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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN AIRMAN'S ODYSSEY, 26 Oct 2012
By 
MONTGOMERY (WASHINGTON, DC - U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Open Cockpit (Hardcover)
Of all the First World War pilot memoirs I've read over the years, this is one of the best. Arthur Gould Lee relates how he managed to wrangle a transfer in 1916 from his army unit to the Royal Flying Corps, where he soon discovered, flight training was haphazard and often dangerous. Most of the instructors under whom he trained (many of whom had seen active service in France) were unskilled in imparting the skills of flying to their pupils. Oftentimes, the expectation was for the pupil to get in the cockpit, remembering the few bits of advice passed on by the instructor, and get on with it! In Lee's words: "There was no instruction technique, no standard method. Nobody could explain in simple, practical terms how a plane was piloted. There was no communication between instructor and pupil in the air. It was obvious to us all that instructors should have been taught their job. There were competent instructors at the civil flying schools at Hendon and Brooklands, who were engaged mostly in teaching novice pilots to get the R.A.C. [Royal Aero Club] brevet, but these should long ago have been assembled into a school to give crash courses to R.F.C. [Royal Flying Corps] novice instructors."

Fortunately, for Lee, he had a patient instructor who freely gave him advice and helped make him a competent pilot. Furthermore, as if by a stroke of fate, Lee had fallen ill, which delayed his departure to France for several weeks. Once he got well, Lee put in some extra flying time on the Sopwith Pup, a fighter he later flew in combat over the Western Front during the spring and summer of 1917. Later his squadron converted to the redoubtable, though tricky, Sopwith Camel. (Lee served in France from May 1917 to January 1918, surviving numerous close calls.)

Lee also goes on to shed light on his duties in Britain as a flight instructor up to the Armistice. Taken in sum, this book (originally published in 1969 when Lee was in his early 70s) aptly sums up a pilot's perspective of his life in war and peace. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read, 2 April 2014
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This review is from: Open Cockpit (Kindle Edition)
A fantastic read from start to finish.
Many times in reviews of flying books you will read "Puts the reader in the cockpit..." This book really does as you read of Arthur's journey from training to frontline and back to training again, only this time as an instructor .
The book ends with Arthur Gould Lee's poignant return to the former battleground some 50 years later.
To paraphrase another well worn line, if you only read one book on air combat in World War I, make it 'Open Cockpit'
For me it just has the edge over 'Sagittarius Rising'
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5.0 out of 5 stars WW1 air war, 30 April 2014
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This review is from: Open Cockpit (Kindle Edition)
You almost experience the discomfort, stress and trauma experienced by pilots in WW 1 flying, by modern standards, what amounted to glorified kites. There would be very few modern pilots who would want to be engaged in a dog fight at 17,000 to 20,000 feet, sitting in an open cockpit without an oxygen supply. Also, their lot was further compounded by not having parachutes. A compelling read told in a straightforward way and not at all maudling, Not enough has been said about the contribution they made and their bravery in taking the war to the Germans. An enlightening read
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4.0 out of 5 stars enjoyable read, 30 April 2014
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This review is from: Open Cockpit (Kindle Edition)
Open account which does not glamourise the reality of air combat, Very interesting and thoughtful read in uncomplicated prose recommended
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Rivetting Account of Sopwith Pup Scout Pilot, 2 Feb 2014
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This review is from: Open Cockpit (Hardcover)
I'm not going to bang on. If you are interested or think you might be interested in WWI aviation, this is the book for you!
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5.0 out of 5 stars great read about First World War aviation, 10 Jan 2014
By 
Mr. P. M. Molloy (salisbury, wiltshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Open Cockpit (Hardcover)
it was a compelling read from start to finish, bit of a classic really, its something I can keep on my shelf and dip into easily in the future
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Open Cockpit - review by Hugh D. Loxdale, 12 April 2013
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This review is from: Open Cockpit (Hardcover)
This book is a very well-written and an enthralling read. One gets the impression that he is a thinking man's war hero. Yes he went up and faced the enemy in mortal combat in the lonely skies, often, as he says, pitted effectively on his own again one or more adversary, and in an inferior flying machine in terms of performance and fire power (in his underpowered and under-armed Sopwith Pup vs. German Albatros D-III and later D-V aircraft), but one gets the impression that he does not enjoy killing his fellow creatures. Only his skill, courage and wits and the manoeuvrability of his small craft, and especially the fact that he could reach a higher altitude than the enemy planes, saved him many and oft from an early grave, as was the fate of 9,000 or so allied pilots in the First World War. The decades since this brutal and tragic conflict are quickly peeled away by his sage and well-chosen words, and the reader feels as if one is with him, seeing what he saw first hand. But gladly, we are not with him. He is both 'down to earth' (several times literally) and realistic and commented at the time on the stubbornness and conservatism of the RFC High Command who wouldn't even allow its brave young pilots parachutes - yet balloon observers were allowed them. Each pilot lived very much from day to day, hour to hour and sometimes when in a dogfight, from second to second. However good a pilot you were (and Arthur Lee one day meets the Red Baron himself), any stray bullet could have been yours, and all the pilots were worried about going down in flames, or nearly as bad, being captured in enemy territory, just a few miles away. Luck played a huge part in any pilot's chances of going home for tea. Lee reflects on the stupidity of it all, and that the German fighters were very much like the allied ones: brave men who had been ordered to do a job, an unpleasant yet exciting one, and it was best not to consider too deeply one's role, just get on with it. I would say that all young men and women who are interested in what their grandfathers and great grandfathers did in the fledgling air forces of Britain, France and Germany are well advised to read it. Only at the end does the author return, after 50 years, to the battlefields of northern France and Belgium and reflect on, and lament the passing of, the vast throng of fallen servicemen of many countries, including Britain and Germany. He feels lonely and, one almost gets the impression, believes that he should be there lying amongst them, a strange and perhaps understandable whimsy. Fortunately for him he survived, and went on to become an Air Vice Marshall in the RAF, retiring in 1946.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A briiliant book, 26 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Open Cockpit (Hardcover)
This is an understated, I believe accurate account of Lee's experiences. I read it immediately after 'Wings of Glory' and welcomed its calm, factual but touching account of flying on the Western Front. He was clearly very lucky - as he says repeatedly - but also very skilled.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, 11 Jun 2013
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This review is from: Open Cockpit (Hardcover)
Very interesting I like all. The First World War books. About. The RFC as my father was a captain in the First World War I have read about 7 books now and all of them are very interesting
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Met all my expectations. Just like the reviews. Delivery was also excellent, 19 Feb 2013
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This review is from: Open Cockpit (Hardcover)
Arthur Gould Lee has an excellent writing style. Considering the era he was born into, it is very accessible to a modern reader. He has a way of actually 'putting you in the cockpit'. It makes you realise how brave those young pilots were and how much luck played in their survival. I can't wait for my copy of 'No Parachute' to arrive.
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Open Cockpit by Arthur Gould Lee (Hardcover - 31 May 2012)
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