CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Friday, August 15, 2014

WWI Britain's during the Blitz Not WWII and how they look 100 years later

 

 

 

 

 

It's an iconic scene of Britain at war: Thousands of Londoners huddled in Underground stations as German bombs rained down.

But this is not the 1940s Blitz — it's World War I, more than 20 years earlier.

For most people, the Great War evokes images of mud, gas masks and the trenches of the Western Front. The Imperial War Museum wants to expand that view. A century after the conflict began, the London museum aims to provide a new perspective on "the war to end all wars."

Silhouettes of British soldiers are projected onto a trench scene in the new "First World War Galleries" after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War ...

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Silhouettes of British soldiers are projected onto a trench scene in the new "First World War Galleries" after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War Museum during a press preview event in London, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The museum reopens Saturday after a six-month closure for a 40 million pound ($70 million) renovation timed to mark the centenary of World War I. The museum was founded in 1917, as the war still raged, to preserve the stories of those who were fighting and dying. It retains that goal, as well its archaic name, relic of a long-gone British Empire. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Senior historian Terry Charman said Wednesday that many people are surprised to learn that London was bombed — first by zeppelins, then by planes — and that 300,000 people sought shelter in subway stations.

"They say: 'Air raids? Really?'" Charman said. "I think we see the First World War very much through the prism of the trenches of the Western Front. You forget that there was a home front."

Reclaiming stories of the home front is one of the missions of the museum, which reopens Saturday after a six-month closure for a 40 million pound ($70 million) renovation.

The museum was founded in 1917, as the war still raged, to preserve the stories of those who were fighting and dying. It retains that goal, as well as its "Imperial" moniker, a relic of a vanished British Empire.

In other ways the museum has modernized. It now covers recent conflicts, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan, and includes an impressive collection of old and new military hardware. From the ceiling of the building's new atrium hang a Spitfire fighter plane, a Harrier jump jet, a V1 rocket and more.

But the museum's curators are just as interested in human stories. The World War I galleries move from the battlefront to the home front, to show how the first "total war" shook society from top to bottom.

The permanent exhibition includes more than 1,300 objects — from weapons and uniforms to diaries and letters — and alternates between the big picture and small details. Both perspectives have emotional power. It's hard not to be humbled by the sheer scale of the slaughter. After war was declared in August 1914 — with Germany and Austria-Hungary on one side and Britain, France and Russia on the other — 7 million men marched off to war. By December, 1 million of them were dead.

Multimedia displays capture the vast tragedy of the Battle of the Somme, which saw 20,000 British soldiers killed in one day. Visitors learn about tanks, planes and other technological innovations that changed the course of the war. They share space with crude weapons that suggest the almost medieval savagery of trench warfare, including catapults to fling grenades and an iron-headed club for crushing skulls.

Many visitors will find the small, personal items especially moving. Soldiers complain of boredom, rats, lice and cold in letters home from the trenches. The wallet of a soldier killed in battle holds faded photos of his wife and children. In a letter, 9-year-old Alfie Knight begs to be allowed to enlist because "I am very strong and often win a fight with lads twice as big as myself."

Most of the displays show the war from the perspective of Britain, its empire and its allies — including the United States, which entered the conflict in 1917. But senior curator Paul Cornish said that for him the most evocative object was a frying pan bearing a German patriotic message: "The German housewife sacrifices copper for iron." Copper was a prized war material.

"She wouldn't have had much to put in it," Cornish said. Meat, eggs and fat all grew scarce as Britain tried to starve Germany into submission.

"This was a highly advanced society reduced to beggary by the total nature of the war," Cornish said.

All the words seen and heard in the exhibition come from the wartime period. There are no reminiscences or later memoirs. Lead curator James Taylor said that was a deliberate decision, to convey the war as it was experienced: "four years of surprises, four years of shocks."

The exception comes in the final room. The last word is given to Harry Patch, the final known survivor of the trenches, who died in 2009, aged 111.

"I've tried for 80 years to forget it," he said. "But I can't."

Children pose for photographs in front of the John Singer Sargent painting "Gassed", from 1919, after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War Museum du...

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Children pose for photographs in front of the John Singer Sargent painting "Gassed", from 1919, after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War Museum during a press preview event in London, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The museum reopens Saturday after a six-month closure for a 40 million pound ($70 million) renovation timed to mark the centenary of World War I. The museum was founded in 1917, as the war still raged, to preserve the stories of those who were fighting and dying. It retains that goal, as well its archaic name, relic of a long-gone British Empire. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Brothers Rafe, left, and Orlando Burley pose for photographers in front of an exhibit in the new "First World War Galleries" after major redevelopment works ...

