Thank you to Osprey Publishing for providing a review copy of their new release, World War I Seaplanes and Aircraft Carriers, number 238 in the New Vanguard Series. As always, I appreciate all of those in the IPMS Reviewer Corps, whose work is critical to sharing new and exciting modeling products with the world.
Aircraft carriers are not generally thought of in the context of WWI. Yet there are significant early advances during this time, mainly centered on expanding the ranges of the first seaplanes. A number of ancestors to modern aircraft carriers are described in this book. I was intrigued by the influence of the German zeppelin fleet on British military thought. The major player in seaplane and carrier development was the British military, followed by Germany, France, Russia, and some minor experiments by Italy and Japan. Two common design concepts were the seaplane support ship, where aircraft would land on water near the ship, and actual flying-off and landing-on ships.
A brief introduction credits the US with the early feasibility tests successfully completed by Naval Aviator #1, Eugene Ely. However the United States lost interest after Ely’s death in a crash. The success of shipboard operations did not go unnoticed by other countries, which started their own forays into naval aviation with several different approaches. The Royal Navy had already developed the seaplane tender concept before WWI began and was more interested in projecting air power at sea. Much like the US in the 1920s, existing ships were refitted. Later, the HMS Ark Royal was designed as a seaplane support ship from the keel up. By 1916, a flush flight deck over a hangar deck design was realized in the HMS Argus, the first similarity to modern carriers. In contrast, Germany and allies focused on shore-based naval aviation, with Germany the only country to actively pursue the concept. France and Italy had fairly casual interest in naval aviation, along with Japan and Russia. It should be noted that the United States reconsidered naval aviation in 1914, and started developing catapult aircraft aboard cruisers and battleships.
A WWI operational history of seaplane and aircraft carriers details many of the interesting developments, mistakes, missions, and design variations from page 19 through page 29. The remainder of the book provides data tables for 27 ships of several nationalities, with Great Britain topping the list with 13 of those 27 ships. Over 35 photos are included throughout, along with 4 drawings and 2 color ship profiles. A color perspective cut-away drawing shows the Ark Royal. A very complete index and a good bibliography round out this volume as a valuable reference for the historian, model builder, and general interest reader
I absolutely recommend this volume, from both the scale-model and historical perspectives. I found New Vanguard 238 be very well worth the reading time, allowing me a more thorough understanding of the early days of general naval aviation. A lot has happened in the last 100 years!
Thanks again to Osprey Publishing, your work helps keep history alive. Thank you again to the stalwart Reviewer Corps for your hard work in making these review opportunities happen.