Casemate is republishing a number of classic pilot autobiographies and histories from World War One. These include works by James McCudden, Charles Biddle, Rudolf Stark, L.A. Strange, and others. Most of these books were originally published in the 1930s and several times since, but are now out of print. While these reasonably priced hardcover books are reprints of the originals, they are not facsimiles, so the type is clear and very readable.
Reviewed by Steve Suddaby, past president of WW1HA
Brief descriptions of the five books available to this reviewer follow:
Recollections of an Airman
By Lt-Col Louis Arbon Strange
224 pages, 19 photos, first published 1933
L.A. Strange was one of the original Royal Flying Corps pilots to fly to France in August 1914 and served in various capacities through the end of the war. In addition to flying reconnaissance, bombing, and fighter missions, he served in various leadership roles in RFC training schools, ending the war back in France as a Royal Air Force Wing Commander. His varied career makes this an important source for first-hand information on the RFC and RAF.
Wings of War
By Rudolph Stark
200 pages, 14 illustrations, first published 1932
Leutnant Rudolf Stark flew in Jadgstaffel 34 and commanded Jadgstaffel 35 in the last year of the war. His autobiography provides a thoughtful look at the decline of Germany, its military, and its air force in the last half of 1918. Stark was also a very good painter and his vivid paintings of aerial combat provide most of the b&w illustrations.
By “McScotch” (William MacLanachan)
236 pages, 15 photos, first published 1936
This is a well-written description of MacLanachan’s transition from fighter pilot neophyte to expert and gives the reader a good feel for life at the front in a British squadron. It is also noteworthy in that it thoroughly describes the famous ace “Mick” Mannock during the seven months that the two flew together. The book’s clarity is enhanced by the inclusion of a map of the front during the time the author was flying there.
The Way of the Eagle
By Major Charles J. Biddle
346 pages, 21 photos, first published 1919
Charles Biddle first flew with the French Lafayette Flying Corps in summer 1917 as part of Escadrille N.73, one of the fighter squadrons in the elite “Storks” group. After the U.S. entered the conflict, he flew in the 103rd Aero Squadron and later commanded the 13th Aero and the 4th Pursuit Group, U.S. Air Service. His autobiography consists of his letters home during the war, sometimes supplemented by information he could not write originally due to censorship.
German War Birds
By “Vigilant” (Claude Sykes)
245 pages, 24 photos, first published 1931
This classic is greatly enhanced with an introduction the exceptional British historian Norman Franks, who puts this work into historical context—one of the first exposures of the English-speaking public to information about individual German and Austrian aviators. Claude Sykes’ wide-ranging book goes beyond fighter aces of the Western Front to include reconnaissance, bomber, airship, and even kite balloon aviators in Galicia, Salonika, the Middle East, and the Far East.
There are seven other books in this Vintage Aviation Series:
King of Air Fighters: The Biography of Major “Mick” Mannock, VC, DSO, MC, by Ira Jones
Immelmann: The Eagle of Lille, by Frantz Immelmann
Flying Fury: Five Years in the Royal Flying Corps, by Major James T.B. McCudden
Knight of Germany: Oswald Boelcke, German Ace, by Johannes Werner
An Air Fighter’s Scrapbook, collection of experiences by British pilot Ira “Taffy” Jones
Jagdstaffel 356: The Story of a German Fighter Squadron, by M.E. Kähnert
Night Raiders of the Air, by British bomber pilot A.R. Kingsford