19/5/1918 The last Gotha bombing raid on London #1918Live

Germany has followed its Zeppelin bombing raids on Britain with Operation Türkenkreuz, a series of attacks by giant Gotha aeroplanes. The Gotha raids have been more destructive than the Zeppelin attacks and have forced the British to deploy fighters in south east England that would otherwise be in place on the Western Front. But the bombing raids have taken their toll on the Germans too, with many of the Gothas shot down by enemy fighters or crash-landing on their return home (especially when missions are undertaken at night to avoid the British fighters). Today, after a terror bombing raid on London that killed some 49 people, German commanders decide that the strategic bombing campaign is not worth the resources that are being put into it. There will be no more bombing raids on London; instead the Gothas will be redeployed to attack targets behind enemy lines on the Western Front.

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Gotha bombers (Pinturas aviación Gran Guerra 1914-1918: Great London air raid scare (Tumblr))

21/4/1918 The Red Baron’s last patrol #1918Live

German efforts are concentrated now in Flanders, where Ludendorff still hopes to inflict a decisive blow on the British. However the Germans are still pushing at the British in the Somme sector, hoping to either take Amiens or advance close enough to it that the transport hub becomes unusable to the enemy.

In support of the ground war the Germans have deployed much of their air force to the Somme. Manfred von Richthofen and his Flying Circus are patrolling here, doing as much as they can to keep the skies clear of Allied aeroplanes. Only yesterday the Red Baron brought down two enemy planes, shooting down first a Sopwith Camel flown by Major Richard Raymond-Barker, who dies, and then three minutes later another Camel flown by David Greswolde Lewis, who is lucky enough to survive and be taken prisoner.

Today while on patrol Richthofen sees an enemy aeroplane attacking one flown by his cousin, Wolfram von Richthofen. The Red Baron attacks, saving his cousin and then pursues the enemy aircraft, flown by Canadian pilot Wilfrid May. Throwing caution to the wind, Richthofen is unrelenting in his pursuit of May and allows himself to be drawn across the Allied lines. He declines to break off the chase even when another Canadian, Captain Arthur Brown, comes to his compatriot’s aid.
As May desperately tries to escape, the Red Baron finds himself being fired upon by Brown and also by Australian troops on the ground. A bullet pierces his heart, fatally injuring him. He manages to roughly land his Fokker triplane but dies almost immediately afterwards, lasting just long enough for Australian soldiers to reach the crash site and hear him say “kaputt”.

Richthofen’s body is taken away and prepared for burial with full military honours. His aeroplane is less fortunate, being torn apart by souvenir hunters.

In his two-year career, Richthofen has brought down some 80 enemy aircraft and sent a similar number of enemy fliers to their graves. There will never be another more famous fighter pilot.

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Red Baron’s Last Patrol & Red Barons Last Flight (Barry Weekley studio: Aviation Galleries) follow link for more pictures of warplanes from the First World War and beyond

21/3/1918 New German weapons #1918Live

As well as their innovative use of infiltration tactics, the Germans are also bringing some new weapons to bear in their spring offensive on the Western Front. Many of the stormtroopers spearheading the assault are armed with new submachine guns, portable weapons that can fire a burst of bullets, ideal for clearing enemy troops from a trench. The Germans have also deployed their airforce in support of the offensive. Concentrated German air power has wrested control of the skies from the Allies, making it hard for British observers to spy on German positions. But the Germans have also deployed ground attack aircraft in large formations known as Schlachtstaffeln (or Schlastas), as was done previously during the counterattack at Cambrai. In some respects these ground attack aircraft are fulfilling the role of cavalry in earlier battles, in that they are harrying retreating British troops and providing intelligence on enemy dispositions.
The Germans have also deployed tanks for the first time. There had been fears on the Allied side that a large number of German tanks would take part in the battle, but in the event only a few tanks are taking part in the offensive. Most of these are British-made vehicles that were captured at Cambrai, but a small number of German-made A7V tanks also take part. The A7V is a monster, weighing 30 tonnes and carrying a crew of 18 in its cramped interior. The German tank is more like a mobile pillbox than a vehicle optimised for crossing broken ground, with its heavy weight and high centre of gravity, but its terrifying appearance delivers the desired psychological effect to the enemy.
Unfortunately most of the German tanks break down before they come into contact with the enemy. However two vehicles do manage to assist German troops advancing in the area of the St. Quentin Canal.

