With the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI less than a year away, there is a rapidly growing number of books reaching the market, covering aspects of that war. Some may be a little dubious, but this is one of the books that demand to be read. The author has set out the background and execution of the German terror bombing raids on British cites, with the second half of the book providing a gazetteer of the places bombed.
NAME: The Baby Killers, German Air Raids on Britain in the First World War
CATEGORY: Book Reviews
AUTHOR: Thomas Fegan
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: WWI, aerial combat, bombing, terror bombing, airships, heavy bombers, long range bombers, technology, tactics, total war, World War One, Great War, First World War, German Navy, RNAS, RFC
DESCRIPTION: With the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI less than a year away, there is a rapidly growing number of books reaching the market, covering aspects of that war. Some may be a little dubious, but this is one of the books that demand to be read. The author has set out the background and execution of the German terror bombing raids on British cites, with the second half of the book providing a gazetteer of the places bombed.
Today, it is very difficult to understand the full nature of this bombing campaign and the reactions of those being bombed. In history, sieges had been attacks on a combined military and civil population, but on only a very limited number of locations. The German use of airships from early in WWI to deliberately attack civil targets across Britain was an entirely new form of warfare. HG Wells had foreseen the use and impact of aerial warfare on cities but his doom-laden prophecies had no basis in experience.
The Germans had a choice to use airships to attack targets in Britain or to avoid the use of this weapon. They did not have the choice of using airships in precision bombing because their craft lacked the navigation and bomb aiming equipment to do that job. Instead, the Germans could only fly towards the target and drop their bombs on populated areas that might contain some targets of military value, but probably struck only civilians, schools and hospitals. The Germans were prepared to wage this kind of war, but the airships did have limitations, eventually became vulnerable to British fighters, and were succeeded by Gotha heavy bombers.
The German raids were modest in number and weight of bombs. British long-range heavy bombers were to make more significant attacks on Germany and with great accuracy, concentrating more on targets of military value. The early use of airships provided the means to range across Britain and bomb targets from Edinburgh to London and Manchester to Hull.
The author has researched well, presenting and arguing points effectively in a very well illustrated book. The reader will probably be surprised by some of the revelations. The construction of sound mirrors to detect attacking aircraft and the truck mounted anti-aircraft guns operated by the Royal Navy are amongst the rarely referred to aspects of this bombing campaign. A fascinating account of a campaign that changed the nature of warfare and served to pioneer the widespread bombing of WWII that was to reach terrible heights of effectiveness with the Anglo-American bombing of Germany and the American nuclear bombing of Japanese targets. Given the nature of democracies, the Anglo-American bombing campaigns might never have been attempted had the Germans not decided to deliberately bomb civilian targets in Britain during the Great War.