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Fighter Heros of WWI [Paperback]

Joshua Levine
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
Price: 9.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

29 July 2011

The first heroes of the air.

Rewriting the rules of military engagement and changing the course of modern history as a result, the pioneering airmen of the First World War took incredible risks to perform their vital contribution to the war effort.

Fighter Heroes of WWI is a narrative history that conveys the perils of early flight, the thrills of being airborne, and the horrors of war in the air at a time when pilots carried little defensive armament and no parachutes.

The men who joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1914 were the original heroes of flying, treading into unknown territory, and paving the way for later aerial combat. They became icons for the soldiers in the trenches, and a stark contrast to the thousands on the ground fighting faceless thousands as men fought aircraft to aircraft and man to man - for the first time the air became a battlefield of its own.

The war changed flying forever. In 1914 aircraft were a questionable technology, used for only basic reconnaissance. But by 1918, hastened by the terrible war, aircraft were understood to be the future of modern warfare.

The Wright brothers' achievements of a mere ten years earlier and Blériot's crossing of the Channel just a few years before the war seemed a distant memory as aircraft became killing machines - the war becoming the ancestor of the fearsome air wars of later years.

The stories reveal the feelings of those who defended the trenches from above and witnessed the war from a completely different perspective -the men who were the first fighter heroes of the air.

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Fighter Heros of WWI + Open Cockpit + Sagittarius Rising
Price For All Three: 28.88

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Collins (29 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007274947
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007274949
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 309,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joshua Levine is the author of Operation Fortitude and On a Wing and a Prayer. He is also a playwright and writer for television. His last book, Beauty and Atrocity, a history of the Irish Troubles, was shortlisted for the Writers' Guild Non Fiction Book of the Year Award.

Product Description


‘A vivid, moving story of the men who fought the Great War in the Air. Quite superb.’
Max Arthur

‘Those magnificent men in their flying machines recount in their own words just how mad and magnificent it was to be an air-ace in World War One. Joshua Levine's compilation is enthralling and breathtaking’.
Chris Powling, Classic FM Guestlist

‘This is a superior example of the genre from a writer at the top of his game.’ Air Marshal Stuart Peach

About the Author

Joshua Levine is a playwright, writer for television and producer, and the author of Forgotten Voices of the Blitz and the Battle for Britain, Forgotten Voices of the Somme, and the forthcoming A Terrible Beauty, to be published by Collins in autumn 2009. He was previously a researcher for Max Arthur on the Forgotten Voices series – Great War and Second World War, Lost Voices of the Edwardians, and Last Post.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Background to a history still vaguely recorded 17 Oct 2008
Having been moved, each time, reading Saggitarius Rising, I moved on to other fictional accounts of WW1 aviation. Discovering On a Wing and a Prayer at last was a pleasure.

Wary at first that the author did not have a background in aviation, I was soon persuaded that his credentials were not questionable.

Mr Levine puts those other books into some sensible context. How the RAF evolved from naval orgins is just a part of the history. What we have here is a readable history with the personal testimonies of those involved, which maybe these days is how we prefer our education. I cannot share the concerns of another reviewer who finds this too simplified for a serious reader. This is a well-researched book, assembled with care. The detail is sufficient for all but the most dedicated anorak; the contemporary accounts are well-chosen and selectively placed and there are enough illustrations to give the reader a little more to aid the imagination of that most dreadful war.

If the book contained only the diaries of the 'pioneering aviation heroes', it would be valuable but inadequate. The author adds enough political and historical background to give those words additional impact. If like me your knowledge of The Great War has vast gaps, this might just help. I'm not an avid reader of histories, but an avid private pilot. Knowing the background to ones current privileges makes them all the more precious.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On a Wing and a Prayer 3 May 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm not so sure about untold but certainly any book regarding WWI told in the words of the participants is interesting and, especially for myself, regarding the air war. It is nice to see some of the truths regarding the aces, such as Mannock, Ball and McCudden, coming out. These fearless fighters were just as frightened as everyone else and just had the capacity to overcome it and keep reentering the fray even when they must have had a fatalistic sense that they would never come out of it alive or at least in one piece. Some others didn't have the wherewithall but nevertheless were brave. A good book which I feel tells it like it was.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
If you are newcomer to Britain's flying services during the First World War, this book is a must. If you know your way around the subject already, then it will still surprise, inform and entertain you nonetheless.

