Air Aces of World War One

Capitaine Armand Pinsard – French Ace – 1887 / 1953

Armand Pinsard was born in Nercillac, department of Charente, in the cognac country of France. He joined the military in 1906 and fought as a cavalryman in Morocco, in the 2nd Regiment of Spahis. He was decorated there with the Moroccan Medal. He transferred to aviation in 1912, becoming one of the rare professional military men to become a pre-war pilot. He trained as a pilot at Chateau Fort on a Borel pusher two-seater aircraft and proved himself as natural flier. He was awarded the Medaille Militaire for his performance flying a Morane in the French Army manoeuvres of 1913. He was assigned to M.S. 23 at the outbreak of World War One.

At the outbreak of war, Pinsard was ranked as a Sergeant Major. In September 1914, he was promoted to Adjutant and received his first citation. In October, he participated in a bombing raid that attempted to kill the German Kaiser. He was commissioned in November 1914 because of this bombing raid. It was around this time that he pioneered the use of aircraft to place an espionage agent behind enemy lines.

On the 8th of February 1915, Pinsard fell into enemy hands and was held prisoner of war when his plane was forced down behind German lines. It took him a month to recover from injuries received in the accident. Thirteen months and several attempts later, Pinsard tunnelled under a 12 foot high prison wall to freedom on the 26th of March 1916. It took him another two weeks to cross the lines into neutral Switzerland and to repatriate himself on the 10th of April.

His reward for his daring escape was re-training as a fighter pilot and an assignment to France’s foremost fighter Squadron, Les Cicognes. By July 1916, he was flying a Nieuport with Squadron N.26. on the 7th of August, in a pioneering close air support role, he made no fewer than six firing passes on German Infantry attempting to counter-attack a French unit. Then he and his three wingmen went on to strafe a train loaded with German troops. He was made a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur for this action.

On the 1st of November 1916, Pinsard opened his victory roll in Air combat. After his winter’s lay off, he resumed his winning way on the 23rd of January 1917, flying as Commanding Officer of Squadron N.78. He became an Ace on the 6th of March 1917, and would continue to fly Nieuports into battle until his 16th victory on the 5th of June 1917.

Just a week later, Pinsard crashed and suffered serious injuries. He would be confined to hospital for several months. Once he had fully recovered he was appointed Commanding Officer of Squadron Spa.23. Pinsard was entrusted with the first Spad S.VII fighter to see combat on the 23rd of August 1917. He painted it black and entitled it Revanche IV ( Revenge IV ). He picked up his victory skein with his 17th victory on the 20th of February 1918. With his next win on the 4th of May, he began a string of that saw him down a string of nine observation balloons in his final decade of wins. Rather remarkably he had help downing only one of the heavily defended gasbags.

His 27th victory came on the 22nd of August 1918, this was to become Pinsard’s final victory. Just eight days later on the 30th of August 1918 he was appointed an Officer of the Legion d’Honneur. Pinsard ended the was as a highly decorated Capitaine.

(C) Damian Grange 2021

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