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Brothers Rafe, left, and Orlando Burley pose for photographers in front of an exhibit in the new "First World War Galleries" after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War Museum during a press preview event in London, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The museum reopens Saturday after a six-month closure for a 40 million pound ($70 million) renovation timed to mark the centenary of World War I. The museum was founded in 1917, as the war still raged, to preserve the stories of those who were fighting and dying. It retains that goal, as well its archaic name, relic of a long-gone British Empire. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

U.S. World War I recruitment posters are displayed as part of an exhibit in the new "First World War Galleries" after major redevelopment works at the Imperi...

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U.S. World War I recruitment posters are displayed as part of an exhibit in the new "First World War Galleries" after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War Museum during a press preview event in London, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The museum reopens Saturday after a six-month closure for a 40 million pound ($70 million) renovation timed to mark the centenary of World War I. The museum was founded in 1917, as the war still raged, to preserve the stories of those who were fighting and dying. It retains that goal, as well its archaic name, relic of a long-gone British Empire. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Military exhibits are displayed in the newly transformed atrium after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War Museum in London, Wednesday, July 16, 201...

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Military exhibits are displayed in the newly transformed atrium after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War Museum in London, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The museum reopens Saturday after a six-month closure for a 40 million pound ($70 million) renovation timed to mark the centenary of World War I. The museum was founded in 1917, as the war still raged, to preserve the stories of those who were fighting and dying. It retains that goal, as well its archaic name, relic of a long-gone British Empire. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Trench signs made by British soldiers are displayed as part of an exhibit in the new "First World War Galleries" after major redevelopment works at the Imper...

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Trench signs made by British soldiers are displayed as part of an exhibit in the new "First World War Galleries" after major redevelopment works at the Imperial War Museum during a press preview event in London, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The museum reopens Saturday after a six-month closure for a 40 million pound ($70 million) renovation timed to mark the centenary of World War I. The museum was founded in 1917, as the war still raged, to preserve the stories of those who were fighting and dying. It retains that goal, as well its archaic name, relic of a long-gone British Empire. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

An external view shows the Imperial War Museum after major internal redevelopment works during a press preview event in London, Wednesday, July 16, 2014.  Th...

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An external view shows the Imperial War Museum after major internal redevelopment works during a press preview event in London, Wednesday, July 16, 2014. The museum reopens Saturday after a six-month closure for a 40 million pound ($70 million) renovation timed to mark the centenary of World War I. The museum was founded in 1917, as the war still raged, to preserve the stories of those who were fighting and dying. It retains that goal, as well its archaic name, relic of a long-gone British Empire. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

World's first aircraft carrier restored after it was found rusting by the Thames - and it's just 58 FEET long

  • First of its kind First World War aircraft carrier was towed by another boat
  • Unlike its huge modern descendants, the ship had just 58 feet of runway
  • It was built to launch biplanes to stop German airship raids on Britain
  • The plane was towed into the wind before crew pulled away plane's chocks
  • The 70-year-old vessel was found on the banks of the Thames by a historian
  • It is now going on display at the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Somerset

The only surviving example of the world's first aircraft carrier which measures just 58ft long has been restored.

A far cry from the Royal Navy's new 920ft aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, the tiny boat could carry just one plane which was launched by towing it behind another boat into the wind.

The simple vessels were used to launch First World War biplanes from the middle of the sea so they could attack German airships before they reached Britain.

Fleet Air Arm Musuem curator Dave Morris with the world's first aircraft carrier, which was found rusting on the banks of the Thames

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Fleet Air Arm Musuem curator Dave Morris with the world's first aircraft carrier, which was found rusting on the banks of the Thames

The craft, loaded with a biplane, being towed behind another boat ahead of a launch

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The craft, loaded with a biplane, being towed behind another boat ahead of a launch

A Sopwith Camel plane would be strapped to the deck of the boat and taken out to sea before being towed into the wind at over 20 knots.

Crew had to hold the plane back while the pilot got the engine up to speed then release the chocks at the right moment. The pilot had just 58 feet of 'runway' to get the plane airborne or it would plummet into the sea with disastrous consequences.

