Readers interested in the personal experiences of the resolute and brave young men who ventured into the air to fight the first aerial combats will discover much to reward them in this book. The author joined the R. F. C in 1914 to fight Germany following its invasion of Belgium and advance into France at the beginning of the First World War. However, he was, in fact an American much taken with the idea of adventure as well as the righting of wrongs. Roberts’ first experience of air fighting for the British flying corps was as an observer manning a machine gun and his descriptions of battling enemy aircraft and his accounts of his various ‘kills’ make gripping reading. Eventually he graduated to the pilot’s cockpit where he became an accomplished exponent of the dogfight; this did not come without some cost, Roberts lost many comrades and was seriously wounded himself. This account is highly recommended since it brings to life through many anecdotes the first hand experiences of one who was there. This book is one of a very small number by early military aviators and will be a valuable addition to the library of anyone with an interest in the subject.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The following week, while on reconnaissance about thirty miles behind the German lines, our machine and another were flying along merrily when we were tackled by six Germans. The odds were against us, so we headed for our own lines at an elevation of about six thousand feet.<br>
The Huns, however, had made up their minds that we should not get away if they could prevent it, and they attacked us. Some of them were trying to get ahead of us, while others sought to get directly underneath us, so that they could reach us the better with their machine guns. One of the machines got over us. In fact, they overlooked no point of vantage to put an end to our career. Finally, one of the Huns, who seemed more daring than the others, made straight for the other machine. I began to fire. After a while the tracers hit his engine and then he glided to earth. I cursed my luck for having only disabled him.<br>
The other machines were still flying around us, though by this time in larger circles. Although we were now near our own lines, they kept pegging away at us and some of their bullets kept spinning past us dangerously close.<br>
Just as we got over our lines, the Huns made another big try to get us. Our machines separated in order to not give the Germans a chance to attack us together. Two of them went for my machine while the other three attacked the other. I fought my opponents at long range, hoping to hold them off in that manner. But they were energetic and daring enough. They closed in on us and the rattle of their machine guns could be heard above the roar of my engine, so close were they.<br>
The Huns decided to try other tactics. One of them started to climb while the other kept on a level with us. Not one of them remained in any position very long. Of a sudden the Hun machine which had managed to get well above us began to dive, and as he did so its gunner landed a bullet in the shoulder of my pilot. Captain Robertson.<br>
I feared that the captain had been disabled, and was ready to jump into his place. If he lost consciousness the machine would be out of control, and in that case it would have been the last trip for both of us.<br>
Captain Robertson remained conscious. He seemed unable, however, to keep control of the machine. We began to descend rapidly towards Hun land and I had visions already of being captured and made a prisoner of war.<br>
To find out in what state the pilot was I shouted at him. Instead of saying a word, however, he pointed up at one of the Huns who had just passed us. That signal, as I presently came to understand, was intended to show me that we were to dive to the ground.<br>
A grand nose dive came. It was made at so steep an angle that the oil rushed out of the breather pipes and covered my face. It also blinded my goggles so that I was obliged to waste time in wiping them off with my handkerchief.<br>
But that was soon done. There was a whole drum of cartridges, on the machine, and as the Hun came to my level again I let fly at him. I saw him raise himself, then he dropped back in his seat—dead.