H. A. Titcomb’s letter 11 January 1918

(from Lanchester’s file)





11th January 1918


C.W. Purington, Esq.,

Hon Sec.

American Committee of Engineers in London

6, Copthall Avenue E.C.


Dear Sir,

In connection with my recent Report on Germany’s Iron Industry and the War, I submit the following suggestions for increasing the efficiency of Air attacks on German War Industrial Centres.


My Iron Report illustrates one example only of Germany’s industries to be attacked.


In Great Britain at any rate, no demand has been made by the Authorities upon such leading and important scientific Societies as the Iron and Steel Institute or the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy for co-operation in studying the various War Industries of Germany, and it is reasonable to assume that, since these important Societies have not been asked to contribute their valuable knowledge, no general invitation has been extended to the Scientific and Manufacturing Societies and Associations – at least in Great Britain. I therefore, submit to the Committee the following general suggestions for their consideration.

Yours faithfully


(Signed) Harold Abbot Titcomb.









Numerous articles are appearing in the Press every day in England, America, Italy and France, calling attention and giving details of vast preparations which are being made for aerial attacks against Germany.  Articles and statements by important public men in these countries and by Government officials confirm these facts.  The French General Staff on October 18th 1917 advises that the Germans are well aware of these facts, and are already straining every nerve in order to meet the allied air offensive next year.  Throughout Germany factories are being commandeered, and new aeroplane and motor buildings constructed and labour secured for this purpose.


The American Secretary of War, Mr. Baker, announces that 20,000 aeroplanes are actually under construction in America, and our Ambassador in London, Mr. Page, announces that 100,000 American flying men are in training.


It cannot be doubted that these vast squadrons of aircraft should be utilised to the very best possible advantage in order to secure the most decisive results from their use. Any suggestions which might tend to increase the efficiency of the allied air campaign are, therefore, in order, and should be put forward for consideration by the higher authorities.  The following suggestions, or some small portion of them, may be of assistance in deciding the personnel of the General Air Staffs which will undoubtedly be appointed among the allied nations and especially of assistance in connection with the selection or appointment of the Air Strategy Staffs.



The various Airboards and Flying Authorities are fully competent to plan and carry out attacks upon the recognised military objectives of the enemy.  They are better acquainted than anyone else with the location of Aerodromes, Zeppelin sheds, Submarine Bases, Munition dumps, Railway communications, Bridges, and other ordinarily recognised military objectives; but these Air Boards (as at present constituted) probably do not represent the maximum efficiency and knowledge of the best industrial objectives in Germany.


There are in America, France and England, thousands of men, manufacturers, metallurgists, chemists and engineers who have a vast personal knowledge of Germany’s war industrial centres; where they are located and their relative importance for carrying on the war.  These men can serve their country best by placing their knowledge at the service of the General Staff who should direct and control the strategy of the coming great air attacks against Germany’s war industries.


Such civilians must necessarily know much more about these war industries and their importance than purely military or naval men can hope to do. The decision as to what industrial places are most important to attack should be left, therefore, not to Soldiers or Sailors, but to a properly constituted Civilian Board of the type above described.  This Civilian Board should make a most careful and detailed survey of the entire question, and prepare lists of places in Germany showing their relative war-importance to the enemy.  This list could be submitted to the Staff governing air tactics, which latter Staff could decide upon the relative susceptibility to attack of the different places specified.  A Joint Commission of the strategists and tacticians could then finally decide upon the objectives to be attacked, thus securing the most disastrous effects against Germany, coupled with the smallest losses to our own air fleet.



There are many vital spots and nerve centres of Germany which are the very life and source of her power in war.  Her remarkable organization of certain industries is enabling her to carry on the war and hold at bay the allied nations for years.  Amongst the most vital of such jiu-jitsu spots can be suggested the following.


  • Iron Mines of Lorraine, the principal source of Germany’s Iron and Steel.
  • Ironworks, especially those with blast-furnaces, which latter are remarkably sensitive to injury; are slow and difficult again to get into running order; are very easily seen and recognised from many miles distance. If an iron Blast-furnace is “frozen up” it may require months before it can resume operation.
  • Submarine Storage Batteries. The Akkumulatoren Fabrik, at Hagen, Westphalia is the largest maker in Germany.
  • Diesel Engine Works – where are manufactured the engines without which submarines could not operate. The two best submarine engines are the “Augsburg” and the “Krupp” engines, the former of which are made by Mechinin Fabrik at Augsburg and Nuremburg, and the latter by Krupp’s at Essen.
  • Jena, Wetzlar and Berlin, are centres of Germany’s marvellous optical industries, where are constructed their best periscopes, gun sights, tele-photographic apparatus and field and marine glasses.
  • Coal Mines.
  • Munition Factories.
  • Chemical Works and Dye Works, now largely engaged in manufacture of explosives. For example, the Elberfeld Dye Works have a very large factory at Elberfeld, and another large works on the Rhine some 5 or 6 miles North of Cologne on the east bank of the river.  These are particularly important Chemical factories.


In the forgoing brief list no mention has been made, of course, of submarine bases, aeroplane sheds, aerodromes, railway communications, bridges, etc, which have been up to the present the principal air objectives.



SUGGESTION.  It is suggested that the above matters are proper ones to be considered and taken up by the American Committee of Engineers in London, and it is hoped that attention be called to these matters, and co-operation secured with all possible other engineering, manufacturing and commercial organizations in America, England and France, to aid our respective Governments in any way possible and assist them in co-ordinating the information which exists among the civilian members of the various engineering societies and business men.



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