From Forest Field to Western Front, by Stephen Antczak, Tony Johnson and Robin Street

£21.99
From Forest Field to Western Front, by Stephen Antczak, Tony Johnson and Robin Street
Subtitled 'The Story of the New Forest's First Airfield at East Boldre for the New Forest School of Aviation 1940-1912, and RFC Beaulieu 1915-1920'

Published by East Boldre Village Hall in 2016, 235 pages. A4 size paperback (N7741)

From the rear side cover: In 1910, the sleepy village of East Boldre was awestruck by the arrival of a fleet of flying machines and the New Forest School of Aviation, one of the first flying schools in the world. By 1915, the Royal Flying Corps arrived, the personnel soon outnumbering the villagers by three to one. They cleared the heathland, erected massive buildings, flew their machines into trees, knocked off chimney pots and even landed on the Post Office roof.

From the foreword: This special book has been created to commemorate some of the pioneers of civil and military aviation who took to the air over the tiny village of East Boldre in the New Forest, more than a hundred years ago. Today, it is easy to enjoy the peace of the surrounding heathland oblivious to the hive of activity that was No. 29 Training Depot Station during the First World War. In 2014, a large number of photographs from private collections came to light reminding us of how things once were. The majority of these photographs are reproduced in this book.

A hundred years ago, men from almost every village in Britain went to war and those from East Boldre were no exception. Many gave their lives in the conflict. What makes this village unusual is that a large number of young men from Great Britain and her Empire came to East Boldre to train as pilots before going off to war. In those days, aircraft design was in its infancy, aircraft were flimsy and engines were unreliable. Sadly, many novice pilots were killed or injured here and nineteen are buried in the village churchyard. Their biographies are included in this book.

The story of the airfield can be traced back to 1910 when the site was first used as a flying school, one of the first in the country. 'Hangarage' was available at £50 per annum and a course of flying lessons leading to a Royal Aero Club Certificate cost £80. Such were the number of aspiring pilots that by September 1910 the school had ten aircraft. Numerous races were held involving circuits across the forest, and the word 'BEAULIEU' was carved into the nearby heath for identification from the air. Both speed and ritude records were set at East Boldre but were quickly broken elsewhere. The school closed two years later and the airfield reverted to grazing land. It might have remained that way but for the outbreak of the First World war. By 1915 the demand for pilots on the Western Front was so great that e Royal Flying Corps established a training school on this site, naming it RFC Beaulieu. Hangars, workshops and several wooden huts were built on the heath opposite the current village shop, and a forest of tents were erected for the enlisted men.
The book is illustrated throughout with photographs and drawings, and chapters include:

Balloons to Bleriots - The Early Days
McCurdy and the The Silver Dart
Lord Montagu's Role in Aviation History
The New Forest Flying School
Air Shows
Gaining Permission for the School
The Flying School and its Pupils
World War I Military Airfield
The Military Flying School
Aircraft and Crew
Guns and Cameras
Unusual Visitors to East Boldre
Recreation
Things that go Bump in the Flight
The Suicide Club
Closure
East Boldre Village Hall
The Beaulieu Squadron - No. 84 Squadron RAF
Several appendices, including:
Aerial Machines and War. A Speech given by Lord Montagu to the Aldershot Military Society, 1910
Extracts from the Diary of WR Steel
Some Memoirs of the Construction of Beaulieu Aerodrome written by WR Steel c1980
Royal Flying Corps Tests for a First Class Pilot's Certificate for Officers and Men
Syllabus for 1 st Flying Instructors' Course, September, 1917
Programme for John Smith's Dramatisation, 'From Forest Field to Western Front'
Service of Remembrance - Order of Service
Service of Dedication
Timeline of Major Events of the First World War at East Boldre and Abroad

The condition of the book is generally very good. The covers have one or two very minor scuffs, and some light wear along the edges and corners, but the spine is intact, and all pages are clean, intact, unblemished and tightly bound.