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Winged Victory (1934) | V. M. Yeates | 1st Edition

Winged Victory (1934) | V. M. Yeates

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V. M. Yeates

JONATHAN CAPE, London, 1934
(1st Edition)

The 1st edition, second printing, of the classic novel of WW1 aerial warfare. Written by a former Sopwith Camel pilot and 'ace' who served with 46 Squadron R.F.C. on the Western Front in 1918. Victor Maslin Yeates was a friend of Henry Williamson, who worked hard to promote Winged Victory after Yeates tragic early death in 1934. T. E. Lawrence was another admirer of the book, describing it as 'One of the most distinguished histories of the war.’

The 1934 First Edition of Winged Victory is very rare. The first printing was in June, with this second printing stated as November. Interestingly, although the publishing details clearly state that this is the 2nd impression of November 1934, the tribute written by Henry Williamson is dated January 1935. (As Yeates died in December 1934, perhaps the 2nd impression was delayed to allow Williamson to add his tribute, and not actually printed until January 1935?)

The book was not a great success when first published and only a relatively small number of copies were sold. It was only some years later that Yeates' masterpiece received the recognition it so richly deserved. As Henry Williamson noted in an appreciation written early in 1935, shortly after Yeates died, ‘His death passed entirely unoticed in the literary world; few had heard of his book. Yet it is one of the great books of our time’.

For anyone interested in the Royal Flying Corps and the life of a front line pilot in 1918, this is undoubtedly the finest account there is. Although written as a novel, it is in fact very much a day to day account of Yeates' own life on the western front. Yeates' biographer has conducted extensive research which has proved that almost every event described in the book actually happened. Some of the characters names have not even been changed, making it very easy to identify actual R.F.C. members who appear in the book — including George Edwin Thomsom (21 kills, called "Tommy" in the book), Harry Noel Cornforth Robinson (called "Robinson" in the book, 10 kills, and Horace Gilbert Wanklyn Debenham ("Debenham" in the book, six enemy aircraft destroyed). Yeates' Flight Commander "Mac" is based on the Canadian ace Donald MacLaren (48 kills and six balloons shot down), who served in 46 Squadron at the time. Other characters are clearly identifiable, although their names have been changed, like the insanely courageous Major Beal, and the short-lived squadron C.O. who accused Tom Cundall (Yeates) of cowardice in the air.

The title, Winged Victory, was not V. M. Yeates' choice, it was forced on him by his publisher, who wanted the book to appear more patriotic and exciting. Yeates' original choice of title was the much more apt, 'Wingless Victor'.

'As a picture of life and almost certain death in the early days
of war in the air, this must be one of the great books.'
The Times


In good condition. The boards are in good condition, with some marks, slightly bumped corners and general signs of use. The binding and hinges are very good and secure. The text is in good condition, with a few minor marks.

Published: November 1934 (1st Edition, 2nd printing)
Blue boards with silver gilt titling
Dimensions: 150mm x 205mm
Pages: 456