Those incredible young men in their flying machines at war
This excellent book contains nearly thirty accounts of the extraordinary exploits of allied airman at war in the skies high above the mud, barbed wire and trenches of the Western Front during the First World War. Enthusiasts of the subject and period will find much here to interest them as the author takes us aloft with the Ariel V. C's, into No Man's Land, on bombing raids, through mid-air pistol duels, up with the kite-balloons, with the sea-planes over the cold and inhospitable ocean and many other fascinating accounts of the earliest days of air combat and the brave, individualistic aviators who fought it. This an ideal book for those with a fascination for the time when flight meant a flimsy machine of wire, canvas and wood with a hero at the controls. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket.
Pilot and observer looked one another in the face. Death seemed certain. Even if the engine had been running and the pilot able to manoeuvre so that their guns could be used to advantage, the odds of ten to one—ten scouts to one comparatively slow reconnaissance machine—were too great to contemplate with any hope of success.<br>
Little by little the Huns approached, until the leading scout came within range and poured out a stream of bullets. In his excitement the Hun shot wildly, and his bullets went wide of the mark. A moment later the first burst from the British machine caught the scout fair in the middle of the fuselage; a sheet of flame shot up, the pilot was seen to fall forward in his seat, and the aeroplane plunged earthwards, a blazing mass.<br>
Nine scouts were left, and the British machine was unable to attack its aggressors. Three Huns dived at the unfortunate aeroplane, jets of flame spurting from their machine-guns. One of these received the second burst from the observer’s gun, a plane collapsed and the scout spun slowly down, crashing many thousands of feet below.<br>
To avoid the fire of the other Germans the pilot swung his machine round and brought the forward gun into action. This drove off one of the aggressors, and enabled the observer to keep the others at such a distance that their fire was uncertain and vague. They had learned to respect the accurate shooting of the British officers, and for some time none of the scouts ventured within range, the whole pack hanging about like jackals chasing a wounded lion.<br>
Time was now the prime factor of safety for the British machine. Provided the observer could keep the foe at bay long enough, the pilot felt certain of being able to cross the lines before being forced to land. He still had about eight thousand feet height left, and would be able to glide for a considerable distance. The wind was freshening and things looked hopeful.<br>
Then the Huns decided to attack again, and flew at the solitary machine from all quarters. Bursts of fire were directed at first one, then another of the attackers, and for a time the observer kept them all at bay. The planes were pierced with bullet holes in many places, one broken rib peered through the torn fabric, but the controls remained intact, and so far both of the officers were unhurt.<br>
At last a shot hit the observer, wounding him in the arm, but he managed to stick to his gun and fire fresh bursts at the Huns. In the short pauses which ensued between the savage dives of their aggressors he bandaged up the wound and stopped the flow of blood. Another shot grazed his forehead, but with blood streaming down his face he carried on. Then the pilot was hit, his leg being broken, hindering his control of the machine. As there was little to do except continue the straight glide he was able to carry on, bandaging up the leg as the machine flew ahead.<br>
Glancing at his aneroid, the pilot noticed that there was barely a couple of thousand feet left. Looking before him he saw the line of the trenches. Then “Archie” burst out in all his severity; the air became clouded with bursts; shrapnel whistled through the air; one jagged fragment of shell tore a gaping hole in the plane, narrowly missing the main spar. But all the time the trenches and safety crept closer and closer.<br>
Probably because of the low altitude “Archie” was unable to bring down the damaged machine, and only succeeded in keeping off the Hun scouts, which did not venture near in case they should receive one of the bursts meant for the British machine. As “Archie” realised that he was becoming ineffective the machine-guns and rifles in the trenches took up the tale, and a hot fire was concentrated on the aeroplane as it glided over the lines barely two hundred feet from the ground.<br>
As the pilot saw the outline of the trenches pass beneath him he felt his senses fading away. He was awakened to consciousness by the observer, who leaned over and aroused him from his stupor. In a vague way he held up the nose of the machine as it carried on over No Man’s Land. The British trenches were still some hundred yards away, and his momentary lapse had allowed the machine to lose a little of their precious height. Again he felt himself fading away into oblivion, but aroused himself with an effort, seeing the blood-stained face of the observer leaning anxiously over him.<br>
A roar of cheering told him that the trenches were crossed. The ground was close beneath him, pitted with shell-holes scarred with trenches. Automatically he flattened out. Then came a crash, the machine pitched forward, and he lost consciousness.