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THE BELGIAN AIR FORCE in the First World War

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    Posted: 27 Apr 2011 at 14:10

THE BELGIAN AIR FORCE in the First World War

Walter Pieters

Aeronaut Books, 82936 Plymouth Drive, Indio, CA 92203, USA.

722pp, 220×285mm, hardback.

ISBN 978-1-935881-01-8  $99.95 + p&p from www.aeronautbooks.com

I start this review with a health warning. This book is massive and weighs in at 2.850kg (6lb 5oz) – so make sure you get someone to help you lift it! I have known Walter for some years and he is a wonderful researcher into his country’s air force in WWI and has spent long hours in their archives. C&CI members will know of his Above Flanders Fields (Grub Street, 1998) concerning Belgian fighter pilots so will appreciate his depth of knowledge, but this book, well, if he has missed anything of historical significance, it would be difficult to find.

The book covers everything, from the formation of the ‘Compagnie des Aviateurs’, its aircraft, escadrille, pilots and war flights, including a day-by-day account of the flights Belgian’s tiny air force engaged in, from August 1914 to November 1918, which takes up the bulk of the book. There are also biographies of 375 Belgian airmen and over 1,000 photographs, many not even seen in Belgium before. There are 24 pages of superb colour side-views by James F. Martin, showing just how colourful Belgian aeroplanes were. The achievements of the top aces like Willy Coppens, Edmond Thieffry, André de Meulemeester, Fernand Jacquet and Jean Oliesl*gers are of course covered in detail but so are the lesser airmen, many of whom are noted for the number of combats they had but were unable to gain confirmations due to the strict rules the Belgians imposed. 

This history will give WWI historians and enthusiasts hours of pleasure trawling through the wealth of detail while looking in wonder at the mass of photos covering men and aircraft. A lot of the book I read over several months of helping Walter put his Belgian/English in English/English – and yes – it is all in English, but even I am amazed at all the extra stuff he has put into this work of dedication. Highly recommended.

NLF Volume 42 Number 1

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