20 War in the Air and at Sea



20 War in the Air and at Sea
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20 War in the Air and at Sea
Air Aces in Battle
Almost everyone has heard of the legendary
“Red Baron.” He was the most famous German flyer of World War I. But few people
know that it was a Canadian, Roy Brown, who
finally shot down the Red Baron.
On 21 April 1918, Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron, was flying high above
the Somme valley in his bright crimson Fokker triplane. Suddenly, he spotted an Allied
1. Based on this story, describe some of
the risks World War I flyers took, and
some of the dangers they faced.What
do you think the life of a World War I
flyer was like?
2. Examine the picture. Describe the
airplanes.What might be some
advantages and disadvantages of these
planes in battle?
plane far below. He put his Fokker into a steep
dive and moved in on the plane’s tail. His target was a young Canadian flier, Wilfred May.
It was a tense moment. May’s gun jammed.
Luckily, another Canadian pilot, Captain Roy
Brown, saw what was happening and swept in
behind the Red Baron. Brown, in his Sopwith
Camel, opened fire on von Richthofen. The
Red Baron was hit and fell into a deadly spin.
Moments later the German war ace
was dead at the age of 26.
Today the seat of the Red Baron’s
plane is displayed at the Royal Military Institute in Toronto. You can
put your finger through the bullet
hole in the seat.
Canadian pilot
Roy Brown. He
once said, “I love
flying, not killing.”
Manfred von
Richthofen, Germany’s
Red Baron.
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Chapter 20: War in the Air and at Sea
Dogfights in the Air
During World War I, Canada had no air force of
its own. Canadians who wanted to fly joined
the British Royal Flying Corps. It turned out
that many Canadians were excellent flyers.
At the beginning of the war, Germany
seemed to have the advantage in the air. It had
the most aircraft (400 compared with 156
French and 113 British). The Germans had also
developed a fighter plane called the Fokker. It
was armed with a machine gun that had a
timed firing mechanism so that bullets did not
Close combat between two or more planes in
the air was called a dogfight. Pilots tried to
manoeuvre their light planes so they could dive
on the enemy from behind and fire their guns.
World War I flyers lived a dangerous life.The
percentage of pilots killed was higher than in
any other branch of the military. In late 1916, it
was said that the average life of a pilot was
about three weeks.There were no parachutes
to save any who were unlucky enough to be
shot down.This painting of a dogfight is by
Canadian artist C.R.W. Nevinson.
hit its own propeller blades. The Germans also
had gasfilled balloons called Zeppelin dirigibles or airships. These were used on observation missions and bombing raids. Eventually,
both sides used airships.
By 1917, the Allies had developed the
Sopwith Camel, an excellent fighter plane.
Soon, the tide began to turn. The Allies started
to take the upper hand in air combat. A group
of Canadian pilots called the Black Flight
played an important role in gaining control of
the skies. In their black planes, they shot down
10 German fighters in one day on 6 June 1917.
Over the next few months, they flew many
more successful missions.
Canada had several famous air aces. An ace
was a fighter who had shot down at least five
enemy planes. The great air aces included
Germany’s Manfred von Richthofen, Britain’s
Alfred Ball, and Canada’s Billy Bishop. Von
Richthofen, known as the Red Baron, downed
80 Allied planes.
As a group, Canadian fighter pilots brought
down 438 enemy aircraft during World War I.
Canadians were among the top scoring aces of
all the British fliers. It was a remarkable
Airships were huge balloons with a metal frame.
They were filled with hydrogen gas. Some had platforms on the top. Guns on these platforms could
shoot at airplanes overhead.The airships also
dropped bombs on Allied cities.
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Unit 4: Canada and World War I, 1914-1919
Aircraft and Submarines of World War I
hen the war broke out in
1914, the airplane was a
new and unproven invention.
Few military leaders had any
confidence that the airplane
could be an effective weapon in
war. At first, unarmed planes
were used only to scout enemy
positions. The earliest planes
were usually single-seaters.
Their maximum speed was
between 95 and 125 km/h.
They could stay in the air for
only an hour without refuelling. As the war went on,
both sides developed more
effective fighter planes.
