Air Aces of World War One

Sous – Lieutenant Edmond Thieffry – Belgian Ace – 1892 / 1929

Thieffry was born in Etterbeek, a municipality of Brussels, and went on to study law in Leuven ( hence his nickname, ‘The Flying Judge’ ) After qualifying he was conscripted into the Belgian Army, joining the 10th Regiment in 1913. At the start of the First World War he saw service as a staff attache to General Leman, but was captured by the Germans. He escaped on a stolen motorcycle to the neutral territory of the Netherlands, where he was arrested by the Dutch military police. Using his legal knowledge and Dutch language skills he managed to talk himself out of internment, and travelled to Antwerp to rejoin the Belgian Army.

In 1915, Thieffry joined the Compagnie des Ouvriers Aerostiers, The Belgian Army Air Corps and with some difficulty qualified as a pilot at Etampes. On the 1st of February 1916 he joined the 3rd Squadron as an observer for artillery, where he was appreciated for his exactitude and courage. He crash-landed so many aircraft that he was promptly assigned to a single seat fighter squadron, as no one would fly with him. He was rapidly transferred to No.5 Squadron ( The Comets ) under Captain Jules Dony based at De Panne in December 1916.

His first victory was on the 15th of March 1917, flying a Nieuport 11, his second followed eight days later above Gistel, and his third on 12th of May above Holthuist. His fourth was on the 14th of June, an Albatros DIII above Westende. The 5th Squadron then relocated to Les Moeres and was equipped with Nieuport 17’s. Thieffry gained official status as an ‘ace’ when he shot down two German fighters over Diksmuide on the 3rd of July. In August he received the first SPAD VII fighter in the Belgian Air Force, bought by the Belgian Prince, he gained three more victories flying it.

On the 31st of August his aircraft was badly damaged in combat with two Albatros D.V. fighters, but he managed to escape and land behind the Belgian lines. he continued to fight and he claimed his tenth and last confirmed kill on the 10th of October 1917, he also had five ‘probable’ kills. This placed him third on the list of Belgian Aces, behind Willy Coppens and Andre de Meulemeester. Shortly afterwards he was shot down and wounded by return fire from a German two-seater aircraft of FFA 227 over Kortrijk on the 23rd of February 1918. He spent the rest of the war as a prisoner of war in Germany. He attempted to escape on the 13th of April 1918 but was caught after ten days at liberty.

(C) Damian Grange 2020

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