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Title: Georges Guynemer - Knight of the Air
Author: Bordeaux, Henry, 1870-1963
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Georges Guynemer - Knight of the Air" ***

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     _Published on the Fund
     given to the Yale University Press in memory of_


     _of the Class of 1918, Yale College, killed in the
     aviation service in France, February, 1918_









     COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY



     Introduction                                           9

     Prologue                                              13


       I. The Guynemers                                    21

      II. Home and College                                 28

     III. The Departure                                    52


       I. The First Victory                                65

      II. From the Aisne to Verdun                         91

     III. "La Terre a vu jadis errer des Paladins"        108

      IV. On the Somme (June, 1916, to February, 1917)    125


       I. On the 25th of May, 1917                        143

      II. A Visit to Guynemer                             157

     III. Guynemer in Camp                                163

      IV. Guynemer at Home                                170

       V. The Magic Machine                               182


       I. The Battle of Flanders                          189

      II. Omens                                           200

     III. The Last Flight                                 210

      IV. The Vigil                                       217

       V. The Legend                                      225

      VI. In the Panthéon                                 239

     Envoi                                                242

     Appendix: Genealogy of Georges Guynemer              251


     Georges Guynemer, Knight of the Air      _Frontispiece_
       (From a wood block in three colors by Rudolph Ruzicka.)

     The First Flight in a Blériot                        80

     In the Air                                          120

     Combat                                              176

     "Going West"                                        208
       (From charcoal drawings by W.A. Dwiggins.)


     _June 27th, 1918._

My dear M. Bordeaux:

I count the American people fortunate in reading any book of yours; I
count them fortunate in reading any biography of that great hero of the
air, Guynemer; and thrice over I count them fortunate to have such a
book written by you on such a subject.

You, sir, have for many years been writing books peculiarly fitted to
instill into your countrymen the qualities which during the last
forty-eight months have made France the wonder of the world. You have
written with such power and charm, with such mastery of manner and of
matter, that the lessons you taught have been learned unconsciously by
your readers--and this is the only way in which most readers will learn
lessons at all. The value of your teachings would be as great for my
countrymen as for yours. You have held up as an ideal for men and for
women, that high courage which shirks no danger, when the danger is the
inevitable accompaniment of duty. You have preached the essential
virtues, the duty to be both brave and tender, the duty of courage for
the man and courage for the woman. You have inculcated stern horror of
the baseness which finds expression in refusal to perform those
essential duties without which not merely the usefulness, but the very
existence, of any nation will come to an end.

Under such conditions it is eminently appropriate that you should write
the biography of that soldier-son of France whose splendid daring has
made him stand as arch typical of the soul of the French people through
these terrible four years. In this great war France has suffered more
and has achieved more than any other power. To her more than to any
other power, the final victory will be due. Civilization has in the
past, for immemorial centuries, owed an incalculable debt to France; but
for no single feat or achievement of the past does civilization owe as
much to France as for what her sons and daughters have done in the world
war now being waged by the free peoples against the powers of the Pit.

Modern war makes terrible demands upon those who fight. To an infinitely
greater degree than ever before the outcome depends upon long
preparation in advance, and upon the skillful and unified use of the
nation's entire social and industrial no less than military power. The
work of the general staff is infinitely more important than any work of
the kind in times past. The actual machinery of both is so vast,
delicate, and complicated that years are needed to complete it. At all
points we see the immense need of thorough organization and of making
ready far in advance of the day of trial. But this does not mean that
there is any less need than before of those qualities of endurance and
hardihood, of daring and resolution, which in their sum make up the
stern and enduring valor which ever has been and ever will be the mark
of mighty victorious armies.

The air service in particular is one of such peril that membership in it
is of itself a high distinction. Physical address, high training, entire
fearlessness, iron nerve, and fertile resourcefulness are needed in a
combination and to a degree hitherto unparalleled in war. The ordinary
air fighter is an extraordinary man; and the extraordinary air fighter
stands as one in a million among his fellows. Guynemer was one of these.
More than this. He was the foremost among all the extraordinary fighters
of all the nations who in this war have made the skies their battle
field. We are fortunate indeed in having you write his biography.

     Very faithfully yours,
     (Signed) Theodore Roosevelt.

     M. Henry Bordeaux,
     44 Rue du Ranelagh,
     Paris, France.


" ... Guynemer has not come back."

The news flew from one air escadrille to another, from the aviation
camps to the troops, from the advance to the rear zones of the army; and
a shock of pain passed from soul to soul in that vast army, and
throughout all France, as if, among so many soldiers menaced with death,
this one alone should have been immortal.

History gives us examples of such universal grief, but only at the death
of great leaders whose authority and importance intensified the general
mourning for their loss. Thus, Troy without Hector was defenseless. When
Gaston de Foix, Duke de Nemours, surnamed the Thunderbolt of Italy, died
at the age of twenty-three after the victory of Ravenna, the French
transalpine conquests were endangered. The bullet which struck Turenne
at Saltzbach also menaced the work of Louis XIV. But Guynemer had
nothing but his airplane, a speck in the immense spaces filled by the
war. This young captain, though without an equal in the sky, conducted
no battle on land. Why, then, did he alone have the power, like a great
military chief, of leaving universal sadness behind him? A little child
of France has given us the reason.

Among the endless expressions of the nation's mourning, this letter was
written by the school-mistress of a village in Franche-Comté,
Mademoiselle S----, of Bouclans, to the mother of the aviator:

     Madame, you have already received the sorrowful and grateful
     sympathy of official France and of France as a nation; I am
     venturing to send you the naïve and sincere homage of young France
     as represented by our school children at Bouclans. Before receiving
     from our chiefs the suggestion, of which we learn to-day, we had
     already, on the 22nd of October, consecrated a day to the memory of
     our hero Guynemer, your glorious son.

     I send you enclosed an exercise by one of my pupils chosen at
     random, for all of them are animated by the same sentiments. You
     will see how the immortal glory of your son shines even in humble
     villages, and that the admiration and gratitude which the children,
     so far away in the country, feel for our greatest aviator, will be
     piously and faithfully preserved in his memory.

     May this sincere testimony to the sentiments of childhood be of
     some comfort in your grief, to which I offer my most profound

     The School-mistress of Bouclans,

And this is the exercise, written by Paul Bailly, aged eleven years and
ten months:

     Guynemer is the Roland of our epoch: like Roland he was very brave,
     and like Roland he died for France. But his exploits are not a
     legend like those of Roland, and in telling them just as they
     happened we find them more beautiful than any we could imagine. To
     do honor to him they are going to write his name in the Panthéon
     among the other great names. His airplane has been placed in the
     Invalides. In our school we consecrated a day to him. This morning
     as soon as we reached the school we put his photograph up on the
     wall; for our moral lesson we learned by heart his last mention in
     the despatches; for our writing lesson we wrote his name, and he
     was the subject for our theme; and finally, we had to draw an
     airplane. We did not begin to think of him only after he was dead;
     before he died, in our school, every time he brought down an
     airplane we were proud and happy. But when we heard that he was
     dead, we were as sad as if one of our own family had died.

     Roland was the example for all the knights in history. Guynemer
     should be the example for Frenchmen now, and each one will try to
     imitate him and will remember him as we have remembered Roland. I,
     especially, I shall never forget him, for I shall remember that he
     died for France, like my dear Papa.

This little French boy's description of Guynemer is true and, limited as
it is, sufficient: Guynemer is the modern Roland, with the same
redoubtable youth and fiery soul. He is the last of the knights-errant,
the first of the new knights of the air. His short life needs only
accurate telling to appear like a legend. The void he left is so great
because every household had adopted him. Each one shared in his
victories, and all have written his name among their own dead.

Guynemer's glory, to have so ravished the minds of children, must have
been both simple and perfect, and as his biographer I cannot dream of
equaling the young Paul Bailly. But I shall not take his hero from him.
Guynemer's life falls naturally into the legendary rhythm, and the
simple and exact truth resembles a fairy tale.

The writers of antiquity have mourned in touching accents the loss of
young men cut down in the flower of their youth. "The city," sighs
Pericles, "has lost its light, the year has lost its spring." Theocritus
and Ovid in turn lament the short life of Adonis, whose blood was
changed into flowers. And in Virgil the father of the gods, whom Pallas
supplicates before facing Turnus, warns him not to confound the beauty
of life with its length:

     Stat sua cuique dies; breve et irreparabile tempus
     Omnibus est vitae; sed famam extendere factis,
     Hoc virtutis opus. . .

"The days of man are numbered, and his life-time short and
irrecoverable; but to increase his renown by the quality of his acts,
this is the work of virtue...."[1]

[Footnote 1: _Æneid_, Book 10, Garnier ed.]

_Famam extendere factis_: no fabulous personage of antiquity made more
haste than Guynemer to multiply the exploits that increased his glory.
But the enumeration of these would not furnish a key to his life, nor
explain either that secret power he possessed or the fascination he
exerted. "It is not always the most brilliant actions which best expose
the virtues or vices of men. Some trifle, some insignificant word or
jest, often displays the character better than bloody combats, pitched
battles, or the taking of cities. Also, as portrait painters try to
reproduce the features and expression of their subjects, as the most
obvious presentment of their characters, and without troubling about the
other parts of the body, so we may be allowed to concentrate our study
upon the distinctive signs of the soul...."[2]

[Footnote 2: Plutarch, _Life of Alexander_.]

I, then, shall especially seek out these "distinctive signs of the

Guynemer's family has confided to me his letters, his notebooks of
flights, and many precious stories of his childhood, his youth, and his
victories. I have seen him in camps, like the Cid Campeador, who made
"the swarm of singing victories fly, with wings outspread, above his
tents." I have had the good fortune to see him bring down an enemy
airplane, which fell in flames on the bank of the river Vesle. I have
met him in his father's house at Compiègne, which was his Bivar. Almost
immediately after his disappearance I passed two night-watches--as if we
sat beside his body--with his comrades, talking of nothing but him:
troubled night-watches in which we had to change our shelter, for
Dunkirk and the aviation field were bombarded by moonlight. In this way
I was enabled to gather much scattered evidence, which will help,
perhaps, to make clear his career. But I fear--and offer my excuses for
this--to disappoint professional members of the aviation corps, who will
find neither technical details nor the competence of the specialist.
One of his comrades of the air,--and I hope it may be one of his rivals
in glory,--should give us an account of Guynemer in action. The
biography which I have attempted to write seeks the soul for its object
rather than the motor: and the soul, too, has its wings.

France consented to love herself in Guynemer, something which she is not
always willing to do. It happens sometimes that she turns away from her
own efforts and sacrifices to admire and celebrate those of others, and
that she displays her own defects and wounds in a way which exaggerates
them. She sometimes appears to be divided against herself; but this man,
young as he was, had reconciled her to herself. She smiled at his youth
and his prodigious deeds of valor. He made peace within her; and she
knew this, when she had lost him, by the outbreak of her grief. As on
the first day of the war, France found herself once more united; and
this love sprang from her recognition in Guynemer of her own impulses,
her own generous ardor, her own blood whose course has not been retarded
by many long centuries.

Since the outbreak of war there are few homes in France which have not
been in mourning. But these fathers and mothers, these wives and
children, when they read this book, will not say: "What is Guynemer to
us? Nobody speaks of _our_ dead." Their dead were, generally, infantry
soldiers whom it was impossible for them to help, whose life they only
knew by hearsay, and whose place of burial they sometimes do not know.
So many obscure soldiers have never been commemorated, who gave, like
Guynemer, their hearts and their lives, who lived through the worst days
of misery, of mud and horror, and upon whom not the least ray of glory
has ever descended! The infantry soldier is the pariah of the war, and
has a right to be sensitive. The heaviest weight of suffering caused by
war has fallen upon him. Nevertheless, he had adopted Guynemer, and this
was not the least of the conqueror's conquests. The infantryman had not
been jealous of Guynemer; he had felt his fascination, and instinctively
he divined a fraternal Guynemer. When the French official dispatches
reported the marvelous feats of the aviation corps, the infantry soldier
smiled scornfully in his mole's-hole:

"Them again! Everlastingly them! And what about US?"

But when Guynemer added another exploit to his account, the trenches
exulted, and counted over again all his feats.

He himself, from his height, looked down in the most friendly way upon
these troglodytes who followed him with their eyes. One day when
somebody reproached him with running useless risks in aërial acrobatic
turns, he replied simply:

"After certain victories it is quite impossible not to pirouette a bit,
one is so happy!"

This is the spirit of youth. "They jest and play with death as they
played in school only yesterday at recreation."[3] But Guynemer
immediately added:

"It gives so much pleasure to the poilus watching us down there."[4]

[Footnote 3: Henri Lavedan (_L'Illustration_ of October 6, 1917).]

[Footnote 4: Pierre l'Ermite (_La Croix_ of October 7, 1917).]

The sky-juggler was working for his brother the infantryman. As the
singing lark lifts the peasant's head, bent over his furrow, so the
conquering airplane, with its overturnings, its "loopings," its close
veerings, its spirals, its tail spins, its "zooms," its dives, all its
tricks of flight, amuses for a while the sad laborers in the trenches.

May my readers, when they have finished this little book, composed
according to the rules of the boy, Paul Bailly, lift their heads and
seek in the sky whither he carried, so often and so high, the tricolor
of France, an invisible and immortal Guynemer!




In his book on Chivalry, the good Léon Gautier, beginning with the
knight in his cradle and wishing to surround him immediately with a
supernatural atmosphere, interprets in his own fashion the sleeping baby
smiling at the angels. "According to a curious legend, the origin of
which has not as yet been clearly discovered," he explains, "the child
during its slumber hears 'music,' the incomparable music made by the
movement of the stars in their spheres. Yes, that which the most
illustrious scholars have only been able to suspect the existence of is
distinctly heard by these ears scarcely opened as yet, and ravishes
them. A charming fable, giving to innocence more power than to proud

[Footnote 5: _La Chevalerie_, by Léon Gautier. A. Walter ed. 1895.]

The biographer of Guynemer would like to be able to say that our new
knight also heard in his cradle the music of the stars, since he was to
be summoned to approach them. But it can be said, at least, that during
his early years he saw the shadowy train of all the heroes of French
history, from Charlemagne to Napoleon.

Georges Marie Ludovic Jules Guynemer was born in Paris one Christmas
Eve, December 24, 1894. He saw then, and always, the faces of three
women, his mother and his two elder sisters, standing guard over his
happiness. His father, an officer (Junior Class '80, Saint-Cyr), had
resigned in 1890. An ardent scholar, he became a member of the
Historical Society of Compiègne, and while examining the charters of the
_Cartulaire de royallieu_, or writing a monograph on the _Seigneurie
d'Offémont_, he verified family documents of the genealogy of his
family. Above all, it was he in reality who educated his son.

Guynemer is a very old French name. In the _Chanson de Roland_ one
Guinemer, uncle of Ganelon, helped Roland to mount at his departure. A
Guinemer appears in _Gaydon_ (the knight of the jay), which describes
the sorrowful return of Charlemagne to Aix-la-Chapelle after the drama
of Roncevaux; and a Guillemer figures in _Fier-à-Bras_, in which
Charlemagne and the twelve peers conquer Spain. This Guillemer l'Escot
is made prisoner along with Oliver, Bérart de Montdidier, Auberi de
Bourgoyne, and Geoffroy l'Angevin.

In the eleventh century the family of Guynemer left Flanders for
Brittany. When the French Revolution began, there were still Guynemers
in Brittany,[6] but the greatgrandfather of our hero, Bernard, was
living in Paris in reduced circumstances, giving lessons in law. Under
the Empire he was later to be appointed President of the Tribunal at
Mayence, the chief town in the country of Mont Tonnerre. Falling into
disfavor after 1815, he was only President of the Tribunal of Gannat.

[Footnote 6: There are still Guynemers there. M. Etienne Dupont, Judge
in the Civil Court of Saint-Malo, sent me an extract from an _aveu
collectif_ of the "Leftenancy of Tinténiac de Guinemer des Rabines." The
Guynemers, in more recent times, have left traces in the county of
Saint-Malo, where Mgr. Guynemer de la Hélandière inaugurated, in
September, 1869, the Tour Saint-Joseph, house of the Little Sisters of
the Poor in Saint-Pern.]

Here, thanks to an unusual circumstance, oral tradition takes the place
of writings, charters, and puzzling trifles. One of the four sons of
Bernard Guynemer, Auguste, lived to be ninety-three, retaining all his
faculties. Toward the end he resembled Voltaire, not only in face, but
in his irony and skepticism. He had all sorts of memories of the
Revolution, the Empire, and the Restoration, of which he told
extraordinary anecdotes. His longevity was owing to his having been
discharged from military service at the conscription. Two of his three
brothers died before maturity: one, Alphonse, infantry officer, was
killed at Vilna in 1812, and the other, Jules, naval officer, died in
1802 as the result of wounds received at Trafalgar. The last son,
Achille, whom we shall presently refer to again, was to perpetuate the
family name.

Auguste Guynemer remembered very vividly the day when he faced down
Robespierre. He was at that time eight years old, and the mistress of
his school had been arrested. He came to the school as usual and found
there were no classes. Where was his teacher? he asked. At the
Revolutionary Tribunal. Where was the Revolutionary Tribunal? Jestingly
they told him where to find it, and he went straight to the place,
entered, and asked back the captive. The audience looked at the little
boy with amazement, while the judges joked and laughed at him. But
without being discomposed, he explained the purpose of his visit. The
incident put Robespierre in good humor, and he told the child that his
teacher had not taught him anything. Immediately, as a proof of the
contrary, the youngster began to recite his lessons. Robespierre was so
delighted that, in the midst of general laughter, he lifted up the boy
and kissed him. The prisoner was restored to him, and the school

However, of the four sons of the President of Mayence, the youngest
only, Achille, was destined to preserve the family line. Born in 1792, a
volunteer soldier at the age of fifteen, his military career was
interrupted by the fall of the Empire. He died in Paris, in the rue
Rossini, in 1866. Edmond About, who had known his son at Saverne, wrote
the following biographical notice:

     A child of fifteen years enlisted as a Volunteer in 1806. Junot
     found him intelligent, made him his secretary, and took him to
     Spain. The young man won his epaulettes under Colonel Hugo in 1811.
     He was made prisoner on the capitulation of Guadalajara in 1812,
     but escaped with two of his comrades whom he saved at the peril of
     his own life. Love, or pity, led a young Spanish girl to aid in
     this heroic episode, and for several days the legend threatened to
     become a romance. But the young soldier reappeared in 1813 at the
     passage of the Bidassoa, where he was promoted lieutenant in the
     4th Hussars, and was given the Cross by the Emperor, who seldom
     awarded it. The return of the Bourbons suddenly interrupted this
     career, so well begun. The young cavalry officer then undertook the
     business of maritime insurance, earning honorably a large fortune,
     which he spent with truly military generosity, strewing his road
     with good deeds. He continued working up to the very threshold of
     death, for he resigned only a month ago, and it was yesterday,
     Thursday, that we laid him in his tomb at the age of seventy-five.

     His name was Achille Guynemer. His family is related to the Benoist
     d'Azy, the Dupré de Saint-Maur, the Cochin, de Songis, du Trémoul
     and Vasselin families, who have left memories of many exemplary
     legal careers passed in Paris. His son, who wept yesterday as a
     child weeps before the tomb of such a father, is the new
     Sub-Prefect of Saverne, the young and laborious administrator who,
     from the beginning, won our gratitude and friendship.

The story of the escape from Spain contributes another page to the
family traditions. The young Spanish girl had sent the prisoner a silken
cord concealed in a pie. A fourth companion in captivity was
unfortunately too large to pass through the vent-hole of the prison, and
was shot by the English. It was August 31, 1813, after the passage of
the Bidassoa, that Lieutenant Achille Guynemer was decorated with the
Cross of the Legion of Honor. He was then twenty-one years of age. His
greatgrandson, who resembled the portraits of Achille (especially a
drawing done in 1807), at least in the proud carriage of the head, was
to receive the Cross at an even earlier age.

There were other epic souvenirs which awakened Georges Guynemer's
curiosity in childhood. He was shown the sword and snuffbox of General
Count de Songis, brother of his paternal grandmother. This sword of
honor had been presented to the general by the Convention when he was
merely a captain of artillery, for having saved the cannon of the
fortress at Valenciennes,--though it is quite true that Dumouriez, for
the same deed, wished to have him hanged. The snuffbox was given him by
the Emperor for having commanded the passage of the Rhine during the Ulm

Achille Guynemer had two sons. The elder, Amédée, a graduate of the
École polytechnique, died at the age of thirty and left no children. The
second, Auguste, was Sub-Prefect of Saverne under the Second Empire;
and, resigning this office after the war of 1870, he became
Vice-President of the society for the protection of Alsatians and
Lorrainers, the President of which was the Count d'Haussonville. He had
married a young Scottish lady, Miss Lyon, whose family included the
Earls of Strathmore, among whose titles were those of Glamis and Cawdor
mentioned by Shakespeare in "Macbeth."

As we have already seen, only one of the four sons of the President of
Mayence--the hero of the Bidassoa--had left descendants. His son is M.
Paul Guynemer, former officer and historian of the _Cartulaire de
Royallieu_ and of the _Seigneurie d'Offémont_, whose only son was the
aviator. The race whose history is lost far back in the _Chanson de
Roland_ and the Crusades, which settled in Flanders, and then in
Brittany, but became, as soon as it left the provinces for the capital,
nomadic, changing its base at will from the garrison of the officer to
that of the official, seems to have narrowed and refined its stock and
condensed all the power of its past, all its hopes for the future, in
one last offshoot.

There are some plants, like the aloe, which bear but one flower, and
sometimes only at the end of a hundred years. They prepare their sap,
which has waited so long, and then from the heart of the plant issues a
long straight stem, like a tree whose regular branches look like forged
iron. At the top of this stem opens a marvelous flower, which is moist
and seems to drop tears upon the leaves, inviting them to share its
grief for the doom it awaits. When the flower is withered, the miracle
is never renewed.

Guynemer is the flower of an old French family. Like so many other
heroes, like so many peasants who, in this Great War, have been the
wheat of the nation, his own acts have proved his nobility. But the
fairy sent to preside at his birth laid in his cradle certain gilded
pages of the finest history in the world: Roland, the Crusades, Brittany
and Duguesclin, the Empire, and Alsace.


One of the generals best loved by the French troops, General de M----, a
learned talker and charming moralist, who always seemed in his
conversation to wander through the history of France, like a sorcerer in
a forest, weaving and multiplying his spells, once recited to me the
short prayer he had composed for grace to enable him to rear his
children in the best way:

     "Monseigneur Saint Louis, Messire Duguesclin, Messire Bayard, help
     me to make my sons brave and truthful."

So was Georges Guynemer reared, in the cult of truth, and taught that to
deceive is to lower oneself. Even in his infancy he was already as proud
as any personage. His early years were protected by the gentle and
delicate care of his mother and his two sisters, who hung adoringly over
him and were fascinated by his strange black eyes. What was to become of
a child whose gaze was difficult to endure, and whose health was so
fragile, for when only a few months old he had almost died of infantile
enteritis. His parents had been obliged to carry him hastily to
Switzerland, and then to Hyères, and to keep him in an atmosphere like
that of a hothouse. Petted and spoiled, tended by women, like Achilles
at Scyros among the daughters of Lycomedes, would he not bear all his
life the stamp of too softening an education? Too pretty and too frail,
with his curls and his dainty little frock, he had an _air de
princesse_. His father felt that a mistake was being made, and that this
excess of tenderness must be promptly ended. He took the child on his
knees; a scene as trifling as it was decisive was about to be enacted:

"I almost feel like taking you with me, where I am going."

"Where are you going, father?"

"There, where I am going, there are only men."

"I want to go with you."

The father seemed to hesitate, and then to decide:

"After all, too early is better than too late. Put on your hat. I shall
take you." He took him to the hairdresser.

"I am going to have my hair cut. How do you feel about it?"

"I want to do like men."

The child was set upon a stool where, in the white combing-cloth, with
his curly hair, he resembled an angel done by an Italian Primitive. For
an instant the father thought himself a barbarian, and the barber
hesitated, scissors in air, as before a crime. They exchanged glances;
then the father stiffened and gave the order. The beautiful curls fell.

But now it became necessary to return home; and when his mother saw him,
she wept.

"I am a man," the child announced, peremptorily.

He was indeed to be a man, but he was to remain for a long time also a
mischievous boy--nearly, in fact, until the end.

