Introduction - The Cavalry of the Clouds? New Research in the Development and Experience of Air Power in the British Empire during the First World War


  • Ross Mahoney
  • Michael Molkentin


In October 1917, the British Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, evocatively and memorably described Britain’s military aviators as ‘the cavalry of the clouds [...] the knighthood of this war’.1 In doing so, Lloyd George drew on a cultural motif that had been developing in Britain in the previous two decades. As aircraft became a practical reality, advocates of the new technology had influenced the public to see them as representative of a new epoch in human civilisation – the air age – and to perceive the aviators who flew them as ‘a special breed - that of the ultimate hero’.2 Ideas about aviation’s exceptionalism extended into the predictions and expectations that many had regarding its impact on future conflict. The most ardent adherents of the new religion of air-mindedness foresaw in the aircraft a decisive weapon: one that might even supplant the traditional arms of land and sea power in exercising a strategic influence in warfare.