Reckless Fellows: The Gentlemen of the Royal Flying Corps [Bujak]
The Royal Flying Corps, later the Royal Air Force, was formed in 1912 and went to war in 1914 where it played a vital role in reconnaissance, supporting the British Expeditionary Force as ‘air cavalry’ and also in combat, establishing air superiority over the Imperial German Air Force. Edward Bujak here combines the history of the air war, including details of strategy, tactics, technical issues and combat, with a social and cultural history. The RFC was originally dominated by the landed elite, in Lloyd George’s phrase ‘from the stateliest houses in England’, and its pilots were regarded as ‘knights of the air’. Harlaxton Manor in Lincolnshire, seat of landed gentry, became their major training base. Bujak shows how, within the circle of the RFC, the class divide and unconscious superiority of Edwardian Britain disappeared—absorbed by common purpose, technical expertise and by an influx of pilots from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. He thus provides an original and unusual take on the air war in World War I, combining military, social and cultural history.