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For God, England & Ethel - 
the story of 6 Squadron Royal Flying Corps

Promotional flyer for the autobiographical nove, 'For God, England & Ethel', written by Steve Buster Johnson

During WW1, the men of the Army Corps squadrons were the unsung heroes of the Royal Flying Corps on the Western Front, yet little has been written of their exploits. Flying against the faster and more manoeuvrable scouts of the German Air Force, they were the "Eyes of the Army" despite suffering heavy losses. In pioneering the use of airborne wireless, they also changed forever the way in which wars would be waged.  


My first Royal Flying Corps book, For God, England and Ethel (named after the inscription 'GEE' my grandmother had engraved on the inside of my grandfather's engagement ring - to reinforce Fred's order of priorities!) is a novelised factual account of the WW1 operations of 6 Squadron RFC / RAF, based on the diaries my grandfather kept when he served with the squadron on the Western Front from 1915 to 1918 when it was based at the small Belgian/French border village of Abeele. It tells the true story of three men who all enlist in the Royal Flying Corps as wireless mechanics. Each man has a dream; one to gain a commission, another to become a fighter pilot and the third (my grandfather, Fred Johnstone) to bring his own unique skills to the war and be able to one day return home and marry his sweetheart, Ethel Pocock. Before the war comes to an end, each man’s dream is realised, but as everyone knows, dreams always come at a cost.

You can buy the book from any of the major on-line book stores, Ebay or the publisher Trafford Publishing.

For those who want to do more than simply read a remarkable but true story, I have also included sections of narrative, many maps and photographs as well as end-notes as well as more than 100 explanatory endnotes. Many of the facts regarding 6 Squadron have never before appeared in print, including full details as to how artillery observation aircraft communicated with the allied batteries in guiding the guns on to enemy targets (the diagram and map shown below are also included in the book.

Map of the Western Front with allied airfields c1917
WW1 Artillery Grid System (Army and RAF)

Click on any of the following buttons to display examples of what you will find in the book as well as some interesting photos.

KIRKUS DISCOVERIES REVIEW - New York (April 16, 2010) 


"They also serve who only repair equipment, in this absorbing World War 1 saga. When his sweetheart Ethel puts off marrying him because of the uncertain times, young British watchmaker Fred Johnstone signs up for the Royal Flying Corps rather than wait to be drafted into the infantry and consigned to the trenches. He's assigned to a squadron of artillery observation aircraft in Belgium, a seemingly humdrum unit that sees more than its share of danger and drama. Flying low over the German lines in their cumbersome two-seaters to assess the accuracy of British artillery fire, the airmen confront death in many guises, including enemy anti-aircraft guns, errant British shells, mid-air collisions with comrades and fearsome German fighter planes. In one dogfight, an observer who doesn't know how to fly clambers into the front seat over the bullet-riddled corpse of the pilot and tries to pull the plane out of its death spiral, all while firing his machine gun at a pursuing German ace. Fred has a relatively cushy spot on the ground crew repairing radios, but he also experiences his quota of anguish when buddies are lost and he faces real peril from German bombing raids and crash landings by British planes.  Basing his account on his grandfather's diaries and his meticulous historical research, Steve Buster Johnson immerses readers in period detail. He captures the material trappings and the subjective feel of one of the more genteel corners of Army life, with its barracks camaraderie, picnics and music-hall outings, and delicate tensions between military rank and civilian social status. Anyone who loves ancient biplanes will be entranced by the author's Proustian recreation of their looks and idiosyncrasies and the fiendish complexities of flying them. In his nerve-wracking combat scenes, it seems miraculous when these wood-and-cloth contraptions stand up to the shock of battle. A richly textured, nail-biting evocation of the Western Front." 

RE8 pilot and observer in pre-flight mission discussions
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