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Major Brand, the commanding officer of a squadron of the British Royal Flying Corps stationed in France, has been called a butcher by his top officer, Captain Courtney, because of his hardened attitude toward sending inexperienced young flyers to their death. Courtney and his best friend, Lieutenant Scott, have their own way of coping with the constant death of new recruits; they drink a toast to the dead, sing a song, and then go back to devising diverting, thrill-seeking pranks. When German ace flyer Von Richter taunts the men from his plane, Courtney and Scott seize the opportunity to steal two planes and bomb the enemy camp. Brand is furious at their insubordination, but when the news arrives that they have destroyed the German camp, their devil-may-care attitude is forgiven. Unexpectedly, Brand is promoted and Courtney is appointed squadron commander, but he proves unable to manage the responsibility of his new position and begins to drink heavily. His guilt is compounded when Scott's younger brother Donnie arrives with a new group of inexperienced replacements. Courtney puts duty before personal loyalty and sends Donnie to his death. Scott holds Courtney personally responsible and, having lost his will to live, volunteers for a suicide mission behind enemy lines. This time, Courtney puts friendship first and flies the mission himself. Not only does he hit his target, but he brings down the villainous Von Richter before he dies. Scott, now first in command, is left with the burden of sending boys to certain death.