Following in the same style as his previous book of Fleet Air Arm recollections, Malcolm Smith has collected a compendium of reminiscences from pilots who flew for the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines during the First World War. He includes firsthand testimonies from pilots manning early seaplane stations, an enthralling account from F.J. Rutland (the 'Rutland of Jutland'), who became the first pilot to take off in a Sopwith Pup from a platform on the roof of one of HMS Yarmouth's gun turrets, the true tale behind Rudyard Kipling's short story 'A Flight of Fact' (concerning Guy Duncan-Smith's experience of becoming marooned in the Maldives following a dramatic shoot-down), amongst many other personalized and illuminating stories.
All these anecdotes are drawn from the extensive archive maintained by the Fleet Air Arm Museum at Yeovilton, Somerset. The archive contains an enormous quantity of material, in the form of handwritten diaries, transcripts, log books and documentation of many kinds. Alongside the written material, the Museum maintains an unrivaled photographic archive and a representative sample of these images is included in the book.
Excerpts from diaries, transcripts of spoken firsthand accounts and other recorded narratives make up the bulk of the book, with whole chapters dedicated to some of the most vocal members to see service during the course of the RNAS's Great War history. Guy Leather, a pilot destined to track an impressive trajectory with the RNAS features in one such chapter; his day to day accounts relay the full gamut of pilot experience at this time.
This humane and thoughtful consolidation of pilot reflections is sure to appeal broadly, particularly as we approach the one hundredth year anniversary of the First World War.
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