WW1 above the trenches
I’ve just finished an amazing book, written by an extraordinary man.
Early in his life Cecil conveniently adds 11 months to his age, and applies pressure on the ministry to get into The Royal Flying Corps.
Somehow he ends up being interviewed by an officer who also went to Oundle School, and he manages to get his commission.
After only 16 hours training he’s let loose above France where an average newcomer lasted just three hours before becoming a forgotten statistic in the war effort.
Cecil Lewis racks up a further 34 hours flying time before being let loose in a “Parasol” where he flies along the enemy lines at The Somme, snapping “shots” on a primitive camera.
The dangers were manifold, the machinery was unreliable, and many pilots lost their lives to artillery fire (from both sides) and German fighters.
After the inevitable battle fatigue Cecil ends up back in Blighty training pilots, and being part of the Night Patrols designed to harass the Gotha bombers above London.
As the war ends he’s seen back in action as a Squadron Leader, at a time when many pilots failed to appreciate military discipline.
In between the pages the reader get’s an insight into the mind of a man grappling with “the issues of the day” and his own mortality.
Post war Cecil lands a plumb job with Vickers testing all manner of craft before finally being selected to start a Flying School at Peking.
What’s missing from this book is quite extraordinary.
The author seems to have no ego, and you could be forgiven for thinking his expo its were “run of the mill”, but Military Cross shows Cecil was a cut above the average.
There’s no “personal stuff” or romance, the reader never gets a close look behind the curtain at any particular girl/fiancee or wife.
What struck me most was the fact that he eventually comes to a point where God is nothing more than a fanciful notion, even though his Father was evidently a believer.
A quick glimpse at Wikipedia shows me that he also served in WW2, and also was the co-founder of the BBC!
Whatever his beliefs I’m left staggered by his old school motto;
“God Grants Grace”
Which could hardly be more apt.
Book Rating – 8 out 10.