And even if the plane made it into the air, the only way the pilot could land again was by crashing into the sea in the hope of being rescued.

The craft were the brainchild of the British Admiralty, who built them in a bid to end the destruction caused by bombs dropped on Britain by German zeppelins.

The plane would be launched by the towing vessel steering into the wind and speeding up until there was enough lift to get the plane airbourne

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The plane would be launched by the towing vessel steering into the wind and speeding up until there was enough lift to get the plane airbourne

The pilot had just 58 feet of 'runway' to get the plane off the deck or it would plummet into the sea

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The pilot had just 58 feet of 'runway' to get the plane off the deck or it would plummet into the sea

By launching planes out to sea the zeppelins could be intercepted and shot down before they could unleash their deadly payloads.

The only existing example of the craft, called a seaplane lighter, was discovered rusting on the banks of the River Thames by a passing naval historian in 1996.

It was salvaged by experts at the Fleet Air Arm Museum who have spent 12 years restoring it to its former glory.

They now plan to give it pride of place in a new entrance hall at the museum in Yeovil, Somerset, with a restored Sopwith Camel mounted on it.

Dave Morris, curator of aircraft at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, said: 'The boat came to us after it was spotted on the banks of the Thames.

THE SEAPLANE LIGHTER H21

The craft, loaded with a biplane, being towed behind another boat ahead of a launch

LENGTH - 57.97 feet  WIDTH - 16 feet

DEPTH - 6.89 feet

WEIGHT - Approximately 30 tons

PROPULSION - None, towed on a line by another boat

NUMBER OF CREW - 11

TOP SPEED - Around 20 knots when towed

FIRST BUILT - 1918

AIRCRAFT CAPACITY - One biplane

NUMBER OF DECKS - One, open air

COST TO BUILD - Unknown

QUEEN ELIZABETH-CLASS CARRIER

The new Queen Elizabeth Class ship

LENGTH - 918 feet  WIDTH - 239 feet

DEPTH- 128 feet (waterline) 230 feet (total)

WEIGHT - Approximately 70,000 tons

PROPULSION - Two 48,000hp engines, four 12,000hp engines and two 20MW motors

NUMBER OF CREW - 679

TOP SPEED - Upwards of 25 knots

FIRST BUILT - Sea trials to begin in 2017

AIRCRAFT CAPACITY - 40 fighter jets

DECKS - 10 including flight-deck

COST TO BUILD - £3.1billion

'It was actually in remarkable condition. We have stripped back the Thames Barge paint that covered it and returned it to its original First World War condition.

'It's incredible to compare it to aircraft carriers of today, but believe it or not this is where it all started.'

The deadly effect of the basic craft was displayed on August 10, 1918 when Lieutenant Stuart Culley took off from one for the first time.

After completing the daring launch, Lt Culley climbed to 19,000ft before opening fire on zeppelin L53, sending the giant airship down in a ball of flame into the North Sea.

The mission was so successful the Germans, petrified of the Brits' new aerial capabilities, stopped all zeppelin attacks on Britain.

Lt Culley was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in recognition of his bravery during the attack.

The vessel's take-off ramp being constructed during the First World War

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The vessel's take-off ramp being constructed during the First World War

Mr Morris said: 'It's incredible to compare it to aircraft carriers of today, but believe it or not this is where it all started'

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Mr Morris said: 'It's incredible to compare it to aircraft carriers of today, but believe it or not this is where it all started'

The seaplane lighters would be dwarfed by the Navy's new state of the art Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers, which are 920ft long and can carry 40 fighter jets.

Dave Morris, said: 'It is one of the great World War One pieces still in existence and among just a few original large objects remaining.

'During the war the Admiralty decided they needed to to be able to launch planes from the sea, and came up with the idea of a small craft that could be towed behind a destroyer or frigate.

The aircraft carrier would launch Sopwith Camel biplanes, like that pictured above (top) with a German Fokker tri-plane (below)

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The aircraft carrier would launch Sopwith Camel biplanes, like that pictured above (top) with a German Fokker tri-plane (below)

'Planes had been put on the back of ships before but this was the first ever boat purpose built for launching aircraft from. Fifty were ordered and 35 ended up being built.

'The concept was that the seaplane lighter would be towed out into the middle of the sea with a plane loaded on it.

'It would then be towed at speeds of up to 20 knots into a headwind of the same strength thereby creating enough lift for the plane to take off.

