Over and Above

Captain John E Gurdon, Norman Franks


Format: Hardback
Extent: 224 pages
Dimensions: 210 x 135 mm
ISBN: 9781911621089.
Categories: , .
Publication Date: 29 June 2018

Over and Above was first published in 1919 soon after John Everard Gurdon, aged just twenty, had been invalided out of the RAF following a brief but incident-filled stint as a flyer on the Western Front. Piloting the Bristol F.2b with 22 Squadron, his first victory was on 2 April 1918 and by 13 August he had bagged his twenty-eighth. In between those dates Gurdon flew with gusto and élan, his exploits attracting the attention of such eminent fighter aces as James McCudden.
Over and Above is Gurdon’s first and best book, repeatedly reprinted for two decades, variously titled Winged Warriors or Wings of Death. Billed as a novel, it is not so much that as a fictionalised account of his own service flying career, with names changed, incidents rearranged. True, it tells of ‘exciting raids over enemy lines and towns, desperate fights against fearful odds, chivalry shown to an unchivalrous foe…’ but the narrative turns darker as men become wearier, new comrades arrive and are killed, and those who remain try to hold onto meaning in increasingly unintelligible circumstances, a mirror to Gurdon’s own experiences.
Written in the style of the era and by and for a class which put great store in maintaining a slangy, backslapping cheerfulness, no matter how grim things were, with chums wishing each other ‘beaucoup Huns’ before embarking on a ‘show’ in ‘beastly’ weather, this book is a classic to rank with Winged Victory by V M Yeates, and which should never have been out of print.
This new edition retains exactly the original script but has been updated with an introduction by John Gurdon’s granddaughter Camilla Jane Gurdon Blakeley and an extended illustrated appendix by renowned historian Norman Franks.

1 review for Over and Above

  1. Anne Dolamore

    Grub Street has re-issued a number of Great War aviator books and this one is up there with the best of them. Gurdon, as Warton, is heroic and tragic. He was just a kid. Imagine the youth of today climbing into a fighter and shooting down twenty-eight enemy aeroplanes in the length of a summer madness?

    This book is well worth reading to appreciate the author for the brave and flawed young man he was. In later life, Gurdon lived in straitened circumstances, the consequences of the decisions he made as a younger man.

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