/100. It is a fascinating story, one that tracks how a relatively unknown aircraft “firm”, and I use this term very loosely, was handed the task and succeeded in creating this noteworthy machine.

Large multi-engine aircraft designs were certainly an unfamiliar territory in 1914. There were only a handful of designers who crossed that boundary successfully; Sikorsky, Curtiss, and Caproni come to mind. The 1914 German giant designed by Villehad Forssman for Siemens-Schuckert Werke (SSW) was a horrible failure. Little was known in the west of Sikorsky’s work on the Il’ya Muromets although Harry Woodman found tantalizing material indicating that the British Admiralty had requested plans of the Il’ya Muromets from her Russian ally. Much can be said for the other two designs and it would not be long before the Curtiss design was assimilated and reengineered by the RNAS to produce the epic Felixstowe flying-boat series.

Much to his credit Langham covers not only the technical details of development, logistics, field implementation, armament, bomb development and finally deployment of the HP O series but brings to the narrative the words and deeds of the men who flew these ships into combat, along with those who kept them maintained, which due to their size would be no mean task. Operationally the HP’s would be used not only in the European theatre of war but, unexpectedly, a few found their way to the Mid-East and even one with T. E. Lawrence.

The long shadow of strategic bombing began in WWI and the HP O series would be the progenitor of British and American long-range aircraft. That alone makes the details and reference material found in the book a valuable asset for the aviation enthusiast and historian alike.

Carl J. Bobrow
Museum Specialist, National Air and Space Museum
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