'Initially the planes used were flying boats that could land on water but then on July 21 1918 Lieutenant Stuart Culley proved it possible to take off using a Sopwith Camel biplane.

'It was an incredibly dangerous task because the plane had to be airborne by the time it got to the end of the 58ft deck.

'If it wasn't it would fall off the front and then be hit by the lighter, resulting in instant death for the pilot.

'Even if the plane got airborne the pilot had to carry out a daring mission at 17,000ft, all the time exposed to the elements.

'The big snag was that unless the mission was taking place in sight of land, the only option was for the pilot to crash land the plane in the sea close to the flagship and hope he was rescued.

'Three weeks after Lt Culley's test flight he took off on a mission in the North Sea and shot down zepellin L53.

'It was hugely risky but it gave the British troops a massive advantage over the Germans and all but ended the threat from zepellins overnight.'

A one-of-a-kind First World War fighter plane brought back to life a century after a painstaking reconstruction is up and running in time for its centenary.

The Eastchurch Kitten - of which only three prototypes were built - was created as a 'high altitude' fighter to tackle the threat posed by the Zeppelin Airships.

The aircraft was designed to be launched from platforms on battleships, cruisers and even torpedo boats.

Ready for take off: The Eastchurch Kitten - a First World War prototype plane - will take to the skies again this weekend after being rebuilt by a team of 60 volunteers at the Yorkshire Air Museum

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Ready for take off: The Eastchurch Kitten - a First World War prototype plane - will take to the skies again this weekend after being rebuilt by a team of 60 volunteers at the Yorkshire Air Museum

Ready to go: The plane was fired up for the first time today and taken out of the hangar before it flies again this weekend 100 years after the outbreak of the First World War

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Ready to go: The plane was fired up for the first time today and taken out of the hangar before it flies again this weekend 100 years after the outbreak of the First World War

Gunner: Aircraft engineer Brian Watmouth points the firearm on the front of the plane. It was designed to shoot down Zeppelin Airships

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Gunner: Aircraft engineer Brian Watmouth points the firearm on the front of the plane. It was designed to shoot down Zeppelin Airships

Now the replica has been made by an army of 60 volunteers who worked from faded plans and two photographs.

Built with an original wooden frame covered in linen, and using a mixture of specifically-made and re-used materials, the aircraft has been brought back to life at the Yorkshire Air Museum.

And today the engine was turned on for the first time as the plane took a turn at Elvington Air Field, North Yorkshire. Ian Reed, manager of the Yorkshire Air Museum, said: 'It went really well. We rolled it out of the hangar and then the engine coughed into life.

'It's been four years of hard work by our volunteers, a long struggle in the workshop. Obviously we were working from old plans, and a lot of the parts have been tricky, we've had to have things specially made and other bits re-used from existing items.

Rebuilt: The replica First World War Eastchurch Kitten which has been brought back to life a century after the prototype was made

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Rebuilt: The replica First World War Eastchurch Kitten which has been brought back to life a century after the prototype was made

Flying again: With an original wooden frame covered in linen, and using a mixture of specifically-made and re-used materials, the aircraft has been brought back to life at the Yorkshire Air Museum

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Flying again: With an original wooden frame covered in linen, and using a mixture of specifically-made and re-used materials, the aircraft has been brought back to life at the Yorkshire Air Museum

'But it's been worth it, to see the plane running was wonderful. Worth all the hard work.

'I'm especially glad we got it up and running in time for the 100th anniversary of World War I particularly now that the public are starting to appreciate how brave the men were 100 years ago.'

He added that the plane was designed in the earliest days of aviation - more than a decade before Charles Lindbergh became the first man to cross the Atlantic in 1927.

Mr Reed added: 'The aircrafts were only a decade old, they were still being invented as people were risking their lives and going up in them.

'Over 9,500 pilots were killed in World War I, and it's only right that we should be remembering them as brave and courageous - so I'm glad we've been able to show the Kitten this year.'

The original design only made allowance for a 45 horsepower engine.

The framework of the remade one-seater aircraft was crafted in the 1980s, but after the wooden skeleton was completed, work halted.

