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Aviation History Month Day 11 - 11 November 1918

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 the First World War ended

The final sortie World War one aircraft over a field of poppies ©Gary Eason


After 4 years of bitter fighting at an unimaginable cost of life, the guns fell silent and the fighters and bombers had flown their last missions.

The total number of military and civilian casualties in World War I was around 40 million. There were 20 million deaths and 21 million wounded. The total number of deaths includes 9.7 million military personnel and about 10 million civilians. The Allies lost about 5.7 million soldiers while the Central Powers lost about 4 million.

Staggering numbers, and sadly the war to end all wars didn't end all wars. What did happen as a result of World War one was a surge in the use of aircraft and the development of aircraft. The war started just over a decade after the first powered flight by the Wright Brothers

The first aircraft used in the war were more than basic, an open cockpit, rudimentary instruments, and no armaments.

Initial bombing missions were flown with the bombs being dropped by hand. Dog fights were flown with revolvers as the only weapons being used. Aircraft and engines matured quickly and machine guns were mounted. Initially in a second (aft cockpit) and later forward firing from the upper wing, and from above the engine through the propellor disk (synchronized with the propellor) and even through the propellor shaft.

Besides technological advances also tactics improved and the air war intensified. This led to an explosive growth of the aircraft industry on both sides of the conflict. During the course of the war, more than 50 different aircraft designs saw combat. At the end of the war, a staggering amount of aircraft had been built, more the 200.000, with even more engines being built!

France was one of the mass producers of aircraft with a third of all WW 1 aircraft being built in France.


A dogfight early in WW 1

At the end of the war, the allies had an aircraft production rate that was 5 times higher than Germany, producing 7 times more engines at the same time than Germany. An example of the production rate during the war is British aircraft production. Per month (at the end of the war) the British Aircraft manufacturers were producing 31x more aircraft than Britain had owned at the beginning of the war.

A German aircraft boneyard after the war, the Versailles Treaty after WW1 stated that all German military aircraft were to be scrapped.

When the war came to an end the aircraft of 1918 still resembled the aircraft from the beginning of the war but the advances made in construction and performance (airframe and engine) would be a starting point for both civil and military aviation after the war.


Some staggering statistics on the losses endured in the skies during World War 1;


UK:

Aircraft lost - 35,970

Combat loss - 4,000 (Est)

Aircrew lost in combat - 6,170 (16,620 total killed, wounded, missing, and pow)


France:

Aircraft lost - 52,640

Combat loss - 3,000 (Est)

Aircrew lost - 2,870 (7250 total as above)


Russia:

Aircraft lost - Unknown

Combat loss - 358 (Est based on German claims)

Aircrew lost - Unknown


Italy:

Aircraft lost - ~900

Combat loss - c.300

Aircrew lost - Unknown


USA:

Aircraft lost - Unknown

Combat loss - 289

Aircrew lost - 235 (513 total as above)


Germany:

Aircraft lost - 27,640

Combat loss - 3,130

Aircrew lost - 5,950 (16,050 total as above)


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