A fascinating new addition to the unique ‘Kitbag’ series from Frontline books. Although this book contains a great many images, mostly in full colour, there is also plenty of informative text and many images are published for the first time. – Very Highly Recommended.
NAME: Royal Flying Corps Kitbag, Aircrew Uniforms & Equipment From The War Over The Western Front In WWI FILE: R3166 AUTHOR: Mark Hillier PUBLISHER: Frontline, Pen & Sword BINDING: hard back PRICE: £25.00 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: The Great War, WWI, World War I, World War 1, World War One, First World War, air war, Western Front, RFC, Royal Flying Corps, army aviation, kit, uniforms, equipment ISBN: 1-52675-299-9 PAGES: 268 IMAGE: B3166.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/yaqav694 LINKS: DESCRIPTION: A fascinating new addition to the unique 'Kitbag' series from Frontline books. Although this book contains a great many images, mostly in full colour, there is also plenty of informative text and many images are published for the first time. – Very Highly Recommended.
The uniform and equipment of any military unit is a very revealing demonstration of what and how the unit did. This book is a comprehensive presentation of the uniforms and equipment of the RFC in France. It is also representative of equipment and flying kit used by the Royal Naval Air Service and much of it began as RNAS kit adopted by the RFC. This was because the RNAS was formed from the RN pioneering aviation work that began in 1903 and resulted in the RN establishing the first military flying training school in 1911. Although politicians tried taking the naval aviation assets under Army control, the RN continued to train naval aviators and succeeded in taking back control of all its assets a month before the outbreak of WWI, celebrating with the successful launch of a torpedo from one of its aircraft. While the RFC was still suffering the poor products of the Government Aircraft Factory, the Admiralty was buying flying weapons systems from commercial contractors and experiencing needs ahead of the RFC who were then pleased to adopt RNAS kit.
The RFC was subject to the Army practice of officers buying much of their equipment. This was particularly demonstrated by the range of personal arms carried by the RFC pilots. Not included in the equipment as issued, or personally purchased kit, was the parachute. This important item was specifically prohibited by the commanders because they feared that pilots would bail out to avoid enemy bullets. This made the personal firearm specially important to pilots. Some carried German, American and British designed self-loading pistols rather than revolvers because these could be also used to shoot at enemy planes but many pilots also carried smaller pistols, notably Belgian FN .32 ACP pocket self-loading pistols specifically as a back-up for suicide should they become trapped in a burning plane from which they could not escape due to the lack of a parachute and where their larger pistol had jammed or all ammunition expended shooting at the enemy. As many of the early RFC pilots were former cavalry soldiers, the German Broom-handled Mauser self-loading pistol was popular, having gained popularity in the closing years of the 19th Century. This pistol was supplied with a wooden holster that could be used as a butt-stock, turning the weapon into a compact multi-shot carbine, ideal for use from a horse and handy in an aircraft cockpit.
The selection of images of equipment show graphically the environment in which RFC pilots operated. For much of the flight, even on a hot Summer day, they would be flying in in freezing cold conditions and this became an even greater problem as aircraft became faster and more robust, capable of flying as high as 20,000 ft with the added challenge that no oxygen was available. For this reason, pilots wore many layers of clothing, the outer layer being of sheepskin. Face-masks were also necessary and one of the most revealing early film clips was of German Ace Herman Goering removing layer after layer on landing from a sortie. At the time he was commanding the Richthofen Flying Circus.
RFC pilots also face a further threat. Their machines commonly used caster oil as a lubricant. During a sortie of perhaps two hours, the pilot would be breathing in castor oil fumes. One method of countering the effects on the digestive tract was to consume a lot of alcohol, usually purchase locally from the French with a chit issued by the Squadron’s Engineering Officer. Even so it was considered appropriate to dig latrines close to the end of landing runs for the convenience of the pilots.