An aggressive pilot, who showed cold-blooded nerve and determination, Edward Mannock was an inspirational leader and one of the First World War's greatest fighter 'aces'.
Edward Mannock was born in 1887, to Irish parents. But his father abandoned the family and Mannock had a tough childhood. He went out to work to help alleviate the family's poverty. In 1914, after having held a number of jobs, he found work in Turkey. In August that year, war broke out and Mannock was trapped and interned along with other Britons. After a harsh term in jail he returned to Britain, sick and malnourished, in April 1915.
Major Edward Mannock VC
Major Edward Mannock VC
Major Edward Corringham "Mick" Mannock VC DSO MC of the Royal Air Force.
Eager to fight, Mannock successfully applied to the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). After undergoing training in Britain, he qualified as a pilot in March 1917 and was posted to No 40 Squadron in France.
Coming from a poor background, Mannock was unlike most of the other, more privileged pilots. His socialist speeches in the officers' mess and nervousness when flying made for a rocky start. However, as his confidence and flying skills improved he gained the respect of his squadron and quickly became an air 'ace' – someone who had shot down five aircraft.
In February 1918, Mannock, now a captain, joined 74 – known as 'Tiger' – Squadron. A natural leader, he deliberately set up kills for new pilots to build squadron morale, whilst also adding to his own impressive number of downed aircraft. On 21 June, Mannock was promoted to major and selected to command 85 Squadron.
His last flight was on 26 July 1918. After attacking a German plane he followed it down and was hit by ground fire. His left wing detached and he spiralled out of control, crashing in a ball of fire. It's unclear whether Mannock jumped out or burned to death in the plane. Neither his body nor his grave has ever been conclusively recovered.
One of the greatest fighter aces of the First World War, Mannock's Victoria Cross (VC) was awarded for the nine German aircraft he shot down in June and July 1918. During his career as a pilot, Mannock accounted for at least 61 downed aircraft. However, at the time, little was known in Britain of this impressive record. It took much lobbying by those who had served with him for Mannock to receive a posthumous VC.
You can see Major Edward Mannock's VC in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery at IWM London.