- Adolf Hitler
- Australian Imperial Force
- British Army
- Canadian Army
- La Boiselle
- le Hamel
- Mont St Quentin
- Mouquet Farm
- Neuville St Vaast
- Newfoundland Park
- Notre Dame de Lorette
- St Quentin Canal
- Vimy Ridge
- French Army
- German Army
- Manfred von Richthofen
- US Army
- Western Front
Grosser Bilder-Atlas des Weltkrieges 1914-15
The Grosser Bilderatlas des Weltkrieges was printed in 1916 in German and has an extensive collection of photographs of various aspects of the First World War from the German perspective. There are thousands of high quality photographs in the collection. the PDF ebook is 428 pages and can be downloaded in 3 rar archive files which can be extracted to form the complete volume. The file size once extracted is 302MB. A phenomenal and fascinating publication. Chapters in this volume include German mobilisation; France – the advance on Paris; Belgium – Assault and breakthrough; Germany – the people’s wartime effort, France – frontline, East Prussia – Tannenberg, Angerburg and Winter War, Poland -the frontline; Galicia – Carpathians, Serbia and the Adriatic; Turkey – Dardanelles and the Suez Canal. Also includes index.
Sample pictures below – not full size
PERHAPS the most striking and crushing victory of Ball’s career was on the occasion when quite alone he was suddenly attacked by five enemy machines. Flying away did not seem to him the best way of dealing with the situation; he determined to make the best of a desperate position by fighting. He started off by destroying two enemy machines, and then he let himself fall almost vertically, doing what airmen call the “death-leap.” Ten yards from the ground he stopped his fall. One of the three remaining Germans failing to manoeuvre his machine with the expert precision of the Britisher, went crashing to the earth. Before the other two were able to get into favourable positions, Ball had soared above, and quickly destroyed one of them. The last one of the five, terrified by what he had seen, hurried away and managed to escape. Ball had thus accounted for four enemy machines in less than ten minutes.
At the beginning of May, he was bringing down German machines regularly at the rate of nearly two a day.
This was about the time that the final British attacks in the Arras offensive were taking place. A great breach had been made in the Hindenburg line and we had taken some 20,000 prisoners and captured something like sixty square miles of territory. In this great success our airmen had had a big share, and it was over this part of the country that Ball was bringing down the enemy machines.
The neighbourhood of Arras, Lens, Douai and Cambrai where he was operating must have been a zone of ill-fame to the German airmen.
There was no doubt that ever since Ball’s return to action the Germans had been laying all manner of traps to catch him. On almost every occasion he and his comrades met a German squadron the British boys were outnumbered, and he does not mention one single occasion when he fought alone on equal terms.
In these last days it seems no German airman was prepared to face Ball alone in the air and fight it out, although the German champions would have had very little difficulty in finding him if they had so desired.
There was no mistaking the British machine with the red cowl. But it was not the tactics of the enemy to risk the lives of their best flyers in an equal fight with the boy. Their plan was to fall upon him and break him by sheer weight of numbers.
His diary for the first two days of May shows how hard he was hitting the enemy:—
” May 1st. Went a petrol at night. Attacked two lots of Huns. Crashed one, forced down another. Returned at 8.30.
“May 2nd. Went on patrol at 6 p.m. Had four combats. Crashed two Huns.”
On May 3rd he had a rare encounter with a pair of Albatross scouts. They were good fighters, and put up a strong opposition. After a prolonged struggle he managed to hit both of them, but nearly lost his own life. One Albatross, after being struck, made a desperate attempt to ram the British machine. The German had evidently made up his mind that he was going under and was determined to bring Ball down with him. His machine only missed colliding by inches. Then the German was shot down, and Ball turned and quickly outmanoeuvring the second machine, put it out of action also. After that he was compelled to go down, for his own machine was considerably damaged.
