A century ago a British warship underwent a conversion that climaxed in a history-making raid that changed the face of naval warfare forever charts the story of the seven aviators who launched the First-ever strike from an aircraft carrier in a daring attack on the German Zeppelin base at Tondern in the summer of 1918.

ABOVE Carrier first: Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning makes the first sea landing on HMS Furious on 2 August 1917, with the help of fellow pilots grabbing hold of the aircraft’s toggles. Five days later he was killed trying to repeat the feat for a third time. (CHAZ BOWYER
Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bell Davies VC, DSO, AFC (1886-1966) seen here as head of the Naval Air Section shortly after the war. As Senior Officer Flying on Furious, Bell Davies selected the pilots, organised the training and gave the final decision to go ahead with the raid on Tondern. He rose to become a vice-admiral during the Second World War.
HMS Furious, after her stern conversion. The crash netting designed to prevent any errant aircraft ploughing into the superstructure can be seen aft of the funnel

It was hardly the most auspicious of beginnings for a mission destined to revolutionise naval warfare and change the course of history. Barely an hour into the trailblazing sortie across the North Sea, the ragged formation of biplanes was in serious trouble. Blown off course by high winds and already reduced by mechanical trouble to just three aircraft, they were now struggling to stay together. For some unaccountable reason two of the machines appeared to be labouring and unable to keep pace with the leader’s distinctive blue and white chequernosed aircraft. Little wonder then that Captain Bernard Smart was worried.

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