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Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

Article about: At this point, I think I have exhausted my ability to convey anything else that would actually add anything to what has been said in the follow-up comments. I would like to thank you all for

  1. #1

    Question Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    First, I guess I better ask for forgiveness in advance for my ramblings below, but this is something I have been pondering for a few years. My love for this period and the accomplishments of the men who made it possible, has fueled a deep desire within me to share what I hold dear with everyone I am able. However, there don't seem to be many ears inclined to listening. My perception is that when it comes to WWI aviation, there is a close, small circle of collectors who share this love. I would like to hear some of your thoughts on the subject, and like to know if you have had similar thoughts and perceptions.

    Often times I have pondered the level of interest in WWI aviation compared proportionally to the significance of historical accomplishment of the heroes of this long-past time. Each time I think that I have arrived at a point where I think I have obtained satisfactory insight into the mystery of seeming disinterest, I find myself right back where I began the journey of the mind.

    From what I have been able to gather, the "hay day" of WWI aviation was in the 1960's-70's, when many of the pilots were still with us. Since then, the interest seems to have dwindled away except in the hearts of the old time collectors, and a few of us new guys who have the same passion as our older colleagues.


    Let's take the Second World War for a comparative, the popularity of WWII is unquestionably justified for the simple fact that it changed the course of human history by cheating the forces of evil from overshadowing the entire world. In particular, aviation played a major role in the accomplishment of extinguishing the axis forces and the accomplishments of the pilots should not be questioned.

    As a result, medals, leather jackets and anything else aircraft-related from WWII is highly desired by collectors. Yet, the fact that the accomplishments of the pilots of that war are directly attributed to the pioneers of an earlier war seems to be forgotten. Without the trailblazing aviators of WWI fighting in contraptions that were barely air worthy, progress made between the wars would have been years behind in technology that gave birth to the sleek aerodynamic fighting machines by the time WWII occurred.

    Is the lack of interest due to the years that have passed deep into the past, far detached from our modern minds? Is it because there was really no "victor", only an armistice? Was WWI viewed as a family feud amongst European powers? Is the lack of availability of items a deterrent? Is it the sparse availability of research material, or the lack of standardization in uniform and insignia that does not always lend the definitive "textbook" security that many desire, requiring much study? Or is it something else?

    Not to take away from the indisputable bravery and heroism of the pilots of the greatest generation, but I wonder sometimes if the Nazi regime had been in power during WWI, would that war now receive the same world-wide interest that the Second World War does? The fascination with Nazi items is a perpetual phenomena that seems to show no signs of slowing. I guess what I am asking is, does the involvement of the Nazis in WWII form part of the foundation in the ever-growing fascination in that war?

    Where am I going with this? My fear is that WWI Aviation will not enjoy even a slight short spike in interest when the 100 year anniversary of the beginning pays us a visit in 2014, nor will the 2018 anniversary of the end kindle a lasting interest...

    So I ask, has this period of history already had its day in the sun, or does the dawn of a new day await beyond the horizon...
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  2. #2

    Default Re: Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    Although not a collector I do share an interest in the history of aviation and military aviation in particular - all the reasons you sighted are valid but in addition the lack of surviving aircraft especially airworthy examples means the general public 'sees' it less than the 2nd world war. Also far fewer Great War films & TV shows are made about the subject-partially because of the above and because of a lack of 'footage' of the events-although all that being said, by far the most famous fighter pilot in the world remains von Richthofen, the Red Baron.

  3. #3
    mjw
    mjw is offline
    ?

    Default Re: Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    Hello Steven,

    I read your interesting post and would like to comment on the point made regarding the idea that collecting WW1 aviation items is mostly within a small group of collectors.

    I think you are correct. However, I don’t think this is a lack of interest amongst many aviation based collectors but both the lack of available material and the premium these items demand when offered for sale. This precludes many collectors from entering the arena.

