Erik Larson. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. Brunswick and London: Scribe, 2015. Over 200 successful transatlantic crossings, but get sunk just one time and nobody remembers that. Mainly a narrative history but there's nothing wrong with that from time to time. Also, like the next book, it was free (thanks, Richard!)

Lynn Olson. Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour. Brunswick and London: Scribe, 2015. A history of the Anglo-American alliance viewed through the lens of three men who, Olson argues, did most to bring it about: Averell Harriman (head of Lend-Lease), Edward Murrow (CBS correspondent), and John Winant (US ambassador). I'm not sure how necessary these men were, or could have been, to the alliance, but they were certainly signficant in their own right, so it should be worth a read.

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Southern Mail/Night Flight. London: Penguin, 1976. I have long wanted to read Saint-Exupéry (not counting The Little Prince). These are his first two novels, based on his experiences as a commercial pilot pioneering air routes across the Sahara and South America; by all accounts some of the most beautiful writing about flying in the golden age.

NAA: A2023, A38/2/147/677

I ended the previous post in this series with the tease:

In a final post, I will discuss what [Alban] Roberts called his airship, and what it might mean.

That was over two months ago! I think it's time to finally reveal the answer to this question.

According to Errol Martyn, who has written what must be the fullest account of Roberts' career, says that around the time of the airship's tethered test, it was 'patriotically named Australia 1'.1 He gives no source for this name and I couldn't find a reference to it in Trove or elsewhere. In fact, most of the press accounts don't call it anything other than 'the airship' or 'the dirigible'. But not all:

Mr A. J. Roberts's airship, the White Australia, left the Show Ground yesterday under its own gas [...]2


The trial flight of Mr A. J. Roberts' airship, White Australia, from the Sydney Showground, ended abruptly on Sunday afternoon.3

I find this extraordinary. Australia's first airship was named for a racist policy of ensuring an Australian nation free from non-Europeans. Why?
...continue reading

  1. Errol W. Martyn, A Passion for Flight: New Zealand Aviation Before the Great War, Volume 3: The Joe Hammond Story and Military Beginnings 1910-1914 (Upper Riccarton: Volplane Press, 2013), 98. 

  2. Sun (Sydney), 5 July 1914, 4

  3. Maitland Daily Mercury, 6 July 1914, 6


F. G. Brown. Air Navigation Based on Principles and Methods applicable also to Sea Navigation. Sydney and London: Angus & Robertson, 1940. Teaches the same methods successfully used by P. G. Taylor over the Indian Ocean in June 1939! A useful reminder for the non-pilot (i.e. me) of just how much maths is involved in aerial navigation -- this copy even comes with 3 pages of handwritten notes from some poor former owner. As an Australian publication (Brown was late Chief Naval Instructor, Royal Australian Navy and Director of Studies, Royal Australian Naval College), I imagine a few copies of this accompanied Empire Air Training Scheme graduates on their way to Bomber Command.

Stephen Budiansky. Blackett's War: The Men Who Defeated the Nazi U-boats and Brought Science to the Art of Warfare. New York: Vintage Books, 2013. The Blackett of the title is P. M. S. Blackett, a bit of a neglected figure these days. He was awarded the Nobel in physics in 1948 for his work on antimatter in cosmic rays. During the Second World War he was a key figure in the development of operational research, mostly for Anti-Aircraft Command and the Admiralty; he dared to argue that the resources being poured into Bomber Command could be better used elsewhere. Crazy talk.

Martin Woods. Where Are Our Boys? How Newsmaps Won the Great War. Canberra: NLA Publishing, 2016. A gloriously-illustrated book showing how Australians were kept informed (or misinformed) about the progress of the First World War through maps in the press or sold separately. To repeat: glorious.

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Michael North and Davy Burnaby. 'Lords Of The Air'. Sydney: D. Davis & Co., 1939. Thanks, Bart!

Frank H. Shaw. Outlaws of the Air. Glasgow: The Children's Press, 1927. Thanks again, Bart! Shaw was a former naval officer who was also a prolific writer of war stories and science fiction aimed primarily at boys. This particular outing is a throwback to Verne, in fact an aerial version of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, with an incredibly powerful 'mystery airsip' instead of a submarine (called the Avenger, perhaps an allusion to the wreck of the Vengeur which was visited by the Nautilus).

Garry Campion. The Battle of Britain, 1945-1965: The Air Ministry and the Few. Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2015. The Battle as propaganda during the war (most of the book) and memory afterwards. Includes such topics as the 'battle of the barges' and Churchill's 'The Few' speech (Campion still thinks The Few referred to Fighter Command but he does refer to the discussions on this blog).

Isabel V. Hull. A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law during the Great War. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2014. Given the prominent claims and counterclaims at the time, surprisingly few books have been written on the use and abuse of international law in the First World War. I'm especially interested in how Hull treats the topic of aerial bombardment, of course, but also in what she has to say about reprisals for same.

Paul Virilio. War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception. London and New York: Verso, 1989. Part of my continuing, if intermittent, attempt to engage with theory. This is little over a hundred pages long and has lots of pictures -- how difficult can it be?