Back to life: Volunteers Brian Watmough (left) and Grant Sparks (right) pose with a replica of the Eastchurch Kitten prototype. The aircraft has been built using an original wooden frame and the engine of a Citroen 2CV

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Back to life: Volunteers Brian Watmough (left) and Grant Sparks (right) pose with a replica of the Eastchurch Kitten prototype. The aircraft has been built using an original wooden frame and the engine of a Citroen 2CV

Framework: Around 60 volunteers helped to restore the plane to its former glory at the Yorkshire Air Museum, working from only two photographs and faded plans. Above, the reproduction's original wooden framework

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Framework: Around 60 volunteers helped to restore the plane to its former glory at the Yorkshire Air Museum, working from only two photographs and faded plans. Above, the reproduction's original wooden framework

Powering up: Mr Sparks works on the plane's 500cc twin-opposed engine, featuring twin-opposed cylinders

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Powering up: Mr Sparks works on the plane's 500cc twin-opposed engine, featuring twin-opposed cylinders

Armed: Mr Watmough poses with the aircraft's Lewis gun, which was mounted on to the aircraft's top wing

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Armed: Mr Watmough poses with the aircraft's Lewis gun, which was mounted on to the aircraft's top wing

EASTCHURCH KITTEN RESTORED

Weights

Take-off weight - 266kg

Empty weight - 154kg

Dimensions

Wingspan - 19ft 12in

Length - 16ft 7in

Height - 5ft 2in

Wing area - 106.02 sq ft

Performance

Maximum speed - 94mph

It was taken up again four years ago by volunteers at the museum, working from the faded A3 plan and two photographs.

It was constructed with specifically made materials such as the engine cowlings, and reused materials, such as the twin-opposed engine, sourced from a Citroen 2CV unit with similar twin opposed cylinders, stripped down to make it light and take unnecessary parts such as the cooling fans and starter motor.

The propeller was acquired from one of the museum's local flying clubs. Instruments inside the cockpit came from the national collection archives.

And the seating and padding around the controls have all been made with leather.

A gun, which fits on top of the aircraft, was also made to measure.

Plans: One of the original pictures of the 1917 Eastchurch Kitten that the team of volunteers were working from

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Plans: One of the original pictures of the 1917 Eastchurch Kitten that the team of volunteers were working from

Mr Reed said: 'It was to be a disposable, one-operation aircraft, to simply go up, intercept and shoot down the airship, then ditch in the sea.

'When you work on it, you think this must have been quite a frightening prospect, somebody had to get into this tiny aircraft and get up to ten or 15,000 feet with such a small engine, shoot at the huge airship, then crash into the sea and get out as soon as they could.

'But there were people willing to do it, some very gutsy people.'

In total, the aircraft cost around £10,000 to restore.

The prototype made its first flight on September 1, 1917 but further alterations were needed - and by the time it was finally airworthy, the threat from airships had receded.

Prototype: The Eastchurch Kitten, featuring a 45 horsepower engine, made its first flight in September 1917

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Prototype: The Eastchurch Kitten, featuring a 45 horsepower engine, made its first flight in September 1917

Fighter plane: It was designed as a 'high altitude' fighter to tackle the threat posed by the Zeppelin Airships. However, the one-seater aircraft was eventually deemed too fragile and underpowered to enter production

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Fighter plane: It was designed as a 'high altitude' fighter to tackle the threat posed by the Zeppelin Airships. However, the one-seater aircraft was eventually deemed too fragile and underpowered to enter production

Historic: Volunteers used instruments from the national collection archives for the replica's cockpit (pictured)

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Historic: Volunteers used instruments from the national collection archives for the replica's cockpit (pictured)

Prepared to fire: The Lewis gun (pictured) was a key feature of the original First World War fighter plane

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Prepared to fire: The Lewis gun (pictured) was a key feature of the original First World War fighter plane

Four years' work: The replica will be a non-flying exhibit as part of the museum's Thunder Day shows on April 6

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Four years' work: The replica will be a non-flying exhibit as part of the museum's Thunder Day shows on April 6

 

 

Bombed but not beaten: Amazing merged photographs show the damage done to Britain's streets during WWI air raids and how they look 100 years later

  • Rare photographs show damage done to London's houses and businesses during German air raids in First World War
  • They are compared with photographs taken of the same streets today, revealing how the city was rebuilt
  • Striking series of images has been released to mark centenary of the start of the Great War

These amazing photographs show the damage done to Britain's streets during First World War air raids and how the same areas look today - 100 years later.

The series of images, compiled by property website Rightmove, show the catastrophic effect the German air raids had on London's homes and businesses.