When he was six or seven years old he began to study with the teacher of
his sisters, which was convenient and agreeable, but meant the addition
of another petticoat. The fineness of his feelings, his fear of having
wounded any comrade, which were later to inspire him in so many touching
actions, were the result of this feminine education. His walks with his
father, who already gave him much attention, brought about useful
reactions. Compiègne is rich in the history of the past: kings were
crowned there, and kings died there. The Abbey of Saint Cornille
sheltered, perhaps, the holy winding-sheet of Christ. Treaties were
signed at Compiègne, and there magnificent fêtes were given by Louis
XIV, Louis XV, Napoleon I, and Napoleon III. And even in 1901 the child
met Czar Nicholas and Czarina Alexandra, who were staying there. So, the
palace and the forest spoke to him of a past which his father could
explain. And on the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville he was much interested in
the bronze statue of the young girl, bearing a banner.

"Who is it?"

"Jeanne d'Arc."

Georges Guynemer's parents renounced the woman teacher, and in order to
keep him near them, entered him as a day scholar at the lyceum of
Compiègne. Here the child worked very little. M. Paul Guynemer, having
been educated at Stanislas College, in Paris, wished his son also to go
there. Georges was then twelve years old.

"In a photograph of the pupils of the Fifth (green) Class," wrote a
journalist in the _Journal des Débats_, who had had the curiosity to
investigate Georges' college days, "may be seen a restless-looking
little boy, thinner and paler than the others, whose round black eyes
seem to shine with a somber brilliance. These eyes, which, eight or ten
years later, were to hunt and pursue so many enemy airplanes, are
passionately self-willed. The same temperament is evident in a snapshot
of this same period, in which Georges is seen playing at war. The
college registers of this year tell us that he had a clear, active,
well-balanced mind, but that he was thoughtless, mischief-making,
disorderly, careless; that he did not work, and was undisciplined,
though without any malice; that he was very proud, and 'ambitious to
attain first rank': a valuable guide in understanding the character of
one who became 'the ace of aces.' In fact, at the end of the year young
Guynemer received the first prize for Latin translation, the first prize
for arithmetic, and four honorable mentions."

The author of the _Débats_ article, who is a scholar, recalls Michelet's
_mot_: "The Frenchman is that naughty child characterized by the good
mother of Duguesclin as 'the one who is always fighting the others....'"
But the best portrait of Guynemer as a child I find in the unpublished
notes of Abbé Chesnais, who was division prefect at Stanislas College
during the four years which Guynemer passed there. The Abbé Chesnais had
divined this impassioned nature, and watched it with troubled sympathy.

"His eyes vividly expressed the headstrong, fighting nature of the boy,"
he says of his pupil. "He did not care for quiet games, but was devoted
to those requiring skill, agility, and force. He had a decided
preference for a game highly popular among the younger classes--_la
petite guerre_. The class was divided into two armies, each commanded by
a general chosen by the pupils themselves, and having officers of all
ranks under his orders. Each soldier wore on his left arm a movable
brassard. The object of the battle was the capture of the flag, which
was set up on a wall, a tree, a column, or any place dominating the
courtyard. The soldier from whom his brassard was taken was considered

"Guynemer, who was somewhat weak and sickly, always remained a private
soldier. His comrades, appreciating the value of having a general with
sufficient muscular strength to maintain his authority, never dreamed of
placing him at their head. The muscle, which he lacked, was a necessity.
But when a choice of soldiers had to be made, he was always counted
among the best, and his name called among the first. Although he had not
much strength, he had agility, cleverness, a quick eye, caution, and a
talent for strategy. He played his game himself, not liking to receive
any suggestions from his chiefs, intending to follow his own ideas. The
battle once begun, he invariably attacked the strongest enemy and
pursued those comrades who occupied the highest rank. With the marvelous
suppleness of a cat, he climbed trees, flung himself to the ground,
crept along barriers, slipped between the legs of his adversaries, and
bounded triumphantly off with a number of brassards. It was a great joy
to him to bring the trophies of his struggles to his general. With
radiant face, and with his two hands resting on his legs, he looked
mockingly at his adversaries who had been surprised by his cleverness.
His superiority over his comrades was especially apparent in the battles
they fought in the woods of Bellevue.[7] There the field was larger, and
there was a greater variety of chances for surprising the enemy. He hid
himself under the dead leaves, lay close to the branches of trees, and
crept along brooks and ravines. It was often he who was selected to find
a place of vantage for the flag. But he was never willing to act as its
guardian, for he feared nothing so much as inactivity, preferring to
chase his comrades through the woods. The short journey to the Bellevue
woods was passed in the elaboration of various plans, and arguing about
those of his friends; he always wanted to have the last word. The return
journey was enlivened by biting criticism, which often ended in a

[Footnote 7: The country house of Stanislas College is at Bellevue.
[Translator's note.]]

[Footnote 8: Unpublished notes by Abbé Chesnais.]

This is an astonishing portrait, in which nearly all the characteristics
of the future Guynemer, Guynemer the fighter, are apparent. He does not
care to command, he likes too well to give battle, and is already the
knight of single combats. His method is personal, and he means to
follow his own ideas. He attacks the strongest; neither size nor number
stops him. His suppleness and skill are unequaled. He lacks the muscle
for a good gymnast, and at the parallel bars, or the fixed bar, he is
the despair of his instructors. How will he supply this deficiency?
Simply by the power of his will. All physical games do not require
physical strength, and he became an excellent shot and fencer. Furious
at his own weakness, he outdid the strong, and, like Diomede and Ajax,
brought back his trophies laughing. A college courtyard was not
sufficient for him: he needed the Bellevue woods, while he waited to
have all space, all the sky, at his disposal. So the warlike infancy of
a Guynemer is like that of a Roland, a Duguesclin, a Bayard,--all are
ardent hearts with indomitable energy, upright souls developing early,
whose passion it was only necessary to control.

The youth of Guynemer was like his childhood. As a student of higher
mathematics his combative tendencies were not at all changed. "At
recreation he was very fond of roller-skating, which in his case gave
rise to many disputes and much pugilism. Having no respect for boys who
would not play, he would skate into the midst of their group, pushing
them about, seizing their arms and forcing them to waltz round and round
with him like weather-cocks. Then he would be off at his highest speed,
pursued by his victims. Blows were exchanged, which did not prevent him
from repeating the same thing a few seconds later. At the end of
recreation, with his hair disordered, his clothes covered with dust,
his face and hands muddy, Guynemer was exhausted. But the strongest of
his comrades could not frighten him; on the contrary, he attacked these
by preference. The masters were often obliged to intervene and separate
the combatants. Guynemer would then straighten up like a cock, his eyes
sparkling and obtruding, and, unable to do more, would crush his
adversary with piquant and sometimes cutting words uttered in a dry,
railing voice."[9]

[Footnote 9: Unpublished notes by Abbé Chesnais.]

Talking, however, was not his forte, and his nervousness made him
sputter. His speech was vibrant, trenchant, like hammerstrokes, and he
said things to which there was no answer. He had a horror of discussion:
he was already all action.

This violence and frenzied action would have driven him to the most
unreasonable and dangerous audacity if they had not been counterbalanced
by his sense of honor. "He was one of those," wrote a comrade of
Guynemer's, M. Jean Constantin, now lieutenant of artillery, "for whom
honor is sacred, and must not be disregarded under any pretext; and in
his life, in his relations with his comrades, his candor and loyalty
were only equaled by his goodness. Often, in the midst of our games,
some dispute arose. Where are the friends who have never had a dispute?
Sometimes we were both so obstinate that we fought, but after that he
was willing to renounce the privilege of the last word. He never could
have endured bringing trouble upon his fellow-students. He never
hesitated to admit a fault; and, what is much better, once when one of
his comrades, who was a good student, had inadvertently made a foolish
mistake which might have lowered his marks, I saw Georges accuse himself
and take the punishment in his place. His comrade never knew anything
about it, for Georges did that sort of thing almost clandestinely, and
with the simplicity and modesty which were always the great charm of his

This sense of honor he had drawn in with his mother's milk; and his
father had developed it in him. Everything about him indicated pride:
the upright carriage of his head, the glance of his black eyes which
seemed to pierce the objects he looked at. He loved the Stanislas
uniform which his father had worn before him, and which had been worn by
Gouraud and Baratier, whose fame was then increasing, and Rostand, then
in all the new glory of _Cyrano_ and _L'Aiglon_. He had an exact
appreciation of his own dignity. Though he listened attentively in
class, he would never ask for information or advice from his classmates.
He hated to be trifled with, and made it understood that he intended to
be respected. Never in all his life did he have a low thought. If he
ever varied from the nobleness which was natural to him, silence was
sometimes sufficient to bring him to himself.

With a mobile face, full of contrasts, he was sometimes the roguish boy
who made the whole class shake with laughter, and involved it in a
whirlwind of games and tricks, and at others the serious, thoughtful
pupil, who was considered to be self-absorbed, distant, and not inclined
to reveal himself to anybody. The fierce soldier of the _petite guerre_
was also a formidable adversary at checkers. Here, however, he became
patient, only moving his pieces after long reflection. None of the
students could beat him, and no one could take him by surprise. If he
was beaten by a professor, he never rested until he had had his revenge.
His power of will was far beyond his years, but it needed to be relaxed.
To study and win to the head of his class was nothing for his lively
intelligence, but his health was always delicate. He would appear
wrapped in cloaks, comforters, waterproof coats, and then vanish into
the infirmary. This boy who did not fear blows, bruises, or falls, was
compelled to avoid draughts and to diet. Nobody ever heard him complain,
nor was any one ever to do so. Often he had to give up work for whole
months at a time; and in his baccalaureate year he was stopped by a
return of the infantile enteritis. "Three months of rest," the doctor
ordered at Christmas. "You will do your rhetoric over again next year,"
said his father, who came to take him home. "Not at all," said the boy;
"the boys shall not get ahead of me"--a childish boast which passed
unnoticed. At the end of three months of rest and pleasant walks around
Compiègne, the child remarked: "The three months are up, and I mean to
present myself in July." "You haven't time; it is impossible." He
insisted. So they discovered, at Compiègne, the Pierre d'Ailly school,
in a building which since then has been ruined by a shell. It was his
idea to attend these classes as a day scholar, just for the pleasure of
it. He promised to continue to take care of himself at home. And in the
month of July, at the age of fifteen, he took his bachelor degree, with

But the bow cannot long remain bent, and hence certain diversions of
his, ending sometimes in storms, but not caused by any ill-will on his
part, for it was repugnant to him to give others pain. The following
autumn he returned to Stanislas College, and resumed his school

"Vexed to find that a place had been reserved for him near the
professor, under the certainly justified pretext that he was too much
inclined to talk," again writes Abbé Chesnais, "he was resolved to talk
all the same, whenever he pleased. With the aid of pins, pens, wires and
boxes, he soon set up a telephone which put him into communication with
the boy whose desk was farthest away. He possessed tools necessary for
any of his tricks, and his desk was a veritable bazaar: copybooks,
books, pen-holders and paper were mixed pell-mell with the most unlikely
objects, such as fragments of fencing foils, drugs, chemical products,
oil, grease, bolts, skate wheels, and tablets of chocolate. In one
corner, carefully concealed, were some glass tubes which awaited a
favorable moment for projecting against the ceiling a ball of chewed
paper. Attached to this ball, a paper personage cut out of a copybook
cover danced feverishly in space. When this grotesque figurine became
quiet, another paper ball, shot with great skill, renewed the dancing
to the great satisfaction of the young marksman. Airplanes made of paper
were also hidden in this desk, awaiting the propitious hour for
launching them; and the professor's desk sometimes served as their
landing place.... Everything, indeed, was to be found there, but in such
disorder that the owner himself could never find them. Who has not seen
him hunting for a missing exercise in a copybook full of scraps of
paper? It is time to go to class; with his head hidden in his desk, he
turns over all its contents in great haste, upsetting a badly closed
ink-bottle over his books and copybooks. The master calls him to order,
and he rushes out well behind all the rest of the boys.

"He was not one of those ill-intentioned boys whose sole idea is to
disturb the class and hinder the work of his comrades. Nor was he a
ringleader. He acted entirely on his own account, and for his own
satisfaction. His practical jokes never lasted long, and did not
interrupt the work of others. His upright, frank and honest nature
always led him to acknowledge his own acts when the master attributed
them by mistake to the wrong boys. He never allowed any comrade to take
his punishment for him, but he knew very well how to extricate himself
from the greatest difficulties. His candor often won him some
indulgence. If he happened to be punished by a timorous master, he
assumed a terrible facial expression and tried to frighten him. But
when, on the contrary, he found himself in the presence of a man of
energy, he pleaded extenuating circumstances, and persevered until he
obtained the least possible punishment. He never resented the infliction
of just punishment, but suffered very much when punished in public. On
the day when the class marks were read aloud, if he suspected that his
own were to be bad, he took refuge in the infirmary to avoid the shame
of public exposure. Honor, for him, was not a vain word.

"He was very sensitive to reproaches. He was an admirer of courage,
audacity, anything generous. Who at Stanislas does not remember his
proud and haughty attitude when a master vexed him in presence of his
classmates, or interfered to end a quarrel in which his own self-respect
was at stake? All his nerves were stretched; his body stiffened, and he
stood as straight as a steel rod, his arms pressed against his legs, his
fists tightly closed, his head held high and rigid, and his face as
yellow as ivory, with its smooth forehead, and his compressed lips
cutting two deep lines around his mouth; his eyes, fixed like two black
balls, seemed to start from the sockets, shooting fire. He looked as if
he were about to destroy his adversary with lightning, but in reality he
retained the most imperturbable sang-froid. He stood like a marble
statue, but it was easy to divine the storm raging within...."[10]

[Footnote 10: Unpublished notes by Abbé Chesnais.]

His tendency, after taking his bachelor's degree, was towards science;
he was ambitious to enter the École polytechnique, and joined the
special mathematics class. Even when very young he had shown particular
aptitude for mechanics, and a gift for invention which we have seen
exercised in his practical jokes as a student. When he was only four or
five years old he constructed a bed out of paper, which he raised by
means of cords and pulleys.

"He passed whole hours," says his Stanislas classmate, Lieutenant
Constantin, "in trying to solve a mathematical problem, or studying some
question which had interested him, without knowing what went on around
him; but as soon as he had solved his problem, or learned something new,
he was satisfied and returned to the present. He was particularly
interested in everything connected with the sciences. His greatest
pleasure was to make experiments in physics or chemistry: he tried
everything which his imagination suggested. Once he happened to produce
a detonating mixture which made a formidable explosion, but nothing was
broken except a few windows."

His choice of reading revealed the same tendency. He was not fond of
reading, and only liked books of adventure which were food for his
warlike sentiments and his ideas of honor and honesty. He preferred the
works of Major Driant, and re-read them even during his mathematical
year. Returning from a walk one Thursday evening, he knocked on the
prefect's door to ask for a book. He wanted _La Guerre fatale_, _La
Guerre de Demain_, _L'Aviateur du Pacifique_, etc. "But you have already
read them." "That does not matter." Did he really re-read them? His
dreams were always the same, and his eyes looked into the future.

Somebody, however, was to exert over this impressionable, mobile, almost
too ardent nature, an influence which was to determine its direction.
His father had advised him to choose his friends with care, and not
yield himself to the first comer. He was not only incapable of doing
that, but equally incapable of yielding himself to anybody. Do we really
choose our friends in early life? We only know our friends by finding
them in our lives when we need them. They are there, but we have not
sought them. A similarity of taste, of sensibility, of ambitions draw us
to them, and they have been our friends a long time already before we
perceive that they are not merely comrades. Thus Jean Krebs became the
constant companion of Georges Guynemer. The father of Jean Krebs is that
Colonel Krebs whose name is connected with the first progress made in
aërostation and aviation. He was then director of the Panhard factories,
and his two sons were students at Stanislas. Jean, the elder, was
Guynemer's classmate. He was a silent, self-centered, thoughtful
student, calm in speech and facial expression, never speaking one word
louder than another, and the farthest possible removed from anything
noisy or agitated. Georges broke in upon his solitude and attached
himself to him, while Krebs endured, smiled, and accepted, and they
became allies. It was Krebs, for the time, who was the authority, the
one who had prestige and wore the halo. Why, he knew what an automobile
was, and one Sunday he took his friend Georges to Ivry and taught him
how to drive. He taught him every technical thing he knew. Georges
launched with all his energy into this new career, and soon became
acquainted with every motor in existence. During the school promenades,
if the column of pupils walked up or down the Champs Elysées, he told
them the names of passing automobiles: "That's a Lorraine. There is a
Panhard. This one has so many horsepower," etc. Woe to any who ventured
to contradict him. He looked the insolent one up and down, and crushed
him with a word.

He was overjoyed when the college organized Thursday afternoon visits to
factories. He chose his companions in advance, sometimes compelling them
to give up a game of tennis. Krebs was one of them. For Georges the
visits to the Puteaux and Dion-Bouton factories were a feast of which he
was often to speak later. He went, not as a sightseer, but as a
connoisseur. He could not bring himself to remain with the engineer who
showed the party through the works. He required more liberty, more time
to investigate everything for himself, to see and touch everything. The
smallest detail interested him; he questioned the workmen, asking them
the use of some screw, and a thousand other things. The visit was too
soon over for him; and when his comrades had already left, and the
division prefect was calling the roll to make sure of all his boys,
Guynemer as usual was missing, and was discovered standing in ecstasy
before a machine which some workmen were engaged in setting up.

"The opening weeks of the automobile and aviation exhibition were a
period of comparative tranquillity for his masters, as Guynemer was no
longer the same restless, nervous, mischievous boy, being too anxious to
retain his privileges for the promenades. He was always one of those who
haunted the prefect when the hour for departure drew near. He was
impatient to know where they were to go: 'Where are we going?... Shall
you take us to the Grand Palais? (The Automobile and Aviation
Exhibition).... Wouldn't you be a brick!...' When they arrived, he was
not one of those many curious people who circulate aimlessly around the
stands with their hands in their pockets, without reaping anything but
fatigue, like a cyclist on a circular track. His plans were all made in
advance, and he knew where the stand was which he meant to visit. He
went directly there, where his ardor and his free and easy behavior drew
upon him the admonitions of the proprietor. But nothing stopped him, and
he continued to touch everything, furnishing explanations to his
companions. When he returned to the college his pockets bulged with
prospectuses, catalogues, and selected brochures, which he carefully
added to the heterogeneous contents of his desk."[11]

[Footnote 11: Unpublished notes by Abbé Chesnais.]

Jean Krebs crystallized Georges Guynemer's vocation. He developed and
specialized his taste for mechanics, separating it from vague
abstractions and guiding it towards material realities and the wider
experiences these procure. He deserves to be mentioned in any biography
of Guynemer, and before passing on, it is proper that his premature loss
should be cited and deplored. Highly esteemed as an aviator during the
war, he made the best use of his substantial and reliable faculties in
the work of observation. Airplane chasing did not attract him, but he
knew how to use his eyes. He was killed in a landing accident at a time
almost coincident with the disappearance of Guynemer. One of his
escadrille mates described him thus: "With remarkable intelligence, and
a perfectly even disposition, his chiefs valued him for his sang-froid,
his quick eye, his exact knowledge of the services he was able to
perform. Every time a mission was intrusted to him, everybody was sure
that he would accomplish it, no matter what conditions he had to meet.
He often had to face enemy airplanes better armed than his own, and in
the course of a flight had been wounded in the thigh by an exploding
shell. Nevertheless he had continued to fly, only returning considerably
later when his task was done. His death has left a great void in this
escadrille. Men like him are difficult to replace...."

Thus the immoderate Guynemer had for his first friend a comrade who knew
exactly his own limits. Guynemer could save Jean Krebs from his excess
of literal honesty by showing him the enchantment of his own ecstasies,
but Jean Krebs furnished the motor for Guynemer's ambitious young wings.
Without the technical lessons of Jean Krebs, could Guynemer later have
got into the aviation field at Pau, and won so easily his diploma as
pilot? Would he have applied himself so closely to the study of his
tools and the perfecting of his machine?

The war was to make them both aviators, and both of them fell from the
sky, one in the fullness of glory, the other almost obscure. When they
talked together on school outings, or as they walked along beside the
walls of Stanislas, had they ever foreseen this destiny? Certainly not
Jean Krebs, with his positive spirit; he only saw ahead the École
polytechnique, and thought of nothing but preparation for that. But
Guynemer? In his very precious notes, Abbé Chesnais shows us the boy
constructing a little airplane of cloth, the motor of which was a bundle
of elastics. "At the next recreation hour, he went up to the dormitory,
opened a window, launched his machine, and presided over its evolutions
above the heads of his comrades." But these were only the games of an
ingenious collegian. The worthy priest, who was division prefect, and
watched the boy with a profound knowledge of psychology, never received
any confidence from him regarding his vocation.

Aviation, whose first timid essays began in 1906, progressed rapidly.
After Santos Dumont, who on November 22, 1906, covered 220 meters while
volplaning, a group of inventors--Blériot, Delagrange, Farman,
Wright--perfected light motors. In 1909 Blériot crossed the Channel,
Paulhan won the height record at 1380 meters, and Farman the distance
record over a course of 232 kilometers. A visionary, Viscomte Melchior
de Vogué, had already foreseen the prodigious development of air-travel.
All the young people of the time longed to fly. Guynemer, studying the
new invention with his customary energy, could hardly do otherwise than
share the general infatuation. His comrades, like himself, dreamed of
parts of airplanes and their construction. But the idea of Lieutenant
Constantin is different: "When an airplane flew over the quarter,
Guynemer followed it with his eyes, and continued to gaze at the sky for
some time after its disappearance. His desk contained a whole collection
of volumes and photographs concerning aviation. He had resolved to go up
some day in an airplane, and as he was excessively self-willed he tried
to bring this about by every means in his power. 'Don't you know anybody
who could take me up some Sunday?' Of whom has he not asked this
question? But at college it was not at all easy, and it was during
vacation that he succeeded in carrying out his project. If I am not
mistaken, his first ascension was at the aërodrome of Compiègne. At that
time the comfortable cockpits of the modern airplanes were unknown, and
the passenger was obliged to place himself as best he could behind the
pilot and cling to him by putting his arms around him in order not to
fall, so that it was a relief to come down again!..."

The noticeable sentence in these notes is the first one: _When an
airplane flew over the quarter, he followed it with his eyes, and
continued to gaze at the sky for some time after its disappearance._ If
Jean Krebs had survived, he could perhaps enlighten us still further;
but, even to this reasonable friend, could Guynemer have revealed what
was still confused to himself? Jean Constantin only saw him once in a
reverie; and Guynemer must have kept silent about his resolutions.

Soon afterwards, as Guynemer was obliged once more to renounce his
studies--and this was the year in which he was preparing for the
Polytechnique--his father left him with his grandmother in Paris, to
rest. During this time he went to lectures on the social sciences,
finally completing his education, which was strictly French, not one day
having been passed with any foreign teacher. After this he traveled with
his mother and sisters, leading the life of the well-to-do young man who
has plenty of time in which to plan his future. Was he thinking of his
future at all? The question occurred to his father who, worried at the
thought of his son's idleness, recalled him and interrogated him as to
his ideas of a future career, fully expecting to receive one of those
undecided answers so often given by young men under similar
circumstances. But Georges replied, as if it were the most natural thing
in the world, and no other could ever have been considered:


This reply was surprising. What could have led him to a determination
apparently so sudden?

"That is not a career," he was told. "Aviation is still only a sport.
You travel in the air as a motorist rides on the highways. And after
passing a few years devoted to pleasure, you hire yourself to some
constructor. No, a thousand times no!"

Then he said to his father what he had never said to anybody, and what
his comrade Constantin had merely suspected:

"That is my sole passion. One morning in the courtyard at Stanislas I
saw an airplane flying. I don't know what happened to me: I felt an
emotion so profound that it was almost religious. You must believe me
when I ask your permission to be an aviator."

"You don't know what an airplane is. You never saw one except from

"You are mistaken; I went up in one at Corbeaulieu."

Corbeaulieu was an aërodrome near Compiègne; and these words were spoken
a very few months before the war.

