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Guynemer: Chevalier of the Air

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Guynemer: Chevalier of the Air
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Henry Bordeaux & Mary R. Parkman
Date Published: 2011/09
Page Count: 236
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-724-1
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-723-4

‘Until one has given all, one has given nothing’
Georges Guynemer

This special Leonaur edition contains two accounts of one the most most honoured French fighter aces of the First World War, Georges Guynemer. Born into a wealthy Parisian family, Guynemer was a sickly child and was initially rejected for military service, but through determination and perseverance he was first accepted as a mechanic in the opening year of the war and later qualified as a pilot flying a Morane-Saulnier aircraft in Escadrille MS. 3. In 1915 the squadron was renamed Escadrille N. 3 and re-equipped with Nieuport 10 fighter aircraft. It was while flying the Nieuport that Guynemer became an acknowledged ‘ace’ and established himself as a hero of his nation. By the end of 1916 he had 25 ‘kills’ to his credit and his face—and his famous aircraft with the stork insignia—had became iconic. Lionised by the press and now influential, Guynemer involved himself in aircraft development and in 1917, flying a Spad VII—one of the aircraft he had helped improve—he was the first pilot to shoot down a German Gotha GIII heavy bomber. By July 1917 Guynemer had chalked up 50 kills. Shy and embarrassed by the attention he received as a national figure, Guynemer struggled with his fame, but this, ironically, made him even more attractive to a public eager for a ‘chevalier’ to divert their thoughts from the industrial scale, grinding attrition of the trenches. Georges Guynemer was reported lost in action over Belgium in September 1917 at the age of 22. Awarded many of his country’s highest honours he remained an inspirational figure to the French throughout the Great War.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

Well, the Spad has had her baptême du feu. The others were six: an Aviatik at 2800, an L.V.G. at 2900, and four Rumplers jostling one another with barely 25 metres in between at 3000 metres. When the four saw me coming (at 1800 on the speedometer) they no doubt took me for a meteorite and funked, and when they got over it and back to their shooting (fine popping, though) it was too late. My gun never jammed once.<br>
Here he went into technicalities about his new machine-gun, but further on reverted to the Spad:<br>
She loops wonderfully. Her spin is a bit lazy and irregular, but deliciously soft.<br>
The letter concludes with many suggestions for minor improvements. His correspondence with M. Béchereau was entirely devoted to a study of aeroplanes: he never wandered from the subject. Thus he collaborated with the engineer by constantly communicating to him the results of his experience. His machine-gun was the great difficulty. On October 21, 1916 he wrote:<br>
Yesterday five Boches, three of them above our lines, came within ten metres of the muzzle of my gun, and impossible to shoot. Four days ago I had to let two others get away. Sickening.... The weather is wonderful. Perhaps the gun will work now.<br>
In fact, a few days later he wrote exultingly, having discovered that the jamming was due to cold and having found an ingenious remedy.<br>
November 4, 1916. Day before yesterday I bagged a Fokker one-seater biplane. It was two metres off, but as it tumbled into a group of our Nieuports, the controlling board would not give the victory to anybody. Yesterday got an Aviatik ten metres off; passenger shot dead by the first bullet; the plane, all in rags, went down in slow spirals and must have been knocked flat somewhere near Berlincourt. Heurtaux, who had seen it beginning to fall, brought one down himself ten minutes later, like a regular ball.<br>
On November 18 next, after going into particulars concerning his engine which he wanted made stronger, he told M. Béchereau of his 21st and 22nd victories:<br>
As for the 21st, it was a one-seater I murdered as it twirled in elegant spirals down to its own landing ground. No. 22 was a 220 H.P., one of three above our lines. I came upon it unawares in a somersault. Passenger stood up, but fell down again in his seat before even setting his gun going. I put some two hundred or two hundred and fifty bullets into him twenty metres away from me. He had taken an invariable angle of 45° on the first volley. When I let him go, Adjutant Bucquet took him in hand—which would have helped if he hadn’t already been as full of holes as a strainer. He kept his angle of 45° till about 500 metres, when he adopted the vertical, and blazed up on crashing to the ground....<br>
The Spad ravished him. It was the heyday of wonderful flights on the Somme. Yet he wanted something even better; but before pestering M. Béchereau he began with an inspiring narrative.<br>
December 28, 1916. I can’t grumble; yet yesterday I missed my camera badly. I had a high-class round with an Albatros, a fine, clever fellow, between two and ten metres away from me. We only exchanged fifteen shots, and he snapped my right fore-cable—just a few threads still held—while I shot him in the small of his back. A fine spill! (No. 25).<br>
Now, to speak of serious things, I must tell you that the Spad 150 H.P. is not much ahead of the Halberstadt. The latter is not faster, I admit, but it climbs so much more quickly that it amounts to the same thing. However, our latest model knocks them all out.... <br>
The letter adds only some recommendations as to the necessity for more speed and a better propeller.