Monday, 2 June 2014

WW1 Dogfighting, and the influence of popular fiction

As I mentioned, I have a small but growing collection of Austrian, or rather I should say Austro-Hungarian aircraft for WW1 dogfighting. This is mainly down to the inspiration of Otto Prohaska, as told in the rather interesting and entertaining series of  books by John Biggins, particularly his "The Two Headed Eagle". Otto Prohaska is a retired Austro-Hungarian Naval officer living his last days in a nursing home in Wales, who retells his adventures to a kindly nurse and odd job man through four volumes, all worth while reading just for the beautifully researched and constructed background.

All four books are a jolly good read but the first "A Sailor of Austria" which introduces Prohaska and tells of his career as a U-Boat Captain is particularly good, as is The Two Headed Eagle, which by convoluted means takes him to a secondment to the air-force, where many adventures ensue. Recommended.

Prohaska also gives what is to me the most sobering reflections on our little hobby. When told by a rather rabid enthusiast that was interviewing him in his nursing home that he was one of the last surviving persons to have had the honour and privilege to have taken part in the Great War in the Air, he replies.......

"If you really want to know what it was like, to fight in the air in the Great War, then go up to someone you have never met before and who has never done you the slightest harm and pour a two-gallon tin of petrol over them. Then apply a match, and when they are nicely ablaze, push them from a fifteenth floor window, after first perhaps shooting them a few times in the back with a revolver. And be aware as you are doing these things that ten seconds later someone else will quite probably do them to you. This will exactly reproduce for you ...........the substance of First World War aerial combat.........."


  1. Interesting book reference I will have to follow these up for summer reading material

  2. Sounds fascinating, I shall certainly look for these books in my local library for the summer. Thanks for sharing. MP

  3. Hi Michael - they're well worth reading, a strange mix between a Boys Own adventure and a stark and sometimes bleak view on the stupidity of war.