Reviewed by Chris Longmuir
The War in the Air was a demanding, but interesting read. It was a fascinating account of the early development of aircraft and their role in World War I. It covered the early years of experimenting with flight in the 19th century, although there had already been flights involving hot air balloons, the first of which was the Montgolfier balloon in 1783. However, although there were airships in the 19th century, it was the Wright brothers who led the way with their flying machine in 1903. This led on to the development of airships and aircraft in the early years of the century. However, the main part of the book, deals with the contribution that these airships and aircraft made to World War I.
However, it was not until April 1918 that the Royal Air Force was formed. Prior to this there had been the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Naval Air Service. In 1918 both the services were amalgamated and became the Royal Air Force.
The Royal Flying Corps was the military branch of the service and was attached to the War Office. Its role was initially reconnaissance in the air, although later in the war that role expanded to include bombing. The different types of aeroplanes they used are well described.
The Royal Naval Air Service was the naval branch of the service and was attached to the Admiralty. Its role was to support the Navy, patrol the seas, and spot submarines. They also had a more active role in respect of bombing, gunnery, torpedo work, navigation, wireless telegraphy, and engineering. Their duties were therefore more various and complicated than those of the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Naval Air service had to fly seaplanes and airships as well as aeroplanes.
Some of the material in this book is quite factual, but there are also personal contributions which illustrate the difficulties in flying these early machines. It is a comprehensive look at the development of the air services and aerial warfare during World War I, when there were many dangers due to the fragility of machines and the risks entailed with flying during wartime.
This is a book that would appeal to readers who are interested in World War I and also in aircraft. The information it contains is invaluable.
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