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On a Wing and a Prayer: The Untold Story of the Pioneering Aviation Heroes of WW1, in Their Own Words Hardcover – 6 May 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Collins; First Edition, First Printing edition (6 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007269455
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007269457
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 3.7 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 569,740 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

Review

‘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

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, researcher for Max Arthur on Forgotten Voices – Great War and Second World War, and Lost Voices of the Edwardians, and The Last Post .


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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By ChampChump on 17 Oct 2008
Format: Hardcover
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 By Amazon Customer on 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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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By S Hadaway on 30 May 2008
Format: Hardcover
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 By WeatherNerd on 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 By MVS on 5 Oct 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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