The RNAS and the Birth of the Aircraft Carrier 1914-1918

Ian M. Burns

Date Published :
February 2015
Publisher :
Fonthill Media
Illustration :
51 black and white photographs
No associated books available.


The Royal Naval Air Service's origins were as the Naval Wing of the Royal Flying Corps in April 1912, but did not become a separate service until 1 July 1914. On the outbreak of war in 1914, the service expanded to include service on land, providing support of the Royal Naval Division in Belgium, to the RFC and as one of the early practitioners of strategic bombing. Yet, from its early days, the RNAS had set out to create a force operating aircraft in support of and in association with the Fleet. The RNAS and the Birth of the Aircraft Carrier 1914-1918 traces the development and operational use of aircraft serving with the fleet. It follows the training of personnel and the struggle to produce suitable aircraft and weapons, including the evolution of the aircraft carrier. Nonetheless, the constant thread throughout is the operational history of the RNAS over the North Sea with both the Grand Fleet and Harwich Force. Commencing over Cuxhaven on Christmas Day 1914 and ending with two pivotal operations which determined the future of naval aviation.


"Much of this significant work is presented in the words of those who participated, not just the official records. The author synthesizes and distills the relevant facts into brief segments enabling the reader to absorb a great deal of detail quickly and with a good grasp of the events. The seventeen chapters cover the whole panoply of topics including those important and curious milestones that occurred during WWI such as: seaplane versus landplane design, the battle of Jutland, the decision to create a full deck aircraft carrier and of course the surprise raid on the Tondern Zeppelin sheds. Of particular interest to me was the experimental ‘lighters’ small deck boats towed at high speed by a destroyer providing a short run takeoff deck for a single aircraft. In the instance of August 11, 1918 Lieutenant Stuart Douglas Culley, an American by birth, flying a Sopwith Camel and taking off from such a lighter, intercepted and shot down the German Zeppelin L53, the last to be brought down in the war. Mr. Burns has provided the reader with a useful end matter that contains performance comparisons of RNAS aircraft, HMS Furious operation 1917-1918, a bibliographic and sources listing, as well as an index. There are fifty-one photographs reproduced on glossy paper for better contrast. In all regards this work provides in a single work a good view of RNAS activities on the subject, it is recommended reading."

- Aerodrome

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