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Notes on Guns, Gears and Sights, Turnberry 1918

Price $955.00 Sale



Lt-Colonel R. Bell-Irving

OBSERVER OFFICE, Union Arcade, Ayr, 1918

'The importance of encouraging and infusing the offensive spirit into all pilots cannot be overestimated. Pilots must be made to realise that their first and all important duty is to seek out and destroy the enemy wherever he may be found’
Lt-Col Bell-Irving

An exceptionally rare original WW1 Royal Flying Corps gunnery handbook, printed in 1918. It was created specifically for the use of pilots in training at the Royal Flying Corps airfield at Turnberry in Scotland, home of the RFC's No.1 School of Aerial Fighting. The No.1 SAF at Turnberry provided pilots with three-week courses in the arts of aerial gunnery and combat. Produced in very limited numbers (each copy was individually numbered - this is copy no. 11), this was the course handbook, privately printed in Ayr, and illustrated with a series of original photographic prints. The prints - no doubt produced by RFC personnel at Turnberry - were pasted into the blank pages of the book. Some of the photographs, illustrating the use of ring sights, feature a captured German Albatros D.I aircraft, repainted in RFC colours, which was flown for training purposes at Turnberry in 1918. (Around 60 aircraft were available for pilots to train on at Turnberry - including the Sopwith Camel, Sopwith Pup, Bristol Fighter, SPAD, SE5a and a single Albatross D.I)

The book covers the use  and maintenance of the Vickers machine gun, stoppages, belt filling, ring sights, Aldis sights, harmonization of sights, and the Constantinescu and Sopwith-Kauper gun synchronization gear mechanisms. There is also a Commandants introduction on the importance of gunnery training, written by the C.O. at Turnberry, Lt-Colonel Bell-Irving. An original typewritten amendments sheet is attached to the front endpapers.

This copy has a particularly interesting and historically significant provenance, as it was originally issued to Lt. P. W. S. Bulman, and is signed by him on the front endpapers. Bulman was an RFC and RAF pilot in WW1, serving in 46 Squadronone of the RFCs most celebrated units, flying alongside aces such as Donald MacLaren, Cecil Marchant, and Victor Maslin Yeates. Yeates was the author Winged Victory (1934), one of the most highly regarded novels of WW1, which was very closely based on his combat experiences while flying with 46 Squadron in 1918. Most of the characters in the novel are easily identifiable as members of 46 Squadron, and it is quite possible that a fictional version of Bulman appears in the novel. Bulman went on to be a test pilot, and flew the Hawker Hurricane on its maiden flight in 1935.

P. W. S. ‘George’ Bulman (1896-1963): Group Captain Paul Ward Spencer Bulman, CBE, MC, AFC & Two Bars, FRAeS, universally known as ‘George' Bulman, was a WW1 RFC fighter pilot and inter-war test pilot whose flying career spanned thirty years from 1915–1945. Bulman was born in Luton in 1896, was educated at Bedford School and then joined the Bank of England. Soon after the start of WW1 Bulman transferred from the Honourable Artillery Company to the Royal Flying Corps, serving in No. 46 Squadron RFC and No. 3 Squadron RFC. Bulman saw plenty of action, although his exact number of aerial victories is unclear. On 25th September 1917 he shared in the destruction of a German 2-seater at Pelves, east of Arras. Along with two other 46 squadron pilots (Thomson & Wilcox), Bulman attacked the German plane and followed it down, continuing to fire until he saw it crash. Bulman was wounded in action on 29th January 1918, and was awarded the Military Cross on 4 February 1918 for his services flying Sopwith Camels at the Battle of Courtrai, with the following citation:

'For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. On five occasions; in most difficult weather conditions, he dropped bombs and fired on enemy infantry from a low altitude, inflicting heavy casualties. During these flights he frequently obtained valuable information, and twice drove off enemy machines which attempted to interfere. He showed the greatest initiative and resource'.

Bulman was appointed a flight commander on 24 February 1918 with the temporary rank of captain. Later that year, he was awarded the Air Force Cross (AFC). At the end of the war Bulman was appointed to a permanent RAF commission. He was a test pilot on the Sopwith Snipe and the S.E.5a, and then served at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough from 1919 to 1925. In July 1920, he was awarded a Bar to his Air Force Cross for his services as a test pilot. Bulman also undertook testing work for Blackburn and was one of the few pilots to fly the prototype Brennan helicopter in 1922. He was awarded a second Bar to his Air Force Cross in the 1922 Birthday Honours, and in 1924, he won the Grove Prize for aeronautical research. In August 1925, Bulman resigned his commission to become the chief test pilot at H. G. Hawker Engineering (later Hawker Aircraft) from 1925 to 1945. He became a director of the company in 1935. He was a close colleague of the company's chief designer, Sir Sydney Camm - the celebrated designer of the Hawker Hurricane fighter.

On 6th November 1935 the prototype Hawker Monoplane F.36/34, K5083, took off for its maiden flight at the Brooklands Aerodrome, Weybridge, Surrey, with Hawker’s chief test pilot, Flight Lieutenant George Bulman at the controls. Bulman test flew many other Hawker aircraft during his career. During WW2, from 1941 to 1942, Bulman was head of the Aircraft Testing Branch of the British Air Commission in Washington, D.C., and was granted an honorary RAF commission as a group captain on 9 May 1941, relinquishing it on 23 August 1942. For this work, he was awarded a CBE in the 1943 New Year Honours. Bulman retired from Hawker in 1945 and never flew again. He finally resigned his RAF reserve commission on 10 February 1954.

Lt-Colonel Richard Bell-Irving (1888-1962): was originally from Vancouver in Canada and served with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, 11th C.M.R., and Canadian Railway Troops. During WW1 he joined the Royal Flying Corps as a pilot and became an instructor, and went on to command the RFC No.1 SAF air training station at Turnberry in Scotland. Two of his brothers were also pilots in the RFC during WW1.


In good condition. The boards are in good condition, with general signs of wear and use and some marks. The binding and hinges are very good and secure. The spine has been professionally replaced, with the original cloth reinstated, and new endpapers have been added. The text pages are in good condition, with some marks, wear to the edges, and slight wrinkling of the paper. The pasted-in photographic prints are in very good condition. The book is signed on the front endpapers by 'P. W. S. Bulman'. The original typewritten amendments sheet has been attached to the front endpapers.

Published: 1918
Green boards, with gilt titling
Illustrated with pasted-in original photographic plates
Dimensions: 190mm x 255mm
Pages: 103