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Heroes of the Air: F.H. McNamara by S. Drigin

Link - Posted by David on November 21, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

WHEN Flying, the new weekly paper of all things aviation, started up in England in 1938, amongst the articles and stories and photo features was an illustrative feature called “Heroes of the Air.” It was a full page illustration by S. Drigin of the events surrounding how the pictured Ace got their Victoria Cross along with a brief explanatory note.

Russian born Serge Drigin became a successful illustrator in the UK in the 1920s with his work regularly appearing in such British magazines as The Detective Magazine, Modern Boy and Chums. He is probably best known for his startling covers for Scoops, Air Stories, War Stories, Fantasy and others in the 30s.

From the 16 April 1938 issue of Flying:

LIEUT. F.H. McNAMARA WINNING THE VICTORIA CROSS, PALESTINE, MARCH 1918.

ON MARCH 17, 1918, Lt. McNamara, flying a Martinsyde, was taking part in the bombing of a train in Palestine, when he saw Capt. D.W. Rutherford’s machine coming down among the Turks. It had been hit and, although not out of control, Rutherford was forced to land. McNamara landed at once and taxied to his rescue. The Turks opened rapid fire and McNamara was severely wounded in the leg. Seeing the approaching “Tinsyde,” Rutherford dashed up to it and clambered aboard as it shot past. Fortunately, as it happened, he did not wait to set fire to his machine. When McNamara opened up the throttle
he found that his damaged foot had jammed the rudder-bar. The machine swerved round and crashed. Turkish troops were approaching fast. The two struggled out of the wreckage and ran back to Rutherford’s machine, McNamara hobbling along as best he could. The prop, was swung. Miraculously the engine started. They leaped aboard—McNamara in the pilot’s cockpit—and took off over the heads of the Turks without further hurt in spite of concentrated rifle-fire. The London Gazette of June 8 announced that Lt. McNamara had been awarded the Victoria Cross for “conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty.”

Heroes of the Air: Alan McLeod by S. Drigin

Link - Posted by David on November 7, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

WHEN Flying, the new weekly paper of all things aviation, started up in England in 1938, amongst the articles and stories and photo features was an illustrative feature called “Heroes of the Air.” It was a full page illustration by S. Drigin of the events surrounding how the pictured Ace got their Victoria Cross along with a brief explanatory note.

Russian born Serge Drigin became a successful illustrator in the UK in the 1920s with his work regularly appearing in such British magazines as The Detective Magazine, Modern Boy and Chums. He is probably best known for his startling covers for Scoops, Air Stories, War Stories, Fantasy and others in the 30s.

From the 9 April 1938 issue of Flying:

LIEUT. ALAN McLEOD WINNING THE VICTORIA CROSS ON THE WESTERN FRONT, MARCH 1918.

ON MARCH 17. 1918, Lt. McLeod, a Canadian officer, set off on a bombing expedition with his observer, Lt. Hammond, in an Armstrong-Whitworth two-seater. Shortly afterwards they were attacked by a Fokker triplane, which Hammond sent spinning down into No-Man’s-Land. Seven more Fokkers then appeared out of the clouds. McLeod disposed of the first but a second crept up from below and wounded Hammond with two bullets. Under heavy fire from six enemy aircraft their petrol tank burst into flames. Hammond, though badly wounded, was still firing when the floor of his cockpit fell out. McLeod climbed out on to the wing and, with one hand on the joy-stick, side-slipped to keep the flames away until the machine crashed in No-Man’s-Land. Hammond was unconscious, so McLeod started dragging him towards the British lines, but he was hit by rifle-fire before he could reach them. The two gallant airmen were finally brought to safety by Tommies. Notification of the award of the V.C. followed in due course. McLeod subsequently died of his wounds.

“A Hunting We Will Go” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on October 28, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

“HAW-W-W-W-W!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back to vex not only the Germans, but the Americans—the Ninth Pursuit Squadron in particular—as well. Yes it’s the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa himself—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham!

In 1918, Lieutenant Phineas “Carbuncle” Pinkham took a long hop, figuratively speaking, in an astral plane and came down to earth with the Zodiac in his lap. And as if that weren’t enough, a spiritualist of note—one Madame Mazola, who had taken a powder out of the Tyrol in 1915—put out her shingle in Bar-le-Duc, announcing to whomever it might concern that she would give an applicant a clear wire to his relatives who had long since departed this vale of tears. Ectoplasm was her specialty, and it would be produced for the most skeptical—for the insignificant sum of five francs—payable in advance!

After Madame Mazola hit town with her astrology, it didn’t take Phineas “Taurus” Pinkham long to prove that Garrity was a crab, Gillis was a sucker, Goomer was two other guys, and Casey was the goat. But it wasn’t until Babette hit Phineas with her skillet that the transplanted star gazer from Boonetown really got his astral plane into the ascendancy. And then he hit into something himself—a double-talk play!

“Outlawed Aces” by Harold F. Cruickshank

Link - Posted by David on October 7, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story by another of our favorite authors—Harold F. Cruickshank! Cruickshank is popular in these parts for the thrilling exploits of The Sky Devil from the pages of Dare-Devil Aces, as well as those of The Sky Wolf in Battle Aces and The Red Eagle in Battle Birds. He wrote innumerable stories of war both on the ground and in the air. Here we have his take on the squadron of “Outlawed Aces”—those aces purposely listed as dead so they can be recruited for special missions much like Keyhoe’s Vanished Legion!

