Osprey's Zeppelin vs British Home Defense


Jon Guttman


Osprey Publishing


$20.00 MSRP


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 80 pages, 7 x 9 inches, softcover
ISBN: 978-1-4728-2033-4

This particular edition of Osprey's Duel series is very much an interesting matchup. Though not as successful as the Germans may have hoped, the use of zeppelins in their bombing of the UK kept men and materiel away from the front lines to combat the threat.

Initially both the army and navy flew these ships, but after a couple of years, the army decided that aircraft would be a better solution. Part of this was due to the volatility of the hydrogen gas that made even a small hit catastrophic, thanks to the use of incendiary bullets, and also because they were often foiled by weather and their slow speed.

When they first appeared over England, they were a terrible shock. The British had nothing with which they could combat this new menace. No anti-aircraft guns and not pilots trained in night fighting. Indeed, there were no units based in the UK that could be used in the home defense role. The most reliable plane of the time was the Be.2 and they were soon equipping units for home defense, though it took quite a while. The lack of night flying skills showed in an early scramble where 8 of 12 planes sent aloft ended up crashing.

Flying was not easy at the altitudes that zeppelins flew. The crews of these dirigibles suffered greatly from the cold, long missions, and lack of any real amenities. As they were forced to fly higher, altitude sickness was also a major factor.

Eventually, the British learned from their experiences and development of incendiary ammunition (as in tracers), and aerial bombs designed specifically for the task, were enough to cause losses to mount. Even in the later part of the war, when it was pretty obvious that zeppelins were not really good bombers, it was one man who managed to keep the program going. With his death, it suddenly stopped.

In this book the author covers the development of the dirigible as well as the various means of combating it, from aircraft to anti-aircraft guns. Thanks to the superb illustrations and period photographs, we get a very good idea about what the two sides had to go through. It is a superb book on the subject and one that I am positive you will enjoy reading. Highly recommended.

February 2018

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