Sopwith Camel
(British biplane)
Maximum speed:
Wing span:
182 km/h
8.5 m
5.7 m
249 km
two belt-fed Vickers
0.303 machine guns
(German triplane)
Maximum speed:
Wing span:
164 km/h
7.2 m
5.7 m
298 km
two fixed 7.92 mm
Spandau LMG 09/15
machine guns
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Chapter 20: War in the Air and at Sea
Interestingly, the Dutch designer of the Fokker
plane, Anthony Fokker, offered it first to the
British. When they refused it, he sold it to the
Germans and it became an excellent fighter
plane in the war.
World War I submarines were small. Usually,
they carried about 35 sailors and 12 torpedoes.
But their torpedoes could sink the largest
ships. Surface boats had to develop special
methods to detect and destroy enemy submarines. Navies developed hydrophones (listening equipment) to pick up the sound of the
submarines’ engines underwater. By the end of
the war, they also used sound echoes to detect
the position of the submarines. The surface
ships then dropped depth charges (explosive
devices) to destroy the U-boats.
2. Both sides also developed effective machine
guns during the war. Soldiers called them “coffee grinders” because they ground to pieces
anyone or anything in their range. It was
partly because machine guns mowed down
any attacking soldiers who ventured out of
their trenches that neither side could gain
much territory in the war.What do you think
of this technological advance? What are some
of the advantages and disadvantages of technological advances during wartimes?
1. Competition to build better weapons helped
to spur on technological developments during the war. Did these developments have
benefits after the war? How do you think the
advances in airplanes and submarines could
be used in peacetime?
Conning tower
Torpedo hatchway
Steering rudder
Reversing gear
Sleeping berths
Steering rudder
Stern hydroplanes
Torpedo-trimming tanks
Inner water-ballast tanks
Outer hull
Inner hull
Oil engines
Central driving position
Detachable safety keel
Fuel oil
Sleeping berths
Officer’s quarters
Outer waterballast tanks
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Unit 4: Canada and World War I, 1914-1919
Billy Bishop: Canadian War Ace
uring World War I, a
young pilot named Billy
Bishop became a Canadian
hero. As a boy in Owen Sound,
Ontario, Billy Bishop practised
shooting at moving targets
with his rifle in the
woods. His firing
expertise made him
one of the greatest
fighter pilots the
Allies ever had.
On his first day
in action, he
shot down a
German plane.
In one five-day
period, Bishop
destroyed 13
Billy often
flew the skies
alone. On one
occasion, he
attacked a German
air base near
Cambrai, France.
Two German fighters
flew up to chase him.
Bishop shot down both of
them. Two more enemy planes
came up to attack him. One fell
from the deadly fire from
Bishop’s gun. The other was
driven off, out of ammunition.
Billy Bishop returned safely to
his home field.
Billy Bishop was awarded
the Victoria Cross by Britain
and the highest honours of
France. He went on to become
Director of Recruiting for the
Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II in 1940.
1. What qualities do you think
an air ace like Billy Bishop
needed to have?
2. Find out more about
another accomplished
Canadian flyer in the war
such as Billy Barker,
Raymond Collishaw, Roy
Brown, A.A. McLeod, or
Donald McLaren.Where
were they from, what
role did they play in the
war, and what were their
3. Why do you think it is
important that we remember
people like Billy Bishop? How
can we remember all the
others who fought but are
not as well known?
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Chapter 20: War in the Air and at Sea
Fast Forward
Billy Bishop Goes to War
Billy Bishop Goes to War is one of the most
successful Canadian plays ever written. It celebrates the life and accomplishments of Bishop and
is dedicated to all who fought in World War I.
You can still see the play performed across the
country. It was inspired by a book called
Winged Warfare, an autobiography of Billy Bishop
including accounts of his famous flights.
In 1981, the play won the Governor-General’s
award for drama. It has been seen by over
350 000 people and has aired on television.
“Billy Bishop Goes to War is dedicated to all those who didn’t come back from the war,
and to all those who did and wondered why.” — writer, John Gray
The War at Sea
war. But the attack on American citizens
shocked the American people. It turned public
opinion in the United States against Germany.
Eventually, the United States entered the war
on the side of the Allies.
