Well, the other day, with the germ of an idea for a post in my mind, I got out all said books (including In The Royal Naval Air Service, 3rd row far right) and laid them out to take a picture of them for this blog. I think I may have to revise my target! The end of 2018 seems more realistic now I've reacquainted myself with the number books I have on the subject!
As you can see most of them focus on the aeronautical aspect of the Great War; no surprise really as that has always been my abiding area of interest. In fact all but three are purely about aerial warfare. True World War I Stories (2nd row from top, 3rd from left) is just that and was picked up from a library sale a few years ago for 50p. Before Endeavours Fade by Rose E. B. Coombs (top, 3rd from left) was given to me by my stepfather several years back and is actually something of a guide book to the battlefields, detailing towns, landmarks and other locations that saw action as well as the innumerable memorials throughout Belgium and France. Although now nearly 40 years old this book will doubtless be interesting and a still-useful guide if I should choose to visit the areas covered.
Goodbye to All That is an autobiographical account of the the First World War (and the author's early pre-war life) by Robert Graves, the poet, scholar and author who served in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and was good friends with Siegfried Sassoon. I picked up this copy for a few pence in Homebase (yes, the DIY people - my local store has a small second-hand book concession by the tills!) a year or so ago and it has been sitting patiently in my "to read" pile.
The rest all focus on the RFC and/or the Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte (except In the Company of Eagles, a novel by Ernest K. Gann about a duel between French and German pilots) with no less than four devoted solely to Manfred von Richthofen. These include his own [translated] memoirs and a fascinating in-depth record of his 80 career victories.
German War Birds is a splendid book from the 1930s, written by the mysteriously pseudonymous "Vigilant" (generally agreed to be one Claud W. Sykes and probably a serving RAF officer hence the name), details of some of the lesser-known German pilots of the Great War and is written in wonderfully charming Thirties style. I picked it up in 2003 from the wonderful book stalls that can still be found underneath Waterloo Bridge.
Many of the other books are written by well-regarded aviation/military historians such as Peter Hart, Alan Clark and Norman Franks. Then there are the famous wartime memoirs of Cecil Lewis (Sagittarius Rising) and Victor Yeates (Winged Victory), not to mention James McCudden's Flying Fury. Finally there is, of course, Biggles - who nearly 20 years ago introduced me to the fascinating world of dogfights, biplanes and heroic flying that I would later go on to read so much more about. The First World War stories fully deserve their place here, being inspired by true events and stories that the author W. E. Johns (himself a bomber pilot in the war) saw or heard.
Finally, as a bit of light relief, Practical Flying is a good read - it being a facsimile of the standard training manual given to pilots joining the RFC. I doubt there'll ever be any call for me to fly a Sopwith Camel, but you never know! I actually got it (and a real hip flask!) with the old PC simulator, Flying Corps, way back in the late '90s and am pleased to report that the old game still runs so I can at least take my bus up for a spin virtually if not in reality(!). Incidentally I'm amazed to see how far computers and graphics have progressed - the modern equivalent of Flying Corps, Rise Of Flight, looks incredibly realistic and expansive.
Daily Telegraph is also marking the anniversary by making available online copies of every one of its newspapers from 1914 to 1918, each day for the next four years!
What have you got planned for the 100th anniversary and are there any more(!) books you would recommend I seek out?