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“Mannock, The Mad Major!” by Paul Bissell

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THIS week we present another of Paul Bissell’s covers for Flying Aces! Bissell is mainly known for doing the covers of Flying Aces from 1931 through 1934 when C.B. Mayshark took over duties. For the December 1932 cover Bissell put us right in the action as Major Edward Mannock gives his all

Mannock, the Mad Major!

th_FA_3212FROM the war have come many nicknames which have since been applied rather freely to others besides those who originally earned them. “Crashing Colonels,” “Red Barons,” etc., are now commonplace, and to definitely determine the originals of these titles is almost impossible. However, there is one man, who, if we judge by the consensus of opinion in those places where airmen gather, enjoys his soubriquet without argument or question.

He was a man who started the war as a prisoner of the enemy, was repatriated because of defective eyesight, and lived to prove his eyes the most deadly, searching, and accurate of those of all the airmen who flew for the British, while his irrepressible humor and daredevil recklessness earned for him the name of the “Mad Major.”

On May 7, 1917, the failure of Captain Ball to return from a patrol held the attention of the Allied world. On the same day, unnoticed, the reports show the destruction of an enemy balloon by a Lieutenant Edward Mannock of Squadron 40. No one cried, “The King is dead, long live the King!” Yet well they might have, for this was the first victory of “Micky” Mannock, the “Mad Major,” one of the mysteries of the World War.

Micky, who was to tear through the skies of France like a thunderbolt, leaving a trail of victories surpassing even Captain Ball’s. Micky, who was to become Britain’s ace of aces, with 73 planes to his official credit, and who was to die, known only to his comrades, unfeted and unsung, with only an M.C. as a decoration from his country.

To be sure, the D.S.O. was going through at the time, and posthumously two bars and the V.C. were finally awarded, but even to this day this great ace is little known to the public at large, and it is difficult to learn a great deal about him.

Mannock’s comrades knew that he had been imprisoned by the Turks at the beginning of the war. He had been repatriated, and enlisted at once with the British, serving first with the R.A.M.C., then with the engineers in France, and coming finally to Squadron 40 in April, 1917.

It was soon evident that he was a Hun-hater, one of the few among all the aces. He was not the sportsman type, to whom war was just a game with death as the stake. Nor was he the hunter type, seeking only the joy of the kill. To him the war was “open season” on Germans, and he was out to exterminate them as he would rats or other vermin. He asked no quarter nor gave any, and yet his irrepressible sense of humor and love of a joke was constantly bobbing up.

He it was who, after failing for several days to get the Germans to engage him in battle, dropped a pair of boots on their airdrome with the note attached, “If you won’t come up and fight, maybe you can use these on the ground.”

With his M.C. came his captaincy, and he was made squadron commander. He was older than most aces, being thirty at his death, and he was noted for the care he took of his “new” men. He watched over them carefully, and tried to arrange it so that they would get a victory the first time over. Failing this, he would take them out alone and, finding their victim, he would maneuver the German into a good position for the new pilot’s fire. Then, making sure by a few bursts from his own guns, he would return to the drome, where he would enthusiastically congratulate the fledgling on getting his first German. It is said, in fact, that more than one ace-to-be had his first victory handed him by Micky.

IT IS told, also—and this story is pictured on this month’s cover—that on one of these excursions he gave the mud-covered Tommies in the trenches the thrill of their lives. He and his fledgling had spotted their victim and after some maneuvering Micky had finally forced the German into a position for his youngster to make the kill.

At this instant from the clouds dropped a red Albatross—motors on, and its-tracers already reaching hungrily for the new pilot below. A yank of the stick and Micky had thrown himself square into the line of the Albatross’ fire to save his companion. Bullets crashed through his cockpit and seared holes in his wings, but the German’s dive had been headed off, and a moment later, coming out of a mad vrille, the little S.E.5’s nose was square on the red tail with the black cross.

The Vickers rattled, and the German sped on down to pile up in a trench, while Micky turned back to the battle above. The youngster had failed to get his opponent at the first burst, and the more experienced German by clever flying had gotten himself into a good position for attacking the kid pilots.

