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First Blitz – The secret German plan to raze London to the ground in 1918

By: Neil Hanson (940/35928)
Publisher: Doubleday ISBN: 9780385611718

A world away from the killing fields of France was a battle that could have changed the face of history. In the early years of the First World War, London had been subjected to sustained bombing attacks from German Zeppelins, but by late 1916 improvements in British aircraft technology had put paid to the threat they offered.

Undeterred, the German air force took up the assault and, over the course of 1917, threatened to engulf London in firestorms – a portent of the London Blitz and the Battle of Britain over twenty years later. Their determination to bring London to its knees was fuelled by a growing ability to do so.

In less than four years, the Luftwaffe’s England Squadron had moved from crude canvas-and-wire light aircraft to four-engined giants as big as anything that flew in the Second World War. The First Blitz took place over eight nights in 1917, but it was the second wave of attacks in the summer of 1918, following the development of the Elektron incendiary bomb, that came within an ace of obliterating London. The margin between the survival of the world’s greatest capital city and its total destruction came down to less than one hour.

The events and decisions taken in the course of those fateful days were as important as anything that happened on the Western Front. With breathtaking insight, compelling drama and supreme narrative clarity, Neil Hanson tells the story of the air war that could have altered the course of the conflict, and with it the history of the twentieth century itself.

August 2008


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