The 1914-18 conflict narrated through the voices of the men whose combat was in the air.
The empty chairs belonged, all too briefly, to the doomed young First World War airmen who failed to return from the terrifying daily aerial combats above the trenches of the Western Front. The edict of their commander-in-chief was the missing aviators were to be immediately replaced. Before the new faces could arrive, the departed men's vacant seats at the squadron dinner table were sometimes poignantly occupied by their caps and boots, placed there in a sad ritual by their surviving colleagues as they drank to their memory.
Life for most of the pilots of the Royal Flying Corps was appallingly short. If they graduated alive and unmaimed from the flying training that killed more than half of them before they reached the front line, only a few would for very long survive the daily battles they fought over the ravaged moonscape of no-man's-land. Their average life expectancy at the height of the war was measured only in weeks. Parachutes that began to save their German enemies were denied them.
Fear of incarceration, and the daily spectacle of watching close colleagues die in burning aircraft, took a devastating toll on the nerves of the world's first fighter pilots. Many became mentally ill. As they waited for death, or with luck the survivable wound that would send them back to 'Blighty', they poured their emotions into their diaries and streams of letters to their loved ones at home.
Drawing on these remarkable testimonies and pilots' memoirs, Ian Mackersey has brilliantly reconstructed the First Great Air War through the lives of its participants. As they waited to die, the men shared their loneliness, their fears, triumphs - and squadron gossip - with the families who lived in daily dread of the knock on the door that would bring the War Office telegram in its fateful green envelope.
|Publisher:||Orion Publishing Group, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Ian Mackersey is a writer and documentary film-maker; his speciality is aviation biography. He began his career as a writer for The Dominion and later the New Zealand Herald, and has lived in Britain, Rhodesia and Zambia, before returning to New Zealand.
Visit his website at www.ianmackersey.com
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations vii
1 The Reluctant Inventors 7
2 The Aeroplane Goes to War 17
3 Enter 'Boom' 28
4 Brave Lives Given for Others 38
5 The Fokker Scourge 47
6 Public Schoolboys Wanted 58
7 The Instructors Who Stuttered 67
8 Unhappiness in Parliament 79
9 Giants Dripping Death 86
10 Zeppelin Stalkers 98
11 The 'Fees' Come to France 104
12 Terror Above the Somme 108
13 Morale and the Offensive Spirit 114
14 Bloody April 127
15 Going 'Mad Dog' 141
16 An Airman's Wife 156
17 The Mothers 164
18 The 'Bloody Wonderful Drunks' 181
19 They Also Served 190
20 The Majors 204
21 The Raid That Never Was 209
22 Gothas 223
23 America Comes to London 236
24 Operation Michael 242
25 Death of the Red Baron 249
26 The Spent Capital of Courage 260
27 The Working-Class Heroes 270
28 Flamerinoes 280
29 Waning of the Spirit 293
30 The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day 309
31 Silence of a Desolate Land 320
Select Bibliography 342
Source Notes 348
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