       *       *       *       *       *

Many years before Georges Guynemer was a student at Stanislas, a
professor, who was also destined to become famous, taught rhetoric
there. His name was Frédéric Ozanam. He too had been a precocious child,
prematurely sure of his vocation for literature. When only fifteen he
had composed in Latin verse an epitaph in honor of Gaston de Foix, dead
at Ravenna. This epitaph, if two words are changed--_Hispanae_ into
_hostilis_, and _Gaston_ into _Georges_--describes perfectly the short
and admirable career of Guynemer. Even the palms are included:

     Fortunate heros! moriendo in saecula vives.
     Eia, agite, o socii, manibus profundite flores,
     Lilia per tumulum, violamque rosamque recentem
     Spargite; victricis armis superaddite lauros,
     Et tumulo tales mucrone inscribite voces:
     Hic jacet hostilis gentis timor et decus omne
         Gallorum, Georgius, conditus ante diem:
     Credidit hunc Lachesis juvenem dum cerneret annos,
         Sed palmas numerans credidit esse senem.[12]

It is a paraphrase of the reply of the gods to the young Pallas, in

[Footnote 12:
Fortunate hero! thou diest, but thou shalt live forever!
Come, my companions! strew flowers
And lilies over the tomb! violets and young roses
Scatter; heap up laurels upon his arms,
And on the stone write with the point of your sword:
Here lieth one who was the terror of the enemy, and the glory
Of the French, George, taken before his time.
Lachesis from his face thought him a boy,
But counting his victories she thought him full of years.]

This young Frédéric Ozanam died in the full vigor of manhood before
having attained his fortieth year, of a malady which had already
foretold his death. At that time he seemed to have achieved perfect
happiness; it was the supreme moment when everything succeeds, when the
difficult years are almost forgotten, and the road mounts easily upward.
He had in his wife a perfect companion, and his daughter was a lovable
young girl. His reputation was growing; he was soon to be received by
the Academy, and fortune and fame were already achieved. And then death
called him. Truly the hour was badly chosen--but when is it chosen at
the will of mortals? Ozanam tried to win pity from death. In his private
journal he notes death's approach, concerning which he was never
deceived; and he asks Heaven for a respite. To propitiate it, he offers
a part of his life, the most brilliant part; he is willing to renounce
honors, fame, and fortune, and will consent to live humbly and be
forgotten, like the poor for whom he founded the _Conférences de
Saint-Vincent de Paul_, and whom he so often visited in their wretched
lodgings; but let him at least dwell a little longer in his home, that
he may see his daughter grow up, and pass a few years more with the
companion of his choice. Finally, he is impassioned by his Faith, he no
longer reasons with Heaven, but says: "Take all according to Thy wish,
take all, take myself. Thy will be done...."

Rarely has the drama of acceptance of the Divine Will been more freely
developed. Now, in the drama which was to impassion Guynemer even to
complete sacrifice, it is not the vocation of aviator that we should
remark, but the absolute will to serve. Abbé Chesnais, who does not
attach primary importance to the vocation, has understood this well. At
the end of his notes he reminds us that Guynemer was a believer who
accomplished his religious exercises regularly, without ostentation and
without weakness. "How many times he has stopped me at night," he
writes, "as I passed near his bed! He wanted a quiet conscience, without
reproach. His usual frivolity left him at the door of the chapel. He
believed in the presence of God in this holy place and respected it....
His Christian sentiments were to be a sustaining power in his aërial
battles, and he would fight with the more ardor if his conscience were
at peace with his God...."

These words of Abbé Chesnais explain the true vocation of Guynemer: "The
chances of war brought out marvelously the qualities contained in such a
frail body. In the beginning did he think of becoming a pilot? Perhaps.
But what he wanted above everything was to fulfil his duty as a
Frenchman. He wanted to be a soldier; he was ashamed of himself, he
said, in the first days of September, 1914: 'If I have to sleep in the
bottom of an automobile truck, I want to go to the front. I will go.'"

He was to go; but neither love of aviation nor love of fame had anything
to do with his departure, as they were to have nothing to do with his
final fate.


In the month of July, 1914, Georges Guynemer was with his family at the
Villa Delphine, Biarritz, in the northern part of the Anglet beach. This
beach is blond with sunshine, but is refreshed by the ocean breezes. One
can be deliciously idle there. This beach is besides an excellent
landing-place for airplanes, because of the welcome of its soft sand.
Georges Guynemer never left the Anglet beach, and every time an airplane
descended he was there to receive it. He was the aviation sentry. But at
this period airplanes were rare. Guynemer had his own thoughts, and
tenacity was one of his dominant traits; he was already one of those who
never renounce. The bathers who passed this everlasting idler never
suspected that he was obstinately developing one single plan, and
hanging his whole future upon it.

Meanwhile the horizon of Europe darkened. Ever since the assassination
of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, at Sarajevo, electricity had
accumulated in the air, and the storm was ready to burst. To this young
man, the Archduke and the European horizon were things of nothing. The
sea-air was healthful, and he searched the heavens for invisible
airplanes. The conversations in progress all around him were full of
anxiety; he had no time to listen to them. The eyes of the women began
to be full of pain; he did not notice the eyes of women. On the second
of August the order for mobilization was posted. It was war!

Then Guynemer rid himself of his dream, as if it were something unreal,
and broke off brusquely all his plans for the future. He was entirely
possessed by another idea, which made his eyes snap fire, and wrinkled
his forehead. He rushed to his father and without taking breath

"I am going to enlist."

"You are lucky."

"Well, then, you authorize me...."

"I envy you."

He had feared to be met with some parental objection on account of the
uncertain health which had so often thwarted him, and had postponed his
preparation for the École Polytechnique. Now he felt reassured. Next day
he was at Bayonne, getting through all the necessary formalities. He was
medically examined--and postponed. The doctors found him too tall, too
thin--no physiological defect, but a child's body in need of being
developed and strengthened. In vain he supplicated them; they were
pitiless. He returned home grieved, humiliated, and furious. The Villa
Delphine was to know some very uncomfortable days. His family understood
his determination and began to have fears for him. And he returned to
the charge, and attacked his father with insistence, as if his father
were all-powerful and could, if he would, compel them to accept his
son's services for _la Patrie_.

"If you would help me, I should not be put off."

"But how?"

"A former officer has connections in the army. You could speak for me."

"Very well, I will."

M. Guynemer, in his turn, went to Bayonne. From that date, indeed from
the first day of war, he had promised himself never to set obstacles in
the way of his son's military service, but to favor it upon all
occasions. He kept his word, as we shall see later, at whatever cost to
himself. The recruiting major listened to his request. It was the hour
of quick enthusiasms, and he had already sustained many assaults and
resisted many importunities.

"Monsieur," he now said, "you may well believe that I accept all who can
serve. I speak to you as a former officer: does your conscience assure
you that your son is fit to carry a knapsack and be a foot-soldier?"

"I could not say that he is."

"Would he make a cavalryman?"

"He can't ride on account of his former enteritis."

"Then you see how it is; it's proper to postpone him. Build him up, and
later on he'll be taken. The war is not finished."

As Georges had been present at this interview, he now saw himself
refused a second time. He returned with his father to Biarritz, pale,
silent, unhappy, and altogether in such a state of anger and bitterness
that his face was altered. Nothing consoled him, nothing amused him. On
those magnificent August days the sea was a waste of sunshine, and the
beach was an invitation to enjoy the soft summer hours; but he did not
go to the beach, and he scorned the sea. His anxious parents wondered
if, for the sake of his health, it would not be easier to see him
depart. As for them, it was their fate to suffer in every way.

Ever since the mobilization, Georges Guynemer had had only one thought:
to serve--to serve, no matter where, no matter how, no matter in what
branch of the service, but to leave, to go to the front, and not stay
there at Biarritz like those foreigners who had not left, or like those
useless old men and children who were now all that remained of the male

Many trains had carried off the first recruits, trains decorated with
flowers and filled with songs. The sons of France had come running from
her farthest provinces, and a unanimous impulse precipitated them upon
the assaulted frontier. But this impulse was perfectly controlled. The
songs the men sang were serious and almost sacred. The nation was living
through one of her greatest hours, and knew it. With one motion she
regained her national unity, and renewed once more her youth.

Meanwhile the news that sifted in, little by little, caused intense
anguish--anguish, not doubt. The government had left Paris to establish
itself at Bordeaux. The capital was menaced. The enemy had entered
Compiègne. Compiègne was no longer ours. The Joan of Arc on the _place_
of the Hôtel de Ville had _pickelhauben_ on her men-at-arms. And then
the victory of the Marne lifted the weight that oppressed every heart.
At the Villa Delphine news came that Compiègne was saved. Meanwhile
trains left carrying troops to reinforce the combatants. And Georges
Guynemer had to live through all these departures, suffering and
rebelling until he had a horror of himself. His comrades and friends
were gone, or had asked permission to go. His two first cousins, his
mother's nephews, Guy and René de Saint Quentin, had gone; one, a
sergeant, was killed at the Battle of the Marne, the other, councilor to
the Embassy at Constantinople, returning in haste when war was declared,
had taken his place as lieutenant of reserves, and had been twice
wounded at the Marne, by a ball in the shoulder and a shrapnel bullet in
the thigh. Was it possible for him to stay there alone when the whole
of France had risen?

In the _Chanson d'Aspremont_, which is one of our most captivating
_chansons de geste_, Charlemagne is leaving for Italy with his army, and
passes by Laon. In the donjon five children, one of whom is his nephew
Roland, are imprisoned under the care of Turpin. The Emperor, who knows
them well, has had them locked up for fear they would join his troops.
But when they hear the ivory horns sounding and the horses neighing,
they are determined to escape. They try to cajole the porter, but he is
adamant and incorruptible. This faithful servitor is immediately well
beaten. They take away his keys, pass over his body, and are soon out of
the prison. But their adventures are only beginning. To procure
themselves horses they attack and unhorse five Bretons, and to get arms
they repeat the same process. They are so successful that they manage to
join the Emperor's army before it has crossed the Alps. Will our new
Roland allow himself to be outdistanced by these terrible children of
former ages? It is not the army with its ivory horns that he has heard
departing, but the whole marching nation, fighting to live and endure,
and to enable honor and justice and right to live and endure with her.

So we find Guynemer once more on the Anglet beach, sad and discomfited.
An airplane capsizes on the sand. What does he care about an
airplane--don't they know that his old passion and dream are dead? Since
August 2 he has not given them a thought. However, he begins a
conversation with the pilot, who is a sergeant. And all at once a new
idea takes possession of him; the old passion revives again under
another form; the dream rises once more.

"How can one enlist in the aviation corps?"

"Arrange it with the captain; go to Pau."

Georges runs at once to the Villa Delphine. His parents no longer
recognize the step and the face of the preceding days; he looks like
their son again; he is saved.

"Father, I want to go to Pau to-morrow."

"Why this trip to Pau?"

"To enlist in the aviation corps. Before the war you wouldn't hear of my
being an aviator, but in war aviation is no longer a sport."

"In war--yes, it is certainly quite another thing."

Next day he reached Pau, where Captain Bernard-Thierry was in command of
the aviation camp. He forced his way through Captain Bernard-Thierry's
door, over the expostulations of the sentries. He explained his case and
pleaded his cause with such fire in his eyes that the officer was dazed
and fascinated. From the tones of the captain's voice, when he referred
to the two successive rejections, Guynemer knew he had made an
impression. As he had done at Stanislas when he wanted to soften some
punishment inflicted by his master, so now he brought every argument to
bear, one after another; but with how much more ardor he made this plea,
for his future was at stake! He bewitched his hearer. And then suddenly
he became a child again, imploring and ready to cry.

"Captain, help me--employ me--employ me at anything, no matter what. Let
me clean those airplanes over there. You are my last resource. It must
be through you that I can do something at last in the war."

The captain reflected gravely. He felt the power hidden in this fragile
body. He could not rebuff a suppliant like this one.

"I can take you as student mechanician."

"That's it, that's it; I understand automobiles."

Guynemer exulted, as Jean Krebs' technical lessons flashed already into
his mind; they would be of great help in his work. The officer gave him
a letter to the recruiting officer at Bayonne, and he went back there
for the third time. This time his name was entered, he was taken, and he
signed a voluntary engagement. This was on November 21, 1914. There was
no need for him to explain to the family what had occurred when he
returned to the Villa Delphine: he was beaming.

"You are going?" said his mother and sisters.


Next day he made his _début_ at the aviation camp at Pau as student
mechanician. He had entered the army by the back door, but he had got
in. The future knight of the air was now the humblest of grooms. "I do
not ask any favors for him," his father wrote to the captain. "All I ask
is that he may perform any services he is capable of." He had to be
tried and proved deserving, to pass through all the minor ranks before
being worthy to wear the _casque sacré_. The petted child of Compiègne
and the Villa Delphine had the most severe of apprenticeships. He slept
on the floor, and was employed in the dirtiest work about camp, cleaned
cylinders and carried cans of petroleum. In this _milieu_ he heard words
and theories which dumbfounded him, not knowing then that men frequently
do not mean all that they say. On November 26, he wrote Abbé Chesnais:
"I have the pleasure of informing you that after two postponements
during a vain effort to enlist, I have at last succeeded. _Time and
patience_ ... I am writing you in the mess, while two comrades are
elaborating social theories...."

Would he be able to endure this workman's existence? His parents were
not without anxiety. They hesitated to leave Biarritz and return to
their home in Compiègne in the rue Saint-Lazare, on the edge of the
forest. But, so far from being injured by manual labor, the child
constantly grew stronger. In his case spirit had always triumphed over
matter, and compelled it to obedience on every occasion. So now he
followed his own object with indomitable energy. He took an airplane to
pieces before mounting in it, and learned to know it in every detail.

His preparation for the École Polytechnique assured him a brilliant
superiority in his present surroundings. He could explain the laws of
mechanics, and tell his wonderstruck comrades what is meant by the
resultant of several forces and the equilibrium of forces, giving them
unexpected notions about kinematics and dynamics.[13] From the
laboratory or industrial experiments then being made, he acquired, on
his part, a knowledge of the resisting power of the materials used in
aviation: wood, steel, steel wires, aluminum and its composites, copper,
copper alloys and tissues. He saw things made--those famous wings that
were one day to carry him up into the blue--with their longitudinal
spars of ash or hickory, their ribs of light wood, their interior
bracing of piano wire, their other bracing wires, and their wing
covering. He saw the workmen prepare all the material for mortise and
tenon work, saw them attach the tension wires, fit in the ends of poles,
and finally connect together all the parts of an airplane,--wings,
rudders, motor, landing frame, body. As a painter grinds his colors
before making use of them, so Guynemer's prelude to his future flights
was to touch with his hands--those long white hands of the rich student,
now tanned and callous, often coated with soot or grease, and worthy to
be the hands of a laborer--every piece, every bolt and screw of these
machines which were to release him from his voluntary servitude.

[Footnote 13: See _Étude raisonnée de l'aéroplane_, by Jules Bordeaux,
formerly student at École Polytechnique (Gauthier-Billars, edition

One of his future comrades, _sous-lieutenant_ Marcel Viallet (who one
day had the honor of bringing down two German airplanes in ten minutes
with seven bullets), thus describes him at the Pau school: "I had
already had my attention drawn to this 'little girl' dressed in a
private's uniform whom one met in the camp, his hands covered with
castor oil, his face all stains, his clothes torn. I do not know what he
did in the workshop, but he certainly did not add to its brilliance by
his appearance. We saw him all the time hanging around the 'zincs.' His
highly interested little face amused us. When we landed, he watched us
with such admiration and envy! He asked us endless questions and
constantly wanted explanations. Without seeming to do so, he was
learning. For a reply to some question about the art of flying, he would
have run to the other end of the camp to get us a few drops of gasoline
for our tanks...."[14]

[Footnote 14: _Le Petit Parisien_, September 27, 1917.]

He was learning, and when he saw his way clear, he wanted to begin
flying. New Year's Day arrived--that sad New Year's Day of the first
year of the war. What gifts would he ask of his father? He would ask for
help to win his diploma as pilot. "Don't you know somebody in your class
at Saint-Cyr who could help me?" He always associated his father with
every step he took in advance. The child had no fear of creating a
conflict between his father's love for him and the service due to
France: he knew very well that he would never receive from his father
any counsel against his honor, and without pity he compelled him to
facilitate his son's progress toward mortal danger. Certain former
classmates of M. Guynemer's at Saint-Cyr had, in fact, reached the rank
of general, and the influence of one of them hastened Guynemer's
promotion from student mechanician to student pilot (January 26, 1915).

On this same date, Guynemer, soldier of the 2d Class, began his first
journal of flights. The first page is as follows:

     _Wednesday_, January 27: Doing camp chores.
     _Thursday_,     "    28: ib.
     _Friday_,       "    29: Lecture and camp chores.
     _Saturday_,     "    30: Lecture at the Blériot
     _Sunday_,       "    31: ib.
     _Monday_,   February  1: Went out twenty minutes
                                     on Blériot "roller."

The Blériot "roller," called the Penguin because of its abbreviated
wings, and which did not leave the ground, was followed on Wednesday,
February 17, by a three-cylinder 25 H.P. Blériot, which rose only thirty
or forty meters. These were the first ascensions before launching into
space. Then came a six-cylinder Blériot, and ascensions became more
numerous. Finally, on Wednesday, March 10, the journal records two
flights of twenty minutes each on a Blériot six-cylinder 50 H.P., one at
a height of 600 meters, the other at 800, with tacking and volplaning
descents. This time the child sailed into the sky. Guynemer's first
flight, then, was on March 10, 1915.

This journal, with its fifty pages, ends on July 28, 1916, with the
following statement:

     _Friday_, July 28.--Round at the front. Attacked a group of four
     enemy airplanes and forced down one of them. Attacked a second
     group of four airplanes, which immediately dispersed. Chased one of
     the airplanes and fired about 250 cartridges: the Boche dived, and
     seemed to be hit. When I shot the last cartridges from the Vickers,
     one blade of the screw was perforated with bullet-holes, the
     dislocated motor struck the machine violently and seriously injured
     it. Volplaned down to the aërodrome of Chipilly without accident.

A marginal note states that the aëroplane which "seemed to be hit" was
brought down, and that the English staff confirmed its fall. This
victory of July 28, 1916, on the Somme, was Guynemer's eleventh; and at
that time he had flown altogether 348 hours, 25 minutes. This journal of
fifty pages enables us to measure the distance covered.

Impassioned young people! You who in every department of achievement
desire to win the trophies of a Guynemer, never forget that your
progress on the path to glory begins with "doing chores."




The apprentice pilot, then, left the ground for the first time at the
Pau school on February 17, 1915, in a three-cylinder Blériot. But these
were only short leaps, though sufficiently audacious ones. His monitor
accused him of breakneck recklessness: "Too much confidence, madness,
fantastical humor." That same evening he wrote describing his
impressions to his father: "Before departure, a bit worried; in the air,
wildly amusing. When the machine slid or oscillated I was not at all
troubled, it even seemed funny.... Well, it diverted me immensely, but
it was lucky that _Maman_ was not there.... I don't think I have
achieved a reputation for prudence. I hope everything will go well; I
shall soon know...."

During February he made many experimental flights, and finally, on March
10, 1915, went up 600 meters. This won him next day a diploma from the
Aëro Club, and the day following he wrote to his sister Odette this hymn
of joy--not long, but unique in his correspondence: "Uninterrupted
descent, volplaning for 800 meters. Superb view (sunset)...."

"Superb view (sunset)": in the hundred and fifty or two hundred letters
addressed to his family, I believe this is the only landscape. Slightly
later, but infrequently, the new aviator gave a few details of
observation, the accuracy of which lent them some picturesqueness; but
in this letter he yielded to the intoxication of the air, he enjoyed
flying as if it were his right. He experienced that sensation of
lightness and freedom which accompanies the separation from earth, the
pleasure of cleaving the wind, of controlling his machine, of seeing,
breathing, thinking differently from the way he saw and thought and
breathed on the land, of being born, in fact, into a new and solitary
life in an enlarged world. As he ascended, men suddenly diminished in
size. The earth looked as if some giant hand had smoothed its surface,
diversified only by moving shadows, while the outlines of objects became
stronger, so that they seemed to be cut in relief.

The land was marked by geometrical lines, showing man's labor and its
regularity, an immense parti-colored checker-board traversed by the
lines of highroads and rivers, and containing islands which were forests
and towns and cities. Was it the chain of the Pyrenees covered with snow
which, breaking this uniformity, wrested a cry of admiration from the
aviator? What shades of gold and purple were shed over the scene by the
setting sun? His half-sentence is like a confession of love for the joy
of living, violently torn from him, and the only avowal this blunt
Roland would allow himself.

For the nature of his correspondence is somewhat surprising. Read
superficially, it must seem extremely monotonous; but when better
understood, it indicates the writer's sense of oppression, of
hallucination, of being bewitched. From that moment Guynemer had only
one object, and from its pursuit he never once desisted. Or, if he did
desist for a brief interval, it was only to see his parents, who were
part of his life, and whom he associated with his work. His
correspondence with them is full of his airplanes, his flights, and then
his enemy-chasing. His letters have no beginning and no ending, but
plunge at once into action. He himself was nothing but action. Only
that? the reader will ask. Action was his reason for existing, his
heart, his soul--action in which his whole being fastened on his prey.

A long and minutiose training goes to the making of a good pilot. But
the impatient Guynemer had patience for everything, and the self-willed
Stanislas student became the hardest working of apprentices. His
scientific knowledge furnished him with a method, and after his first
long flights his progress was very rapid. But he wanted to master all
the principles of aviation. As student mechanician he had seen airplanes
built. He intended to make himself veritably part of the machine which
should be intrusted to him. Each of his senses was to receive the
education which, little by little, would make it an instrument capable
of registering facts and effecting security. His eyes--those piercing
eyes which were to excel in raking the heavens and perceiving the first
trace of an enemy at incalculable distances--though they could only
register his motion in relation to the earth and not the air, could, at
all events, inform him of the slightest deviations from the horizontal
in the three dimensions: namely, straightness of direction, lateral and
longitudinal horizontality, and accurately appreciate angular
variations. When the motor slowed up or stopped, his ear would interpret
the sound made by the wind on the piano wires, the tension wires, the
struts and canvas; while his touch, still more sure, would know by the
degree of resistance of the controlling elements the speed action of the
machine, and his skillful hands would prepare the work of death. "In the
case of the bird," says the _Manual_, by M. Maurice Percheron, "its
feathers connect its organs of stability with the brain; while the
experienced aviator has his controlling elements which produce the
movement he wishes, and inform him of the disturbing motions of the
wind." But with Guynemer the movements he wanted were never brought
about as the result of reflex nervous action. At no time, even in the
greatest danger, did he ever cease to govern every maneuver of his
machine by his own thought. His rapidity of conception and decision was
astounding, but was never mere instinct. As pilot, as hunter, as
warrior, Guynemer invariably controlled his airplane and his gun with
his brain. This is why his apprenticeship was so important, and why he
himself attached so much importance to it--by instinct, in this case.
His nerves were always strained, but he worked out his results. Behind
every action was the power of his will, that power which had forced his
entrance into the army, and itself closed the doors behind him, a
prisoner of his own vocation.

He familiarized himself with all the levers of the engine and every part
of the controlling elements. When the obligatory exercises were
finished, and his comrades were resting and idling, he remounted the
airplane, as a child gets onto his rocking-horse, and took the levers
again into his hands. When he went up, he watched for the exact instant
for quitting the ground and sought the easiest line of ascension; during
flights, he was careful about his position, avoiding too much diving, or
nosing-up, maintaining a horizontal movement, making sure of his lateral
and longitudinal equilibrium, familiarizing himself with winds, and
adapting his motions to every sort of rocking. When he came down, and
the earth seemed to leap up at him, he noted the angle and swiftness of
the descent and found the right height at which to slow down. Although
his first efforts had been so clever that his monitors were convinced
for a long time that he had already been a pilot, yet it is not so much
his talent that we should admire as his determination. He was more
successful than others because he wore himself out during the whole of
his short life in trying to do better--to do better in order to serve
better. He worked more than any one else; when he was not satisfied with
himself he began all over again, and sought the cause of his errors.
There are many other pilots as gifted as Guynemer, but he possessed an
energy which was extraordinary, and in this respect excelled all the

And there were no limits to the exercise of this energy. He gave his own
body to complete so to speak, the airplane,--a centaur of the air. The
wind that whistled through his tension wires and canvas made his own
body vibrate like the piano wires. His body was so sensitive that it,
too, seemed to obey the rudder. Nothing that concerned his voyages was
either unknown or negligible to him. He verified all his
instruments--the map-holder, the compass, the altimeter, the tachometer,
the speedometer--with searching care. Before every flight he himself
made sure that his machine was in perfect condition. When it was brought
out of the hangar he looked it over as they look over race-horses, and
never forgot this task. How would it be when he should have his own

At Pau he increased the number of his flights, and changed airplanes,
leaving the Blériot Gnome for the Morane. His altitudes at this time
varied from 500 to 600 meters. Going, on March 21, to the Avord school,
he went up on the 28th to a height of 1500 meters, and on April 1 to
2600. His flights became longer, and lasted one hour, then an hour and a
half. The spiral descent from a height of 500 meters, with the motor
switched off, triangular voyages, the test of altitude and that of
duration of flight, which were necessary for his military diploma, soon
became nothing more to him than sport. In May nearly every day he
piloted one passenger on an M.S.P. (Morane-Saunier-Parasol). During all
this period his record-book registers only one breakdown. Finally, on
May 25, he was sent to the general Aviation Reserves, and on the 31st
made two flights in a Nieuport with a passenger. This was the end of his
apprenticeship, and on June 8 Corporal Georges Guynemer was designated
as member of Escadrille M.S.3, which he joined next day at Vauciennes.

