Desmond Seward’s Wings over the Desert is the story of his pugnacious Franco-Irish father, Eric, who used family connections to join the RFC and serve ‘in a hot climate’. He flew many sorties over the Sinai and Palestine, crashing 6 times and, in what was to become known as the ‘Seward Exploit’, ditching in the sea off the coast of Gaza. To evade capture, he swam for 4 hours and then walked, naked, for 30 miles through enemy lines until he was found by a New Zealand cavalry unit.
Flying without a parachute was the norm in 1918, and Seward’s greatest fear was being burned alive in his cockpit; he carried a Colt revolver with him to ensure this would never happen. The legacy of war left him with a fear of flying for the rest of his life.