To Rule the Winds: The Evolution of the British Fighter Force Through Two World Wars

Volume 1 - Prelude to Air War - The Years to 1914

Michael C. Fox

Date Published :
May 2014
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
c 80 b/w photos, tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781909384149
Pages : 316
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Available


To Rule the Winds is the story of how a coordinated force of the Royal Air Force's fighter squadrons came into being as Fighter Command in 1936 and what became of it after the Battle of Britain. It is a large story, to be told in a series of volumes.

This first volume recounts the origins of military aviation in Britain, up to the beginning of the First World War in the August of 1914. By the 18th and 19th Centuries, balloons had been tried in various conflicts on the Continent of Europe, during Britain's involvements in the Napoleonic wars, the Crimea, South Africa and elsewhere, as well as during the American Civil War.

The airplane flights in the USA by the Wright brothers from December 1903 changed the direction of military aviation. It would not be until 1908 that similar flights would begin in Britain, some way behind flights by aeronauts in Europe and especially France that culminated, momentously, in Blériot's crossing of the English Channel in 1909 that proved beyond doubt that Britain could be invaded by air. Thereafter, although the British military authorities did not with alacrity embrace airplanes as weapons of war, at least a start was made that enabled a small force of miscellaneous and unarmed airplanes to take the Field with the British Army in 1914 - a force that would evolve in the course of the Great War into the Royal Air Force.

The theme of the whole series is the evolution of a force of airplanes first adapted and later designed to fight in the air against other airplanes - the 'Scout' or 'Fighter'. Covering a period in which the type did not really exist, this first volume explores the origins of that force: the Royal Aircraft Factory; the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers; the Royal Flying Corps; disaffection with airships; early development of airplanes for war; problems with monoplanes; aerial gunnery and wireless experiments; the foundations of an Air Ministry; preparations for aerial defense.

Although the origins of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force have been the subjects of works by numerous other authors referenced in this volume, the series is based primarily upon original material in the National Archives, Parliamentary reports and papers, as well as contemporary military and aviation journals. Using such material, the author offers a more focused story than has appeared hitherto of the evolution of a fighter force that contributed so much to the continued independence of the British nation.

The illustrated work is fully referenced, includes a comprehensive bibliography and a detailed index.


“ … Fox has provided a logical and well written analysis of the successes and failures of the British leadership and designers as they grappled with an absolutely untested technology and the consummate risk of getting the answers wrong.”

- Air Force Magazine

“ … an interesting, useful, and detailed narrative. The remaining volumes of the series will be keenly anticipated by enthusiasts and historians alike.”

- Aerospace

“The book as a whole is well written, follows a very logical path and is extremely thorough in its technical coverage. The photographs and line drawings are also excellent.”

- War in History

More from this publisher