The impressions of a Portugese visitor to the British Front are worth recording. He spoke of Ball as one “adored by his squadron,” and setting “a magnificent example to his subordinates. At all times, immediately he perceived an enemy, he fell upon him as an eagle on its prey. Only complete squadrons dared to attack him, but he darted into the middle, frightening them by the terrible precision of his machine-guns. He would descend upon an adversary, fly from one to another with such courage and science that the Boches sought refuge in flight at full speed.” The Portugese gentleman gave a descriptive account of the fight already mentioned: ” In one of his last combats which he fought against two Fokkers, one of the German aviators mad with rage upon seeing the machine of his comrade out of the combat, darted all at once upon Ball in a fit of desperation, thinking by colliding his machine with that of his adversary he would kill himself but would also destroy the English ‘ace.’ With a rapid glance Ball divined the intentions of his opponent, and with a risky turn freed himself. Flying immediately at his enemy he drove him down with his machine-gun.”
One of his comrades who was often with him at this time when Ball was strewing the ground with the wrecks of his opponents, has pointed out that Ball had scarcely time to put in any reports about these fights. ” It’s one thing to bring enemy machines down, and quite another to write all about it,” said this comrade, “and you know poor old Ball had had so many combat reports within the past few days that he had had hardly time to look over his ‘plane at all.”
Ball, it is said, was to have been made a Major, but the prospect of restricted opportunities for crossing the enemy lines made him resist promotion with a respectful persistence.
On the two days previous to his last battle, Ball had some thrilling fights, bringing down three machines and putting many others to flight. Mr. Percival Phillips has thus described them: cc On May 5th, while patrolling, he sighted two hostile craft, and as he was fairly low he flew away from them, climbing . . .
By October 1916 the German Navy’s Zeppelin campaign against London had been decisively defeated, and the citizens of the metropolis slept undisturbed in their beds for about eight months thereafter. In the following May, however, the calm was rudely shattered when the German Army, taking over the strategic role from the Navy, sent, in broad daylight, a squadron of Gotha heavy bombing aeroplanes against south-eastern England. The intended primary target for most of the eight daytime raids carried out between May and August was, of course, the capital itself, but coastal towns also received attention. Although relatively few Gothas took part in these missions, twenty-eight being the highest figure ever achieved, this shoe-string project had, none the less, very grandiose aims; the German High Command expected it to yield substantial strategic and propagandistic benefits whereby the British nation would be intimidated into demanding peace negotiations.
The insolent day-raiders caught the Lloyd George Government completely off guard – the air defences, built up at great cost during the Zeppelin campaign, had been allowed to run down to a dangerous extent because of urgent demands for replacements for overseas commands, and supply difficulties caused by the Admiralty’s intransigence over service aviation. Indeed, all that the Home Defence Group of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) had to send up against the well-defended bombing formations were some obsolete night-fighting aeroplanes which, although ideal against the conventional Zeppelins at modest altitudes, were virtually useless against the higher-flying Gothas – a fact that must have been known to the German air intelligence service prior to the raids. Furthermore, in the absence of effective unity of command, the responses from home-based RFC and Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) units were unco-ordinated, desultory affairs, the direct result of feeble air policy decisions taken by the Asquith Government in earlier years.
This is the story of those four crucial months in the summer of 1917 – an all but forgotten period in the history of British air defence – when a few day-bombers compelled the War Cabinet not only to authorize a massive reinforcement of air defence, including the detachment of day-fighter squadrons from the Western Front at a time when they were desperately needed in France and Flanders, but also to initiate a review of the entire air organization – a review that would lead on to the formation of the Royal Air Force, a third and totally independent service, created from the amalgamation of the RFC and the RNAS.
‘The Diminished Risk’
At the end of 1916 the defenders of London, both in the air and on the ground, could look back with satisfaction on a year of successes against the conventional Zeppelins – ‘the monsters of the purple twilight’ as E. Dudley has called them. In fact, no Zeppelin had challenged the defences of the capital since the death of Mathy over Potters Bar on the night of the 1/2 October.
