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July 31 , 2009

Cavalry of the Clouds


Of the part played by machines of war in this war of machinery the wider public has but a vague knowledge. Least of all does it study the specialised functions of army aircraft. Very many people show mild interest in the daily reports of so many German aeroplanes destroyed, so many driven down, so many of ours missing, and enraged interest in the reports of bomb raids on British towns; but of aerial observation, the main raison d'etre of flying at the front, they own to nebulous ideas. As an extreme case of this haziness over matters aeronautic I will quote the lay question, asked often and in all seriousness: "Can an aeroplane stand still in the air?" Another surprising point of view is illustrated by the home-on-leave experience of a pilot belonging to my present squadron. His lunch companion—a charming lady—said she supposed he lived mostly on cold food while in France. "Oh no," replied the pilot, "it's much the same as yours, only plainer and tougher." "Then you do come down for meals," deduced the lady. Only those who have flown on active service can fully relish the comic savour of a surmise that the Flying Corps in France remain in the air all day amid all weathers, presumably picnicking, between flights, off sandwiches, cold chicken, pork pies, and mineral waters
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