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Barbara McIntosh (Calder) writes:
"... a huge Thank you for reminding me that my Dad was the Real Hero ..."

My name is Barbara McIntosh (Calder) and I live in Auckland in New Zealand. Last ANZAC DAY (Australia and New Zealand's Day of Remembrance of the Battle in Gallipoli) my Grandson gave me a copy of your amazing story of the life and times of RNAS Captain Donald Harkness – A World War 1 Adventure. I was enthralled with the book and soon realised that Captain Donald Harkness definitely was in the same Flight Training at Hendon as my father, Eric Calder, who Donald mentioned a couple of times in his reminiscences, giving him his whole name, Frederick Charles Clement Calder! What a mouthful!

I have had a marvellous time reading Captain Harkness' description of what life was like for test pilots and the officers who trained the new recruits learning to fly planes that looked like tiger moths rather than fighter planes, and young fellows who were expected to manipulate these fragile planes with very little assistance.

I remember that my Dad had lots of photos he must have taken of planes upside-down in a tree or flat against as fence and I began to think that he couldn't have been a very good pilot - not realising that often the photos were not of his flights , but of when he was testing a new plane where there were no runways to use, so they sometimes had to use farm land and fields with fences and trees which presented all kinds of difficulties.

Very sadly the precious records and photos that dad brought back were lost when, after my mother died, my father's home was demolished in a very sad fire and absolutely everything was lost including his house-keeper and himself. Miraculously when I managed to have a very careful look around the very burnt out house I found his Aviation Flight Certificate and Test Flight Certificate in the only drawer that survived which was beside his bed. The certificate was rather badly scorched all around the edges but it was legible and a real treasure for me to keep. But now that I have the Book with all Donald's graphic photos and his stories which were so very similar to my dad's letters and now I can go back to the Book when Anzac Day (April 25 ) comes around and we all meet at a Dawn Service – and get together to remember those who didn't return with the promise .... Lest We Forget!

The reason I wanted to write to your Harkness family was to say a huge Thank you for reminding me that my Dad was the Real Hero I always thought he was when he returned home as a Captain and - like so many of those who returned from the war – never wanted to speak about his achievements.

I must say that Donald certainly sounded as if he was a very special person and I think he is very lucky that his family have made sure he will not be forgotten.


CROSS & COCKADE Intl.; Autumn 2015; VOL. 46/3, BOOKSHELF/
Publications of WWI aviation interest from a variety of sources:
Cross & Cockade Vol. 46/3"... a first-class read."

This magnificent book is a model for how a family can compile and present information about a relative who served in the Great War. Don Harkness was a pilot with 5 Wing RNAS, participated in bombing raids, was awarded the DSC and was then forced to land in Holland, where he was interned. Sadly, he died in a seaplane crash during 1929 but he 1eft behind a detailed diary, numerous letters and his collection of contemporary photographs. Bruce Harkness, his brothers leffrey, Christopher and Timothy and father, Donald E. Jnr, have taken this wealth of material and turned it into a first-class read. The majority of the book comprises the pilot's own letters and diary entries in chronological order but they are linked by well researched text by the current family members.

The detail of the original material is amazing and it provides a valuable insight to the life of this young man, his flying training and operational service, his associates and the various types of machine that he flew. I found the lengthy account of his period ofinternment fascinating; it's an aspect of the war that has received very little attention. Not only did he undertake helping evaders return home but lived a relatively comfortable lifestyle and enjoyed a social circle in what was a prison without bars. I'd previously understood that internees could be given leave to return to England for short periods but Don Harkness managed to obtain it to return to New Zealand from August 1917 until November 1918 - he was due to return to Holland at the time of the Armistice.

All this brilliant lnformation is supported by a selection of more than 100 of the pilot's photographs, illustrating people, places and aeroplanes mentioned in the text and a map highlights locations. I can only re-iterate my admiration for this volume and recommend it whole-heartedly.

_________________________________________________________________ writes:

I recently completely reading A World War 1 Adventure: The Life and Times of RNAS Bomber Pilot Donald E. Harkness. The text incorporates the war-time diaries and letters of a talented young man from New Zealand who became a WWI bomber pilot in the Royal Air-force. A strength of the diary medium is that it presents a personalized snapshot of times and events. Harkness' descriptive writings give the reader a good sense of the challenges and thrills of flying in the early days of aviation, WWI aviation tactics, and being interned in a neutral country. Also his observations provide a window into European life 100 years ago.

A possible shortcoming of a diary presentation is that it can be narrowly focused around one individual. However the authors have broadened the narrative by providing a significant amount of background information related to events and developments mentioned in Harkness' writing. Paragraphs are incorporated into the body of the text for explanations. For examples, the development of flight, military airplanes, and air warfare in the early 20th century are discussed. Footnotes are used extensively throughout. This is particularly useful in identifying the numerous individuals who interacted with Harkness during the war. Finally another feature of the text is the incorporation of photographs which are now a century old. The photographs of WWI airplanes are particularly noteworthy.

In short, this book is more than the story of the war years of one individual, who was interesting and accomplished in his own right.