top of page

Cross & Cockade International - Book Review

Map of the Western Front with allied aerodromes marked

Here is a copy of the review of my latest book, as it appears in the C&CI journal for Spring 2019 50.079:

OVER THE WESTERN FRONT - 6 Squadron Royal Flying Corps by Steve 'Buster’ Johnson. Publishing. 276pp, 215x280mm, Softback, Illustrated. ISBN 978-1-935881-67-4

The author's grandfather served with 6 Squadron in France and Belgium from November 1915 to January 1918, His service was as an ordinary airman who specialised in working with wireless equipment. The squadron helped pioneer the use of wireless in France before the creation of the HQ WT Unit, which became 9 Squadron. Fred Johnstone, the grandfather, was posted to 6 Squadron because of his expertise with wireless equipment. He served with the unit for over two years until illness led to a home posting at the Flowerdown wireless school as an instructor.

The book is in two distinct halves. The first is a month-by-month summary of the diary kept while in France. As the author explains, diary entries were obviously regarded as being very personal and so were entered in both cryptic and coded forms. Simple reproduction of them would mean nothing to the reader and so the author has synthesised their content. The result works well and the diary entries are a combination of information about day-to-day life in the squadron and the personalities involved. The latter include both flying and ground crews.

The photographic illustrations come from a variety of sources. Quite a number are those that had belonged to Fred Johnstone and show the men and women he knew. Others are contemporary postcards of locations mentioned while aeroplane shots come from present day collections, including CCI.

The author demonstrates his knowledge of all things 6 Squadron in the second part of the book. This is a month-by-month summary of the squadron's strength and losses. For completeness, it covers the period October 1914, when the unit joined the BEF, to December 1918. Tabulations for each month give serial number information for machines on charge at the beginning of the period, on charge at the end, those struck off and new additions. A further table shows the month's casualties by cause. The accompanying text gives further information about casualties and details of any unit movement.

Appendices give information of the unit's aeroplane establishment for selected months, a breakdown of the turnover of machines by cause, a summary of casualties by cause and short biographies of four 6 Squadron aircrew, two pilots and two observers.

This book provides a lot of what anyone might need to know about 6 Squadron's aeroplanes and operations and casualties. The only thing really missing is a detailed personnel roster. Exceptional value for the price of a couple of pints of beer.

bottom of page