The Boy Airman

An Absolute Stranger to Fear

Richard Petty

* A highly illustrated account of life as a pilot in the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War.

* Accompanied by photographs that he took during the course of his service.

* Also features a separate and equally engaging account of the First World War written by his son, Richard Petty.
Date Published :
February 2016
Publisher :
Pen and Sword
Illustration :
No associated books available.


The life of many combatants in The Great War was often short and brutish. But there were choices for some. Taking to the air was an attractive alternative to the slime, stench and gore of the trenches. The prospect of flying in the Royal Navy, the Senior Service, Nelson's Navy, must have been irresistible to any adventurous teenager – the best airplanes on the best ships with the best sailors that ever existed – or so he might have been led to believe.

The Royal Naval Air Service was sorely tested, and not necessarily by the enemy. The casualties of the sea and its perils, and of accident and mechanical failure, were catastrophic. But this critical battle between young pilots in their infant flying machines and unpredictable events forged the pathway for our modern conceits of war – missiles, drones, giant aircraft carriers, weapons of space.

A hundred years ago, Hugh Mortimer Petty, a young pilot, took illicit photographs with his pocket camera and left a personal account of his life at sea with his 'kite'. This book tells his story illustrated by his long-lost 'snaps'.


"...Some interesting shots confirm the 110hp Clerget was used in most rotary equipped trainers. The modified Avro 504 “K” N.6678 was a unique sight for me to view. I think anyone interested in the subject of WWI aviation or Naval vessels would find this book a jewel in their collection."

- WWI in Plastic

"Biographies of common individuals in uncommon circumstances often provide the necessary micro-prospective needed to understand times of conflict. The Boy Airman is partly that...This text is interspersed with personal photos taken with a Kodak pocket camera. The quality of the photographs is quite remarkable, having been produced from Petty’s original negatives. Petty had a master photo developer produce the prints seen in the book. They are among the best quality First World War photographs that this reviewer has seen. Hugh Petty’s annotations of the scenes enabled his son to provide accurate descriptions of photographs of training and sea duty, and the hazards of each."

- Over the Front

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