Into the Blue

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“Into the Blue”, by Wing Comdr. Norman Macmillan, OBE, MC, AFC. 256 pp. 8 1/2 in. x 5 3/10 in. (JarroIds Publishers (London) Ltd., 178-202, Great Portland Street, London, W1. 35s.)

After forty years this classic of flying over the Western Front during the First World War has been rewritten and reprinted. This is welcome news to those who collect such books and who missed the original edition. The author is well known as an accomplished aviation writer and his descriptions of learning to fly rather late in the war, of Farman Longhorns and Shorthorns, of life at the Central School of Flying at Upavon, after a spell at Netheravon, of the forced landings, the Crossley tenders, and later the rigours of aerial combat, in Sopwith Scouts, 1 1/2 strutters, Nieuports, Sopwith Camels, etc., makes an enthralling story, told in satisfying detail.

The author goes into considerable detail about the characteristics of the many aeroplanes he flew, which data can be added to, compared with, similar information in other war books about the RFC and RAF. The maps which form the book’s end papers, showing aerodromes in France of the war period, will be welcomed by historians.

Unfortunately, this is to some extent a history of 45 Squadron and the repetition of sorties, victories and casualties suffered by that Squadron, while perhaps acceptable in 1929, is tedious reading today. For all his fame as an aviation writer I do not think Macmillan compares with Cecil Lewis for graphic writing about what it was like to be a pilot in the 1914/18 war. That writer’s “Sagittarius Rising” captures much better the spirit and adventure of those days and, if coupled with the same author’s much later book “Farewell to Wings”, is just as technical. Nevertheless, the reprinting of “Into the Blue” is welcome and one wonders whether other books about this period, like Grinnell Milne’s “Wind in the Wires” and L. A. Strange’s “Recollections of an Airman”, will receive the same treatment?

Macmillan is interesting about fighting in Camels, the Italian front, and conditions at Chattis Hill aerodrome. The book has good pictures, contains typical RAF stories, some rather hackneyed, and like some motoring journalists who write of Jags and Lambos the author refers to Nienports as Nieups. . . .-W.B.