The original photographs have been paired with images of what the streets look like now  as part of Rightmove's Then & Now interactive map - launched to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War.

Comparison between the two sets of images reveals how the British public rallied in the face of adversity, rebuilding and restoring their bombed-out homes.

In one photograph of the Eaglet Public House, in Severn Sisters, north London, beer casks can be seen among debris where the pub stood before it was hit in September 1917.

The similarity between the photo and the one taken of the site today are striking - original building features remain, and is still called The Eaglet pub.

Destroyed: Casks of beer can be seen tumbling out of what remains of the Eaglet Public House on the corner of Seven Sisters Road in north London after a 1917 raid

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Destroyed: Casks of beer can be seen tumbling out of what remains of the Eaglet Public House on the corner of Seven Sisters Road in north London after a 1917 raid

Rebuilt: The Eaglet Public house, now called The Eaglet, was rebuilt on the corner of a busy north London road after it was blasted by a 50kg bomb

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Rebuilt: The Eaglet Public house, now called The Eaglet, was rebuilt on the corner of a busy north London road after it was blasted by a 50kg bomb

Then and now: A composite image reveals just how similar in design the current building is to the one that was struck during the First World War

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Then and now: A composite image reveals just how similar in design the current building is to the one that was struck during the First World War

 

What remains: This branch of the London and South Western Bank on the corner of Aldgate High Street in east London is pictured following bomb damage on 14 October 1915 The street today: The building, which now houses a pub, was reconstructed in a similar style after the 1915 attacks. It is part of a series of images released to commemorate the centenary of the start of WW1

 

 

 

 

What remains: This branch of the London and South Western Bank on the corner of Aldgate High Street in east London, left, is now a pub, right

Stepping back in time: The original image of the bank, placed on top of the photograph of the street today, reveals the original shape and structure of the building remains

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Stepping back in time: The original image of the bank, placed on top of the photograph of the street today, reveals the original shape and structure of the building remains

Despair: Residents of Warrington Crescent in St John's Wood, north London, return to see what remains of their bombed-out homes following an overnight raid in 1918

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Despair: Residents of Warrington Crescent in St John's Wood, north London, return to see what remains of their bombed-out homes following an overnight raid in 1918

Pieced back together: The same street in St John's Wood is now a quiet row of terraced houses that was built after the Second World War

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Pieced back together: The same street in St John's Wood is now a quiet row of terraced houses that was built after the Second World War

Time warp: Composite images like this one show that original architectural features were kept in the post-war build

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Time warp: Composite images like this one show that original architectural features were kept in the post-war build

BRITAIN'S 'FIRST BLITZ': GERMAN ZEPPELIN BOMBARDMENT DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR

While the Second World War's Blitz and the Battle of Britain are well documented and repeatedly considered, people rarely talk about the ‘First Blitz’ - the Zeppelin bombardment in World War One.

When the First World War bombing began - just 10 years after planes had been invented - the threat of aerial bombardment seemed unlikely to the British public.

As the German Zeppelins first floated over London in 1915, dropping incendiary bombs from just a few hundred metres in the air, they were effectively unopposed as the British aircraft didn't have sufficient climb to reach them.

Proposed by a German naval commander in 1914, air strikes in Britain were at first restricted to outside of London for fear of the Kaiser's royal British relatives being accidentally injured in one of the attacks.

Initially, the majority of the air raids were carried out by airships, but as the war progressed and aircraft technology improved, ever-heavier bomber aircraft were increasingly used by the Germans.

Although all German airships became to be known to the population of Britain as Zeppelins, after the name of the major German manufacturer, Count Zeppelin, other marques were also operational.

These included the wooden-framed Schutte-Lanz airship: the Zeppelin had a metal frame of the new material duralumin - a strong alloy of aluminium.

In total, German airships made roughly 51 bombing raids on England during the war, with many of these targetting London. These killed 557 and injured another 1,358 people.

More than 5,000 bombs were dropped on towns across Britain, destroying homes and businesses and causing £1.5million in damage.

