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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 7 December 2012
Aged 15 in 1962 I acquired this book and was completely mermerised. I laughed and I cried and was deeply moved. I read it again in July 1969 and for a third time in March 1986: my son read it in July 1991 and I did so once more in November 2008. I know this because every time I did so I updated a log inside the cover. Now I am 65 years old and am reading it for the fifth time. I note that many other reviewers have re- read this great book many times.

Quite simply this is the best 'war book' ever written: a semi- autobiographical account by a man who actually rated as a minor ace, but was really a decidedly human figure with all the frailty mere humans are subject to. It can be lyrical and quite beautiful, as well as funny and very sad.

One reviewer commented that young people are not as introspective as Tom Cundall is in this book, but I disagree. It is not 'the thing' for young men in their teens and early 20's to show their feelings- but I still remember how I felt as a fiteen year old when first reading it. Talking to his friends about politics or 'brass hats' Tom is passionate but also attempts to be jovial and show bravado- just as young men would- but beneath that bold exterior you can see the dark fear and barely concealed anxiety. War in the air could be frightening, but it was also exhilerating: the many hours of just waiting around could be worse.

'Winged Victory' is a curiously inapproprite title, really, since the clear message of this book is that in war there is never any 'victory' for those embroiled in it. There are very many tales of Great War veterans, including recognized 'hero's', who would never talk about their war. Victor Yeates was one of those- read this and you will know why. He was never a recognized war hero, but I cannot think of a more worthy one.

I have probably given the impression that the book is desperately sad, but actually it is not: if it was you would not want to continue reading it, whereas in fact you cannot put it down.

Try also to acquire 'Winged Victor', the biography of Victor Yeates by Gordon Atkin published in 2004 - read this one after 'Winged Victory itself. I am quite certain you will never want to read any other war 'novel', or biography, after this one. In my view even 'Saggitarius Rising', fine book though it is, does not compare.

I suppose I've always been an overly emotional fellow, but if you read a book like this aged 15 the impact is bound to be profound and lasting- I am in tears now, as I write this. These days I have a large bookcase full of books about war in the air. Winged Victory has pride of place in the centre of the middle shelf: lest I forget.....
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on 3 December 2009
I bought this copy to replace a rather tired paperback copy which I've had since I bought it new over 40 years ago. It is an excellent novel, written by someone who was himself a Royal Flying Corps (RFC) pilot in the First World War. It has a strong storyline and some very exciting passages. It has a moving climax and gives an excellent picture of the first example of aerial warfare on a large scale. Anyone with an interest in flying will thoroughly enjoy this book which ranks with Sagittarius Rising by Cecil Lewis as a "must-have" for understanding what it was like to be an RFC pilot.
As someone else has commented, it is a pity the jacket illustration is of an SE5a when the heroes of the novel fly Sopwith Camels. The same picture was used for the 1961 edition, by the way. I think it is a pity, too, that the new edition doesn't include the very interesting Introduction by Henry Williamson (who knew Yeates) from the earlier edition.
I can thoroughly recommend this novel. David Stallard
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on 25 March 1999
I have read this book several times and I always find something different in it. It is a book about the abject terror inside the author and his total fear of displaying it,which is conveyed very forcefully. Although fictional in content,it graphically portrays the feelings and fears that the author must have had during his time as a pilot in the Great War. It makes me feel as if I was there,and taking part in it. It was so obviously a very strange way of life with long periods without danger punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Its only flaw is that the more times I read it the more the cynicism seems to break through.
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on 11 March 2017
An excellent book if you want to come as close as possible to the full on experience of being a first world war fighter pilot and love the details of using a joystick and rudder to throw an aeroplane about. But it is very long and relentless and if you have any doubts about that then avoid this book. I don't and I absolutely loved it. It's also a superb read for PPL holders like myself although probably better not to try this stuff in my Cessna because it really won't behave like a Sopwith Camel!
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on 12 March 2002
Winged Victory, by Victor Maslin Yeates, remains the seminal novel about war. It is a book that is steeped in humanity whilst accurately conveying the horror, hardship and cameraderie of being a front-line fighter in a major conflict.
The book is written in third person but is believed to be based upon the author's own experience as a pilot in the old RFC. Whilst the general reader may be initially less enthusiastic about the vivid depictions of flying and fighting than would a student of the period, there is no doubting the superb poetic quality of description throughout. In between the awfulness of combat, Yeates' narrative injects frequent moments of humour and pathos.
I commend this book to anyone who loves great writing. This book deserves classic status. The fact that it is no longer in print is nothing short of a crime.
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on 18 October 2014
First published in 1934, ‘Winged Victory’ is a very naturalistic story of the war in the air on the Western Front in 1918. The hero, Tom Cundall, is cynical and war-weary. He has little desire to fight and feels no great animosity toward his enemies. His sole motivation is to stay alive long enough to be sent back home, although he is driven by his pride to act in ways that will prevent his peers from branding him a coward. The great strength of this book is the ease with which Yeates draws you into his characters’ world. After a few chapters, the men of Tom’s squadron start to feel like friends you know personally, and by the time you have made it halfway through the book they almost feel like family. This makes it very easy to feel for their loss when they die, and when their names are mentioned again several chapters later, their absence from the book is keenly felt. Yeates does not appear to kill off his characters in order to suit some narrative device, but lets them die seemingly at random, as heartlessly as in real-life, and this creates a palpable sense of threat whenever they take to the air.

