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The Belgian Air Service
in the First World War

by Walter Pieters

Aeronaut Books

 

S u m m a r y :

Title and Author:

The Belgian Air Service in the First World War by Walter Pieters

Publisher:

Aeronaut Books

Contents & Media:

Hard Cover; 722 pages.

Price:

USD$99.00 plus reduced postage available online from Aeronaut Books

Review Type:

First Read

Advantages:

Well researched and covers more than just pilot biographies; excellent layout with an interesting and informative text; absorbing collection of images; superb colour profiles portraying a wide variety of aircraft.

Disadvantages:

 

Conclusion:

The definitive account of the Belgian Air Service during World War One.


Reviewed by Rob Baumgartner


HyperScale is proudly supported by Squadron.com

FirstRead

 

Walter Pieters needs no introduction to hardcore World War One aviation enthusiasts.

His 1998 book “Above Flanders’ Fields” introduced many of us to the often neglected subject of Belgian fighter pilots. Since that time the author has come across more information, either from the descendants of those flyers, official sources or other literature.

Passing on this accumulated knowledge was the next logical step, the result being a more rounded picture about Belgium’s First World War participation. This culminates into a very readable book detailing the history of the Aviation Militaire Belge from its beginnings in 1911 as the Compagnie des Aviateurs to the armistice in 1918.

 

  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
  • Belgian Air Service Book Review by Rob Baumgartner: Image
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An astonishing 722 pages make up this tome and it’s all printed on good quality stock. The book is divided up into 4 main chapters although these typically contain many subsections.

Belgium’s First Air Heroes

Naturally we start at the beginning where the reader is given a précis on the state of Belgian aviation before the commencement of WWI. This also encompasses the role of the Bollekans woodworking enterprise in building and repairing the aircraft of the time, not to mention training student pilots to obtain their civil brevet.

Then we go to war and we see how this fledgling Airforce performed in the first vital years of the conflict. Included in this discussion are the photographic units and it is here that we see some of the most bizarre “nose art” ever to be displayed by a belligerent Air Service.

Africa was not immune to the conflict and many countries had colonies that needed protection. Belgium was obliged to protect its interests from German East-Africa which was partly located on the other side of a large lake. Thus the latter set up the Lake Tanganyika Squadron and due coverage is given to this unit.

The Compagnie des Aviateurs was originally part of the Compagnie des Aérostiers (Balloonist Company) and as such, it’s important that they get also get adequate treatment. Fortunately they do, as does Escadrille C74 (or Escadrille Franco/Belge as they were known throughout the war), and Escadrille d’Hydro-Avions, the only unit to be comprised of seaplanes.

Daily Chronology

This is one area that makes the book more comprehensive than other volumes on the subject. The author has added a detailed day-by-day account of the proceedings to give the reader a more complete picture of events. Where possible, we are supplied with details of the number of aircraft available, how many combat, reconnaissance and bombing missions were flown, and even the weather conditions at the time.

Biographies of Belgian Airmen

This self explanatory chapter lists the biographies of nearly 375 airmen. They are compiled in alphabetical order and images of the men involved are shown if available. This has been quite an undertaking in itself and the author is to be applauded for his dedicated research.

Colour Profiles

James Miller contributes 81 lovely colour profiles which show a huge variety of the aircraft flown. For example, those from the Sopwith stable come in the form of the Camel, Pup and 1 ½ Strutter. SPAD is represented by the VII, XI and XIII and the Nieuport by the 10, 11 and 23. The Breguet 14, Farman F40 Hanriot 11 and RE8 also make an appearance as does the FBA 1, MF11bis, and the unusual GN2, GN3, GN4 and GN5.

Appendices

11 pages are devoted to this area and it’s divided up into 7 sections.

A table of organization is given for the Aviation Militaire that covers each Escadrille, its airfields, Commanding Officer, and type of aircraft used. A listing of confirmed and unconfirmed victories is an interesting reference for enthusiasts as well as a register of the most active pilots and observers. Naturally there is a record of casualties and losses from the Aviation Militaire and the book finishes with the all important bibliography.

The text is simple enough to follow although there are a few instances where one has to reread a passage to get the full meaning of what the author is trying to convey. There is no index at the back of the book but the logical layout does allow the reader to easily find general areas of interest without trolling through too many pages.

Throughout the publication are hundreds of photographs and illustrations. These are reproduced to a very good size and a great many will be new to all but the most fanatical enthusiast.

 

 

Conclusion

 

There are not many books in the English language that deal with the Belgian Air Service in World War One.

We got a tantalizing taste when Walter Pieters made a contribution in “Above Flanders’ Fields” and with this expanded work, a much more complete picture is formed.

As such it will become the standard reference on the subject and be of immense benefit to the researcher and enthusiast alike.

Thanks to Mark 1 Ltd for this review sample.


Review Copyright 2011 by Rob Baumgartner
This Page Created on 18 May, 2011
Last updated 18 May, 2011

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