Men's roles on the front line

British pilots of No. 15 Squadron handing in reports after flying over enemy lines in Northern France British pilots handing in reports after flying over enemy lines
Allied war planes World War One There were a few different types of planes that pilots could fly
A German Gotha plane flies through the air A German Gotha plane with which pilots could have a 'dogfight'
British Pilot photographed in mid-air dropping a bomb over the side of an airship control car. A British Pilot dropping a bomb over the side of an airship control car

Fighter pilots

Fighter pilot

Dogfights in the air

  • A 'dogfight' meant that pilots would have a battle in the air with enemy aircraft.
  • The first fighter planes were only equipped with machine guns which were fixed onto the top wing.
  • 'Aces' were pilots credited with striking down at least five enemy planes in combat.
  • The British Distinguished Flying Cross was available to those pilots who had managed to shoot down at least eight enemy planes.

World War One pilots flew in aircraft made of wood, wire and cloth. Their planes flew slowly and sometimes crashed.

Pilots sat in open 'cockpits,' wearing thick coats, gloves and helmets to keep warm. They had no parachutes because it was thought that parachutes would encourage pilots to 'give up' rather than keep on fighting. The parachutes at the time were very heavy and it was feared that they would stop aircraft being able to take off!

Dogfights and aces

Because using aircraft in war was quite a new idea, pilots originally belonged to the Army's Royal Flying Corps or the Royal Naval Air Service.

Air battles became known as 'dogfights' and the top fighter pilots were 'aces'. Early fighter aircraft had only two seats, with a man sitting in the rear controlling the guns. Dogfights were extremely difficult because the pilot would have to dodge other enemy aircraft while listening to the gunner telling him where to fly.

In 1918, the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service joined forces to become the Royal Air Force.

Teachers' notes

Teachers' notes and classroom ideas looking at men's roles on the front line during World War One.

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