World War One Flying



Aircraft development

A Pilot's war

WW1 aircraft exhibits





Books on World War One Flying


McCudden VC, James,  Flying Fury, Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps

Excellent contemporary account of James McCudden's successful career in the RFC rising from Aircraft mechanic to Major. It is told from the point of view of someone who understood the detail of his work and preparation. McCudden was one of the top scoring British Aces. He was initially with No 3 Sqn (Moranes) as a mechanic and later as an observer, he became a pilot and flew with No 20 Sqn (FE2bs), 29 Sqn (DH2s) and finally 56 Sqn (SE5s). Tragically he died as a result of a flying accident on the way to take up his appointment as CO of 60 Sqn in France.

Lewis, Cecil, Sagittarius Rising

Written 20 years after the war and therefore losing some detail and accuracy, Lewis gives an interesting account of his RFC war flying. He served with No 3 Sqn (Moranes) and 56 Sqn (SE5s) finishing on Home Defence Sqns 44, 61 (night flying Camels) and finally deploying to France just before the Armistice with 152 Sqn (Camels). There are a couple of  inaccuracies, associating Richthofen with the Fokker scourge (1915/16) which had largely finished by the time he appeared, and a claim that McCudden met his end in a dog fight (he died in a flying accident). Lewis joined the RFC aged 17 and was 20 at the end of the war. He went on to work for the Vickers Aircraft Company.

Richthofen, Manfred von, The Red Baron

A contemporary upbeat account by the Red Baron (the top scoring German Ace) of his successes against the Allies (all but one British and Commonwealth). Interesting to compare with McCudden’s account, particularly in his rather arrogant claims to have mastered the tactic of apparently spinning out of control to deceive his enemies. This practice was in fact well known and used by both sides. Richthofen was eventually brought down probably by ground fire and killed while being pursued by Capt Roy Brown on 21 April 1918.

Baring, Maurice,  Flying Corps Headquarters 1914 -18

A contemporary account of the RFC during the war as witnessed by the Staff Officer who served both General Henderson and General Trenchard when they commanded the RFC in France . An important insight into the politics of the RFC and to Trenchard’s reactions to the progress of the war. Sadly very little on 1918.

Bartlett, C P O, Bomber Pilot 1916-18

Edited by Chaz Bowyer and published in 1974, this account is based closely on Bartlett’s diary recording his time in the RNAS with Naval 5 and 205 Sqn RAF flying Sopwith 1½ Strutter’s and DH4’s in bombing roles.

Autobiographical Novels

Yeates, Victor M, Winged Victory

Written in the early 1930s by an RFC Camel pilot (he served with No 46 and 80 Sqns in 1918, completing 180 flying hours in France), the novel allows the author to give full vent to the feelings he experienced as a pilot. It provides an insight into life on an operational (Sopwith Camel) squadron that is difficult to convey in biographies. Importantly it allows criticism to be made without the need to apply it to real people. Acclaimed in the 1940s as a great aviation novel. Sadly Yeates died of TB at the age of 37, said to be due to war strain (known in the RFC as Flying Sickness D). [The 1934 original was 456 pages, an abridged version of 305 pages appeared in 1961, both versions have been republished since.]


Atkin, Gordon, Victor M Yeates

A new biography of Victor Yeates, the author of Winged Victory, tracing the reality behind his novel. A detailed analysis of the characters and events on which Yeates' novel was based. It also covers his life after the war, his writing and the struggle to publish.


Scott, A J L,   Sixty Squadron, A history of the Squadron 1916-19

Group Captain Scott served as CO of 60 Sqn for four months in 1917 before becoming a Wing Commander. He later became Air Secretary to Winston Churchill after the war. This historical record was written in 1920.

Winter, Denis, The First of the Few

Excellent summary of the development of fighter pilots in WW1, drawing on a number of the sources mentioned above. Many suggestions for further reading and references to documents in the National Archives.

Barker, Ralph, The Royal Flying Corps in World War 1 (previously The RFC in France)

A general history of the RFC in France, drawing on many sources, illustrating many points with detailed annecdotes. Highly recommended.

Wise, S F, Canadian Airmen and the First World War

A history of Canadians serving in the RFC/RNAS/RAF during the war

Harvey, W. F. J.  Pi' in the Sky (A history of 22 Squadron)

A short history of 22 Squadron during the First World War written by one of the War's top scoring Bristol Fighter pilots, providing an authoritative account of the Bristol F2B. The Squadron was equipped with FE2's when it first deployed to France.

Revell , Alex  High in the empty blue

A history of 56 Squadron, RFC/RAF 1916 to 1920 

Copyright © 2004