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Ian Burns View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ian Burns Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19 Jun 2011 at 15:54
Well I was planning a visit back to the UK in 2012.  So, depending on the date, count me in.
I think the 2014 date makes more sense, but we could look on 2012 as a trial run...
 
Ian
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Gary Scanlan View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gary Scanlan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jul 2011 at 06:11
I have only recently joined the Society, and this year's AGM was my first event. The lecture of Professor Sheffield was stimulating and the friendliness of the members very reassuring. However, perhaps the scholarship of so many of the more senior members was the impression which stayed with me.
I think that a seminar where such individuals could possibly hold small or even a couple of plenary sessions would be most welcome to me. I would particularly like to hear from Paul Hare, whose work on the Royal Aircraft Factory published by Putnam is a book which I like to dip into on a regular basis.
Topics are legion, I was recently re-reading both Cecil Lewis Sagittarius Rising and Duncan Grinnell-Milne, Wind in the Wires, not having read them since i was a boy. The contrasts in attitudes to the war while they were involved and afterwards made me consider to what degree Lewis's attitude to the war when he wrote his book was shaped by the anti-war writers such as Sigfreid Sassoon, and the looming threat of Nazi Germany. The biography of Bill Bishop by his son is to be contrasted with the attempt to discredit Bishop by  certain Canadian writers and broadcasters is another example which could possibly form the subject matter of a seminar group.
    
Finally,I would like to thank everyone for a wonderful day last April at Hendon.
Best wishes to all
Gary Scanlan.Smile
     
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Paul R Hare View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul R Hare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jul 2011 at 08:40
Hello Gary,
Glad you like my book!.
If the conference goes ahead ( will confirm asap after the 18th) I promise that I will be one of the speakers and that there will plenty of time for discussions both in and out of the seminar room.
Your consideration of the degree to which attitudes were changed by war, and by writers such as Sassoon, is just the kind of thing we need more of.
So keep next June free and we look forward to seeing you there.
Paul
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NickForder View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jul 2011 at 08:50
Re 'histography' and WW1 I would recommend:
The Great War & Modern Memory - Paul Fussell
The Myth of the Great War - John Mosier
The Paladins - John James
as 'thought provoking' works. Don't get sidelined by the fact that Fussell's knowledge of the make up of the British Army is dodgy and Mosier has a clear agenda (the Americans won WW1 for us and the French). Although James' book is essentially about the interwar RAF, it has a useful intro overview of the years before and the chapter discussing sources is particularly interesting.
Nick  
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Paul R Hare View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Paul R Hare Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jul 2011 at 16:37
I have always previously mistrusted "The Great war & modern memory" simpy because Fussell's knowledge of the British Army is dodgy but I endorse your recommendation of "The Paladins" in which I think Sykes get proper credit for his work in the formation of the RFC.
All of which might make a good topic for a presentation at thye proposed Conference; any offers?
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NickForder View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jul 2011 at 17:30
Paul,
I think it is worth trying to get past Fussell's achilles heel (worth reading his Boy's Crusade about NW Europe in WW2 also) and look at the wider scope of his argument. I do feel that his lack of technical knowledge has been used too often to discredit and disregard what he has to say.
 
There is a lot of merit in the notion that 'history is written by the winning side' and, perhaps more so, by people with agendas. (Hence James' point that biographers regard their subjects as either heroes or villains, not people to take an objective view of).
 
This is clear in the WW1 German aviators' biographies produced in the late 1930s, but maybe the bias in British works is not quite so obvious to us ?
 
I recall revisionist views of Churchill's 'The World Crisis' (and the accuracy of the statement "Winston has written a book about himself and called it 'The World Crisis') and, more importantly, of 'The War in the Air' (as a reasoned argument to retain an independent RAF) : perhaps we could identify and invite the person/people behind this ?
Nick
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Gary Scanlan View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gary Scanlan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Jul 2011 at 20:30
Dear Paul and Nick
I think this is developing into an interesting issue that could be examined at the seminar.
There may be several strands to consider. One such strand is set out below.
First, the biographies of the participants in the air war. Books such as Flying Fury or the Red Air Fighter are clearly propaganda written with clear agenda's, their comparsion proves interesting, written by careful shrewd fighter pilots and leaders who understand war.
The post war autobiographies come next. Two autobiographies I used in my first post can be used as examples.Wind In The Wires was written according to the preface in the late 20's. I think at that time before the great depression there was optimism that Germany's Weimar Republic under Stresemann would become a truly democratic state. On that basis the war, though tragic was seen not to have been in vain. By 1936 when Lewis writes his biography, the collapse of democracy in Germany , the realisation that german militarism had not been curbed  by the war, renders the concept of the Great War with its suffering as simply a tragedy without a redeeming feature. Fussell has I think some use here, the war as a futile act conducted by fools, the lions led by donkeys is reinforced by the literature of the time from Sassoon to Harris's Covenant With Death.   From this develops an exception, the chivalry of the war in the air, and books such as those of Gibbons carry this myth for decades. Without being flippant the Biggles books also help to continue this tradition together with the view that the RFC consisted of scout squadrons, the real air war of the army co-operation squadrons simply do not exist in this world.
The final stage is the promotion  and debunking of heroes. Bishop is set up only to be attaced by Ira Jones, in favour of his hero Mannock, if Bishop has 72 victories Mannock must have 73. Perhaps Bishop was not a capable leader and was ambiitous, but the attempt to paint him as fraud and coward is unwarranted,something even Jones would not have accepted. Richthofen is by stages knight, then unsporting,  (Gwillym- Lewis) and now a capable leader, but nevertheless a leader following a strategy that must eventually bring defeat.      
This is of course but one strand of literature written within the context of changing mores and perceptions which give form and shape to our conceptions of the first air war.
Gary
    
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Errol Martyn View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Errol Martyn Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jul 2011 at 02:16
"Perhaps Bishop was not a capable leader and was ambiitous, but the attempt to paint him as fraud and coward is unwarranted."
 
Perhaps not a coward but certainly a fraud or at least delusional in respect of his victory claims.
 
Errol
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NickForder View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote NickForder Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jul 2011 at 14:08
Gary,
I would hesitate to put McCudden's 'Five Years in the RFC' in the same category as 'The Red Air Fighter', though I do agree with your view of the latter.
 
I would regard Bishop's book as being more on par with 'The Red Air Fighter'.
 
I find Bishop's 'call to glory' (irrspective of the extent to which it may have been self propelled) to be very convenient in boosting recruiting in Canada at a time when the Canadians were beginning to question the cost of the war in terms of casualties.
Nick
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Gary Scanlan View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Gary Scanlan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Jul 2011 at 15:21
Dear Nick
On reflection I take your point entirely re McCudden and Richthofen. Perhaps it is not simply a case of British understatement in contrast to teutonic hyperbole. You have also raised yet another facet to this debate. The literature on Bishop as a means of boosting recruitment and maintaining morale is something to which Bishop would no doubt have been delighted, but for which he was not solely responsible, a willing tool of the propaganda machine.
Errol has also raised a point re Bishop's claims, where does delusion end and sheer confusion in battle begin. Many of the aces' claims do not appear to stand examination, does this matter ? I will post something on this next week.
Meanwhile I think that it is clear that we have more than enough material and differing views to have a seminar group at any future meeting. Time will enable us to refine and prune the agenda for the seminar.Let us hope a few more join the debate over the coming weeks.
Best wishes
Have a good weekend.
Gary
 
       
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