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Laugh or Fly (Hardback)

The Air War on the Western Front 1914 – 1918

Aviation > Pilots Military P&S History > British History P&S History > By Century > 20th Century WWI

By Gary Bain, Peter Hart
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 224
Illustrations: 8 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399050142
Published: 30th July 2024

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A rip-roaring gallop through the lives of the Royal Flying Corps air crew in the Great War. They lived their lives amidst a strange dichotomy as they moved from safety to dire danger, and back again in a matter of hours. This created a dreadful strain that could soon shred anyone’s mental health. On the ground they were cloistered in simple but adequate accommodation several miles behind the lines. Farmhouses, barns and huts were used, but they were all far better than the squalor faced by the infantry scurrying in their muddy trenches. Flying personnel were blessed with beds and blankets. They could set up a decent mess and socialise to their heart’s content. A smorgasbord of entertainments, with perhaps an old out of tune piano, access to drink and occasional vigorous games of mess rugby. There were visits to local towns which offered tantalizing glimpses – and sometimes more - of the female of the species. A glimpse was probably never enough for most of these very young men. What more could a chap want?

But when they were flying over the front it was no laughing matter. Death lurked in the skies, zooming in its ‘winged chariots’ out of the sun, or bursting from the clouds. A moment’s loss of concentration, or tactical blunder, could consign them to being shot down and falling thousands of feet until the crunching impact of terra firma brought a terrible relief. But better that than a punctured petrol tank, the first flickers of flame, then the roaring inferno and the agonies of incineration.

There was little or nothing for them to laugh about in the air. But when back on the ground they tried to put aside their fears.

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About Gary Bain

Gary Bain joined the Junior Leaders and served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps working with the Intelligence Corps before leaving the army and rising in civilian life to be Head of Commercial at Transport for London.


About Peter Hart

Peter Hart was for 40 years an oral historian with the Imperial War Museum Sound Archive. He has written several books on both world wars, appeared on television documentaries and is a tour guide to Gallipoli and the Western Front.

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