As time passed and the airships did not return, public confidence grew and a feeling of complacency became evident, even in Government circles. The general opinion, at quite high levels, was that the Zeppelins were finished and would never come back, and, furthermore, that the German Air Force did not then have the wherewithal to attempt long-range aeroplane raids on England. Although both ideas were fallacious (the German Navy had by no means abandoned the Zeppelin concept,* and in Belgium Kagohl 3 would soon be preparing its first assault on London), it was not really surprising to find, at the turn of the year, the Army Council, in its constant searching for replacements for the Western Front, requesting more and more men from the Home Forces Command. The military establishment at home in that autumn had no fewer than 17,000 officers and men in its AA artillery service whilst the eleven RFC home-defence squadrons mustered 110 aircraft, 200 officers and 2,000 men. Although seemingly very large, such figures belied the true state of affairs: those given for the RFC, for example, represented only about half the official establishment levels, many pilots and observers having already been sent to France since October to help make up the tremendous losses in aircrew during the Battle of the Somme, officially estimated at about 300 per cent per annum.
The run-down of the home defence forces was, in fact, to continue well into the coming spring, although many influential and knowledgeable people in the UK, including officers high in the Home Forces Command, were becoming increasingly worried about the way in which the defences were being reduced. A typical comment was voiced by the redoubtable Mr Pemberton Billing, when he stood up in the House, at the end of March 1917, and made the following forthright prediction: ‘In the next summer we shall experience raids of a much more serious character than Zeppelin raids. Aeroplanes may come over this country … at night, and at 15,000 or 20,000 feet they may drop their bombs and get back before we know where they are.’
Before proceeding further, it will perhaps be useful to consider the units, both Army and Navy, that were to contribute, however briefly, to the defence of the capital in the coming daylight campaign. The Army units involved, i.e. the RFC’s home defence squadrons, the AA artillery Commands and the observation and warning organizations, were all part of the Home Forces Command under Field-Marshal Lord French, with Major-General Sir Frederick Shaw as Chief-of-Staff.
Firstly, then, we may look at the organization of the RFC’s Home Defence Wing, the aeroplane being rightly regarded by the Army as the main plank in its anti-aircraft strategy, although the Admiralty, during it tenure of the defence office, had thought otherwise. The Home Defence Wing, now commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel T. C. R. Higgins, the former CO of No. 39 (Home Defence) Squadron, consisted of eleven active squadrons with one in reserve, but of these only Nos. 37, 39, 50 and 78 could have been regarded as defenders of London. The disposition of a home defence squadron was usually as follows . . .
* The surviving conventional Zeppelins were being modified to enable them to operate at 20,000 feet, a height that would be quite impossible for the existing types of defence aircraft to attain. These high-altitude airships were, in fact, sent on a raid to London (the so-called ‘Silent Raid’) on 19 October 1917, i.e. almost a year after the loss of Mathy. Fortunately for the city, and quite fortuitously, the raiders were dispersed, after only a few bombs had been dropped, by an unexpected gale arising. It is certain that the defences could not have prevented what might have been ‘an appalling disaster’.
Night Raiders of the Air Being the experiences of a night flying pilot who raided Hunland on many dark nights during the War
Night Raiders of the Air
The Huns’ Zepp Base was at Heligoland, due east of Spurn Head. His course was due west until he struck Spurn Head, where he would pick up the lights of Hull, invariably turning south and passing right over our aerodrome, then picking up Lincoln and apparently following the Northern Railway down to London. He always came in what we called the dark period, when there was no moon, and during this time we were not allowed to leave the aerodrome after dark, operation pilots standing by the whole time, with machines ready and ears pricked up every time the telephone bell rang. We always hoped it would be orders to take the air, our first intimation usually being from the Navy. “Zepps sighted forty miles east Spurn Head, proceeding west,” later, “Zepps still proceeding west, now twenty miles from coast.” At this stage, the first operation pilot would be ordered up with certain instructions, the remaining two at ten-minute intervals. Our patrol was for three hours, and we took our turn in being first.
