Book Review
The German balloon corps and aerial reconnaissance
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by: Darren Baker [ CMOT ]


When thinking about the battles fought in the trenches of the Great War, what comes to mind is first and foremost infantry, supported by tanks, artillery and airplanes. Yet another major arm of service also played a vital role that up to present day remained hidden behind the better-known services: the Feldluftschiffertruppe.

The Feldluftschiffer, or Feldluftschiffertruppe (balloon corps) provided extensive and often decisive reconnaissance of enemy troop movements and artillery positions, and guided the German forces' own artillery fire and infantry attacks. The balloon corps itself was a weapon of the 19th century that was to play its most important role in the war of 1914-18. Never before and never after would it reach such fame. Without the balloon corps and other means of aerial reconnaissance the Imperial German Army would have been blind.

Describing the balloon types and tactics in hitherto unknown detail, this publication also shows the ground equipment and soldiers of the Feldluftschiffertruppe in photographs, almost all of which are seen here for the very first time. This is the most comprehensive documentation published on a crucial asset of the Imperial German Army that undeservedly had been neglected for too long.


Unlike most of the titles from Tankograd Publishing this book is in English only, as such I am unsure if there is a German text version of this publication. This is one of Tankograd Publishing thicker books having 96 pages as opposed to the 60 pages which is a more usual page count. The text in this book is split over ten pages, which being in English only gives a fair amount of information. The time span covered in this book is from the 1884 through to the end of World War One.

The text in the book is split into six chapters with one of the chapters being broken down into sub-sections, there is also an introduction to the book. Below is a breakdown of the chapters in the book.
Introduction by the publisher
  • Aerial reconnaissance in the Great War
  • The German balloon corps
    • Balloontruppe history1884 - 1914
    • Balloon corps uniform
    • The Parsival-Sigsfeld dragon balloon
    • 1914 - War
    • 1915 larger dragons and better equipment
    • Parachutes
    • 1915-16 improvements
    • 1917 reorganization
    • The AE balloon
    • 1918 German offensives
    • Protecting the balloons
    • Army weather service
    • Other balloon units
    • Highest decorations
    • The end of the Great War
  • Long distance reconnaissance by airship
  • Aerial reconnaissance by airplane
  • Aerial reconnaissance by pidgeon
  • Conclusion

Aerial Reconnaissance in the Great War
This is a very short section of the book which is really an introduction. There is some sobering information provided such as the number of deaths that occurred in the Aerial reconnaissance role, with the fact that a number of observers were killed by the artillery fire they were directing, and that some crews were coming down with severe hypothermia and having to defrost before they could report or for that matter be understood.

The German Balloon Corps
This section with all of its sub-sections is where most of the information included can be garnered. The story of the German balloon corps from 1884 to 1914 is a little odd as it for the most part reads backwards, but it does provide a fair insight into how the corps grew. The section covering the uniform is very short but provides enough information to understand why the poor beggars froze and to replicate the uniform if needed. The book then takes you through the Great War and covers the balloon corps and its trials and tribulations to a reasonable depth by looking at a good number of facets of the war and how it pertained to the balloon corps.

Long Distance Reconnaissance by Airship
The airship and its use during the Great War is surprising short, the reason for this being that the airship was used as a bomber more than for reconnaissance. The story of the airship corps barely scratches the surface; however there is information that will be of use to some. The crew compliments of the airships are covered and their roles on board along with the number of ground crew required to launch and retrieving these huge airships.

Aerial Reconnaissance by Airplane
This section of the book covers a couple of pages and so being all in English does provide a reasonable amount of information on World War One aircraft performing the reconnaissance role. The section even has a small amount of information on the Navel air service.

The section on aerial reconnaissance by pidgeon and the conclusion are only a single paragraph in length. Aerial reconnaissance by pidgeon I can hear you thinking; this basically consisted ofa timed camera being attached to the pidgeons breast and sending the birds out over the enemy positions. You may be surprised to learn that this method had positive results but was not widely utilised.

The Pictures
Taking into account that the First World War ended 95 years ago you would expect the pictures to be of a questionable quality, well that is not the case as for the most part the pictures are of an excellent quality. The pictures really are the stars of this book and considering that all of people that took part in World War One are dead, these pictures are kind of like their legacy to us and I am amazed that Tankograd Publications managed to accrue so many high quality pictures.


If you have an interest in the Aerial portion of World War One or the story of Aerial reconnaissance this book is a must have. This is a great reference for anyone wanting to depict a mostly forgotten aspect of the war and well worth the price.
Highs: The book as a whole is a great buy with a very generous number of high quality period pictures.
Lows: There are no negatives to this publication as far as I am concerned.
Verdict: Very highly recommended.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 1008
  Suggested Retail: 25.00
  PUBLISHED: Jun 22, 2013

Our Thanks to Tankograd Publishing!
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About Darren Baker (CMOT)

I have been building model kits since the early 70s starting with Airfix kits of mostly aircraft, then progressing to the point I am at now building predominantly armour kits from all countries and time periods. Living in the middle of Salisbury plain since the 70s, I have had lots of opportunitie...

Copyright 2021 text by Darren Baker [ CMOT ]. All rights reserved.


How many pages?
JUN 22, 2013 - 07:49 AM
JUN 22, 2013 - 04:27 PM

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