From the September 1934 issue of Sky Birds

The thunder of guns rumbled constantly, ominously, past that secret drome in the badlands back of the Meuse River. And in the tiny hiding place were three men whose garb was strangely unmarked, whose wrists bore no identification tags. For they were a flight of vanished men—and their orders were known only to a few.

How the War Crates Flew: Bombs and Bombing

Link - Posted by David on October 5, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the February 1933 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

Bombs and Bombing

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters,February 1933)

SIT down, you buzzards, and stay down! Any side remarks and I’ll. . . . Huh? What’s that? Why am I all steamed up? Well, just take a look at this letter. The darn thing explains itself.

Dear Uncle Wash-out:
    I think SKY FIGHTERS is a pretty swell magazine even if it does contain your stuff. But I’m just kidding about the last part. I guess you’ll do all right.
    However, here is a complaint. Wasn’t there anything else besides pursuit ships in the World War? Or were they the only ones you knew how to fly? Seems to me that I’ve read some slick yarns in this mag that had to do with bombing raids. Do you know anything about the technical side of bombing, or are you just plain dumb about that sort of thing?

Henry Craveil

Now, if Henry lived just across the street I’d sure step over and bend a couple of one hundred and twenty pound bombs over his dome. But he happens to live out in Oregon, and that’s too much of a walk for me. So I’ve just got to swallow that there insult, and try to fix Henry up the best I can. And while I’m doing it you other crash hounds can pin back your ears and get a brain full.

Yes, I’ve shoved a few bombers around in my day, and have dropped a couple of eggs here and there. Now don’t go asking me what I hit, because I promised the C.O. of this mag never to tell a lie, and I’m not going to break that promise just to maintain my glorious reputation with you birds.

But, shut up! Let’s get serious.

World War airplanes were divided into three general classes. They were pursuit planes, observation planes, and bombing planes. Of the three classes the pursuit ship was the only one that could perform all three functions. Now, when I say that, I don’t mean to imply that it was a waste of time to have observation ships and bombers in action. Naturally, each type of ship could perform its own particular job better than either of the other two. However, a pursuit ship could serve as a scouting plane, an observation plane, and also drop a total of about eighty to one hundred pounds of bombs. An observation plane could do its job of reconnaissance and drop bombs as well. And perhaps in a pinch serve as a pursuit ship. I say that because the well-known Bristol Fighter could outfly almost any pursuit ship, at least from the standpoint of speed. Another one, too, was the British DH9 powered with the Liberty or Rolls-Royce engine.

But for the sake of this chinfest we’ll say that the general run of observation ships were not good in pursuit work. The bombers, of course, were ships built for the job that the name implies—bombing. However, they could also function as observation ships, for the very plain reason that observing means seeing things with the eyes. And the crew of a bomber naturally didn’t fly with their eyes closed. However, no bomber in the World War could serve as a pursuit job, no matter how much cognac the pilot put under his belt.

LISTEN, buzzard, sit down! What?

What’s all this got to do with bomb dropping?

The answer is, nothing in particular. However, I’ve been using up breath with the idea of first pointing out how the particular job of each of the three general classes of ships used during the war overlapped each other. One of your favorite authors might tell of a pursuit job bombing a place. And you might say, “Horse-feathers! Bombers did that sort of thing!” So I’m just putting in a few words or two to save the authors’ hides. I passed out a couple of cracks at them at other chinfests, so I’ll get back in their good graces now by proving the authenticity of some of the stuff they write. Sure the emphasis is on the “some”! Think an honest war-chicken like me would back ‘em up in everything they said? Huh! I want to go to heaven sometime, you know!

Oh, yes, about bombs.

WELL, as I know, and you should know by now, an aerial bomb is, fundamentally speaking, a container full of high explosive that will detonate and explode when it comes in contact with the ground after its travel through the air. There are all kinds of sizes, shapes and mechanical functions of bombs. However, there are two features that are incorporated in any type of aerial bomb. One is to travel nose first, and the other, to detonate and explode upon contact with an object, or in the case of delayed detonation, to explode after the bomb has penetrated its objective.

In order that bombs will drop nose first, they are of course made heavier at the nose. In other words, pear shaped. To get the idea look at Fig. 1. Now, in order that the bomb will maintain directional stability (not wobble around, or go end over end) the bomb is fitted with rudders, or vanes as they are called. There may be three or four vanes, set equal distances apart at the rear end of the bomb, or I should say, the tail of the bomb. These vanes, when passing through the air, tend to keep the bomb going straight, just as the feathered vanes at the end of an arrow keep the arrow to a straight path of travel. See Fig. 2.

THERE are various ways to make a bomb explode once it strikes its objective. There are, generally speaking, certain types of bombs that have the detonator in the nose. Others have it in the tail. And still others have a detonator in both the nose and tail.