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German stormtrooper with submachine gun (Wikipedia)

Brünhilde & Thea, German ground attack aircraft (Flickr: Wooway1)

German tank in action (fanciful) (Wikipedia)

20/3/1918 Eve of Armageddon #1918Live

Peace with Russia has freed the Germans to transfer some 44 divisions to the Western Front. The Allies know that Ludendorff is planning an offensive to try to win the war before the Americans arrive in strength. But they do not know when or where the attack will come.

In fact, tomorrow is the day. German assault troops are now moving up to their attack positions, but doing so in conditions of utmost secrecy to mask their presence from the enemy. Troops have been marching by night, under strict orders to show no lights, and then hidden by day in forests or inside villages. Artillery pieces too are being moved to their firing positions, again camouflaged from the prying eyes of the British and French. German aircraft are patrolling above to chase away enemy observers and check that their men on the ground are keeping themselves properly hidden.

Ludendorff had hoped to attack in Flanders, in order to seize the Channel ports and cut off the British army, but it is too early in the year and the ground there is still waterlogged after the rains of winter. Instead the German blow will fall on British troops sitting astride the Somme, defending the gains of the 1916 battle and the territory abandoned by the Germans last year. Tomorrow’s offensive has no fixed objectives, which has disconcerted some of the field commanders who will have to command it. But Ludendorff hopes that a breakthrough will present opportunities that will allow him to destroy the Allied armies.

Officially the offensive is Operation Michael, but it has become known as the Kaiserschlacht, the Kaiser’s Battle. The morale of the assault troops is high: this is the attack that will end the war.

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Erich Ludendorff (Wikipedia)

20 February 1918 – Schlachtstaffeln?

German plans to use ground attack aircraft in support of Ludendorff‘s spring offensive.


Unlike tne famous Jastas, one of the lesser known German aerial formations is the Schlachtstaffeln (often abbreviated to Schlastas), which make up about 10% of german formations at this point. They had originated as security flights for the Fliegerabieilungen who carried out reconnaissance.

As the war progressed, their two-seaters transitioned into more of a ground-
attack role aircraft specially designed for that role were introduced.

With the preparations for the forthcoming German offensive in full swing, an entire section of the new German attack doctrine issued in January 1918 was devoted to air support for the ground

That doctrine was underlined by a document issued today specifically dealing with the and their control under divisional command in the initial stages of the attack. It lays out the role of the squadrons as “flying ahead of and carrying the infantry along with them, keeping down the fire of the enemy’s…

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8/3/1918 Bombing Paris, preparing for the spring offensive #1918Live

On the Western Front the Allies are waiting for Ludendorff‘s spring offensive, when the Germans will try to win the war before the Americans show up in strength. The British and French do not know where the blow will land or when the Germans will attack but they know the day is coming soon. The tension is mounting, with every soldier posted to the front knowing that the next day could be his last.

The Germans are doing their best to pile the pressure on the Allies, striking at the morale of not just the men at the front but also the civilians at the rear. Zeppelin raids on Britain continue, but the British also face intermittent attacks by giant Gotha aeroplanes, though the air raids have failed to cause the level of devastation and panic Germany’s leaders would like.

The Germans are also intermittently bombing Paris. Tonight in a particularly large attack the Germans drop 90 bombs on the city, causing much damage and apparently leading to some 200,000 people fleeing the city. Thirteen people lose their lives.

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Gotha G.IV bomber (Wikipedia: German strategic bombing during World War I)

Air raid on Paris, 30 January 1918 (Geographical Imaginations: Is Paris Burning?)

30/11/1917 Cambrai: the Germans strike back

The British have called a halt to their attacks at Cambrai. While the first day‘s successes were not repeated, the battle so far has done wonders for British morale, showing that the combination of tanks and carefully targeted artillery is able to smash through even the strongest defences.

The British think the battle is over now, but they are wrong. The Germans have reinforced the Cambrai sector and now they launch an unexpected counter-attack, hoping to recover the ground lost in the fighting so far. The Germans do not have tanks to spearhead their assault, but they do have the infiltration tactics developed by Hutier at Riga and then used to great effect at Caporetto.

When German stormtroopers attack after a short but intense bombardment they attack the right flank of the British, ripping through their lines. The Germans are supported by a significant deployment of air power, with large numbers of ground attack aircraft harrying the British. Only the deployment of the few tanks the British still have available prevents their complete collapse.

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German stormtroopers attack (Metropostcard – Belligerents and Participants in World War One: The German Empire  pt1)