Fighter Aces Of The Great War

Fighter Aces of the Great War were the ‘pin-up boys’ of their time, featuring in magazines and newspapers, also in the early movie films. The idea of declaring ‘aces’ was one way of picking out heroes for the media. Highly Recommended

NAME:    Fighter Aces Of The Great War
FILE: R3247
AUTHOR: Stephen Wynn, Tanya Wynn
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: soft back
PRICE: £14.99                                                              
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT:   Royal Navy, RNAS, RFC, German Army Air Arm, German Navy, WWI, 
World War I, World War One, First World War, The Great War, aviation pioneers, 
heavier than air machines, airships, observation balloons, bombing, scouts, fighters, 
combat aircraft, armed aircraft, aircraft kills

ISBN: 1-47383-520-8

PAGES: 176
IMAGE: B3247.jpg
DESCRIPTION: Fighter Aces of the Great War were the 'pin-up boys' of their time, 
featuring in magazines and newspapers, also in the early movie films.  The idea of 
declaring 'aces' was one way of picking out heroes for the media.   Highly 

On both sides of the conflict, the aviators attracted a great deal of attention from the first days of war. Theirs was seen as a clean war where knights fought on their winged chargers with honour and chivalry. At least that was the way politicians, journalists, novelists and the aviators themselves wanted to see themselves. The reality was somewhat different and any aviator who survived combat to rack up five victories deserved recognition. With motorized heavier than air machines having a heritage of only eleven years, just getting off the ground, staying up in controlled flight and returning to the ground safely was an achievement. There were few manuals for the novice to read, they were still being written by survivors. There was many different views of how to design and build aircraft, how to fly them and what they were capable of in a military concept.

The Royal Navy started early with the first military flying school training its first volunteers in 1911. These fathers of the RNAS and the Fleet Air Arm first learned to fly and then were tasked with deciding how aircraft could be used in naval warfare and what armament they would need to meet the roles identified. Although the politicians tried hiding the naval aviation inside the Army, the RN kept some level of control, still training their own officers in their own flight school, until control was formally returned to the RN just weeks before the outbreak of war. To celebrate they successfully dropped the first torpedo from an aircraft. It was not only torpedoes that were ready for RNAS aircraft. Due to the innovative planning by the first British naval aviators, there were iron bombs, depth bombs and machine guns. There were also unguided rockets under test, primarily for use against German airships. The RN was aided by being free of the mandate to take aircraft from the Government Aircraft Factory, instead using trusted naval contractors. The RNAS were largely equipped with heavier than air machines, many equipped with floats or being amphibious, and the initial concentration on airships was on semi-rigid and non-rigid types for convoy escort and reconnaissance.

In contrast, the German Navy had decided to expend their energies on building airships and favoured the Zeppelin rigid airship design. These large airships were considered to be a strategic bomber and carried the German blitz on the British Isles until the RFC and RNAS got the measure of them and were equipped with machines able to operate effectively against them.

The German and British Armies followed a similar path. They took on young officers, many straight from school, or formerly junior cavalry officers. Both services considered their primary duty to be reconnaissance as scouts. The Germans chose the procurement path of buying from military contractors, while the British Royal Flying Corps was forced initially to buy uninspiring flimsy machines from the GAF. They were allowed to source from RNAS suppliers when the RNAS and the Germans demonstrated more robust machines with real armament that were capable of being more than a target.

The French followed a similar path to the Germans in fielding aircraft for use over the trenches. Their machines were generally good and they pioneered the concept of a machine gun firing through the propeller arc. This is what created the platform for Aces to be made. The aircraft could now be flow with flexibility and aimed at the enemy rather than requiring a gunner/observer to fire the guns while the pilot attempted to place the gunner in the best position to kill the enemy aircraft.

The pilots on both sides learned quickly, as did the aircraft designers and manufacturers. Aircraft became stronger, faster, more manoeuvrable, and better armed. Tactics were developed for the ‘dog fight’ and more and more pilots became Aces. Although aircraft flew faster and higher, with a standard format of layout and control systems, the pilots were still very much aviation pioneers and through the Great War the stall was not understood, leading to many promising military aviation careers terminating prematurely.

The authors have made a very good job of presenting the aces and the development of air combat. An enjoyable read with some good illustration through the body of the book