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1998 Closed threads from 1998 (read only)

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Old 28 September 1998, 03:52 PM   #1
Chris Spellman
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Anyone know what the average life expectancy of RFC air crews (for both fighters and two-seater pilots) was throughout 1917-18? How did their's compare with that of French or German airmen? Having asked that, what was the most dangerous sector to fly in (for all the respective air services) on the Western Front?
Old 29 September 1998, 03:21 AM   #2
Michael Skeet
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Can't give you specific figures about "average" life expectancy for 1917-18, but that may not be a real problem. The situation at the front dictated survival rates -- and for the same reason, the most dangerous sector tended to move according to where the British, French or German armies were most active. In March/April 1917, it was clearly most dangerous in the Vimy-Arras area, where the British had major offensive working up/under way. In summer the danger zone moved north to Flanders in company with the offensives of Third Ypres/Paschendaele. In March 1918 the killing zone moved south again as the Germans attacked around Amiens. From what I've seen, RFC life expectancy reached its nadir in late March through April 1917, when the average newcomer lasted less than three weeks from posting to being killed, wounded or captured. (This three weeks might work out to two weeks or less of combat flying.)

As for the French and Germans, I don't have anything of a statistical nature. Anecdotal evidence, though, suggests that the French had a much easier time of it once the Verdun offensive had worn down. (The exception to this was the French units that flew in support of the British in Flanders in summer 1917 -- this included Les Cigognes.)
Old 30 September 1998, 05:35 PM   #3
Matt Witt
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I have read many sources over the years which put the life expectancy of a newly posted RFC pilot in Spring of 1917 at one and a half to two flying hours. For every hour he survived his life expectancy increased exponentially so that if he could survive as long as two weeks, he had a life expectancy of some months. Since the average sortie lasted about an hour forty five to two hours fifteen minutes, this would seem a rather bleak assessment. I have never seen the statistics relied upon to support this claim, but it certainly has been repeated often over the years.


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