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“The Youngest V.C. Flyer” by Paul Bissell

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

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 August 1933 cover Bissell put us right in the action with…

The Youngest V.C. Flyer

th_FA_3308SOME wise man has said that to every man, once in life, comes his big moment. Then he must make a quick decision or choice and, whether he be king or peasant, the real man is judged by how he meets this test.

Such a moment came to Alan McLeod, the young Canadian flyer. Always he was in the thick of it, eagerly taking chances, thumbing his nose at death until that day in March, 1918, when he came face to face with his big moment, made his choice and, himself wounded, gambled his life a thousand times over to save a comrade already wounded almost past saving—gambled and won, and took his place among the “Incredibles” of the World War.

McLeod was just fifteen years old when the war began. Twice rejected because of his youth, he enlisted on his eighteenth birthday, in April, 1917. By July he had qualified as a pilot, and by September he was in England. When his squadron, the 82nd, was ordered to the Front, his Commanding Officer refused to take him along—again on account of his youth.

However, on Home Defense in England with the 51st, during a bitter duel with a Gotha over London, he displayed such heroism, although shot down, that Headquarters posted him to France with the 2nd Squadron, in November, 1917. This squadron boasted no fast pursuit ships, but was engaged principally in observation, bombing, and artillery spotting, and flew the Armstrong-Whitworth, a good ship for these purposes, but slow.

It was with this ship that McLeod went “a-hunting” beyond and outside of his daily routine, strafing the trenches, attacking troops in movement, machine-gun emplacements and batteries. No one had ever thought to attack a sausage in one of the old crates. Nevertheless McLeod coolly destroyed a German balloon and then, when attacked by a flight of Albatross pursuit planes, shot one of them down and held the others off, returning safely to his airdrome. Soon none but the most daring observers would fly with him, but there were always enough of these so that he did not lack for companions. Besides, he always brought them back—and how!

The morning of March 22, 1918, seemed to McLeod much like any other day. With Lieutenant A.W. Hammond in the observer’s cockpit, he had started out on a patrol to Bray sur Somme. He got lost in the heavy, low clouds but, at last finding a hole, he had dropped down to let his bombs go when a Fokker tripe rode his tail down from the same clouds. A half-roll saved him from the Fokker’s burst, and a zoom put Hammond in position to prevent that particular German from ever firing another burst.

But seven other tripes had come down after their leader and were now bent on revenge. Like red hawks they darted around the two Canadians, raking them with machine-gun fire from every direction until one, more daring than the others, dived in from the front.

McLeod beat him to the shot and Fokker No. 2 joined his leader far below. At that instant, however, McLeod felt his first bullet. One of the tripes, attacking from below, had put a full burst into the British machine. Hammond was hit twice, and the entire bottom of his cockpit collapsed. Then the gas tank burst into flames. The Armstrong-Whitworth plunged down, out of control, with McLeod dazed in the front seat, and Hammond clinging desperately to the rim of what had been his cockpit.

THE flames licked up, burning McLeod back to consciousness. To stay in the front seat was no longer possible. McLeod stepped out on the wing, reaching back into the burning cockpit for the controls and sideslipping the plane so that the flames were blown away from Hammond. Although two more bullets had found him by now, he succeeded in keeping the ship in fair control and getting rid of his bombs. The Germans were following the helpless Canadians down, pouring burst after burst into them.

Hammond now had three bullets in his body, while one arm hung limp. Almost unconscious, with his feet braced against the sides of the fuselage to keep from falling through the bottomless cockpit, he still had strength enough for one last burst at the Boche. Almost point-blank he emptied his drum into the nearest tripe. A burst of smoke and screaming wires told that Fokker No. 3 had joined the other two victims, crashing below almost at the same instant that McLeod, leveling off his blazing ship as best he could, piled up in No-Man’s-Land.

The crash threw them both clear of the wreckage, about ten yards apart in the middle of No-Man’s-Land, three hundred yards from the British trenches. For an instant they lay there, unconscious, but the Germans were already sniping at them and McLeod, who lay in a more exposed position, was roused to consciousness by a bullet nipping his leg. Rolling into a shallow hole, his senses returned, and with them came his “big moment.”

