berlin 1921

French Pilot Drops Leaflets on Berlin

Anselme Marchal (1882-1921).

June 19 1916, Nancy–While the Germans had targeted Paris and London multiple times from the air, Berlin, far removed from the front lines, had so far been isolated from any Allied air activity.  This changed on the night of June 19, when Lt. Anselme Marchal took off in a specially modified Nieuport monoplane from Nancy in Lorraine.  Given the distances involved, an attack on Berlin was impossible, but he brought with him 5000 leaflets, excoriating the Hohenzollerns and the Habsburgs for their role in starting the war, which he dropped onto the surprised population of Berlin in the early hours of June 20.  They read, in part:

We could bomb the open city of Berlin and kill women and children, but we will simply make the following proclamation to the people: From the French airmen to the people of Berlin; you are fighting for your bloodthirsty kings, and for your Junkers…We fight for the freedom of all people, against the tyranny of a military caste; we want a massacre like the one we are witnessing to become impossible forever.

Returning back to France was impossible given the winds and limited fuel, but Marchal hoped to make it to the Russian lines, before returning to France via another raid on Vienna.  However, a spark plug failure forced him to land near Chelm, in Austrian-occupied Poland, where he was captured by the Austrians.  Given Russia’s recent advances in the Brusilov offensive, this was under 100 miles from the Russian lines near Lutsk, after a flight of more than 800 miles.  He would remain a prisoner in Austria and Germany until 1918.

Today in 1915: Boulogne Conference Pessimistic on Allied Offensive Before 1916

Sources include: Randal Gray, Chronicle of the First World War.