This M.S.3 was the future N.3, the "Ciogognes" or Storks Escadrille. It
was already commanded by Captain Brocard, under whose orders it was
destined to become illustrious. Védrines belonged to it.
_Sous-lieutenant de cavalerie_ Deullin joined it almost simultaneously
with Guynemer, whose friend he soon became. Later, little by little,
came Heurtaux, de la Tour, Dorme, Auger, Raymond, etc., all the famous
valiant knights of the escadrille, like the peers of France who followed
Roland over the Spanish roads. This aviation camp was at Vauciennes,
near Villers-Cotterets, in the Valois country with its beautiful
forests, its chateaux, its fertile meadows, and its delicate outlines
made shadowy by the humid vapor rising from ponds or woods. "Complete
calm," wrote Guynemer on June 9, "not one sound of any kind; one might
think oneself in the Midi, except that the inhabitants have seen the
beast at close range, and know how to appreciate us.... Védrines is very
friendly and has given me excellent advice. He has recommended me to his
'_mecanos_,' who are the real type of the clever Parisian, inventive,
lively and good humored...." Next day he gives some details of his
billet, and adds: "I have had a _mitrailleuse_ support mounted on my
machine, and now I am ready for the hunt.... Yesterday at five o'clock I
darted around above the house at 1700 or 2000 meters. Did you see me? I
forced my motor for five minutes in hopes that you would hear me." He
had recently parted from his family, and a happy chance had brought him
to fight over the very lines that protected his own home. The front of
the Sixth Army to which he was attached, extending from Ribécourt beyond
the forest of Laigue, passed in front of Railly and Tracy-le-Val,
hollowed itself before the enemy salient of Moulin-sous-Touvent,
straightened itself again near Autrèches and Nouvron-Vingré, covered
Soissons, whose very outskirts were menaced, was obliged to turn back on
the left bank of the Aisne where the enemy took, in January, 1915, the
bridge-head at Condé, and Vailly and Chavonne, and crossed the river
again at Soupir which belonged to us. Laon, La Fère, Coucy-le-Château,
Chauny, Noyon, Ham, and Péronne were the objects of his reconnoitering

War acts more poignantly, more directly upon a soldier whose own home is
immediately behind him. If the front were pierced in the sector which
had been intrusted to him, his own people would be exposed. So he
becomes their sentinel. Under such conditions, _la Patrie_ is no longer
merely the historic soil of the French people, the sacred ground every
parcel of which is responsible for all the rest, but also the beloved
home of infancy, the home of parents, and, for this collegian of
yesterday, the scene of charming walks and delightful vacations. He has
but just now left the paternal mansion; and, not yet accustomed to the
separation, he visits it by the roads of the air, the only ones which he
is now free to travel. He does not take advantage of his proximity to
Compiègne to go ring the familiar door-bell, because he is a soldier and
respects orders; but, on returning from his rounds, he does not hesitate
to turn aside a bit in order to pass over his home, indulging up there
in the sky in all sorts of acrobatic caprioles to attract attention and
prolong the interview. What lover was ever more ingenious and madder in
his rendezvous?

Throughout all his correspondence he recalls his air visits. "You must
have seen my head, for I never took my eyes off the house...." Or, after
an aërial somersault that filled all those down below with terror: "I am
wretched to know that my veering the other day frightened _maman_ so
much, but I did it so as to see the house without having to lean over
the side of the machine, which is unpleasant on account of the wind...."
Or sometimes he threw down a paper which was picked up in Count Foy's
park: "Everything is all right." He thought he was reassuring his
parents about his safety; but their state of mind can be conceived when
they beheld, exactly over their heads, an airplane engaged apparently in
performing a dance, while through their binoculars they could see the
tiny black speck of a head which looked over its side. He had indeed a
singular fashion of reassuring them!

Meanwhile, at Vauciennes the newcomer was being tested. At first he was
thought to look rather sickly and weak, to be somewhat reserved and
distant, and too well dressed, with a "young-ladyish" air. He was known
to be already an expert pilot, capable of making tail spins after barely
three months' experience. But still the men felt some uncertainty about
this youngster whom they dared not trifle with on account of his eyes,
"out of which fire and spirit flowed like a torrent."[15] Later on they
were to know him better.

[Footnote 15: Saint-Simon.]

A legend was current as to the large quantity of "wood broken" by
Guynemer in his early days with the escadrille. This is radically
untrue, and his notebook contradicts it. From the very first day the
_débutant_ fulfilled the promise of his apprentice days. After one or
two trial flights, he left for a scouting expedition on Sunday, June 13,
above the enemy lines, and there met three German airplanes. On the 14th
he described what he had seen in a letter to his father.--His
correspondence still included some description at that time, the earth
still held his attention; but it was soon to lose interest for
him.--"The appearance of Tracy and Quennevières," he wrote, "is simply
unbelievable: ruins, an inextricable entanglement of trenches almost
touching one another, the soil turned over by the shells, the holes of
which one sees by thousands. One wonders how there could be a single
living man there. Only a few trees of a wood are left standing, the
others beaten down by the "_marmites_,"[16] and everywhere may be seen
the yellow color of the literally plowed-up earth. It seems incredible
that all these details can be seen from a height of over 3000 meters. I
could see to a distance of 60 or 70 kilometers, and never lost sight of
Compiègne. Saint-Quentin, Péronne, etc., were as distinct as if I were

[Footnote 16: Shells.]

Next day, the 14th, another reconnaissance, of which the itinerary was
Coucy, Laon, La Fère, Tergnier, Appily, Vic-sur-Aisne. Not a cannon shot
disturbed these first two expeditions. But danger lurked under this
apparent security, and on the 15th he was saluted by shells, dropping
quite near. It was his "baptism by fire," and only inspired this
sentence _à la Duguesclin_: "No impression, except satisfied curiosity."

The following days were passed in a perfect tempest, and he only
laughed. The new Roland, the bold and marvelous knight, is already
revealed in the letters to be given below. On the 16th he departed on
his rounds, carrying, as observer, Lieutenant de Lavalette. His airplane
was hit by a shell projectile in the right wing. On the 17th his machine
returned with eight wounds, two in the right wing, four in the body, and
in addition one strut and one longitudinal spar hit. On the 18th he
returned from a reconnaissance with Lieutenant Colcomb during which his
machine had been hit in the right wing, the rudder, and the body. But
his notebook only contains statements of facts, and we have to turn to
his correspondence for more details.

"Decidedly," he wrote on June 17 to his sister Odette, "the Boches have
quite a special affection for me, and the parts of my '_coucou_' serve
me for a calendar. Yesterday we flew over Chauny, Tergnier, Laon, Coucy,
Soissons. Up to Chauny my observer had counted 243 shells; Coucy shot
500 to 600; my observer estimated 1000 shots in all. All we heard was a
rolling sound, and then the shells burst everywhere, below us, above, in
front, behind, on the right and on the left, for we descended to take
some photographs of a place which they did not want us to see. We could
hear the shell-fragments whistling past; there was one that, after
piercing the wing, passed within the radius of the propeller without
touching it, and then to within fifty centimeters of my face; another
entered by the same hole but stayed there, and I will send it to you.
Fragments also struck the rudder, and one the body." (His journal
mentions more.) "My observer, who has been an observer from the
beginning, says that he never saw a cannonade like that one, and that he
was glad to get back again. At one moment a bomb-head of 105
millimeters, which we knew by its shape and the color of its explosion,
fell on us and just grazed us. In fact, we often see enormous shells
exploding. It is very curious. On our return we met Captain Gerard, and
my observer told him that I had astounding nerve; _zim, boum boum!_ He
said he knew it.... I will send you a photograph of my '_coucou_' with
its nine bruises: it is superb."

The next day, June 18, it was his mother who received his confidences.
The enemy had bombarded Villers-Cotterets with a long-distance gun which
had to be discovered. On this occasion he took Lieutenant Colcomb as
observer: "At Coucy, terribly accurate cannonade: _toc, toc_, two
projectiles in the right wing, one within a meter of me; we went on with
our observations in the same place. Suddenly a formidable crash: a shell
burst 8 to 10 meters under the machine. Result: three holes, one strut
and one spar spoiled. We went on for five minutes longer observing the
same spot, always encircled, naturally. Returning, the shooting was less
accurate. On landing, my observer congratulated me for not having moved
or zig-zagged, which would have bothered his observation. We had, in
fact, only made very slight and very slow changes of altitude, speed,
and direction. Compliments from him mean something, for nobody has
better nerve. In the evening Captain Gerard, in command of army
aviation, called me and said: 'You are a nervy pilot, all right; you
won't spoil our reputation by lack of pluck--quite the contrary. For a
beginner!--' and he asked me how long I had been a corporal. _Y a bon._
My '_coucou_' is superb, with its parts all dated in red. You can see
them all, for those underneath spread up over the sides. In the air I
showed each hole in the wing, as it was hit, to the passenger, and he
was enchanted, too. It's a thrilling sport. It is a bore, though, when
they burst over our heads, because I cannot see them, though I can hear.
The observer has to give me information in that case. Just now, _le roi
n'est pas mon cousin_...."

Lieutenant, now Captain, Colcomb, has completed this account. During the
entire period of his observation, the pilot, in fact, did not make any
maneuver or in any way shake the machine in order to dodge the firing.
He simply sent the airplane a bit higher and calmly lowered it again
over the spot to be photographed, as if he were master of the air. The
following dialogue occurred:

_The Observer_: "I have finished; we can go back."

_The Pilot_: "Lieutenant, do me the favor of photographing for me the
projectiles falling around us."

Children have always had a passion for pictures; and the pictures were

The chasers and bombardiers in the history of aviation have attracted
public attention to the detriment of their comrades, the observers,
whose admirable services will become better known in time. It is by them
that the battle field is exposed, and the preparations and ruses of the
enemy balked: they are the eyes of the commanders, and also the friends
of the troops. On April 29, 1916, Lieutenant Robbe flew over the
trenches of the Mort-Homme at 200 meters, and brought back a detailed
exposition of the entanglement of the lines. A year later, in nearly the
same place, Lieutenant Pierre Guilland, observer on board a biplane of
the Moroccan division, was forced down by three enemy airplanes just at
the moment when his division, whose progress he was following in order
to report it, started its attack on the Corbeaux Woods east of the
Mort-Homme, on August 20, 1917. He fell on the first advancing lines and
was picked up, unconscious and mortally wounded, by an artillery officer
who proceeded to carry out the aviator's mission. When the latter
reopened his eyes--for only a short while--he asked: "Where am
I?"--"North of Chattancourt, west of Cumières."--"Has the attack
succeeded?"--"Every object has been attained."--"Ah! that's good, that's
good." ... He made them repeat the news to him. He was dying, but his
division was victorious.

Near Frise, Lieutenant Sains, who had been obliged to land on July 1,
1916, was rescued by the French army on July 4, after having hidden
himself for three days in a shell-hole to avoid surrendering, his pilot,
Quartermaster de Kyspotter, having been killed.

During the battle of the Aisne in April, 1917, Lieutenant Godillot,
whose pilot had also been killed, slid along the plane, sat on the knees
of the dead pilot, and brought the machine back into the French lines.
And Captain Méry, Lieutenant Viguier, Lieutenant de Saint-Séverin, and
Fressagues, Floret, de Niort, and Major Challe, Lieutenant Boudereau,
Captain Roeckel, and Adjutant Fonck--who was to become famous as a
chaser--how many of these élite observers furthered the destruction
wrought by the artillery, and aided the progress of the infantry!

On October 24, 1916, as the fog cleared away, I saw the airplane of the
Guyot de Salins division fly over Fort Douaumont just at the moment when
Major Nicolai's marines entered there.[17] The airplane had descended so
low into the mist that it seemed as if magnetically drawn down by the
earth, and the observer, leaning over the edge, was clapping his hands
to applaud the triumph of his comrades. The latter saw his gesture, even
though they could not hear the applause, and cheered him--a spontaneous
exchange of soldierly confidence and affection between the sky and the

[Footnote 17: See _Les Captifs délivrés_.]

Almost exactly one year later, on October 23, 1917, I saw the airplane
of the same division hovering over the Fort of the Malmaison just as the
Giraud battalion of the 4th Zouaves Regiment took possession of it. At
dawn it came to observe and note the site of the commanding officer's
post, and to read the optical signals announcing our success. At each
visit it seemed like the moving star of old, now guiding the new
shepherds, the guardians of our dear human flocks--not over the stable
where a God was born, but over the ruins where victory was born.

       *       *       *       *       *


Later on Captain Colcomb spoke of Guynemer as "the most sublime military
figure I have ever been permitted to behold, one of the finest and
most generous souls I have ever known." Guynemer was not satisfied to be
merely calm and systematically immovable, and to display sang-froid,
though to an extraordinary degree. He amused himself by counting the
holes in his wings, and pointing them out to the observer. He was
furious when the explosions occurred outside his range of vision,
because he was not resigned to missing anything. He seemed to juggle
with the shrapnel. And after landing, he rushed off to his escadrille
chief, Captain Brocard, took him by the arm, and never left him until he
had drawn him almost by force to his machine, compelling him to put his
fingers into the wounds, exulting meanwhile and fairly bounding with
joy. Captain, now Major Brocard, felt quite sure of him from that time,
and referred to him later in these words: "Very young: his extraordinary
self-confidence and natural qualities will very soon make him an
excellent pilot...."

His curiosity, indeed, was satisfied; and to whom would he confide all
the risks that he ran? His mother and his sisters, the hearts which were
the most troubled about him, and whose peace and happiness he had
carried off into the air. He never dreamed of the torment he caused
them, and which they knew how to conceal from him. Even the idea of such
a thing never occurred to him. As they loved him, they loved him just as
he was, in the raw. He was too young to dissimulate, too young to spare
them. He knew nothing either of lies or of pity. He never thought that
any one could suffer anguish about a son or a brother when this son and
brother was himself supremely happy in his vocation. He was naïvely

But the rounds and reconnaissances were not to hold him long; and he
already scented other adventures. He had scented the odor of the beast,
and he had his airplane furnished with a support for a machine-gun. That
particular airplane, it is true, came to an untimely end in a ditch, but
was already condemned by its body-frame, which was rotten with bullet
holes. That was the only "wood" Guynemer "broke" during his early

But his next airplane was also armed, and in the young pilot could
already be plainly seen that taste for enemy-chasing which was to
bewitch and take possession of him. Though after this time he certainly
carried over the lines Lieutenant de Lavalette, Lieutenant Colcomb and
Captain Siméon, and always with equal calm, yet he aspired to other
flights, further away from earth. Lieutenant de Beauchamp--the future
Captain de Beauchamp, who was to die so soon after his audacious raids
on Essen and Munich--divined what was hidden in this thin boy who was in
such breathless haste to get on. He would not allow Corporal Guynemer to
address him as lieutenant, feeling so surely his equality, and to-morrow
perhaps his mastery. On July 6, 1915, he sent him a little guide for
aviators in a few lines: "Be cautious. Look well at what is happening
around you before acting. Invoke Saint Benoît every morning. But above
all, write in letters of fire in your memory: _In aviation, everything
not useful should be avoided._" Oh, of course! The "little girl" laughed
at the advice as he laughed at the tempest. He had an admiration for
Beauchamp, but when did a Roland ever listen to an Oliver? One day he
went up in a wind of over 25 meters, and even by nosing-up a bit he
could hardly make any progress. With the wind behind him he made over
200 kilometers. Then he landed. Védrines addressed a few warning remarks
to him, and he was thought to be calmed. But off he went again before
the frightened spectators. He would always do too much, and nothing
could restrain him.

The importance of the development of aviation in the war had been
foreseen neither by the Germans nor ourselves. If before the beginning
of the campaign the military chiefs had understood all the services
which would be rendered by aërial strategic scouting, the regulation of
artillery fire would not have still been in an experimental stage. No
one knew the help which was to be derived from aërial photography. The
air duel was regarded simply as a possible incident that might occur
during a patrol or a reconnaissance, and in view of which the observer
or mechanician armed himself with a gun or an automatic pistol.
Airplanes armed with machine-guns were very exceptional, and at the end
of 1914 there were only thirty. The Germans used them generally before
we did; but it was the French aviators, nevertheless, who forced the
Germans to fight in the air. I had the opportunity in October, 1914, to
see, from a hill on the Aisne, one of these first airplane combats,
which ended by the enemy falling on the outskirts of the village of
Muizon on the left bank of the Vesle. The French champion bore the fine
name of Franc, and piloted a Voisin. At that date it was not unusual to
pick up messages dropped within our lines by enemy pilots, substantially
to this effect: "Useless for us to fight each other; there are enough
risks without that...."

Meanwhile, strategic reconnaissance was perfected as the line of the
front became firmly established, and more and more importance was
accorded to the search for objectives. Remarkable results were attained
by air photography from December, 1914; and after January, 1915, the
regulation of artillery fire by wireless telegraphy was in general
practice. It was necessary to protect the airplanes attached to army
corps, and to clean up the air for their free circulation. This rôle
devolved upon the most rapid airplanes, which were then the
Morane-Saunier-Parasols, and in the spring of 1915 these formed the
first _escadrilles de chasse_, one for each army. Garros, already
popular before the war for having been the first air-pilot to cross the
Mediterranean, from Saint-Raphael to Bizerto, forced down a large
Aviatik above Dixmude in April, 1915. A few days later a motor breakdown
compelled him to land at Ingelminster, north of Courtrai, and he was
made prisoner.[18] The aviators, like the knights of ancient times,
sent one another challenges. Sergeant David--who was killed shortly
after--having been obliged to refuse to fight an enemy airplane because
his machine-gun jammed, dropped a challenge to the latter on the German
aërodrome, and waited at the place, on the day and hour fixed, at
Vauquois (noon, in June, 1915, above the German lines), but his
adversary never came to the rendezvous.

[Footnote 18: The romantic circumstances under which he escaped in
February, 1918, are well known.]

The Maurice Farman and Caudron airplanes were used for observation. The
Voisin machines, strong but slower, were more especially utilized for
bombardments, which began to be carried out by organized expeditions.
The famous raids on the Ludwigshafen factories and the Karlsruhe railway
station occurred in June, 1915. It was at the battle of Artois (May and
June, 1915) that aviation for the first time constituted a branch of the
army; and the work was chiefly done by the escadrilles belonging to the
army corps, which rendered very considerable services as scouts and in
aërial photography and destructive fire. But as an enemy chaser, the
airplane was still regarded with much distrust and incredulity. Some
said it was useless; was it not sufficient that the airplanes of the
army corps and those for bombardments could defend themselves? Others of
less extreme opinions thought it should be limited to the part of
protector. This opposition was overcome by the sudden development of the
German enemy-chasing airplanes after July, 1915, subsequent to our raids
on Ludwigshafen and Karlsruhe, which aroused furious anger in Germany.

In the beginning the belligerent nations had collected the most
heterogeneous group of all the airplane models then available. But the
methodical Germans, without delay, supplied their constructors with
definite types of machines in order to make their escadrilles
harmonious. At that time they used monoplanes for reconnaissances,
without any special arrangement for carrying arms, and incapable of
carrying heavy weights; and biplanes for observation, unarmed, and
possessing only a makeshift contrivance for launching bombs. The
machines of both these series were two-seated, with the passenger in
front. These were Albatros, Aviatiks, Eulers, Rumplers, and Gothas.
Early in 1915 appeared the Fokkers, which were one-seated, and new
two-seated machines, Aviatiks or Albatros, which were more rapid, with
the passenger at the rear, and furnished with a revolving turret for the
machine-gun. The German troops engaged in aërostation, aviation,
automobile and railway service were grouped as communication troops
(_Verkehrstruppen_), under the direction of the General Inspection of
Military Communications. It was not until the autumn of 1916 that the
aërostation, aviation, and aërial defense troops were made independent
and, under the title of _Luftstreitkräfte_ (aërial combatant forces),
took their position in the order of battle between the pioneers and the
communication troops. But early in the summer of 1915 the progress
realized in aviation resulted in its forming a separate branch of the
army, with campaign and enemy-chasing escadrilles.

Guynemer was now on the straight road toward aërial combat. Most of our
pilots were still chasing enemy airplanes with one passenger armed with
a simple musketoon. More circumspect than the others, Guynemer had his
airplane armed with a machine-gun. Meanwhile the staff was preparing to
reorganize the army escadrilles. The bold Pégoud had several times
fought with too enterprising Fokkers or Aviatiks; Captain Brocard had
forced down one of them in flames over Soissons; and the latest recruit
of the escadrille, this youngster of a Guynemer, was burning to have his
own Boche.

The first entries in his notebook of flights for July, 1915, record
expeditions without result, in company with Adjutant Hatin, Lieutenant
de Ruppiere, in the region of Noyon, Roye, Ham, and Coucy-le-Château. On
the 10th, the _chasseurs_ put to flight three Albatros, while a more
rapid Fokker attempted an attack, but turned back having tried a shot at
their machine-gun. On the 16th Guynemer and Hatin dropped bombs on the
Chauny railway station; during the bombardment an Aviatik attacked them,
they stood his fire, replying as well as they could with their
musketoon, and returned to camp uninjured. Adjutant Hatin was decorated
with the Military Medal. As Hatin was a _gourmet_, Guynemer went that
same evening to Le Bourget to fetch two bottles of Rhine wine to
celebrate this family fête. At Le Bourget he tried the new Nieuport
machine, which was the hope of the fighting airplanes. Finally, on July
19--memorable date--his journal records Guynemer's first victory:

"Started with Guerder after a Boche reported at Couvres and caught up
with him over Pierrefonds. Shot one belt, machine-gun jammed, then
unjammed. The Boche fled and landed in the direction of Laon. At Coucy
we turned back and saw an Aviatik going toward Soissons at about 3200
meters up. We followed him, and as soon as he was within our lines we
dived and placed ourselves about 50 meters under and behind him at the
left. At our first salvo, the Aviatik lurched, and we saw a part of the
machine crack. He replied with a rifle shot, one ball hitting a wing,
another grazing Guerder's hand and head. At our last shot the pilot sank
down on the body-frame, the observer raised his arms, and the Aviatik
fell straight downward in flames, between the trenches...."

This flight began at 3700 meters in the air, and lasted ten minutes, the
two combatants being separated by a distance of 50 and sometimes 20
meters. The statement of fact is characteristic of Guynemer. An
unforgettable sight had been imprinted on his eyes: the pilot sinking
down in his cock-pit, the arms of the observer beating the air, the
burning airplane sinking. Such were to be his future landscape sketches,
done in the sky. The wings of the bird of prey were unfurled definitely
in space.

The two fighting airmen had left Vauciennes at two o'clock in the
afternoon, and at quarter-past three they landed, conquerors, at
Carrière l'Evêque. From their opposing camps the infantry had followed
the fight with their eyes. The Germans, made furious by defeat,
cannonaded the landing-place. Georges, who was too thin for his clothes,
and whose leather pantaloons lined with sheepskin, which he wore over
his breeches, slipped and impeded his walking, sat down under the
exploding shells and calmly took them off. Then he placed the machine in
a position of greater safety, but broke the propeller on a pile of hay.
During this time a crowd had come running and now surrounded the
victors. Artillery officers escorted them off, sentinels saluted them, a
colonel offered them champagne. Guerder was taken first into the
commanding officer's post, and on being questioned about the maneuver
that won the victory excused himself with modesty:

"That was the pilot's affair."

Guynemer, who had stolen in, was willing to talk.

"Who is this?" asked the colonel.

"That's the pilot."

"You? How old are you?"


"And the gunner?"


"The deuce! There are nothing but children left to do the fighting."

So, passed along in this manner from staff to staff, they finally landed
at Compiègne, conducted by Captain Siméon. No happiness was complete for
Guynemer if his home was not associated with it.

"He will get the Military Medal," declared Captain Siméon, "because he
wanted his Boche and went after him."

