The sacrifice of Wales' airmen and airwomen during first world war told for first time

The sacrifice made by Wales’s airmen and airwomen during the Great War has been drawn together for the first time in a detailed research by an acclaimed military historian.

Wales and the First Air War 1914- 1918 by Jonathan Hicks is an account of Welsh involvement in the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force during the First World War.

When the Great War began in 1914 aviation was in its infancy. Airmen took to the skies in wood and linen aircraft that were illequipped for the demands of mechanised warfare, and by 1917 the average lifespan of a newly-posted pilot was just three weeks.

Welshmen volunteered for the new service arm in large numbers and Wales contributed pilots, observers and ground crew to the Royal Flying Corps, Royal Naval Air Service and Royal Air Force. The stories of these men are told here for the first time. Their deeds, gallantry and ultimate fates are recounted, as are those of the Welsh ‘aces’ who pitted their skills against those of their famous German counterparts.

‘Wales produced its own aces, and these men are worthy of remembrance for their heroism in fighting a war high up in the air, where the chances of survival, if aircrew or machine were hit by enemy bullets or shrapnel, were slim’ said Dr Jonathan Hicks.

Two air stations were constructed in Wales to house the new airships: one at Llangefni on Anglesey and the other at Milton in Pembrokeshire.

Wales also provided a pioneer of airship design. Ernest Willows from Cardiff was the first man in Britain to be granted a pilot’s licence and, on 28 December 1910, he made the first cross-Channel airship flight from England to France. He built his first airship when he was just 19. After the war ended, he continued his pioneering work until he was killed in a balloon accident in August 1926.

Dr Jonathan Hicks is an award-winning military historian and novelist. The winner of the Victorian Military Society’s top award for his work on the Anglo-Zulu War he was also awarded the Western Front Association Shield for his work on Barry and the Great War. He has also written novels on the battle at Mametz, including The Dead of Mametz and Demons Walk Among Us and also factual volumes, the bestsellers The Welsh at Mametz Wood (2016) and The Welsh at Passchendaele 1917 (2017).