Aces and Aircraft of World War I

by Christopher Campbell
Copyright 1981, Blandford Press, Great Britain

This is a highly informative volume on the early days of military aviation, with 160 illustrations. Aces and Aircraft of World War I chronicles the birth of military aviation, from the pre-World War I days when aviators’ uniforms looked more like those of cavalry officers and the aeroplane was a novelty useful only for observation, to the grim days of 1918 when aircraft were undisputed and potentially decisive weapons of war that had been developed to fulfill a variety of tactical battlefield needs.

The book highlights the fact that at the beginning of the war, although most of the major powers’ air forces were in their infancy, France was the pre-eminent power in aviation, having done a great deal to develop the new craft. By 1909, the Oxford Dictionary included three aviation-related words that were French in origin, and remain in use today: fuselage, aileron, and nacelle.

With a mix of historical photos and color plates, this book makes the aircraft of the Great War and the men who flew them come to life. There are detailed, illustrated profiles on no fewer than 29 aces and their preferred tactics, including Raoul Lufbery, Baron Manfred von Richtofen, Eddie Rickenbacker, Albert Ball, James McCudden, Raymond Collishaw, Billy Bishop, Francesco Barraca, Rene Fonck, Georges Guynemer, Charles Rumney Samson, Charles Nungesser, Werner Voss, William Barker, Jean Navarre, and Ivan Smirnoff.

A French Nieuport 17.

Also included are archival photos and large color profiles of aircraft covering the entire period of the Great War, including the B.E.2a, Sopwith Camel, Sopwith Pup, Hansa Brandenburg seaplanes (the CC and the W29), Neiuport 11, Neiuport 17, the Fokker D.III, Fokker E.III, De Havilland D.H.2, Bristol Scout, S.E.5, S.E.5a, Albatros series (from the early scout/bombers to later front-line fighters), Aviatik D.1, and the Spad XIII. There are also illustrations of medals and rank insignia as well as period advertisements, such as a 1916 ad for Gamages of London, which promoted itself as “the leading Naval, Military, and Aviation Tailors.”

Captain Rene Fonck, a leading French Ace of the Great War.

A wonderful book for both World War I modelers and historians, full of beautifully illustrated artwork. Highly recommended.

A vignette Baron Manfred von Richtofen above a profile of his trademark Albatros D.III

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