2 Jan /15


The word bomber first appeared in English one hundred years ago, in a description of combat during the First World War.

Originally coined in 1915, the term “bomber” referred to a soldier engaged in trench warfare who carried “some twenty or thirty bombs” or grenades around his waist. The bomber hurled his bombs towards the enemy from the relative safety of his trench.

As the war went on, technology developed quickly and soon bombs were dropped from the air by airships or aircraft. An early description of how planes took to war is found in Alan Bott’s war classic An Airman’s Outing, which was first published in 1917 and soon retitled Cavalry of the Clouds. Bott was a gunner who became a pilot and shot down five enemy planes. After the war, he became a journalist and the cofounder of Pan Books. In detail, the book describes the role and function of the bomber, which was to “make life a burden on the enemy lines of communication by ensuring he delivered his eggs at some factory, aerodrome, headquarter, railway junction or ammunition dump.” The book vividly describes the birth of modern aerial warfare tactics, such as fighter aircraft accompanying bombers on their missions.

By the time the Second World War arrived, air power was considered key to successful warfare, and bomber squadrons that would attack the enemy’s production facilities and infrastructure were an integral part of that strategy. It was at this time that the phrase “suicide bomber” was used for the first time, in conjunction with the attacks of kamikaze fighters in the Pacific Theater. However, the phrase became widely used in English only after a series of Lebanese suicide attacks targeting French and American soldiers in 1983.