Penguin, 2014 (2014)
Softcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book
Reviewed by Bob Walch
s part of the centennial anniversary of the First World War, Penguin Books has reissued this aviation memoir of a young man who flew for the British Army's Royal Flying Corps.
ecil Lewis was just seventeen years old when he lied his way into the flying corps in 1915. The aircrafts were rather primitive and the pilot casualty rate was quite high so not a lot of questions were asked when an able-bodied young man volunteered to undergo the training and take to the skies.
efying the odds (a pilot's life expectancy was about three weeks of combat flying), Lewis not only survived three operational tours but he did it all. He flew observation sorties for ground artillery, flew into enemy territory on reconnaissance missions, protected English cities from German bombers, and even engaged the infamous Red Baron.
ewis also was a flight instructor, and after the war he went to China to help get the fledgling Chinese air corps off the ground.
ith a literary flair uncommon in this type of war memoir, Lewis not only shares the daily life of a World War I pilot but he also fills the reader in on what was happening when the men were not in the air.
his is a story that has gotten lost in the accounts of more recent conflicts and that's a shame because this book is more than just a personal history. It also provides insights into the mindset of the generation that was asked to fight in this costly conflict.
ecil Lewis wasn't a famous ace but he had the experiences and the ability to capture on paper what most writers ignored – the life of the everyday military pilot.
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