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THE FIRST NAVAL AIR WAR

PUBLISHED: 13:22 29 June 2011 | UPDATED: 14:09 10 October 2012

THE FIRST NAVAL AIR WAR by Terry C Treadwell (Tempus Publishing, £16.99)

THE FIRST NAVAL AIR WAR by Terry C Treadwell(Tempus Publishing, £16.99)Review by Nick BloomMany of the developments we associate with WWII date back to the 1914-1918 war – multi-engine bombers, air-to-ground radio, and mass formations, to give just three instances. This useful history shows that naval aviation was equally forward-looking.Shortly before the end of the war, Britain had, in HMS Argus, the first true aircraft carrier, with a 576-foot-long landing area. It was equipped with Sopwith Cuckoo aircraft, had wires to bring them to a stop and was fully operational just one month before the Armistice.

In July 1918, seven Sopwith Camels took off from HMS Furious. They flew eighty miles and bombed Zeppelin sheds in Denmark, destroying two of the airships.

The author surveys all the main combatants’ use of naval aircraft. The French used primarily lighter-than-air machines, which were very successful in deterring submarine attacks on their convoys. The Germans had some excellent floatplanes and made effective use of them. In the South Pacific a German raider on sighting a faster potential captive sent the floatplane it carried to drop a warning bomb, and if necessary, land alongside and hold the victim at gunpoint until the raider could arrive to make the capture. This tactic was extraordinarily successful—fourteen allied vessels were captured.

Russian seaplanes from the Imperator Nikolai I bombed and sank a 4,211 ton Turkish collier in 1916. This was the largest merchant ship sunk by aircraft during the war.

Japan, America and Italy started to develop what would become formidable naval air force operations in this period, but, for various reasons their use of seaplanes was more restricted than other nations.

The author has gathered some wonderful photographs. WWI floatplanes are most attractive. The narrative is rather formal, but there are enough incidents to keep you reading. Quite a lot of the history books we get sent to review are dull and worthy, but this one qualifies as a good read.

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