The Belgian Air Service in the First World War
by Walter Pieters, Aeronaut Books
, Indio, CA, 2010, 722 pp., 8˝” x 11”, hardcover, illustrated with black & white photos, color profile views and maps; also includes appendices, bibliography; ISBN 978-1-935881-01-8; $99.95; publisher’s website: Aviation history books
In 1998, Walter Pieters filled a significant void in World War I aviation history literature with his 123-page book Above Flanders’ Fields
. As the subtitle noted, that volume was “a complete record of the Belgian fighter pilots and their units during the Great War.” Based on extensive research and much good luck in obtaining records and previously unpublished photos, Above Flanders’ Fields was the best English-language volume on the otherwise little-covered Aviation Militaire Belge
yet to appear.
The book was also a tough act to follow, but, 12 years later, Pieters has out-done his previous effort with The Belgian Air Service in the First World War
, providing comprehensive coverage and lavish detail. The massive new tome relates the history of the Aviation Militaire Belge
from its beginning as the Compagnie des Aviateurs
[Company of Aviators] and covers all theaters of operations, including flights supporting Belgium’s extensive colonial interests in Africa.
But it was on the Western Front that Belgian airmen and units became known for working with American, British and French air units and this book provides a daily chronology of every Belgian air action from 4 August 1914 through 11 November 1918. The narrative is complemented by a 145-page section devoted to 375 “Biographies of Belgian Airmen,” which itself is larger than Pieters’ previous book and goes beyond fighter pilots. Among the book’s excellent appendices is a complete list of confirmed and unconfirmed Belgian aerial victories, as well as listings of the small nation’s most active airmen and air casualties. Also included is a list of German aircraft in Belgium after the war.
The book’s more than 1,000 photos (including many in large size format) should interest technology buffs and modelers alike. The variety of aircraft used by Belgian airmen is further highlighted by 81 color profiles (and a page of individual markings) skillfully rendered by James L. Miller. Walter Pieters’ “The Belgian Air Service in the First World War” is recommended highly. (This review appears in the Summer 2011 issue of Over the Front
, the quarterly journal of the non-profit League of World War I Aviation Historians.)
Book Review Editor
Over the Front