To stay where he was was impossible. The whole area was too much exposed. He must make the trenches. But outside lay Hammond, wounded, perhaps dead. Should he leave him and try for the trenches alone? In another instant he was out of the hole and at Hammond’s side. The poor observer was alive but completely unconscious, with six wounds.

How McLeod dragged and carried Hammond those three hundred yards he himself never knew. But the Tommies in the trenches saw him coming. They watched him as, inch by inch, he dragged himself and his observer across the torn earth, with the enemy raking him with bullets. They watched and helped all they could by laying down a deadly fire on the German trenches.

With just six yards to go, another bullet got McLeod, and the Tommies went over the top and dragged the two unconscious flyers in, still breathing—but not much more. All day they lay in those exposed trenches without medical aid. But the gods must have smiled, for they both got well eventually—Hammond to get a D.S.O., and McLeod the V.C.

The Ships on The Cover
“The Youngest V.C. Flyer”
Flying Aces, August 1933 by Paul J. Bissell

“Famous Firsts” April 1932 by William E. Barrett

Link - Posted by David on November 13, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

THIS November we’re celebrating William E. Barrett’s Birthday. Before he became renown for such classics as The Left Hand of God and Lilies of The Field, Barrett honed his craft across the pages of the pulp magazines—and nowhere more so than in War Birds and it’s companion magazine War Aces where he contributed smashing novels and novelettes, True tales of the Aces of the Great War, encyclopedic articles on the great war planes as well as other factual features. Here at Age of Aces Books he’s best known for his nine Iron Ace stories which ran in Sky Birds in the mid ’30s!

Among those factual features was “Famous Firsts” which ran frequently in the pages of War Aces. “Famous Firsts” was an illustrated feature much along the lines of Barrett’s “Is That a Fact?” that was running in War Birds, only here the facts were all statements of firsts. And like “Is That a Fact?” in War Birds, this feature was also taken over by noted cartoonist Victor “Vic Vac” Vaccarezza in 1932.

The April 1932 installment, from the pages of War Aces, features Lt. Alan McLeod, The Sopwith Tabloid, and the Number One Battle Squadron!

Next Wednesday Barrett features George Washington (who witnessed the first Air Journey in America—really), The 94th Squadron, the 185th Pursuit Squadron and The Second Balloon Company!

“Famous Sky Fighters, March 1936″ by Terry Gilkison

Link - Posted by David on June 19, 2019 @ 6:00 am in

STARTING in the October 1933 issue of Sky Fighters and running almost 5 years, Terry Gilkison’s “Famous Sky Fighters” was a staple of the magazine. Each month Gilkison would illustrate in a two page spread different Aces that rose to fame during the Great War.

Although Gilkison was probably better known for his syndicated newspaper work, he also provided black and white story interior illustrations for pulp magazines. His work appeared in Clues, Thrilling Adventures, Texas Rangers, Thrilling Mystery, Thrilling Western, and Popular Western. Gilkison provided similar features in a few other Thrilling Publications—there was “Famous Soldiers of Fortune” and later “Adventure Thrills” in Thrilling Adventures, Famous Crimes” in Thrilling Detective, and the fully illustrated air adventure stories of Buck Barton “The Flying Devil” in The Lone Eagle! He signed most of this work with only his initials “T.G.” to maintain a low profile and preserve his reputation as a syndicated newspaper cartoon artist.

The March 1936 installment, from the pages of Sky Fighters, features Lt. Alan McLeod, Lt. Heinrich Gonterman, Captains Jimmy McCudden, Frank Hunter,and John Towers and Adolph Pegoud!

Next time in “Famous Sky Fighters”, Terry Gilkison features Commandant Marquis de Turenne, Lt. Karl Schafer, Lt. Silvio Scaroni and Lt. R.A.J. Warneford who brought down the first zeppelin! Don’t miss it!

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Major Giuseppe Barracca

Link - Posted by David on March 22, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Italian Ace of Aces Major Giuseppe Barracca’s most thrilling sky fight!

Quite in contrast with Alan McLeod of the Royal Flying Corps, who was one of the youngest of the famous flying aces. Major Giuseppe Barracca, Ace of Aces of the Italian Flying Corps, was one of the oldest, being 34 years of age when he was killed in the desperate air fighting above the Piave. Like Captain Ritter von Schleich, he entered the war a cavalry officer, but soon was transferred to the more romantic, yet more hazardous branch of the army, the flying corps.

