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As the war progressed, ground troops and civilians were increasingly at risk from aerial attack

missions in 1914 after just three and a half hours of tuition and fl ying time. Germany’s main bomber was the Giant.

With a wing span of 140 feet, this colossal plane could carry over two tons of bombs and had a range of 500 miles, making London easily reachable from bases in Belgium. Giants carried out a series of night raids on London in 1917. Flying at 15,000 feet, too high for British fi ghters, they had a virtually clear run at the capital. In February, a Giant dropped a one ton bomb – the largest of the war – which destroyed one wing of Chelsea Hospital. The next evening, a Giant scored a direct hit on St. Pancras station. Throughout the war not a single Giant was brought down by British fi ghters or anti-aircraft guns. This threat and the need for a co-ordinated British air response was one of the major reasons why the RAF was formed. At the end of the war, Germany was ordered to give up its Giants. When the Germans handed over just 18 planes, the British were convinced the Germans were hiding the majority of their fl eet. But it was true: Germany had built only 18 Giants during the war.

British military leaders were amazed at the German planes’ ability to repeatedly get through their anti-aircraft fi re. Inspired by the Giant, the British instantly adopted a policy of large scale, night-time bombing, which was used during World War 2. ■

WW1 Centenary Special ❯ 35

See p174

for airshows marking WW1

airmen from both sides died during World War 1

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