Airplanes were used for the first time in war during World War One. The first planes were very flimsy and were made of only a wood frame and they were covered in canvas. The parachute had not yet been invented, and the engines would often stall.
The airplanes’ main purpose was to photograph enemy positions and observe troop movements. Faster planes were designed to protect or to attack these low-flying observers. Aerial fighting often took place directly above the trenches, and was known as a circus. These dogfights (battles in the sky) were extremely dangerous, but very exciting, even for the spectators below.
Flyers like the German Red Baron and Canada’s Billy Bishop became heroes in their countries. The Aces won status and prestige with every victory (grounding of an enemy plane). They were described as “modern knight[s] in shining armour.”
Before 1914 both Britain and Germany had built up their navies. Germany had invested in their U-Boats (submarines) and declared unrestricted submarine warfare. This meant that they intended to sink any Allied or neutral ship in the seas without any warning. They wanted to be sure that food and weapons supplies could not reach Britain.
To protect themselves from U-boats, Allied boats would cross the Atlantic in a convoy. This was where a group of supply ships (merchant marines) would travel with escort ships like battle cruisers or Q-ships.
Britain also enforced a naval blockade on Germany which was meant to keep supplies and food out of German ports. This not only weakened the military, but also the civilian populations in Germany too.