    I collect WW2 aviation items. However I do have a few WW1 aviation items mainly kept for trading. But if this were to be my main area of collecting I would have a very small collection added to on a very infrequent basis. It would be hard (for me) to maintain any enthusiasm.

    The collecting of WW2 aviation items is very different. Demand is high but material (at present) is, in the main, available. There is not a week that goes by when I am not offered something interesting at a price, that is, in many instances still ‘affordable’!

    Take for instance British Log Books. There are a number of good examples for sale at present amongst both dealers and fellow collectors. They are keenly contested – but still available. How many RFC or RNAS log books with combat patrols etc. are on offer? I am not aware of any at the moment. WW2 dated RAF pilots uniforms – plenty to choose from. WW1 equivalent– maybe seen one last year that I would have been happy with.

    To be a collector one has to have a reasonable opportunity of adding to ones collection. I find WW1 material cannot offer me the frequency of opportunity that I enjoy. However, this does not mean that I am less interested it is just that my pockets are not that large and I have to cut my cloth etc.

    Kind regards, Malcolm.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    Thank you both for taking the time to read my statements and for the insightful replies, much appreciated. On the subject of "lack of interest", I do understand the availability issue but what of the slow or non-replies to stellar aviation grouping posted that are not even seen in the best museums? Could it be that folks just really don't know how incredibly rare the items are or don't know what to say other than "wow", and maybe feel that that type of reply isn't welcomed or appropriate?

    Let me say that every aviation guy here, including myself are not so jaded that we don't thoroughly enjoy seeing supportive comments of that type. Also, inquiries about specific items within a group are always welcomed, and NOT viewed as question the validity of said item.

    On the cost issue, I know that can be an inhibitor. I personally am not a monetarily wealthy person, but I guess that is a relative statement. I funded most of my present collection with sales of all of my TR items that I had collected since I was about 12 (I am 40 now). I was astounded at how much money I took in when the last item went. If it wasn't for that, i probably would not have what I do today as I never spend more than about fifty dollars from our "living expenses".

    Also on the subject of availability, do you think that this is where the difference in a collector and a researcher comes in to play? What I mean by that is I know many people who "type" collect and want massive quantities of items in their possession, where a researcher may have one or two items and research them for years to their heart's content. What are your opinions on this, do you think this element perhaps comes into play?

    I would like to add that I am asking these questions for two reasons:

    1. I am a curious sort and am always looking for not so obvious reasons for why something is the way it is.

    2. I am always looking for ways to ensure that the presentations within the Aviation Forum are of such quality, that the postings might perhaps spark an interest in those who had not previously considered venturing into this arena.

    Thanks again for the replies so far, and I look forward to continued exchanges!
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  5. #5

    Default Re: Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    Steve,

    I'm not the eloquent speaker that you and TF are but I will provide my thoughts as soon as I can.

    Dennis

  6. #6

    Default Re: Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    Quote by Steven M View Post
    First, I guess I better ask for forgiveness in advance for my ramblings below, but this is something I have been pondering for a few years. My love for this period and the accomplishments of the men who made it possible, has fueled a deep desire within me to share what I hold dear with everyone I am able. However, there don't seem to be many ears inclined to listening. My perception is that when it comes to WWI aviation, there is a close, small circle of collectors who share this love. I would like to hear some of your thoughts on the subject, and like to know if you have had similar thoughts and perceptions.

    Often times I have pondered the level of interest in WWI aviation compared proportionally to the significance of historical accomplishment of the heroes of this long-past time. Each time I think that I have arrived at a point where I think I have obtained satisfactory insight into the mystery of seeming disinterest, I find myself right back where I began the journey of the mind.

    From what I have been able to gather, the "hay day" of WWI aviation was in the 1960's-70's, when many of the pilots were still with us. Since then, the interest seems to have dwindled away except in the hearts of the old time collectors, and a few of us new guys who have the same passion as our older colleagues.


