Hell of a Time: The Aviation Novels of Derek Robinson

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By PARAAG SHUKLA

It started when I was ten years old. In the summer of 1992 my family and I were in New Delhi, visiting family for the first time since moving to the U.S. in 1985. I switched on the television and saw a World War II British fighter aircraft flying low over the countryside. Then, much to my amazement, it flew under a stone bridge. But then the pilot, momentarily distracted, flew his aircraft straight into a tree and was killed in the ensuing fiery crash. Continue reading

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Learning to Fly… in “The Suicide Club”

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Aviators of the First World War endured a 70% chance of being killed or wounded, and 10,000 aviators were killed in combat. Flying was inherently dangerous, and 60% of all British aircraft accidents occurred during training. The Royal Flying Corps was quickly dubbed “The Suicide Club.”

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“Shoot ’em in the Back,” or the Myth of Aerial Chivalry

David Niven and Erroll Flynn in "The Dawn Patrol" (1938).

David Niven and Erroll Flynn in The Dawn Patrol.

Once the First World War began, it did not take long for the horrendous fighting in the trenches to crush the prevailing notion of heroism. An individual’s survival amidst the great machinery of war seemed to rely more on chance than individual bravery. One exception, however, was the image of the intrepid aviator. Continue reading

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The Promise of Adventure: A Glance at Early Powered Flight

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The period leading to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914 was one of rapid innovation in the field of aviation. Significant time, effort, and treasure was spent in learning about aeronautics. Testing new designs was often a trial-and-error process, with the highest stakes for the men at the controls of primitive flying machines. Continue reading

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Just Over the Horizon—

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Hello, Friends!

As many of you know, I am currently working on a historical-fiction book about aviators during the First World War. It has been exciting (and daunting!) to immerse myself in the events of 1917 as I tell a story of some of the early fighter pilots of the Royal Flying Corps.

My primary focus—above all else—is to try and accurately convey the human experience of it all. I’ve always been fascinated by the personalities of such historical figures. Who were they? What set them apart from the others who kept their feet rooted firmly to the ground? How did they react when bullets punched through their wood-and-fabric aeroplane? Or when they found themselves in a terrifying dogfight through the clouds? How did those experiences change them? The list goes on and on, and I hope to shed some light on some of these topics.

I’ve long been drawn to history and aviation, and for this project I leaned heavily on primary-source material. During my research I regularly came across riveting recollections that sometimes surprised even me. I will share those types of unique stories on this blog… along with some context/analysis when appropriate.

Please note that this blog is not only for aviation aficionados or historians. It is for anyone and everyone. So many stories of WWI were lost, forgotten, or warped during the past century. I sincerely hope to share some knowledge and spark the interest of some of you… all while debunking some persistent myths along the way.

—paraag

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