Called up: A crowd of smartly-dressed new recruits line up down the street outside Deptford Town Hall in south east London during the First World War

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Called up: A crowd of smartly-dressed new recruits line up down the street outside Deptford Town Hall in south east London during the First World War

How it looks today: Deptford Town Hall, where new recruits reported during the First World War, remains an imposing building as seen in this picture

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How it looks today: Deptford Town Hall, where new recruits reported during the First World War, remains an imposing building as seen in this picture

Not forgotten: The pictures were released to commemorate the start of the First World War and the sacrifice made by men like the recruits outside Deptford Town Hall

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Not forgotten: The pictures were released to commemorate the start of the First World War and the sacrifice made by men like the recruits outside Deptford Town Hall

 

 

Blasted: The roof and walls were torn off this home in Brixton during a raid by 12 German airships on 23 September 1916. The same attack left the home next door reduced to a pile of rubble Restored: Original features from the pre-war buildings can be seen in the row of houses today, which were rebuilt after the Great War

Blasted: The roof and walls were torn off this home in Brixton during a 1916 raid that left another home in ruins, left, the same street is pictured today, right

Strikingly similar: Baytree Road in Brixton, south London. The collection of images, including this one, offer a snapshot of the damage done during the war

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Strikingly similar: Baytree Road in Brixton, south London. The collection of images, including this one, offer a snapshot of the damage done during the war

 




Over the course of the war, the role of the military aviator progressed from one of mere observation to a deadly offensive role. Early on, pilots would would fly off armed only with pistols (or completely unarmed) -- by 1918, fighter planes and massive bombers were in use, armed with multiple machine guns and devastating explosive payloads. Older technologies, like tethered balloons and kites were used on the front lines to gain an upper hand. As aircraft became more of a threat, anti-aircraft weapons and tactics were developed, and pilots had to devise new ways to avoid being shot down from the land and the sky. Aerial photography developed into an indispensable tool to guide artillery attacks and assess damage afterward. The pilots of these new aircraft took tremendous risks -- vulnerable to enemy fire, at the mercy of the weather, flying new, often experimental aircraft. Crashes were frequent, and many paid with their lives. On this 100-year anniversary, I've gathered photographs of the Great War from dozens of collections, some digitized for the first time, to try to tell the story of the conflict, those caught up in it, and how much it affected the world.

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A French SPAD S.XVI two-seat biplane reconnaissance aircraft, flying over Compeign Sector, France ca. 1918. Note the zig-zag patterns of defensive trenches in the fields below. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive)

2

German pilot Richard Scholl and his co-pilot Lieutenant Anderer, in flight gear beside their Hannover CL.II biplane in 1918.(CC BY SA Carola Eugster) #

3

British Handley-Page bombers on a mission, Western Front, during World War I. This photograph, which appears to have been taken from the cabin of a Handley-Page bomber, is attributed to Tom Aitken. It shows another Handley-Page bomber setting out on a bombing mission. The model 0/400 bomber, which was introduced in 1918, could carry 2,000 lbs (907 kilos) of bombs and could be fitted with four Lewis machine-guns. (Tom Aitken/National Library of Scotland) #

4

German soldiers attend to a stack of gas canisters attached to a manifold, inflating a captive balloon on the Western front.(National Archives/Official German Photograph) #

5

A German Type Ae 800 observation balloon ascending. (Brett Butterworth) #

6

A captured German Taube monoplane, on display in the courtyard of Les Invalides in Paris, in 1915. The Taube was a pre-World War I aircraft, only briefly used on the front lines, replaced later by newer designs. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

7

A soldier poses with a Hythe Mk III Gun Camera during training activities at Ellington Field, Houston, Texas in April of 1918. The Mk III, built to match the size, handling, and weight of a Lewis Gun, was used to train aerial gunners, recording a photograph when the trigger was pulled, for later review, when an instructor could coach trainees on better aiming strategies.(Harry Kidd/WWI Army Signal Corps Photograph Collection) #

8

Captain Ross-Smith (left) and Observer in front of a Modern Bristol Fighter, 1st Squadron A.F.C. Palestine, February 1918. This image was taken using the Paget process, an early experiment in color photography. (Frank Hurley/State Library of New South Wales) #

9

Lieutenant Kirk Booth of the U.S. Signal Corps being lifted skyward by the giant Perkins man-carrying kite at Camp Devens, Ayer, Massachusetts. While the United States never used these kites during the war, the German and French armies put some to use on the front lines. More on these kites here. (U.S. National Archives) #

10

Wreckage of a German Albatross D. III fighter biplane. (Library of Congress) #

11

Unidentified pilot wearing a type of breathing apparatus. Image taken by O.I.C Photographic Detachment, Hazelhurst Field, Long Island, New York. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA) #

12

A Farman airplane with rockets attached to its struts. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA) #

