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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 November 2015
Factual or fictional, from the early 20's onwards an increasing number of books began to appear, written by veterans, expressing, well... "Disenchantment" (by C.E.Montague), a collection of newspaper articles published in 1922 is considered the first. Disenchantment with how the war was fought. Disenchantment with why the war was fought. Disenchantment with what was happening in the years after the war to end all wars, that rather inevitably gave rise to WWII.

Winged Victory was written in 1933. The author walked out of Colindale Hospital because he couldn't write there. One presumes that he was already afflicted by tuberculosis; a disease he inflicts on one of his characters; the tuberculosis that would sadly kill him before the end of the following year. The novel is semi-autobiographical; indeed a number of the pilots' name are those of real people, his comrades. Yeates finished the war an accredited fighter ace.

Where the book shines is in his depiction of squadron life, of flying and "jobs" i.e. combat missions, and of the war-weariness & frayed nerves that are part & parcel of extended tours of duty, particularly in that age when psychology was in its infancy & such phenomena were little understood. Where it dulls is in the over-extended philosophising that happens repeatedly, sometimes extendedly, and occasionally rather convolutedly. The books that can be put under the "Disenchatment" heading were largely ignored when they were originally published. To what extent that cynicism & strained nerves of the time might have become disillusionment over the intervening years is impossible to know now. Certainly, though, an awful lot of that shows through in the novel of 15 years later.

There is too much of that in the novel, which is the sole reason I don't give this 5*. The style is a peculiar mix of florid description and unliterary matter-of-factness; none the worse for that. If you want the shortest possible summing up, "Winged Victory" was the title the publisher insisted on. The author's choice was "Wingless Victor" - suitably bleak. It enjoyed a new popularity, unsurprisingly, in WWII. One of the blurb quotes on the 2004 paperback (the edition I own) from an unknown fighter pilot reads "The only book about flying that isn't flannel."

It is not an autobiography, never mind a history. But if you have more than a passing interest in WWI, and want to get the sense of how the war appeared to at least some of those serving, then this is well worth reading.
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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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on 4 February 2017
This is one of the most powerful books of WW1 ever written. It is such a personal insight into the life of a pilot. So different to Sagittarius Rising but so contemporary and so vivid. Published in 1934 it was not widely read, probably due to its pessimism, anti war sentiments, crucify and realism. I was not surprised to see that Henry Williamson had a big part in this book being written: should you ever want to read the most truly detailed story of the total horror of that war, he is your man. What a book!
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on 25 January 2014
It is the "Nothing New On Western Front" or air warfare in World War I.

It's a huge, detailed book, but it's not boring at all. The dialogues jump out of the pages with credibility, fun, drama and intensity, the combat scenes are great and detailed (and, again, credible).

Victor Maslin Yeates was there. He was credited with five enemy aircraft shot down in World War I (2 plus three shared), while serving in 46 Squadron, first of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force. He arrived at the Squadron in February 1918, and only flew the tricky (but deadly to the enemy) Sopwith Camel in combat.

Yeates merges real people who served in 46 Squadron (like Thomson, Robinson and Sawyer) with fictional characters clearly based in some real people of the Squadron (like "Mac" - Canadian Donald MacLaren). Himself is "replaced" by Tom Cundall, a reluctant warrior, with a lot of fear inside, but not a coward.

Funny is the contempt that he talks about the German fighter pilots of the time (1918), always avoiding combat and flying over their lines, even letting two-seaters being shot down without doing anything to help. Also, French fighter pilots and squadrons are not mentioned.

Of course, this a descriptive book. Events occurs in succession, there is no plot twist or suspense that are resolved or connected some chapters ahead.

Victor died from tuberculosis at 37 years of age.
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on 23 July 2014
I have returned to this classic after about 30 years. It is a classic because of its autobiographical authority describing, through a very young man's eyes, the unique and gruelling experiences of war flying on the Western Front. The reader should accept his youth, naivety and social mores of the day to get the best out of the book. It isn't a great piece of literature but it does represent a great insight into that awful segment of aviation history.
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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 22 July 2015
Worth reading - its style is now outdated and some of its assumptions feel outlandish, making it hard work. Not for the reader who wants an adventure story but essential to anyone who wants to understand the anti-war feeling of the '20s and '30s.
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on 23 December 2017
OK if you like that sort of thing I expected something more gripping but it was OK for a bedtime read
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on 7 May 2014
This is a suberb book written in a style not too common today. Self effacing yet detailed in its descriptions of heroism. There is much to learn about the war machines used in 1914 to 1918, and the attitudes of the pilots and soldiers and civilians engaged in the front line has the ring of desperate truth about it. I couldn't put it down and would recommend this as a real change from most of the so-called war books especially some of the modern day ones. You really feel you are up there with the pilots in their Sopwith Camels high in the clouds,for ever searching for combat.
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on 3 February 2015
An excellent novel obviously drawn from the author's
intimate experiences during his service with the RFC in WW1- the close detail
of aerial combat of the period, descriptions of the merits and failings of
the aircraft involved in the conflict - and the personal daily life of RFC
pilots all make for a most interesting novel/narrative. Highly recommended.

Alan Davis
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