In early May 1915, the British passenger liner
Lusitania was crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Suddenly, a torpedo streaked through the
waves toward the ship. Moments later there
was an explosion, panic, chaos, and
death. The Lusitania was destroyed
and 1098 people drowned. At sea,
there was a new terror—that torpedo
had been fired from a submarine!
The submarine or U-boat
(Unterseeboot) was Germany’s most
deadly weapon. German submarines
had been prowling the seas since the
beginning of the war. By late 1916,
German submarines were sinking an
average of 160 ships per month.
Germany was predicting an early
defeat for Britain.
A German submarine sinks an American ship.The
But the sinking of the Lusitania
early submarines could stay under the surface for
was a turning point. Many of the pastwo and a half hours. Each carried 12 torpedoes
sengers on the Lusitania were
that could be fired underwater at a moving target.
Americans including many women and
German U-boats were the gravest threat the Allies
children. Up to that point, the United
faced. U-boats downed 5408 Allied ships during the
States had stayed out of this European
war. Germany lost only 178 submarines.
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Unit 4: Canada and World War I, 1914-1919
The U-boat Menace
By 1917, the war on the Western Front still
had not been won. Germany decided that
more drastic action was needed to defeat the
Allies. The German navy introduced a policy of
“unrestricted submarine warfare.” This meant
that German U-boats would sink any Allied
or neutral ships approaching Britain, not just
warships. They wanted to cut off all supplies
of food and weapons from getting through to
Britain. The results of this policy were almost
disastrous for Britain. In the first four months,
Germany sank over 1000 Allied ships. Britain
had to find a way to deal with the U-boat
One answer was the convoy system.
Supply ships used to sail alone from Canada
and the United States to Britain. Now they
began to sail in fleets. The ships were escorted
by armed destroyers. The destroyers kept con-
stant watch like sheepdogs guarding a flock of
sheep. The convoy system helped get necessary
supplies through to Britain again.
Another key turning point came in 1917
when the United States entered the war.
German U-boats had continued to sink
American ships and the United States had had
enough. American soldiers and vast new supplies of equipment got ready to go to Europe.
This move helped to turn the tide in favour of
the Allies.
Canada’s main contribution to the war at
sea was providing sailors and ships for the
Royal Navy. Canadian shipyards built more
than 60 anti-submarine ships and more than 500
smaller anti-submarine motor launches.
Thousands of Canadians served in the British
Royal Navy, in the Royal Naval Canadian
Volunteer Reserve, and in the Royal Naval Air
Canada’s navy was formed in 1910, but at the beginning of the war in 1914, it had only two
warships.Yachts and other vessels were bought, refitted, and armed for combat.These ships
had little to defend them against German U-boats, but many took part in convoys protecting
vital supply ships on their way to Britain.This painting by N.Wilkinson shows the transport
of Canadian troops. By the end of the war, Canada’s navy had 112 vessels and 5500 members.
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Chapter 20: War in the Air and at Sea
Fast Forward
Canada’s Armed Forces
Today, Canada’s navy, army, and airforce are
united into the Canadian Armed Forces
(CAF). While the role of the Armed
Forces is still to protect Canada
against any military threat, it is also
involved in many other important
activities at home and around the
world. At home, the Armed Forces
help during times of emergency
such as environmental disasters
(floods, avalanches, forest fires, etc.),
in search-and-rescue missions, in
stopping shipments of illegal drugs, in protecting Canada’s fisheries, and in responding to
The Last Hundred Days
By the spring of 1918, Germany faced a crisis.
German submarine attacks on supply ships had
failed to force Britain to surrender. Now the
United States had entered the war. AustriaHungary and Turkey, Germany’s allies, were on
the point of collapse. The only hope for
Germany was to launch a mighty offensive on
the Western Front before the full United States
army could arrive in Europe.
any terrorist activities or civil unrest (violent
protests, etc.). Around the world, the
Canadian Forces take part in peacekeeping missions and humanitarian
efforts such as delivering food,
building roads, bridges, and
schools, and caring for the sick
and wounded. In the 1990s,
Canadian peacekeepers served in
such areas as Haiti, Somalia,
Rwanda, and Bosnia.
