The term 'Ace' was first used by the French newspapers in reference to pilot Adolphe Pégoud, after he became the first pilot to down five German aircraft in the First World War. The early aviators of WW1 were quickly more than observers of enemy trenches but became involved in aerial combat. On occasion large scale battles would develop involving many aircraft: these were to become known as 'dogfights' and it was within such battles that pilots might secure victories over their enemies and increase their 'tally'. Many pilots became 'Aces' several times over - perhaps the most well known Ace of all time is the German WW1 fighter pilot Manfred Von Richthoffen or as he is more commonly known; The Red Baron who had 80 victories before he was killed in action in April 1918. In the later years of the war, and particularly in 1918 the war in the air intensified dramatically and it was in this period that many of the Aces were killed, possibly suffering from battle fatigue to some degree. Also killed in this period (July 1918) were the most successful British Aces James McCudden (57 victories) and Edward Corringham "Mick" Mannock (61 victories). McCudden taught Mannock to fly and both were adept at aerial combat, unfortunately McCudden was killed in an air accident, his plane appearing to suffer a mechanical failure, it banked sharply following a take-off and crashed into trees - McCudden never regained conciousness and died the following day. Mannock by this time was showing signs of stress and took McCudden's death very badly. It was very soon afterwards that his own fear was realised as his plane was brought down in flames and he was killed. The stress of battle and the associated fear plagued Mannock as 1918 wore on and it seems likely from the evidence that he was mentally unfit to be in a combat role when he died. The stress of being a WW1 pilot was immense - they were the 'knights of the skies' , a hero for modern times living with the threat of death everyday.
Find out about some of the Scottish Aces who fought in WW1 by exploring the associated pages!
Sources and Further Information: https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/8-celebrity-air-aces-of-the-first-world-war https://www.historyextra.com/period/first-world-war/britains-first-world-war-flying-aces/
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