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Showing posts from June, 2014

Kings of the Air: 'War, German style' 3

The third of three posts on Paris under attack during the Great War.

'Berthas by day, Gothas by night,' proclaimed l'Illustration, 'the dull rumble of the guns at the front, the uhlans just "five marches" from the boulevards … things should be pretty grim in Paris right now! [But no.] Everyday life continues, no airs, no graces and no faint hearts. This is our Paris in wartime: no fuss, no panic, no bravado. A model of steadiness and self-control.'

Under the bombardment in Paris was the American Mildred Aldrich: 'We were hardly on the balcony, when, in an instant, all the lights of the city went out, and a strange blackness settled down and hugged the housetops and the very sidewalk. At the same instant the guns of the outer barrage began to fire, and as the night was cold, we went inside to listen, and to talk. I wonder if I can tell you – who are never likely to have such an experience – how it feels to sit inside four walls, in absolute da…

Kings of the Air: Into the sunset (almost)

If you've been reading these posts and thinking, 'He's taking an inordinate amount of time to finish this so-called book', well, you'll be glad to know that the time for last-minute alterations is over, the final debate about commas versus semi-colons has been resolved without bloodshed (just), so for everyone who has said -

- worry no more, the manuscript has finally (finally!) gone off to the publishers, Pen and Sword.
So I can only say, Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy! (yes, it's a Christmas carol - work with me here)

Only the proof-reading and indexing to come ...

Kings of the Air: 'War, German style' 2

Welcome to my 100th post!

At 7.15 am, 23 March 1918, there was an explosion in the Place de la République; a second, fifteen minutes later in the Rue Charles V; and a third, in the Boulevard de Strasbourg. No warning had been given by the listening posts to the north of Paris, and civilians and airmen alike scanned the skies in vain for German bombers. Only by reassembling the fragments did the French work out that they were dealing with artillery and not aircraft. Over the next twenty-four hours, a total of twenty-one shells landed in the city itself, and one in Châtillon. Yet such a solution seemed incredible. René Fonck (SPA103) was at the front that day. 'We received a telephone message during the afternoon telling us they were shelling Paris,' he recalled. 'The news seemed so implausible that everyone burst out laughing. I preferred to keep my own counsel. How could a gun sited more than 120 kilometres away drop a shell close to the Gare de l'Est? Everyo…

Kings of the Air: 'War, German style' 1

The first German air raid on Paris was at 12.45pm on 30 August 1914, when a Taube overflew the city at a height of 1,000 metres and dropped five bombs, killing one civilian and wounding four others, before flying off untouched by the guns of the Camp Retranché de Paris (CRP). Four armed Farmans operating as HF28 were immediately allocated to the CRP, but they too proved ineffective and the raids continued over the next three months, killing eleven and wounding fifty. On 2 September one Farman managed to get within range, but its machine gun jammed on the tenth round and the intruder escaped unscathed.
Better defences were required. Lack of available chassis made the mobile motorized AA units favoured by General Gallieni (the commander of the Paris garrison) unviable; instead an outer ring of listening posts was set up about a hundred kilometres from the city, with an inner ring of fifteen fixed batteries – each deploying two 75mm field guns, four machine guns and some searchlights – pl…