Jan Olieslagers
Lieutenant Jan Olieslagers was a Belgian motorcycle and aviation pioneer who set world records with both types of machinery. He became a flying ace
Flying ace
A flying ace or fighter ace is a military aviator credited with shooting down several enemy aircraft during aerial combat. The actual number of aerial victories required to officially qualify as an "ace" has varied, but is usually considered to be five or more...

 during World War I despite his indifference in claiming victories; he was credited with six confirmed victories, seventeen unconfirmed, and an unknown number unclaimed. He later was instrumental in developing Antwerp's airport.

Pre-World War I activities

Lieutenant Jan Olieslagers turned in his bicycle to become an early motorcycle
A motorcycle is a single-track, two-wheeled motor vehicle. Motorcycles vary considerably depending on the task for which they are designed, such as long distance travel, navigating congested urban traffic, cruising, sport and racing, or off-road conditions.Motorcycles are one of the most...

 speed record holder; he was the first to go 100 kilometres (62.1 mi) per hour, and was 1902 World Champion. In 1909, he purchased a Blériot
Blériot Aéronautique
Blériot Aéronautique was a French aircraft manufacturer founded by Louis Blériot. It also made a few cyclecars from 1921 to 1922.After Louis Blériot became famous for being the first to fly over the English Channel in 1909, he established an aircraft manufacturing company. This company really took...

 monoplane, receiving Pilot's Brevet No. 5 in October. In 1910, he won the Meeting d'Aviation de Rheims. By 1913, he had set seven world aviation records. In June 1914, he proved himself as good an aerobaticist as Roland Garros.

World War I

At the beginning of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, when the Germans invaded his native Belgium, the German government tried to enlist Olieslagers in aerial observation duties. He volunteered himself and his Blériot XI
Blériot XI
The Blériot XI is the aircraft in which, on 25 July 1909, Louis Blériot made the first flight across the English Channel made in a heavier-than-air aircraft . This achievement is one of the most famous accomplishments of the early years of aviation, and not only won Blériot a lasting place in...

 airplane to his nation's military, as did his two brothers, Jules and Max. Jan Olieslagers was promoted to Sergent, then commissioned before the end of 1914.

Aerial activities

On 5 January 1915, he crashlanded, injuring his left arm and leg, as well as his chest. On 12 September, 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
Aviatik C.I
-References:*van Wyngarden, G. Early German Aces of World War 1. Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-84176-997-5*Taylor, Michael J H. Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. Portland House, 1989. ISBN 0-517-69186-8...

. At the time, he was flying a Nieuport 10
Nieuport 10
|-See also:- External links :* *...

 dubbed le Demon, which was the only craft in the Belgian air force painted with camouflage markings and the outside circle of the roundels inscribed in black.

He then had a string of four unconfirmed claims before he traded his Nieuport 10 for a Nieuport 11
Nieuport 11
|-See also:-References:NotesBibliography* Angelucci, Enzio, ed. The Rand McNally Encyclopedia of Military Aircraft. New York: The Military Press, 1983. ISBN 0-517-41021-4....

. He scored his second confirmed victory on 17 June 1916, destroying a Fokker D.II over Pijpegale, Belgium. Seven more unconfirmed claims for aerial victories while flying the Nieuport 11 closed out 1917.

Olieslagers seems to have begun 1917 with a newer Nieuport, but with two more unconfirmed victories in his newly acquired Hanriot HD.1
Hanriot HD.1
|-References:* Bruce, J.M. The Hanriot HD 1 Leatherhead: Profile Publications* Cheesman E.F. Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War Letchworth, Harletford Publications, 1960 pp. 82-83- External links :*...

. Then, on 14 June, he destroyed a German reconnaissance plane over Schore. The following day, he scored for the fourth time, setting a Fokker D. II afire over Keiem
Keiem is a small town situated some 7 km north of Diksmuide in West Flanders, Belgium. Administratively it forms part of Diksmuide Municipality....

. Two more unconfirmed wins followed. Then, on 4 November 1917, he fainted while flying and crashed onto Les Moeres
Les Moëres
De Moeren or Les Moëres are a marshy region in the Westhoek, politically divided between the French-Belgian border. At one time the area was inhabited by the Gallic people known as the Morini; they are believed to have lent their name to the territory.For many centuries, beginning around 800,...

 aerodrome. He was taken to hospital in a coma, but aroused a few days later.

He returned to flight duty in January 1918, but would not score again until 3 May. On that day, he had one of two claims confirmed. On the 19th, he would set an Albatros D.V
Albatros D.V
|-See also:-Bibliography:*Bennett, Leon. Gunning for the Red Baron. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2006. ISBN 1-58544-507-X....

 aflame over Woumen
-External links:*...

 for his last official victory, although he would have one more unverified win.

Professional conduct

As if Olieslagers' 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 to staking claims. Although he submitted one combat report on 30 March 1916 for a witnessed triumph behind enemy lines, which went unverified for lack of an officer's confirmation, he usually did not bother with claims for wins behind the German lines.

Jan Olieslagers seldom took leave, although he did go visit Colonel Isaac Newton Lewis
Isaac Newton Lewis
Isaac Newton Lewis was an American soldier and inventor. He was graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1884 and was commissioned second lieutenant in the Second Artillery...

, the machine gun inventor, in London on many occasions. He tended to busy himself around his home aerodrome and the airplanes assigned to him. He habitually broke in rookie pilots, cushioning their entry into the deadly art of aerial warfare.

Aerial career summary

Olieslagers was an excellent pilot; he had his brother Jules for a talented mechanic. The combination usually meant a reliable airplane under the ace, but on 9 November 1918, engine problems brought Jan Olieslagers down in a field near Eeklo
Eeklo is a Belgian municipality in the Flemish province of East Flanders. The municipality only comprises the city of Eeklo proper. The name Eeklo comes from the contraction of “eke” and “lo”, two Old German words meaning “oak” and “sparse woods”....

. It was his 518th and final combat sortie; he had fought in 97 dogfights over a four year stretch.

Post World War I

Olieslagers would not be demobilized until 23 September 1919. He returned home, and opened a garage. On 1 April 1921, he was pensioned off as a reserve Lieutenant. He had not ceased working for his nation; in 1923, he was largely responsible for the opening of the new Antwerp airport. Even today, his statue stands by the entrance.

When Jan Olieslagers died of cancer on 23 March 1942, his beloved Belgium was once again occupied by the Germans. Although the Nazis had banned both the playing of the Belgian national anthem and the display of the Belgian flag, as a mark of his nation's regard, Olieslagers' casket was defiantly draped with the flag he had served so well, while the Belgian National Hymn was played in his honor.

External links

  • http://home.wanadoo.nl/jusnl/lauwers/olieslagers01.jpg portrays Olieslagers and his Bleriot in 1910
  • http://www.bevemo.nl/fotos/minerva/oliesla.jpg shows Olieslagers on his motorcycle
  • http://www.theaerodrome.com/aces/belgium/olieslagers.php lists his official victories
  • http://firstworldwar.com/bio/olieslagers.htm
  • http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=%22jan+olieslagers%22&FORM=IGRE&qpvt=%22jan+olieslagers%22#focal=0ce990ad3114bd4693a4fcf738fd3a7d&furl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.baha.be%2Fimages%2FMilpics%2FWW1_%26_precursers%2Fcamel_sc7_vdm_box02_olieslagers.jpg and http://users.skynet.be/mda.hdv/vtb_memorial/olieslagers/images/olie03w.jpg shows photos of Olieslager and some of his airplanes


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