However, seeing Micky return to the fray, the German decided to run for it, and turned toward Germany, but little did he know his opponent. The Irishman seemed to go wild. He flung his little S.E.5 after the fleeing Boche and quickly overtook him. Then, to the astonishment of those who watched below, Micky held his fire. Steeply he dived in from the side, forcing the German to turn. But again the Vickers were silent. Apparently the German decided that Micky’s guns were jammed, for he made a desperate attempt to turn to the attack.

Immediately, however, the twin Vickers spoke, spitting hot lead, and forcing him to swing back around. Then to the watching Tommies the game became evident. Like a cat with a mouse the Irishman was playing with the German. Slowly he was forcing the Albatross down.

Lower and lower they came. They were scarcely 100 feet up, and below them was the wrecked remains of the first plane, when suddenly the twin Vickers began chattering. The desperate Jerry swung right and left, only to be met by the deadly hail of bullets from the S.E.’s gun. Then one last burst and those below saw the German jerk from his seat, clawing the air madly in his death agony as his plane crashed, its wings touching the wreckage of the first Albatross.

Two more for Micky! No wonder they called him the Mad Major! And so it went, until, on a similar expedition in July, a machine-gun bullet from the ground found him. At least that’s one version. A second story says that he crashed a German to save one of his fledglings. It was another mystery, but the fact remains that no more would his comrades see him tuck his violin under his chin, and while they sat enthralled, play, “Where My Caravan Has Rested.” For the Mad Major had led his last caravan home.

The Ships on The Cover
“Mannock, The Mad Major!”
Flying Aces, December 1932 by Paul J. Bissell

“The Red Eagle” by Harold F. Cruickshank

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WE’RE celebrating the works of Canada’s very own Harold F. Cruickshank this month. Mr. Cruickshank launched his career writing stories based loosely on his war experiences. As tastes turned from straight out battle field stories to air war stories, Cruickshank shifted his setting from the trenches to the cockpit. With stories appearing in such titles as War Birds, War Aces, Sky Birds, Airplane Stories, Flying Aces, and Sky Fighters.

For Harry Steeger’s trio of Popular Publication’s titles—Battle Aces, Dare-Devil Aces and Battle Birds—Mr. Cruickshank developed continuing characters that ran generally in short novelettes each month. Although the final issue of Battle Aces had just hit the stands in November of 1932, Cruickshank created a brand new series when asked to for the new companion magazine to Dare-Devil Aces—Battle Birds in December 1932.

In “The Red Eagle,” Cruickshank gives us Ted Blair—a Yank Eagle who excelled more than any other with fighting guts and his ability to maneuver in tight loops and slip-offs which amazed and baffled his opponents. His eye was quick, as quick as the flash of greased lightning, and his Vickers twins were deadly accurate. In the dive he was merciless; he struck like a hungry, angered eagle, hence his nom de guerre, Red Eagle. That, and because of his flaming red hair and freckled spotted face.

Cruickshank gave him a brood much like the Sky Devil’s—formed from his old B Flight of the 44th, Blair had played with, fought with, nursed, and built up those members of the Brood—Lieutenant Sam Martin, the tall, blond deputy leader; Lieutenant Pete Monty Rider, the hard-egg scrapper from America’s ranch country; Lieutenant Frank “Spud” Fallon, the Irish-Yank, whose wit was no less appreciated than his fighting quality, and his flair for fixing things mechanical; and Lieutenant Dave “Babe” Deakin, the big-framed ex-fullback of Yale, a good-natured fighting hellcat, whose piano playing and singing, though of secondary importance, brought a big hand from his intrepid pals. They were all men of guts. Each wore a single decoration. Each packed an unswerving brand of loyalty and a fighting heart. These were the Red Eagle’s Brood—big-chested, rollicking sky scrappers, who feared nothing, save the tongue of their leader.

The Red Eagle and his Brood were established as an semi-independent flight under the command of Major Bruce Grove. Unfortunately, Grove had his own problems—a splendid fellow in every way, he had jeopardized his position some months back by taking the rap for a wrong done by one of his former flights. He knew that if he rode just once over a Wing order, his term of command was done. Bruce Grove was, literally, on the spot and Wing was ready to get him. Bill Mond, the surgeon, knew this. Ted Blair, the Eagle skipper knew it too.

