Feature Articles - The Belgian Air Service

Belgian air ace Andre de Meulemeester As World War One opened, The Belgian Air Service, renamed Belgian Military Aviation (BMA) in 1915, consisted of only four squadrons.

Once the war began, civilian pilots swelled the ranks, bringing their own airplanes with them.  The acquisition of adequate amounts of material from France and Great Britain was a persistent problem, but by war's end the BMA claimed a force of near 130 fighters and bombers.

According to Belgian Army officers, the BMA was vital to the Belgian war effort, and it worked closely with the British and French air services.  Its strategy and tactics were closely based on the French system of organizing squadrons for a specific task, like air support or fighter patrols.

King Albert found it so useful he flew a Sopwith over the front in June 1917 to gain a better understanding of the situation, the only head of state to do so.

Because of its small size, the BMA specialized in aerial photography, artillery spotting, and ground support.  Still, it was responsible for 77 enemy kills and boasted six aces, including Willy Coppens and Andre de Meulemeester.

Article contributed by William P. McEvoy

References: Pieters, Walter M. Above Flanders Fields: A Complete Record of the Belgian Fighter Pilots and their Units During the Great War, 1914-1918. London: Grub Street and the Basement, 1998.

"Bellied" was a term used to describe when a tank's underside was caught upon an obstacle such that its tracks were unable to grip the earth.

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