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No empty chairs …

October 8, 2012

“No empty chairs” by Ian Mackersey

If the term “I remember when” has become a motto and not a joke (i.e. one has grown old), you might also remember a TV programme titled “Wings” from 1978 to 1979.

Therefore if you really enjoyed the series, or for you youngsters who enjoy the history of the period or the subject, you might enjoy this book. For it is one of the multitudes of books now revealing the carnage, wastefulness and futility of World War One. It’s not “Tally Ho Chaps” for King and country and “we will beat the Huns”, but a story of death, negligence and simple human suffering.

It is a book on the horrors of trench warfare faced by millions in World War I, from the perspective of the usually forgotten pilots and service men of the fledging Royal Flying Corp (RFC). Young men who sought adventure, were given an aircraft, told to go fly it with little or no training, and go kill Germans. The aircraft , which were usually obsolete, killed more pilots than the enemy. They faced death, including a gruesome death by fire, stranded thousands of feet in the sky with no parachutes. In a life span that was counted in weeks,  they could become mentally, physically and emotionally damaged, and were serving in an organisation that was wracked with political and class divisions.

The author writes about the mothers and wives, commanders and service men and unknown pilots like New Zealander Keith Caldwell,  and the truly famous heroes; the Red Baron, Billy Bishop VC, and Mick Mannock VC.  

This is a thought-provoking book pertinent to the current period,  when New Zealand’s and the world’s issues with conflict and defence are again coming to the fore. It’s a history we might remember and learn from.

By Darren Russell

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From → Non-Fiction, Review

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