Capitaine Georges Marie Ludovic Jules Guynemer – French Ace 1894 / 1917 Pt.3
Guynemer failed to return from a combat mission on the 11th of September 1917. The previous week had been one of mechanical problems with his aircraft and others he had borrowed. At 8:30a.m. with rookie pilot Juan Bozon-Verduraz, Guynemer took off in his S.P.A.D. S XII, S504 No.2. His mission was to patrol the Langemark area. At 9:25 near Poelcapelle, Guynemer spotted a lone Rumpler, a German observation plane, and dove toward it. Bozon-Verduraz saw several Fokkers above him, and by the time he had shaken them off, his leader was nowhere in sight, so he returned alone. Guynemer never came back.
Capitaine Georges Guynemer was confirmed as missing in action by his squadron commander Major Brocard; It was officially announced in Paris by the French War Department on September the 25th 1917. Unofficial conformation came from a German pilot who was captured after being shot down behind the Canadian Lines on the evening of the 29th of September. A German sergeant from the 413th Regiment swore that he had witnessed the crash and had identified Guynemer’s corpse, he also certified that the French Ace had died from a bullet through the head, with other injuries including a broken leg and a finger shot away. The German party retrieving the body was driven away by allied artillery fire before they could remove or bury the body. The details released by the French War Department were unclassified and became public knowledge as described by one of Guynemer’s comrades.
Guynemer was lionised by the French Press, who made him a national hero. The French Government encouraged the publicity to boost morale and to take people’s minds off the terrible losses in the trenches. Guynemer was embarrassed by the attention, but his shyness only increased the public’s appetite to know everything about him. Guynemer’s death was a profound shock to France, nevertheless he remained an icon for the duration of the war. Aged only 22 at his death, he continued to inspire the nation with his advice, “Until one has given all, one has given nothing”
The credit for shooting down Guynemer was attributed to Lt.Kurt Wissemann of Jasta 3, who was himself killed in action on September 28th 1917. Guynemer’s final victory tally was 54. His awards included The Legion d,honneur, Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire.
(C) Damian Grange 2019