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Target London (ePub)

Bombing The Capital 1915-2005

Military P&S History > British History

By Peter Reese
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 4.9 MB (.epub)
Pages: 240
ISBN: 9781844684069
Published: 20th June 2011


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London was a target for Zeppelins and bombers during the First World War, for bombers, V1s and rockets in the Second, and for Cold War missiles and for terrorists in more recent times, yet rarely has the history of twentieth-century attacks on the capital been studied as a whole. Peter Reese, in this thought-provoking account, vividly describes how the destructive potential of aerial bombing and terrorist actions has increased and how Londoners have struggled to protect themselves and their city.

He looks at the strategic aims of the bombing campaigns – panic, devastation, paralysis of communications and the collapse of morale - and contrasts them with the actual responses of Londoners – of civilians – who faced this new form of indiscriminate warfare. As he traces the developing theory and practice of air power, he dispels myths and misunderstandings that still surround the subject.

His narrative follows the story from the commencement of the First World War when the development of aircraft accelerated and the possibilities of aerial warfare came to be appreciated – and feared. There are graphic accounts of the German raids on the city in the First World War, of the intense interwar debate about the impact of bombing, and of the ordeal that followed - the Blitz and the V1 and V2 campaigns.

He also considers in the concluding chapters more recent threats to the capital which come, not from aircraft and missiles, but from the bombing tactics adopted by terrorists, and the need for appropriate responses.

This book provides a different perspective on air power and strategic bombing, and a valuable insight into the impact on London and its people of the combing campaigns of the past century. An interesting an informative book, both for students of air power and of those interested in London's recent history.

The Aerospace Professional

This book falls into three main sections. The first looks at the small scale German bombing campaigns of the First World War, starting with the Zeppelins and moving on to the Gothas and other large bombers.

There is an interesting focus on the size of London and the relative ability of each form of attack to do real damage to the city. By this reckoning only the German bombing of the Second World War came close, and even there the limited capacity of the Luftwaffe's medium bombers restricted their ability to inflict critical damage on the vast city. Of more significance has been the public reaction to each wave of attacks, with the original Zeppelin raids perhaps have the biggest impact, coming as they did after hundreds of years without an attack on the city.

The book is very well balanced, looking at the attackers, defenders and inhabitants of London. The sections on the Zeppelin and Gotha attacks on London were of particular interest to me, looking at the German units and individuals who carried out the raids, often at a heavy cost. The material on the Second World War is equally good if more familiar, while the scale of the IRA campaigns came as something of a surprise. There are also valuable sections on the public reaction to each wave of attacks - here the section on the First World War relies on the least data, the Second World War saw serious attempts to judge the public mood and the reaction to more recent attacks is increasingly well documented.

This is an interesting look at a rather mournful topic - nearly a century of attacks on London after centuries of peace.


Target London, as the title suggests, is primarily about wartime raids on London and attacks by terrorists.

But early in this well-prepared book there's the story of the German air raid on Folkstone when, writes the author, there were 95 deaths with 195 injured.

Folkstone Herald

Target London recounts the long history of bombardment that London has faced from both overseas and internal threats. In 1915 London suffered its first ever bombing from a zeppelin and with the increases in technology and the changing nature of warfare the city has been bombed hundreds of times in a variety of different and interesting ways. Target London gives a history of twentieth-century attacks on London and examines the theory and practice of Air power and munitions technology from the wars to the present day, and also gives the strategic reasons why two countries at war would resort to the bombing of a city. Peter Reese uses a variety of sources ranging from vivid eyewitness accounts to a variety of books and photographs that give a daunting yet interesting impression of modern warfare. The book also looks to the future of city assaults considering the recent terrorist attacks and the implications of such an invasive and destructive form of warfare. Target London not only focuses on the bombardment of the city and its consequences but also looks at the response of the civilians involved in the bombing, the experiences that people had and the actions that the government took after the first bombing in 1915. Peter Reese gives graphic accounts of the First World War, of the intense inter-war debates about the impact of bombing and its prevention and the horrific nature of the bombing of London during World War Two. This book although narrowly focussed gives an interesting account of London and its citizens in War time and the various military hardware used to wreak havoc in towns and cities across the world.

Jack Ridgill
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About Peter Reese

In his books on the battles at Bannockburn, Flodden and Dunbar, Peter Reese has established a reputation as a gripping and versatile writer of military history.

He has written extensively on Anglo-Scottish conflicts, the English Civil Wars and the pioneering days of manned flight. He is also a notable biographer - he has published a critical assessment of Scottish commanders and acclaimed biographies of William Wallace, Samuel Cody and General George Monck.

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