Monday, August 7, 2017

Belgium Ace, Jan Olieslagers

Before the Great War, Jan Olieslagers was already a very well known person as the motorbike world champion and later as very successful record holding pilot in his Bleriot monoplanes. 

When the Germans invaded Belgium, he and his two brothers joined the army as volunteers and donated their three Blériot XI monoplanes to the war effort. Jan was promoted to Sergeant, then commissioned before the end of 1914.
January 1915 saw him flying a Nieuport 10 and his fighter-pilot skills became evident and on September 12th, 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.I.

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

Olieslagers habitually took the fight to the Germans and was indifferent to the paperwork to staking claims and he usually did not bother with claims for wins behind the German lines. All this lead to his poor record of approvals that was sufficient to keep his scores low.
He seldom took leave and tended to busy himself around his home aerodrome and the airplanes assigned to him. He would spend hours with rookie pilots, helping to ease their entry into the deadly art of aerial warfare.

On November 4, 1917, he fainted while landing 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 flying his newly acquired Hanriot HD.1, but would not score again until May 8th, on that day, he had one of two claims confirmed. On the 19th, a Albatros D.V became his last official victory, although he would have one more unverified win.
On November 9th, 1918, engine problems brought Jan Olieslagers down in a field near Eeklo. It was his 518th and final combat sortie. He had fought in 97 dogfights over a four-year stretch.
He finished the war with a stunted tally of six confirmed victories but this total could have been much higher had he took claiming victories seriously.

His awards included; Order of Leuplod (Belgian), Croix de Guerre (France), Legion of Honor (France), Order of Saint Stanislas (Russian) and Belgian War Cross.

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