The Great War Part 204, July 13th 1918

THE SWAY OF BATTLE IN THE AIR 1917-18. By Edward Wright. General Von Hoppners Effort to Win Mastery in the Air— Reformation and Extension of the German Air Service—German Methods of Fighting with Large Formations and Use of the Decoy Trick in Attack— Capture of Captain Leefe Robinson V.C.— British Thrust into Lens Defeated and General N ivelles Thrust towards Laon Impeded by Inferiority in the Air— Opportunity for Pursuing Policy of Reprisal Raids Lost Owing to Lack of Official Prevision of the Needs of British Airmen— Fine Work of British Naval Airmen— Further Reorganisation of the British Air Service Begun— Some British Champions in the Air: Captain Albert Ball Major Avery Bishop and Captain A.M. Wilkinson— Practical Franco-British Predominance in the Air Secured— Great Air Contests During the Preparations for the Battles of Messines-W ytschaete Ridge— Americas Preparations for Aerial Warfare—A stonishing Feats of British Airmen in the Third Battle of Ypres— Development of Nocturnal Aerial Operations—The Battle of Cambrai and First Appearance of the Australian Flying Corps—Creation of the Air Ministry and Establishment of the Royal Air Force— Systematic Attack upon German Territory Begun—Part Played by Aircraft in the German Offensive begun in March 1018 .HEN the British Air Board was established in January 1917 as related in Chapter CLX. (Vol. 8 page 275) Germany had entered upon a large scheme' of reorganisation and expansion. General von Hoppner Chief of Staff to General von Below in the Somme campaign was so impressed b they British recovery from Fokker superiority that he resigned his command in the field to make a supreme effort to win mastery in the air for his country and by the winter of 1916 was exerting a pressure in the air that caused anxiety to the British and French Commanders-in-Chief. He brought out improved types of fighting machines together with workmanlike imitations of the Handley Page bombing machine and developed a special form of aerial attack. The British Flying Corps largely relied upon the native spirit of sports­manship and sent out single fighting pilots like Captain Albert Ball V.C., who fought against any odds. The Prussian com­mander employed science instead of sportsmanship. He made his best fighting men such as Captain Baron von Richthofen, the leaders of large formations most of the men in which were trained to shepherd allied airmen into positions where a matador stroke could be delivered. The design was always to bring superior strength to bear upon the gallantly ROYAL VISIT TO AIR-TRAIN GIN CENTRE. King George viewing an aerial gun during a visit which he paid to the Royal Air Force Armaments School. With his Majesty are Lord Cromer Brigadier- General Hearson and Commander Sir Charles Cust. adventurous British and French pilots. The special German formations were unattached to any sector or army and travelled all along the front using the power of numbers to destroy any small allied force they encountered. These tactics were a practical application of the classic military principle of concentration and so numerous were the successes it effected that Captain von Richthofen alone was credited before he fell with a personal destruction of eighty allied machines. So long as the British and French Armies fought alongside each other by the Somme their air chiefs were able to answer the enemys massing of force by combined swoops over his lines. When however in the spring of 1917, General von Ludendorff retreated from Bapaume and Roye, and the French and British forces under the direction of General Nivelle selected widely-separated fields of attack Von Hoppner was well rewarded for his foresight in reforming and extending the Ger­man Air Service and developing the method of fighting with large formations. B y combining most of his battle squad­rons for action on one critical sector the enemy general was able to sweep the air with destructive effect. From an aerial point of view the distance between the new French front on the Aisne and the new British front around Arras was negligible. From their central position in the AAA 381
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