Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DTB Review: Wind in the Wires

Duncan Grinnell-Milne, Wind in the Wires

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 223 pages
  • Publisher: Time-Life Books; REPRINT Edition edition (1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809496291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809496297
  • Product Dimensions: 9.9 x 7.9 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars (7 customer reviews) 
  • Price: $10.25 plus shipping
1. Short review:    (Amazon rating: 4 out of 5 stars -- I like it.)

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked:  The first-hand account by an early (1915) flyer in the Great War.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Should be both, but it is a walk in the park.

2.2. What I did not like: The cover (see above). The cover is god-awful. The 1957 mass-market paperback cover is also god-awful. The 1970 mass-market paperback is beautiful; here 'tis:

Ain't that pretty?

     The non-scalable font. I have gotten used to e-books. I like to choose the size of the font I read. Not having that ability is an annoyance.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Air combat buffs. History buffs.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yes. No worries.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book?  Maybe. Other than The Silent Victory, I am not interested in any other of GM's works.

2.6. The plot in a nutshell:
     There is no plot. Wind in the Wires is a memoir. Duncan Grinnell-Milne wrote it years after the war. It was first published in 1933.
     GM began with his flying school experiences. He learned to fly on a Farman Longhorn, a machine that could barely struggle into the air on a calm day.
     After pilot training, GM joined 16 Squadron and flew the BE2c, aka the Quirk. GM seemed to have liked the Quirk. For the life of me, I cannot think why. The observer sat in front with his downward view obstructed by the bottom plane. His rearward field of fire with the Lewis gun was obstructed by the pilot. Unmaneuverable and slow, the Quirk was a remarkably bad airplane in an era of bad airplanes. Still GM and his observer managed to down one German with it.
     GM did not enjoy his time with 16 Squadron. The Officer Commanding was a stuffed shirt who was more interested in keeping planes in running order than in accomplishing missions. Pilots were graded by the softness of their landings instead of the aggressive accomplishment of their missions.
     Soon after scoring his first kill, GM flew a reconnaissance so deep behind German lines that it required he leave his observer behind. Predictably, his engine packed up, and he was captured.
     GM spent 30 months in captivity and eight of those months were in solitary confinement as punishment for one escape attempt or another. Fabricating escape attempts seems to have been his hobby. He finally succeeded the day before he was to be paroled through Holland.
     GM returned to France to fly the SE5a with 56 Squadron. 56 was the most celebrated RAF fighter squadron of the Great War. GM noted that 16 Squadron made a big man of its one MC recipient. 56 Squadron hung a board in the mess that listed its members' honors: 2 VCs, 6 DSOs, 14 MCs, 8 bars to MCs, and 6 DFCs. The difference is striking.
     56 Squadron gave its pilots more freedom than GM had had at 16 Squadron. He cracked up a few SEs without a word of criticism from his superiors.
     In the last 5 weeks of the war, GM scored 5 kills. He liked to fly in company with John Speaks, an American, and Robert 'Bloody Bob' Caldwell, a Canadian. After the war, he became 56 Squadron's OC until the MoW decommissioned the squadron.
 2.7. Other:
     This is a classic of the war in the air during the Great War. I have wanted to read it for many years. Shame it is not available as an ebook.
     The book contains 16 illustrations and pictures including one illustration of a Farman Shorthorn attacking a German draken (balloon).
     The Time-Life reprint contains a list that I am certain was not included in the original edition. The list is titled 'Principal Officers Identified from Nicknames' and is headed by 'The Starched Shirt -- Major H. C. T. (Stuffy) Dowding, RA (later Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding, RAF'.
     The price given above is what I paid. YMMV.

2.8. Links: 

2.9. Buy the book:
hardback with ugly cover: Wind in the Wires
paperback with pretty cover: Wind in the Wires (used)

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