Most helpful critical review
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More of an oral history, not a "history" of the air war at that time
on 25 August 2011
I am afraid I did not find this book as satifying as a number of other reviewers. This book and Peter Hart's very similar "Falling Aces" are basically a series of letters and contemporary correpondence strung togther with an overview of the war over Arras in 1917.
There is little underling analysis and the book concentrates on the stories and comments of the ordinarly aircrew, presumably as these are available through Peter's work at the Imperial War Museum.
These tend to have a certain repetitivenes "Huns diving out the sun, windscreens shattered by bullets etc" and after the first few, dont give a huge amount of insight. This is not however to diminish the undoublted bravery and sacrifice of the airmen.
One very large gap in this book is any background information or statistics. Lots of different types of aircraft are mentioned but there is no technical glossary and even what they looked like is often not clear as only a handful are illustrated in the photos. An Appendix listing and illustrating aircraft types and their capabilities would have been very useful and added to the book significantly.
There was also none of the background information which make Martin Middlebrook's books so compelling, eg squadron loss and kill rates, even a table of the highest scoring aces would have been of interest.
Overall just about worth it but not up to the standard of his Somme book which is excellent.