[Illustrated Edition – contains 30 photos of the author, his squadron, planes and exploits]
The highest scoring British Air Ace reveals his daily life at the front, in the air and in combat with the Germans above the Western Front.
In the muddy trenches of the Western front few rankers would have considered that they would achieve field rank of major and international celebrity. In the skies above the shell-torn landscape, any man with enough talent, daring and skill could hope to become a ‘Flying Ace’ by claiming five or more victories over enemy aviators. Such an adventurous warrior was James McCudden; born in 1895 in Gillingham, Kent, he enlisted in the Royal Engineers in 1910 as soon as he could. But he was smitten with the service in the air after a flight in his brothers plane in 1913 and transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. However he was only an engineer in 1914, whose dreams of flying his own aircraft may have been dashed had it not been for the advent of the First World War. Once in France despite his modest rank he was allowed to go up with his squadron and act as an observer in a two seater plane. After much good service as an observer his superiors put forward him for pilot training in 1916.
McCudden’s tally of the enemy over the next two years would rank him among the greatest of the World War One Aces; he claimed some 57 enemy aircraft even three in a single day in 1918. His exploits in the air were legendary, surviving an attack by the Red Baron himself, he pioneered new tactics that enabled him the edge of his enemy by using his engineering skill to fine tune his aircraft and give it the ability to climb higher than the enemy. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Service Order with Bar, Military Cross with Bar and a Military Medal and the French Croix de Guerre for his daring, bravery and skill. It is with a sad irony that it was not his German foe that eventually ended his outstanding military service but a flying accident in 1918. He was only 23 at the time.
His own exploits, adventures, tactics and escapes are best left to him in his own words, but suffice to say despite his modest retelling of his life in a day-by-day fashion remains both dramatic and engaging.