on 19 March 2009
James McCudden, VC was undoubtedly one of the premier pilots to grace the ranks of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) during the Great War. This account follows his service career from the pre-war days in the Royal Engineers through his transfer to the RFC, initially as an engine fitter before graduating to aircrew, through to his untimely demise in a flying accident in July 1918.
His exploits with 3 and 29 Sqn show some of the technical difficulties experienced in the air in the early part of the war. However by the time he transfers to the prestigious 56 Sqn flying the new SE5a Scout his increasing personal confidence is reflected in his rapidly mounting score, his engineering background helping him squeeze every last ounce of performance from his aircraft.
McCudden's account is written in a simple, informal and personable style. The author's self effacing manner endears the reader to him and his dedication to his country's service sums up the ethos of his compatriots who in so many cases made the ultimate sacrifice. Many of the RFC's greats are mentioned within these pages including Ball, Mannock and Rhys-Davids not to mention notable protagonists such as von Richtofen and Voss.
There are an interesting selection of black and white photographs and the renowned air historian Norman Franks has included a useful introduction and appendix detailing McCudden's victories.
This book is a true military classic, the narrative seeming to capture the true spirit of this famous aviator and the many worthy attributes of the generation lost so tragically between 1914-18. Such is the calibre of this book I've read it on a number of occasions over the years and I'm sure future readers will do the same. Highly recommended.
on 4 May 2002
I've just finished this book, and I found it to be unput-downable, an excellent read in the words of Britains top scoring ace.
If you are interested in airwarfare, history or even the thinking process behind great achievers, then this book will captivate you.
For a man who joined the army before the Great War, and then transfered to the RFC in 1914 to be a ground engineer, by 1918 he was a Captain highly decorated and a flight leader with the top scoring 56 squadron. He fought the Red Baron, and was mistakenly claimed as his 16th victim, and spent many hours over the trenches fighting against the famous Jasta 5. I can't recommend this biography highly enough.
on 13 April 2010
This book is a little dry, especially compared to 'Winged Victory'. It was written by McCuden himself, and it can be defined as combat reports written in a language so that all the civilians understand in an era when aviation was absolutely new to everyone. The book is full of action, one can learn a great deal about McCudden's tactics and also WWI air combat in general. What it lacks is the human side of the fighting. Sometimes he wonders off path and tells a funny anecdote, but he apologizes to the reader and goes back to writing about the sorties he made.
on 18 March 2016
Gripping book relating to WW1. If you pay Rise of Flight you need to desperately read this book to understand how to fly an SE5a and survive. It's a great read: straight to the point. There's no messing around with love stories or bulls***. Straight from his own reports with a splash of humour and colour, providing an insight into a world that is brutal, yet chivalrous.