Deadly Skies – New Museum Exhibit Offers Colourful Look at History’s First Air War

A new museum exhibit uses life-sized comic-book art to tell the story of the WW1 air war. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

Larger than life comic-book art tells the story of the WW1 air war in Deadly Skies. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

“The illustrations track the evolution of air warfare through the eyes of nine real-life individuals who were there.”

CANADA’S NATIONAL MILITARY museum is putting a novel spin on history’s first air war — a graphic novel spin to be exact.

The Canadian War Museum’s newest exhibition, entitled Deadly Skies – Air War, 1914 – 1918, uses enormous mural-sized comic book illustrations to tell the story of history’s earliest military aviators as they forged a brand new form of combat high above the battlefields of Europe.

“The First World War represented the first large-scale use of aircraft in warfare,” says Stephen Quick, director general of the Ottawa-based museum. “Each side tried to control the skies to ensure victory on the ground, and by the end of the war, it had become an integral part of any military strategy.”

Terror at 10,000 feet -- history's first dogfighters learn their deadly trade. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

Terror at 10,000 feet — the first dogfighters learn their deadly trade. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

The illustrations track the evolution of air warfare through the eyes of nine real-life individuals who were there. Each character’s unique wartime experiences are showcased in a different part of the exhibit. Those featured include: Eric Ohman, a Canadian-born dogfighter; France’s Maurice Arondel, a battle-hardened balloon observer; Marjorie Stinson, a trailblazing female flying instructor; and of course legendary flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, aka the Red Baron. Recon fliers, bomber pilots and a Zeppelin skipper also appear in the stories.

Eric Ohman is just one of the many earlier aviators that figure prominently in Deadly Skies. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

Eric Ohman is just one of the many aviators that are brought to life in Deadly Skies. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

The panoramic galleries are accompanied by more than 80 artifacts from First World War aerodromes, some of which are on loan from Australian War Memorial, Britain’s Imperial War Museums and even the personal collection of noted filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson.

This Hythe gun camera, one of the many artifacts on display, helped rookie pilots perfect their areal gunnery skills. Instead of firing live rounds, the device snapped a picture when the trigger was pulled. Once the film was developed, pilots could see if they would have hit their target if they were in actual combat. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

This Hythe gun camera, one of the many artifacts on display, helped rookie pilots perfect their areal gunnery skills. Instead of firing live rounds, the device snapped a picture when the trigger was pulled. Once the film was developed, pilots could see if they would have hit their target if they were in actual combat. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

Other parts of the exhibition include a life-sized reproduction of an observation balloon basket, original pilot gear, interactive map activities and a computer-based World War One flight simulator.

Deadly Skies – Air War, 1914–1918 opened on June 9 and runs through January, 2017.

For more information, visit the Canadian War Museum.

The bombing of southern England by German Gothas, as seen in the exhibit. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

The bombing of southern England by German Gothas, as seen in the exhibit. (Image source: Canadian War Museum)

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