The average life expectancy for an RAF airman during the first world war was around 10 to 15 days following deployment.
The job attracted a certain type as a result.
Henry Aldridge Auctioneers featured a rare archive of letters from pilot Lt. Edgar Taylor in a sale over the weekend.
By the standards of the time, Taylor had a pretty decent run – surviving five months from his deployment in April 1918 to his death in August 1918.
The letters offer an insight into the terrifying world of WW1 pilots
The four letters span the length of his service, giving a fascinating insight into what life was like for these almost unimaginably brave men.
In one letter from June 14, Taylor calmly relates two experiences that would have reduced most other men to gibbering rubble: “The Hun Archies [anti-aircraft guns] saw I was crippled and tried to finish me off however they did not hit me.
“I landed near the line and was obliged to stay there until my mechanics came. It was an all nighter with the shelling and star shells.
“It was all rather interesting. The next machine I took up, the engine failed me in a scrap. When I started for home a petrol pipe burst, it was a wonder it didn't catch fire.
“I was covered in petrol and I was unable to find a place to land, I crashed into a hedge wrecking my machine completely. Beyond a few bruises I wasn't hurt. It is a dead day today so I'm having a much-needed rest.”
The collection made £8,100 ($11,437), a big increase on its £5,000 ($7,060) estimate and a figure that reflects its phenomenal rarity.
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