Now, of course, it is not a good idea to have bombs all set to explode when in the bomb racks of your ship. In other words they should be fitted with some sort of a safety device that will keep them from detonating themselves until they have struck the objective. Of the type of bomb I’m talking about (which was used quite generally during the war) there were two kinds of safety devices. The first was a safety pin that had to be yanked out before the detonator could strike the explosive. An idea of this safety pin can be obtained from Fig. 3. Just as in a hand grenade there was a pin that had to be pulled out before you threw the grenade.

The other safety device was a little propeller attached to the end of the detonator. If the fuse was at the tail of the bomb and the bomb exploded by the detonator traveling downward, the detonator rod was threaded so that the little propeller revolving in the air stream would eventually spin free of the rod and allow the detonator to snap down when the bomb
struck. In case you birds are still dumb about that point, take a look at Fig. 4.

Naturally, if the detonator was in the nose the little propeller was fastened to the detonator so that the air stream would spin it around and allow the detonator to move up where it could hit the fuse when the bomb struck, as in Fig. 5. And, of course, you can figure for yourself how the propellers would be set in relation to the detonating pins when-there was a detonator at each end of the bomb.

NOW, just to clear up those two safety devices, let me say that the little propellers do not function until the bomb is traveling through the air, after it has left the ship.

Yes, yes, I know. Why didn’t the little props untwist when the bomb was going through the air and still attached to the bomb rack?

Well, smarty, because there was a second pin, attached to the bomb-rack, that stuck between the little prop blades and thus stopped them from revolving. And the first safety pin that I spoke about, that passed straight through the detonating rod and prevented it from moving, even though the props were off, was also attached to the bomb-rack. So you see, when the bomb was released both safety pins were pulled loose (or rather, the bomb pulled loose from the safety pins) and the bomb went sailing down with its little props spinning, so that the detonators could do their stuff when the bombs struck.

THERE is no need of going into the explosive side of bombs. Different combinations of chemicals and powders made different kinds of explosives. We won’t try to give you a talk on chemistry today. However, there is one point I want to speak of—that’s the item of delayed explosions. For instance, if you are bombing troops and other things on the surface of the ground, you want a bomb that will explode instantly and hurl its death dealing messengers in all directions. But if the bomb must first go through armament, etc., before it can do any worthwhile damage, you naturally have got to have a bomb that will explode after contact. It’s the same principle as shells from artillery guns. And its worked out by a system of delayed fusing. In other words the bomb strikes, the detonator hits the fuse, but the main body of the explosive does not go off instantly. Of course you must realize that when I speak of a delayed explosion I don’t mean an explosion that comes five or ten minutes after the bomb strikes. A delay of one quarter of a second is long enough.

Now, just one more thing before we talk about actual bombing. The bombs that we are chinning about now are aerial bombs that are used for destructive purposes. In short, bombs that will blow the pants off your enemy, and him along with them. But, of course, there are other kinds of aerial bombs. One is the parachute bomb that you release so that it will strike and light up the surrounding country in case you are making a night landing. And the other type is the flare bomb that is used for signalling purposes. Both types arc more or less electrically operated. In other words the bomb is ignited as it passes through the air.

Like many other functions of airplanes, bombing is often all planned out ahead of time. That is, bombing of a certain objective by bombing planes. Let us say that Brigade has issued an order to a bombing squadron to try and knock the daylights out of a railhead back of the enemy lines. The first thing to figure out is what types of bombs to use. In other words instantaneous or delayed action bombs. Then comes the selection of the time to make the raid (whether daylight or at night) and how many planes to use.

NATURALLY the bombers must have a pursuit escort. Some scrapping ships to keep away the enemy should he stick his nose in and try to upset the apple cart. That, of course, is arranged by Brigade. The pursuit ships will meet the bombers at a predetermined point, escort them over, and escort them back—we hope!

Now, it must be figured out before hand, as near as possible, just how the bombing is to be done. Shall it be one ship at a time, or all at once. However, no matter what Is decided, the accuracy of dropping the bombs depends upon the speed of your plane, your altitude and the direction of the wind. By plotting those three items you can set your bomb sight so that you will have a fair chance of hitting your objective. Bomb sights of today have been worked out so that they are pretty accurate. In the late war they weren’t so good, although the boys did a darn fine job with what they had.

SOME of you buzzards think that all a bomber does is fly over its target and drop a bomb, and fly away. That’s all wrong. A bomb is released before you reach the target. And if you have set your bomb sight correctly the bomb strikes the target when the plane is directly over said target. See Fig. 6.

You ask why, eh? Well here’s why.

The plane is traveling through the air. That means that every part of the plane has a certain amount of momentum. In other words, anything that leaves the plane travels forward a certain distance before gravity can take full charge. Naturally, gravity has its effect the instant the bomb is released, but it takes full charge gradually so the downward path of the bomb is curved. (As shown in Fig. 6.) Therefore the bomb must be released before the target is reached, as it travels forward as it travels downward.