Mr Levine does to the flying services in the Great War what Patrick Bishop did to Fighter and Bomber Commands in the Second World War. Superbly structured, very well written, and obviously intricately researched, the book guides you around the subject of air fighting over the Western Front and the Home Front with ease. The history of the flying services is intertwined with the history of the men who flew and serviced the aircraft. I have never seen training covered in anywhere near such detail before (an entire chapter), and the same treatment is given to the often overlooked work of reconnaissance.

Wherever possible Mr Levine lets those who were there tell the story in their own words. This is a major asset of the book, as these (sometimes lengthy) quotes let you into the minds and the world of these men. Most are from obscure or little used sources, and provide fresh and unusual insights into the war. You will find no great revelations, no 'now it can be told' hype or claims to change how we think about Great War air fighting, but you will find countless nudges away from preconceptions, opening new ways of looking at things or angles that are usually ignored. Between these quotes, Mr Levine's easy style draws you along some thought-provoking avenues.

Only two criticisms come to mind. Firstly, there is little information on the role of observation balloons, a large and very important part of the aviation work carried out on the Western Front. Secondly, the quotes are not referenced, making it hard to track down the source if you want to know more.

Overall, though, my advice is: buy this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best WW1 Texts So Far. 1 Jun 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A beautifully lucid account of the early days of military aviation. It's simply a must-read and cannot recommend it enough for its drama, breadth of coverage and easy-flowing style. Wonderful images make it even better.

Some of the incredible accounts by pilots include one where a pilot is messing about with a jammed machine gun magazine. He accidentally flips the aircraft over, with him then falling out of his seat, hanging on to the same magazine for dear life, somehow managing to climb back into the cockpit and getting home in one piece!

If, like me, you're a pilot yourself, then it has an even greater meaning.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 5 Oct 2008
On a Wing and a Prayer: The Untold Story of the Pioneering Aviation Heroes of WW1, in Their Own Words
This is a particularly good read for anyone with an interest or involvement in aerial warfare. As a retired RAF fighter pilot I found myself continually engaged with the recollections which Mr Levine has brought together in such an accessible way. The range and diversity of the contributions offer many surprises and considerable interest. This book is no substitute for a plodding reference tome on the birth of the RFC and RAF if that is what the reader seeks. It offers insight into the ingenuity, resourcefulness and bravery which men and women may rise to under pressure.
You will not be disappointed by this inspirational book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Went down well
Bought for my husband who is interested in aircraft of WW1. He likes the format and the fact it is in the words of the pilots themselves so tels it like it was.
Published 13 days ago by Poppy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Fantastic book I really enjoyed it. I am a great fan of the old bi planes, and the pioneering pilots, so it was very interesting.
Published 3 months ago by The Judge
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read to remind us of sacrifice beyond the call
OK this is not meant as some kind of erudite tome chronicling the aerial events of the Great War but it is a great read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Roy Szweda
5.0 out of 5 stars well done amazon
very good well recommended I canot wait for my next history lesson excellent service prompt and good value keep up the good work
Published 11 months ago by terrance wynn
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
One of the best flying books about World War 1 that I've read.
It's full of personal accounts and anecdotes. Read more
Published 13 months ago by KJ Rayner
4.0 out of 5 stars A Warning
I concur with the favourable reviews of this book. It is perhaps not as well-researched as the Peter Hart books of similar content, but is most enjoyable to read. Read more
Published on 23 Nov 2011 by D. Cooknell
4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing history allive.
I saw this book just before I went to the battlefieds of France and Belgium, and found it
invaluable. I was able to locate the grave of Albert Ball VC. Read more
Published on 25 May 2011 by Poppy
5.0 out of 5 stars First world war - the airmen
I borrowed this audio book from my local library and liked it so much that I've bought this copy as a Christmas present for my dad. Read more
Published on 16 Dec 2010 by LJDIMES
5.0 out of 5 stars Aces Low - a better history
This was a surprisingly good book.

I thought it would be the usual hagiographic biopic of various fighter pilots but it turned out to be much better, more thoughtful and... Read more
Published on 1 Dec 2010 by John R. Orr
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent and fascinating read
If you want to know more and understand just how it really was from the writings of the men that went through the first world war then read this book.
Published on 22 Sep 2010 by Andy
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