Words of a true chief who knew his men. Always to go after what he
wanted was the basic characteristic of Guynemer. And now various details
concerning the combat came one by one to light. Guerder had been half
out of the machine to have the machine-gun ready to hand. When the gun
jammed, Georges yelled to his comrade how to release it. Guerder, who
had picked up his rifle, laid it down, executed the maneuver indicated
by Guynemer, and resumed his machine-gun fire. This episode lasted two
minutes during which Georges maintained the airplane under the Aviatik,
unwilling to change his position, as he saw that a recoil would expose
them to the Boche's gun.

Meanwhile Védrines came in search of the victor, and piloted the machine
back to head-quarters, with Guynemer on board seated on the body and
quivering with joy.

With this very first victory Guynemer sealed his friendship with the
infantry, whom his youthful audacity had comforted in their trenches. He
received the following letter, dated July 20, 1915:

     Lieutenant-colonel Maillard, commanding the 238th Infantry, to
     Corporal Pilot Guynemer and Mechanician Guerder of Escadrille M.S.
     3, at Vauciennes.

     The Lieutenant-colonel,
     The Officers,
     The whole Regiment,

     Having witnessed the aërial attack you made upon a German Aviatik
     over their trenches, spontaneously applauded your victory which
     terminated in the vertical fall of your adversary. They offer you
     their warmest congratulations, and share the joy you must have felt
     in achieving so brilliant a success. Maillard.

On July 21 the Military Medal was given to the two victors, Guynemer's
being accompanied by the following mention: "Corporal Guynemer: a pilot
full of spirit and audacity, volunteering for the most dangerous
missions. After a hot pursuit, gave battle to a German airplane, which
ended in the burning and destruction of the latter." The decoration was
bestowed on August 4 at Vauciennes by General Dubois, then in command of
the Sixth Army, and in presence of his father, who had been sent for.
Then Guynemer paid for his newly won glory by a few days of fever.


Guynemer's first victory occurred on July 19, 1915, and for his second
he had to wait nearly six months. This was not because he had not been
on the watch. He would have been glad to mount a Nieuport, but, after
all, he had had his Boche, and at that time the exploit was exceptional:
he had to be patient, and give his comrades a chance to do the same.

When finally he obtained the longed-for Nieuport, he flew sixteen hours
in five days, and naturally went to parade himself over Compiègne.
Without this dedication to his home, the machine would never be

When the overwork incident to such a life forced him to take a little
repose, he wandered back to his home like a soul in pain. It was in vain
that his parents and his two sisters--whom he called his "kids" as if he
were their elder--exhausted their ingenuity to amuse him. This home he
loved so much, which he left so recently, and returned to so happily,
bringing with him his young fame, no longer sufficed him. Though he was
so comfortable there, yet on clear days the house stifled him. On such
days he seemed like a school child caught in some fault: a little more
and he would have condemned himself. Then his sister Yvonne, who had
understood the situation, made a bargain with him.

"What is it you miss here at home?"

"Something you cannot give me. Or rather, yes, you can give it to me.
Promise me you will."

"Surely, if it will make you happy."

"I shall be the happiest of men."

"Then it's granted in advance."

"Very well, this is it: every morning you must examine the weather. If
it is bad, you will let me sleep."

"And if it is fine?"

"If it is fine, you will wake me up."

His sister was afraid to ask more, as she guessed how he would use a
fine day. As she was silent, he pretended to pout with that cajoling
manner he could assume, and which fascinated everybody.

"You won't do it? I could not stay home: _c'est plus fort que moi_."

"But, I promise."

And to keep him at home until he should be cured, more or less, the
young girl opened her window every morning and inspected the sky,
secretly hoping to find it thickly covered with clouds.

"Clouds, waiting over there, motionless, on the edge of the horizon,
what are you waiting for? Will you stand idle and let me awaken my
brother, who is resting?"

The clouds being indifferent, the sleeper had to be awakened. He dressed
hastily, with a smile at the transparent sky, and soon reached
Vauciennes by automobile, where he called for his machine, mounted,
ascended, flew, hunted the enemy, and returned to Compiègne for

"And you can leave us like that?" remonstrated his mother. "Why, this is
your holiday."

"Yes, the effort to leave is all the greater."


"I like the effort, _Maman_."

His Antigone forced herself to keep her bargain with him. The sun never
shone above the forest in vain, but nevertheless she detested the sun.
What a strange Romeo this boy would have made! Without the least doubt
he would have charged Juliet to wake him to go to battle, and would
never have forgiven her for confounding the lark and the nightingale.

On his return to the aviation camp, in the absence of his own
longed-for victories, he took pleasure in describing those of others. He
knew nothing of rivalry or envy. He wrote his sister Odette the
following description of a combat waged by Captain Brocard, who
surprised a Boche from the rear, approached him to within fifteen meters
without being seen, and, just at the moment when the enemy pilot turned
round his head, sent him seven cartridges from his machine-gun: "Result:
one ball in the ear, and another through the middle of his chest. You
can imagine whether the fall of the machine was instantaneous or not.
There was nothing left of the pilot but one chin, one ear, one mouth, a
torso and material enough to reconstitute two arms. As to the "_coucou_"
(burned), nothing was left but the motor and a few bits of iron. The
passenger was emptied out during the fall...." It cannot be said that he
had much consideration for the nerves of young girls. He treated them as
if they were warriors who could understand everything relating to
battles. He wrote with the same freedom that Shakespeare's characters
use in speech.

Until the middle of September he piloted two-seated airplanes, carrying
one passenger, either as observer or combatant. At last he went up in
his one-seated Nieuport, reveling in the intoxication of being alone,
that intoxication well known to lovers of the mountains and the air. Is
it the sensation of liberty, the freedom from all the usual material
bonds, the feeling of coming into possession of these deserts of space
or ice where the traveler covers leagues without meeting anybody, the
forgetfulness of all that interferes with one's own personal object?
Such solitaries do not easily accommodate themselves to company which
seems to them to encroach upon their domain, and steal a part of their
enjoyment. Guynemer never enjoyed anything so much as these lonely
rounds in which he took possession of the whole sky, and woe to the
enemy who ventured into this immensity, which was now his park.

On September 29, and October 1, 1915, he was sent on special missions.
These special missions were generally confided to Védrines, who had
accomplished seven. The time is not yet ripe for a revelation of their
details, but they were particularly dangerous, for it was necessary to
land in occupied territory and return. Guynemer's first mission required
three hours' flying. He ascended in a storm, just as the countermand
arrived owing to the unfavorable weather. When he descended, volplaning,
at daybreak, with slackened, noiseless motor, and landed on our invaded
territory, his heart beat fast. Some peasants going to their work in the
fields saw him as he ascended again, and recognizing the tricolor,
showed much surprise, and then extended their hands to him. This mission
won for Sergeant Guynemer--he had been promoted sergeant shortly
before--his second mention: "Has proved his courage, energy and
sang-froid by accomplishing, as a volunteer, an important and difficult
special mission in stormy weather."--"This palm is worth while," he
wrote in a letter to his parents, "for the mission was hard." On his way
back an English aviator shot at him, but on recognizing him signaled
elaborate excuses.

Some rather exciting reconnaissances with Captain Siméon--one day over
Saint-Quentin they were attacked by a Fokker and, their machine-gun
refusing to work, they were subjected to two hundred shots from the
enemy at 100 meters, then at 50 meters, so that they were obliged to
dive into a cloud, with one tire gone--and a few bombardments of railway
stations and goods depots did not assuage his fever for the chase.
Nothing sufficed him but to explore and rake the heavens. On November 6,
3000 meters above Chaulnes, he waged an epic combat with an L.V.G.
(_Luft-Verkehr-Gesellschaft_), 150 H.P. Having succeeded in placing
himself three meters under his enemy, he almost laughed with the surety
he felt of forcing him down, when his machine-gun jammed. He immediately
banked, but he was so near the enemy that the machines interlocked.
Would he fall? A bit of his canvas was torn off, but the airplane held
its own. As he drew away he saw the enormous enemy machine-gun aimed at
him. A bullet grazed his head. He dived under the Boche, who retreated.
"All the same," Guynemer added gaily, "if I ever get into a terrible
financial fix and have to become a cab-driver, I shall have memories
which are far from ordinary: a tire exploding at 3400 meters, an
interlocking at 3000 meters. That rotten Boche only owed his life to a
spring being slightly out of order, as was shown by the autopsy on the
machine-gun. For my eighth combat, this was decidedly annoying...."

It was annoying, but what could be done? Nothing, in fact, but return to
one's apprenticeship. He was perfectly satisfied with his work as a
pilot, but it was necessary to avoid these too frequent jammings which
saved the enemy. At Stanislas College Guynemer was known as an excellent
shot. He began to practice again with his rifle, and with the
machine-gun; above all, he carefully examined every part of this
delicate weapon, taking it apart and putting it together, and increasing
his practice. He became a gunsmith. And there lies the secret of his
genius: he never gave up anything, nor ever acknowledged himself beaten.
If he failed, he began all over again, but after having sought the cause
of his failure in order to remedy it. When he was asked one day to
choose a device for himself, he adopted this, which completely expresses
his character: _Faire face_. He always faced everything, not only the
enemy, but every object which opposed his progress. His determination
compelled success. In the career of Guynemer nothing was left to chance,
and everything won by effort, pursuit, and implacable will.

On Sunday, December 5, 1915, as he was making his rounds in the
Compiègne region, he saw two airplanes more than 3000 meters above
Chauny. As the higher one flew over Bailly he sprang upon it and
attacked it: at 50 meters, fifteen shots from his machine-gun; at 20
meters, thirty shots. The German fell in a tail spin, north of Bailly
over against the Bois Carré. Guynemer was sure he had forced him down;
but the other airplane was still there. He tacked in order to chase and
attack him, but in vain, for his second adversary had fled. And when he
tried to discover the spot where the first must have fallen, he failed
to find it. This was really too much: was he going to lose his prey?
Suddenly he had an idea. He landed in a field near Compiègne. It was
Sunday, and just noon, and he knew that his parents would be coming home
from mass. He watched for them, and as soon as he perceived his father
rushed to him:

"Father, I have lost my Boche."

"You have lost your Boche?"

"Yes, an airplane that I have forced down. I must return to my
escadrille, but I don't want to lose him."

"What can I do?"

"Why, look for him and find him. He ought to be near Bailly, towards the
Bois Carré."

And he vanished, leaving to his father the task of finding the lost
airplane as a partridge is found in a field of lucerne. The military
authority kindly lent its aid, and in fact the body of the German pilot
was discovered on the edge of the Bois Carré, where it was buried.

This victory was ratified, but a few days later the authorities, failing
to find the necessary material proof, refused to give Guynemer credit
for it. Ah, the regulations refuse the hunter this game? Guynemer,
turning very red, declared: "It doesn't matter, I will get another." He
was always wanting another; and in fact he got one four days later, on
December 8. This is the report in his notebook: "Discovering the
strategic line Royne-Nesle. While descending, saw a German airplane
high, and far within its own lines. As it passed the lines at
Beuvraigne, I cut off its retreat and chased it. I caught up to it in
five minutes, and fired forty-seven shots from my Lewis from a point 20
meters behind and under it. The enemy airplane, an L.V.G. 165 H.P.
probably, dived, caught fire, turned over, and, carried along by the
west wind, fell on its back at Beuvraigne. The passenger fell out at
Bus, the pilot at Tilloloy...."

When the victor landed at Beuvraigne near his victim, the artillerymen
belonging to a nearby battery of 95 mm. guns (47th battery of the 31st
regiment of artillery), and who were already crowding around the enemy's
body, rushed upon and surrounded Guynemer. But the commander, Captain
Allain Launay, mustered his men, ordered a salute to Guynemer, made a
speech to his command, and said: "We shall now fire a volley in honor of
Sergeant Guynemer." The salvo demolished a small house where some Boches
had taken refuge. Through the binoculars they could be seen to scatter
when the first shell struck their shelter.

"They owe that to me, too!" cried the enthusiastic urchin.

Meanwhile Captain Allain Launay had patiently ripped the captain's
stripes from his cap, and when he had finished handed them to Guynemer:

"Promise me to wear them when you are appointed captain."

This victory was not questioned, and there was even some discussion
about making this youngster a Knight of the Legion of Honor. But even
when he had been promoted sergeant there had been some objection, owing
to his youth. "Nevertheless," Guynemer had observed angrily, "I am not
too young to be hit by the enemy's shells." This time another objection
arose: If he receives the "cross" for this victory, what can be given
him for succeeding ones? The proud little Roland rebelled, revolted,
rose up like a cock on its spurs. He did not see that everybody already
foresaw his destiny. He would have his "cross," he would have it, and he
would not wait long for it, either. He would know how to wring it out of

Six days later, December 14, with his comrade, the sober and calm
Bucquet, he attacked two Fokkers, one of which was dashed to pieces in
its fall, while the other damaged his own machine. A letter to his
father described the combat in his own brief and direct manner, without
a superfluous word: "Combat with two Fokkers. The first, trapped, and
his passenger killed, dived upon me without having seen me. Result: 35
bullets at close quarters and '_couic_' [his finish]! The fall was seen
by four other airplanes (3 plus 1 makes 4, and perhaps that will win me
the 'cross'). Then combat with the second Fokker, a one-seated machine
shooting through the propeller, as rapid and easily handled as mine. We
fought at ten meters, both turning vertically to try to get behind.

"My spring was slack: compelled to shoot with one hand above my head, I
was handicapped; I was able to shoot twenty-one times in ten seconds.
Once we almost telescoped, and I jumped over him--his head must have
passed within fifty centimeters of my wheels. That disgusted him; he
went away and let me go. I came back with an intake pipe burst, one
rocker torn away: the splinters had made a number of holes in my
over-coat and two notches in the propeller. There were three more in one
wheel, in the body-frame (injuring a cable), and in the rudder."

All these accounts of the chase, cruel and clear, seem to breathe a
savage joy and the pride of triumph. The sight of a burning airplane, of
an enemy sinking down, intoxicated him. Even the remains of his enemies
were dear to him, like treasures won by his young strength. The
shoulder-straps and decorations worn by his adversary who fell at
Tilloloy were given over to him; and Achilles before the trophies of
Hector was not more arrogant. These combats in the sky, more than nine
thousand feet above the earth, in which the two antagonists are isolated
in a duel to the death, scarcely to be seen from the land, alone in
empty space, in which every second lost, every shot lost, may cause
defeat--and what a defeat! falling, burning, into the abyss beneath--in
which they fight sometimes so near together, with short, unsteady
thrusts, that they see each other like knights in the lists, while the
machines graze and clash together like shields, so that fragments of
them fall down like the feathers of birds of prey fighting beak to
beak--these combats which require the simultaneous handling of the
controlling elements and of the machine-gun, and in which speed is a
weapon, why should they not change these young men, these children, into
demi-gods? Hercules, Achilles, Roland, the Cid--where shall we find
outside of mythology or the epics any prototypes for the wild and
furious Guynemer?

On the day of his coming of age, December 24, 1915--earlier than his
ancestor under the Empire--he received the Cross of the Legion of Honor,
with this mention: "Pilot of great value, model of devotion and courage.
Has fulfilled in the past six months two special missions requiring the
finest spirit of sacrifice, and has waged thirteen aërial combats, two
of which ended in the enemy airplanes falling in flames." This mention
was already behindhand, having been based upon the report dated December
8. To the two victories therein mentioned should be added those of the
5th and the 14th of December. Decorated at the age of twenty-one, the
enlisted mechanician of Pau continued to progress at breakneck speed.
The red ribbon, the yellow ribbon and green War Medal with four palms,
are very becoming to a young man's black coat. Georges Guynemer never
despised these baubles, nor in any way concealed the pleasure they
afforded him. He knew how high one has to climb to pick them. And he
was eager for more and more, not because of vanity, but for what they

On the 3d and 5th of February, 1916, new combats took place, always in
the region of Roy and Chaulnes. On February 3 he met three enemies
within forty minutes, on the same round: "Attacked at 11.10 an L.V.G.,
which replied with its machine-gun. Fired 47 shots at 100 meters; the
enemy airplane dived swiftly down to its own lines, smoking. Lost to
view at 500 meters from the ground. At 11.40 attacked an L.V.G. (with
Parabellum) from behind, at 20 meters; it tacked and dived spirally,
pursued neck to neck at 1300 meters. It fell three kilometers from its
lines. I rose again and lost sight of it. (This airplane had wings of
the usual yellow color, its body was blue like the N., and its outlines
seemed similar to that of the _monococques_.) At 11.50 attacked an
L.V.G., which immediately dived into the clouds and disappeared. Landed
at Amiens." He cleared the sky of every Boche: one fallen and two put to
flight is not a bad record. He always attacked. With his accurate eyes
he tracked out the enemy in the mystery of space, and placing himself
higher, tried to surprise him. On the 5th, near Frise, he closed the
road to another L.V.G. which was returning to its lines, attacked it
from above in front, tacked over it, reached its rear, and overwhelmed
it like a thunder-clap. The Boche fell in flames between Assevillers and
Herbécourt. One more victory, and this one had the honor of appearing
in the official _communiqué_. Sometimes he got back with his machine and
his clothes riddled with bullet-holes. He carried fire and massacre up
into the sky. And all this was nothing as yet but the exercise of a
knight-errant in his infancy. This became evident later when he had
acquired complete mastery of his work.

February, 1916--the month in which began the longest, the most stubborn
and cruel, and perhaps the most significant battle of the Great War. In
this month began Verdun, and the menacing German advance on the right of
the Meuse (February 21-26), to the wood of Haumont, the wood of the
Caures and Herbebois, then to Samogneux, the wood of the Fosses, the Le
Chaume wood and Ornes, and finally, on February 25, the attack on
Louvemont and Douaumont. The escadrilles, little by little, headed in
the same direction, and Guynemer was about to leave the Sixth Army. He
would dart no more above the paternal mansion, announcing his victories
by his caracoles in the air; nor watch over his own household during his
patrol of the region beyond Compiègne, over Noyon, Chauny, Coucy, and
Tracy-le-Val. The cord which still linked him with his infancy and youth
was now to be strained, and on March 11 the Storks Escadrille received
orders to depart next day, and to fly to the Verdun region.

The development of the German fighting airplanes had constantly
progressed during 1915. Now, early in 1916, they appeared at Verdun,
more homogeneous and better trained, and in possession of a series of
new machines: small, one-seated biplanes (Albatros, Halberstadt, new
Fokker, and Ago), with a fixed motor of 165-175 H.P. (Mercédès, and more
rarely Benz and Argus), and two stationary machine-guns firing through
the propeller. These chasing escadrilles (_Jagdstaffeln_) are
essentially fighting units. Each _Jagdstaffel_ comprises eighteen
airplanes, and sometimes twenty-two, four of which are reserves. These
airplanes do not generally travel alone, at least when they have to
leave their lines, but fly in groups (_Ketten_) of five each, one of
them serving as guide (_Kettenfuhrer_), and conducted by the most
experienced pilot, regardless of rank. German aviation tactics seek more
and more to avoid solitary combat and replace it by squadron fighting,
or to surprise an isolated enemy by a squadron, like an attack of
sparrow-hawks upon an eagle.

Ever since the establishment of our first autonomous group of fighting
airplanes, which figured in the Artois offensives in May, 1915, but
which did not take the offensive (having their cantonments in the
barriers and limiting themselves to keeping off the enemy and cruising
above our lines and often behind them), our fighting airplanes gradually
overcame prejudice. They were not, it is true, so promptly brought to
perfection as our army corps airplanes, which proved so useful in the
Champagne campaign of September, 1915; but it was admitted that the
aërial combat should not be regarded as a result of mere chance, but as
inevitable, and that it constituted, first, a protection, and
afterwards an effective obstruction to an enemy forbidden to make raids
in our aërial domain. The next German offensive--against Verdun--had
been foreseen. In consequence, the staff had organized a safety service
to avoid all surprise by the enemy, to meet attacks, and prepare the way
for the reinforcing troops. But the violence of the Verdun offensive
exceeded all expectations.

Our escadrilles had done their duty as scouts before the attack. After
it began, they were overwhelmed and numerically unable to perform all
the aërial missions required. The fighting enemy escadrilles, with their
new series of machines and their improvements, won for a few days the
complete mastery of the air. Our own airplanes were forced off the
battle-field, and driven from their landing-places by cannon. Meanwhile
the Verdun battle was changing its character. General Pétain, who took
command on February 26, restored the order which had been compromised by
the bending of the front, and established the new front against which
the Germans hurled their forces. It was also necessary for him to
reconquer the mastery of the air. He asked for and obtained a rapid
concentration of all the available escadrilles, and demanded of them
vigorous offensive tactics. To economize and coördinate strength, all
the fighting escadrilles at Verdun were grouped under the sole command
of Major de Rose. They operated by patrols, sometimes following very
distant itineraries, and attacking all the airplanes they met. In a
short time we regained our air supremacy, and our airplanes which were
engaged in regulating artillery fire and in taking aërial photographs
could work in safety. Their protection was assured by raids even into
the German lines.

The Storks Escadrille, then, flew in the direction of Verdun. In the
course of the voyage, Guynemer brought down his eighth airplane, which
fell vertically in flames. This was a good augury. Hardly had he arrived
on March 15 when he began to explore the battle-field with his
conqueror's eyes. The enemy at that time still thought himself master,
and dared to venture within the French lines. Guynemer chased, over
Revigny, a group of five airplanes, drove another out of Argonne, and
while returning met two others, almost face to face. He engaged the
first one, tacking under it and firing from a distance of ten meters.
But the adversary answered his fire, and Guynemer's machine was hit: the
right-hand rear longitudinal spar was cut, the cable injured, the right
forward strut also cut, and the wind-shield shattered. The airman
himself was wounded in the face by fragments of aluminum and iron, one
lodging in the jaw, from which it could never be extracted, one in the
right cheek, one in the left eyelid, miraculously leaving the eye
unhurt, while smaller fragments peppered him generally, causing
hemorrhages which clogged his mask and made it adhere to the flesh. In
addition, he had two bullets in his left arm. Though blinded by blood,
he did not lose his sang-froid, and hastily dived, while the second
airplane continued firing, and a third, furnished with a turret, which
had come to the rescue of its comrades, descended after him and fired
down upon his machine. Nevertheless, he had escaped by his maneuver, and
in spite of his injuries made a good landing at Brocourt. On the 14th he
was evacuated to Paris, to the Japanese ambulance in the Hotel Astoria,
and with despair in his soul was obliged to let his comrades fight their
battle of Verdun without his help.


At Verdun our aërial as well as our land forces underwent sudden and
almost prodigious reverses. Within a few days the Storks Escadrille had
been decimated: its chief, Captain Brocard, had been wounded in the face
by a bullet and compelled to land; Lieutenant Perretti had been killed,
Lieutenant Deullin wounded, Guynemer wounded and nearly all its best
pilots put _hors de combat_. The lost air-mastery was only regained by
the tenacity of Major de Rose, Chief of Aviation of the Second Army, and
by a rapid reconcentration of forces.

[Footnote 19: "Once knightly heroes wandered over earth...."]

Major de Rose ordered enemy-chasing, and electrified and inspired his
escadrilles. The part he played during those terrible Verdun months can
never be sufficiently praised. Guynemer's comrades held the sky under
fire, as their brothers, the infantrymen, held the shifting ground
which protected the ancient citadel. Chaput brought down seven
airplanes, Nungesser six, and a drachen, Navarre four, Lenoir four,
Auger and Pelletier d'Oisy three, Puple, Chainat, and Lesort two. The
observation airplanes rivaled the fighting machines, often defending
themselves, and not infrequently forcing down their assailants in
flames. Twice Sergeant Fedoroff rid himself in this manner of
troublesome adversaries. But other pilots deserve to be mentioned,
pilots such as Stribick and Houtt, Captain Vuillemin, Lieutenant de
Laage, Sergeants de Ridder, Viallet and Buisse, and such observers as
Lieutenant Liebmann, who was killed, and Mutel, Naudeau, Campion,
Moulines, Dumas, Robbe, Travers, _sous-lieutenant_ Boillot, Captain
Verdurand--admirable squadron chief--and Major Roisin, expert in
bombardments. The lists of names are always too short, but these, at
least, should be loudly acclaimed.

Meanwhile the battle of Verdun shattered trees, knocked down walls,
annihilated villages, hollowed out the earth, dug up the plains,
distorted the hills, and renewed once more that chaos of the third day,
according to Genesis, on which the Creator separated the waters from the
earth. Almost the entire French army filed through this extraordinary
epic battle, and Guynemer, wounded and weeping with rage, was not there.

