Sea & Air Fighting – Those Who Were There, David Bilton

Sea & Air Fighting – Those Who Were There, David Bilton

This selection of articles covers a series of dramatic naval and air exploits of the First World War, covering a range of topics from the major battles of Ypres and Jutland or the Zeebrugge raid, down to individual accounts of the fighting in the air. They were clearly written fairly soon after the events they covered. There is very little sign of the inter-war cynicism about the war, or of the shadow of the Second World War, which so often looms over accounts of the First World War (especially in the air). The choice of air and naval stories also helps, taking us away from the grim narrative of the trenches.

Here these events are clearly seen as coming from the most recent and most high technology war ever fought. There is a sense of freshness and adventure to many of the tales (even in the account of the sinking of the Audacious, an early naval setback). There are some very dramatic stories here - one item that stood out for me was the account of a fighter pilot who ended up outside his cockpit, dangling below his upside-down aircraft, before just about managed to get back into his cockpit and righting his aircraft.

The stories cover a wide range of topic, some of which have largely been forgotten since. The current view of some of these efforts doesn’t always match these contemporary views - the ‘Q’ ship being a good example of a case where the wartime author clearly felt that his efforts were of great value.

Overall this is a fascinating selection of individual accounts of wartime exploits, really taking us back to the time and giving an idea of how they were seen when they were fresh. 

1 – A Historic Duel, E. Keble Chatterton
2 – The Sinking of the Audacious, George P. Clark
3 – The Ship Wins the First VC, Gordon Campbell
4 – The Battle of Jutland, 'Etienne' (Commander Stephen King-Hall)
5 – 'Q' Ship Result, G.H.P. Mulhauser
6 – A Fight to the Finish, Lieutenant-Commander Harold Auten, VC
7 – The Attack on the Mole and After, Captain A.F.B. Carpenter, VC, RN
8 – The Daylight Raid, Ms C.S.Peel
9 – The Death of Richthofen, 'Vigilant'
10 – The Battle of 4 June, Compton Machenzie
11 – The Second Battle of Ypres, Lieut-Col L.A. Strange, DSO, MC, DFC
12 – The Day's Work, 'Contact' (Alan Bott)

Author: David Bilton
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 168
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2016

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