War Story

Written by Derek Robinson
Review by Fenella Miller

War Story is set in 1916 and chronicles Second Lieutenant Oliver Paxton’s first few weeks as a member of the Royal Flying Corps. He’s not a likeable character and fails to charm his fellow pilots. The ludicrous events and silliness of the young men are a stark contrast to the daily deaths and disasters. Robinson’s knowledge of the planes and the war are impressive. The boys, for they were scarcely more than that, behave as if they are still at public school. They return from flights to swim, play cricket and embark on complicated practical jokes. Yet scarcely half a mile away the British Army are living in misery and squalor in the trenches.

This is a great book. Robinson’s gripping narrative kept me reading until the book was finished. The humour made me smile, but the horror of the war – the needless deaths, the stupidity of the generals, the casual courage of the RFC – all that is now imprinted on my memory. This is an exceptional read, and I intend to buy the rest of Robinson’s books. I recommend you do the same.