With all that in mind, we present The Red Eagle’s self-titled premier outing from the December 1932 issue of Battle Birds!

Zeps stalked above; from below a flight of super-Fokkers zoomed, Spandaus snarling. But the Red Eagle led his devil’s brood straight on; like monster bird killers they dived straight for the staffle of Death, determined to slash a gap through this hell trap—or meet their doom fighting!

A listing of Harold F. Cruickshank’s RED EAGLE stories.

title magazine date vol no
1932
The Red Eagle Battle Birds Dec 1 1
1933
The Iron Eagle Battle Birds Jan 1 2
The Phantom Staffel Battle Birds Feb 1 3
The Masked Buzzard Battle Birds Mar 1 4
The Gray Phantom Battle Birds Apr 2 1
The Black Skull Staffel Battle Birds May 2 2
The Red Death Battle Birds Jun 2 3
Hellion’s Brood Battle Birds Jul 2 4
The Coffin Ace Battle Birds Aug 3 1
The Buccaneer Flight Battle Birds Sep 3 2
The Hell Busters Battle Birds Oct 3 3
Dodoes from Hell Battle Birds Nov 3 4
The One-Eyed Squadron Battle Birds Dec 4 1
1934
Storm Eagles Battle Birds Jan 4 2
Mad Shark of Prussia Battle Birds Feb 4 3
Staffel of Skulls Battle Birds Mar 4 4
Squadron of Lost Men Battle Birds Apr 5 1
The Bloodhound Patrol Battle Birds May 5 2
Tiger Patrol Battle Birds Jun 5 3
Dynamite Busters Dare-Devil Aces Oct 8 3
The Bloodhound Flight Dare-Devil Aces Dec 9 1
1935
The Black Comet Dare-Devil Aces Apr 10 1
Gunpowder Eagles Dare-Devil Aces Jul 10 4
The Vampire Flight Dare-Devil Aces Dec 12 1

 

“Little Orphan Danny” by Allan R. Bosworth

Link - Posted by David on September 11, 2020 @ 6:00 am in

THIS week we have a story from the pen of the Navy’s own Allan R. Bosworth. Being a Navy man, Bosworth’s stories primarily dealt with the Navy. However, this week’s story from the pages of War Birds, Bosworth gives us something different—the Steenth Squadron has a German spy in their midst. Dizzy Donovan exists the help of a local orphan the squadron has taken a shine to to help ferret out the hidden Boche agent. But the pilots are the ones in for a surprise at Little Orphan Danny’s birthday Party! From the pages of the December 1932 it’s “Little Orphan Danny!”

Dizzy Donovan, premier poet of the air, took an orphan to raise. When the pilots of the Steenth tried to celebrate Little Danny’s birthday they learned about the war from him!

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 8: Edmond Thieffry” by Eugene Frandzen

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Starting in the May 1932 issue of Flying Aces and running almost 4 years, Eugene Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Frandzen would feature a different Ace that rose to fame during the Great War. This time around we have Belgium’s favorite Ace—Lt. Edmond Thieffry!

Thieffry was Belgium’s daring ace who entered the war as an orderly and worked his way up to being King Albert’s leading sky fighter—preferring to fight alone, crashing at the enemy ships from high above. A strategy that worked well for him leaving him with 10 victories on his balance sheet by the end of the war.

After the war, Thieffry resumed his pre-war job as a lawyer, but kept his hand in aviation—helping to found Sabena (Societé Anonyme Belge d’Exploitation de la Navigation Adrienne) in 1923 which would remain Belgium’s national airline until 2001.

Thieffry was killed in a crash close to Lake Tanganyika during a test flight while trying to set up an internal air service in the Congo on April 11th, 1929. He was 36 years old.

