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& Bullets

Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.


With reviews of books that cover these topics


Fallen Eagles

Airmen who survived the Great War only to die in peacetime


Norman Franks                                                               Pen & Sword, 27 March 2017

Norman Franks is a very well respected aviation historian with many books on military aviation to his credit. This book is a result of the work he did to assemble profiles of WW1 airmen who died after the Great War, which were published in The Aeroplane magazine. So this book is a series of 2-3 page profiles, with no accompanying narrative. It will be a useful reference for this (narrow) subject, but as a standalone book is a little esoteric.


Great War pilots, like other civilians, died in droves as a result of the influenza pandemic which swept the world after Armistice Day. But Franks has chosen to write about those who had more lively deaths, so to speak.   The strong underlying theme of the initial entries (for the book is in chronological order of death) is that most died in wholly avoidable aircraft accidents. Some celebrated the end of the European ordeal with a victory roll at their home airfield.


What an unnecessary waste of life!  The stupidity of it is profoundly depressing. However, if one  reflects further, perhaps these alpha males were so used to taking substantial risks in a weird working life that had been all that they had known, they were incapable of judging the risks in non-operational flying. Perhaps in some cases there was a subliminal desire to join their many brothers in arms in Heaven.


Of course all flying was inherently much more likely to lead to danger than nowadays, and, in a sense, these Fallen Eagles were lucky – in that they managed to secure continued careers as pilots, when the rapid wind-down of British military flying put many RAF men on the streets. (Franks does not make this point).


So, a very competently written volume, as one would expect from this author, but of narrow interest.

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