Highest scoring British ace of the First World War, credited with 61 German aircraft.
Like many aces in both World Wars, Mannock was one of those who demonized and depersonalized his enemies. After machine gunning the two occupants of a downed German plane, Mannock explained “The swines are better dead - no prisoners.”
Interestingly enough though, Mannock was deeply affected by the number of men who were killed. In his diary, he recorded visiting the site where one of his victims had crashed near the front-line:
“The journey to the trenches was rather nauseating – dead men’s legs sticking through the sides with puttees and boots still on – bits of bones and skulls with the hair peeling off, and tons of equipment and clothing lying about. This sort of thing, together with the strong graveyard stench and the dead and mangled body of the pilot combined to upset me for a few days.”
Major Edward Corringham “Mick” Mannock, May 24, 1887 – July 26, 1918. A British fighter ace credited with 61 air victories and awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Two Bars, Military Cross and Bar and a posthumous Victoria Cross.
Mick Mannock was one of the greatest aces of the war, and a very conflicted figure. He was renowned for his prudent and aggressive leadership, and was one of the world’s first theorists of aviation tactics, and yet he was also a nervous and high-strung man prone to phobias (he was notoriously afraid of burning to death in his plane - a reasonable enough fear, but was also neurotically tidy and paranoid). He was also famous for his zealous devotion to the British Empire and hatred of the Germans, saying of one air victory “I sent one of them to Hell in flames today … I wish Kaiser Bill could have seen him sizzle.” At another point, he crashed a German two-seater, but was unsatisfied with the fact that its two men survived and machine-gunned them down. When a squadron mate demanded an explanation for the slaughter of the helpless crew, Mannock’s response was, “The swines are better dead - no prisoners.”
And yet the escalating number of killings behind his name eventually began to catch up with Mannock:
“In his diary, he recorded visiting the site where one of his victims had crashed near the front-line: ‘The journey to the trenches was rather nauseating - dead men’s legs sticking through the sides with puttees and boots still on - bits of bones and skulls with the hair peeling off, and tons of equipment and clothing lying about. This sort of thing, together with the strong graveyard stench and the dead and mangled body of the pilot combined to upset me for a few days.’ Mannock became especially upset when he saw one of his victims catch fire on its way to the ground. His fear of 'flamerinoes’ meant that from that date on, he always carried a revolver with him in his cockpit. As he told his friend Lieutenant MacLanachan, 'The other fellows all laugh at me for carrying a revolver. They think I’m going to shoot down a machine with it, but they’re wrong. The reason I bought it was to finish myself as soon as I see the first signs of flames. They’ll never burn me.’”
The tragic irony, of course, was that this was in fact how Mannock’s plane finally went down on July 26th, 1918 behind the German frontline. A body was recovered from the wreckage, but it was never finally proven whether or not it was Mannock’s. Though he vowed to shoot himself should his plane catch fire, there were no gunshot wounds on the body.
Only four days earlier, Mannock’s squadron mate congratulated him on shooting down an enemy plane by saying that a red carpet would await Mick upon his return to Britain after the war. Mannock’s only reply was, “There won’t be any 'after the war’ for me.”
Albert Ball, VC, DSO & Two Bars, MC (14 August 1896 – 7 May 1917) was an English fighter pilot during the First World War. At the time of his death he was the United Kingdom’s leading flying ace, with 44 victories, and remained its fourth-highest scorer behind Edward Mannock, James McCudden, and George McElroy.
Ball joined the Sherwood Foresters at the outbreak of the First World War and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in October 1914. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) the following year, and gained his pilot’s wings on 26 January 1916. Joining No. 13 Squadron RFC in France, he flew reconnaissance missions before being posted in May to No. 11 Squadron, a fighter unit. From then until his return to England on leave in October, he accrued many aerial victories, earning two Distinguished Service Orders and the Military Cross. He was the first ace to become a British national hero.
After a period on home establishment, Ball was posted to No. 56 Squadron, which deployed to the Western Front in April 1917. He crashed to his death in a field in France on 7 May, sparking a wave of national mourning and posthumous recognition, which included the award of the Victoria Cross for his actions during his final tour of duty. The famous German flying ace Manfred von Richthofen, remarked upon hearing of Ball’s death that he was “by far the best English flying man”.
Also, he was gorgeous.
Senior officers of No. 74 Squadron RAF, March-June 1918.
Seated are: Edward Mannock, Keith Caldwell, Everard (adj.), and Wilfred Young.
Standing are: Ben Roxburgh-Smith and Andrew Kiddie.
In an interview he gave in 1981, “Grid” Caldwell explained why Mannock was such a successful pilot.
“Mannock was an extraordinarily good shot and a very good strategist, he could place his flight team high against the sun and lead them into a favourable position where they would have the maximum advantage. Then he would go quickly on the enemy, slowing down at the last possible moment to ensure that each of his followers got into a good firing position.”
Caldwell also criticised Mannock for shooting two German airmen who had crash landed behind Allied lines. He wrote:
“The Hun crashed but not badly, and most people would have been content with this—but not Mick Mannock. He dived half a dozen times at the machine, spraying bullets at the pilot and observer, who were still showing signs of life…On being questioned as to his wild behaviour after we had landed, he heatedly replied, ‘The swines are better dead—no prisoners for me!’”.