Now, if the plane is traveling into the wind its actual ground speed is reduced, though, of course, air speed (the speed at which the wings pass through the air) is constant. It follows then that when the bomb is released its forward travel will also be reduced by wind resistance, and it must therefore be released when the plane is closer to the target, than it would be if the plane was flying with the wind. Naturally when the wind speed is estimated and calculated, the altitude at which to fly is then determined. Or rather the best altitude at which to fly. In other words if it takes eight seconds for your bomb to drop from a bombing altitude of 1000 feet and your plane travels ground speed at the rate of two thousand feet in eight seconds, you must set your bomb sight so that the target will be in the “finder” (center of the sight) when you are two thousand feet away from the target. To sum it all up, you estimate wind speed and direction, then set your sight in accordance with the number of seconds it will take the bomb to drop from a stipulated altitude. Then you bomb from that altitude. And if you wipe out the objective, maybe we’ll give you a medal!

THE releasing of a bomb is simple. As the nose must drop first, the bomb is put in the rack, nose forward. It is gripped by what are called “toggles” at the nose and the tail. By pulling the toggle release, which is simply a lever in the cockpit with a wire leading down to the toggle catches, the catches are opened and the weight of the bomb itself makes it drop free. Some planes had individual bomb-racks under the wings. Each bomb could be released separately or all the whole works at once. The big bombers had vertical racks. In other words the bombs were placed one upon the other. When the lowest one was released, the one above it automatically dropped into the lowest one’s place.

Bombing by bombers and some observation ships was an art all its own. In pursuit ships bombing was a hit-and-miss affair. First, you oniy had about twenty pound bombs. Just enough for “surface” damage, such as in trench straffing. Second, you had no sights (though modern pursuit ships have bomb sights). And third, you often released your bombs on pursuit ships without any idea of hitting anything. That was, of course, when some enemy pursuit ships I jumped on you, and you wanted to reduce the weight of your ship, and thus increase its maneuverability qualities.

So there, Henry, you insulting buzzard, is some dope on bombs and bombing. And by the look in the C.O.’s eye I think he’s about set to drop an egg on your Uncle Wash-Out—so consider me gone!!

“Happy Hunning Ground” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on September 30, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

“HAW-W-W-W-W!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back to vex not only the Germans, but the Americans—the Ninth Pursuit Squadron in particular—as well. Yes it’s the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa himself—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham!

American military moguls were miserable! For along the Western Front, the Krauts were doing a Russian business which threatened to give the Potsdam Potentate a corner on the Frog real estate market. But meanwhile there was one thing that neither Chaumont nor the Wilhelmstrasse had figured on. This was Phineas Pinkham’s skin game—a redskin game that was a cinch to corner a flock of squarehead scalps!

The Lone Eagle, May 1936 by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on September 26, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of The Lone Eagle from its first issue in September 1933 until the June 1937 issue when he would share duties with Rudolph Belarski. At the start of the run, Frandzen painted covers of general air action much like his Sky Fighters covers, shifting to covers featuring famous aces at the end of 1935. For the May 1936 issue, Frandzen gives us a Nieuport 28 and Pfalz D3 locked in combat!

The Story of the Cover

SOME planes had famous th_LE_3605 ancestors whose reputations had to be upheld. The Nieuport line was of the French aristocracy of war planes. The early Nieuport scouts were named “avions de chasse.” They were to the world war what the cavaliers clad in shining armour riding prancing Arabian horses were to the Middle Ages. The end of the war saw the Nieuport 28C1, a single-seater fighter, which made those American pilots speak of this plane with affection almost twenty years after the war.

The Germans had the Pfalz line of single-seater planes whose ancestry was not so clear. The early Pfalz D3 in fact had so many characteristics of the Nieuport of its time that it has not been free from the slur of being a copy. The Pfalz D13 of 1918 tried to save the family name by having a design all its own.

A Brilliant Ace

Frank L. Baylies was a member of the old Lafayette Escadrille. He was invited to join the Stork squadron of French veteran fighters. This young American airman was a brilliant star in a firmament of older aces. Baylies had twelve official victories credited to his skill in less than six months. The courageous qualities that endeared him to his comrades led him into an ambush on June 17, 1918. Flying well in German territory he attacked three enemy ships but a fourth German plane lurking above unseen came down on Baylies from the rear. Baylies’ plane fell in German territory.

The details of his last fight are clouded in the mystery of war, but the memory of one of America’s most intrepid airmen lives as a shining glory.

Prisoners of war were not always treated as “enemies” on our side of the lines. Usually they were steered to a liquid-soaked plank on which sundry bottles, glasses and other necessary drinking paraphenalia reposed.

Cognac and vintage wines skidded over appreciative palates. Any differences of opinion went by the board. After that. Max, Fritz or Oscar was merely on the wrong side of the argument, but he was a flyer and deserved a square deal before being thrown into clank for the duration of the war.

Such a situation arose one day when a wobbling German plane was forced down adjacent to a Yank drome. He was in one piece and thirsty. He sang a good bass to “Sweet Adeline.” He held his liquor like a gentleman and he could run like Nurmi.

He demonstrated this fact by grabbing the only .45 automatic in the crowd and sprinting across the flying field, hopping into a Nieuport 28 and getting off the field fifty yards ahead of a Yank who was testing a captured Pfalz D13 which had a trick Fokker tail in its rear section. Neither of the ships had ammo.

