The Blitz - Air Power

When were aircraft first used for war?

Aircraft were first used in any significant way for military purposes during World War One. The idea of bombing civilian centers with high explosives and incendiaries was used by both sides.
The Allies used bombers such as the Handley Page Type 0.
The Germans employed Twin engine Gotha bombers and huge airships called Zeppelins that crossed the North Sea to attack civilian populations in England, causing panic and huge destruction when they were first used.

How did the idea of strategic bombing develop?

After the War the idea of air power was developed into a strategy that some people believed could win a war on its own. This was called Strategic bombing and was aimed at destroying a country's ability to wage war by preventing the production of arms and demolishing the transport and communications networks. There were several proponents of this including the American Air Force General Billy Mitchell.
The fear of huge casualties from German aerial bombardment was sufficient to induce the British and French to use appeasement as a means of controlling Adolf Hitler's ambitions.

How could bombers be defeated?

The obvious response to the bomber threat was the interceptor or fighter that could quickly get into the sky to meet an incoming bomber formation and attack it before it could reach its target.
To avoid maintaining expensive standing patrols the British developed an effcient organisation called the Observer Corps that would watch the skys and report the numbers, height and direction of any enemy aircraftt. They also developed RADAR, an electrical means of identifing aircraft at a distance. These two measures gave the British a huge advantage when defending the British Isles during the Blitz.

What were the obvious targets for bombers?

Cities were an obvious target for bombers:

  • They were centers of communication. Railway and road networks converge on major cities and if they were damaged they could not be used to transport arms and troops around the country.
  • Cities were the location of national and local government. If the country could not be governed effectively then its ability to wage war would be drastically reduced.
  • Cities were densely populated. If civilians were attacked they may become demoralised, thinking that they could not be defended, and force their government to make peace.
Supermarine Spitfire was a fighter used by RAF Fighter Command during World War Two
Supermarine Spitfire MkI/II Fighter
 
The main fighter used by RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain was the Hawker Hurricane.
Hawker Hurricane Mk I Fighter
 
The Messerschmitt bf109e was a single engined fighter used by the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain
Messerschmitt bf109e Fighter
 
The Junkers 87 Stuka dive bomber was hopelessly outclassed by British single seat fighters and took heavy losses during the Battle of Britain..
Junkers Ju87 Stuka Dive Bomber
 
The Dornier Do17 was nicknamed the 'flying pencil' because of ists thin lightweight appearance. By 1940, during the Battle of Britain and the Blitz, it was an old design and suffered heavy casualties to the British Spitfire and Hurricane.
Dornier Do17 Light Bomberz
 
During the Battle of Britain and the Blitz the main medium bomber of the Luftwaffe was the Heinkel He111. It was withdrwan from service as a bomber shortly afterwards but continued to give good service as a transport until the end of the war.
Heinkel He111H Medium Bomber