Goshawk Squadron

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Goshawk Squadron is a 1971 black comedy novel by Derek Robinson which tells of the adventures of a squadron of SE5a pilots from January 1918 to the time of the German spring offensive of March 1918.

This novel was Robinson's first.

It introduces the character Stanley Woolley, the commander of the squadron — a man who Robinson himself says is not the sort of man you'd want your daughter to marry.[1]


Goshawk Squadron follows a front-line squadron of British pilots late in the war. The commanding officer is Major Stanley Woolley, a cold, cruel, and sour taskmaster, training the squadron with brutality. Despite being only 23 years old, the years of war and slaughter have hardened Woolley into a humorless cynic. Woolley especially hates the delusions that replacements have about air combat being gallant and chivalrous. Woolley keeps no emotional attachments, even to his girlfriend Margery, a nurse in the Hospital Corps.

The Germans launch their final massive offensive, which leads to a relentless bloodbath. The squadron gets decimated in the endless grind of combat. When Margery's field station gets bombed, she is erroneously reported dead. Realizing how much he did love her, this shatters Woolley, who is incredibly relieved when she appears unharmed.

However, Woolley's unemotional focus is stripped away by this close call. Distracted by the thought of Margery and the life they could have together, Woolley is killed leading the next combat patrol.


Quaesitor in his review[2] says this book is now regarded as something of a classic and that 'Robinson searingly conjures up the brutality and insanity of the war'.

The book was recognised at the time of its publication for its quality and was nominated for the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1971.[3]