But there was another period in the Great War in which the grouping of
our fighting escadrilles and their employment in offensive movements
gave us triumphant superiority in the aërial struggle, and this was the
battle of the Somme, particularly during its first three months--a
splendid and heroic time when our airmen sprang up in the sky, spreading
panic and fear, like the knights-errant of _La Légende des siècles_.
Victor Hugo's verses seem to describe them and their vertiginous rounds
rather than the too slow horsemen of old:

     La terre a vu jadis errer des paladins;
     Ils flamboyaient ainsi que des éclairs soudains,
     Puis s'évanouissaient, laissant sur les visages
     La crainte, et la lueur de leurs brusques passages...
     Les noms de quelques-uns jusqu'à nous sont venus....
     Ils surgissaient du Sud ou du Septentrion,
     Portant sur leur écu l'hydre ou l'alérion,
     Couverts des noirs oiseaux du taillis héraldique,
     Marchant seuls au sentier que le devoir indique,
     Ajoutant au bruit sourd de leur pas solennel
     La vague obscurité d'un voyage éternel,
     Ayant franchi les flots, les monts, les bois horribles,
     Ils venaient de si loin qu'ils en étaient terribles,
     Et ces grands chevaliers mêlaient à leurs blasons
     Toute l'immensité des sombres horizons....

These new knights-errant who wandered above the desolate plains of the
Somme, no longer on earth but in the sky, mounted on winged steeds, who
started up with a "heavy sound" from south or north, will be immortal
like those of the ancient epics. It will be said that it was Dorme or
Heurtaux, or Nungesser, Deullin, Sauvage, Tarascon, Chainat, or it was
Guynemer, who accomplished such and such an exploit. The Germans,
without knowing their names, recognized them, not by their armor and
their sword-thrust, but by their machines, their maneuvers and methods.
Almost invariably their enemies desperately avoided a fight with them,
retreating far within their own lines, where, even then, they were not
sure of safety. Those who accepted their gage of battle seldom returned.
The enemy aviation camps from Ham to Péronne watched anxiously for the
return of their champions who dared to fight over the French lines. None
of them cared to fly alone, and even in groups they appeared timid. In
patrols of four, five, and six, sometimes more, they flew beyond their
own lines with the utmost caution, fearful at the least alarm, and
anxiously examining the wide and empty sky where these mysterious
knights mounted guard and might at any moment let loose a storm. But in
the course of these prodigious first three months of the battle of the
Somme, our French chasing-patrols not infrequently flew to and fro for
two hours over German aviation camps, forcing down all those who
attempted to rise, and succeeding in spreading terror and consternation
in the enemy's lines.

The Franco-British offensive began on July 1, 1916, on the flat lands
lying along both banks of the Somme River. The general plan of these
operations had been agreed upon in the preceding December. The battle of
Verdun had not prevented its execution which, on the contrary, was
expected to relieve Verdun. The attack was made on a front of 40
kilometers between Gommécourt on the north and Vermandovillers on the
south of the river. From the beginning the French penetrated the enemy's
first lines, the 20th Corps took the village of Curlu and held the
Favière wood, while the 1st Colonial Corps and one division of the 35th
Corps passed the Fay ravine and took possession of Bacquincourt,
Dompierre and Bussus. On the third, this successful advance continued
into the second lines. Within just a few days General Fayolle's army had
taken 10,000 prisoners, 75 cannon, and several hundred machine-guns. But
the Germans, who were concentrated in the Péronne region, with strong
positions like Maurepas, Combles, and Cléry, and, further in the rear,
Bouchavesnes and Sailly-Saillisel on the right bank, and Estrées,
Belloy-en-Santerre, Barleux, Albaincourt and Pressoire on the left bank,
made such desperate resistance that the struggle was prolonged into
mid-winter. The German retreat in March, 1917, to the famous Hindenburg
line was the strategic result of this terrible battle, the tactics of
which were continuously successful and the connection between the
different arms brought to perfection, while the infantry made an
unsurpassed record for suffering and endurance and will power in such
combats as Maurepas (August 12), Cléry (September 3), Bouchavesnes
(September 12)--where, when evening came, the enemy was definitely
broken--and the taking of Berny-en-Santerre, of Deniécourt, of
Vermandovillers (September 13) on the left bank, and on the right bank
the entry into Combles (surrounded on September 26), the advance on
Sailly-Saillisel and the stubborn defense of this ruined village whose
château and central district had already been occupied on October 15,
and in which a few houses resisted until November 12. Then, there was
the fight for the Chaulnes wood, and La Maisonnette and Ablaincourt and
Pressoire; and everywhere it was the same as at Verdun: the woods were
razed to the ground, villages disappeared into the soil, and the earth
was so plowed and crushed and martyred that it was nothing but one
immense wound.

Now, the air forces had had their part in the victory. Obliged, as they
were at Verdun, to resist the numerical superiority of the enemy, they
had thrown off the tyranny of atmospheric conditions and accepted and
fulfilled diverse missions in all kinds of weather. Verdun had hardened
them, as it had "burned the blood" of the infantry who had never known a
worse hell than that one. But as our operations now took the initiative,
the aviation corps was able to prepare its material more effectively, to
organize its aërodromes and concentrate its forces beforehand. Its
advantage was evident from the first day of the Somme offensive, not
only in mechanical power, but in a method which coördinated and
increased its efforts under a single command. Though this arm of the
service was in continuous evolution, more subject than any other to the
modifications of the war, and the most susceptible of all to progress
and improvement, it had nevertheless finished its trial stages and
acquired full development as connecting agent for all the other arms,
whom it supplied with information. Serving at first for strategic
reconnaissance, and then almost exclusively for regulating artillery
fire, the aërial forces now performed complex and efficient service for
every branch of the army. By means of aërial photography they furnished
exact knowledge of the ground and of the enemy's defenses, thus
preceding the execution of military operations. They regulated artillery
fire, followed the program laid down for the destruction of the enemy,
and supplied such information as was necessary to set the time for the
attack. They then accompanied the infantry in the attack, observed its
progress, located the conquered positions, revealed the situation of the
enemy's new lines, betrayed his defensive works, and announced his
reinforcements and his counter-attacks. They were the conducting wire
between the command, the artillery, and the troops, and everybody felt
them to be sure and faithful allies, for they were able to see and know,
to speak and warn. But the air forces, during all their useful missions,
were themselves in need of protection, and there must be no enemy
airplanes about if they were to make their observations in security. But
how to rid them of these enemies, and render the latter incapable of
harm? Here the air cavalry, the airplanes built for distant scouting and
combats, intervened. The safety of observation machines could only be
insured by long-distance protection, that is to say, by aërial patrols
taking the offensive, not by a solitary guard, too often disappointing,
and ineffective against a resolute adversary. Their safety near to the
army could be guaranteed only by carrying the aërial struggle over into
the enemy's lines and preventing all raids upon our own. The groups
belonging to our fighting escadrilles on both banks of the Somme
achieved this result.

The one-seated Nieuport, rapid, easily managed, with high ascensional
speed, and capable, by its solid construction and air-piercing power, of
diving from a height upon an enemy and falling upon him like a bird of
prey, was then the chasing airplane _par excellence_, and remained so
until the appearance of the terrible Spad, which made its _début_ in the
course of the Somme campaign, Guynemer and Corporal Sauvage piloting the
first two of these machines in early September, 1916. They were armed
with machine-guns, firing forward, and invariably connected with the
direction of the machine's motion. The Spad is an extraordinary
instrument of attack, but its defense lies only in its capacity for
rapid displacement and the swiftness of its evolutions. Its rear is
badly exposed: its field of visibility is very limited at the sides, and
objects can be seen only above and below,--below, minus the dead angle
of the motor and the cock-pit. The pilot can easily lose sight of the
airplanes in his own group or that of the enemy, so that if he is alone,
he is in danger of being surprised. On the other hand, one condition of
his own victory is to surprise the enemy, especially if he attacks a
two-seated machine whose range of fire is much broader, or if he does
not hesitate to choose his victim from among a group. The Spad pilot
makes use of the sun, of fog, of clouds. He flies high in order to hold
the advantage of being able to pounce down upon his enemy while the
enemy approaches prudently, timidly, suspecting no danger.

The battle of the Somme was the most favorable for solitary airplanes,
or airplanes coupled like hunting-dogs. Since then methods have changed,
and the future belongs to fighting escadrilles or groups of machines.
But at that time the one-seated airplane was king of the air. One of
them was enough to intimidate enemy airplanes engaged in regulating
artillery fire and in short-distance scouting, making them hesitate to
leave their lines, and to frighten barrier patrols of two or even four
two-seated airplanes, in spite of their shooting superiority, into
turning back and disbanding. The one-seated enemy machines never
ventured out except in groups, and even with the advantage of two
against one refused to fight. So the one-seated French machine was
obliged to fly alone, for if it was accompanied by patrols, the enemy
fled and there was no one to attack; whereas, when free to maneuver at
will, the solitary pilot could plan ruses, hide himself in the light or
in the clouds, take advantage of the enemy's blind sides, and carry out
sudden destructive attacks which are impossible for groups. Our airmen
never speak of the Somme without a smile of satisfaction: they have
retained heroic memories of that campaign. Afterwards, the Germans
drilled their one-seated or two-seated patrols, trained them in
resistance to isolated attacks, and taught them in turn how to attack
the solitary machine which had ventured out beyond its own lines. We
were obliged to alter our tactics and adopt group formation. But the
strongest types of our enemy-chasing pilots were revealed or developed
during the battle of the Somme.

Moreover, our aviators at that time were incomparable; and in citing the
most illustrious among them one risks injustice to their companions
whose opportunities were less fortunate and whose exploits were less
brilliant but not less useful. The cavalry, artillery, and infantry were
drawn upon for recruits for the aviation branch of the army, and it
appeared a difficult undertaking to fuse such different elements; but as
all shared the same life and the same dangers, had similar tastes, and a
passion for attaining the same result, and as their officers were
necessarily recruited from among themselves, and chosen for services
rendered, an atmosphere of _camaraderie_ and friendly rivalry was
created. A great novelist said that the origin of our friendships dates
"from those hours at the beginning of life when we dream of the future
in company with some comrade with the same ideals as our own, a chosen
brother."[20] What difference does it make, then, if they depart in
company for glory or for death? These young men gave themselves with the
same willingness to the same service, a service full of constant
danger. They were not gathered together by chance, but by their vocation
and by selection, and they spoke the same language. For them, friendship
easily became rivalry in courage and energy, and a school of mutual
esteem, in which each strove to outdo the other. Friendship kept them
alert, drove away inertia and weakness, and they became confident and
generous, so that each rejoiced in the success of the others. In the
mountains, on the sea, in every place where men feel most acutely their
own fragility, such friendship is not rare; but war brings it to

[Footnote 20: Paul Bourget, _Une Idylle tragique_.]

The patrols of the Storks Escadrille, in the beginning of the Somme
campaign, consisted of a single airplane, or airplanes in couples.
Guynemer, whom everybody called "the kid," always took Heurtaux with him
when he carried a passenger; for Heurtaux, as blond as Guynemer was
brown, thin and slender, very delicate and young, seemed to give
Guynemer the rights of an elder. Heurtaux was the Oliver of this Roland.
In character and energy they were the same. Dorme used to take Deullin
with him, or de la Tour. Or the choice was made alternately. This was
the quartet of whom the enemy had cause to beware, and woe to the Boche
who met any one of them! There was at that time at Bapaume a group of
five one-seated German machines which never maneuvered singly. If they
perceived a pair of Nieuports, they immediately tacked about and fled in
haste. But if one of our chasers was cruising alone, the whole group
attacked him. Heurtaux, attacked in this way, had been compelled to dive
and land, and on his return had to submit to the jests of Guynemer, for
at that age friendship is roughish. "Go there yourself," advised
Heurtaux, "and you will see." Next day Guynemer went alone, but in his
turn was forced down. After these two trials, which might have ended in
disaster--but knights must amuse themselves--the five one-seated planes
at Bapaume were methodically but promptly beaten down.

Friendship demands equality between souls. If one has to protect the
other, if one is manifestly superior, it is no longer friendship. In the
Storks Escadrille friendship reigned in peace in the midst of war, so
surely did each take his turn in surpassing the others. Which one was,
finally, to be the greatest, not because of the number of his mentions,
nor his renown or public fame, but according to the testimony of his
comrades--the surest and most clearsighted of testimony--for no one can
deceive his peers? Would it be the cold and calm Dorme, who went to
battle as a fisher goes to his nets, who never spoke of his exploits,
and whose heart, under this modest, gentle, kind exterior, was filled
with hatred for the invader who occupied his own countryside, Briey, and
for six months had held in custody and ill-treated his parents? In the
Somme battle alone his official victories numbered seventeen, but the
enemy could recount many others, doubtless, for this silent,
well-balanced young man possessed quite improbable audacity. He would
fly more than fifteen or twenty kilometers above the German lines,
perfectly tranquil under the showers of shells which rose from the
earth. At such a distance within their lines the Boche airplanes thought
themselves safe when, suddenly, _du Sud ou du Septentrion_, appeared
this knightly hero. And he would return smilingly, as fresh as when he
had started out. It was only with difficulty that a very brief statement
could then be extracted from him. His machine would be inspected, and
not a trace of any fragment found; he might have been a tourist
returning from a promenade. In more than a hundred combats his airplane
received only three very small wounds. His cleverness in handling his
machine was incredible: his close veering, his twistings and turnings,
made it impossible for the adversary to shoot. He also knew how to quit
the combat in time, if his own maneuvers had not succeeded. He seemed
invulnerable. But later, much later, while he was fighting on the Aisne
in May, 1917, Dorme, who had penetrated far within the enemy's lines,
never came back.

[Illustration: IN THE AIR]

Was Heurtaux the greatest, whose method was as delicate as himself--a
virtuoso of the air, clever, supple and quickwitted, whose hand and eye
equaled his thought in rapidity? Was it Deullin, skilled in approach,
and prompt as the tempest? Or the long-enduring, robust, admirable
_sous-lieutenant_ Nungessor, or Sergeant Sauvage, or Adjutant Tarascon?
Was it Captain Ménard, or Sangloer, or de la Tour? But the reader knows
very well that it was Guynemer. Why was it Guynemer, according to the
testimony of all his rivals? History and the epic have coupled many
names of friends, like Achilles and Patroclus, Orestes and Pylades,
Nisus and Euryalus, Roland and Oliver. In these friendships, one is
always surpassed by the other, but not in intelligence, nor courage nor
nobility of character. For generosity, or wisdom of council, one might
even prefer a Patroclus to an Achilles, an Oliver to a Roland. In what,
then, lies the superiority? That is the secret of temperament, the
secret of genius, the interior flame which burns the brightest, and
whose appearances cause astonishment and almost terror, as if some
mystery were divulged.

It is certain that Georges Guynemer was a mechanician and a gunsmith. He
knew his machine and his machine-gun, and how to make them do their
utmost. But there were others who knew the same. Dorme and Heurtaux were
perhaps more skillful in maneuvering than he. (It was interesting to
watch Guynemer when he was preparing to mount his Nieuport. First the
bird was brought out of the shed; then he minutely examined and fingered
it. This tall thin young man, with his amber-colored skin, his long oval
face and thin nose, his mouth with its corners falling slightly, a very
slight moustache, and crow-black hair tossed backward, would have
resembled a Moorish chief had he been more impassive. But his features
constantly showed his changing thoughts, and this play of expression
gave grace and freshness to his face. Sometimes it seemed strained and
hardened, and a vertical wrinkle appeared on his forehead above the
nose. His eyes--the unforgettable eyes of Guynemer--round like agates,
black and burning with a brilliance impossible to endure, for which
there is only one expression sufficiently strong, that of Saint-Simon
concerning some personage of the court of Louis XIV: "The glances of his
eyes were like blows"--pierced the sky like arrows, when his practiced
ear had heard the harsh hum of an enemy motor. In advance he condemned
the audacious adversary to death, seeming from a distance to draw him
into the abyss, like a sorcerer.)

After examining his machine he put on his fur-lined _combinaison_ over
his black coat, and his head-covering, the _passe-montagne_, fitting
tightly over his hair, and framing the oval of his face, and over this
his leather helmet. Plutarch spoke of the terrible expression of
Alexander when he went to battle. Guynemer's face, when he rose for a
flight, was appalling.

What did he do in the air? His flight journals and statements tell the
story. On each page, a hundred times in succession, and several times on
a page, his flight notebooks contain the short sentences which seem to
bound from the paper, like a dog showing its teeth: "I attack ... I
attack ... I attack...." At long intervals, as if ashamed, appears the
phrase: "I am attacked." On the Somme more than twenty victories were
credited to him, and to these should be added, as in the case of Dorme,
others taking place at too great distances to receive confirmation. In
the first month of the Somme battle, on September 13, 1916, the Storks
Escadrille, Captain Brocard, was mentioned before the army: "Has shown
unequaled energy and devotion to duty in the operations of Verdun and
the Somme, waging, from March 19 to August 19, 1916, 338 combats,
bringing down 36 airplanes, 3 drachen, and compelling 36 other badly
damaged airplanes to land." Captain Brocard dedicated this mention to
Lieutenant Guynemer, writing under it: "To Lieutenant Guynemer, my
oldest pilot, and most brilliant Stork. Souvenir of gratitude and
warmest friendship." And all the pilots of the escadrille, in turn, came
to sign it. His comrades had often seen what he did in the air.

When Guynemer came back and landed, what a spectacle! Although a victor,
his face was not appeased. It was never to be appeased. He never was
satisfied, never waged enough battles, never burned or destroyed enough
enemies. When he landed he was still under the influence of nervous
effort, and seemed as if electrified by the fluid still passing through
his frame. However, his machine bore traces of the struggle: four
bullets in the wing, the body, and the elevator. And he himself was
grazed by the missiles, his _combinaison_ scratched and the end of his
glove torn. By what miracle had he escaped?--He had passed through
encircling death as a man leaps through a hoop.

His method was one of the wildest temerity and impetuosity, and can be
recommended to nobody. The number and strength of the enemy, so far from
repelling, attracted him. He flew to vertiginous heights, and taking his
place in the sunshine, watched and waited. In an attack he did not make
use of the aërial acrobatic maneuvers with which, however, he was
perfectly familiar. He struck without delay,--what is known in fencing
as the cut direct. Without trying to maintain his machine within his
adversary's dead angles, he fell on him as a stone falls. He shot as
near to the enemy as he could, at the risk of being shot first himself,
and even of interlocking their machines, though in that respect the
sureness of his maneuvering sufficed to disengage him. If he failed to
take the enemy by surprise, he did not quit the combat as prudence
exacted; but returned to the charge, refusing to unhook his clutch from
the enemy airplane, and held him, and wanted him, and got him.

His passion for flying never diminished. On rainy days, when it was
unreasonable and useless to attempt to fly, he wandered around the sheds
where the winged horses took their repose. He could not resist it: he
entered, and mounted his own machine, settling himself in his cock-pit
and handling the controls, holding mysterious conferences with his
faithful steed.

In the air, he had a higher power of resistance than the most robust
men. This frail, sickly Guynemer, twice refused by the army because of
feebleness of constitution, never gave up. In proportion as the
requirements of aviation became more severe, as the higher altitudes
reached made it more exhausting, Guynemer seemed to prolong his flights
to the point where overwork and nervous depression compelled him to go
away and take a little rest--which made him suffer still more. And
suddenly, before he had taken the necessary repose, he threw it off like
ballast, and returning to camp, reappeared in the air, like the falcon
in the legend of Saint Julien the Hospitaller: "The bold bird rose
straight in the air like an arrow, and there could be seen two spots of
unequal size which turned and joined, and then disappeared in the
heights of heaven. The falcon soon descended, tearing some bird to
pieces, and returned to his perch on the gauntlet, with his wings
quivering."[21] Thus the victorious Guynemer came back, quivering, to
the aviation field. Truly, a god possessed him.

[Footnote 21: Flaubert.]

Apart from all that, he was just a boy, simple, gay, tender, and


Georges Guynemer, then, was wounded on March 15, 1916, at Verdun. On
April 26, he arrived again at the front, with his arm half-cured and the
wounds scarcely healed. He had escaped from the doctors and nurses.
Between times, he had been promoted _sous-lieutenant_. But he had to be
sent back, to his bandages and massage.

He returned to Compiègne. The bargain he had made with his sister Yvonne
was continued, and when the weather was clear he went to Vauciennes,
where his machine awaited him. The first time he met an airplane after
his fall and his wound, he experienced a quite natural but very painful
sensation. Would he hesitate? Was he no longer the stubborn Guynemer?
The Boche shot, but he did not reply. The Boche used up all his
machine-gun belt, and the combat was broken off. Was it to be believed?
What had happened?

Guynemer returned to his home. In the spring dawn comes very soon, and
he had left so early that it was still morning. Was his sister awake? He
waited, but waiting was not his forte. So he opened the door again, and
his childish face appeared in the strip of light that filtered through.
This time the sleeper saw him.

"Already back? Go back to bed. It is too early."

"Is it really so early?"

Her sisterly tenderness divined that he had something to tell her,
something important, and that it would be necessary to help him to tell
it. "Come in," she said.

He opened the blinds and sat down at the foot of the bed.

"What scouting have you done this morning?"

But he was following his own thoughts: "The men had warned me that under
those circumstances one receives a very disagreeable impression."

"Under what circumstances?"

"When one goes up again after having been wounded, and meets a Boche. As
long as you have not been wounded you think nothing can happen to you.
When I saw that Boche this morning I felt something quite new. Then...."

He stopped and laughed, as if he had played some schoolboy joke.

"Then, what did you do?"

"Well, I made up my mind to submit to his shots. Calmly."

"Without replying?"

"Surely: I ordered myself not to shoot. That is the way one masters
one's nerves, little sister. Mine are entirely mastered: I am now
absolutely in control. The Boche presented me with five hundred shots
while I maneuvered. They were necessary. I am perfectly satisfied."

She looked at him, sitting at the foot of the bed with his head resting
against the post. Her eyes were wet and she kept silent. The silence

Finally she said softly, "You have done well, Georges."

But he was asleep.

Later, referring to this meeting in which he offered himself to the
enemy's fire, he said gravely:

"That was the decisive moment of my life. If I had not set things right
then and there, I was done for...."

When he reappeared at his escadrille's head-quarters on May 18, quite
cheerful but with a set face and flaming eyes, no one dared discuss his
cure with him.

The Storks returned for a few days to the Oise region, and once more the
contented pilot of a Nieuport flew over the country from Péronne to
Roye. He had not lost the least particle of his determination; quite the
reverse. One day (May 22) he searched the air desperately for three
hours, and though he finally discovered a two-seated enemy machine over
Noyon, he was obliged to give over the combat for lack of gasoline in
his motor.

Meanwhile they were preparing the Somme battle; the escadrilles
familiarized themselves with their ground, and new machines were tried.
The enemy, who suspected our preparations, sent out long-distance
scouting airplanes. Near Amiens, above Villers-Bretonneux, Guynemer,
making his rounds with Sergeant Chainat, attacked one of these groups on
June 22, isolated one of the airplanes and, maneuvering with his
comrade, set it afire. That was, I believe, his ninth. This combat took
place at a height of 4200 meters. The advantage went more and more to
the pilot who mounted highest.

After July 1 there was a combat almost every day. Would Guynemer be put
out of action from the beginning, as at Verdun? Returning on the 6th,
after having put to flight an L.V.G., he surprised another Boche
airplane which was diving down on one of our artillery-regulating
machines. He immediately drew the enemy's attention to himself; but the
enemy (Guynemer pays him this homage in his flight notebook) was keen
and supple. His well-aimed shots passed through the propeller of the
Nieuport and cut two cables in the right cell. Guynemer was obliged to
land. He was forced down eight times during his flying career, once
under fantastic conditions. He passed through every form of danger
without ever losing the self-possession, the quickness of eye, and
rapidity of decision which his passion for conquest had developed.

What battles he fought in the air! On July 9 his journal notes a combat
of five against five; on the 10th a combat of three against seven, in
which Guynemer disengaged Deullin, who was followed by an Aviatik at a
distance of a hundred meters. On the 11th, at 10 o'clock, he attacked an
L.V.G. and cut its cable; the enemy dived but appeared to be in control
of the machine. A few moments later he and Deullin attacked an Aviatik
and an L.V.G., Guynemer damaging the Aviatik, and Deullin forcing down
the L.V.G.; and before returning to their base, the two comrades
attacked a group of seven machines and dispersed them. On the 16th
Guynemer forced down, with Heurtaux, an L.V.G., which fell with its
wheels in the air. After a short absence, during which he got a more
powerful machine for his own use, he began on the 25th a repetition of
his former program. On the 26th he waged five combats with enemy groups
consisting of from five to eleven airplanes. On the 27th he fought three
L.V.G.'s, and then groups of from three to ten machines. On the 28th he
successively attacked two airplanes within their own lines, then a
drachen which was obliged to land, then a group of four airplanes one of
which was forced down, and then a second group of four which were
dispersed, Guynemer pursuing one of the fugitives and bringing him down.
One blade of his own propeller was riddled with bullets, and he was
compelled to land. Such was his work for three days, taken at random
from the notebook.

