Sea & Air Fighting, Those Who Were There

WWI history has been dominated by the trench warfare that was a 
result of the machine gun. The real innovation was in the air and 
at sea. A very well chosen photo-plate section supports the 
recollections of those that were there – Excellent and great reading.

NAME: Sea & Air Fighting, Those Who Were There
FILE: R2417
AUTHOR:  David Bilton
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back 
PAGES:  168
PRICE: £12.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWI, World War 1, World War One, First World War, aircraft, 
carriers, bombing, dog fighting, ground attack, ships, warships, 
submarines, armoured ships, air ships
ISBN: 1-47386-705-3
IMAGE: B2417.jpg
LINKS: Current Discount Offers 
DESCRIPTION: WWI history has been dominated by the trench warfare 
that was a result of the machine gun. The real innovation was in the 
air and at sea. A very well chosen photo-plate section supports the 
recollections of those that were there – Excellent and great reading.

 The carnage of the trenches has naturally been the focus of 
attention in the history of WWI. With so many fine young men dying, 
before they had much chance to live, cast a long shadow across the 
years that followed and still resonates a century later. In terms of 
land warfare it did not represent the introduction of new technology 
that many have claimed. The machine gun  had never been used in large 
numbers before, but is several respects it was not the new terror 
weapon that has been suggested. Since the introduction of canon, the 
gunner has been able to command the field where ever sufficient 
numbers of guns have been  deployed and the result has been the same 
that armies have been forced to dig in to provide shelter from 
bombardment. Colonel Shrapnel introduced a very effective anti-
personnel round that made muzzle-loading artillery deadly against 
exposed infantry and cavalry. The use of canister shot was also an 
effective weapon to sweep a battlefield. Once deployed in fixed 
defenses, all the old tactics, pre-dating Roman times, were employed, 
including mining and counter-mining of enemy defenses and enemy 
engineers. Costly frontal assaults produced huge casualties and the 
real king of the battlefield was the artillery, including the machine 

Naval forces had contended for thousands of years, but never in the 
range of technology deployed in WWI. In the air, warriors fought for 
the first time above the battlefield and obtained intelligence of 
enemy movements and deployments never previously available. This was 
the innovation of WWI that changed the way future wars would be fought.

At sea, the line of battle, or fleet warfare, was continued, as was 
the duty of convoy escort and blockade of enemy ports. However, much 
of the technology was new. HMS Dreadnought had overnight made all 
pre-dreadnought warships obsolete. This became the standard by which 
big gun warship design was influenced until the big gun itself became 
obsolete. Steam turbine power enabled fast armoured and heavily gunned 
capital ships to be built and operated across oceans. Wireless 
communications enabled Admiralties to maintain contact with distant 
warships and direct actions, but they also provided a way of observing 
the enemy warships beyond visual range. The Royal Navy built 
interception stations that could triangulate on any enemy warship that 
used its radio transmitter and locate its position with accuracy, 
directing RN warships to attack it. The same technology enabled the RN 
to identify the German intention to take its Fleet to sea, by detecting 
increasing radio traffic.

The submarine came of age and was used by the RN and the German Navy to 
great effect. By the middle of WWI, the design had settled and German 
U-Boats in 1939 were remarkably similar to their submarine designs of 
1914-1918. In reality, the submarine was still a surface vessel that 
could submerge and often fought gun duels on the surface, but it was 
increasingly used submerged for stealthy attack by torpedo. This then 
produced new technology to locate submerged submarines.

In the air, it was a completely new form of warfare. Armies were 
initially slow to think of aircraft as anything other than scouts to 
gather intelligence on enemy locations and movements, but the Royal 
Navy had successfully lunched the first torpedo from an aircraft just 
four weeks before the start of WWI and already had aircraft with bomb 
racks and special depth bombs that could be used against submerged 
submarines. When RNAS squadrons went to France, they were already 
fighting machines that were able to destroy airships in the air. Very 
rapidly, these capabilities became widespread beyond the RN and air 
fleets grew dramatically. By 1918, the RN had already pioneered 
carrier fleets and strategic bombing. The airship also made a great 
impact. Large rigid German airships were deployed in terror bombing 
of civilian targets in the British Isles. The RN made little use of 
rigid airships, although an RN rigid airship became the first to 
carry and launch heavier-than-air fighter aircraft. The RN found 
success with semi-rigid airships that carried bombs and radio to 
provide escort to coastal convoys and could remain with a convoy for 
24 hours and sometimes longer.

The author has used the voices of those who were there to provide a 
commentary of these momentous innovations in the art of war.