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World War I Seaplane and Aircraft Carriers

World War I Seaplane and Aircraft Carriers Book Review

By Davd L. Veres

Date of Review March 2017 Title World War I Seaplane and Aircraft Carriers
Author Mark Lardas Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2016 ISBN 9781472813787
Format 48 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $18.00


Today's mighty carrier battle group remains a potent symbol of international force projection.

Now Osprey charts its humble beginnings in the fascinating World War I Seaplane and Aircraft Carriers – number 238 in the publisher's classic New Vanguard range.

Spanning just 48 intensely informative pages, coverage commences with pre-war activities and early wartime efforts – including the slow, vulnerable, "plebeian" HMS Ark Royal, the first purpose-built seaplane carrier and "the model for all future aircraft carriers".

Great War navies transported wheeled aircraft equipped with floats aboard "seaplane carriers". "Aircraft carriers", author Mark Lardas notes, operated unconverted warplanes with "conventional landing gear".

Those early, dedicated aircraft carriers featured two separate decks for wheeled warplanes: "flying-off" and "landing-on" platforms separated by central superstructure. The first true aircraft carrier – WWI's unique HMS Argus – fused both into one continuous, ship-length "flight deck". And that archetypal innovation gave the concept its familiar modern appearance.

An "operational history" follows. Among the Central Powers, only Germany operated seaplane carriers during the conflict. But among their adversaries, France, Italy, the United States, Russia, Japan and even Romania did.

The first action occurred barely a month after fighting began. That's when Maurice Farman pushers from Japan's Wakamiya dropped bombs on Austria's SMS Kaiserin Elizabeth 6 September 1914 – the "first time in history that naval aircraft had attacked ships".

At first, sea-based warplanes largely performed reconnaissance roles. But by 1917, British carriers in the eastern Mediterranean provided critical air support against, for instance, Turkish targets in Palestine and Syria.

Naval air power matured considerably by the war's final year. And Britain planned, but never executed, an innovative strike by carrier-based Sopwith Cuckoo torpedo bombers against German battleships and battlecruisers. Author Lardas calls it as "bold and visionary for 1918 as Yamamoto's strike against Pearl Harbor was for 1941".

Osprey's cool little compendium comes packed with fascinating facts like that. Did you know that Winston Churchill coined the term "seaplane"? Neither did I.

The book's last half summarizes, nation-by-nation, all Great War seaplane and aircraft carriers. Each listing includes a handy chart with tonnage and performance specifications, aircraft capacities, and operational notes.

Photos, color profiles, extended captions, selected bibliography and index augment the whole account.

Grab this entertaining, informative little effort.

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!