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British RFC reconnaissance statistics from the Battle of the Somme in 1916

With the invention of the Wright Brothers' first aircraft in 1903 it was inevitable that this technology would be used in the theater of war. The First World War was the first time that reconnaissance and attacks were conducted aerially, and the British Royal Flying Corps (which would later become the Royal Air Force) was one of the pioneers of these technologies and techniques. The British used observation balloons and airplanes to gather intelligence and orchestrate attacks against their enemies, and over the course of the Battle of the Somme they took over 19 thousand photographs. This intel was then used to organize approximately 300 aerial and over 8.5 thousand artillery attacks. These endeavors did however result in the deaths of 191 observers.

As with aerial technology, wireless developments also played an important role in the Battle of the Somme. During the First World War, wireless technology was used by both sides to transmit messages in Morse code, particularly by the navies. The German army also began developing and improving wireless technology more rapidly than the allied forces, as the allies had interrupted their copper supply which was used to build wire networks.

From the graph we can see that the RFC had 542 ground stations throughout the battle, which received the messages transmitted from above. Although telephone lines remained the most used form of communication throughout the war, wireless technology proved invaluable when these telephone lines were destroyed. The RFC had 306 aircraft fitted with wireless technology, which also contributed to the previously mentioned aerial and artillery attacks. At the beginning of the battle the RFC had 689 wireless operators, and this number increased to 883 by the end of the battle, with 27 operator casualties during this time.

Royal Flying Corps statistics regarding aerial reconnaissance and wireless technology used in the First Battle of the Somme in 1916

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Release date

July 2019


United Kingdom

Survey time period

July 1 to November 18, 1916

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Statistics on "Defense industry in the United Kingdom"

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