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Camel Pilot Supreme (Hardback)

Captain D V Armstrong DFC

Aviation WWI Aviation in WWI Photographic Books Colour Books 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918

By Annette Carson
Imprint: Air World
Pages: 248
Illustrations: 170
ISBN: 9781526752673
Published: 4th September 2019


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Over 170 illustrations, with action paintings in colour by artist Lynn Williams

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In aviation’s pioneering days the best and bravest airmen pushed the boundaries of flight in all dimensions and attitudes. When aeroplanes went to war this exploratory art, now known as aerobatics, was called ‘stunting’ in breezy RFC slang. Initially forbidden as foolhardy, its importance for survival soon became paramount in the life and death mêlées of dogfighting.

But pilots still delighted in the joy and exuberance of aerobatting for its own sake, and they recognized a master of that very special skill in young D’Urban Victor Armstrong, whose displays were nothing short of electrifying. Fluid and dramatic, performed with flair at ultra-low level, his exhibitions left spectators shaking their heads in disbelief. Even a century later his feats – some illustrated here – continue to evoke astonishment in piloting circles.

Until this biography little was known about his wartime experiences, and even less about his South African background. His great value to the authorities lay in his superb handling of the Sopwith Camel, which upon its introduction had taken a heavy toll in fatal trainee accidents. While still on active service he was sent around the units providing vivid proof that, properly handled, the stubby little fighter delivered the key to combat success: unrivalled manoeuvrability. His resultant fame eclipsed his other distinguished role in pioneering night flying and night fighting, an equally vital skill he was also detailed to demonstrate around the squadrons.

In these pages you will find yourself in the cockpit of the F.1 Camel and become acquainted with its rotary engine. You will meet many leading names including Billy Bishop, Cecil Lewis, Norman Macmillan, Robert Smith Barry, and the harum-scarum Three Musketeers from War Birds. Armstrong takes his place alongside them as one of the legendary figures of the first great aerial war.

Very highly recommended, and not just to aficionados of 1914-18 aviation.

Aeroplane Monthly, December 2019

The story of Armstrong's exploits in his Sopwith Camel is reminiscent of the early, pioneering years of Sergeant Bigglesworth, otherwise known as "Biggles". These stories could be Biggles's early adventures, except they are real. This is Boys' Own Paper stuff, inspirational, thrilling, and amazing.

Books Monthly

Armstrong was one of those who mastered his mount and fully exploited all of its capabilities. This made him one of the first great aerobatic pilots, able to make his aircraft perform daring and impossible manoeuvrers. The author has presented this story well, supporting the written text with many images through the body of the book, and included an impressive full colour photo-plate section.

Read the full review here


What I can say is that Camel Pilot Supreme has to be the definitive biography of this legendary figure in aviation. It is deeply researched, hugely informative and extensively illustrated, both with a large number of pictures from Armstrong’s own photo album and some outstanding and beautifully reproduced artwork by Lyn Williams. Here is a great contender for Pilot’s book of the year.

Phil Whiteman, December edition of Pilot magazine.

This is an impressive title that offers great insight into the operational career of one of WWIs characters and most capable fliers.
Highly recommended

Watch the full video review here

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Great War July 2019

About Annette Carson

Annette Carson has written on a variety of non-fiction topics with a preference for history and biography. Her love of aviation led to involvement in aerobatics, a subject on which she has contributed to Encyclopaedia Britannica. She has served in organisational roles including Contest Director, British Team Manager and International Jury member, was an active delegate to the International Aerobatics Commission of the FAI, and in 1986 published Flight Fantastic: The Illustrated History of Aerobatics, earning the FAI’s Tissandier Diploma.

Carson is also widely respected for her revisionist books and articles on Richard III. She was a founding member of the historical research team that mounted the search for his grave in Leicester and commissioned the archaeological dig that found him in 2012.

She first started researching Captain Armstrong in the 1980s for Flight Fantastic, aware of his enduring fame as the greatest aerobatic pilot of the First World War. Whilst in South Africa she learnt of his origins in that country and began gathering material for a biography, encouraged by his nephew and heir who gave her a complete copy of Armstrong’s wartime photograph album. The original album, sadly, has since disappeared, but the extracts used here provide a unique visual account of his war.

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