Casemate's British Fighter Aircraft in WWI

Author/Artists: Mark Wilkins




$39.95 MSRP from Casemate


Scott Van Aken

Notes: 192 pages,  hardcover, over 250 photos and illustrations. 8x 10 inches.
ISBN: 978-1-61200-8813

Military aviation really came to the forefront during World War I. What started out with using aircraft for strictly reconnaissance turned into the development of aircraft whose sole purpose was to shoot down those recce planes. Eventually fighters or pursuit planes were used to accompany those reconnaissance planes and we get the scenario of fighter planes attacking other fighter planes and the dogfight is born.

As with all weapons used during war time, there was a fairly fast  back and forth when it came to development. While one side would have the advantage, that was fairly short lived as the other side would not only catch up but surpass their adversary.

This book delves into the development of fighter aircraft used by the British. It is not simply a listing or a base history, but a fairly in-depth look at how each of the various aviation companies developed and built their planes. Unlike the Germans, the British did not innovate all that much. No plywood monocoque fuselages and no steel or aluminum framed fuselages, though there was some metal framing used for control surfaces later in the war. Instead, it was a steady progression of better handling aircraft with more and more powerful engines.

Unlike the French and Germans, many British fighters were powered by liquid cooled engines. Not to say that rotaries were not used, indeed, Sopwith used the French engines almost exclusively and turned out some superb aircraft. But British engine manufacturers were able to provide good power and reliability from liquid cooled engines. The British also made Clerget and LeRhone engines under license for home consumption.

Probably the biggest challenge to the British and probably other nations as well, was getting production up to speed. Prior to the start of the war, aircraft were hand made so interchageability of parts was almost unheard of. As needs increased, companies either learned how to mass produce or went out of business. Often designs of one company were built by others to keep the flow of materiel to the RFC and RNAS for use overseas and for home units. 

The real fascination of this book is that it goes into the actual building of the aircraft as much as anything else. These areas are as fascinating as any other aspect of the planes and we have the benefit of a number of companies building replicas using the exact same methods of construction as 100 years ago. The majority of 'under construction' images are modern for unlike the Germans as shown in the previous edition, there doesn't seem to be very many period photos of the manufacturing process. One thing for sure, modern manufacturing is superior to what was produced over 100 years ago.All and all, this is a great title not only for those who are fairly well steeped in the subject, but for tyros as well. I am hoping they do a volume on the French in the future. Highly recommended.

May 2021

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