Friday, April 05, 2013

Restoring the reputation of Navy Fliers

A programme from BBC TV aired this week under the title "Coast", carried a report that revealed old rivalries between the brave airman of World War One of the RFC and RNAS. The item in particular concerned the Zeppelin Bombing of civilians for which the RNAS had initially been charged to counter. The two services were combined into the RAF at the end of the Great War, the RNAS having grown to personnel of 55,000, while its 93 aircraft had grown to just under 3,000 and 6 airships had become 103. 

Little mentioned in these descriptions were the flying-boats and I came across this book online last evening describing such operations from Felixstowe where my maternal grandfather was based as a Flight Lieutenant, having been transferred from Dover.  The book titled "The Spider Web, the romance of a Flying-Boat war flight" may be read online from this link. Surprisingly for me, it describes in some detail the incident which led to my grandfather, Wilfrid Perham, ending the war as an internee in neutral Holland.

I like this description of what these "Jolly Fine Fellows", to whom the book is dedicated, were mainly about from the early pages:

When the intensive German submarine campaign began, the methods of hunting U-boats from surface ships had not been perfected. The hydrophone was crude, the technique of using depth charges was not perfected, and the mines and nets were not adequate. Also, the Dover barrage was not then in being. So Fritz, as the service called the Hun submarine, went southabout from his bases to his hunting-grounds.
Picture the sinister grey steel tubes dropping away from the dock in the German harbour as the Commander in the conning-tower gave the order to cast off, the swirl of water at the stern as the twin propellers took up their job, and the gay flutter of signal flags hoisted to the collapsible mast as they passed out of the harbour —a harbour which they would not see, if all went well with them, for from fifteen to twenty-five days, and which, if things went well for the Allies, they would never see again

At least these men, for all the horrors of war, knew exactly where their enemies lay; while the reports of their actions, such as the Christmas bombing raid on the Zeppelin base at Cuxhavn, denies any assertion that the Naval airmen were not doing their utmost to counter "Fritz" in one of his apparently, then favourite pursuits: the aerial bombardment of women and children!

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