Dieselpunk + Steampunk Culture

Knights of the Air - Making the most of life between missions

Aviators on both sides lived more comfortably than soldiers in the trenches. At best, home might be a commandeered chateau where wine, cooks, batmen*, and a range of sporting activities made for a highly civilized life during wartime.

To unwind, the airmen read books, wrote letters, listened to music, and made their own entertainment. For example, some squadrons became famous for boisterous parties; others organized variety shows.

Whenever possible, the airmen sought the nightlife of the city. “We existed,” one Allied pilot remembered, “only for the times we could go to Paris.” Whatever the diversion, a flier had to be prepared to drop it at a moment’s notice.

Canada’s Billy Bishop recalled a day he and other pilots were playing tennis when a sortie was ordered. “We were still in our white flannels,” he wrote. “There was no time to change, so into the machines we crawled and started aloft.”

WWI violin player
A French pilot supplements the gramophone with violin music for an attentive comrade at a barracks in 1916.

WWI British flight officers
Attended by batmen*, British flight officers serving in Italy in 1917 await their evening meal at a neatly set table.

*A batman (or batwoman) is a soldier or airman assigned to a commissioned officer as a personal servant.

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Comment by frank anthony rainone III on April 5, 2012 at 7:34pm

These guys,as they faced death every day, were truly courageous. Check out the '30's film "Dawn Patrol" with E. FLYNN, D.Niven,B.Rathbone, & Donald Crisp. The tension and camaraderie of these Knights of the Air is played up very well.                      nice post tome, and thanx!

Comment by Larry on December 2, 2011 at 4:19pm

Yup, they lived better. Of course, many didn't live long so pretty much any meal was likely to be their last.

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