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Bloody Paralyser: The Giant Handley Page Bombers of the First World War.

Bloody Paralyser: The Giant Handley Page Bombers of the First World War. By Rob Langham. Oxford UK: Fonthill Media, 2016. Photographs. Bibliography. Notes. Pp.192. $35.00 ISBN: 978-1-78155-080-8

Just how did the term "Bloody Paralyser" come to be associated with the O-series Handley Page Bombers? There are two origin stories laid out in the beginning of Langham's informative and comprehensive book. Regardless of which one a reader accepts as the genuine account, they both have legitimate claims. What does matter is that the phrase puts into historic context the aircraft's role and purpose.

In early 1915 the British Admiralty, with Winston Churchill as First Sea Lord, sanctioned and financed the development of a large biplane bomber that would a) fit in a 75 x 75-ft. shed (thereby necessitating folding wings, b) be powered by two 150-hp engines, and c) have the capability to carry six 100-lb. bombs. The range desired would en able the machine to reach the German-occupied channel ports, railway targets, and aerodromes far behind the lines. The aircraft that quickly evolved from these original requirements was far superior to what had been anticipated. With a 600-mile range and capability to carry 2,000 lbs of bombs, it would become the heavy lifter in the British Independent Bombing Force.

Langham details the evolution of Handley Page itself as well as the company's initial foray into building the prototype of the 0/100. It is a fascinating story that tracks how a relatively unknown aircraft "firm" (I use this term very loosely) was handed the task and succeeded in creating this noteworthy machine.

Large multi-engine aircraft designs were certainly an unfamiliar territory in 1914. There were only a handful of designers who crossed that boundary successfully: Sikorsky, Curtiss, and Caproni come to mind. The 1914 German giant designed by Villehad Forssman for Siemens-Schuckert Werke (SSW) was a horrible failure. Little was known in the west of Sikorsky's work on the Il'ya Muromets although Harry Woodman found tantalizing material indicating that the British Admiralty had requested plans of the Il'ya Muromets from her Russian ally. Much can be said for the other two designs, and it would not be long before the Curtiss design was assimilated and reengineered by the RNAS to produce the epic Felixstowe flying-boat series.

Much to his credit, Langham covers the technical details of development, logistics, field implementation, armament, bomb development, and deployment of the O series. Equally importantly, he brings to the narrative the words and deeds of not only the men who flew these ships into combat, but also those who maintained them (no mean task given the size of the aircraft). Primarily the HPs were used in the European theater of war. However, unexpectedly, a few found their way to the Mid-East. One even operated with T.E. Lawrence.

The long shadow of strategic bombing began in World War I; Handley Page's O series would be the progenitor of British and American long-range aircraft. That alone makes the details and reference material found in the book valuable assets for the aviation enthusiast and historian alike.

Carl J. Bobrow, Museum Specialist, National Air and Space Museum

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Author:Bobrow, Carl J.
Publication:Air Power History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2016
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