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2001 Closed threads from 2001 (read only)

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Old 20 January 2001, 08:01 AM   #1
Terry McCormick
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I have had a chance to read Col.Bashow's book over Christmas, and am very impressed. Anyone interested in the role of Canadian fighter pilots in WW1 should add this book to their collections.
Regarding the list of aces, I have checked it over and it is pretty reasonable, with a few errors. In all the list has 171 names. However,seven of the aces were people who were not really Canadians but rather Brits who had spent some time here pre-war.
This is balanced out by a number of real Canadian aces left off the list, including Kerby, Bromley, Durrand, Hilton, Swayze, and Evans. Finally the nearly 20 Canadian observer aces and the 6-8 bomber pilot aces are omitted, as they fall outside the scope of this book. All in all, a great book with fine illustrations, paintings,etc.
Old 20 January 2001, 09:20 AM   #2
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Who is the publisher of Knights of the air? Where might one obtain this book>
Old 20 January 2001, 10:28 AM   #3
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I too recieved Knights of the Air - Canadian Fighter Pilots in the First World War as a Christmas gift. My dear (and understanding) wife purchased it at Cole's for $50 cdn.

I found it to be the best book on the subject I have yet read. LtCol. David A. Bashow's style and chrological order of events made it a very easy read. His use of first person accounts are facinating and the exploration of cause and effect allows the reader to turn the page with a confidence of full understanding. Additionally, his comprehensive endnotes are invaluable. A resource within a resource.

However, I for one, found the illustrations by Stephen Quick to be static and without the sweeping drama that I have come to appreciate from WWI aviation art. Although the artwork and profiles competently illustrate the descriptions in the text, I really got the impression of amateurism. The Mrs. (a semi-professional artist in her own right) told me she almost passed on purchasing the book because of the artwork, but after being fully absorbed by the reading, I'm very glad she didn't.

Almost all photos are credited to the DND and the NA, which may have a lot to do with LtCol. Bashow's current position as an asssitant professor of history at RMC.

McArthur & Company (Toronto)
ISBN 1-55278-162-3

Hey! I wrote a book review! - which may be slightly bias because I AM CANADIAN

Breguet's Aircraft Challenge
Breguet's Crash Files
Breguet's Pre-1914 Aircraft Challenge

Fliegen ist notwendig. Leben nicht.

- Suicide note left by pioneer aviatrix Melli Beese
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Old 21 January 2001, 12:10 AM   #4
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I bought the book for myself for Christmas but haven't actually read it yet.

Identifying Canadian pilots in WW1 has always been difficult. Going by official paperwork is fraught with problems, because many Americans signed on in Canada as Canadian early on, and as Americans in Canada later, and some Canadians enlisted in Great Britain not Canada.

Really complicating the mix is the fact that you simply have to make some judgement calls with regard to certain people, given the fact that many Canadians are immigrants. Are you only Canadian if you are born here? Certainly not in terms of citizenship; and most people would agree that you can be Canadian without it being your place of birth. Is someone who was born in Britain, emigrated to Canada for a year or two and then enlisted in Canada to fight for Britain actually Canadian? If that person made Canada their permanent home after the war, are they then Canadian? If they didn't, then they aren't Canadian? What about an American who enlisted in Canada to join the fight, but then became Canadian after the war?

Pretty hard to identify where the person is from in some cases, or what citizenship they considered themselves to be.
Old 21 January 2001, 01:20 AM   #5
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Just another comment--I like to buy new books on aviation during the Great War in part to support such projects, but the title of this one was so trite--"Knights of the Air"--that I balked at plopping down the fifty bucks at first. Hopefully the title came from the publisher and not the author.

Glad to hear it's good inside.
Old 21 January 2001, 11:20 AM   #6
Terry McCormick
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Your comments on just who is a Canadian are noted. A few years ago I corresponded at length with Stu Taylor, probably the dean of Canadian WW1 aviation historians, who had personally known many of the aces. Between us we went through the entire list. By the way the list was closer to 200 than the 187 shown on this website.For example I have tried in vain to get Scott to move Harold Hartney, the Canadian ace who was attached to the USAS late in the war and in 1923 became a US citizen to the Canadian list.
US pilots who came to learn in Canada were not considered obviously. One exception was Emile Lussier (US born of Canadian parents,family moved back to Canada pre-war,who didn't find out that US authorities considered him American until after the war.) He wrote to Stu and specifically asked to be included on the Canadian list, as I assume he considered himself to be one during the actual fighting.
In general, those born in Canada automatically made the list, but even then Taylor had tough standards. Two Canadian-born aces (Soden and Beanlands) who had moved to the UK as children were not included, nor was the Nova Scotia-born US ace Meissner.. The really odd thing about the list is that although immigrants made up a huge percentage of the population in 1914 (witness the 1st Cdn.Division being mostly British born) over 90% of the Canadian aces were native born. Only about 20 were immigrants.
Even here Taylor set strict criteria.Someone who had just spent a brief time in Canada pre-war (Findlay,Gorringe,etc.) was not included. On the other hand, someone who immigrated here pre-war and then returned post-war was considered Canadian. A good example in Holliday, the Brisfit ace, born in Australia, educated in the UK, moved to Canada pre-war,joined the Canadian Army in 1914,served with the RFC/RAF, returned to Canada, spent the rest of his life here (G/C,RCAF,WW2),passing away in 1960.Sounds Canadian to me!
Pilots who were pre-war immigrants but died during the fighting were also considered Canadian, as with Gerry Knight (born in UK, came to Canada as a youngster, school and university here, killed in action), or Evans the early ace, who although British-born had spent most of his life in Canada, indeed serving in the Canadian army in two wars (Boer War,WW1).
The question of nationality has been debated here before ( Mannock English or Irish,etc.) and is always interesting and we have to remember that modern concepts of nationhood are much changed. In 1914-18, we were citizens of the Empire. Remember Bogart in his famous role in "The African Queen"? He plays a Canadian but when asked by his captors for his nationality he replies "British". This concept was probably still around in WW2, when Canadians flocked to join the RAF in the 1930's I recall reading somewhere that more Canadians served in RAF squadrons than RCAF units.
Old 22 January 2001, 07:22 AM   #7
Michael Skeet
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Does anyone out there remember an earlier Canadian book called "Knights of the Air"? It was this earlier book that first got me interested in the subject of WWI aviation, at the tender age of seven or eight.

When I got older, I learned that "Knights of the Air" was actually a bowdlerization, for children, of George Drew's "Canada's Fighting Airmen."
Old 23 January 2001, 06:20 AM   #8
Terry McCormick
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I too started off with the 1958 "Knights of the Air" by John Norman Harris. It got me hooked on the subject and today, some forty years later,that little publication still sits on my bookshelf, alongside the massive efforts of the Grub Street series,etc.
In those days we only knew about the big scorers; nobody ever thought about the 190 or so other Canadian aces.


quotknights, airquot, david, bashow

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