Monday, 30 April 2018

Bonds not Bombs in Croydon: German War Reparations

Almost 7 years after the end of the First World War, Croydon Airport played a role in its economic aftermath when an aeroplane landed with £9,660,000 worth of bonds as part of Germany’s war reparation payment. The treaty of Versailles and then further treaties set an enormous bill for Germany officially named as the aggressors, then losers, in the war.

Illustrated London News, 5 September 1925, f.5

The plane flew from Amsterdam to London on 25th August 1925. It was of interest partly as it was a new Swedish Junkers Type F.24 with triple engine and all metal – the first to land in Britain. It and the pilot had been chattered by the German government to convey the money to Britain. One of our project volunteers, Cassie Pope explains more about the reparations. . .

How much was Germany expected to pay?

The London Ultimatum of 1921 set the total German war reparations cost at 132 billion gold marks. This total was made up of three categories known as A, B and C bonds. The burden of this bill amounted to over 260% of Germany's GDP in 1913. It was decided that the C bonds, valued at 82 billion gold marks, wouldn't realistically be paid. This left the total around 50 billion gold marks, which did not significantly exceed Germany's expectation of a bill between 30 and 40 billion.

Germany Defaults

Almost from the start, Germany fell behind on deliveries of timber and coal, which were accepted as one form of payment. By 1923, the scale of Germany's default led to the occupation of an area of the industrial Ruhr region by French and Belgian forces. With its industrial heartland crippled, the German economy teetered on collapse.

The Dawes Plan

The Leeds Mercury, 26 August 1925
The German economy was faltering, and a commission was formed to reexamine the reparations schedule. The resulting Dawes Plan of 1924 reorganised the repayment schedule but did not reduce the total amount. The new schedule called for an initial reduction of German yearly repayments, which would then pick up as the economy improved, reaching a steady rate by 1929. Germany would also receive $200 billion in foreign loans, predominantly through bonds issued by the United States.

Prior to 1925 German reparations predominantly took the form of payments in kind. After 1924 the proportion of payments in foreign currency increased.

German Payments in the First Year

First year of the Dawes Plan ran from 1st September 1924. The first annuity amounted to 1,000,000,000 gold marks, which was paid within the year into the account of the Agent General for Reparations Payments with the Reichsbank. Four-fifths (800,000,000) of this amount was paid out of the proceeds of external loans. One-fifth (200,000,000) was paid from the bonds of the German Railway Company.* 

The Railway Company made its payment in two installments of bonds. The first, totaling 100 million gold marks, was paid on February 28th, 1925. The second, installment of 100 million gold marks was due on September 1st, 1925. This payment was made in advance, with 40 million paid on August 1st, and the balance of 60 million paid on August 31st.  

'The Plan generally is functioning smoothly, and all those concerned in its execution have worked together loyally and in a spirit of friendly accommodation.'

It is this last installment that is arriving in Croydon Airport. For security G. H. J Jeffs, a British observer was also on the aircraft, who wrote a report for the Civil Aviation Traffic Office on landing. As the newspaper put it, it was Bonds not Bombs that were coming from Germany now.

By Cassie Pope

*Information taken from Report of the Agent General for Reparations Payments. November 30th, 1925. London, His Majesty's Stationery Office 

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Reconstructing the First World War Aerodrome: Wooden Huts behind C Hanger

Continuing with our virtual tour of the Croydon Aerodrome in the First World War, below are images of the wooden huts and area behind C Hanger:

Monday, 23 April 2018

Reconstructing the First World War Aerodrome at Croydon / Beddington in Detail: the ambulance station

Pilots (and other crew) were very likely to have accidents in training, as we have blogged previously. Fire was one of the most likely and lethal outcomes of an air crash as well as broken limbs. It was essential to have an ambulance and medical equipment at an airfield. Roger Potten has recreated the ambulance station at Croydon / Beddington.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Reconstructing the First World War Aerodrome at Croydon / Beddington in Detail: Bombing Observation Tower

One of the new training procedures brought in was target practice for pilots to bomb designated locations. In the field these would mainly be trenches, army camps or Zeppelin bases. Roger Potten has reconstructed the bombing observation tower that was used in this training - one side of the airfield seems to have been effectively used for target practice.

Compare this with Montgomery Martin's photograph below:

Monday, 16 April 2018

Reconstructing the First World War Aerodrome at Croydon / Beddington in Detail: Hangers, HQ and Camels

Following on from our previous post on Roger Potten's reconstructions of the aerodrome between 1916-1919, these images illustrate the hangers (and therefore detail aspects of the training) on the site. The light and the grass make the reconstructions seem even more real. The images are constantly being added to as Roger finds more details from visiting other places, such as Stow Maries.

View from the Hanger

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Building Beddington / Croydon Aerodrome in 1918

The last post detailed the activities of volunteer Roger Potten in mapping out the aerodrome and airfield from 1917 to 1920. Drawing on photographs and what maps he could find, Roger has illustrated the rapid growth of the aerodrome after it became the base for the Training Squadron. Roger has also carefully reconstructed the buildings by date. These shots of the aerodrome reconstruct it from 1918 and give a sense of the scale of it

A view showing Plugh Lane and the farm to the right.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Mapping the Aerodrome in the First World War

Roger Potten is one of our highly skilled archive volunteers who has been working on rebuilding the first Croydon Airport (1919-1927) on a platform called Sketch Up. This software enables the building of architecture to create sophisticated 3 dimensional reconstructions with intricate detail and texture.
First airport tower, 1923

When the Heritage Lottery Fund awarded Historic Croydon Airport Trust a grant to investigate the first world war origins of what became Croydon Airport, Roger turned his attention to 1916-1918. He began building up a reconstruction what started as an airstrip overshadowed by the farm on Plough Lane in 1916 to a large RAF training aerodrome, complete with bombing practice range, by 1918. In doing this Roger has found the photographs of Herbert Montgomery Martin, previously blogged, invaluable for building up an accurate picture of the layout of the airfield and aerodrome and the intricate details needed for the added texture. This blog shares the maps that Roger has pieced together of the airfield and aerodrome from 1917-1919.

By summer 1918 the training airfield had grown dramatically and surrounds the farm with a camp now on the farm side of Plough Lane. The Training Squadron was still growing.

Shortly after the war ended, the RAF (newly formed on 1 April 1918) was still using the airfield and aerodrome for training purposes and for taking civilians and politicians to Paris for the Versailles war treaty negotiations. The farm is now entirely overshadowed and Plough Lane is clearly a barrier in the aerodrome.

By 1920, the aerodrome was designated for civilian transportation and became an airport, i.e. having a customs and excises for duty on imported and exported goods.