Date of Award


Degree Name



College of Liberal Arts

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

David R. Woodward

Second Advisor

Leonard J. Deutsch


As a result of the first flight across the English Channel in 1909, England faced a new threat to its national security. Despite this early warning she was quite unprepared to face the challenge presented by the German air services during the First World War. England’s air defense consisted of anti-aircraft guns on the ground and planes in the skies. Both of these methods of are defense, however, were lacking in quantity and quality during the early years of the war.

This thesis will trace the evolution of England’s air defense on the ground from the prewar years to the war’s conclusion in 1918. The British government and military experienced ridicule and many failures as they tried to defend properly their kingdom. Early in the war the ground forces lacked guns, ammunition, searchlights and men. It would take years for the British to accumulate enough weapons and searchlights to defend properly their cities and factories.

The opening chapter will show that the British realized the threat posed by German airships before the war, but as hostilities began they were woefully unprepared. Anti-aircraft guns were the main defense for England’s factories, docks and magazines because all the useful planes had been sent to the front. Admiral Sir Percy Scott took over London’s air defense in September 1915 and increased London’s gun protection with aid from the French. The capital’s defense began to move forward, but slowly.

Chapter two deals with how London’s defense gained the upperhand against the Zeppelins in 1916. This section begins with London’s air defense being transferred from the Admiralty to the War Office. Despite experiencing German airship raids that increased in number and severity, the Home Defence continued to improve and England’s citizens remained steadfast. Britain’s Home Defence gained the advantage over the airships by equipping its planes with incendiary bullets which could ignite the gas within the dirigible and send it to earth in flames.


World War, 1914-1918 – Great Britain.

Great Britain – History – 20th century.

Air defenses – Great Britain.