13

A German balloon being shot down. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA) #

14

An aircraft in flames falls from the sky. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA) #

15

A German Pfalz Dr.I single-seat triplane fighter aircraft, ca. 1918. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive) #

16

Observation Balloons near Coblenz, Germany. (Keystone View Company) #

17

Observer in a German balloon gondola shoots off light signals with a pistol. (U.S. National Archives) #

18

Night Flight at Le Bourget, France. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA) #

19

British reconnaissance plane flying over enemy lines, in France. (National Library of Scotland) #

20

Bombing Montmedy, 42 km north of Verdun, while American troops advance in the Meuse-Argonne sector. Three bombs have been released by a U.S. bomber, one striking a supply station, the other two in mid-air, visible on their way down. Black puffs of smoke indicate anti-aircraft fire. To the right (west), a building with a Red Cross symbol can be seen. View this point today on Google Maps. (U.S. Army Signal Corps) #

21

German soldiers attend to an upended German aircraft. (CC BY SA Carola Eugster) #

22

Japanese aviator, 1914. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

23

A Sunday morning service in an aerodrome in France. The Chaplain conducting the service from an aeroplane. (National Library of Scotland) #

24

An observer in the tail tip of the English airship R33 on March 6, 1919 in Selby, England. (Bibliotheque nationale de France) #

25

Soldiers carry a set of German airplane wings. (National Archives) #

26

Captain Maurice Happe, rear seat, commander of French squadron MF 29, seated in his Farman MF.11 Shorthorn bomber with a Captain Berthaut. The plane bears the insignia of the first unit, a Croix de Guerre, ca. 1915. (Library of Congress) #

27

A German airplane over the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt. (Der Weltkrieg im Bild/Upper Austrian Federal State Library) #

28

Car of French Military Dirigible "Republique". (Library of Congress) #

29

A German pilot lies dead in his crashed airplane in France, in 1918. (National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA) #

30

A German Pfalz E.I prepares to land, April 1916. (Brett Butterworth) #

31

A returning observation balloon. A small army of men, dwarfed by the balloon, are controlling its descent with a multitude of ropes. The basket attached to the balloon, with space for two people, can be seen sitting on the ground. Frequently a target for gunfire, those conducting observations in these balloons were required to wear parachutes for a swift descent if necessary. (National Library of Scotland) #

32

Aerial reconnaissance photograph showing a landscape scarred by trench lines and artillery craters. Photograph by pilot Richard Scholl and his co-pilot Lieutenant Anderer near Guignicourt, northern France, August 8, 1918. One month later, Richard Scholl was reported missing.(CC BY SA Carola Eugster) #

33

German hydroplane, ca. 1918. (U.S. National Archives) #

34

French Cavalry observe an Army airplane fly past. (Keystone View Company) #

35

Attaching a 100 kg bomb to a German airplane. (National Archives/Official German Photograph) #

36

Soldiers silhouetted against the sky prepare to fire an anti-aircraft gun. On the right of the photograph a soldier is being handed a large shell for the gun. The Battle of Broodseinde (October 1917) was part of a larger offensive - the third Battle of Ypres - engineered by Sir Douglas Haig to capture the Passchendaele ridge. (National Library of Scotland) #

37

An aircraft. crashed and burning in German territory, ca. 1917. (Brett Butterworth) #

38

A Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter biplane aircraft taking off from a platform built on top of HMAS Australia's midships "Q" turret, in 1918.(State Library of New South Wales) #

39

An aerial photographer with a Graflex camera, ca. 1917-18. (U.S. Army) #

40

14th Photo Section, 1st Army, "The Balloonatic Section". Capt. A. W. Stevens (center, front row) and personnel. Ca. 1918. Air Service Photographic Section. (Army Air Forces) #

41

Aerial photo of a cratered battlefield. The dark diagonal lines are the shadows of the few remaining tree trunks.(National World War I Museum, Kansas City, Missouri, USA) #

42

A British Commander starting off on a raid, flying an Airco DH.2 biplane. (Nationaal Archief) #

43

The bombarded barracks at Ypres, viewed from 500 ft. (Australian official photographs/State Library of New South Wales) #

44

No. 1 Squadron, a unit of the Australian Flying Corps, in Palestine in 1918. (James Francis Hurley/State Library of New South Wales) #

45

Returning from a reconnaissance flight during World War I, a view of the clouds from above. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)

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