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WW1 RNAS Sopwith Camel Pilot's Aviation Pocket Book (1917)

Sopwith Camel Pilot's Aviation Pocket-Book (1917)

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R. Borlase Matthews


This book is signed on the front endpaper by its original owner, Lieutenant L. H. Riddell, a WW1 Sopwith Camel pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service and RAF. Leonard Riddell's flying career was featured in a special exhibition 'From Street to Trench' at The Imperial War Museum North in Salford in 2014-15. A life size replica of a Camel was displayed alongside a selection of items from the IWM's collection of artefacts belonging to Lieutenant Riddell. At the outbreak of WW1 Leonard Riddell was a 14 year old schoolboy living in Manchester. By the end of 1918, aged just 18, he was an experienced fighter pilot who had been shot down, wounded and was being held as a prisoner of war. A fascinating collection of his wartime diaries, photographs, letters and other items have been preserved by the IWM, many of which are available to view online. Leonard joined the R.N.A.S. in 1917 and by September of that year he had been promoted to Flight Sub-Lieutenant. In March 1918, five months after his first solo flight, he was flying a Sopwith F1 fighter with No.1 Squadron R.N.A.S. (later to become No. 201 Squadron) in France. His diary describes dogfights, bombing and highly dangerous low-level strafing missions. The entry for 2nd April 1918 highlighted the dangers of anti-aircraft fire: 'Got Archied very badly - heard the bursting shrapnel which indicates it is time to do a bit of dodging about. Did dodge muchly.'

Leonard's luck finally ran out on 8th August 1918, on the opening day of the Battle of Amiens. He had taken off at 8.30am in Camel D9652 on a line patrol near Bayonvillers. Hit by ant-aircraft machine gun fire, he was seen to crash behind enemy lines at 9.05am and was posted as missing. The RAF list of casualties on 8th August was far higher than on any other day during the war. And the day went particularly badly for 201 squadron: they lost seven Camels, with five pilots becoming POW's, one MIA and one killed. Wounded and with a badly broken leg, Leonard was one of those taken prisoner and remained in captivity for the rest of the war. On August 6th 1920, almost two years to the day after his crash, Leonard relinquished his commission in the RAF as a result of his wounds.

The Aviation Pocket-Book was produced for the use of R.F.C. and R.N.A.S pilots. Well illustrated with numerous diagrams, drawings and plans, this book is a guide to all aspects of aviation in 1917. It includes technical information on engines, airframes, construction of aircraft, navigation, dirigibles, weather, military flying and much more. There are plans and diagrams of military aircraft flown by the R.F.C. and allied air forces, including the Nieuport Scout, Avro 504, Bristol Scout, Blackburn Triplane and the Morane-Saulnier. Also included are details of the War Office Trials of 1914. The book features a number of fascinating period adverts and lots of information on the foremost British aviation companies of the time. This book was clearly intended to be an essential item of equipment for any British pilot.


In good condition. The boards are in good condition, with a few marks and some fading to the front board and spine. The binding and hinges are very good and secure. The text and illustrations are in very good condition. Signed on the front endpaper by 'L.H. Riddell'. The signature exactly matches that on a document in the private papers of Lieutenant L. H. Riddell held at the IWM.

Published: 1917
Blue boards with gilt titling
Illustrated with diagrams, line drawings & charts
Dimensions: 120mm x 170mm
Pages: 300 (plus advertisments)