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London 1914–17: The Zeppelin Menace (Campaign) Paperback – March 18, 2008
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“The book is a fascinating read into the initial hopes and expectations, the campaign itself and the results of that campaign. A book I am sure you will enjoy as much as did I and one that I can highly recommend to you.” ―Scott Van Aken, Modeling Madness (September 2008)
“Ian Castle's London 1914-17: The Zeppelin Menace reveals the Zeppelin raids on London which fostered a new kind of warfare and German successes.” ―California Bookwatch (May 2008)
“All of the raids are described here in considerable details, with their results on the ground and the losses inflicted upon them. Individual maps show the course of each airship that reached London, and where its bombs hit, and there are many contemporary photographs as well as good colour plates.” ―John Prigent, Internet Modeler (April 2008)
About the Author
Ian Castle is an experienced historian who is a member of the Napoleonic Association, the Victorian Military Society and is a consultant for the Anglo Zulu War Historical Society. Ian began writing more than ten years ago and, besides contributing numerous articles to military journals, he has written ten books, five of which are in the Osprey Campaign series The author lives in London, UK.
Top customer reviews
Today we find the idea of hydrogen-filled airships flying combat missions absurd, but recall that in 1914 zeppelins had several technological advantages over the primitive aircraft of the time, namely greater range and useful load. The vulnerability of zeppelins was not obvious at first, due to the primitive nature of airplane armament and the even more primitive (and sparse!) nature of antiaircraft artillery. As the war went on, the deficiencies of England's air defenses would make zeppelin raids impractical and usher in the age of the bomber.
This Osprey books looks at the "zeppelin phase" of the bombing campaign, which actually overlaps the "bomber phase" (covered in another Osprey book). Ian Castle does an excellent job of discussing the raids and the book has a unique set of maps which reconstruct where the bombs fell on London. These maps are made possible by the relative small number of raids and the fact that bombing attacks were done by individual airships and NOT as mass affairs. The book also discusses the technical evolution of the airships as the Germans tried to build zeppelins which could fly above the ceiling of primitive airplanes and antiaircraft guns; this effort was doomed in the end.
Castle looks at the improvements of fighters and their weapons, especially the use of machineguns firing incendiary bullets. These would prove to be decisive when the hydrogen-filled airships were shot down in flames by night-flying interceptors. His writing makes the book engaging and enjoyable, and the maps, photographs and original artwork make it valuable for understanding aerial warfare during this particular time in history.
After a very brief introduction that spells out the German intent to use lighter-than-air airships as a weapon of war, the author launches a messy section that jumbles together opposing commanders, opposing plans and opposing forces all in one lump. Readers looking for the order of battle will have to flip all the way to the end of the volume. It's hard to make much of this agglomeration of information in this section, other than it is poorly packaged and presented and that the author was in a hurry to get to his raid descriptions. The 75-page campaign narrative per se is broken into four sections, covering the 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1918 raids. The fact that only 9 Zeppelin raids actually reached London in 1915-18 allows the author to cover each raid in great detail and to provide a map for each raid, showing exactly where it dropped bombs in London. Indeed, the author's approach is more in line with the format of the Battleground Europe series - blow-by-blow descriptions followed by photos of the site then and now. No detail is too small for this author, including mentioning that SL.2 `destroyed some boxes of tea and bags of salt..' (pp. 32), LZ90 `broke windows, roof tiles and killed three chickens,' (pp. 51) and L.31 `destroyed 40 horticultural glasshouses.' For each raid, the author actually mentions most bombing victims by name and age. However, German casualties, except for a few well-known captains such as Mathy, are virtually ignored (there is one photo of a German cemetery in UK at the end). At times, the level of detail is quite tedious and adds little to the campaign narrative. The volume has a total of 12 2-D maps (Zeppelin bases, RFC bases plus 10 more maps covering individual raids) but no 3-D BEV maps. London 1914-17 also has four battle scenes by Christa Hook (London's first Zeppelin raid, 31 May 1915; an airfield at night; the attack on SL.11; Heinrich Mathy's leap from L.31). To be honest, these battle scenes look rather crude and not as good as the work of other Osprey artists such as Peter Dennis, Howard Gerrard, etc.
Initially, the German Zeppelins met virtually no effective resistance from the British and the only real hazard was bad weather and mechanical defects, which caused about 2/3rds of the Zeppelin raids to abort. However, by September 1916 the British had developed incendiary bullets for their fighters and Zeppelins began to be shot down with regularity. Nevertheless, the author has a tendency to `hype' the Zeppelin raids, several times referring to them as `devastating' or `successful.' For example, he uses these terms to describe two raids in September 1915 which resulted in the deaths of only 40 Londoners. While certainly a tragedy, the death of 40 civilians in a city the size of London was no worse than a bad train accident and the bomb damage was very spread out, prevented concentrated destruction. Indeed, most of the time the German Zeppelins had a hard time even finding London and the fact is that these attacks were merely random terror bombing.
By the end of the volume, the author offers up only a few meager crumbs of summation and analysis. He states that these nine Zeppelin raids inflicted 1,915 casualties (incl. 557 dead), of which only 685 were in London. German losses in personnel are not listed, but they were 6 Zeppelins and about 130 personnel. He does not note that the Gotha raids inflicted more casualties (2,908) than the Zeppelins, at less cost (28 bombers lost over England with about 80 crewmen) and dropped more bombs on London. Indeed, it is amazing that the author can recount the number of chickens a given raid killed, but not the total tonnage of bombs Zeppelins dropped on London. If he had bothered to provide anything like analysis, it would likely indicate that the German Zeppelin raids were a total failure in both achieving their purpose of crushing British home front morale and an extravagant waste of German resources. Indeed, it is odd that German chose to continue building bigger and more expensive Zeppelins when it was obvious that they were very vulnerable and a better solution - heavy bombers - were in hand by 1917. Perhaps the German leadership should be forgiven for over-estimating the effects of strategic bombing (which continued for several more decades), but they also miscalculated in adding terror-bombing to their resume. When combined with first-use of chemical weapons and unrestricted submarine warfare, the Zeppelin raids on London would only served to highlight German ruthlessness and brutality to neutral nations like the United States and help to widen the war. Unfortunately, this volume does not serve to place the Zeppelin raids in their wider context and fails to assess their role in contributing to Imperial Germany's defeat. This book is primarily about smashed shop windows, not the dynamics of strategic-level warfare.