Franks, N. & Guest, R. & Bailey, F.


Grub Street, 1st ed., 1995. 314 pp., photo-plates. D.j., 25 x 18cm. FINE. After more than 18 months of deadly stalemate on the Western Front, by April 1917 the British and French were again about to launch yet another land offensive, this time on the Arras Front. This would be the first opportunity to launch a major offensive since the winter and would require enormous support from the RFC and French Air Force. However, the offensive was to be countered fiercely by the new German Jagstaffeln – Jastas – with their new improved fighters – the nimble Albatros DIII’s. What followed was a near massacre of British and French aircraft and crews, which made April the worst month for flying casualties the war had yet seen. A day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of these losses forms the first part of this superb book. Part two jumps ahead to September 1918 with the mighty push on the French / American Front at St Mihiel on 12 September and then along the Meuse-Argonne Front from the 26th, that once more put masses of men and aircraft into the air. They were opposed by an equally formidable German fighter force as in April 1917, although the numbers were not in their favour. Nevertheless, the German fighter pilots inflicted an even larger toll of British, French and American aircraft shot down, making this the worst month for the Allied flyers during the whole of World War I – and this just a mere six weeks from the war’s bloody finale. The authors have undertaken painstaking research into these two months of crucial air battles. They have unearthed many new photographs and they reveal and explain the daily lists of casualties and claims and compare and contrast the tactics used by both sides. This is an excellent book.

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