Duelling in Darkness

Both aviators had side arms, A cockeyed duel ensued as darkness began to fall. Two powerful planes heeled with pea shooters. They blazed at each other industriously. They did not see three cruising Allied planes rushing at them, nor did they see three German planes until the half dozen ships broke in on their private scrap with a bang. The German pilot in the Nieuport shrugged his shoulders and snuggled in among the Allied planes. The Yank took his lead and flipped his Pfalz among the Germans. Both foursomes veered off and headed for their own lines. The two revolver dueling airmen raised imaginary glasses to their lips; toasted each other, then as dusk crept deeper over the blurred formations, cut out and headed for their own lines.

As they passed each other at combined speeds of about 280 miles per hour, they let go a final parting shot from their pea shooters, a friendly salute till they could get a few assorted machine-guns anchored on the top cowling and go after this business of killing each other in a really serious manner.

The Story of The Cover
The Lone Eagle, May 1936 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Story of The Cover Page)

“Killer Tarmac” by T.W. Ford

Link - Posted by David on September 23, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the prolific T.W. Ford. Ford wrote hundreds of stories for the pages of the pulps—westerns, detective, sports and aviation—but best known for his westerns featuring the Silver Kid.

For the September 1934 number of Sky Birds Ford gives us the story of young Art Crain, just up at the front and already with a score to settle—his best mate had gone out against one of Germany’s greatest Aces, von Kunnel, to prove he wasn’t yellow as his flight leader Major “Bloody” Doll had continually chided him, and lost. Once there, Crain learns a lesson about justice, honor and war!

“Kill before somebody kills you!” That was the advice they handed to young Kid Crain when he arrived at the Front. Then the Kid ran into von Kunnel, great German ace, whose insignia was a jagged streak of lightning and who fought like that—swift, deadly, sure. And the Kid learned a lot about killers that no one had ever told him—that no one else knew.

“Sky Writers, February 1938″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on September 21, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

FREQUENT visitors to this site know that we’ve been featuring Terry Gilkison’s Famous Sky Fighters feature from the pages of Sky Fighters. Gilkison had a number of these features in various pulp magazines—Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Starting in the February 1936 issue of Lone Eagle, Gilkison started the war-air quiz feature Sky Writers. Each month there would be four questions based on the Aces and events of The Great War. If you’ve been following his Famous Sky Fighters, these questions should be a snap!

Here’s the quiz from the February 1938 issue of Lone Eagle.

If you get stumped or just want to check your answers, click here!

“Buck Kent’s Air Push” by Raoul Whitfield

Link - Posted by David on September 16, 2022 @ 8:04 pm in

THIS week we have another of Raoul Whitfield’s ‘Buck’ Kent stories from the pages of Air Trails magazine. Whitfield is primarily known for his hardboiled crime fiction published in the pages of Black Mask, but he was equally adept at lighter fair that might run in the pages of Breezy Stories. ‘Buck’ Kent, along with his pal Lou Parrish, is an adventurous pilot for hire. These stories, although more in the juvenile fiction vein, do occasionally feature some elements of his harder prose.

The Buck Kent story in the January 1929 issue of Air Trails, follows on from the December installment. After saving Joan Dean from the runaway balloon in the December story, Buck and Lou must protect her from a rival air carnival’s goons set on destroying her trapeze act she does dangling from a plane.

They took a desperate chance when they tried to push “Buck” Kent out of the sky!

Heroes of the Air: Richard Bell Davies by S. Drigin

Link - Posted by David on September 12, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

WHEN Flying, the new weekly paper of all things aviation, started up in England in 1938, amongst the articles and stories and photo features was an illustrative feature called “Heroes of the Air.” It was a full page illustration by S. Drigin of the events surrounding how the pictured Ace got their Victoria Cross along with a brief explanatory note.

Serge Drigin (or Sergie, Sergey or Serge R. Drigin) was born in Russia on 8 October 1894.
Without any formal training, Drigin managed to become a successful illustrator in the UK in the 1920s. He did illustrate at least one book in his native Russia in 1919—E. Venskii’s Skazka o rybakie I rybkie—before becoming big illustrating British magazines like The Detective Magazine, Modern Boy and Chums. He is probably best known for his startling covers for Scoops, Air Stories, War Stories, Fantasy and others in the 30s.

For a few years in the mid 30s he tried his hand at comics, drawing varioius episodes for Film Picture Stories and the serial “The Flying Fish” in Sparkler. By the early 40s he was working for War Artists & Illustrators who supplied material to War Illustrated, Sphere and other such magazines.

After the war, when paper shortages made it hard for illustrators to find work, Drigin turned to comic strips producing many one off strips from 1947 to 48 for the likes of Scion, Ltd, before hooking up with J.B. Allen in 48 and producing a number of series for his Comet, Sun and Merry-Go-Round comics until 49 and moving into contributing features and artwork to various annuals including Swift and Eagle.

Drigin was naturalized in 1932, married three times and died in 1977.

From the 2 April 1938 issue of Flying:

SQUADRON-COMMANDER RICHARD BELL DAVIES WINNING THE VICTORIA CROSS AT FERRIJIK JUNCTION, NOVEMBER 19, 1915.

