This memoir was based on the First World War diaries of Squadron Leader C P O Bartlett, a bomber pilot with the RNAS who spent some eighteen months operating over the Western Front, flying on 101 missions. Bartlett himself produced the book in the 1970s, so it is almost entirely his voice that we here as we read the book (there are a few editorial notes to explain the context of events).
I've read quite a few memoirs written by First World War aviators, but this is the first I've encountered that was written by a pilot with the Royal Naval Air Service. This is also the First World War memoir I've read that was written by a bomber pilot - the others have either been fighter pilots or flew in observation aircraft.
The tone is thus very different from most of the other memoirs. Bartlett was flying a very different type of mission, normally operating away from the front lines. Losses appear to have been rather lower than in the RFC, especially when they were operating near the coast. This was at least in part because Bartlett and his men were able to fly over the sea for large parts of their missions, reducing the time spent near German anti-aircraft guns and flights, and partly because as bombers they weren't lingering in the danger zone like the more familiar scouts and observation types. He also records a surprising number of serious accidents that produced only minor injuries - far fewer than in similar Second World War bomber command memoirs, where airfield accidents were often very nasty.
Bartlett's worst moments came during the German offensives of 1918 when his squadron was rushed to the Somme to help stem the tide, and found itself forced to make a series of moves as advancing German troops captured airfield after airfield.
The tone is fairly light-hearted (something that it does have in common with most RFC memoirs),
This is a fascinating and very valuable account of the life of a pilot during the first sustained bombing campaign in history, and will be a good addition to the library of anyone interested in aviation during the First World War.
1 - Learning to Fly
2 - Introduction to Flanders
3 - Nieuports, Sopwiths and 'Flaming Onions'
4 - Bombing U-Boats by Night
5 - Testing the Latest Bomber
6 - The Leugenboom Gun
7 - Against the Gothas
8 - A Visit to the Palace
9 - Spoiling Attacks
10 - We Meet and Engage the Red Baron
11 - The Ludendorff Offensive
12 - A Casualty Fights Back
Author: C P O Bartlett
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2013 edition of 1974 original