Air Aces of World War One

Lt. Jan Olieslagers – Belgian Ace – 1883 / 1942

Jan Olieslagers was a Belgian Motorcycle and Aviation pioneer who set World records with both types of machine. He became a flying Ace in World War One despite his indifference in claiming victories, he was credited with six victories, seventeen unconfirmed, and an unknown number unclaimed.

Jan Olieslagers turned in his bicycle to become an early motorcycle record holder, he was the first to go 100 kilometres ( 62 mph ) and became 1902 World Champion. In 1909 he purchased a Bleriot monoplane, receiving Pilot’s Brevet no.5 in October of that year. In 1910 he won the Meeting d’Aviation de Rheims. By 1913 he had set seven World Aviation Records, in June 1914 he proved himself as good at aerobatics as Roland Garros.

At the beginning of World War One, when the Germans invaded his native Belgium, The German Government tried to enlist Olieslagers in Aerial Observation duties. He volunteered himself and his aircraft to his nation’s military, as did his two brothers, Jules and Max. Jan Olieslagers was promoted to Sergeant, then received a commission before the end of 1914.

On the 5th of January 1915, he crash landed injuring his left arm and leg as well as his chest. On the 12th of September 1915, he became the first Belgian pilot, as well as one of the first pilots overall to claim an Aerial victory when he forced down an Aviatik.C.1. At the time he was flying a Nieuport 10 dubbed Le Demon, which was the only aircraft in the Belgian Air Force painted with camouflage markings and the outer circle of the roundels inscribed in black.

He then had a string of four unconfirmed victories before he traded his Nieuport 10 for a Nieuport 11. He scored his second confirmed victory on the 17th of June 1916, destroying a Fokker D11 over Pijpegale, Belgium. Seven more unconfirmed claims for Aerial victories while flying the Nieuport 11 closed out 1917.

To Be Continued……………..

(C)Damian Grange 2020

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