War in the Air


This Punch cartoon was remembered by the Triangle’s Keith Buck when the idea for the week of wartime posts was mentioned. It’s highly unlikely that the Slingsby Cricket team have ever had to deal with a marauding German fighter bomber but the cartoon does maybe show some of the unease of the time with the war coming to the skies above England.

The north of England remained out of range for WW1 German aircraft but the south of England was often attacked by fighter and bomber aircraft from the Luftstreitkräfte (Imperial German Air Service). The real bombing work, however, was done by the Zeppelins who attacked targets across the UK, often working in groups of up to five though the largest attack, launched on September 12th 1915, had a total of twelve Zeppelins take part. Airships made about 51 bombing raids on England during the war. These killed 557 and injured another 1,358 people. More than 5,000 bombs were dropped on towns across Britain, causing £1.5 million in damage. 84 airships took part, of which 30 were lost, either shot down by special anti-Zeppelin squadrons or lost in accidents.

The_red_baronMention the air war of World War one, however, one name will always come up – Baron Manfred Von Richthofen. Originally Von Richthofen started the war as a Prussian cavalry officer but the stalemate of trench warfare limited the use of horses on the battlefield so he decided to become an observer in the German air force. Later he became a pilot and seems, right from the start, to have had a talent for flying. Quickly his reputation grew and he came to be known as the red baron due to his aircraft’s bright red paint scheme. By the end of Von Richthofen’s life in April 1918, the infamous ace would have a score of 80 aircraft (during World War 2, another German flyer, Major Erich Hartmann, accounted for 352).

For many years it was believed that Captain Roy Brown had shot the German ace (the British Royal Flying Corps used the rather showbiz term of ‘star turns’ rather than the word ‘ace’) down but current research now points to the fact that Manfred  Von Richthofen was most likely brought down by ground fire from an Australian machine gun crew rather than the guns of Roy Brown’s aircraft.

While Germany wholeheartedly embraced the idea of the flying ace, the British preferred to encourage the idea of team play within a squadron rather than focus on one individual flyer. The Royal Flying Corp did have its aces though with pilots like Major James McCudden, Major Edward Mannock, Captain Albert Ball and Major John Inglis Gilmour.

A rather good BBC Timewatch documentary about Mannock and McCudden can be viewed HERE


Wartime Slingsby Exhibition: April 26th

Come and find out about Slingsby’s wartime associations; from the Wars of the Roses, the Civil War, and preparations for war in the village from the Napoleonic wars up until the second world war, when the village was a centre for troop training and munitions storage, and welcomed evacuees.

For more details about the Wartime Slingsby Exhibition taking place on April 26th CLICK HERE