Book Review: To Rule the Winds: The Evolution of the British Fighter Force Through Two World Wars Volume 1: Prelude to Air War - The Years to 1914


by Michael C. Fox

Solihull, Eng.: Hellion / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2014. Pp. xviii, 296. Illus., tables, notes, biblio., index. $69.95. ISBN: 1909384143

The Birth of British Air Power

In this volume, the first in what promises to be an very serious look at the history of the British fighter, aviation historian Fox looks at the birth of the British fighter forces, before there even were fighter aircraft. Although naturally primarily concerned with the British side of the story, Fox adequately addresses developments by other nations, as these often influenced, or were influenced by trends in Britain.  

Fox opens with the origins of military aviation, from the invention of the balloon and its early use by various armed forces to the introduction of powered “dirigibles” through the development of the proper airplane by the Wrights, who were quickly followed by a number of other talented innovators.  He then looks at early military trials of the airplane and the first often surprisingly prescient glimmerings of the concept of “air power, often by men now wholly forgotten such as Col. John Davidson Fullerton, a remarkable visionary.

Fox then covers the formation of the first “air forces” and the early use of airplanes in maneuvers and in war.  He concludes the book with a look at the state of Britain’s Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service on the eve of the Great War, with chapters on the origins of the Air Ministry and the question of the air defense of Britain. Fox naturally devotes a lot of attention to technology, not only of the numerous types of airplanes developed in the period, but also experiments in radio communications, the development of infrastructure, and the rise of administrative institutions.  

To Rule the Winds is a n excellent read for anyone interested in the origins of military aviation or in the state of aviation on the eve of the Great War.

Reviewer: A.A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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