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Book review – ‘Open Cockpit’ by Arthur Gould Lee


Open Cockpit, by Arthur Gould Lee, Grub Street, sbk, illus, 218pp, £10

Together with its sister volume No Parachute, this excellent first-hand reflection on flying during World War One has been issued in paperback for the first time. Due to breaking his leg during flight school, Arthur Gould Lee gained valuable additional time flying trainers before he was posted to France in 1917. In November of that year Arthur was shot down three times by ground fire while undertaking low-level bombing and strafing ‘ops’. He flew a remarkable 118 patrols, spending eight months at the front and accumulated 222 hours of flight time in Sopwith Pups and Camels. Unlike many of his fellow pilots he survived the bloodshed and lived to retire from the RAF as an air vice-marshal in 1946, then embarking on a writing career. Both this book and No Parachute are great reads; genuinely engrossing accounts of the perils of being a pilot in the earliest days of air combat. As we mark the centenary of that war’s end, it’s good to see these classics being reissued.

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