Friday, October 28, 2011

Belgium - 1917 Hanriot HD.1 Aces

Diary of a Waterlogged Workaholic

I have been busy as always. Running a one man dog and pony show keeps me on my toes. There always seems to be a new profile I want to do, or a new sections of my site to lay out. A new section will cover an organizational view of aircraft units. I have the groundwork laid out for the German Jagdgeschwader and Jasta forming them, and the American Pursuit Groups and their Aero Squadrons. That subsection will take a while to get right.

Yesterday I addressed the problem of gallery pages which have grown too large to load quickly and needed to be divided into additional gallery pages dedicated to a single aircraft type. I have not done a recent profile count but I think I have broken the 1000 mark.

Today I was out and about taking care of pressing matters which could not wait for a day without pouring rain. It was good to get back to the studio where it was warm, dry, and I could get a warm cuppa into my shivering hands. after lunch I worked up several SPAD S.XIII, some Nieuport 28's and finished the master for a new Nieuport 11. I took a break and completed 3 new Hanriot HD.1's which I decided to share.

Three Belgian Aces

Belgium fought valiantly in the First World War. In spite of German forces dug into Belgian soil the Belgian Air Force waged a successful air campaign using French and British aircraft. One of the favorite planes used by the Belgians was an aircraft shunned by France as being obsolete. The Hanriot HD.1 found great favor with the Belgian pilots, some scored the majority of their victories at the controls of the HD.1.

Coppens joined the army in 1912, serving with the 2nd Grenadiers before transferring to the Compagnie des Aviateurs in 1914. At his own expense, he and thirty nine other Belgians enrolled in a civilian flying school at Hendon, England. After additional training in France, Coppens began flying two-seaters in combat during 1916.

The following year, he was assigned to single-seat fighters and soon became an expert at shooting down enemy observation balloons. After downing a balloon, Coppens would often perform aerial acrobatic displays above the enemy. On one occasion, the balloon he was attacking shot upward and Coppens actually landed his Hanriot HD.1 on top of it. Switching off his engine to protect the propeller, he waited until his aircraft slid off the top of the balloon, then restarted the engine and watched as the German balloon burst into flames and sank to the ground.

On the morning of October 14, 1918, his days as a fighting pilot came to an end near Thourout in northwestern Belgium. Just as he began the attack that would culminate in his 37th victory, Coppens was hit in the left leg by an incendiary bullet. Despite a severed artery and intense pain, he shot down his target and managed to crash land within the safety of his own lines. His badly shattered leg had to be amputated. Before he retired from the army in 1940, Coppens served as a military attaché in France, Great Britain, Italy and Switzerland.

Andre de Meulemeester dubbed "The Eagle of Flanders" joined the Belgian Air Service on January 26, 1915 and was assigned to 1ère Escadrille de Chasse on April 8, 1917. While flying a Nieuport 17, de Meulemeester scored six victories before his unit was re-equipped with the Hanriot HD.1. In the spring of 1918, he was joined 9me, scoring four more victories by the end of the war. During 511 sorties, de Meulemeester engaged the enemy in aerial combat 185 times, was wounded in action twice and was attacked by British D.H.4s on two occasions. In 1919, de Meulemeester left the army, gave up flying and went to work in his family's brewery business.

Olieslagers fascination with racing motorcycles led to a world championship in 1902. He was the first man to reach a speed of 100 km/h on a motorcycle. As his interest shifted to aircraft, he purchased a plane in 1909 and within four years, he had set seven world records. When the Germans invaded Belgium, he and his two brothers joined the army and donated their three Blériot XI monoplanes to the war effort.

In his first combat, Olieslagers attacked an enemy aircraft armed only with a pistol. Throughout the war, he rarely claim the enemy aircraft he destroyed. Despite his six confirmed victories, Olieslagers flew 491 sorties and had engaged in 97 dogfights. Returning to Antwerp at the end of the war, Olieslagers was responsible for the development of the Antwerp Airport in 1923.

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