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WW1 RFC Flying Manuals (1916-1918) | Compass Library

WW1 Pilot's Flying Manual & RFC Technical Notes

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by Flight-Commander W. G. McMINNIES R.N.

Illustrated by
Flight-Lieutenant E. L. FORD R.N.

(1st Edition)

Practical Flying is probably the best First World War flying manual, written and illustrated by experienced R.N.A.S. officers. This is the first edition, produced early in 1918 for the use of trainee R.F.C., R.A.F. and R.N.A.S. pilots. Superbly illustrated with numerous diagrams, drawings, and a fold-out map, this book is a fascinating insight into the practicalities of military flying during WW1. Covering everything from how to spin the prop, and how to perform 'stunts' like an Immelman turn or a 'falling-leaf' descent, to aerial fighting and the action to take after the inevitable crash that all WW1 flyers experienced at some time or other. This book tells you almost everything you would need to know to fly a world war one aircraft. It also includes a number of advertisments for aircraft manufacturers and flying equipment suppliers.

This book (and Technical Notes R.F.C. listed below) originally belonged to John Alexander Lawrie, a WW1 R.F.C. and R.A.F. airman, and is signed by him (dated July 1918) on the front endpaper. J. A. Lawrie joined the Royal Flying Corps in February 1915 and went out to France in July 1916 with 19 Squadron RFC. The squadron flew the B.E. 12, Spad and Sopwith Dolphin. Promoted to Flight Sergeant in February 1917, Lawrie was mentioned in despatches on 15th May 1917 (presumably for work as an Observer). In 1918 he was accepted for pilot training and attended No. 8 School of Aeronautics before joining No. 25 Training Depot Squadron. (I will include copies of the details I have of J. A. Lawrie’s military service with the book).

R.F.C., 1916

H.M.S.O, London, October 1916
Printed by Harrison & Sons, London, 1916

Technical Notes R.F.C. was originally published by the R.F.C for use by aircrew and groundcrew working on the aircraft. This volume is a fascinating insight into the construction, mechanics and rigging of Britain's first generation of WW1 fighting aircraft. Subjets covered in the text include: photography, wireless, flight and stability, magnetos, and engines (including the Gnome, Beardmore, Renault, Monosoupape, R.A.F., Le Rhone 80 hp, Le Rhone 110 hp, Curtis 90 hp, Clerget 80 hp, Clerget 100 hp., Rolls-Royce 250 hp). There is also an excellent set of 38 highly detailed folding plates, with scale drawings and notes, showing the aircraft in use with the R.F.C. in 1916, including the Maurice Farman Shorthorn, Maurice Farman Longhorn, B.E. 2C., Avro, Bleriot, Bristol Scout, Vickers Fighter, F.E. 2 B., De Haviland 1, R.E. 7, and De Haviland 2.

This book also originally belonged to John Alexander Lawrie, and is signed by him, ‘John A. Lawrie, R.F.C.’., on the front endpaper. J. A. Lawrie also annotated the rear endpapers in pencil with details of engines and other aviation subjects he was studying. There is also an address of a 'Miss B. MacFarland' of Ealing. Intriguingly, I found an original photographic negative loosely inserted in the book, showing a young man in uniform perched on top of a haystack (see photo 22 - could this be J. A. Lawrie?). The negative will be included with the book.


Practical Flying: In good condition. The boards are in good condition, with general signs of age and wear and some marks. The binding and hinges are secure. The text is in good condition with a few marks. There are some marks to the endpapers. The illustrations are in good condition. The book is signed on the front endpaper by ‘J. A. Lawrie, RAF, July 1918’. With his initials, ‘J.A.L.’, and a note about engine H.P. also attached to the endpapers.

Published: 1918
Fully illustrated with line drawings and diagrams
Cream boards with black titling
Dimensions: 130mm x 190mm
Pages: 237 (plus numerous aviation advertisments)

Technical Notes RFC: In good condition. The boards show general signs of wear and use and a few marks. The binding and hinges are good and secure. The text is in good condition with a few marks. The plates are in very good condition, with a few creased corners, and a some wear to the central section of one plate. Signed on the front endpaper by ‘John A. Lawrie, R.F.C.’. Annotated in pencil on the rear endpapers by J. A. Lawrie. The original photographic negative is in good condition.

Published: 1916
Illustrated with 38 folding plates
Khaki boards with black titling
Dimensions: 130mm x 195mm
Pages: 42 (plus 38 folding plates)

It is very rare indeed to find both these books signed and attributed to the same Royal Flying Corps / RAF airman (with the added bonus of an original negative which may well be a photograph of J. A. Lawrie).