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poster c1920

- world war one school bombing


Pilot as policeman, bomb as baton – were ideas developed early by R.P Hearne in In Airships in Peace and War (1910). Punitive expeditions are costly and time-consuming. It can take months for them to reach their goal. But that punishment from the air can be carried out immediately and at a much lower cost was Hearne’s big idea.

 “In savage lands,” wrote Hearne “the moral effect of such an instrument of war is impossible to conceive. The appearance of the airship would strike terror into the tribes.” And in addition, one could avoid “the awful waste of life occasioned to white troops by expeditionary work.”

The air force could simply patrol the land as the navy patrolled the sea. When necessary, bombers could mete out a “sharp, severe, and terrible punishment,” which would nevertheless be more humane than a traditional punitive expedition. For the bombs would affect only the lawbreakers, and would leave the innocent unharmed.

This was of course pure fantasy. Hearne's idea demanded a precision that did not exist.

When the French sent six planes to perform police actions in Morocco in 1912, the pilots chose large targets - villages, markets, and grazing herds - otherwise their bombs would miss. And when the Spaniards began bombing ‘their’ part of Morocco the next year, they used German cartouche bombs, filled with explosives and steel balls, bombs that were especially made not to focus their effect, but to spread it to as many living targets as possible.


world war one
The First World War was waged on the ground. In four months in 1917, the British lost 324,000 soldiers on the Western front. During that same period London withstood two air attacks with a total of 216 dead. The total number of British deaths by air attack for the entire war was 1,400, a fraction of what a single day on the Western front could cost. As the war came to a close airplane enthusiasts began to wonder what more fun they could have with their planes and what heroic deeds they could aspire to. Officers promoted grand schemes for more and bigger planes, already planning for future adventure in war while industrialists looked forward to lucrative contracts. War, after all, is good for business.

When the war was over, Great Britain had the world's only independent air force and a fleet of 3,300 planes, which had played an almost negligible role in the outcome of the war. Now the entire military was to be reduced to peacetime levels. Each branch of service would have to prove its indispensability. It was easier for the two traditional branches. They both agreed that the air force ought to be disbanded. Churchill was assigned the task of wielding the axe for the government.

Mohammed Abdille Hassan who had never seen an airplane saved the day.