Edward ‘Mick’ Mannock was the Royal Flying Corp’s most successful pilot during World War One, making at least 58 kills - many believe it to have been more than 70 - during his few years in the air. Mannock quickly earned the reputation of being a highly skilled and talented pilot, and he was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions during the war following his sad death in combat on 26th July 1918.
Before he died, Mannock decided to issue ‘Fifteen Rules’ of flying in combat to all the pilots under his command. The rules were considered by fighter pilots to be so accurate, helpful and important that they were still being used during World War Two, despite the huge advances in aerial technology.
Mannock’s rules were:
- Pilots must dive to attack with zest, and must hold their fire until they get within one hundred yards of their target.
- Achieve surprise by approaching from the East. (From the German side of the front.)
- Utilise the sun's glare and clouds to achieve surprise.
- Pilots must keep physically fit by exercise and the moderate use of stimulants.
- Pilots must sight their guns and practise as much as possible as targets are normally fleeting.
- Pilots must practise spotting machines in the air and recognising them at long range, and every aeroplane is to be treated as an enemy until it is certain it is not.
- Pilots must learn where the enemy's blind spots are.
- Scouts must be attacked from above and two-seaters from beneath their tails.
- Pilots must practise quick turns, as this manoeuvre is more used than any other in a fight.
- Pilot must practise judging distances in the air as these are very deceptive.
- Decoys must be guarded against — a single enemy is often a decoy — therefore the air above should be searched before attacking.
- If the day is sunny, machines should be turned with as little bank as possible, otherwise the sun glistening on the wings will give away their presence at a long range.
- Pilots must keep turning in a dog fight and never fly straight except when firing.
- Pilots must never, under any circumstances, dive away from an enemy, as he gives his opponent a non-deflection shot — bullets are faster than aeroplanes.
- Pilots must keep their eye on their watches during patrols, and on the direction and strength of the wind.
Mannock was killed in combat on July 26th 1918.