Find out more about Canada’s Armed
Forces today by visiting their web site at
Thousands of German soldiers poured into
France. But on 8 August 1918, Canadian and
Allied troops launched a counterattack. Fresh
American troops with tanks had arrived and
were a great encouragement for the Allies. Supported by 500 tanks, the Allies swept north and
east toward Germany. The Germans fought hard,
but they fell back steadily. Eventually, the Allies
re-captured all of France and then Belgium.
By November, the Allies had reached the
borders of Germany. On 11 November 1918,
at a predawn ceremony, Germany formally surrendered. Fighting ended at 11:00 a.m. on that
morning. Five minutes before 11:00 a sniper
shot George Price. Price was the last Canadian
to die in World War I.
For some Canadian troops, the war ended on
the streets of the Belgian town of Mons.They
freed the town from German control. Belgians
proudly flew their country’s flags and grateful
Belgians shouted their thanks, “Vive les braves
Canadiens!” The war was finally over.
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Unit 4: Canada and World War I, 1914-1919
Skill Building: A Research Report—Part 2
You have researched information for your
report.What’s next? You need to organize your
information and choose an exciting way to present your report.There are many different ways
of communicating your information.Take a look
at the chart of possibilities below.You can
choose one or a combination of these.Whichever method you choose, your report will be most
effective if you go through the following steps.
Step 1 Prepare an Outline
1. Develop an outline for your report.Your
outline is a way to organize the information you
have researched. It gives you a framework for
your report.
Ways of Presenting a Report
For example, in your research you decided
to investigate three types of planes. Enter these
sub-topics on an outline organizer like the example
on the next page.Your subpoints would include
the three main aspects of your topic that you
focused on: technical descriptions of the planes,
how they were used, and how effective they were.
Plan where you would include photos, diagrams, charts, or any other features of your
presentation. If you will be presenting your report
as a museum exhibit or scrapbook, for example,
outline what you will show at each station of the
exhibit or on each page of the scrapbook.
As a conclusion, you could present your ideas
on how effective the planes were.You could
also tell how technology can be used for both
positive and negative purposes.
role play
panel discussion
radio broadcast
talk with visuals
news broadcast
puppet show
simulation game
music and recordings
slide show
collection of artifacts
charts and graphs
film or video
bulletin board display
photo collection
cartoon or comic
timeline mural
time capsule
learning centre
vertical file
letter or diary
Step 2 Draft Your Report
2. Prepare a draft copy of your
report.Your report will have three
main parts, no matter what form of
presentation it takes.
A) Introduction
Decide on an introduction that will
grab the reader’s, listener’s, or viewer’s
attention. It should give a clear and
concise statement of the focus topic.
B) Body
In the body of your report, develop
each of your main ideas or sub-topics.
Be sure the main idea is clearly
expressed in a topic sentence or heading.The subpoints should refer to and
develop the main idea. Put the main
ideas in the most effective order, leaving the best idea to the last.
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Chapter 20: War in the Air and at Sea
Sample Outline Organizer
Names in group: ____________________
Teacher’s Name: _____________________
Class: ______________________________
Due Date: __________________________
Topic/Question: Types of airplanes used in World War I
Main Idea/Sub-Topic:
Main Idea/Sub-Topic:
Sopwith Camel
Main Idea/Sub-Topic:
C) Conclusion
Include a conclusion that:
• summarizes your main points
• supports what you have said
• leaves your audience with something
interesting to think about.
Step 3 Edit and Revise
3. Edit your draft. Be sure that:
• you have done what the assignment asked
• the report is organized and makes sense to
the reader/listener/viewer
• the sentences vary in length and structure
and the spelling, grammar, capitalization, and
punctuation are correct
• any diagrams, pictures, charts, graphs, models,
audio clips etc. are clear, well presented or
explained, and clearly support the ideas you
want to get across
4. Have a partner review your report and give
suggestions for improvements. Something may
not be clear, or there may be too much or too
little information in some areas. Make changes
and polish your report.
Step 4 Present Your Report
5. Set up your presentation at a station in your
classroom. Other students can tour the room
and visit the various presentations.
6. Develop ten questions about your topic.Your
classmates can answer the questions when they
visit your display. Encourage them to ask questions as well.
