The 1912 Military Aeroplane Competition sought to find the best flying machine for British Army needs. But when the contenders gathered on Salisbury Plain, the futility of the endeavour became clear
During the 20th century’s first decade, as the earliest aeroplanes emerged, thoughts in some places turned to their possible future military use. Leading the world in the new art, France in particular was swift to explore the idea. Just one month following Louis Blériot’s epic Channel crossing, in August 1909 Général Pierre Roques, director of engineers in the Ministry of War, sent officers to the Reims aviation week meeting at nearby Bétheny flying field. The officers were tasked with identifying aeroplanes of potential value to the army. One role the French appreciated was aerial surveillance of enemy troops, having used observation balloons since the 1859 Franco-Austrian war. In September 1909, Roques ordered a Blériot monoplane, two Farman biplanes and two Wright biplanes. The following year he became France’s inspector of military aeronautics.