Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Monday, February 17, 2020

German Tactical Bombing on the Western Front (Late War)

 A German Friedrichshafen GIII Bomber

German tactical bombing on the Western Front was conducted only at night after early 1917. They used their A.E.G., Friedrichshafen, Gotha, and Giant bombers to attack rail targets, ammo dumps, cities, armies’ headquarters, and supply depots. In addition to the more well known raids on Paris, the Germans attacked the port of Dunkirk night after night. (These sustained attacks were unique in the Great War and have never been adequately researched by historians.)  

Of particular note is the German attack on the British ammo dump at Audruicq, France the night of 20/21 July 1916. It was raided by only four light bombers which dropped a total bomb load of only 752 kilograms. The devastation in the ammo dump reached the equivalent of $80 million in 2001 US$, probably the most destructive raid in the First World War. It led to a formal inquiry and a redesign of British ammo dumps to avoid such destruction in the future.

Damage at the Site of the Audruicq Raid

Beyond these circumstances, however, German tactical bombing on the Western Front could be characterized more as a serious nuisance than a serious threat. It did force the Allied armies to move at night and curtailed the use of lights outdoors for many miles from the front itself, but the one raid on Audruicq was the only time the bombers even came close to affecting overall events on the Western Front. Part of the reason for this, of course, was that there never were that many bombers—they totaled only from 150 to 200 throughout 1918. 

Thanks to aero-historian Steve Suddaby for this material

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting, especially in contrast with imagined fears of air war.