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Fire in the Sky: The Australian Flying Corps in the First World War Paperback – November 1, 2010
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The Sinai desert in support of the light horse, wobbling into the air the fledgling airforce takes shape in one of the most important theatres of the war.
You meet all the famous pioneers of Australia's comercial airlines cutting their teeth in the sandstorms of Arabia.
Michael Molkentin has crafted a wonderful story of the birth of the RAAF and the wonderful charachters involved, its all been done before but this is the best one yet.
Yet, aside from the usual run of individual airmen's memoirs and various magazine and historical journal articles, the only truly comprehensive book about the Australian Flying Corps has been Volume VIII of "The Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918," better known as "The Australian Flying Corps in the Western and Eastern Theatres of War 1914-1918" by F.M. Cutlack (Sidney, 1933, 485 pp.). Charles Schaedel's much smaller volume, "Men & Machines of the Australian Flying Corps 1914-19" (Victoria, 1972, 56 pp.), was interesting, but was very "light" on text.
Consequently, Australian historian Michael Molkentin's weighty new volume is a welcome addition to World War I aviation history literature. Unlike Cutlack's drier, more formal style, Molkentin augments the usual official records and livens up his text by quoting from letters and diary entries. Obviously, in the 77 years since Cutlack produced his still valuable history, much more archival material has become available, as well as interviews with surviving fliers, and publication of many books and studies. Molkentin made excellent use of such assets and, happily for today's researchers, those sources are included in his notes and bibliography.
Cutlack's hard-to-find book is still useful, but Michael Molkentin's more readily available "Fire in the Sky - The Australian Flying Corps in the First World War" is a superb and broader account of AFC operations from mid-1914 through the end of World War I. Augmented by a fine selection of photos and maps, it is also an example of high quality historical scholarship. Molkentin's book has earned the highest recommendation. (This review appears in the Spring 2011 issue of "Over the Front," the quarterly journal of the non-profit League of World War I Aviation Historians.)