TWO officers were concerned in this gallant action, Commander Bell Davies and Flight Sub-Lieutenant G. F. Smylie, and the incident occurred during a raid on the borders of Bulgaria. Both officers were flying Nieuport Scouts. Near the objective Smylie’s machine was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and although he was compelled to come down, he first flew over his target and dropped nearly all his bombs. Having done this he landed in a marsh and at once took steps to destroy his machine to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy. Looking up, he saw to his dismay that Commander Bell Davies was preparing to land with the obvious intention of picking him up. Commander Bell Davies was, of course, landing as close as possible to the now burning machine, unconscious of the fact that an unexploded bomb was still in it. Flight Sub-Lieutenant Smylie thereupon acted with great courage and presence of mind. Running up close to the bomb he fired at it with his revolver until he caused it to explode. By this time enemy troops were rushing forward to make the airmen prisoners, firing as they ran. Nevertheless, Commander Bell Davies landed near his companion on the ground, and under the very rifles of the enemy picked him up in his machine and carried him home to safety. The award of the V.C. appeared in the London Gazette on January 1st, 1916, and concluded with these words: “This was a feat of airmanship that can seldom have been equalled for skill and gallantry.”

“Wanted—One Fokker” by Captain John E. Doyle

Link - Posted by David on September 9, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the pen of British Ace, Captain John E. Doyle, D.F.C. Born in 1893, Captain Doyle was a successful fighter pilot in WWI with 9 confirmed victories with 56 & 60 Squadrons. Near the end of the war, he was shot down and taken prisoner where they amputated his leg. After the war, he wrote three books, one of which was an autobiography, and 31 short stories for magazines like War Stories, The Scout, Popular Flying, The Aeroplane, Flying, Boys’ Ace Library, Mine, Modern Wonder and Air Stories. Five of those stories were for the British version of Air Stories and featured one Montgomery de Courcy Montmorency Hardcastle, M.C. In Scotland he was usually referred to as “His Lordship,” for he was the fourteenth Viscount Arbroath as well as the sixth Baron Cupar. Out in France he was just “Monty” behind his back, or “The Major,” or “Sir” to his face.

Monty deals with the repercussions of the events in Sky Code and tries to get his hands on a Fokker to replace the one he smashed previously in trying to red the ‘drome of a spy. And then there’s the matter of his own Camel he had left over at another ‘drome when he picked up said Fokker. But events come together even though he’s been commanded to lead his squadron on patrol—a squadron that doesn’t even know of Monty’s abilities in the air! From the December 1937 issue of the British Air Stories, it’s Captain John E. Doyle’s “Wanted—One Fokker!”

A Camel vanished without its Pilot and a Fokker rose up from its own Ashes before Major “Monty” Hardcastle, M.C., had finished Ringing the Changes in a Daring Game of Bluff Played with the Loaded Dice of Death!

How the War Crates Flew: Top Man Wins… Maybe!

Link - Posted by David on September 7, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

FROM the pages of the January 1933 number of Sky Fighters:

Editor’s Note: We feel that this magazine has been exceedingly fortunate in securing R. Sidney Bowen to conduct a technical department each month. It is Mr. Bowen’s idea to tell us the underlying principles and facts concerning expressions and ideas of air-war terminology. Each month he will enlarge upon some particular statement in the stories of this magazine. Mr. Bowen is qualified for this work, not only because he was a war pilot of the Royal Air Force, but also because he has been the editor of one of the foremost technical journals of aviation.

Top Man Wins… Maybe!

by Robert Sidney Bowen (Sky Fighters, January 1933)

WELL, I’ve had you upstarts under my wing for so long now that I guess I can’t call you fledglings any longer. Of course there are some of you who are worse than fledglings. But still some others of you have been paying attention, and have actually learned a thing or two about this business of war flying, and what have you. So from now on I’ll consider you all as promoted to the next grade, and call you buzzards. But, mind you, any cracks out of turn, or any funny business, and back you all go to the rank of fledgling. And take it from Uncle Wash-Out, there ain’t nothing lower in a pilot’s estimation than a fledgling. Okay, buzzard—here we go!

A few chinfests back (the C.O. of this mag will give you the exact date) I told you the hows and whys of Getting Your Hun. The main point I leaned on was the great amount of preparation before you even took your crate into the air. Well, this time I’m going to deal with technical points after you get upstairs and spot your man.

Now, read this over.

“Spandaus guns yammered savagely and twin streams of fire reached out for the Yank ship. But the pilot in that Yank plane was not to be caught napping. Slamming into a half roll, he immediately came out of it and zoomed up to cartwheel over and go plunging straight down on the German ship, his Vickers singing their song of death. It was all over then, for the Yank was top man, and top man always wins!”

Does that sound familiar? Sure it does! You’ve read something more or less like that in fifty different stories. But here is where I step into the picture and maybe make myself the nasty antipathy of a whole lot of your favorite authors. And maybe before I get through, the C.O. of this mag will toss me into the klink and get a greaseball to double for me. But, come what may, I’ve got to be honest with you buzzards. In these chinfests I’ve got to stick to the technical truth. In others words, I’ve got to be on the up-and-up. Now, don’t get the idea that I’m only trying to pick your stories apart. That’s not the idea. I’m just going to elaborate on points that your authors didn’t have time to enlarge upon. Their stuff is fiction—action—boom-boom stuff—and all the rest of it. But my stuff is straight stuff. Oh, maybe dry in spots, but the true dope.

Okay, lean on this. Top man in a scrap does not always win!