Step 5 Evaluate
7. Have others evaluate how useful your presentation was in helping them learn about your
topic.What could you do differently next time to
improve your work?
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Unit 4: Canada and World War I, 1914-1919
War Poetry
ohn McCrae was a Canadian
doctor from Guelph, Ontario,
serving in France. On 3 May
1915, he was sitting on the step
of an ambulance.
The Battle of
In Flanders Fields
Ypres was in its
ninth day. The
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
previous night
Between the crosses, row on row,
McCrae had
That mark our place; and in the sky
buried his best
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
friend who had
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
been blown to
bits by an
We are the Dead. Short days ago
artillery shell.
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Looking over
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
scene of the
crosses in the
Take up our quarrel with the foe;
fields, he wrote
To you, from failing hands we throw
the lines of a
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
poem that
If ye break faith with us who die
started, “In
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields.
the poppies
—Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
blow...” The
poem was completed in about
20 minutes. McCrae made
copies of the poem and gave
them to all his friends. The
poem was published in 1915,
and is one of the most memorable war poems ever written.
“In Flanders Fields” was
read at the first observance
of Armistice Day in 1918
when the war finally ended.
This poem and the poppies
described in it have been part
of the 11 November Remembrance Day ceremonies ever
since. A soldier who was there
said, “It seemed to me that this
poem was an exact description
of the scene.”
1. What images does this
poem create? Describe the
scene in your own words or
create a sketch.
2. Who is speaking in the
poem? Why do you think the
poem is written from this
point of view?
3. What makes this poem
4. John McCrae wrote the
poem while battles were still
raging in World War I. He
never witnessed the peace.
In 1918, he was killed while
on active service in France.
Write a one stanza response
to John McCrae’s poem,
telling of the peace.
Find out about some
World War I poets
their poetry by
visiting this
web site
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Understanding Concepts
1. Add these new terms to your Factfile.
Black Flight
convoy system
11 November 1918
2. a) Describe the various roles played by the air force in World War I.
b) What were the dangers of being a pilot in World War I?
c) In spite of the dangers, why do you think men signed up for the airforce?
3. In what ways did the purpose and design of airplanes change as the war went
on? Why was Fokker’s invention so important?
4. a) Why was the submarine a revolutionary new weapon?
b) How did the Allies try to defend themselves against the threat of submarines?
c) Which method of defence do you think was the most effective? Why?
Digging Deeper
5. a) THINK Explain why Germany sank the Lusitania.
b) DISCUSS Was the sinking of a civilian passenger ship a justifiable act in a
time of war? Explain your answer.
6. CREATE Create a political cartoon that makes a statement about the sinking
of the Lusitania. Imagine the cartoon will appear in an American or Canadian
7. WRITE Why did Germany start a policy of “unrestricted submarine warfare?”
How effective was it? Write a news bulletin announcing the policy and the
expected effects.Write it either from the German or Canadian point of view.
8. DIAGRAM Create a web diagram to illustrate how Canadians helped to win
the war in the air and at sea.
Making New Connections
9. DEBATE Debate the pros and cons of hitting civilian targets (e.g., sinking
passenger ships, bombing cities) as a strategy of war.
10. THINK/COMPARE Brainstorm some differences between modern wars and
World War I. Consider the types of weapons used, how they are used, the
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Unit 4: Canada and World War I, 1914-1919
number of countries involved, the number of soldiers involved, and the number
of casualties. Use a comparison organizer in your answer.Write some conclusions about the major differences between modern warfare and warfare in
World War I. [HINT:You may want to use the Gulf War in your comparison.
It was one of the most recent wars in modern history.]
11. INVESTIGATE The Snowbirds are the most famous modern Canadian flyers.
Find out what qualifications someone needs to become a Snowbird flyer. How
are these flyers trained? What is their major role today? How does it compare
with the role of flyers during World War I?
12. CURRENT EVENTS In groups, go through the international news sections in
recent national newspapers or magazines such as The Globe and Mail, The
National Post, or Maclean’s. Find reports on the actions of Canadian peacekeepers in various parts of the world. Create a bulletin board display with
articles and pictures.

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