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Looking for book on aerial tactical warfare


Guest Gary Davidson
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Guest Gary Davidson

What is a good book on WW1 aerial tactical warfare. Specifically: dogfighting. Germany or the Allies.

And was there a difference in technique?

Cheers,

Gary

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Gary

It's a big subject to cover in one hit. You could try:

The Royal Flying Corps in World War I by Ralph Barker;

Tumult in the Clouds by Peter Hart and Nigel Steel;

The German Air Force in the Great War by G P Neumann;

The Airman's War 1914-1918 by Peter Liddle;

Bloody April . . .Black September by Franks, Guest and Bailey;

Sharks Among Minnows by Norman Franks; and

Over the Battlefronts by Peter Kilduff.

In essence, the basic difference between Allied and German fighter tactics on the Western Front was that the Allies, especially the British, had a more offensive policy, with a determined effort to patrol over enemy territory. The Germans were more inclined to stay on their own side of the lines and wait for the enemy to come to them.

Naturally, bombing and reconnaisance aircraft had to work behind the enemy lines. The Allies carried out multi-aeroplane daylight bombing raids, while the Germans preferred single machines operating at night. Also, the Germans pioneered high altitude photographic reconnaisance, using special Rumpler aircraft.

Regards

Gareth

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Gents,

To which I would add (probably because it agrees almost entirely with my long held beliefs):

Dog-Fight Aerial Tactics of the Aces of World War I. Norman Franks, Greenhill

Books, 256 pages, hardback ISBN 1853675512

Norman is not, as far as I know, a pilot...but he certainly seems to grasp some of the concepts of "see and be seen" and other things which are so easily overlooked by people trying to appreciate air fighting.

regards

Darryl

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Guest Gary Davidson

Gareth and Darryl --

Thank you for the recommendations.

Is it true that the more offensive policy of aerial engagement carried out by the British proved to be the wrong choice in hindsight because it carried with it a huge toll in lost pilots?

Also, what is the "see and be seen" concept all about? I'm curious. I thought the essense of Dog-Fighting was to just get behind the other guy. But... I'm sure there's more art to it than that.

Gary

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Hi Gary,

Sorry, "see and be seen" is not technically correct. It is a modern doctrine in civil aviation of keeping your eyes open rather than relying on radar coverage (because it is not foolproof or because it is not present where you are flying).

I meant it in the sense that non pilots usually expect that an aeroplane is bigger than a car and so it should be seen at least as far away as a car is. Accordingly, you couldn't possibly fail to see an aircraft that is only 50 yards away, unless he is stuck in "the sun". Not true..as many pilots would tell you had they not died finding it out!!

There is a tendancy to, for instance, expect that a pilot's claim which can not be verified is the result of hopless optimism or blantant lie. An open cockpit aeroplane is a noisy, smelly, windy place which abounds with blind spots, none of which promote good "situational awareness". Start throwing the thing into physically demanding turns that threaten to stall and spin you into the ground and concentration tends to turn to frivilous things like continuing to stay alive rather than the more serious matters of who got whom.

What I meant to say was that Norman Franks is very good at taking all these factors into account in his narrative and analysis of Dogfighting.

A word of caution, if your idea of a "dogfight" is the classical one, be prepared to be dissapointed....a steady banked turn, within the flight envelope, is far more effective than loops, rolls etc....as exciting as all that stuff is!

Darryl

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Guest Gary Davidson

Darryl --

Thanks for the clarification.

Your description of what it was like flying a WW1 aircraft seems spot on. And I have no preconceptions of what a real dogfight must have been like except from seeing it on celluloid. And I’ve a pretty good idea how far accuracy was stretched to sustain suspense in that medium.

I want to know how it really was.

I’d like to know what made certain pilots more successful than others. Was it innate skill? The airplane they flew? Just luck? Or a combination of all of those things?

Gary

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Gary,

The thing which tends to show up time and time again in examining the most successful dogfighters is : GUNNERY. The good shots were almost always the most successful.

Being a very good pilot was not an essential ingredient. MvR was average, an Aussie high scorer I recall was almost suspect when it came to landing (but I won't name names because someone will linch me). What they could all do was get close and shoot straight.

The best were assasins rather than "pure" dogfighters. A dogfight costs energy, concentration, sweat and attracts unwelcome attentions from those with more height, speed and "SA" than the participants........MvR made many victories from hovering above a fight.

The old cliche that 75% of pilots never saw the aeroplane that shot them down (and another 15% not until after they were hit) holds true even if not really a scientifically proven statistic.

Sneak up, shoot him in the back and fly home to drink to him (and maybe even to survive again tomorrow).

Good luck with your studies

Darryl

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Guest Gary Davidson

Darryl --

Gunnery. Now that’s an interesting observation. It makes perfect sense. MvR was, I believe, an avid marksman in his youth. Apparently he had little interest in being a pilot early in his career, and only later was inspired to fly a plane when swayed by other German Aces.

Gary

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Is it true that the more offensive policy of aerial engagement carried out by the British proved to be the wrong choice in hindsight because it carried with it a huge toll in lost pilots?

Gary

There certainly were times when the aggressive offensive policy of the Allies wasn't the best course of action when see from an airman's perspective. The outstanding example is 'Bloody April' of 1917, when the RFC lost 316 men out of its strength of 912, primarily due to the inability of the British machines, especially the BE series, to cope with the German Albatros D.III.

A wiser course of action in April 1917 would have been to remain on the defensive until the arrival of better aircraft. However, the RFC was part of an Army that was involved in an offensive - the Battle of Arras - and the infantry and artillery needed aerial support. The RFC was not able to restrict operations based on purely aviation considerations.

When considering the overall policies of the air services, it must be remembered that they reflected the strategy of their respective sides: the Allies were endeavouring to eject the Germans from France and Belgium, something that involved attacking; the Germans (with the exceptions of Second Ypres, Verdun and the March 1918 offensives) were generally content to stay in the land that they had occupied, and could be defensive.

Regards

Gareth

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Gareth,

Couldn't agree more. Aviation Historians quickly tend to forget that the airwar was a small part in all and that the air forces were under Army control.

Accordingly the figure of 316 for April '17 was hardly likely to cause a great stir.

Likewise, losses of 1/3 of strength in a "battle" were unexceptional and I doubt, despite the tags we choose to put on it 90 odd years later, that an excessive amount of attention from GHQ was directed towards "Bloody April" (at least at the time). I think they were probably more concerned about the lack of photo intelligence getting back!!

Even the political storm over the BE2 was just that ... Political. Don't get me wrong, I am certainly no RAF (Royal Aircraft Factory) apologist but they were "there", had the aircraft, had the contract and that was that. Not as if a military force using outdated equipment is a first (or a last!!)

regards

Darryl

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