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Poilus of the Skies

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Poilus of the Skies
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Marcel Nadaud
Date Published: 2013/12
Page Count: 212
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-256-1
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-78282-255-4

Two novels of the pilot Chignole during the Great War

French author Marcel Nadaud was well regarded for his novels and stories, several of which were filmed. As France was the first nation to employ fighter-pilots in its air force, he was also one of the earliest to write novels about conflict in the skies. A number of Nadaud’s novels were translated into English, and this present Leonaur volume offers those with an interest in the early days of air warfare an opportunity to read two of his charming and whimsical tales about Chignole—his central character—and his comrades life in the French air force as they fought the Hun in the skies over France during the First World War.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

Lightened of his load. Papa Charles flew toward the lines, increasing his altitude as he flew. The rotation speed of his engine did not improve, but the decrease was not marked. That was a good sign, and he hummed a fox trot which recalled happy hours. He was glad of his decision. His companions would be much astonished at his fantastic departure, and the slanderous tongue would be silenced. As Chignole would say, it would give the squadron a jolt,—and at the thought of the figure the latter was certainly cutting at the present moment, he laughed aloud, just as the enemy fired his first shell. His squad was coming back, its task ended, and he darted toward the planes, wove his way among them, exchanged salutes with several, and then guided by the pond of Lindre, shining on his right under the last rays of the sun, he easily made out his goal.
He had to double, as two Huns were pursuing him. But when they shot, he dived as if he were struck and were falling; and he pretended so well that they let him go down quietly, and he found himself just over the aerodrome. The hangars were visible despite their camouflage; In front, some monoplanes marked with black crosses were going out. He turned half way round, released the bombs, straightened up, veered, and fled toward the frontier.
For a moment, the Boches were perplexed by this unexpected manoeuvre; then enraged at being tricked, they hurled themselves in his wake. But luckily for Papa Charles, at that moment the Farmans, flanked by the Nieuports, found the range for the batteries, so the Boches preferred not to give battle, but to let the Voisin continue unmolested on its way. “That’s done!”
But just then four shells encircled him and he felt a lively heat at his back. A shot had cut through a tube of the radiator, and the boiling water was spouting through the crack. This shower bath did not disturb him much, but if the radiator ran dry, the engine could not be cooled; it would sticky and there would be a breakdown. So he let go the joy-stick, and stopped the flow by twisting the pipe with a pair of pliers. But when he took hold of the steering gear again to bring his biplane back into the right road and avoid collisions, he was horror struck at the new situation confronting him. The controls of the joy-stick would not move. He leaned over. The cables of the elevator were broken and hung down brushing the screw. He closed the inlet to prevent the propeller from coming in contact with them and smashing, and he tried to re-establish his equilibrium with the help of the rudder-bar. But the machine tipped violently on its nose and began to spin round on the end of the cockpit.
It was the tail-spin.
He felt as if he were attached to a giant gimlet, hung in space, which increased its speed with every twist. Head down, clinging with all his might so as not to be pitched out of his seat, he shut his eyes to avoid the dizziness which he felt when he saw the ground apparently pitching round him in a spiral. He had one brief gleam of hope, when the machine slid and came back to level. He opened his eyes: eight hundred metres. Saved? No. He dived again, and again the tail-spin began.
This was the end. Whatever happened, he was done for. There was no longer height enough even for an improbable flattening out. The end. The two words hammered frightfully in his ears which were whistling under the rapid change of atmospheric pressure. The end. Nothing to do about it. He was the victim of forces subdued but not yet enslaved.
But he would not die smashed under the weight of his biplane. He undid his belt, opened his arms, and with a great cry flung himself to meet that cruel earth which seemed to rush up toward him in order to devour him more quickly.