The method of getting an enemy ship depends upon a lot of things. The most important thing is what kind of a ship it is. In other words, you don’t go after two-seaters the the way you go after a pursuit ship. And you don’t go after a pursuit ship the way you go after a bomber. And you don’t go after any of them the way you go after a balloon.

Of course, there is one item that applies to them all. That is, getting the old machine-gun bullets in where they will do the most damage. But thinking about it and accomplishing it are two different things.

Now, for example, let’s take the case of two pursuit ships scrapping it out. Let us say that the Hun comes in from the east, and you come in from the west. You are both at the same altitude and you spot each other at the same time.

WELL, naturally, both of you will start to climb. The more altitude you have the more advantage you have. (Don’t forget, now, I’m talking about pursuit ships.) Why is altitude an advantage? Well, buzzards, as I’ve told you many times before, a pursuit ship pilot can only shoot his guns in one direction—forward. Therefore, he has no protection at the rear. It stands to reason, then, that the ship with the most altitude has the better chance of maneuvering down on the other’s tail, or as it is often called, his blind spot.

But in this case we’re talking about, we’ll say that neither you nor your enemy get greater altitude. You draw close together at the same level. Well, you both probably take nose to nose shots at each other. Scoring any damage that way is not common occurrence for the simple reason that you are both protected by a wall of metal. And that wall of metal is your engine. Also, a plane coming dead on to you presents a mighty small target. If you don’t think so, well, the next time you go up fly nose to nose with some other ship and take a good look for yourself. Fig. 1.

WELL, you can bring your enemy down by flying right into him. But that would mean curtains for you, too. And, besides, ten times out of ten, your enemy doesn’t want to cash in that way. So he pulls out of the way at the last minute. Usually he zooms up in a climbing turn, hoping to drop down on your tail. Well, you beat him to it and do the same thing yourself. And what’s the result? You have both gained altitude, and you have dropped into what the boys used to call the ring-around-rosey, or the tail chase tail formation.

Take a look at Fig. 2, and you’ll see what I mean. You both are on the outside of circle, headed in opposite directions, and chasing each other’s tail around in the air. Naturally, you both are trying to get around faster than the other so that you can plant a nice little telling burst in the other’s tail. But you find out that the other ship has just as much speed as you have, and the result is that you both stay on opposite sides of a big invisible circle.

All right, buzzards, I know what you’re going to ask. So sit down, and I’ll tell you. Why not shorten the diameter of your circle? In other words, why not bank more sharply? Well, it’s a swell idea if you can do it. And if you can, why of course you have a beautiful broadside shot at your enemy. But just remember that your enemy isn’t flying around and reading a copy of SKY FIGHTERS. Not by a long shot. If he’s a good pilot he’s trying to pull the same stunt on you!

WELL, of course you can’t keep on going around in a circle all the time. If you keep it up long enough you’ll both starve to death. So someone has to break the circle—bust up the ring-around-rosey idea. But whoever breaks it has got to be quick and careful. Once you pull out of it your opponent has a couple of precious seconds in which he can whip around and let you have it.

One of the best ways to do that (as proven in the late Big Fuss) was to pull up and over toward the inside of the ring. In other words, you try to climb up and come down on top of your man. His defense against that is to do the same thing himself (and bring both of you right back where you were) or else to whip over and down and then up. The idea being to get you from underneath before you can bring your guns down to train on him.

RIGHT there is a good example of what I said at the beginning. If your enemy should be successful in whipping down and up before you whipped up and down, why it would be a case of top man getting it in the neck.

In view of the fact that I’ve illustrated my top man idea I’ll end this scrap by saying that you catch him napping and shoot his pants off, and his life along with them. That, of course, is the final thing in every scrap—I mean, that one or the other pulls a surprise maneuver that catches the other napping and allows the chance for the killing burst.

But before I speak about observation ships, I want to point out another example of top man not winning. Suppose when you break the circle by zooming up and over and your enemy slams into a quick half-roll and dives away. Well, of course, he takes a chance that you may be able to slide around and get him. But he has a few precious seconds in which to get up a lot of diving speed, before you are in a position to dive after him. The result, of course, is that you are top man, but your enemy is diving away from you, putting air space between you and him, which means a longer range shot for you. And not only that—he presents a rotten target. He is edge on to the ground, and you’d be surprised how a ship diving away from you seems to melt in with things below on the ground. The ground is dark and the outline of parts of the ship presented to you are also dark. In other words, the ship forms no silhouette, like it would if there was a background of sky or clouds. To get the idea, look at Fig. 3.

And now for the two-seater ships.

YOU are patroling around and suddenly you see an enemy two-seater taking pictures behind the lines. Naughty! naughty! That pair of young men must be taught a very lasting lesson right pronto! So you go down after them. But do you drop down on their tail?

Well, if you do and they see you coming, you won’t need to worry any more about how you’re going to pay your losses in that poker game in the mess last night. And why? Well, buzzards, there is an observer in that two-seater, parked in the rear cockpit. And when he left his home drome he took along at least one, and probably two, guns mounted on a swivel mounting that enables him to shoot in any direction except forward and down. And you can bet your sweet life that he still has them with him. So, if you come piling down from the rear and he sees you, well, you’re just going to get a whole mouthful of bullets that won’t taste good.