He took part in more than 1,000 flights over the enemy lines, 70 of which were long distance bombing raids. He disappeared during a night flight when he took to the air to fight off German and Austrian bombers which had been reported bombing Red Cross hospitals. His body and the crashed ship was found two days later when the heroic Italians won back the ground the Austrians and Germans had taken from them six months before. A single stray bullet had snuffed out the life of this greatest of Italian aces, who, like von Schleich, had disappeared after running his score to 36 victories. The account below is taken from his diary.

 

TWO IN THE NIGHT

by Major Giuseppe Barracca • Sky Fighters, August 1934

JUMPING into my single-seater, I took off immediately. Not waiting for the rest of the squadron to form I headed for the front to intercept the enemy without circling for ceiling.

The night was bright with much moonlight bathing the scraggy battlefield beneath in an eerie, silvery glow. “What an ideal night for raiding!” I thought, but, “I must stop them before they reach their objective!”

I had my little single-seater climbing steeply. All the time I was peering ahead, trying to pierce the starry skies and spy my enemies. Finally they showed, an extended line of blinking red lights—the flames from their exhausts.

As I was above them, I throttled my own motor, so my own exhausts would not show and give my location away. Then down I went in a steady glide, headed directly for the leader, aiming directly between the fluttering exhausts of the two motors on either side of the pilot’s pit. At two hundred yards I pressed my triggers. Two livid streaks of flame marked the path of my tracers in the sky—but they were high!

I lowered my nose, pressed the trigger again. I saw my tracer cut luminous paths through the wings of the leading bomber. I ruddered back and forth, spraying the lead in a slow traverse.

Then all Hades bloomed in the night sky. Every gunner in the formation must have turned his guns on me at once. Tracers stream spewed from everywhere. Still, I held my own gun steady.

But the big bomber did not fall. We were approaching head-on at terrific speed, bullets still splattering. I had to dive under to keep from being rammed. I pulled up in a loop behind, half rolled, dived at it again, let go with my guns when in range. This time my shots were good. My explosive bullets must have penetrated the petrol tank.

Red flames shot out, fanwise, lighting the whole sky.

In the glare of light from the burning plane, I got my sights on the bomber at the left of the falling funeral torch. Bullets clattered into my little ship, but hit nothing vital. I let go with a burst at very close range, then dived underneath. The upper gunner swung his tracer on me, but I side-slipped, went into a dive, then zoomed up under another. It was just a vague black shape above me. But my tracer etched flaming holes in it. It slid off on one wing, went flailing down, to burst in fire when it crashed.

By this time my squadron mates had got up to help me.

I did not knock down any more, but the bombing armada was turned from its course. They never reached the cities. Their bombs exploded harmlessly in the open fields.

A very successful fight. I have heard of no other pilot who has brought down two enemy planea in a single night flight. Naturally, I am elated, but I wish it had been two more.

My Most Thrilling Sky Fight: Lieut. Alan McLeod, R.F.C.

Link - Posted by David on March 8, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

Amidst all the great pulp thrills and features in Sky Fighters, they ran a true story feature collected by Ace Williams wherein famous War Aces would tell actual true accounts of thrilling moments in their fighting lives! This time we have Canada’s Lieutenant Alan McLeod’s most thrilling sky fight!

Alan McLeod was one of the three Canadian airmen winning the coveted award of the Victoria Cross, the highest honor bestowed on its fighting heroes by the British Empire, He was the youngest flyer ever to receive the honor, having it pinned on his chest in appropriate ceremonies at Buckingham Palace a few months before his nineteenth birthday.

Whereas most of the other British airmen who received this coveted honor accomplished their deeds of heroic valor in fast, single-seater fighting machines, young McLeod used a heavy, unwieldy, Armstrong-Whitworth two-seater which was poorly equipped for air combat. But Alan McLeod used it just as though it were a pursuit ship, never running from a possible chance lo shoot it out with enemy planes in the air, no matter how heavy the odds were against him. The fight he tells about below is one of the great epics of the air. McLeod was wounded six times, but recovered, only to succumb to influenza five days before the armistice was signed.

