Reading and learning are two of my passions and it is my pleasure to share these books with you.I have read them all and have found them to be both insightful and engaging. I encourage your feedback and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.
Maj Chris Buckham
Monday, 18 March 2013
Open Cockpit - Arthur Gould Lee
The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was
published in Airforce magazine. Therefore, the material is proprietary to the
Air Force Association of Canada and is reproduced here by the author with the
permission of the association. If you would like to republish this information
or refer to excerpts please contact the Editor Airforce magazine (email@example.com ). I support the Air
Force Association’s important mission to inform new generations of Canadians
about the value and importance of their country’s air force. A link to the
AirForce Magazine website is: http://airforce.ca/magazine/
Title: Open Cockpit
Author: Arthur Gould Lee ISBN: 9781908117250 Hardcover Pages: 212 Illustrations: 29 b/w Publisher: Grub Street Publishing
The author, Gould, was a fighter pilot in the RAF from
early 1916 until the end of the war having transferred from an initial stint
with the infantry. His autobiography encompassing his period of training and
operational flying is an engaging and enlightening window into the early years
of military flying. His intent is not to glorify or romanticize the role of the
fighter pilot, but rather to provide insight into the lives and challenges of a
line pilot in the cauldron of the First World War. He is a gifted writer and
his work conveys his story to the reader in a casual yet compelling way.
Indeed, one could easily imagine the author, with a brandy and cigar, sitting
across from the reader in his library relating the story of a particularly
notable period of his life.
Gould’s discussion of the training that he received is of
particular interest. The casual, almost haphazard method that young pilots were
introduced to the mysteries of flight is both shocking and comical. In today’s
technological world of aviation, it is hard to imagine sending up novice pilots
with a couplehours training to solo
without even understanding the basics of how to recover from a spin (and, in
fact, the powers that be did not know the answer to this question until well
into the war). The fact that pilot training was, in many respects, as dangerous
as combat, further deepens ones respect for those early pilots who took up the
challenge of flight.
I was particularly taken with his descriptions of
patrols. Typically these lasted for two to three hours and as his aircraft, the
Sopwith Pup, handled better at higher altitudes, 18 – 20,000 ft was not
uncommon. As a rule of thumb, any sustained operation above 10,000 ft today
requires the use of oxygen in an unpressurized environment. Imagine if you
will, operating at 20,000 ft without oxygen or heating in open cockpits for two
to three hours!!! Now add the stress and challenge of potential combat onto
that (and without parachutes). Modern aviation medicine tells us that it is
incredibly hard both psychologically and physically to sustain this kind of
undertaking. It boggles the mind that these men were expected to do it two to
three times per day, every day. Gould’s reminisces of these events leave the
reader shaking their head in wonder.
The author does discuss his thoughts on the courage of
the fighter pilot compared with other elements of the airforce (such as
observation and reconnaissance aircraft) and the army. His views are poignant
and balanced. In effect, he acknowledges that each of the branches had
stressors uniquely theirs and so one may not, with any degree of legitimacy,
suggest that one group was braver than another. In his view, the main challenge
for the fighter pilot was centred upon the fact that he was alone. In the air, he
did not have the support of being able to overcome/dilute his fear through the
close proximity of his peers and friends. He comments that a significant part
of his maturity and development as a pilot occurred during a scrap with a
Albatros D-III. The German and Gould were alone facing each other and the
German’s aircraft was overall a far superior one to the Pup that Gould was
flying. Nevertheless, the German broke contact and retreated to his own lines.
It was at that moment, Gould recounts, that he realized that his adversaries
were as scared, and therefore as human, as he. The quality of the aircraft,
while important, was not the only factor in survival in the air.
Psychologically, the balance was made more even for Gould because of this
Grub Street publishing has produced yet another high
quality book. The production value is first rate and well worth the money.
Overall, I have to say that this was one of the most
enjoyable books that I have read about the experiences of a First World War
combatant. Gould is a top notch author who is able to tell his tale without
being overly dramatic or gruesome. A thoroughly engaging read, I had trouble
putting the book down. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a
story that entertains and educates concurrently.