OF COURSE, there is an exception to everything, and it is possible to pile down on an enemy two-seater from the rear, and pop it right out of the sky. But such a case is only when the occupants of that two-seater are napping, or are too busy doing something else, and therefore fail to see you before your bullets are slapping into them. Such an occurrence could happen, if you got the sun at your back. In that case its brilliance would blot you out of their sight.

But enough of what you shouldn’t do. Let’s get on with what you should do.

In this case we’ll say that it is not a surprise attack. The enemy sees you coming. Well, no matter what angle you come down from, you will be in their range of fire. And naturally you cannot come down to their level though out of range, and then bore in from the side, for the simple reason that a two-seater doesn’t have to go into any ring-around-rosey maneuver. It doesn’t, because the observer can train his guns on you while the pilot flies the ship dead ahead.

All right, buzzards, all right! I’m getting to it, so keep quiet.

The thing to do is to attack the two-seater in its blind spot. And the blind spot of a two-seater is the area underneath the ship, extending from the prop to the tail skid. Neither pilot nor observer can bring their guns to train on any part of that area. And so the idea is to dive down under the two-seater and come up at it from underneath. In other words, hang on your prop and plant your burst right smack through the floorboards of that two-seater. And no matter which way, he goes, you just try and keep in that blind spot. Fig. 4.

And so I murmur again—what do you mean, top man always wins?

Now for bombers. And are those babies tough! Present-day bombers, as you buzzards probably know, have about as many blind spots as a goldfish bowl. And the old wartime bombers didn’t have so many themselves. About the only blind area they presented to attacking planes was directly under the forward parts of the ship, and close up under the wings.

And so you won’t be misled, let me tell you that the best way to get one of those big babies was to take along a couple of your squadron pals with you. The idea being that while a couple of you worried the occupants of the bomber the rest would pile in from the side they weren’t looking at, and get in your shots. But should you be alone, the best way was to take your pot shots from underneath. Top man wins, eh? Oh, yeah?

NOW, before I rush myself away from you, I’ll just mention a word or two about top man and balloons. Getting a balloon is a job that really is ninety-nine and nine-tenths surprise. You have several factors against you. First, the men in the balloon are keeping a sharp eye out for you. Second, the ground defense of that bag is also keeping a sharp watch for you. Third, it is possible for the bag to be hauled down before you can close in on it. Fourth, you can be exposed to terrific fire from the ground. Therefore, the bigger the surprise, the better chance you have of getting the bag.

LET’S say you pile down on it, and miss. Meantime you are diving through lead hell—that lead hell doesn’t miss. Well, you may be top man, but it’s curtains, unless luck is with you and you can fly clear before you’re struck in a fatal spot.

Well, let’s attack another way. Fly close to the ground (making it hard for the men in the bag to spot you against the ground, and completely hidden from the bag’s ground forces), then at the last moment zoom up at it and let drive. Your shots go home and the bag goes blooey. It was top man, wasn’t it? And in the meantime you are top man to the ground forces, and they may nail you before you can zoom out of range. Fig. 5.

So, as I said at the beginning—it depends upon a lot of conditions and cirmustances whether the top man wins or loses. In most scraps it is favorable to be top man—but that rule does not hold good all of the time—and don’t let Santa Claus tell you that it does!

“The Sinister Sentinel” by Arch Whitehouse

Link - Posted by David on September 2, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have another gripping tale from the prolific pen of Arch Whitehouse! Whitehouse had numerous series characters in the various air pulps—none ran longer than Buzz Benson! Billy “Buzz” Benson’s exploits started in the February 1930 issue of Sky Birds and appeared in every subsequent issue until it folded. Not to be twarted, Whitehouse moved Buzz over to Flying Aces where his exploits rotated with his many other characters in that title. For the uninitiated, Buzz Benson was a flying reporter for the Los Angeles Mercury newspaper, but his real job was far more dangerous. He is a secret agent and pilot extraordinaire for the U.S. military.

A young model builder stumbled on an idea the U.S. Government had been seeking for years. An Air Service official was murdered. A giant Curtiss Condor crashed to its doom on the desolate sand dunes of Chesapeake Bay. Those three things happened far apart—yet they led Buzz Benson into the mystery of the sinister sentinel known as Devils Trap Light!

“Skyway Robbery” by Joe Archibald

Link - Posted by David on August 26, 2022 @ 6:00 am in

“HAW-W-W-W-W!” That sound can only mean one thing—that Bachelor of Artifice, Knight of Calamity and an alumnus of Doctor Merlin’s Camelot College for Conjurors is back to vex not only the Germans, but the Americans—the Ninth Pursuit Squadron in particular—as well. Yes it’s the marvel from Boonetown, Iowa himself—Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham!

The Boonetown miracle man, Lieutenant Phineas Pinkham, and his unwitting hut mate Bump Gillis find themselves down behind Boche lines only to run into a fellow Boonetownian, but one who’s fighting for the Germans!

You can’t blame a fellow for wanting to make his mark. But over on the Heinie side of the Big-Fuss fence, marks were scarce. Yes, and when Phineas staged that “Bank Night of Germany” and hit the jack plot—they were even scarcer!

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