Air Aces of World War One

LT. Jan Olieslagers – Belgian Ace – 1883 / 1942 Pt.2

Olieslagers appears to have begun 1917 with a new aircraft, probably the Hanriot Hd1 in which he scored two more unconfirmed victories. Then on the 14th of June he destroyed a German reconnaissance plane over Schore. The following day he scored for the fourth time, setting a Fokker DII afire over Keiem. Two more unconfirmed victories followed. Then on the 4th of November 1917, he fainted while flying and crashed onto Les Moeres Aerodrome. He was taken to hospital in a coma but aroused a few days later.

He returned to flight duty in January 1918, but did not score again until the 3rd of May, on that day he had one of two claims confirmed. On the 19th of May he set an Albatros Dva aflame over Woumen for his last official victory. Although he would have one more unconfirmed victory.

As if his own poor record of approvals was not sufficient to keep his score low. He also habitually took the fight to the Germans and was indifferent to the paperwork for staking claims. Although he submitted one combat report on March the 30th 1916 for a witnessed triumph behand enemy lines, which went unverified for the lack of an officers confirmation, he usually did not bother to claim for victories behind the enemy lines. Jan Olieslagers seldom took leave, he tended to busy himself around his home aerodrome and the aircraft assigned to him. He habitually broke in new pilots, cushioning their entry in to the harsh world of Aerial warfare.

Olieslagers was an excellent pilot and he had his brother Jules for a talented mechanic. This combination usually meant a reliable aircraft under the ace, but on the 9th of November 1918, engine problems bought Olieslagers down in a field near Eeklo. It was his 518th and final combat sortie of the war. He had fought in 97 dogfights over a four year period.

He was awarded The Order of Leopold the Second, The Croix de Guerre by Belgium and the French Legion d’Honneur and Croix de Guerre and the Russian Order of Saint Stanislas.

(C) Damian Grange 2020

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