    Let's take the Second World War for a comparative, the popularity of WWII is unquestionably justified for the simple fact that it changed the course of human history by cheating the forces of evil from overshadowing the entire world. In particular, aviation played a major role in the accomplishment of extinguishing the axis forces and the accomplishments of the pilots should not be questioned.

    As a result, medals, leather jackets and anything else aircraft-related from WWII is highly desired by collectors. Yet, the fact that the accomplishments of the pilots of that war are directly attributed to the pioneers of an earlier war seems to be forgotten. Without the trailblazing aviators of WWI fighting in contraptions that were barely air worthy, progress made between the wars would have been years behind in technology that gave birth to the sleek aerodynamic fighting machines by the time WWII occurred.

    Is the lack of interest due to the years that have passed deep into the past, far detached from our modern minds? Is it because there was really no "victor", only an armistice? Was WWI viewed as a family feud amongst European powers? Is the lack of availability of items a deterrent? Is it the sparse availability of research material, or the lack of standardization in uniform and insignia that does not always lend the definitive "textbook" security that many desire, requiring much study? Or is it something else?

    Not to take away from the indisputable bravery and heroism of the pilots of the greatest generation, but I wonder sometimes if the Nazi regime had been in power during WWI, would that war now receive the same world-wide interest that the Second World War does? The fascination with Nazi items is a perpetual phenomena that seems to show no signs of slowing. I guess what I am asking is, does the involvement of the Nazis in WWII form part of the foundation in the ever-growing fascination in that war?

    Where am I going with this? My fear is that WWI Aviation will not enjoy even a slight short spike in interest when the 100 year anniversary of the beginning pays us a visit in 2014, nor will the 2018 anniversary of the end kindle a lasting interest...

    So I ask, has this period of history already had its day in the sun, or does the dawn of a new day await beyond the horizon...

    Steve,
    A very interesting subject worthy of discussion. When I first started collecting US military my love was the Spanish American War uniforms and insignia. But the war was very small, little material available and even less educational material ie books, records etc. It was a challange to find worthy items from this era. WW2 material was in abundance and I like most felt it would be around for ever so WW1 was an area of interest to look into. There was still a lot of WW1 material of collecting interest to dabble in. Being a Army aviator my interest was drawn to WW1 Aviation but alas that stuff was just not available and the cost was prohibitive. Then I met a wonderful gentleman, Duncan Campbell who provided the guidance and material which enabled me to contact the families and some of the original pilots themselves. This started a 10 year research project which also resulted in my obtaining a number of wonderful WW1 aviation items. Without his help I would probably still have only one WW1 aviation uniform that I stumbled upon in a small shop in Spotsavania, VA years ago.

    One must remember that aviation in 1914 was still in its infancy and nothing was known about aircraft or the effects of altitude, weather, g-forces etc on the human body and aircraft. There were no test pilots per say and everything had to be learned by trial and error, more error than trial I suspect. When the US entered the war we had virtually no aviation section to speak of. The few combat aviation americans were flying with the British and French. The american Air Service only entered the war during the last 6 months or so of the war and there were only around 2500 US aviators that actually arrived in squadrons in France and of that number only a few actually saw combat. Hence there is not a long period of aviation history for the US during WW1. We only had a couple Ace's compared to the Germans and French and aviation was looked upon as a "bastard" of the Army so not much attention was given to that branch of service. Even less attention was given during the period between WW1 and WW2.

    Jump to WW2, our aviation assets were hugh. The 8th Airforce lost more personnnel in one bombing mission that all the US pilots that flew in France in 1918. Everyday news flashes in the movies on on the radio talked about the exploits of the US aviators fighting the Nazi or Japs. We had numerous Ace's and fantastic aircraft that struck the imagination of every child. What little boy did not have a WW2 metal or wood fighter or bomber that he played with throughout the day. And there was an abundance of equipment, uniforms and insignia available to the collecting market. Every box of ceral had a Airforce patch in it. Even today WW2 material is pretty much available although it is drying up and I suspect we will see an increase in the interest fo Vietnam material in the near future.

