First Aerial Victory
Initially these pioneering fliers went aloft unarmed but it didn’t take long before aircrew on both sides of the lines began to arm themselves. Pistols and rifles were highly favoured, more adventurous souls took up grenades, darts, even house bricks, in an effort to bring down their opponents. Others even resorted to casting a grappling hook over the side to snag any enemy pilot who obligingly flew close enough. On 25 August 1914, RFC pilots forced down a German taube monoplane, the first ever recorded aerial victory: more successes were soon to follow. Before long tactics had taken an even more serious turn, when the first bombs were hurled from an aircraft: this became a popular pursuit. As the low-flying aeroplanes made their daily forays over the lines, they faced increasing dangers, not only from the air but also from the ground. Trigger-happy infantrymen from both sides were prone to taking pot-shots at anything flying overhead – friend or foe. Even when the opposing air forces began to introduce national identity markings to aid recognition, fliers continued to fall victim to what we term today ‘friendly-fire’.