The French Air Force in the First World War (Paperback)
Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives
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The French air force of the First World War developed as fast as the British and German air forces, yet its history, and the enormous contribution it made to the eventual French victory, is often forgotten. So Ian Sumner's photographic history, which features almost 200 images, most of which have not been published before, is a fascinating and timely introduction to the subject. The fighter pilots, who usually dominate perceptions of the war in the air, play a leading role in the story, in particular the French aces, the small group of outstanding airmen whose exploits captured the publics imagination. Their fame, though, tends to distract attention from the ordinary unremembered airmen who formed the body of the air force throughout the war years. Ian Sumner tells their story too, as well as describing in a sequence of memorable photographs the less well-known branches of the service the bomber and reconnaissance pilots and the variety of primitive warplanes they flew.
Images for this book came from such collections as the Service Historique de la Défense and Musée de l’Air et de l’Éspace, as well as private collectors such as Albin Denis and Claude Thollon- Pomerol. Hence, French military aviation aspects go beyond famous fighter pilots and include bombing, reconnaissance and sea-based airplanes.Over the Front
Such keen perspective is seen in the book’s final photograph, taken on 19 November 1918, captioned as showing “practically anonymous among the crowds, Charles Nungesser … waits to witness Général Pétain receiving his marshal’s baton.” A generation later, Maréchal Pétain would succumb to collaborating with the Nazis. But that later treachery does not detract from the glories of the ancien régime depicted in this well-assembled book, which is recommended highly.
The book is interesting and informative... Sumner has researched the subject thoroughly: it is good that he gives biographical details including years of birth and death for many of the men in the photos, and he has researched the current status of each airfield mentioned. It is a pity that the book has no index as it is therefore difficult to use for searching for this information. It is good that he gives space to the airships and balloons used by the French, though confusingly the text sometimes says balloons when he clearly means airship. He also includes many photos, not just of the aeroplanes involved and their crews, but of the ground crews, accommodation, offices etc, which makes for a well-rounded coverage.Adrian Roberts
This book offers an interesting panorama of the French Air Force during the Great War.Air Fan, June/July 2018
A fitting tribute to the French Air Force during the Great War.The Great War magazine, May 2018
Superb collection. 10/10
Great book, photos and captions are poignant and well put together.Amazon review by Geoff Boultwood
Click here to read the review online.
Author Ian Sumner gives the right perspective of the incredible evolution of the WWI French military planes, running through the years describing all the main types but also many incredible flying machines that could perfectly stand in a Jules Verne book.Amazon review by freelancer Marco de Montis
Recommended to all WWI aviation fans.
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For the aircraft enthusiast and particularly for modellers lots of useful references and plenty of ideas for some dioramas as well.Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland
Read the complete review here.
An addition to the deservedly popular Images at War series. This new book covers the fascinating story of the French Air Force during WWI – Highly Recommended.\r\n\r\nRead the complete review here.Firetrench
As featured 'On The Book Shelf'Wargames Illustrated, January 2018