Musings on the worlds of aviation, military and international affairs.
With reviews of books that cover these topics
This is the paperback version of the classic, re-published by Grub Street relatively recently. Lee is of course author of the companion volume, No Parachutes. Open Cockpit is an autobiography covering the period from the start of his flying training (which was both rudimentary and frightening) to the end of WW1.
Lee is an accomplished writer – that was one of his pastimes whilst on active service. There can be few better volumes to give a picture of air fighting on the Western Front. Anyone interested in the life of a fighter pilot in the RFC and nascent RAF really has to read this. His writing underlines the physical difficulty of flying, existing, and fighting at up to 20,000’ in an open cockpit biplane. It is of interest in explaining the deficiencies of the Sopwith Pup, his main mount for the war – good at turning, but outperformed by the relevant models of Albatros for most of its service life. He then went on to the Camel, and again he paints a vivid picture of its vices and strengths.
But perhaps of most interest to historians is his depiction of battles with Richtofen and his ‘Circus’. Lee is pragmatic, and in his view the Red Baron chose his victims carefully – he would usually select slow reconnaissance aircraft, and would often shun a fight with an equal number of fighters.
Overall a very evocative book.