THE BABY KILLERS – German Air Raids on Britain in the First World War. Review by Mark Barnes

German Air Raids on Britain in the First World War
By Thomas FeganPublished by Pen & Sword Military
ISBN: 978 1 78159 203 8

Review by Mark Barnes for War History Online

Here is a welcome reappearance of a book which forms an essential guide to the air raids of the Great War. Thomas Fegan outlines the attacks of both the air ship and bomber fleets of the Kaiser’s forces and it’s difficult to find anything to dislike about it.

We have a diary of the raiders and their missions, the efforts of the Home Defence and the impact on the civilian population. This is backed up by a gazetteer of the areas of Britain where events took place. This arrangement makes the book both a narrative and a battlefield guide. I was pleased to find the pages on my own town, the street where I live was bombed by a Zeppelin in 1915; and read about the events which caused so much drama in my corner of Essex.

I’m not ashamed to admit a strong admiration for the German aviators who came to cause mayhem in my country. I’ve commented previously on the amazing men who flew the Gotha bombers. They were pioneers of a concept, which, however distasteful; took courage to implement in the uncertain world of early flying. The Gothas were incredible machines but they were far from the safest and men needed guts to fly in them. Coming across the sea to wage war took a supreme effort and the vision of a flight of them heading up the Thames to London is a dramatic one indeed.

So much of our focus is on the Zeppelins and every time I visit some relatives of mine I look out across the field where one came down in 1916. What must that have been like? You will find out here as Thomas Fegan tells us much of the horror of the blazing airships in their final moments. It is not pretty. Even more we have thoughts for the pilots attempting to shoot them down. Many are firmly established copper plated heroes – and so they should be.

Two Gothas came down not so far from where I am writing and while I have yet to visit the crash sites it is a task on my list. I’ll get round to it one of these days. The useful gazetteer section reveals that the Germans were able to threaten much more of the country than an inevitable fixation on London suggests. The book does us a service. There a number of recent books on the Gothas and the Zepps. They have all made fine reading and have a welcome home in my library. This excellent volume will join them. If the Great War home front is your field of interest then it is pretty much essential. You can’t go wrong for a book priced at a penny shy of thirteen quid.

Top marks.

Mark Barnes

Mark Barnes is a longstanding friend of WHO, providing features, photography and reviews. He has contributed to The Times of London and other publications. He is the author of The Liberation of Europe (pub 2016) and If War Should Come due later in 2020.