Book Review
Edward Mannock
King of the Airfighters
  • Ace Biographies

by: Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]

The man,

By the time Edward Corringham Mannock was twelve years old, his father had abandoned his wife and children, leaving them destitute. Mannock dropped out of school to take various jobs in order to help with the family finances.When the war began, he was interned in Turkey while working as an inspector for a British telephone company. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, he became deathly ill and was repatriated by the Turks in 1915. When he recovered, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps before transferring to the Royal Engineers. Despite a congenital defect that left him virtually blind in his left eye, Mannock was accepted by the Royal Flying Corps in 1917, training under the scrutiny of James McCudden. In April, he was assigned to 40 Squadron where he got off to a slow start with his peers and his Nieuport scout. To the other flying officers, he seemed aloof and perhaps overly cautious in the air. It was not until a month later that he scored his first victory by flaming an enemy balloon. Eventually, Mannock earned the respect and friendship of men like Keith Caldwell. In February 1918, he was reassigned to 74 Squadron as a flight commander, scoring thirty six victories with an S.E.5a before replacing William Bishop as the commanding officer of 85 Squadron on 3 July 1918. Mannock never achieved the public notoriety of Albert Ball, but he was revered by his men and proved to be one of the greatest flight leaders of the war. Often physically ill before going on patrol, Mannock routinely shared victories with other pilots or didn't bother submitting claims for enemy aircraft he'd downed in combat. After selflessly sharing his 61st victory with Donald Inglis, a newcomer from New Zealand who had yet to score, Mannock was killed when his aircraft was shot down in flames by machine gun fire from the ground. Inglis was also brought down by ground fire but survived.

Mannock formulated a set of practical rules for air fighting on the Western Front that, like Oswald Boelcke's Dicta, were passed on to new pilots.

Pilots must dive to attack with zest, and must hold their fire until they get within one hundred yards of their target.
Achieve surprise by approaching from the East. (From the German side of the front.)
Utilise the sun's glare and clouds to achieve surprise.
Pilots must keep physically fit by exercise and the moderate use of stimulants.
Pilots must sight their guns and practise as much as possible as targets are normally fleeting.
Pilots must practice spotting machines in the air and recognising them at long range, and every aeroplane is to be treated as an enemy until it is certain it is not.
Pilots must learn where the enemy's blind spots are.
Scouts must be attacked from above and two-seaters from beneath their tails.
Pilots must practice quick turns, as this manoeuvre is more used than any other in a fight.
Pilot must practice judging distances in the air as these are very deceptive.
Decoys must be guarded against ó a single enemy is often a decoy ó therefore the air above should be searched before attacking.
If the day is sunny, machines should be turned with as little bank as possible, otherwise the sun glistening on the wings will give away their presence at a long range.
Pilots must keep turning in a dog fight and never fly straight except when firing.
Pilots must never, under any circumstances, dive away from an enemy, as he gives his opponent a non-deflection shot ó bullets are faster than aeroplanes.
Pilots must keep their eye on their watches during patrols, and on the direction and strength of the wind.

Second World War aces, such as Bader and Johnson, acknowledge that Mannock's tactics served as inspiration to them, leading Mannock to be acknowledged as the greatest air ace of all time.

The book,

A penetrating study of Britainís top fighter ace in the Great War . . . Ira Jonesí biography of Britainís top scoring ace of World War I has become the subject of some controversy over the last few years, most notably as it is the source of the claim of 73 ďkillsĒ for Mannock, thereby making him the number one scoring Allied Ace of the war. Later research has thrown serious doubt on this claim and indeed Mannock himself only claimed 51 kills.

Jonesís biography is nevertheless an important account, especially when seen in the context of the time in which it was first written. In particular the biography delves into the mind of Mannock, portraying the singular nature of his character and the true stress that these pioneer air fighters experienced in the last few months of the war.

Originally published in 1934 by Ivor Nicholson and Watson in London, the book has been reprinted (most recently in the 1990ís by Greenhill Books as part of itís Vintage Aviation Library) and each time has been reproduced from the original 1930ís version of the book.

This new Casemate edition has been entirely re-originated. Not a word has been changed, but the original (very dated) type and page layout have been reworked, as has been the format in which the book is presented, to give a beautiful new treatment to this classic of aviation literature.

4.75 x 7.5
340 pages not 256 pages as quoted.
10 pages not 16 pages b/w photos that are 5th & 6th generation types.
hardback by Casemate publishing.

When contacting manufacturers and publishers please mentiomn you saw this review at AEROSCALE

Most of the images you see here are from the reviewer's private archive and are presented to give the reader an idea of the type of machine that Mannock flew in the last portion of the war.
Highs: Facts in evidence the combats and incidents are truthfully discussed.
Lows: Published during the 1930's by a close personal friend who saw only the hero.
Verdict: A must read for anyone wanting to know the men who flew and fought in those long gone days. Mannock should never be forgotten.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: Other
  Mfg. ID: 978-1-932033-99-1
  Suggested Retail: $29>95 USD
  Related Link: New Look Classics
  PUBLISHED: Sep 21, 2009
  NATIONALITY: United Kingdom

About Stephen T. Lawson (JackFlash)

I was building Off topic jet age kits at the age of 7. I remember building my first WWI kit way back in 1964-5 at the age of 8-9. Hundreds of 1/72 scale Revell and Airfix kits later my eyes started to change and I wanted to do more detail. With the advent of DML / Dragon and Eduard I sold off my ...

Copyright ©2021 text by Stephen T. Lawson [ JACKFLASH ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.


Good news! Casemate has sent an extra copy of the book! So now I get to offer it here on Aeroscale to one of the lucky members! Now How should I do this? Hhhhhmmmm. . .
SEP 22, 2009 - 12:25 PM

Click image to enlarge
  • SE 5a
    typical Se 5a cockpit
  • SE 5a
    Hispano Suiza motor.
  • SE 5a
    25th Aero Sqdn