Fire in the Sky: The Australian Flying Corps in the First World War

Allen & Unwin
5
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'I half rolled, and there before my eyes was as perfect a target as I had ever seen in my life. A pressure of a thumb, a short burst, a puff of smoke, a flash of flame, a hole on the clouds-and it was over.'

Lieutenant Robert McKenzie, No. 2 Squadron Australian Flying Corps.

When the First World War began in August 1914, aeroplanes were a novelty, barely a decade old. Despite this, Australia was one of just a few nations outside Europe to establish a military flying school and corps. From a first class of four student pilots the Australian Flying Corps would grow to number almost 4000 by the armistice. Its young volunteers were pioneers in a completely new dimension of warfare as they struggled for control of the skies over the Western Front and Middle East.

Using private letters, diaries and official records, historian Michael Molkentin reveals, for the first time in over 90 years, the remarkable story of the airmen and mechanics of the Australian Flying Corps. It is a tale of heroism and endurance; of a war fought thousands of feet above the trenches in aircraft of timber and fabric. Fire in the Sky takes readers up into this chaotic tumult and into the midst of a war from which only one in two Australian airmen emerged unscathed.
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About the author

Michael Molkentin is a prize-winning historian, teacher and battlefield tour guide. He has a degree in History from the University of Wollongong.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Allen & Unwin
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Published on
Dec 1, 2012
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Pages
424
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ISBN
9781743432556
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Military / World War I
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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 Every AIF soldier of the Great War regarded his battalion as his home. This was where he felt he belonged. At the head of that unit was the Commanding Officer or CO — the lieutenant colonel who commanded the men, trained them, led them into action and rebuilt the unit following its time in the front line. There are myriad accounts and histories of divisions.

Brigades and battalions, of battles and actions great and small, some of which name the CO of a battalion, while others do not. The Official Histories, the various unit war diaries and many of the unit histories are likewise inconsistent, often neglecting to identify the unit’s CO other than as ‘the CO’ or ‘the old man’.

The author, the son of an AIF veteran of the 41st Battalion who served from Passchendaele to the Hindenburg Line, asked his father the name of the man who had commanded his battalion. He replied curtly, ‘Goodness knows, we were much too busy to worry about that!’

The author discovered that the 41st had not one CO, but three. And so it was reflected with most AIF combat units. Age, exhaustion, wounds, death and promotion all contributed to the rotation of battalion and formation COs. By the end of the war, CO appointees for the 60 infantry battalions, 15 light horse regiments, 25 artillery brigades,,5 machine-gun, 5 pioneer, 2 cyclist, 4 camel corps battalions and 5 ammunition columns reached almost 500; the number of individual appointments numbering close to 2000.

Combat Colonels of the AIF in the Great War seeks to address the regrettable gap in Australia’s documented history of its combat colonels. Its purpose is to name all the Commanding Officers who led units into action in the Great War and to describe their lives before and, for those who survived, after the war. From these pages emerge the men who shaped Australia’s battlefield history - both the professional soldiers and the former teachers, accountants, salesmen, clerks, farmers and others from a broad range of occupations whose leadership on and off the battlefield proved so crucial. These are men Australia cannot afford to forget.

A New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller!
Emma Watson's Our Shared Shelf Bookclub Selection - May/June 2018

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The incredible true story of the women who fought America's Undark danger

The Curies' newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

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But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women's cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America's early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers' rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the "wonder" substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives...

#1 New York Times Bestseller

From the bestselling author and master of narrative nonfiction comes the enthralling story of the sinking of the Lusitania

On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack. 

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love. 

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.
Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

The Proud Tower, the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Guns of August, and The Zimmerman Telegram comprise Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic histories of the First World War era

In this landmark, Pulitzer Prize–winning account, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman re-creates the first month of World War I: thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world. Beginning with the funeral of Edward VII, Tuchman traces each step that led to the inevitable clash. And inevitable it was, with all sides plotting their war for a generation. Dizzyingly comprehensive and spectacularly portrayed with her famous talent for evoking the characters of the war’s key players, Tuchman’s magnum opus is a classic for the ages.
 
Praise for The Guns of August
 
“A brilliant piece of military history which proves up to the hilt the force of Winston Churchill’s statement that the first month of World War I was ‘a drama never surpassed.’”—Newsweek
 
“More dramatic than fiction . . . a magnificent narrative—beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced and sustained.”—Chicago Tribune
 
“A fine demonstration that with sufficient art rather specialized history can be raised to the level of literature.”—The New York Times
 
“[The Guns of August] has a vitality that transcends its narrative virtues, which are considerable, and its feel for characterizations, which is excellent.”—The Wall Street Journal
Drawing on exhaustive research, this remarkable, intimate account tells the story of how World War I reduced Europe’s mightiest empires to rubble, killed twenty million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today.

On a summer day in 1914, a nineteen-year-old Serbian nationalist gunned down Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo. While the world slumbered, monumental forces were shaken. In less than a month, a combination of ambition, deceit, fear, jealousy, missed opportunities, and miscalculation sent Austro-Hungarian troops marching into Serbia, German troops streaming toward Paris, and a vast Russian army into war, with England as its ally. As crowds cheered their armies on, no one could guess what lay ahead in the First World War: four long years of slaughter, physical and moral exhaustion, and the near collapse of a civilization that until 1914 had dominated the globe.

Praise for A World Undone

“Thundering, magnificent . . . [A World Undone] is a book of true greatness that prompts moments of sheer joy and pleasure. . . . It will earn generations of admirers.”—The Washington Times

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“An original and very readable account of one of the most significant and often misunderstood events of the last century.”—Steve Gillon, resident historian, The History Channel
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