MikeMeech Posted 13 June , 2016 Share Posted 13 June , 2016 Hi Many books on the air war mention the large numbers of deaths of 'pilots' during training in the RFC/RNAS/RAF during WW1, especially when they re-quote Denis Winter from 'The First of the Few' (1982), page 36, where he states: "...official figures at the end of the war listed 14,166 dead pilots, of whom 8,000 had died while training in the UK." Of course the 'official figures' did not list these figures at all as they were in 'The War in the Air' Appendices volume (1937), page 160 which has a total number of air service casualties from all causes as 16,623, 6,166 killed or died, 3,212 missing or interned (many would be classed as dead). However, this has not stopped recent books basically re-quoting the Winter figures, as in 'Reckless Fellows' (2015) by Edward Bujak, page4, which states: "Shockingly, over half the 14,166 pilots who lost their lives in the war did so in training." or 'First World War in the Air' (2012) by Phil Carradice, page 51, which comments: "It is a sad fact that over 14,000 airmen lost their lives during the Great War. Amazingly, over 8,000 of these fatalities came from accidents during training." What is amazing is that we do have an accurate picture of actual deaths available that authors apparently ignore (even if they have already ignored the actual official figures for some reason). 'Airman Died in the Great War 1914-1918' (DVD-ROM) has a searchable data base of all British and Commonwealth air service deaths, a total of 9,350,all ranks all causes men and women, so making 14,000 plus dead pilots a bit of a problem! We can also search for 'training deaths', which I have done a rough search for. Going through the returns for 'Killed Whilst Flying', so accidents rather than operational losses gives 2,840 deaths. Looking through this total I have identified 1,565 that are probably 'training' deaths, although not all possibly due to deaths while on flying training (not just pilots but observers, gunners, wireless operators) as it includes some ack emmas and could be air tests etc. These are deaths from the training system around the world, not just the UK, including Canada (90 in Canada plus 35 during winter training in the US), Egypt, France and Malta. The deaths also include USAS personnel, some Russian trainees and one Frenchman who was attached to a training unit. Additionally there are 109 who 'Died of Injuries', again not all were probably caused in flying training accidents and it is possible there is an overlap with the previous number. It is probable that the maximum total of those that died during training is 1,674 (possibly less). Although a 'high' figure to our eyes,this is rather different than 8,000 pilot fatalities in training that is regularly quoted. However, I wonder how much this latter figure will be quoted in books and other print media as well as TV and radio over this 100th anniversary period as it has much more 'impact' to illustrate the horrors of WW1? Mike Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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