Open his journal at any page, and it reads the same. On August 7
Guynemer got back with seven shell fragments in his machine: he had been
cannonaded from the ground while in chase of four enemy airplanes. On
the same day he started off again, piloting Heurtaux, who attacked the
German trenches north of Cléry and fired on some machine-guns. From its
place up in the air the airplane encouraged the infantry, and shared in
their assaults. The recital of events became, however, more and more
brief: the fighting pilot had not time enough to write details; nobody
had any time in the Storks Escadrille, constantly engaged as it was in
its triumphant flights. We must turn then to Guynemer's letters--strange
letters, indeed, which contain nothing, absolutely nothing about the
war, or the battle of the Somme, or about anything else except _his_ war
and _his_ battle. The earth-world no longer existed for him: the earth
was a place which received the dead and the vanquished. So this is the
way in which he wrote his two sisters, then sojourning in Switzerland
(Fritz meaning any enemy airplane):

     Dear Kids,

     Some sport: the 17, attacked a Fritz, three shots and gun jammed;
     Fritz tumbled. The 18th, _idem_, but in two shots: two Fritzes in
     five shots, record.

     Day before yesterday, attacked Fritz at 4.30 at ten meters: killed
     the passenger and perhaps the rest, prevented from seeing what
     happened by a fight at half-past four: the Boche ran.

     At 7.40 attacked an Aviatik, carried away by the impetus, passed it
     at fifty centimeters; passenger "_couic_" (killed), the machine
     fell and was got under control again at fifty meters above the

     At 7.35, attacked an L.V.G.; at fifteen meters; just ready to
     shoot, when a bullet in my fingers made me let go the trigger;
     reservoir burst, good landing two kilometers from the trenches
     between two shell-holes. Inventory of the "taxi": one bullet right
     in the face of my Vickers; one perforative bullet in the motor; the
     steel stone had gone clear through it as well as the oil reservoir,
     the gasoline tank, the cartridge chest, my glove ... where it
     stayed in the index finger: result, about as if my finger had been
     slightly pinched in a door; not even skinned, only the top of the
     nail slightly blackened. At the time I thought two fingers had been
     shot. To continue the inventory: one bullet in the reservoir, in
     the direction of my left lung, having passed through four
     millimeters of copper and had the good sense to stop, but one
     wonders why.

     One bullet in the edge of the back of my seat, one in the rudder,
     and a dozen in the wings. They knocked the "taxi" to pieces with a
     hatchet at two o'clock in the morning, under shell-fire. On
     landing, received 86 shots of 105, 130 and 150, for nothing. They
     will pay the bill.

     For a beginning, La Tour has his fourth mention.

     A hug for each of you.


     P.S.--It could not be said now that I am not strong; I stop steel
     bullets with the end of my finger.

Is this a letter? At first, it is a bulletin of victory: two airplanes
for five bullets, plus one passenger "_couic_." Then it becomes a
recital of the golden legend--the golden legend of aviation: he stops
the enemy's bullets with his fingers; Roland would write in that style
to the beautiful Aude: "Met three Saracens, Durandal cleft two, the
third tried to settle the affair with his bow, but the arrow broke on
the cord." Young Paul Bailly was right: "The exploits of Guynemer are
not a legend, like those of Roland; in telling them just as they
happened we find them more beautiful than any we could invent." That is
why it is better to let Guynemer himself relate them. He says only what
is necessary, but the right accent is there, the rapidity and the
"_couic_." The following letter is dated September 15, 1916.

     _From the same to the same_

     Some sport.

     On the 16th, in a group of six, four of them squeezed at 25 meters.

     In four days, six combats at 25 meters: filled a few Boches with
     holes, but they did not seem to tumble down, though some were hard
     hit all the same; then five boxing rounds up between 5100 and 5300
     (altitude). To-day five combats, four of them at less than 25
     meters, and the fifth at 50 meters. In the first, gun jammed at 50
     meters. In the second, at 5200, the Boche in his excitement lost
     his wings, and descended on his aërodrome in a wingless coach; his
     ears must be humming (16th). The third was a nose-to-nose combat
     with a fighting Aviatik. Too much impetus: I failed to hammer him
     hollow. In the fourth, same joke with an L.V.G. in a group of
     three: I failed to hammer him, I lurched: _pan_, a bullet near my
     head. In the fifth, I cleaned up the passenger (that is the third
     this week), then knocked up the pilot very badly at 10
     meters,--completely disabled, he landed evidently with great
     difficulty, and he must be in hospital....

Three lines to describe a victory, the sixteenth. And what boarding of
the adversary, from above and from below! He springs upon the enemy, but
fails to go through him. Both speeds combined, he does not make much
less than 400 kilometers an hour when he dives on him. The meeting and
shooting hardly last one second, after which the combat continues, with
other maneuvers. Some savant should calculate the time allowed for sight
and thought in fighting such duels!

This was the period of the great series of combats on the Somme. The
Storks Escadrille, which was the first to arrive, waged battle
uninterruptedly for eight months. Other escadrilles came to the rescue.
Altogether they were divided into two groups, one under the command of
Major Féquant, the other under that of Captain Brocard, appointed chief
of battalion. It becomes impossible to enumerate all Guynemer's
victories, and we can merely emphasize the days on which he surpassed
himself. September 28 was a remarkable day, on which he brought down two
enemies and had a fall from a height of 3000 meters. Little Paul Bailly
would hardly have believed that; he would have said it was surely a
legend, the golden legend of aviation. Nevertheless, here is Guynemer's
statement, countersigned by the escadrille commandant:

"_Saturday, September 23._--Two combats near Eterpigny. At 11.20 forced
down a Boche in flames near Aches; at 11.21 forced a Boche to land,
damaged, near Carrépuy; at 11.25 forced down a Boche in flames near
Roye. At 11.30, was forced down myself by a French shell, and smashed my
machine near Fescamps...."

These combats occurred between Péronne and Montdidier. To his father he
wrote with more precision, but in his usual elliptical style.

"_September 22_: Asphyxiated a Fokker in 30 seconds, tumbled down

"_September 23_: 11.20.--A Boche in flames within our lines.

"11.21.--A Boche disabled, passenger killed.

"11.25.--A Boche in flames 400 meters from the lines.

"11.25 and a half.--A 75 blew up my water reservoir, and all the linen
of the left upper plane, hence a superb tail spin. Succeeded in changing
it into a glide. Fell to ground at speed of 160 or 180 kilometers:
everything broken like matches, then the 'taxi' rebounded, turned around
at 45 degrees, and came back, head down, planting itself in the ground
40 meters away like a post; they could not budge it. Nothing was left
but the body, which was intact: the Spad is strong; with any other
machine I should now be thinner than this sheet of paper. I fell 100
meters from the battery that had demolished me; they had not aimed at
me, but they brought me down all the same, which they had no difficulty
in recognizing; the shell struck me hard some time before exploding. The
Boche fell close by Major Constantin's post. I picked up the pieces."

The group which he had attacked was composed of five airplanes, flying
in _échelon_, three above, two below. The two which flew lowest were
assaulted by one of our escadrilles, and the pilots, seeing a machine
fall in flames, thought at first it was their own victory. "It was my
first one, falling from the upper story," Guynemer explained drolly, in
his Stanislas-student manner. With his "_terrible oiseau_" he had waged
battle with the three pilots "of the upper story," and had forced them
down one after the other. "The first one," he said, "had a half-burned
card in his pocket which had certainly been given him that same morning,
judging by the date, which read in German: 'I think you are very
successful in aviation.' I have his photograph with his Gretchen. What
German heads! He wore the same decorations as that one who fell in the
Bus wood...." Is this not Achilles setting his foot on Hector and
taking possession of his trophies? Guynemer's heart was stone to his
enemies. He saw in them the wrongs done to France, the invasion of our
country, the destruction of our towns and villages, our desolation, and
our dead, so many of our dead whose deserted homes weep for them. His
was not to give pity, but to do justice. And in doing justice, when an
adversary whom he had forced down was wounded, he brought him help with
all his native generosity.

For him, thirty seconds had separated the Capitol from the Tarpeian
Rock. After his triple victory came his incredible fall, unheard of,
fantastic, from a height of 3000 meters, the Spad falling at the highest
speed down to earth, and rebounding and planting itself in the ground
like a picket. "I was completely stupefied for twenty-four hours, but
have escaped with merely immense fatigue (especially where I wear my
looping-the-loop straps, which saved my life), and a gash in my knee
presented to me by my magneto. During that 3000-meter tumble I was
planning the best way to hit the ground (I had the choice of sauces): I
found the way, but there were still 95 out of 100 chances for the wooden
cross. _Enfin_, all right!" And this postscript followed: "Sixth time I
have been brought down: record!"

Lieutenant V.F., of the Dragon Escadrille, colliding with a comrade's
airplane at a height of 3000 meters, had a similar fall onto the
Avocourt wood, and was similarly astounded to find himself whole. He
had continued maneuvering during the five or six minutes of the descent.
"Soon," he wrote, "the trees of the Hesse forest came in sight; in fact,
they seemed to approach at a dizzy rate of speed. I switched off so as
not to catch fire, and a few meters before reaching the trees I nosed up
my machine with all my strength so that it would fall flat. There was a
terrible shock! One tree higher than the rest broke my right wings, and
made me turn as if I were on a pivot. I closed my eyes. There was a
second shock, less violent than I could have hoped: the machine fell on
its nose like a stone, at the foot of the tree which had stopped me. I
unfastened my belt which, luckily, had not broken, and let myself slip
onto the ground, amazed not to be suffering intense agony. The only bad
effects were that my head was heavy, and blood was flowing through my
mask. I breathed, coughed, and shook my arms and legs, and was
dumbfounded to find that all my faculties functioned normally...."
Guynemer did not tell us so much; but, as a mathematician, he calculated
his chances. He too had switched off, and with the greatest sang-froid
superintended, so to speak, his fall. Its result was no less magical.

The infantrymen had observed this rainfall of airplanes. The French
plane reached the earth just before its pilot's last victim fell also,
in flames. The soldiers pitied the poor victor, who had not, as they
thought, survived his conquest! They rushed to his aid, expecting to
pick him up crushed to atoms. But Guynemer stood up without aid. He
seemed like a ghost; but he was standing, he was alive, and the excited
soldiers took possession of him and carried him off in triumph. A
division general approached, and immediately commanded a military salute
for the victor, saying to Guynemer:

"You will review the troops with me."

Guynemer did not know how to review troops, and would have liked to go.
He was suffering cruelly from his knee:

"I happen to be wounded, General."

"Wounded, you! It's impossible. When a man falls from the sky without
being broken, he is a magician, no doubt of that. You cannot be wounded.
However, lean upon me."

And holding him up, almost indeed carrying him, he walked with the young
_sous-lieutenant_ in front of the troops. From the neighboring trenches
rose the sound of singing, first half-suppressed, and then swelling into
a formidable roar: the _Marseillaise_. The song had sprung spontaneously
to the men's lips.

       *       *       *       *       *

Cerebral commotion required Guynemer to rest for a few days. But on
October 5 he started off again. The month of October on the Somme was
marked by an improvement in German aviation, their numbers being
considerably reinforced and supplied with new tactics. Guynemer defied
the new tactics of numbers, and in one day, October 17, attacked a group
of three one-seated planes, and another group of five. A second time he
made a sortie, and attacked a two-seated plane which was aided by five
one-seated machines. On another occasion, November 9, he waged six
battles with one-seated and two-seated machines, all of which made their
escape, one after another, by diving. Still this was not enough, and he
set forth again and attacked a group of one Albatros and four one-seated
planes. "Hard fight," says the journal, "the enemy has the advantage."
He broke off this combat, but only to engage in another with an Albatros
which had surprised Lieutenant Deullin at 50 meters. On the following
day, November 10, he added two more items to his list (making his
nineteenth and twentieth): his first victim, at whom he had shot fifteen
times from a distance less than ten meters, fell in flames south of
Nesle; the other, a two-seated Albatros, 220 H.P. Mercédès, protected by
three one-seated machines, fell and was crushed to pieces in the
Morcourt ravine. This double stroke he repeated on the twenty-second of
the same month (making his twenty-second and twenty-third), and again on
January 23, 1917 (his twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh), and still again
the next day, the twenty-fourth (his twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth
victories). In addition, here is one of his letters with a statement of
the results of three chasing days. There are no longer headings or
endings to his letters; he makes a direct attack, as he does in the


     _January_ 24, 1917.--Fell on a group of five Boches at 2300. I
     brought them back, with drums beating, at 800 meters (one wire stay
     cut, one escape pot broken). At the end of the boxing-round, 400
     meters above Roye, I succeeded in getting behind a one-seated
     machine of the group. My motor stopped; obliged to pump and let the
     Boche go.

     11.45.--Attacked a Fritz, let him go at 800 meters, my motor
     spattered, but the Boche landed, head down, near Goyancourt. I only
     count him as damaged.

     At this instant, I see a Boche cannonaded at 2400, hence at 11.50 a
     boxing round necessary with a little Rumpler armed with two
     machine-guns. The pilot got a bullet in his lung; the passenger,
     who fired at me, got one in his knee. The two reservoirs were hit,
     and the whole machine took fire and tumbled down at Lignières,
     within our lines. I landed alongside; in starting in again one
     wheel was broken in the plowed frozen earth. In taking away the
     "taxi" the park people completely demolished it for me. It was
     rushed to Paris for repairs.

     25.--I watch the others fly, and fume.

     26.--Bucquet loaned me his "taxi." No view-finder; only a
     wretchedly bad (oh, how bad!) sight-line.

     At 12 o'clock.--Saw a Boche at 3800; took the lift.--Arrived at the
     sun.--In turning, was caught in an eddy-wind, rotten tail
     spin.--While coming down again I saw the Boche aiming at me 200
     meters away; sent him ten shots: gun jammed; but the Boche seemed
     excited and dived with his motor in full blast straight south. Off
     we go! But I took care not to get too near so that he would not see
     that my gun was out of action. The altimeter tumbled: 1600
     Estrées-Saint-Denis came in sight. I maneuvered my Boche as well as
     I could. Suddenly he righted himself and departed in the direction
     of Rheims, banging away at me.

     I tried bluffing; I rose 500 meters and let myself fall on him like
     a pebble. When I began to think my bluff had not succeeded, he
     seemed impressed and began to descend again. I placed myself at a
     distance of 10 meters, but every time I showed my nose the
     passenger aimed at me. The road to Compiègne: 1000 ... 800 meters.
     When I showed my nose, the passenger, standing, stopped aiming and
     made a sign that he gave himself up. All right! I saw under his
     belly that four shells had struck the mark. 400 meters: the Boche
     slowed up his "_moulin_" (motor). 200 meters, 20 meters. I let him
     go and watched him land. At 100 meters I circled and found I was
     over an aërodrome. But, having no more cartridges, I could not
     prevent them from setting fire to their "taxi," a magnificent 200
     H.P. Albatros. When I saw they had been surrounded, I landed and
     showed the Boches my broken machine-gun. Sensation. They had fired
     at me two hundred times: my bullets, before the breakdown, had gone
     through their altimeter and their tachometer, which had caused
     their excitement. The pilot said that an airplane had been forced
     down two days before at Goyancourt: passenger killed, pilot wounded
     in legs--had to have one amputated above the knee. I hope this
     original confirmation will be accepted, which will make 30.

Thirty victories, twenty or twenty-one of which occurred on the Somme:
such is the schedule of these extraordinary flights. The last one
surpassed all the rest. He fought unarmed, with nothing but his machine,
like a knight who, with sword broken, manages his horse and brings his
adversary to bay. What a scene it was when the German pilot and
passenger, prisoners, became aware that Guynemer's machine-gun had been
out of action! Once more he had imposed his will upon others, and his
power of domination had fascinated his enemies.

In the beginning of February, 1917, the Storks Escadrille left the Somme
after six months' fighting, and flew into Lorraine.



I. ON THE 25TH OF MAY, 1917

The destiny of a Guynemer is to surpass himself. Part of his power,
however, must lie in the perfection of his weapons. Why could he not
forge them himself? In him, the mechanician and the gunsmith were
impatient to serve the pilot and the fighter. Nothing in the science of
aviation was unknown to him, and Guynemer in the factory was always the
same Guynemer. He worked with the same nervous tension when he
overhauled his machine-guns to avoid the too frequent and too
troublesome jamming, or when he improved the arrangement of the
instruments and tools in his airplane in accordance with his superior
practical experience, as when he chased an enemy. He wanted to compel
the obedience of matter, as he compelled the enemy to surrender.

In the Somme campaign he had forced down two airplanes in a single day,
and then four in two days. In Lorraine he was to do even better. At that
time, the beginning of 1917, the German aërial forces were very active
in Lorraine, but the city of Nancy paid no attention to them. In 1914
Nancy had seen the invading army broken against the mountain of Saint
Genevieve and the Grand Couronné; she had withstood a bombardment by
gigantic shells and visits from air squadrons, and all without losing
her good humor and her animation. She was one of those cities on the
front who are accustomed to danger, and who find in it an inspiration
for courage, for commerce, and even for pleasure which does not belong
to cities behind the lines. Sometimes people who were dining on the
Place Stanislas left their tables to watch some fine battle in the air,
after which they resumed their seats and their appetites, merely
replacing Rhenish by Moselle wines. Nevertheless, the frequency of
raids, and the destruction caused by bombs, began to make the existence
of both native and visiting Nancyites decidedly unpleasant. The Storks
Escadrille, which arrived in February, very promptly punished these
aërial brigands, by a police policy both rapid and severe. The enemy
airplanes which flew over Nancy were vigorously chased, and less than a
month later the framework of a good dozen of them, arranged in an
orderly manner around the statue of Stanislas Leczinski, reassured the
population and served as an interesting spectacle for the visitor who
could no longer have the pleasure of admiring, behind Lamour's gates,
the two monumental fountains consecrated to Neptune and Amphitrite, by
Guibal, and which were then covered by coarse sacks of earth.

Guynemer had contributed his share of these _spolia opima_. On March 16
he alone had forced down three Boches, and a fourth on the 17th. Three
victories in one day constituted a novel exploit. Navarre had achieved a
double victory on February 26, 1916, at Verdun, and Guynemer had the
same success on the Somme; in this campaign Nungesser had burned a
drachen and two airplanes in one morning; but three airplanes destroyed
in one day had never been seen before.

On that same evening Guynemer wrote to his family, and I transcribe the
letter just as it is, with neither heading nor final formula. The King
of Spain, in _Ruy Blas_, talks of the weather before he tells of the six
wolves he has killed; but the new Cid fought in all weathers and speaks
of nothing but his chase:

     9 o'clock.--Rose from the ground on hearing shell explosions.
     Forced down in flames a two-seated Albatros at 9.08.

     9.20.--Attacked with Deuillin a group of three one-seated Albatros,
     famous on the Lorraine front. At 9.26 I brought one down almost
     intact: pilot wounded, Lieutenant von Hausen, nephew of the
     general. And Deullin brought down another in flames at the same
     time. About 9 o'clock Dorme and Auger had attacked and grilled a
     two-seated plane. These four Boches were in a quadrilateral, the
     sides of which measured five kilometers, four and a half
     kilometers, three kilometers and three kilometers. Those who were
     in the middle need not have bothered themselves, but they were
     completely distracted.

     14.30.--Forced down a two-seated Albatros in flames.

     Three Boches within our lines for my day's work.... Ouf! G.G.

Guynemer, who had been promoted lieutenant in February and was to be
made captain in March, treated this Lieutenant von Hausen humanely and
courteously as soon as he had landed. In all his mentions up to that
time Guynemer had been described as a "brilliant chasing pilot"; he was
now mentioned as an "incomparable chasing pilot."

       *       *       *       *       *

Early in April the Storks left Lorraine and went to make their nests on
a plateau on the left bank of the Aisne, back of Fismes. New events were
in preparation. After the German retreat to the Hindenburg line, the
French army in connection with the English army--which was to attack
Vimy cliffs (April 9-10, 1917)--was about to undertake that vast
offensive operation which, from Soissons to Auberive in Champagne, was
to roll like an ocean wave over the slopes of the Chemin des Dames, the
hills of Sapigneul and Brimont, and the Moronvillers mountain. Hearts
were filled with hope, and the men were inspired by a sacred joy. Their
sufferings and their wounds did not prevent the hearts of the soldiers
in that spring of 1917 from flowering in sublime sacrifices for the
cause of liberty.

As at the battle of the Somme, so at the battle of the Aisne our aërial
escadrilles were in close touch with the general staff and the other
arms of the service. Their success was no doubt dependent upon the
quality of the airplanes, and the factory output, and limited by the
enemy's power in the air. But though they were unable to achieve the
mastery of the air from the very first, they continued obstinately to
increase their force, and little by little their successes increased.
They had to oppose an enemy who had just accomplished an immense
improvement in his aviation corps.

In September, 1916, the German staff, profiting by the lessons of the
Somme campaign during which its aviation forces had been so terribly
scourged, resolved upon an almost complete reorganization of its
aëronautical service. Hindenburg's program arranged for a rehandling of
both the direction and the technical services. A decree dating from
November, 1916, announced the separation from the other services of the
Air Fight Forces (_Luftstreitkräfte_), which were to be placed under a
staff officer, the _Kommandeur der Luftstreitkräfte_. This new
_Kommandeur_, who was to superintend the building of the machines as
well as the training of the pilots, was Lieutenant General von Hoeppner,
with Lieutenant Colonel Tjomsen as an assistant. The squadrons,
numbering more than 270, were divided into bombing, chasing, patrolling
and field escadrilles, these last being intrusted with scouting,
photographing, and artillery work, in constant touch with the infantry.
Most of these novelties were servilely copied from French aviation. The
Germans had borrowed the details of _liaison_ service, as well as those
for the regulation of artillery fire, from the French regulations. The
commander of the aëronautical section of the Fifth German Army (Verdun)
said in a report that "a conscientious aviator was the only reliable
informant in action." And his supreme chief, the Kronprinz, commenting
upon this sentence, drew the following conclusions: "All this shows once
more that through methodical use of Infantry Aviation, the command can
be kept informed of developments through the whole battle. But the
necessary condition for fruitful work in the field lies in a previous
training carried on with the infantry, machine-guns, artillery, and
_liaison_ units. The task of the Infantry Flyer is apt to become more
difficult as the weather grows worse, and ground more deeply plowed up,
the enemy more pressing, or our own troops yielding ground. When all
these unfavorable circumstances are united, the Infantry Aviator can
only be effective if he has perfect training. So he must be in constant
contact with the other services, and the Infantry must know him
personally. At a pinch he ought to make himself understood by the
troops, even without any of the usual signals."

But these airplanes, while doing this special work, must be protected by
patrolling escadrilles. The best protection is afforded by the chasing
units, fitted to spread terror and death far afield, or to stop enemy
escadrilles bound on a similar errand. Here again, copying the French
services, Germany strengthened her chasing escadrilles during the whole
winter of 1916-1917, and by the following spring she possessed no less
than forty. Before the war she had given her attention almost
exclusively to heavy airplanes. French types were plagiarized: as the
Morane had been altered into the Fokker, the Nieuport became an
Albatros. Their one-seated 160 H.P. Albatros, with a Benz or Mercédès
fixed engine and two Maxim guns shooting through the propeller, was
henceforth the typical chasing machine. However, the powerful two-engine
Gothas (520 H.P.) and the Friedrichshafen and A.E.G. (450 H.P.) soon
made their appearance in bombing escadrilles.

At the same time, the defensive attitude adopted at the beginning of the
Somme campaign was repudiated. The order of the day became strong
concentration, likely to secure, at least in one sector, decided
superiority in the air, even if other sectors must be left destitute or
battle shirked. The flying men were never to be over-worked, so as to be
fresh in an emergency. The subordination of aviation to the other
services was evidently an inspiration from the French regulation saying:
"The aviation forces shall be always ready to attack, but in perfect
subordination to the orders of the commanding officers."

