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Goshawk Squadron

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  497 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
World War One aviators were more than just soldiers they were the knights of the sky, and the press and public idolised the gallant young heroes. But for Stanley Woolley, commanding officer of Goshawk Squadron, the romance of chivalry in the clouds is just a myth. There are two types of men up there: victims and murderers, and the code he drums into his men bans any notion ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published September 29th 2005 by Robinson Publishing (first published 1971)
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Apr 24, 2015 Jonathan rated it really liked it
Derek Robinson is a long time favourite of mine and one of my immediate choices when asked for book recommendations. Goshawk Squadron is a short, raw, 1971 novel about a Royal Flying Corps squadron flying in France towards the end of World War One. This was my second read, having originally read it several years ago.

Robinson is not very well known and originally stumbling on his novel was a pleasant accident during a trawl through my dreadfully problematic recommendations on Amazon. It was my in
Walt Shiel
Jan 11, 2011 Walt Shiel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: WW I aviation buffs
This is sort of a less-humorous World War I version of Catch-22. Robinson's Goshawk Squadron is very well done and brutally realistic, albeit with some rather flamboyantly over-the-top characters.

The dogfights are carefully drawn and help to immerse the reader in the thick of the action.

The action accurately follows the course of the war as it occurred in 1918, adding to the building urgency as a major German attack strikes deep into the Allied lines.

The only aspect that interfered with my readi
Mar 09, 2011 Jur rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwi, own
Every second you are in the air,' Woolley said, 'someone is trying to kill you. If he does it properly you will never know. You must look for him, because he's always there.' He stared at them, and his black, pouchy eyes were full of anger at their stupid humanitarianism. 'God damn it,' he said. 'you're murderers 'turned loose against murderers! Some will come at you head-on with an axe. But the ones that think, the good ones, the professionals, they hide behind a tree and stick you through the ...more
Uthpala Dassanayake
Nov 09, 2015 Uthpala Dassanayake rated it really liked it
“Goshawk squadron is the last book of a trilogy” I would have liked to see this on the first page, better still on the cover rather than at the end of the book… Anyway, it is a good book on its own so I am not disappointed.
There are innumerable books on war, themed sub-themed or sprinkled with all sorts of other facets such as patriotism, glory, passion, love, hatred, tragic… But nothing I previously read has addressed the brutal pointlessness so bluntly.
Nov 11, 2016 Will rated it it was amazing
A parallel to Catch-22 it terms of finding a sort of dark humor in war, this book does a great job at working with your imagination to capture the experience of flying in WWI
Jun 18, 2017 C rated it really liked it
An entertaining story
Rob Kitchin
Sep 22, 2012 Rob Kitchin rated it really liked it
Goshawk Squadron was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1971. It was criticised by some former RFC pilots who felt it denigrated the memories of those who fought the air war. Others praised it for showing the true nature of a war that was brutal mass slaughter and it was no different in the air to other services. Pilots were flying planes made of principally of wood, canvas and wire, and the engines were treated with castor oil to keep them lubricated, the fumes of which acted as a laxative tha ...more
Jul 09, 2013 Tonymess rated it liked it
When I think of World War One aviation literature, naturally stories of The Red Baron von Manfred Richthofen and Biggles spring to mind. The Royal Flying Corps a cavalry of the air, admirable dog fights, chivalrous battles, private school educations, rugby and cricket discussions and more jolly good fun. The horrors of the trenches, the bombardments and fruitless battles over a few metres of land being far from your mind.

