A Different Perspective (?): Air Warfare in Derek Robinson’s Post-Memory Aviation Fiction

Marzena Sokolowska-Paryz

Abstract

The canonical literary epitome of the Great War is, beyond doubt, the infantry soldier trapped in what Paul Fussell called the “troglodyte world” of the notorious trenches. There exists, however, a considerable number of literary accounts devoted to a different ‘space’—and thus allegedly also a different experience—of the conflict. The autobiography by Manfred von Richthofen, and memoirs by Billy Bishop and Cecil Lewis contributed to the fame of the Great War pilots as ‘knights of the air.’ Post-memory literary depictions of air warfare tend to be more ideologically ambivalent. The focus of this paper will be Derek Robinson’s novel War Story (1987), constituting in terms of the chosen historical time of its action the first part of his acclaimed Great War aviation trilogy, including also Goshawk Squadron and Hornet's Sting, to be analyzed within the wider context of the cultural representations of the Royal Flying Corps in 1914–1918. Derek Robinson served in the RAF after the Second World War. He is also the author of the revisionist Invasion, 1940 and, thus, his literary ‘return’ to the Great War, within the context of air warfare, must raise important questions concerning the extent to which he perpetuates or challenges the prevailing myths of the first global conflict of the twentieth-century.

Keywords

The Great War; Aerial combat; Aviation fiction; Derek Robinson; War mythology; Aces High; Journey's End

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2018.31.10