 

DOWN IN FLAMES

by Lieut. Alan McLeod, R.F.C. • Sky Fighters, June 1934

WHEN zooming up after dropping my last bomb, I saw a Hun Fokker, coming at me from the rear. I swung my machine up on one wing, gave my observer, Hammond, in the back seat, a chance at it. His first burst of Lewis fire was effective. It went fluttering down like a falling leaf, swaying from side to side.

I climbed for altitude then. At 5,000 feet the sun broke through the clouds. A flight of eight scarlet-painted Fokker tripes burst through with the sun. One dived, then zoomed up under my tail. I banked steeply. Hammond got his guns on it just as the Hun let go with a burst that crackled through the lower wing just beyond my head. It went spiralling down, a black smoke trail pluming behind it.

The seven other Fokker tripes dived in with a vengeance then, attacking from all sides, and simultaneously! The air was full of German tracer. My wings were sieved. Flying wires snapped, coiled up like watch springs. I felt something like a hot knife slide across my stomach. A red shape flashed down in front of me. I pressed my gun triggers, sent in a withering burst of lead that seemed to splatter like a pinwheel as it hit. More struts on my plane cracked, shattered, sheared in two from Spandau bursts. A sharp pain stabbed me in the groin. But the red Fokker went to pieces in the air, tumbled down beneath me.

I glanced back. Tracer streams from two Fokkers were pouring at Hammond. One of his arms was hanging limply. Blood saturated his mitten. He was aiming his Lewis’ with the other hand. I went around in a sweeping, climbing turn, to get him above the attackers. Our plane groaned, crackled some more. More holes appeared like lightning in the upper wing, the lower. Another sharp pain stabbed through my lower right leg. A burst of German tracer found my petrol tank, it puffed into flames. I got in a final shot at a red Hun who swept across my path. He went down, out of control.

The heat from the burning tank lashed back in my face. Flames, choking smoke swirled in the cockpit. I loosened my belt, stepped out on the lower left wing. Holding on with my left hand, moving the stick with my right, I threw the machine into a steep side-slip, blowing the flames and smoke away from us.

Two Fokkers slid down with us, firing as they came.

Hammond, weak and reeling in the back pit, got one of them just before we hit the ground, then climbed up on the top wing. The machine crashed, thudded, bounced, throwing me off. Hammond was swept back into his pit. Flames and smoke enveloped him, the whole machine.

I raced back, pulled him out, carried him away from the fire. Bullets thudded around us, machine-gun and rifle bullets from the Huns in their trenches, not two hundred yards away,

I kept going away from them until a deep blackness descended. That is all I remember.

“Lives of the Aces in Pictures – Part 18: Lieut. Alan McLeod” by Eugene Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on March 1, 2017 @ 6:00 am in

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 one of only three Canadian Aces to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WWI—Lieutenant Alan McLeod!

Alan Arnett McLeod was born near Winnipeg in Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada to Scottish emigrant parents on April 20th, 1899. Although he was only fifteen when England declared war, he tried to enlist every year until he was finally accepted by the R.F.C. in April 1917. He won his wings quickly—soloing after only three hours flying time. Graduating after completing 50 hours flying experience, McLeod shipped overseas in August 1917.

Alan McLeod was a very tall man with a boyish appearance which soon earned him the nickname, ‘Babe’. He was allocated to B-Flight piloting an Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 two-seater biplane and soon demonstrated he was a skilled pilot who was not afraid to take risks. Indeed, within a month of being in the Squadron he downed a Fokker Dr.1 and subsequently an Observation Balloon which earned him the honour of being mentioned in dispatches.

But it was his most thrilling sky fight on March 27th 1918 when he and observer Lt. Arthur Hammond had just downed an enemy triplane when they were set upon by eight more planes. They were able to down three more before a bullet pieced their gas tank and flames erupted. Although he and Hammond were badly injured, McLeod managed to keep the flames off of them by steeply side slipping the plane to a crash landing in No-Man’s-Land where he managed to carry Hammond to comparative safety before collapsing.

Lt.x Alan McLeod was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, but sadly passed away several months later when he contracted Spanish Influenza while recuperating.

(Editor’s Note: Although Flying Aces has gone to a bedsheet sized publication with this issue, the feature is still being done in the two page format of the pulp-sized issues. As such, we have reformatted from a two page spread into a one page feature.)