In the summer of 1914, as Europe teetered on the brink of war, the prospect of immediate Zeppelin raids on London and other major British towns and cities loomed large. Britain’s aerial defenses were negligible, while German armed forces mustered a total of eleven airships.
The First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston S. Churchill, accepted responsibility for the defense of London, which translated to defense against Zeppelin attack. His resources were limited, but he believed that attack was the best means of defense. As such, the final four months of 1914 saw the Royal Navy Air Service (RNAS) launching four separate ground-breaking air attacks on Zeppelin bases in Germany, making these Britain’s first ever strategic bombing raids: Düsseldorf/Cologne (September), Düsseldorf/Cologne again (October), Friedrichshafen (November) and Cuxhaven (December).
The raids achieved mixed results, but coming so early in the history of military aviation they all demonstrate evidence of great determination, ingenuity, improvisation and daring. The Düsseldorf raid culminated in the destruction of a Zeppelin, the Friedrichshafen raid involved tactics not dissimilar to those employed by the ‘Dambusters’ raid in 1943, as well as a spying mission into Germany by a flamboyant British entrepreneur, while the Cuxhaven raid saw the very first use of seaplanes in a combined sea/air operation.
This new addition to Osprey’s RAID series provides continued coverage of Zeppelin history, but approaching it from a new angle. While the Zeppelin raids against London are a thing of World War 1 history, the British raids against Zeppelin bases have gone largely forgotten. Ian Castle seeks to redress this balance in this beautifully illustrated and detailed account of an important aspect of aerial warfare.