Great War pilots (research review)

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One of the characters in my WIP is a pilot. He’s very young, unrealistically romantic and rather unstable – and his relationship with my heroine is pivotal to the plot. In my book I devote around 5000 words to poor, doomed Kit – but I conservatively reckon I have read a hundred times that in research. Here is a selection. No Empty Chairs by Ian Mackersey (2012) is my most recent read; similar in content – but maybe more balanced – to First Of The Few by Denis Winter (1982). Both books are an excellent melange of facts and figures and real-life characters – and, gosh, were some of these pilots larger than life! Aerial steeplechases down the Thames, black silk pyjamas (that was Richthofen; aka the Red Baron), garters and stockings donated by French girlfriends tied to planes for good luck. No wonder the PBI dreamt of escaping the trenches and joining the Royal Flying Corps. Sagittarius Rising is my favourite; a vivid, amusing, moving, sexy autobiographical account, written by Cecil Lewis in 1936. Lewis is brilliant on the minutiae of a young pilot’s life and lyrical on the joys of flying – and he doesn’t flinch from the heart-breaking, mind-destroying terror of war over the Western Front. And Biggles? I first read Biggles (by WE Johns who was himself a #GreatWar pilot – and incidentally hospitalised with VD) as a step-up from the Famous Five but it’s only now, re-reading my collection (the book shown is a rather tacky modern edition with apologetic footnotes for words like “Hun”) that I realise the authenticity and value of these exciting stories. I also read extracts from my grandfather’s diary (collated by a great aunt, sadly very recently deceased). Grandpa trained with the #RAF but luckily didn’t qualify as a pilot until late in #1918; otherwise I might not be sitting here now. (And, as a devout young Baptist, it was Bible study rather black silk pyjamas for Grandpa.) #amwriting #WW1 #amreading #writinginspiration #amresearchingformynovel #bookstagram

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About Hannah

Author of literary historical fiction set in the First World War. Revising my first book, writing the next, seeking representation. Mountaineer, gardener, traveller, off-road runner. Africa, modern history, coffee, roses, films, book and unrealistic romance. NHS midwife in a former life.
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