Classic History Books


William J. Claxton - The Mastery of the Air

required for the Corps - the schools and flying grounds, the training and activities of the mechanics, the
workshops and repair shops, the storage of spare parts, the motor transport, As in other departments of

the Service, women have come forward and are doing excellent and most responsible work, especially in

the motor-transport section.

A very striking feature of the Corps is the extreme youth of the members, many of the most daring
fighters in the air being mere boys of twenty.

The Corps has the very pick of the youth and daring and enterprise of the country. In the days of the old
army there existed certain unwritten laws of precedence as between various branches of the Service. If

such customs still prevail it is certain that the very newest arm would take pride of place. The flying man

has recaptured some of the glamour and romance which encircled the knight-errant of old. He breathes

the very atmosphere of dangerous adventure. Life for him is a series of thrills, any one of which would

be sufficient to last the ordinary humdrum citizen for a lifetime. Small wonder that the flying man has

captured the interest and affection of the people, and all eyes follow these trim, smart, desperadoes of the

air in their passage through our cities.

As regards the work of the flying man the danger curve seems to be changing. On the one hand the
training is much more severe and exacting than formerly was the case, and so carries a greater element of

danger. On the other hand on the battle-front fighting information has in great measure taken the place of

the system of men going up "on their own". They are perhaps not so liable to meet with a numerical

superiority on the part of enemy machines, which spelt for them almost certain destruction.

For a long time the policy of silence and secrecy which screened "the front" from popular gaze kept us in
ignorance of the achievements of our airmen. But finally the voice of the people prevailed in their

demand for more enlightenment. Names of regiments began to be mentioned in connection with

particular successes. And in the same way the heroes of the R.F.C. and R.N.A.S. were allowed to reap

some of the laurels they deserved.

It began to be recognized that publication of the name of an airman who had destroyed a Zeppelin, for
instance, did not constitute any vital information to the enemy. In a recent raid upon London the names

of the two airmen, Captain G. H. Hackwill, R.F.C., and Lieutenant C. C. Banks, R.F.C., who destroyed a

Gotha, were given out in the House of Commons and saluted with cheers. In the old days the secretist

party would have regarded this publication as a policy which led the nation in the direct line of "losing

the war".

In the annals of the Flying Service, where dare-devilry is taken as a matter of course and hairbreadth
escapes from death are part of the daily routine, it is difficult to select adventures for special mention; but

the following episodes will give a general idea of the work of the airman in war.

The great feat of Sub-Lieutenant R. A. J. Warneford, R.N.A.S., who single-handed attacked and
destroyed a Zeppelin, has already been referred to in Chapter XIII. Lieutenant Warneford was the second

on the list of airmen who won the coveted Cross, the first recipient being Second-Lieutenant Barnard

Rhodes-Moorhouse, for a daring and successful bomb-dropping raid upon Courtrai in April, 1915. As

has happened in so many cases, the award to Lieutenant Rhodes-Moorhouse was a posthumous one, the

gallant airman having been mortally wounded during the raid, in spite of which he managed by flying

low to reach his destination and make his report.

A writer of adventure stories for boys would be hard put to it to invent any situation more thrilling than

 

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