Bloody April: Slaughter in the Skies over Arras, 1917.
Bloody April: Slaughter in the Skies over Arras, 1917. Peter Hart.
Weidenfeld & Nicolson. [pounds sterling]25.00. 381 pages. ISBN 0-297-84621-3. The author, who is the Oral Historian at the Imperial War
Museum, has made good use of the Museum's holdings. One of the
First World War's many 'myths' is that the Royal Flying
Corps was sacrificed by mindless generals during the month of April
1917: under-trained young pilots were sent up to be slaughtered by
ruthless Huns so that 275 aeroplanes were shot down and 207 men killed.
This, writes Mr Hart, is part of the '"sentimental" view
of the Great War'. In this study the author does not dismiss the
losses, let alone the pilots' 'selfless heroism' but he
does show that RFC worked as an arm of the Artillery and knew the risks
involved. He does point out that whilst the Kaiser's pilots were
equally brave and whilst their planes were better, they were 'badly
outnumbered'. By using diaries and letters along with memoirs and
tape recordings the author has largely let the men involved tell their
own stories. In so doing he has set the record straight, made a
contribution to our understanding of the War, and done justice to these
brave men's heroism. (T.B.)