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Fighting the Red Barron 2010

  • Ended
  • Channel 4
  • 2010-06-04T00:00:00Z
  • 60 mins
  • Documentary

In 1914, when World War 1 began the aeroplane was so new the British had never used it in battle before. Eager recruits, some as young as seventeen, rushed to join the British army's new aircraft service – the Royal Flying Corps-and quickly came up against the Red Baron and the German hunting squadrons. By the end of the war in 1918 the Royal Air Force had been formed to counter a new and terrifying form of warfare. At the outset of WW1 the aeroplane was seen as having little use other than to act as a spotter plane for the cavalry and artillery. But in the space of 6 months – the bloodiest of the war – a group of young pilots transformed the role of the aeroplane into a deadly killing machine that changed the nature of warfare forever. This is the story of those 6 months, centring around Bloody April during which the average life expectancy of a pilot was reduced to just 3 weeks. The film is told though the first hand accounts of the actual pilots, painstakingly documented in Josh Levins book 'On a Wing and a Prayer' and archaeological digs. The documentary also introduces two current day RAF Red Arrow pilots to fly the original WW1 fighters, to find out how this pioneering form of warfare changed so rapidly during the conflict. They discover how, in just four years, planes were transformed from flimsy flying machines to the warplanes we recognise today; they find that all the aspects of modern aerial warfare – from surveillance to high-altitude bombing – were created by their pioneering counterparts almost a hundred years ago.

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