uring the First World War, British combat pilot Dick Courtney mocks his commanding officer Major Brand for being too cautious, unaware that Brand is tormented by the requirement of his command that he send young men to their likely deaths in substandard aircraft and with insufficient training. When Brand is transferred, Courtney becomes the commanding officer and quickly realizes the burden Brand labored under. When Courtney's best friend, Douglas Scott, asks him to spare his newly arrived and inexperienced brother Gordon Scott from combat duty, Courtney cannot justify doing so. A rift grows between the friends as Courtney realizes the tragic demands of his job.

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