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Airplanes were fitted with machine guns and used in "dogfights" or battles in the air between enemy airplanes. The airplanes were made of wood and canvas, and could catch fire quickly. A pilot’s average life-span was two months as few wore parachutes.

Mr. Conrad gives an account of an Allied spotter plane being shot down by a German aircraft.


I saw that early in the morning. One of our observation planes was trying to get home and he was being pursued by a Fritzie fighter who had apparently about three times the speed that our fellow had. And he was zooming in around him, and up and down and everything and he was shooting at him all the time. This was taking place no more than, oh, 500 yards in the air. And eventually, our plane came down, apparently out of control, but it pancaked to a little landing. And within, oh, I suppose a couple hundred yards from me. So I made a dash over to see what I could find, but perhaps to get some souvenirs. And out stepped two young British officers. I swear they weren’t more than 17 years of age, they looked so youthful. They stepped out and one fellow said to the other, “I say, he was jolly hot stuff, wasn’t he?” And they marched off, laughing. Talk about your nerve.


Caption: Curtiss JN-4 aircraft C332 of the Royal Flying Corps Canada

(Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/C-024435)

Caption: Airplanes and explosions

(Credit: VAC2000.158)

Caption: View from behind the pilot

(Credit: Lest We Forget (video)/VAC2000.562)

Caption: No. 1 and 2 Fighting Squadron of Canadian Air Force. Upper Heyford, Oxon, England, ca. 1919.

(Credit: R.C.A.F./Library and Archives Canada /PA-006024)

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