May 18, 1918 – Strategic British Bombing Campaign Begins Over Germany
Pictured – The Airco DH.4 was Britain’s main bomber of the war. It was also the craft flown by W.E. Johns, the author of the famous Biggles stories.
In April, Prime Minister David Lloyd George promised to wreak revenge on Germany, paying it back for its bombing raids over England “with compound interest.” The campaign began on May 18, 1918, when 33 RAF bombers hit Cologne, killing 110 civilians. The next night 28 superheavy Gotha bombers retaliated on London, killing 48 people.A ten-year-old schoolboy named Desmond Flower watched the killers maneuver far overhead. The German flyers had to pass across several belts of anti-aircraft defenses the British has positioned around the city.
The guns “barked continually at the giants lumbering overhead;” Flower remembered. “Shell fragments pattered down like rain, but that would never prevent father from parading around outside to see what was going on, however much we impolred him to come in. One night I stayed awake for a long time listening to a bomber groaning round and round trying to find a way out of the box barrage in which it was caught; it did not succeed – when it was shot down the droning stopped and I went back to sleep.”
Europeans – both civilians and airmen – were getting a taste of the bombing wars which would define their 20th century.