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The French Air Force in the First World War (Paperback)

Rare Photographs from Wartime Archives

Aviation WWI Photo Books Colour Books 1914 1915 1916 1917 Photo Books of WWI

By Ian Sumner
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Images of War
Pages: 156
ISBN: 9781526701794
Published: 22nd January 2018

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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.
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.

Over the Front

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

As featured on...

War History Online

A fitting tribute to the French Air Force during the Great War.

Superb collection. 10/10

The Great War magazine, May 2018

Great book, photos and captions are poignant and well put together.

Click here to read the review online.

Amazon review by Geoff Boultwood

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.

Recommended to all WWI aviation fans.

Click here to read the full review.

Amazon review by freelancer Marco de Montis

For the aircraft enthusiast and particularly for modellers lots of useful references and plenty of ideas for some dioramas as well.

Read the complete review here.

Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

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

About Ian Sumner

Ian Sumner is a prolific writer and researcher who specializes in local and military history. He has made a particular study of the French army during the First World War, his many books on the subject including French Army 1914-18, French Poilu 1914-18 and First Battle of the Marne 1914. He is the author, with François Vauvillier, of French Army 1939-45, and has also published books on the Royal Navy, the British army, the Indian Army, the Anzacs, the German air force and the history of Yorkshire.

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