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Today in History

Airmen Who Died in the Great War
by Chris Hobson
Hardcover 460 pages
Publisher: Savannah Publications (August 1, 1995)
Language: English
ISBN: 187150581X

"In the 1920s HMSO published a volume titled Officers Died in the Great War, and a series of volumes titled Soldiers Died in the Great War, which were republished in the 1980s by J B Hayward & Sons. These volumes however were very poor on the RFC/RAF/RNAS losses; there was no volume on the aerial losses alone. Officers and enlisted men with a regimental affiliation were listed in the corresponding volume, but rarely with an indication of their aerial service. Chris Hobson has undertaken to remedy this with his Airmen Died in the Great War 1914-1918. The book is basically in four parts; Part I is Biographical Lists, Part II is Chronological Lists, Part III is Unit Lists, and the four part consists of ten appendices. The first three parts are all broken into five sections: Royal Naval Air Service, Royal Flying Corps, Royal Air Force, Women’s Royal Air Force, and Australian Flying Corps.

A sample entry from the Biographical Lists is: DODD, Lt Walter de Courcy, 11 Sqn, obs, (5/R Munster Fus). Native of Killorglin, Co Kerry, Eire, age 21. KIA 31.10.17. Buried at HAC, Ecoust-St Mein, France

The corresponding entry from the Chronological Lists is: 2Lt S W Randall and Lt W de C Dodd, 11 Sqn. KIA in Bristol F2B B1109, WF (Western Front)

And finally, the entry in the Unit Lists is simply: Dodd, Lt W C

The appendices supply some additional useful information. The first one is an Order of Battle, RNAS for March 31, 1918, and RAF for November 11, 1918. The second one is Statistics, which will delight unemployed writers. For each of the services it lists casualties by year and by month, by theater, by aircraft type, and by rank. It ends with a similar section of combined statistics. For example, it notes that there were 831 casualties on the Camel, 424 of which were in combat. Other aircraft with over 100 casualties are the Avro 504 (269/3), AWFK 8 (186/124), BE2 (508/292), Bristol F2B (424/289), Curtiss JN-4 (127/0), DH4 (460/333), DH9 (390/270), FE2 (344/212), Pup (114/41), RE8 (815/451), SE5a (286/207), Strutter (211/162). There is an appendix on all pre-war casualties, one on USAS casualties while attached to the RFC and RAF, USN casualties while attached to the RFC, RNAS and RAF, miscellaneous airmen casualties, and a list of cemeteries and memorials.

This is an excellent book, and well worth the price, and certainly worthy of five cocardes. There is of course another book on the market, from Grub Street, titled The Sky Their Battlefield, by Trevor Henshaw, at the same price. The latter book is strictly chronological, organized by theaters, with a name index, but no unit index. It also gives only initials, not full names (I estimate 90% of the entries in Hobson’s book have full names). Henshaw has information on claims against German aircraft (although I do not know how complete this is), and times of combats, which Hobson does not supply. If you are doing serious research, you probably need them both. If you can only afford one, you will have to decide which features in one book are more important than features in the other. Myself, I own both; hang the expense! The Henshaw book is probably easier to obtain, with wider distribution. I obtained my copy of Hobson’s book from The Aviation Bookshop in London."

Reviewed by Frank Olynyk

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