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Flying Sickness - D

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Ian Mackersey View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ian Mackersey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Jul 2009 at 10:58
Very good of you Nick. My address:
Ian Mackersey
12 Kakariki Avenue
Mt Eden
Auckland 1024
New Zealand.
 
Does your amazingly wide knowledge of WWI aviation extend, I wonder, to the existence anywhere of English translations of private letters written by German aircrew from the Western Front to their families or friends back home?  Either epistles from German aces in published works or letters from non-famous pilots and observers.
 
best wishes
 
Ian
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DuffGenMerchant View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DuffGenMerchant Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jul 2009 at 21:41
Ian,
 
New member here, but I'm interested in the fact that contributors so far consider 'flying sickness' to be a psychological problem.  I'd always interpreted the term as referring to 'hypoxia', the standard treatment at the time being four weeks or so grounding. 
 
I'm currently writing the biography of a WW1 pilot, Captain C K M Douglas, who after service with 15 and 13 Squadrons between November 1917 to mid-May 1918, was posted to the RAF Meteorological Flight at Berck.  His Army Form B.103c records he was grounded for a month with 'Flying sickness' in June 1918, when he was far removed from the stresses of operational flying and unlikely to be so for some considerable time.  However, his duties did require him to make twice daily ascents to 14000-15000 ft.
 
Brian
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Ian Mackersey Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 00:08
Brian,
 
The WWI so-called 'flying sickness D' (for debility) was a psychological illness today better understood as post-traumatic stress disorder. It was the aviation form of the 'shell-shock' so devastatingly suffered by ground troops on the Western Front. It was first believed that this often acute psychiatric disorder was simply the concussive effect of being caught in the explosive blast of shell-fire. It was not. The truth, slow to be acknowledged, was that it was caused, even in the absence of shell-fire, by prolonged fear and witnessing the horrors of the mutilation and death of colleagues. The military authorities, even up to WWII, often had difficulty separating genuine PTSD from 'cowardice' and in the case of Bomber Command the dreaded 'LMF' - 'lack of moral fibre.' Appallingly, as it seems today, Bomber Command sometimes court-martialled LMF sufferers and stripped them of their wings and their rank. In WWI the army executed far too many psychologically deranged men for 'cowardice.'  Interestingly the RFC's doctors were surprisingly sympathetic, recognising the combat fatigue as serious illness threatening their ability to fly and fight and sending pilots off for treatment and rest without stigma.
It's unlikely that Captain Douglas, on peaceful meteorological duties, fell in that category.
 
Ian Mackersey
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DuffGenMerchant View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DuffGenMerchant Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 11:08
Thank you Ian.  Seems as though the significant feature is the 'D' which is missing from my man's Casualty Form.
 
Douglas was a very unusual man; after transferring to the RFC from the Royal Scots in the summer of 1915 he flew as an observer with 18 and 34 Sqns during 1916.  During this period he wrote two ground-breaking papers on the relationships between cloud types and temperatures, using data gather during operational duties.  He continued his research and wrote more papers after qualifying as a pilot in 1917.  It was because of this interest that he was identified as the man to take command of the Met Flight.  What is especially remarkable is that he was not a professional meteorologist, having enlisted before completing his degree in mathematics.
 
There's obviously far more to the man than this brief summary, but there's nothing in his background (letters and diaries) that suggest he had any psychological problems, almost the reverse.
 
I know of one other instance of a Met Flight pilot being similarly incapacitated, but that was in Jan 1920.
 
Brian
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DuffGenMerchant Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Jul 2009 at 19:41
I forgot to add he was awarded the AFC at the end of the year.
 
Brian
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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: 31 Jul 2009 at 08:55
There is a chapter on oxygen starvation and its effects on aircrew in "Into Thin Air : A History of Aviation Medicine in the RAF" by TM Gibson and MH Harison, Robert hale, London, 1984, ISBN 070901290X
 
Nick
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DuffGenMerchant Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Jul 2009 at 09:04
Thanks Nock, I've been after information on the subject but hadn't known where to look.
 
Brian
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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: 31 Jul 2009 at 14:15
Thin Air mostly covers WW2 and after, though I guess the science is the same.
 
Another potential source of information will be personal accounts of Zeppelin operational crews.
Nick
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