Simon Bradley. The Railways: Nation, Network and People. London: Profile Books, 2015. A social history of the British railway. Trains ain't planes, but I've heard a lot of good things about this book.

Keith Lovegrove. Airline: Style at 30,000 Feet. London: Laurence King, 2013. A fun little book about 20th century airline design, from advertising to cutlery; but it's the cabin crew uniforms from the 1960s and 1970s that catch the eye. Terrifying.

Paul K. Saint-Amour. Tense Future: Modernism, Total War, Encyclopedic Form. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015. One of those books that does that worthwhile thing of looking at familiar works in unfamiliar ways. For most readers that will probably mean Virginia Woolf or James Joyce, but in my case it's more the airpower prophets I studied for my PhD/book. I'm not persuaded by the reading of L. E. O. Charlton's books about the knock-out blow in the 1930s as being a betrayal of the humanitarian conscience he displayed over civilian casualties of air control in the 1920s; for me, they are cut from the same cloth. But I look forward to reading Saint-Amour's analysis of Charlton anyway, and of other unexpected gems such as Getrude Bell's description of a Hendon-style mock combat put on by the RAF in Iraq in 1924!

Daniel Todman. Britain's War: Into Battle, 1937-1941. Allen Lane, 2016. Just from reading Dan's (lamented) blog, Trench Fever, as well as his occasional comments here at Airminded over the years, I know that this is also going to be an original version of a supposedly familiar story. Even the periodisation is intriguing, and the second volume will complete the story up to Indian independence in 1947. As this one is more than 800 pages, I'd better get cracking...

Statistically, this was probably bound to happen eventually...

Jeremy Black. Air Power: A Global History. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016. The indefatigable Jeremy Black has produced a small but useful library of short, accessible surveys of sometimes neglected areas of military history. On my own shelves I already have Avoiding Armageddon (2012) on the interwar period, and The Cold War (2015), and now they are joined by this volume on a topic even closer to my heart. All the things you'd expect in such a survey are pretty much here, and he does attempt to look at airpower around the world. Inevitably it's still mostly a Western view. Still, there are a couple of pages on the Iran-Iraq war, for example, a bit over a page on China in the 1930s; but only a couple of sentences on the Chaco War (but what are ya gonna do).

Jeremy Black. Other Pasts, Different Presents, Alternative Futures. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015. The indefatigable Jeremy Black has also produced a small but useful library of short, accessible historiographical works. I've got Rethinking Military History (2004) and I did have the previous edition of this book, What If? (2008) -- I'm not sure how they differ, precisely, but the new version is about 20 pages longer and the chapter on counterfactualism in military history, at least, seems to have been largely rewritten. Black thinks that counterfactuals do have value for historians, so it's a good addition to the pile.


Kristen Alexander. Taking Flight: Lores Bonney's Extraordinary Flying Career. Canberra: NLA Publishing, 2016. If Australia had an equivalent to Amy Johnson, Jean Batten, and Amelia Earhart, it was Lores Bonney: the first woman to fly around Australia (1932), the first woman to fly from Australia to England (1933), the first person to fly from Australia to South Africa (1937). But she's not very well-known. This might do something to change that. Looks like a nice companion piece to Michael Molkentin's Flying the Southern Cross, also published by the NLA.

James Harris. The Great Fear: Stalin's Terror of the 1930s. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016. A short book making a big claim: that the purges were the result of the belief that the Soviet Union was under imminent threat by internal conspiracy and external attack. It wasn't, but in this case perception mattered more than reality. Hmm, that idea sounds familiar somehow...

I walked into the local secondhand bookshop thinking I should try to buy something to support them; and of course then walked out with an armful, including:

P. M. S. Blackett. Military and Political Consequences of Atomic Energy. London: Turnstile Press, 1948. Blackett was a bit of an overachiever: the Tizard Committee, the Royal Aircraft Establishment, director of operational research for the Admiralty, the Nobel Prize in physics for his work on antimatter, later MinTech. He even fought at Jutland. Here he grapples with the problem of nuclear weapons (he had been on the MAUD Committee which first investigated the feasibility of a fission weapon), starting with an analysis of the effects of strategic bombing in the late war (he was a sceptic, as he had been at the time) and ending with -- well, by his own admission, not very much by way of a solution, for which he blames the state of the world. Fair enough!

Nigel Calder. Nuclear Nightmares: An Investigation into Possible Wars. London: British Broadcasting Corporation, 1979. The companion to a BBC documentary narrated by Peter Ustinov, of all people. The nuclear nightmares considered are: escalation, proliferation, decapitation, counterforce. So much for détente.

Martin Ceadel. Thinking About Peace and War. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. A fairly persuasive attempt to classify peace movements on the basis of ideology, by one of the most influential British peace historians; but I do wish he'd come up with a less ugly formulation than 'pacific-ism' (sic) to differentiate absolute pacifists from those who accept that war is sometimes necessary.

I. F. Clarke. The Pattern of Expectation 1644-2001. London: Book Club Associates, 1979. Clarke's other defining work on predictive fiction, this time on future histories more generally, as opposed to just the military ones. I don't know it as well as Voices Prophesying War, because the uni library had in storage and it was a pain to get out. So my eyes lit up when I found this.