Based on the 1930 movie of the same title, British war pilots experience dangerous combat and the loss of many colleagues.
In 1915 planes fight over France, and Major Brand (Basil Rathbone) complains that so many pilots are being killed. Captain Courtney (Errol Flynn) consoles Hollister (Peter Willes) for his lost friend and argues with Brand, who gets a call and gives orders. Four young replacements arrive, and Courtney picks two to fly. Lt. Douglas Scott (David Niven) and Hollister drink their breakfast. Courtney returns and says that Scotty was lost along with the two new men. A German prisoner Von Mueller (Carl Esmond), who shot down Scotty and was shot down by Courtney, is brought in, and Courtney offers him a drink. Hollister objects to the singing with the enemy. Scotty comes in with champagne. He and Courtney go into town drunk. Squires returns wounded and says that Hollister was killed. Von Richter drops a challenge, but Brand forbids volunteers. Courtney and Scotty go up and drop bombs on a German camp. Courtney crash-lands, and Scotty lands to pick him up. Their plane is hit, and they crash-land. Brand reprimands them but gets a call commending what they did. Brand is promoted and appoints Courtney commander.
Courtney complains that Von Richter will shoot down the green kids. Scotty finds his brother Donnie Scott (Morton Lowry) among the new replacements. Courtney gets orders to send all the pilots up at dawn. Scotty objects to Courtney sending Donnie up before he can teach him something. Courtney calls the general and asks for a week to train them, but it is denied. Courtney tells Donnie it is like a game ordered by criminal idiots. At dawn Courtney wishes them luck, and Scotty tells Donnie to stay close. Von Richter attacks them, and Scotty sees Donnie shot down. Phipps (Donald Crisp) tells Courtney that only two planes came back. Scotty accuses Courtney of killing his brother. Brand calls on Courtney with a dangerous order for one pilot to fly behind enemy lines. Courtney says it is insane, but Scotty volunteers. Courtney advises him on the route as they drink. Scotty revives their friendship and goes to sleep. Courtney takes off and flies low, bombing a train and other targets. Von Richter and two other planes attack Courtney, who shoots two down. Von Richter hits Courtney, who salutes him before he goes down. Scotty and Phipps worry about Courtney. A plane drops his goggles. Phipps laments the deaths in war. In the final scene as replacements arrive, Scotty gives the orders.
The high mortality rate of pilots in the first world war captures a most horrific danger of modern warfare. The anguish of ordering such folly actually falls most heavily on the commander closest to the pilots even though he is now in little physical danger himself while the gravest guilt is placed on those causing such wars and facing even less risk.