Knights of the Skies
The FOKKER EI armed models started shipping to front line units in June 1915. Although initially armed with a Parabellum LMG 14, they were soon re-fitted with the IMG 08 “Spandau”.
The 100hp Oberursel U.1 powered EII was developed concurrently with the EI and started entering service in July 1915.
In April 1915, the Eindecker (“Monoplane”) was the first purpose-built German fighter aircraft and the first aircraft to be fitted with synchronizer gear, enabling the pilot to fire a machine gun through the arc of the propeller without striking the blades. The Eindecker granted the German Air Service a degree of air superiority from July 1915 until early 1916. This period was known as the “Fokker Scourge,” during which Allied aviators regarded their poorly armed aircraft as “Fokker Fodder”. The Eindecker was based on Fokker’s unarmed A.III scout (itself following very closely the design of the French Morane-Saulnier H shoulder-wing monoplane) which was fitted with a synchronizer mechanism controlling a single Parabellum MG14 machine gun.
Anthony Fokker personally demonstrated the system on 23 May 1915, having towed the prototype aircraft behind his touring car to a military airfield near Berlin.
The Morane-Saulnier N was one of the few operational monoplanes of WW1. It had an extremely sensitive elevator response and fast landing speed but was considerably more manouverable than its German opponents at the time. Flight control was achieved by wing warping.
In addition to the french, 2 British squadrons flew Morane-Saulnier N’s where it was nicknamed the “Bullet” due to th large spinner fitted on the nose.
The tactical, technological and training differences between Germany and the allied forces, ensured the British suffered a casualty rate nearly four times as great as their opponents. The losses were so disastrous that it threatened to undermine the morale of entire squadrons.
Royal Flying Corps (RFC) pilot training was often cursory, especially in the early days of the war. Many recruits had only 2 to 3 hours of flying instruction before being expected to fly solo. Men were often sent to France having logged only 15 hours in the air. 8000 young men died in Britain during flight training, which means that more died from accidents and equipment failures than from enemy action.
Most RFC pilots lasted only an average of about 3 weeks once they arrived at the Western Front. Those who weren’t killed, wounded, or taken prisoner might be posted out because of “nerves”. Flying was extremely stressful and dangerous. Those who lived through the first few weeks acquired skills that helped them live longer or even survive the war.
RFC pilots were not allowed to use parachutes, although the men who were up in observation balloons had them and often used them to escape an attack. Towards the end of the war, German pilots were using parachutes.
Knights Of The Skies – WWI
WWI – British
The War Poets
“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.”
Extract from ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen
“Poetry, more than any other art form, can capture a moment and preserve it forever. Centuries on, poems allow us to understand what people in the past were feeling, and lets us feel it for ourselves”, writes the producer and director Sebastian Barfield. This is no truer than the poetry written about the Great War. In fact the term ‘war poet’ immediately makes one think of the poems written about that conflict, more than any other conflict in history
In Poets’ Corner in the South Transept of Westminster Abbey in London, there is a slate stone slab commemorating the Great War Poets. There are sixteen names inscribed on it, all of whom served in uniform during the war. Of these sixteen poets, six died in the war.
Although the conflict started over a hundred years ago, reading poems by these poets, such as ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ by Wilfred Owen, ‘Two Fusiliers’ by Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke’s sonnet ‘V. The Soldier’, ‘The General’ by Siegfried Sassoon or countless others, it is easy to imagine oneself there, experiencing the war first hand. Taken all together, these poems, many of them written in the trenches, create an extraordinary kind of witness – harrowing as well as humbling and heartening; they present the war as a devastating moment in history, and remind us its resonances never end.
So, it is not too difficult to picture a helmeted Tommy sitting on a battered crate, paper in one hand, pen poised in the other…….
Royal Garrison Artillery Crew
The use of horses in World War I marked a transitional period in the evolution of armed conflict. Cavalry units were initially considered essential offensive elements of a military force, but over the course of the war, the vulnerability of horses to modern machine gun and artillery fire reduced their utility on the battlefield. This paralleled the development of tanks, which would ultimately replace cavalry in shock tactics. While the perceived value of the horse in war changed dramatically, horses still played a significant role throughout the war.
The military mainly used horses for logistical support during the war; they were better than mechanized vehicles at traveling through deep mud and over rough terrain. Horses were used for reconnaissance and for carrying messengers, as well as pulling artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons. The presence of horses often increased morale among the soldiers at the front, but the animals contributed to disease and poor sanitation in camps, caused by their manure and carcasses. The value of horses, and the increasing difficulty of replacing them, was such that by 1917 some troops were told that the loss of a horse was of greater tactical concern than the loss of a human soldier. Ultimately, the Allied blockade prevented the Central Powers from importing horses to replace those lost, which contributed to Germany’s defeat. By the end of the war, even the well-supplied U.S. Army was short of horses.
Australian Imperial Force
The Stokes mortar was a British trench mortar invented by Sir Wilfred Stokes KBE that was issued to the British, Commonwealth and U.S. armies, as well as the Portuguese Expeditionary Corps (CEP), during the later half of the First World War. The 3-inch trench mortar is a smooth-bore, muzzle-loading weapon for high angles of fire
The Stokes mortar was a simple weapon, consisting of a smoothbore metal tube fixed to a base plate (to absorb recoil) with a lightweight bipod mount. When a mortar bomb was dropped into the tube, an impact sensitive primer in the base of the bomb would make contact with a firing pin at the base of the tube, and detonate, firing the bomb towards the target.
The barrel is a seamless drawn-steel tube necked down at the breech or base end. To the breech end is fitted a base cap, within which is secured a firing pin protruding into the barrel. The caps at each end of the bomb cylinder were 81 mm diameter. The bomb was fitted with a modified hand grenade fuze on the front, with a perforated tube containing a propellant charge and an impact-sensitive cap at the rear.
Range was determined by the amount of propellant charge used and the angle of the barrel. A basic propellant cartridge was used for all firing, and covered short ranges. Up to four additional “rings” of propellant were used for incrementally greater ranges. See range tables below. The four rings were supplied with the cartridge and gunners discarded the rings which were not needed.
British Empire units had 1,636 Stokes mortars in service on the Western Front at the Armistice.
In World War I, the Stokes Mortar could fire as many as 25 bombs per minute and had a maximum range of 800 yards firing the original cylindrical unstabilised projectile. By World War II, it could fire as many as 30 bombs per minute, and had a range of over 2,500 yards with some shell types
Australian Imperial Force
Battle of Gallipoli 1915
Battle of Gallipoli 1915