    After all that rambling it is my humble opinion that the limited interest in WW1 Aviation is due to the lack of available reference material and actual uniforms and equipment from that period. Just as the Span Am war there is just nothing for the collector to obtain on the market so why study it, unless you are just a historian interested in the events that made that particular period of history. And this forum and the others like it are oriented towards the collector not the historian. Fortunately for us there are people like you that are historians and preservers of history in addition to being a collector.

    Terry
    Last edited by hawk3370; 03-04-2010 at 03:48 AM.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    Hello-further to your excellent and obviously heart-felt posting I thought I might add a few further comments. Cost is a problem-every year there are more collectors for every type of militaria and only the same amount of stuff (if you don't count fakery). Entry point for anything 1st world war is pretty high and there are always fads and fashions within any area of collecting but my advice for anyone thinking of starting based on expensive experience is buy now to save later. As for reseachers most of the dedicated amateurs I have seen are also collectors as well-their passion is what fuels both. As to the 1st World War, interest here in Australia has been growing steadily over the past 20 or so years, spurred on by the gradual disappearance of the veterans of the war-the Anzacs (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps)-the AFC (Australian Flying Corps) the predecessor of the RAAF was a part of this but a fairly small part. Over the past few months a major display/light & sound exhibition was mounted at the Australian War Memorial (also a museum) in the national capital Canberra on the air war on the Western front so I can assure you that popular interest here is not diminishing even if it may fluctuate elsewhere.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    I think Terry has it pretty well nailed. I have an original copy of New England Aviators and in it the collector had all of the items listed that he had obtained from the various aviators in the book. The guy was voracious and obviously spent a great deal of time in contact with the gentlemen. Even with all of that he had only amassed a collection of around 50 items. Of course he had provenance for all of the items in his collection but he very clearly spent several years in the 1940's doing this. So WWI aviation has ALLWAYS been difficult to obtain. This will allways have an effect on the interest level of the collecting community. Money is clearly no object for a few of the super collectors and yet they have a very limited collection compared to what can be obtained in the WWII arena. For the WWI aviation collecting community simple availability is the largest and most unalterable fact.


    Gary

  9. #9

    Default Re: Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    Dennis...your turn.
    [B][COLOR=Black][SIZE=3][FONT=Book Antiqua][I] Steve[/I][/FONT][/SIZE][/COLOR][/B]

    [CENTER][I][FONT=Georgia][COLOR=orange]Did you ever get the feeling that the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?[/COLOR][/FONT]
    [/I][/CENTER]
    [B]
    [SIZE=3][COLOR=lemonchiffon][I][CENTER][FONT=Georgia]"Fly on dear boy, from this dark world of strife. On to the promised land to eternal life"[/FONT][/CENTER]
    [/I][/COLOR][/SIZE][/B]

  10. #10

    Default Re: Discussion: WW I Aviation - Is the sun setting, or is the dawn yet to come?

    I've gone over this thread a couple of times now, and I'm afraid the I do not feel the passion that has been expressed by other noted collectors of WW1 Aviation regarding the interest (or Non interest) of the posts on this and other forums. Everyone who collects would like to see interest by others in what may be the passion of the collector. Those that know me, know how hard I work in the preservation and research of the groups that I have the good fortune to own or have owned. My satisfaction comes from learning about the man. To that end, I don't care if others are interested or not. Mine is more of a personal satisfaction of my efforts in preservation and in the hunt of "unfound" artifacts. I think that when the old Aviation collections come out, interest will rise due to the exposure. I like Terry, have had the good fortune of a mentor who is probably one of the last few great aviation collectors. Due to the cost of these items, he has allowed me to purchase a number of his wonderful groups, on "credit". After 8 years, my balance is currently at zero. That will, however change next month!! - How 'bout another American Volunteer? Maybe with the Royal Naval Air Service? - Geez, this is what and where the juice is; ain't it?

    DJ

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