207 SQUADRON ROYAL AIR FORCE HISTORY

DIARY OF A NIGHT BOMBER PILOT IN WORLD WAR I
by Clive Semple & edited by Wg Cdr Alan Mawby

Clive Semple, at the time a Friend Member of the Association; Alan Mawby was a QFI and Association Liaison Officer on 207R, 7/02-12/04.

Clive's late father, Leslie Semple, was a pilot on 207 Squadron 1918-1920.

Clive will be gave a talk on the book to the 207 Squadron Reunion at Derby in September 2008.


Officers of No.207 Squadron Royal Air Force, Ligescourt 29 Aug 1918 in front of a B Flight HP O/400: middle extreme left: Lt Semple with Nigger the cat

About the book - from the dustjacket

After the death of his father Leslie in 1971, Clive Semple found a cardboard box in the attic containing his father's collection of letters, scrapbooks, documents and four photograph albums. Most important of all was an oilcloth-bound diary of 350 pages detailing his life between July 1917 and April 1919.

This book is based upon that remarkable diary and Leslie Semple's unique collection of photographs, which chart his life through training for the Royal Naval Air Service to his posting in France and his daring bombing raids. Military aviation was still in its infancy and he was told that it was 'about as safe as infantry'. Neither Leslie, nor anyone else, knew that this meant that one in five would be killed; but he soon found out.

The book is not simply a transcript of the diary - fascinating though it is. With the expert guidance of Wing Commander Mawby, Clive Semple has produced all overview of WWI aviation from a new and revelatory perspective, and Semple's astonishing experiences have been meticulously put into context.

How do you fly a Handley Page across France in total darkness? The answer is the 'Lighthouse System', just one of the revelations in this unique record of ingenuity and courage. With over 200 photographs, many of which Leslie would have faced a court martial for taking had he been discovered, this is a fascinating study and quite simply the only book on the subject.

Leslie Semple was born in 1899 and joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1917. He flew 27 night bombing missions over France and Belgium. At the outbreak of the Second World War he was appointed Chief Regional Engineer of the GPO for the South East of England and was heavily involved in providing telephone and teleprinter communications for Fighter Command in time for the Battle of Britain.

After the War he joined the Allied Control Commission, responsible for the administration of Germany and was made a CBE on his return to England. He died in 1971. His son Clive spent many years collating his father's diary and photographs and preparing them for publication.

Wing Commander Mawby, now retired, served as a flying instuctor and Squadron Historian on 207 Squadron, the RAF Squadron with which Leslie flew in 1918/1919. He has brought his considerable expertise and enthusiasm for RAF history to bear on this unique project.

Published in Great Britain by The History Press Ltd The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Gloucestershire GL5 2QG


Review in Cross & Cockade International

DIARY OF A NIGHT BOMBER IN WORLD WAR I
Clive Semple.

The History Press Ltd, The Mill, Brimscombe Port, Stroud, Glos GL5 2QG.
320pp, 175X255mm, hardback, ISBN 978 1 86227 452 5, 25.00.

The author was clearing his father’s house after he died and came across a cardboard box in the attic which had been there, unopened, for years. It contained his father’s collection of letters, scrapbooks and documents and four photograph albums. Most importantly there was also a diary of 350 pages from July 1917 until April 1919, and this book is the result. And very interesting it is, too.

Here is the diary of a very normal young man who is interested in girls and fun. He trained as an RNAS pilot and went to France in 1918, to fly Handley Page O/400s. He did some 26 raids and the War ended. He then spent some time with the Occupation Forces in Germany before being demobbed. The story is amplified with pictures, explanations and parts of other pilots’ memoirs.

The whole book has been edited by W/Cdr Alan Mawby, recently retired from the subject’s 207 Squadron, and is also partly an over view of World War I aviation as a result. I really enjoyed the way that the author fleshed out the diaries – for example, ‘Bassano tents’ are mentioned in the diary, and time is taken to describe the origin, size and method of assembly of Bessoneau Hangars, including some helpful pictures.

I recommend this book highly.

If you see a review elsewhere please let the editor know.


see also 207 Squadron in WWI
page last updated 20 July 2008: 23 Dec 13

207 Squadron Royal Air Force History