One in a Thousand: The Life and Death of Captain Eddie McKay, Royal Flying Corps
by Graham Broad
University of Toronto Press,
201 pages, $26.95
Alfred Edwin “Eddie” McKay lived a brief life. He was born in 1892 and was killed in action in 1917 at the age of twenty-five. One in a Thousand concentrates primarily on his last three years.
McKay was an accomplished athlete by the time he enrolled at what is now known as Western University in London, Ontario, in 1914. In 1915, according to author Graham Broad, McKay “made a fateful decision” to enlist in Britain’s Royal Flying Corps.
This book stems from a project that Broad, an associate professor of history at King’s University College at Western University, assigned to his students in 2006–2007. They were able to gather basic records about McKay’s time as a student and during the war, but afterwards Broad endeavoured to learn more.
In his book, Broad notes that McKay’s career as a First World War fighter pilot “was commendable though not exceptionally distinguished” and that there isn’t a large amount of information about the man. Fortunately, Broad managed to attain the pilot’s logbook, which he had believed to be lost.
Although Broad came across many dead ends and unsolvable mysteries, One in a Thousand combines the sparse historical details with information about research techniques. The insights he provides into historical methodology are as interesting as the biographical material about McKay.