The Mammoth Book of Fighter Pilots
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This work presents the 20th-century's air battles in the words of those who fought them. Beginning with the jousts over the Western Front in 1914 up to the furious jet-driven sorties over Bosnia in 1999, these accounts give an experience of combat dogfights in the shell-blasted skies of war. It is about a form of combat that has changed beyond recognition. It gives details of the dauntingly high mortality rates among airmen, and insights into many other facets of a pilot's life from training to bailing out over enemy territory, what it was like to be interned and an account of being shot down in a blazing spitfire.
his SE5 he had a Nieuport scout, the machine in which he had done so well the previous year. He had a roving commission and, with two machines, was four hours a day in the air. Of the great fighting pilots his tactics were the least cunning. Absolutely fearless, the odds made no difference to him. He would always attack, single out his man, and close. On several occasions he almost rammed the enemy, and often came back with his machine shot to pieces. One morning, before the rest of us had gone
little speck, which I thought was my photographic Rumpler, still went west. Having arrived over Don, due east of the Hun, I turned to the west, following him until, by the time I was passing La Bassée, the Hun was well along the canal, no doubt having seen me by now but mistaking me for another German machine, for I came from so far over his lines. I got quite close to him over Béthune at 18,000 feet, and he now saw his mistake and tried to out-distance me towards Lens. Very soon I caught up
turn. The other’s aircraft shines light brown in the sun. Then begins the circling. From below, it might appear as though two large birds of prey were courting one another. But up here it’s a game of death. He who gets the enemy at his back first is lost, because the single-seater with his fixed machine guns can only shoot straight ahead. His back is defenseless. Sometimes we pass so closely I can clearly recognize a narrow, pale face under the leather helmet. On the fuselage, between the wings,
have speeded up guns too. All I could do was to watch his tracer and kick my rudder from one side to the other to throw his aim off. This war isn’t what it used to be. Nigger has noted the improvement in the Huns and is awful thoughtful. We went to see Springs this afternoon and he seems to be doing all right. He’s got lips like a nigger minstrel’s and a mouthful of thread and a couple of black eyes. We took him a couple of bottles of champagne but he didn’t need it as they serve it to him
provide us with real entertainment. Before one’s own turn comes, one is apt to be merciless – not only in aviation. We were discussing the prospects of this little quiet fun at another’s expense, when the instructors came from the office. One of them marched up to our group; as he passed I caught his eye. He stopped. Ah-ha, I thought, this is where I put in some more instructional flying. But the winged Hero was regarding me thoughtfully with something in his eye that reminded me of a hungry