The military potential of air craft was recognised even before
the beginning of World War I. The earliest idea was that aircraft
would merely support armies by performing the reconnaissance
duties that were once the preserve of cavalry. During World
War I it quickly became apparent that bombing enemy troops
and destroying enemy reconnaissance aircraft would also be
important roles for aircraft.
Therefore, in the five years of World War I the planes of
all the combatant nations developed at a remarkable rate from
flimsy, slow moving sluggish things with small engines and
little or no load capacity or armament to dedicated, manoeuvrable
and rugged killing machines designed specifically for combat
from the air.
World War I saw an aerial arms race between the two sides.
It was a race in which Britain often found itself lagging
behind German ingenuity and development. Such lags in development
led to the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) suffering severe
casualties during the Fokker scourge of late 1915/early 1916
and Bloody April 1917. By 1918, however, British plane designs,
such a the Sopwith Camel, SE5a and Bristol Fighter, were finally
on a par with the latest German designs and in some cases
After World War I Britain continued to be at the forefront
of military aircraft design although by the mid 1930’s
a rapidly re-arming Germany had once again taken the lead.
It was a lead that Britain would only just close before the
beginning of World War II with the timely introduction of
the legendary Spitfire and the barely less famous Hurricane.
The Spitfire in particular must stand as one of the greatest
aircraft ever to have taken to the sky.