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AndyK View Drop Down
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    Posted: 20 Oct 2009 at 12:57
WINGS OVER THE DESERT: In action with an RFC pilot in Palestine 1916-1918WINGS OVER THE DESERT

Desmond Sewell, Haynes Publishing, Sparkford, Yeovil, BA22 7JJ, 224pp, 175x240mm, hardback. ISBN 978-1-84425-672-3, £25.00
Click on the cover to buy this book from Amazon!
This is a book which any student of WW1 in the air should own. Desmond Sewell tells his father’s story and interweaves it with a history of the war in Palestine. The history is accurate and the personal story is fascinating.

Eric Sewell had Irish and French origins, had competed as a swimmer in the 1908 Olympics and was initially rejected for RFC service at the outbreak of the war. He learned to fly at his own expense and intended to enlist in the French air service. A fortuitous intervention saw him join the RFC and, after ground training at Oxford and flying training at Montrose and Upavon, he was posted to 14 Squadron in Palestine.
The book chronicles war in that theatre and puts the RFC’s operations into perspective. Everyday life for Sewell is detailed, life on the ground as well as in the air. Well known names abound and there are insights into the characters of several of the well-known names. In addition, there are poems and cartoons from a magazine called The Gnome, published for circulation within the RFC in the Egypt/Palestine theatre and previously unknown to this reviewer.

Desmond Sewell began his research in the hope of understanding photographs inherited from his father and those photographs form the backbone of the illustrations in the book; others are drawn from Phil Jarrett’s collection. Many are published for the first time and there are some gems; aeroplanes, locations, people.

Eric Sewell’s distinguished service included contact with T.E. Lawrence and there are some interesting observations on that man. He was also involved in an epic survival adventure on 24 March 1917, after his Martinsyde came down after being hit by AA – a story that was included in the Official History. Sewell was, after four crashes, eventually classed as unfit for operational flying and ended his war with 3 School of Military Aeronautics.

There is little to fault with this book which covers a wealth of information that is presented in a highly readable manner and provides a wealth of interesting illustration. The publishers are to be congratulated for what is, as far as I’m aware, their first venture into such territory and I hope that there’s more to come from them.

GM, Volume 40 Number 3

Edited by AndyK - 20 Oct 2009 at 12:57
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