This biography looks at the life of a classic member of the 'lost generation' (in its British context of the most promising members of the generation that died in the First World World). Arthur Rhys Davids's parents were amongst the most brilliant academics of their own generations, establishing the study of Pali, the language of Bhuddist scripture, in the west. Their son showed a similar level of promise, excelling at Eton, and in the normal course of events would have progressed smoothly on to Oxford.
Unfortunately for Arthur Rhys Davids his time at Eton ended in the middle of the First World War. He enrolled in the RFC, and in the summer of 1917 came to the public's attention as one of the most successful British fighter pilots of the period. The height of his fame came after he shot down the German ace Werner Voss, although he had already won the Military Cross by that date.
Rhys Davids comes across as a likeable character for most of the book, although I must admit the tone of some of his letters in his early days in the RFC do grate on modern sensibilities somewhat, but that is entirely excusable in someone who went directly from the sheltered world of Eton into a very technical service, where he met mechanically minded men for what was probably the first time.
Inevitably there is an increasingly melancholy tone to the book as we approach it, and Rhys Davids's end, although that never completely overwhelms the sense of Rhys Davids's enjoyment of his life in the RFC. The copious use of his own letters, often supported by the corresponding letter from his mother or sister give us a clear idea of the man, and give this book a very different tone to many otherwise similar biographies.
1 - Boyhood
2 - King's Scholar
3 - War
4 - Royal Flying Corps
5 - The Great Adventure
6 - Estrée Blanche
7 - Home Defence
8 - Werner Voss
9 - Final Days
Author: Alex Revell
Publisher: Pen & Sword Aviation