Enter “Goshawk Squadron” a debut novel by Derek Robinson, who certainly put
Apr 08, 2013 Bert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: orgasmic
This is right up there with Alexander Baron's From the City, from the Plough. as maybe the best war novel i've read. Both these novels take a mighty dump on that heroic image of the gallant young men fighting for king and country, or in this case the 'knights of the sky', and in doing so they succeed in making the everyday horror of that moment in history real again. These were young, naive men subjected to just horrific realities, and Robinson brilliantly conveys the insanity of that situation ...more
David Rose
Apr 21, 2014 David Rose rated it it was amazing
A very fine work on air combat in the First World War, somewhat compromised because Robinson is writing a novel and thus slightly dramatises his characters and their off-duty hours activities. However, if one also reads Flying Fury, James McCudden's personal account as one of the great British aces who fought in this same war, and reads just a little in between the lines, one finds that Robinson's dramatization is probably a lot less than one thought it was. (view spoiler) ...more
Apr 27, 2011 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war
What struck me most about this book was the futility of the encounters. Pilots are introduced, only to be sacrificed minutes later. Some were lucky to even get their plane off the ground. Major Wooley tries to give his men a fighting chance by teaching them war is not chivalrous, luck is not your friend, and the best thing you can hope for is to surprise your enemy and shoot him in the back. This is not a game for "gentlemen", not a sport. In the air at 50, 500, or even 4,000 feet, there is no s ...more
Apr 18, 2013 Alistair rated it really liked it
I really rated this about 3.5 stars .
It is a story about The Royal Flying Corps in France during WW1 and covers a fairly short period . The tone is very black and this is no tale of chivalry or heroics but of kill or be killed and is written with black humour foremost . The savagery of war is not shirked and deaths are treated without sentiment or even dwelt upon . This is quite a shocking read in that characters with whom you are familiar and may have liked just simply vanish .
The writer clearl
Ron Decaigny
Mar 11, 2010 Ron Decaigny rated it it was amazing
Thank you John Sandford, he recommended this book in one of his "Prey " series. so I kept an eye out for it. For me this was a thinking persons Catch 22 with some of the darkest humour I have enjoyed in a long time. Do't get me wrong this book is deadly serious about it's subject and clearly illustrates how some people would likely deal with a fate which was inevitable yet unthinkable.
The folly of war and the charnal house that was WW1 is stripped bare of any intellegenc or glory and shown for w
Oct 11, 2011 Jcorbman rated it really liked it
The biting humor and depiction of war is sharp as a razor. Wooley's character is outstanding, and every page with him on it is riveting. I found the parts about the soldiers carousing without him to be less enjoyable, because they mostly seemed to be episodes that didn't really further the plot. The number of minor characters, and the lack of differentiation between them for the early part of the book made these characters flat and pale. The dogfights are outstanding in terms of detail and putti ...more
Mar 06, 2011 Geoff rated it liked it
Shelves: booker-novels
The very beginning of the novel sets the tone for the rest of the book. Woolley, the squadron CO, a bitter cynical pilot who doubts the ability of the younger men to survive, watches his squadron land at the airfield - a darkly humorous episode that is both thought-provoking and well-written. This is more than just a novel about flying and more than an anti-war story. The emphasis is on the character of Woolley and his the effects the war has on him. I liked this very much. A Piece of Cake also ...more
Kevin Varney
Nov 09, 2015 Kevin Varney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war-is-hell
It made me laugh out loud in places, the pilots were so funny when off duty (though pity the poor restauranteurs). There were certainly a lot of ways for a pilot to die in that war, many were described in this book. I wondered whether there would be any survivors. They were not easy to pick. Towards the end the book started to concentrate on two pilots, but even that was no guarantee either would survive. I would say it was better than Catch-22, myself.
Aug 03, 2008 Kendra rated it liked it
I heard about this author on NPR and the reviewer just raved about his work. I was a little disappointed in this book b/c the characters all seemed pretty stereotypical (maybe it's me...I've read a lot of books about war) and the characters' actions predictable. But the descriptions of the hazards of flying for the RAF in WWI were worth the read.
Jan 13, 2009 Bill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fascinating novel, recommended by a variety of historians for close to the truth of a world war I flyer. Ah the romance of death....The average lifespan of a pilot in World War I was VERY short, and we have romanced this image into our concscience with Snoopy the flying dog. This is a fictionalized version of the real pilots of world war I.

Regina McCreary
Dec 22, 2012 Regina McCreary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookers, own
I don't generally like to review as soon as I finish but all I can say is "wow". I laughed, I cried, I had bad dreams. The writing style is incredibly detached yet somehow you come to really feel for the characters. It is very dark but I highly recommend this one.
Frank Pellecchia
A novel about the air war over the Western Front in 1918.

"One of the most powerful indictments of war I have ever read... Quietly savage, funny and heartbreaking... A book which must once and for all explode the myth of honourable warfare." Sunday Telegraph
Raving Redcoat
Jan 23, 2016 Raving Redcoat rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at air warfare during World War I, stripped of any notions of gallantry or chivalry. In this novel, the war above the trenches is just as grim, dirty, and pointless as the war in the trenches.
Victor Montenegro
Jan 25, 2012 Victor Montenegro rated it liked it
Very funny, it was my first book in english, I entertained a lot reading it.
Robert Hill
Sep 13, 2007 Robert Hill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Air War freaks
The dude running this squadron was quite a character....he didn't like ANYBODY!!! No such thing as parachutes during these fights!!
Sep 24, 2015 Pete rated it it was amazing
excellent, will search for the preceding two books of the trilogy
Ben Dover
Apr 22, 2013 Ben Dover rated it it was amazing
Its quit raw and is very bare but i enjoyed the humour.
Jan 04, 2010 Cindy marked it as to-read
Recommended by two good friends.
Clare Farrelly
Jun 09, 2015 Clare Farrelly rated it did not like it
After a few chapters of light swearing and no plot that I could see whatsoever I put this book down.
Jan 23, 2011 Kieran rated it it was amazing
Probably the best war book I have read, and I have read a lot of them.
Chris Porter
Dec 27, 2014 Chris Porter rated it liked it
Different aspect to WW1, which I thought was different. Little written about the RFC. Frank, callous, yet you cannot but admire the bravery, and loathe the waste of war.
Jul 22, 2013 Michael rated it liked it
Blackest of the black. A tad on the dark side.
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Derek Robinson is a British author best known for his military aviation novels full of black humour. He has also written several books on some of the more sordid events in the history of Bristol, his home town, as well as guides to rugby. He was nominated for the Booker Prize in 1971 for his first novel, 'Goshawk Squadron.'

After attending Cotham Grammar School, Robinson served in the Royal Air For
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