Few are aware of the risks that the pioneering airmen of the First World War took. On a Wing and a Prayer is a narrative history that conveys the perils of those early days, the thrills of learning to fly, and the horrors of war in the air at a time when parachutes were non–existent and pilots carried little defensive armament. The men who joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1914 were the original heroes of flying, treading into unknown territory, and paving the way for later aerial combat. They became icons for the soldiers in the trenches, and a stark contrast to the hundreds on the ground fighting faceless hundreds as men fought aircraft to aircraft and man to man – for the first time the air became a battlefield of its own. In 1914 aircraft were a questionable technology, used for only basic reconnaissance.
But by 1918, hastened by the terrible war, aircraft were understood to be the future of modern warfare. The war changed flying forever. The Wright brothers' achievements of a mere 10 years earlier and Blériot's crossing of the Channel just a few years before the war seemed a distant memory as aircraft became killing machines – the war becoming the ancestor of the fearsome air wars of later years. The stories are presented to the reader in a frank and open way, revealing the feelings of the men who defended the trenches from above and witnessed the war from a completely different perspective. The adventures of these men are almost totally unknown, and this book will tell their