Owing chiefly to the fog, England was not the best of countries for flying, particularly at night. The fog was our worst foe, and being near the coast, we had to be extra careful not to go wandering out over the sea, a matter very easily accomplished at night in a fog. Two or three of our chaps went west that way, and we never heard of them again. We could only conclude that the North Sea claimed them as victims.
On the twenty-first of August, 1917, I took the air in quest of Zepps for the first time . . .
Keeping her nose to the N.N.W. for twenty minutes, I peered over the side to try and distinguish something that might serve to assure us that we were on the right course, but the density of the night gave no sign, except the whistling of the wind as we speeded by. The drone of the engine kept us company, purr, purr, it was running perfectly. We were doing seventy miles an hour at twelve hundred revolutions. We flew on, keeping at three thousand feet; fifteen to twenty minutes more would find us very near our target. In spite of warm clothing and the usual thigh boots, I was getting cold, the bitter stinging of the keen wind making my face tingle. My observer was well hidden in his seat, the only part showing occasionally being his head popping up above the nacelle.
Suddenly the monotony was broken, and I could see my observer leaning over the side, hand on machine gun. Every part of the machine was plainly visible. A searchlight had pierced the darkness and caught us first go. He was directly to the left. Evans stood up, both hands grasping the gun, and signalled to swing round. Kicking the rudder and pulling the joy stick over, I throttled back and dived straight down the beam. The machine gun spit forth, a burst of ten or so, but he didn’t shut down. I side-slipped and he lost us. We were now at eighteen hundred feet and he was hunting the skies for us, found us for a second and then let us go again. We turned and throttled back once more, taking another dive at him . . .
. . . in vain that I tried to wake him. We threw a bowl of cold water over him, but even then he wouldn’t believe that a show was ordered, and absolutely refused to dress. In the end, he came up to the hangars in his pyjamas and an overcoat, and before he knew where he was, someone stuck a flying cap on his head and bundled him into the front seat. A few minutes later, he was fully awake, and shivered with the intense cold at a thousand feet up. He despatched all his bombs over at Mohon and lost no time in getting back ‘toute suite.’
Our next stunt proved somewhat of a failure, not due to any fault of ours, but to that element with which we always had to contend, the weather. Orders had come through that the enemy was concentrating on Amiens and that we were to proceed at once to Arcy-St. Restitue, a French aerodrome south-west of Soissons. From there, we were to carry out a raid on Chaulnes Railway Junction, one of the main junctions supplying the needs of the enemy.
We left late in the afternoon, and most of us arrived just after dark. It was a difficult place to find and no flares were put out, in consequence of which some of the boys had extreme difficulty in locating the landing ground. Everyone arrived safely, however, and there were no crashes.
The weather turned very misty, necessitating the postponement of our raid for a while. It was no better at eleven o’clock, but the C.O. decided to send us in spite of it . . .
As a parting shot, Bourney gave a few bursts with the machine gun—”For that persistent devil on the searchlight,” he said.
Taking up our homeward course, we had only left our target a few minutes when Bourney spotted what appeared to be landing lights, away to the left. He called my attention and we turned to investigate. They certainly were landing lights, but we could see no sign of a machine. Perhaps one was about to land. I throttled back to silence the engine as much as possible, we had plenty of height in hand, while Bourney, all on edge, was ready at the gun. Then, as though specially for our benefit, a twin engine machine came into view, we were right above, and he was landing with the lights full on him. What a sight! He ran, stopped, turned round and taxied back towards the lights and then stopped again, right in the glare. We saw tiny figures running out to him. What a target, and no bombs. We immediately dived and let go a whole drum. We were not more than six hundred feet and the tiny figures scattered like magic, the lights instantly went out and all was darkness. There was no challenge from below, nothing happened, Bourney shot off his last few rounds and we made for C Lighthouse, having had the best bit of fun for many a raid. We told our story in the mess later, and Cherry declared we always had all the luck, although his turn came a few nights afterwards.
One hundred and seven bombs were dropped on or around Boulay Aerodrome on this our first . . .