(Editor’s Note: These early installments of Frandzen’s “Lives of the Aces in Pictures” that were published in the pulp-sized issues have been reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)

“The French Breguet” by Frederick Blakeslee

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Editor’s Note: This month’s cover is the nineteenth of the actual war-combat pictures which Mr. Blakeslee, well-known artist and authority on aircraft, is painting exclusively for BATTLE ACES. The series was started to give our readers authentic pictures of war planes in color. It also enabled you to follow famous airmen on many of their amazing adventures and feel the same thrills of battle they felt.

th_BA_3212THE story behind this month’s cover —which shows an exploit of two brothers, Captains Jean and Charles Ranconcour—had its origin five years before the beginning of the War, when the Frenchmen were visiting Berlin. One evening, while they were dining in a crowded restaurant with a friend, a Prussian officer approached their table and without warning flung a glass of wine into Jean’s face. The three leaped to their feet; Charles demanded an explanation in behalf of his brother. The Prussian turned to him, surveyed him from head to foot, then slashed him across the face with a pair of heavy gloves. Jean promptly knocked him down.

By this time, of course, a large crowd had gathered and it was with considerable difficulty that order was restored. First Jean, then Charles, challenged him to a duel and the Prussian accepted, telling them to await his seconds. They waited for two hours, only to learn then that their strange enemy had been seen leaving the city—hurriedly; he had heard, no doubt, that both brothers had a reputation as expert duellists.

From that moment the two brothers swore to obtain satisfaction for this cowardly assault—but their opportunity did not come until nine years later high above the battlefields of France.

The outbreak of the War found Jean and Charles officers in infantry regiments. Late in 1917 they received word that the Prussian officer was in a certain Boche aviation squadron. The brothers immediately transferred to aviation and through influence they were both attached to the same French squadron—Jean as pilot and Charles as his gunner.

They got the reputation of being careful fighters. Although they never avoided a combat, neither did they go out of their way to get into one. But as they did their work and were popular no one accused them of cowardice. The more astute among the squadron guessed the truth. From the name they had christened their Breguet and the fact that Charles scrutinized all enemy planes with binoculars, they guessed the brothers were hunting a particular enemy.

One day early in 1918, the brothers were returning from a mission with two other bombers when they sighted a group of enemy ships escorted by battle planes. Charles examined the flight through his field glasses, as usual; then suddenly he dropped the binoculars, spoke rapidly to his brother. Much to the astonishment of their fellow flyers, Jean’s plane turned and with throttle wide open, hurtled straight for the enemy.

The two other French pilots, realizing something unusual was about to happen, and knowing also that Jean was helplessly out-numbered and had need of every possible gun, turned and followed.

In the scrap that ensued the Frenchmen shot down a two-seater L.V.G. and routed the rest, then looked around for the brothers. They were engaged in a fight to the finish with an L.V.G. that turned, sideslipped and looped but could not shake this French terror on its tall. If Jean and Charles had been careful before, their tactics now were completely changed. They fought like fiends.

In trying to escape, the Boche ship turned and came screaming back just as Jean’s plane dove across it. There was a crash as the landing gear carried away the tip of the L.C.G.’s wing. At the same moment Charles poured a murderous— and fatal—fire into the cockpit.

The L.V.G. dove and crashed. When he had seen it hit the earth, Charles cooly climbed down onto the landing gear and disentangled the wreckage. A few minutes later all three French ships landed near the shattered Boche plane. The body of the German was dragged from the wreckage; Jean and Charles bent over it, looked closely, then straightened and shook hands. The duel to which they had challenged this enemy 9 years ago, had been waged—and won.

The brothers transferred to a combat squadron soon after and both piled up a formidable score before the war ended.

The German ship shown on the cover is an L.V.G. type D single-seater scout.

The French ship is a Breguet type 14B-2 with a 300 h.p. Renault engine. It was designed as a day bomber, but carried one gun in front (synchronized) and two guns aft. Only the upper planes were provided with ailerons. The part of the lower plane lying behind the rear spar was hinged along its total length and pulled downward by means of twelve rubber cords fixed on the under side of the ribs. An automatic change of aerofoil corresponding with the load and speed thus results with an easier control of the airplane with and without a load of bombs. Its span was 14.364 meters; length 9 m; speed low down 185 kms per hour. It climbed to 5,000 m. in 47 m. 30 sec. Ceiling was 5,750 m.

The French Breguet
“The French Breguet” by Frederick M. Blakeslee (December 1932)

“Good Haunting!” by Joe Archibald

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“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!

Do you believe in ghosts? They asked that question of Major Garrity, and he said no, but he didn’t like ‘em. They asked Phineas Pinkham, and he said yes, and he liked ‘em. Here’s a ghost story guaranteed to make you laugh—not shudder.

