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irish Fighter pilot 'Mick' ruled the skies in ww1 with 61 kills

The greatest pilot of World War One was an Irishman.

Edward 'Mick' Mannock had 61 'kills' and was deemed to hold the highest record of all of the fighter pilots during the war.

The son of an Irish mother, Julia O'Sullivan and a Scottish corporal in the British army, Mannock was born in Ballincollig in Cork on May 24, 1887.

His father was a hard drinker who abandoned the family when his son was just 12-years-old.

Blind

Despite being almost blind in his left eye, when war was declared, 29-year-old Mannock signed up to become a pilot.

He was made a flying officer in February 1917 with the Joyce Green Reserve Squadron but was quickly transferred to the RFC's 40th Squadron.

Colleagues described him as reserved with a strong temper but very patient.

Initially, he admitted he was frightened in the air but he conquered that fear and forced himself to get close to the German planes.

His first conquest was an observation balloon and when he shot down a German two-seater plane killing the pilot, he wrote in his memoirs: "I felt exactly like a murderer."

By July of his first year he had earned the Military Cross but he still had such a fear of dying in flames that he took to carrying a loaded pistol with him, declaring "they will never burn me".

By March of the following year, he had 23 kills to his credit and he was appointed flight commander of the new 74th Squadron.

Within three months he had added another 36 kills to his tally bringing his total to 59.

His attitude was also changing as his hatred of the Germans grew. After one kill he said: "I sent one of them to hell in flames today. I wish Kaiser Bill could have seen him sizzle."

Unlucky

By June 1918, he had earned home leave but when he returned for his third tour of duty as CO of the 85th Squadron he said he was worried that this was an unlucky number.

With New Zealand flier Lt Donald Inglis on July 26, 1918, the pair took down a German plane and then another on their way home.

Inglis told later how he saw flame coming out of Mannock's plane which grew bigger and bigger.

"His nose dropped slightly and he went into a slow right hand turn 
and hit the ground in a burst of flame. Poor Mick. The bloody b*****ds had shot my Major down in flames."

csheehy@herald.ie


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