Yeates assumes that his readers are at least reasonably familiar with the war in the air. He offers little or no explanation of some of the terminology he uses, and if you have never read a book about First World War flying before you might find it difficult to understand some of the lingo. ‘Winged Victory’ is an excellent novel. It can be a bit long-winded in places, but the story has the power to absorb you totally, and it is a great example of how a novel can be true-to-life without being unbearably dreary and dull. The tone is sober, but the characters are very likeable and the flying scenes exciting.
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I've got an old hardback edition of Winged Victory, a little bumped on the corners and with dog-eared pages and a faded wrapper but, all the same, it sits in pride of place on my book shelves because it is, quite simply, one of the most intense and moving novels I have ever read.

The book tells the story of the final months of World War 1 as seen by Tom Cundall, a pilot in what was soon to become the RAF. It's all there: the hours of empty nothingness where the pilots wait for something, anything, to happen; the moments of nerve-shredding activity where they engage the enemy; the sheer mental strain of being shot at day after day after day without a perceptible end in sight and, in the most exquisitely beautiful prose, descriptions of the sheer joy of flying, looking down on the clouds, diving towards the earth and contour-hopping over the French counryside. The book has it all, containing lyrical descriptions of flying, the pain of loss, the numbness of endless combat and a great deal of philosophical discussion about the origins of the war and the reasons for its seemingly endless continuation. Yeates could write - this isn't just a fascinating eye-witness account, it is a quite beautifully crafted novel.

Yeates was a pilot in the first world war and it shows. The book is full of slang - strange nicknames for the various aircraft - and contains many detailed passages about flying which could only have been writen by someone who had served his time, someone who had put in the necessary hours amongst the clouds searching for enemy planes and dodging machine gun fire. It's as close to being there as any of us are, thankfully, likely to get. Beautiful - a superb account of the final months of one of Europe's darkest moments.
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on 24 September 2009
I purchased this as my mother briefly mentioned that my grandfather was in the rfc (but didn't fly much I think) and I wanted some idea about the force before I read the text books. I quickly realised that this is more than an account of battles and aeroplanes (though I appreciate understanding the exact difficulty of the sopworth camel). Its far more and it is a sober analysis of the reasons behind war and a great antidote to the overall view that war is for the greater good. This book is so alive that I felt I was in the mess, in the plane, I felt the grinding down of the day to day life of inaction and then sudden terror, the boredom and I grieved, really grieved for these young lives who did their duty even though they had long since ceased to value the reasons for it.
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on 15 April 2003
This is one of the most moving and tragic accounts of an RFC pilot's life during the First World War that has ever been written. The book portrays with a vividness and savagery the horror and fear that swallowed Tom Cundall (the main character) during aerial combat.
It stands today as a testimony to the bravery and humanity of the pilots who fought eighty years ago and a stark warning of the horrors of war. That it is out of print is a great tragedy.
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on 9 June 2009
This book should be required reading, even in schools. It is a wonderful, cynical and bitter comment on war, the fear felt by the pilots, war profiteers etc. My old flying instructor (80 in 1968) flew in Camels in WW1 and knew V M Yates ("Tom Cundall" in the novel)and was in no doubt that the book is based accurately on Yates's own experiences. Readers should also read teh classic masterpiece "Sagittarius Rising" by Cecil Lewis, also a WW1 pilot. The books are remarkably similar in attitude
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