A Bleriot type X1 was the first aircraft to fly over the English Channel. For a thousand years the Royal Navy had protected England and in an afternoon (36 and half minutes, in fact) a Frenchman with a moustache almost as over-the-top as its owner’s new found celebrity, had flown over it like a kite on a breeze. ‘Britain is no longer an island’, said The Daily Express. And they were right too.
That flight changed everything. While many thought Bleriot’s achievement little more than a publicity stunt, there were soberer heads down in Whitehall. A special session of Parliament was called to discuss the potential threat from this, still relatively new, potential weapon. After all, what use is a navy when your enemy can fly over it? And if an aeroplane can carry a man, why not many men with weapons? Or bombs? Churchill, though First Lord of the Admiralty, was one of the first to see the enormous potential of the aeroplane and fought vigorously to use aeroplanes in combat.
I’m not being merely fiercely patriotic when I say that the Bleriot’s weren’t a great deal of help in the Battle of the Ark. Not a single one survived. And armed with only a machine-gun they couldn’t have been much more than a nuisance to a vessel longer than the Dreadnought. Sort of like a mosquito buzzing round an elephant. I just hope they didn’t get in the way of our B.E.2’s who were doing the real work. Oh, yes, I guess the Germans contributed a tad too.