First published in 1934, ‘Winged Victory’ is a very naturalistic story of the war in the air on the Western Front in 1918. The hero, Tom Cundall, is cynical and war-weary. He has little desire to fight and feels no great animosity toward his enemies. His sole motivation is to stay alive long enough to be sent back home, although he is driven by his pride to act in ways that will prevent his peers from branding him a coward. The great strength of this book is the ease with which Yeates draws you into his characters’ world. After a few chapters, the men of Tom’s squadron start to feel like friends you know personally, and by the time you have made it halfway through the book they almost feel like family. This makes it very easy to feel for their loss when they die, and when their names are mentioned again several chapters later, their absence from the book is keenly felt. Yeates does not appear to kill off his characters in order to suit some narrative device, but lets them die seemingly at random, as heartlessly as in real-life, and this creates a palpable sense of threat whenever they take to the air.Yeates assumes that his readers are at least reasonably familiar with the war in the air. He offers little or no explanation for some of the terminology he uses, and if you have never read a book about First World War flying before you might find it difficult to understand some of the lingo. ‘Winged Victory’ is an excellent novel. It can be a bit long-winded in places, but the story has the power to absorb you totally, and it is an excellent example of how a novel can be true-to-life without being unbearably dreary and dull. The tone is sober, but the characters are very likeable and the flying scenes exciting.Contrary Magazine
The author gives an unvarnished account of a young RFC/RAF fighter pilot's experiences on the Western Front during the spring and summer of 1918. Despite the glamor often associated with the public image of the "dashing airman" of the First World War, he faced a variety of hazards, from anti-aircraft fire, collision in a dogfight, to the prospect of a fiery death from "the Hun in the sun". In "WINGED VICTORY", the reader is given access to the all the perils, fears, and frustrations faced by the young pilot Tom Cundall, who, each day he went off on patrol, gambled with his life and fought to keep his sanity, never knowing which friends wouldn't return to the aerodrome. Or whether he would survive or be maimed or crippled. Unlike their German counterparts (who had the "Heinecke" harness in the later stages of the war), the Allied airman was issued no parachute. "WINGED VICTORY" brings back the immediacy of what it was like to be a British fighter pilot on the Western Front in the last year of the First World War. Highly recommended.Chris Doyle
An absolute must read for anyone interested in flying, ww1 and/or coping with living through a war. There is beauty, poetry, and humour mixed with humanity, tragedy and dispair. I think the author has truly transferred his ghosts on to paper.Tim
A moving and fascinating book. One that draws you into the world of thw WWI pilotPierre
This book is not so much "a great read" unless you are fairly interested in the subject matter. Having said that, Yeates does have his poetic moments, and he also keeps the story cantering along quite nicely (although how you could fail to, with the subject matter at hand, escapes me).Anyway, me being a chuffing expert on this subject (the early history of flight), I will explain that this is a soberly written, unsentimental memoir of the last few months of the air war over the Western Front. Tom Cundall (Yeates) arrives in France about the New Year 1918, at a time when the RAF (as it was to become in April that year) had already established complete daylight air superiority. And that is the point about this book really: it dispels the popularly held belief nowadays of Richthoffen and Udet poncing about in their flying circuses, knights errant of the skies, if you will. The flying circuses were, to all intents and purposes, a failure, and after April 1917, when the allies had learnt how to counter the circuses, the Germans were well and truly beaten in the air. The allies (and in Tom's squadron, these included South Africans, Canadians, Americans and Aussies) just got on with the job, professionally, efficiently, and with as little fanfare as possible. In fact Tom quickly tires of shooting German schoolboys out of the sky.I think this book is out of print now. I thoroughly recommend it to you if you are interested in this subject. Try to get a used one from t'internet. The cover of the edition shown above appears to show SE5s, whereas Tom flew a Camel, a very different aeroplane.By the way, if you have read this book and were puzzled by the occasional reference to the "CC gear", this was the Constantinescu device, which was the British means of synchonizing machine-guns with the prop. It worked on the principle of sonic pulses through hydraulic fluids - an absolute work of genius because it did not embody the mechanical backlash (or lag) that the French and Germans had in their mechanical synch gears.