1 Nov: The Flying Artilleryman

Dropping bombs from planes was unheard of until 1st November 1911, when Italian Lieutenant Giulio Gavotti embarked on an aerial mission over Libya. With a handful of lightweight grenades resting in his lap, he headed to Ain Zara, a village near Tripoli, and chucked them overboard.

This audacious act occurred only eight years after the Wright brothers’ initial flight. Early planes were difficult to manoeuvre, and unable to handle significant weight due to their construction from lightweight wood and paper. Nonetheless, the haphazard nature of the bombing attempt, involving improvised techniques and a lack of sophistication, was a bold step in the evolution of military aviation. 

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly explain how Gavotti’s act laid the groundwork for aerial warfare, sparking discussions about the morality and strategic implications of bombing civilian sites; consider how the Italian press celebrated the achievement as ‘the art of winged death’; and reveal why Gavotti was not called a ‘bomber’, but ‘a Flying Artillerman’…

Further Reading:

• ‘Libya 1911: How an Italian pilot began the air war era’ (BBC News, 2011): https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13294524

• ‘The World’s First Bombing Attack From The Air – Giulio Gavotti’ (Century Of Flight, 2019): https://www.century-of-flight.net/the-worlds-first-bombing-attack/

• ‘Douhet and Command of the Air’ (The Dole Institute of Politics, 2017):