Airman’s Code

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Frederick Blakeslee painted the covers for Dare-Devil Aces‘ entire fourteen year run. Every one of those covers told a story, and Blakeslee had a page with which to do so. We present Blakeslee’s cover for the December 1932 issue of Dare-Devil Aces—”Airman’s Code”…

th_DDA_3212AT THE outbreak of the War a certain German who had been educated in England answered the call of his country. In 1917 he entered the air service and the next year found him in Richthofen’s Circus. He was a clean fighter and preferred to wage combat alone where he could follow his own tactics. Once when he was engaged in a lone battle with an Englishman, his opponent’s guns jammed. Instead of pressing his advantage, the German stopped firing and waited until the jam had been cleared. The combat was started again, and again the Englishman’s guns jammed, this time hopelessly. He motioned to that effect, whereupon the German saluted and flew away.

He soon became famous for his chivalry and in return was accorded the same treatment by the English and Americans with whom he came in contact. However, when he flew with the Circus, no quarter was asked or given and he fought as hard and as viciously as everyone else did. The exciting scrap shown on the cover can perhaps be best described in his own words.

“Soon after Richthofen’s death,” he said, “I was transferred to another squadron. I used my same old ship with a different color scheme and a large number 3 painted on the side. One day on patrol we sighted a lone British machine scudding along beneath the clouds toward Germany. Our leader dove on it and we followed. The British ship was called a Bristol Fighter and lived up to its name. As we approached, the gunner coolly took aim and raked our leader with flaming tracers.

“Here was a worthy foe and I swooped across to dive in from the other side, while my remaining companion took him on the left. When I turned I was face to face with a deadly S.E.-5—and we were alone. I was so astonished that before I could recover, the S.E. had sent in a burst that put my port gun out of commission and a bullet grazed my head, knocking my goggles down over my nose. By the time I had cleared away the goggles and wiped the blood out of my eyes, the S.E.-S was on my tail. In a few seconds my instrument board was shattered to bits. Not once was I able to get the S.E. within my sight. He was everywhere at once.

“Acknowledging myself licked, I fled, not knowing or caring in what direction. My vision was blurred—and I crashed. When I awoke I was on a cot and khaki-clad men were standing about. I realized that I was a prisoner!

“I will add that I was treated royally. That evening I met a former classmate and dined at his mess. The next morning I left for the prison camp.”

The Story Behind The Cover
“Airman’s Code: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee (December 1932)

Check back again. We will be presenting more of Blakeslee’s Stories behind his cover illustrations.

“Soft Thunder” by Frederick C Painton

Link - Posted by David on August 31, 2012 @ 8:00 am in

The Strange Enemy of our new book Captain Philip Strange: Strange Enemies, Fraulein Doktor, pops up in the oddest places. Here she is causing trouble in Frederick C Painton’s “Soft Thunder” a year and a half before her first appearance in Donald Keyhoe’s Philip Strange stories.

We’ve posted a number of Frederick C. Painton’s stories in this space already including a few of his Dirty Dozen-esque Squadron of the Dead stories. He’s a great writer with a background in newspapers as this short autobiography from the April 1942 issue of Blue Book Magazine attests:


Click to enlarge in a new window.

Unfortunately he died of a heart attack on a Guam airfield while covering the Pacific war.

He was just a kid who played Tennis to those two hard-boiled soldiers—but there was stuff in his make-up that kept him battling in the flaming skies. It was a grim game they played—they stuck to the rules and played like sports, but they knew that the loser would find flying death. And then into their game kited a kid who seemed soft—but there is lightning with even soft thunder.

“Double Death” by William E. Barrett

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Here is a smashing complete novelette of strange wings over the Italian front!
Ships were being blown to shambles in pairs—two or four at time, never three or five or just one—and none knew why. Until Jack Lannigan came. Find out why in William E. Barrett’s intriguing novelette “Double Death.”

William E. Barrett wrote a number of aviation themed stories for the air pulps in the 1930s. His nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s have been collected in one volume and available from our books page. Barrett would later become famous as the author of “Lilies of the Field” and “The Left Hand of God” amung other books.