FWIW, here's the review of McManus' book as it appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of Over the Front
Richthofen Jagdstaffel Ahead – RFC Pilots Out-Performed and Out-gunned over the Western Front, 1917 by Peter McManus with color artwork by John Batchelor, Grub Street, London, 2008; 192 pp., 7½" x 10½", hardcover, well illustrated with black & white photos and illustrations and color plates, appendices, bibliography, index; ISBN 978-1-906502-00-3; £20.00 (UK) / $39.95 (US); distributed in the USA by Casemate, Drexel Hill, PA.
Another volume inspired by original World War I source material is this account of the life and flying career of Lionel Bruce Blaxland. Despite the title, Richthofen Jagdstaffel Ahead
is not about Manfred von Richthofen
and/or Jagdstaffel 11 – although, while flying with No. 40 Squadron, RFC, Blaxland encountered the celebrated German unit in aerial combat. Rather, the book is centered on Blaxland’s World War I photo albums and log book, as well as McManus’ interviews with the pilot.
Related in a casual and unfortunately undocumented style, the book touches very broadly on wartime aerial operations. In addition to interviews with Blaxland, McManus includes lightly detailed nuggets about various people. For example, the account of Peter Wylie Smith’s experience with No. 40 Squadron’s Nieuport aircraft leaves the reader hungry for more information about how the pilot “never managed to master the Nieuport’s propensity to spin yet, somehow, was always able to pull out and survive until finally his luck ran out and he spun from 10,000 feet right into the ground. Almost every bone in his body was broken, one eye was missing and his thumb torn off … but, incredibly, he survived and, even more incredibly, he was flying again within a year.”
Mostly, this book is a showcase for the Blaxland photos – including what surely must be unique views of Edward (“Mick”) Mannock’s early days as a fighter pilot. Those and other views are presented in a tasteful “yellowing” sepia tone that is reminiscent of how they must look in Blaxland’s album. Regrettably, two photos are needlessly repeated and two other views of an “unidentified single-seat fighter” turn out to show Sopwith 1F.1 Camel H.797 from Blaxland’s later service with No. 61 Squadron.
The visual treat of the Blaxland photos and (despite a misidentification of a color rendering of Werner Voss
’ Albatros D.III) John Batchelor’s fine artwork are what make this book of interest.