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Winged Victory

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I've been re-reading "Winged Victory" by V M Yeates. Although fiction, it's basically an autobiographical account of the author's experience of flying Sopwith Camels in combat during 1918 and has been described as "the greatest novel of war in the air".He offers first-hand accounts of what flying a Camel was like, for example:"A stable machine had a prediliction for normal flying positions, and this had to be overcome every time you wanted to do anything, whereas A Camel had to be held in flying positon all the time, and was out of it in a flash. It was nose light, having a rotary engine weighting next to nothing per horse power, and was rigged tail heavy so that you had to be holding her down all the time. Take your hand off the stick and it would rear right up with a terrific jerk and stand on its tail.". He also gives an insight into what flying was really like in those days and also of the spirit and attitude of the young pilots of the time. Talking of the Maurice Farman Shorthorn used as a trainer he says:"There did not seem to be any a priori reason why this structure should leave the ground but after dashing across the aeordrome at 40 mph for some time the thing did imperceptably and gradually climb into the air. It was very like a ride on the top of an omnibus. A Rumpty (the aeroplane's nick name) was no aeroplane for stunnting. The flight was a quiet trip up to 300 ft and down again. A few daring spirits who tried stunting were dead."And on spinning:"Tom had only seen once case where the fellow got away with it. He had spun a Camel from a 150 feet right into the arms of a sturdy oak which caught him. He climbed down to earth none the worse and went to a pub across the road and celebrated his escape with an admiring audience which stood him so much whisky that he had to go back in the ambulance after all."The book has been out of print for many years but a new edition was published last year. I really do recommend it to anyone with an interest in the early day of flying.

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