In spite of this _readiness to attack_, the enemy recommended prudence
in scouting and patrolling work. The airman was not to engage in a fight
without special orders. He seldom cruises by himself, and most often is
one of five. To one Boelcke, fond of high altitudes and given to
pouncing falconlike on his prey, like Guynemer, there are scores of
Richtofens who, under careful protection from other airplanes, circle
round and round trying to attract the enemy, and unexpectedly getting
behind him by a spiral or a loop. It should be said here that the German
controlling boards take the pilot's word concerning the number of his
victories instead of requiring, as the French do, the evidence of eye
witnesses. The high figures generously allowed to a Richtofen or a
Werner Voss are less creditable than the strictly controlled record of a
Guynemer, a Nungesser, or a Dorme.

The enemy expected in April, 1917, a massive attack from the French air
forces in the Aisne, and had taken measures to evade it. An order from
the staff of the Seventh Army says that all flying units shall be given
the alarm whenever a large number of French airplanes are sighted. The
German machines must return to camp at once, refusing combat except on
equal terms; and balloons must be lowered, or even pulled down to the
ground. If, on the contrary, the German machines took the offensive, the
order was that, at the hour determined upon, all available machines must
rise together to a low altitude, and divide into two distinct fleets,
the chasing units flying above the rest. These two fleets must then make
for the point of attack, gaining height as they go, and must engage the
enemy above the lines with the utmost energy, never giving up the
pursuit until they reach the French lines, when the danger from
anti-aircraft batteries becomes too great.

From this it is evident that the preference of German Aviation for
taking the offensive was not sufficient to induce it to offer battle
above the enemy lines, and the tendency of the staff was to group
squadrons into overpowering masses. The French had preceded their
opponents in the way of technical progress, but the Germans made up for
the inferiority, as usual, by method and system. The French were
unrivaled for technical improvements, and the training of their pilots.
Their new machine, the Spad, was a first-rate instrument, superior in
strength, speed, and ease of control to the best Albatros, and the
Germans knew that this inferiority must be obviated. All modern battles
are thus preceded by technical rivalry. The preparation in factories,
week after week, and month after month, ultimately results in living
machinery which the staff uses as it pleases.

Living machinery it is, but it is in appearance only that it seems to be
independent of man. A battle is a collective work, to which each
participant, from the General-in-chief to the road-mender behind the
lines, brings his contribution. Colossal though the whole seems, perfect
as the enormous machine seems to be, it would not work if there were not
behind it a weak man made of poor flesh. A humble gunner, the anonymous
defenders of a trench, a pilot who purges the air of the hostile
presence, an observer who secures information in good time, some poor
soldier who has no idea that his individual action was connected with
the great drama, has occasionally brought about wonderful results--as a
stone falling into a pool makes its presence felt to the remotest banks.

Amidst the fighters on the Aisne, Guynemer was at his post in the
Storks Escadrille. "All right! (sic) they tumble down," he wrote
laconically to his family. There were indeed some five tumbling down: on
May 25 he had surpassed all that had been done so far in aërial fights,
bringing down four German machines in that one day. His notebook states
the fact briefly:

     8.30.--Downed a two-seater, which lost a wing as it fell and was
     smashed on the trees 1200 meters NNE. of Corbeny.

     8.31.--Another two-seater downed, in flames, above
     Juvincourt.--With Captain Auger, forced another two-seater to dive
     down to 600 meters, one kilometer from our lines.

     Downed a D.F.W.[22] in flames above Courlandon.

     Downed a two-seater in flames between Guignicourt and
     Condé-sur-Suippes. Dispersed with Captain Auger a squadron of six

[Footnote 22: The D.F.W. (_Deutsche Flugzeug Werke_) is a scouting
machine provided with two machine-guns, one shooting through the
propeller, the other mounted on a turret aft. It is thirty-nine feet
across the wings, and twenty-four in length. One Benz six-cylinder
engine of 200/225 H.P. Its speed at an altitude of 3000 meters supposed
to be 150 kilometers an hour. One of these machines has been on view at
the Invalides since July, 1917.]

Now, his Excellency, Lieutenant General von Hoeppner, _Kommandeur der
Luftstreitkräfte_, being interviewed two days later by newspaper men he
had summoned for the purpose, told them and through them told Germany
and, if possible, the whole world, that the German airplanes and the
German airmen were unrivaled. "As for the French aviators," he went on
to say remarkably apropos, "they only engage our men when they are sure
of victory. When they have doubts about their own superiority, they
prefer to desist rather than take any risks." This solemn lie the
newspaper men repeated at once in their issues of May 28.

A few months later one of these same reporters, reverting to the subject
of French aviation, took Guynemer himself to task in the _Badische
Presse_ for August 8, 1917, as follows: "The airman you see flying so
high is the famous Guynemer. He is the rival of the most daring German
aviators, an _as_, as the French call their champions. He is undoubtedly
to be reckoned with, for he handles his machine with absolute mastery,
and he is an excellent shot. But he only accepts an air fight when every
chance is on his side. He flies above the German lines at altitudes
between 6000 and 7000 meters, quite out of range of our anti-aircraft
artillery. He cannot make any observations, for from that height he sees
nothing clearly, not even troops on the march. He is exclusively a
chasing flyer bent on destroying our own machines. He has been often
successful, though he cannot be compared to our own Richtofen. He is
very prudent; always flying, as I said above, at an altitude of at least
6000 meters, he waits till an airplane rises from the German lines or
appears on its way home. Then he pounces upon it as a falcon might, and
opens fire with his machine-gun. When he only wounds the pilot, or if
our airman seems to show fight, Guynemer flies back to his own lines at
the incredible speed of 250 kilometers an hour, which his very powerful
machine makes possible. He never accepts a fair fight. Every man chases
as he can."

"Every man chases as he can." Quite so. To revert to that 25th of May,
the "very prudent" Guynemer, on his morning patrol, met three German
airplanes flying towards the French lines. They were two-seaters, less
nimble, no doubt, than one-seaters, but provided with so much more
dangerous arms. Naturally he could not think of attacking them, "not
feeling sure of victory," and "always avoiding a risky contest!" Yet he
pounced upon his three opponents, who promptly turned back. However, he
overtook one, began making evolutions around him, succeeded in getting
slightly below him, fired, and with his first volley succeeded in
bringing him down in flames north of Corbeny (northeast of Craonne).

The danger for a one-seater is to be surprised from behind. Just as
Guynemer veered round, he saw another machine flying after him. He again
fired upwards, and the airplane fell in flames, like the first, only a
few seconds having elapsed between the two fights. Guynemer then
returned to camp.

But he was excited by these two fights; his nerves were strained and his
will was tense. He soon started again. Towards noon a German machine
appeared above the camp itself. How had it been able to get there? This
is what the airmen down below were asking themselves. It was useless to
chase it, for it would take any of them longer to rise than the German
to escape. So they had to content themselves with looking up, some of
them searching the sky with binoculars. Everybody was back except
Guynemer, when somebody suddenly cried:

"Here comes Guynemer!"

"Then the Boche is done for."

Guynemer, in fact, was coming down upon his prey like lightning, and the
instant he was behind and slightly beneath him, he fired. Only one shot
from the machine-gun was heard, but the enemy airplane was already
spinning down, its engine going full speed, and was dashed into the
earth at Courlandon near Fismes. The pilot had been shot through the

In the afternoon the very prudent Guynemer started for the third time,
and towards seven o'clock, above the Guignicourt market gardens (that is
to say, in the enemy lines), he brought down another machine in flames.

"Very prudent" is the last epithet one could have expected to see in
connection with the name of Guynemer. For he rarely came home without
bullet-holes in his wings or even in his clothes. The Boche, being the
Boche, had shown his usual respect for truth and generosity towards an

Guynemer, when returning to camp after a victory, generally announced
his success by making his engine work to some tune. This time the
cadence was the tune of the _Lampions_. All the neighboring airplane
sheds understood, also the cantonments, parks, depots, dugouts, field
hospitals and railway stations; in a word, all the communities scattered
behind the lines of an army. This time the motor was singing so
insistently that everybody, with faces upturned, concluded that their
Guynemer had been "getting them."

In fact, the news was already spreading like wildfire, as news has the
mysterious capacity for doing. No, it was not simply one airplane he had
set ablaze; it was two, one above Corbeny, the other above Juvincourt.
And people had hardly realized the wonderful fact before the third
machine was seen falling in flames near Fismes. It was seen by hundreds
of men who thought it was about to fall upon them, and ran for shelter.
Meanwhile, Guynemer's engine was singing.

And for the fourth time it was heard again at twilight. Could it be
possible? Had Guynemer really succeeded four times? Four machines
brought down in one day by one pilot was what no infantryman, gunner,
pioneer, territorial, Anamite or Senegalese had ever seen. And from the
stations, field hospitals, dugouts, depots, parks and cantonments, while
the setting sun lingered in the sky on this May evening, whoever handled
a shovel, a pickaxe or a rifle, whoever laid down rails, unloaded
trucks, piled up cases, or broke stones on the road, whoever dressed
wounds, gave medicine or carried dead men, whoever worked, rested, ate
or drank--whoever was alive, in a word--stepped out, ran, jostled
along, arrived at the camp, got helterskelter over the fences, broke
into the sheds, searched the airplanes, and called to the mechanicians
in their wild desire to see Guynemer. There they were, a whole town of
them, knocking at every door and peeping into every tent.

Somebody said: "Guynemer is asleep."

Whereupon, without a word of protest, without a sound, the crowd
streamed out and scattered in the darkening fields, threading its way
back to the quiet dells behind the lines.

So ended the day of the greatest aërial victory.


_Sunday, June 3, 1917._ To-day, the first Sunday of June, the women from
the neighboring villages came to visit the camp. Nobody is allowed to
enter, but from the road you can see the machines start or land. The day
was glorious, and the broad sun transfiguring these French landscapes,
with their elongated valleys, their wooded ranges of hills, and
generally harmonious lines suggested Greece, and one looked around for
the colonnades of temples.

Beyond the rolling country rose the Aisne cliffs, where the fighting was
incessant, though its roar was scarcely perceived.

Why had these villages been attracted to this particular camp? Because
they knew that here, in default of Greek temples, were young gods. They
wanted to see Guynemer.

The news had flown on rapid wings from hamlet to hamlet, from farm to
farm, of what had happened on the 25th, and on the next day Guynemer had
been almost equally successful.

Several aviators had already landed, men with famous names, but the
public cannot be expected to remember them all. Finally an airplane
descended in graceful spirals, landing softly and rolling along close to
the railings.


But the pilot, unconscious of the worshiping crowd, took off his helmet,
disclosed a frowning face, and began discontentedly to examine his gun.
Twice that day it had jammed, saving two Germans. Guynemer was like the
painters of old who, by grinding their colors themselves, insured the
duration of their works. He resented not being able to make all his
weapons himself, his engine, his Vickers, and his bullets. At length he
seemed willing to leave his machine, and pulled off his heavy war
accouterment, which revealed a tall, flexible young man. As he rapidly
approached his tent, his every motion watched by the onlookers, a
private turned on him a small camera, with a beseeching--

"You'll permit me, _mon capitaine_?"

"Yes, but quick."

He was cross and impatient, and as he stopped he noticed all the eyes of
the women watching him ecstatically. He made a despairing gesture. His
frown deepened, his figure stiffened, and the snapshot was another

Hardly any of his portraits are like him. Does the fact that he was tall
and spare, almost beardless, with an amber-colored, oval face and a
regular profile, and raven-hair brushed backwards, give any idea of the
force that was in him? If his eyes, dark with golden reflections, could
have been painted, they might no doubt have given a more accurate notion
of him: his capacity for surveying all space, and his prompt decision,
were visible in them, as well as his carefulness and his courage. Their
glance was so direct, almost brutal, that it could be felt, so to speak,
physically; and yet it could suddenly express a cheerful, boyish nature,
or disclose his close attention to the technical problems which
everlastingly engrossed his mind.

Guynemer was very different from Navarre, with his powerful profile and
broad chest like an eagle in repose, and different from Nungesser, the
Nungesser before his wounds had so devastated his body that a medical
board wanted to declare him unfit, a decision which he heroically
resisted, adding to his thirty victories another triumph over physical
disability. Guynemer differed from them mentally, too, possessing
neither their instinct nor their intuitiveness. These he replaced with
scientific accuracy based on study, by a passion for flying, by method
allied to fervor, by violent logic. His power was nervous and almost
electric. The vicinity of danger drew sparks from him.

His most daring exploits were prepared by meditation beforehand, and he
never indulged in recklessness without having pondered and calculated.
His action was so swift that it might seem instinctive, but under
appearances the reasoning element was always present.

It was now late, but he was willing to talk to us about that wonderful
25th of May, for he had no objection to talking about his enemy-chasing;
on the contrary, he would tell us details with the same amusement as if
he related lucky plays at poker, and with the same knowing ways. There
was not the least shade of affectation or of posing in his narrative,
but he talked with the simplicity of a child. He told us that his third
encounter had been the most enjoyable. He was coming back to lunch, had
seen the impudent German soaring above the camp, had fired, and the man
had gone down dead. After this exceedingly brief account he laughed as
usual, a fresh laugh like a girl's, and his eyes closed. He said he was
sleepy; he had been out twice, and before he went again he wanted a
little rest.

       *       *       *       *       *

I remember how bustling the camp looked! It was half-past six, and the
weather was wonderful, with not a cloud in the sky, for some floating
white flakes in the blue could not be called clouds. But these white
flakes began to multiply; they were, in fact, an enemy patrol, which had
succeeded in crossing the lines and was now above us. We counted two,
three, four machines, which the sparks of our exploding shells promptly
surrounded, while three French Spads rose at full speed to meet them.

As we stood watching and wondering if the enemy would accept the fight,
Guynemer suddenly appeared. He had been called, and now he and his
comrades, Captain Auger and Lieutenant Raymond, came running to their
machines. I watched Guynemer as he was being put into his leather suit.
His whole soul was in his eyes, which glared at one moving point in
space as if they themselves could shoot. Three of the German machines
had already turned back, but the remaining one went on, insolently
counting on his own power and speed. I shall never forget Guynemer, his
face lifted, his eyes illuminated as if hypnotized by this point in
space, his figure upright and stiffened like an arrow waiting to be
released by the bow. Before pulling down his helmet he gave the order:

"Straight at him."

The engines snorted and snored, the propellers began to move, the
machines rolled along, and suddenly were seen climbing almost
vertically. Up above the fight was beginning, and it seemed as if the
three starting airplanes could never reach in time the altitude of four
or five thousand meters at which it was taking place.

The attacking Spad was obviously trying to get its opponent within
firing range, but the German was a first-rate pilot and dodged without
losing height, banking, looping, taking advantage of the Frenchman's
dead angles, and striving to get him under his machine-gun. Round and
round the two airplanes circled, when suddenly the German bolted in the
direction of the Aisne cliffs. But the Spad partly caught up with him
and the aërial circling began anew, while two other Spads appeared--a
pack after a deer. The German cleverly took advantage now of the sun,
now of the evening vapors, but he was within range, and the tack-tack of
a machine-gun was heard. Guynemer and the other two were coming nearer,
when the Spad dropped beneath its adversary and fired upwards. The
German plunged, and we expected would sink, but he righted himself and
was off in an instant. However, this was Guynemer's chance: three shots,
not more, from his gun, and the German airplane crashed down somewhere
near Muizon, on the banks of the Vesle.[23]

[Footnote 23: This victory was not put down to Guynemer's account,
because another airman had shot first--which gives an idea of the French
controlling board's severity.]

One after another, the victorious birds came back to cover from every
part of the violet and rosy sky. But joy over their success must show
itself, and they indulged in all the fanciful caprioles of acrobatic
aviation, spinning down in quick spirals, turning somersaults, looping
or plunging in a glorious sky-dance. Last of these young gods, Guynemer
landed after one final circle, and took off his helmet, offering to the
setting sun his illuminated face, still full of the spirit of battle.


On the Somme Guynemer was one of the great French champions; on the
Aisne he became their king. No enemy could resist him, and his daring
appeared without bounds. On May 27 he attacked alone a squadron of six
two-seaters above Auberive at an altitude of 5000 meters, and compelled
them to go down to an altitude of 3600 meters. Before landing, he
pounced on another group of eight, scattering them and bringing down
one, completely smashed, with its fuselage linen in rags, among the
shell-holes in a field. He was like the Cid Campeador, to whom the Sheik
Jabias said:

     ...Vous éclatiez, avec des rayons jusqu'aux cieux,
     Dans une préséance éblouissante aux yeux;
     Vous marchiez, entouré d'un ordre de bataille;
     Aucun sommet n'était trop haut pour votre taille,
     Et vous étiez un fils d'une telle fierté
     Que les aigles volaient tous de votre côté....

His feats exceeded all hopes, and his appearance in the sky fairly
frightened the enemy. On June 5, after bringing down an Albatros east of
Berry-au-Bac, he chased to the east of Rheims a D.F.W., which had
previously been attacked by other Spads. "My nose was right on him,"
says Guynemer's notebook, "when my machine-gun jammed. But just then the
observer raised his hands. I beckoned to him several times to veer
towards our lines, but noticing that he was making straight for his own,
I went back to my gun, which now worked, and fired a volley of fifteen
(at 2200 altitude). Immediately the machine upset, throwing the observer
overboard, and sank on Berru forest." However, Guynemer's day's work was
not done to his satisfaction after these two victories (his forty-fourth
and forty-fifth): he attacked a group of three, and later on a group of
four, and came back with bullets in his machine.

Meanwhile he had been made, on June 11, 1917, an Officer of the Legion
of Honor with the following citation:

     A remarkable officer, a daring and dexterous chaser. Has been of
     exceptional service to the country both by the number of his
     victories and by the daily example of his never-flagging courage
     and constantly increasing mastery. Careless of danger, he has
     become, by the infallibility of his methods, the most formidable
     opponent of German flyers. On May 25 achieved unparalleled success,
     bringing down two machines in one minute, and two more in the
     course of the same day. By these exploits has contributed to
     maintaining the courage and enthusiasm of the men who, from the
     trenches, have witnessed his triumphs. Forty-five machines brought
     down; twenty citations; twice wounded.

This document, eloquent and accurate and tracing facts to their causes,
praises in Guynemer at the same time will-power, courage, and the
contagion of example. Guynemer loved the last sentence, because it
associated with his fights their daily witnesses, the infantrymen in the

The badge of an Officer in the Legion of Honor was given to him at the
aviation camp on July 5 by General Franchet d'Esperey, in command of the
Northern Armies. But this solemn ceremony had not prevented Guynemer
from flying twice, the first time for two hours, the second flight one
hour, on a new machine from which he expected wonders. He attacked three
D.F.W.'s, and had to land with five bullets in his engine and radiator.

His new decoration was given him at four o'clock on a beautiful summer
afternoon. Guynemer's comrades were present, of course, and as pleased
as if the function had concerned themselves. The 11th Company of the 82d
Regiment of Infantry took its station opposite the imposing row of
squadron machines, sixty in number, which stood there like race horses
as if to take part in the fête. Guynemer's well-known airplane, the
_Vieux-Charles_, was the fifth to the left, its master having required
its presence, though it had been injured that very day. In front of the
aviation and regimental flags the young aviator stood by himself in his
black _vareuse_, looking slight and pale, but upright, with eyes
sparkling. At a little distance a few civilians--his own people, whom
the general had invited--watched the proceedings.

General Franchet d'Esperey appeared, a robust, energetic man, and the
following scene, described by one of the trench papers--the _Brise
d'entonnoirs_ of the 82d Infantry--took place: "The general stopped
before the young hero and eyed him with evident pleasure; then he
proclaimed him a gallant soldier, touched his two shoulders with his
sword, as they did to champions of past ages, pinned the _rosette_ on
his coat, and embraced him. Then to the stirring tune of
'_Sambre-et-Meuse_' the band and the soldiers marched in front of the
new officer who, the ceremony now being over, joined his relatives some
distance away."

General d'Esperey, looking over Guynemer's _Vieux-Charles_, noticed the
damaged parts.

"How comes it that your foot was not injured?" he asked, pointing to one
of the bullet-holes.

"I had just removed it, _mon général_," said Guynemer, with his usual

None of the airmen with whom Guynemer shared his joy ever forgot that
afternoon of July 5, 1917. The summer sun, the serene beauty of the
hills bordering the Aisne, the distant bass of the battle, lent to the
scene an enchanting but solemn interest. Tragic memories were in the
minds of all the bystanders, and great names were on their lips--the
names of retiring, noble, hard-working Dorme, reported missing on May
25, and of Captain Lecour-Grandmaison, creator of the three-seaters,
who, on one of these machines, brought down five Germans, but was killed
in a combat on May 10 and brought back to camp dead by a surviving
comrade. Guynemer's red _rosette_ meant glory to the great chasers, to
wounded Heurtaux, to Ménard and Deullin, to Auger, Fonck, Jailler,
Guérin, Baudouin, and all their comrades! And it meant glory to the
pilots and observers who, always together in the discharge of duty, are
not infrequently together in meeting death: to Lieutenant Fressagues,
pilot, and sous-lieutenant Bouvard, observer, who once fought seven
Germans and managed to bring one down; to Lieutenant Floret and
Lieutenant Homo, who, placed in similar circumstances, set two machines
on fire; to Lieutenant Viguier who, on April 18, had the pluck to come
down to twenty-five meters above the enemy's lines and calmly make his
observations; and to so many others who did their duty with the same
daring, intelligence, and conscientiousness, to the hundreds of more
humble airmen who, while the infantry says the sanguinary mass, throw
down from above, like the chorister boys in the _corpus Christi_
procession, the red roses of epics!

The whole Storks Escadrille had received from General Duchêne the
following _citation_: "Escadrille No. 3. Commander: Captain Heurtaux. A
brilliant chasing escadrille which for the past two years has fought in
every sector of the front with wonderful spirit and admirable
self-sacrifice. The squadron has just taken part in the Lorraine and
Champagne operations, and during this period its members have destroyed
fifty-three German machines which, added to others previously brought
down, makes a total of one hundred and twenty-eight certainly
demolished, and one hundred and thirty-two partly disabled."

This battle on the Aisne, with its famous climax at the Chemin des
Dames, began to slacken in July; and it was decided that the chasing
squadrons, including the Storks, should be transferred to one of the
British sectors where another offensive was being prepared. But before
leaving the Fismes or Rheims district, Guynemer was active. He had not
been given his new rank in the Legion of Honor to be idle: that was not
his way. On the contrary, his habit was to show, after receiving a
distinction as well as before, that he was worthy of it. On July 6 he
engaged five two-seaters, and brought down one in flames. The next day
his notebook records two more victories:

"Attacked with Adjutant Bozon-Verduraz, four Albatros one-seaters, above
Brimont. Downed one in flames north of Villers-Franqueux, in our own
lines. Attacked a D.F.W. which spun down in our lines at Moussy."

These victories, his forty-sixth, forty-seventh, and forty-eighth, were
his farewell to the Aisne. But these excessive exertions brought on
nervous fatigue. The escadrille had only just reached its new station,
when Guynemer had to go into hospital, whence he wrote his father on
July 18 as follows:

     Dear Father:

     Knocked out again. Hospital. But this time I'm flourishing. No more
     wooden barracks, but a farmhouse right in the fields. I have a room
     all to myself. Quite correct: I downed three Fritzes, one ablaze,
     and the next day again great sport: mistook four Boches for
     Frenchmen. At first fought three of them, then one alone at 3200 to
     800 meters. He took fire. They will have to wait till the earth
     dries so they can dig him out. An hour later a two-seater turned up
     at 5500. He blundered, and fell straight down on a 75, which died
     of the shock. But so did the passenger. The pilot was simply a bit
     excited, for which he couldn't be blamed. His machine had not
     plunged, but came down slowly, with its nose twirling, and I got
     his two guns intact....

     The _toubib_ (doctor) says I shall be on my feet in three or four
     days. Don't see many Boches just now, but that won't last. I read
     in a newspaper that I had been mobbed in a friendly manner in
     Paris. I must be ubiquitous without knowing it. Modern science
     brings about marvels, modern journalism also.

     Raymond has two strings (officer's stripes) and the cross of the
     Legion. Please congratulate him.

     Good night, father.


     P.S. I, who get seasick over nothing at all, have just been out to
     sea for the first time. The water was very rough, especially for a
     little motor-boat, but I smiled serenely through it all. Wasn't I

In fact, some newspaper had announced that Guynemer would carry the
aviation flag in the Parade of the Fourteenth of July in Paris, and this
was enough to persuade the crowd that some other airman was Guynemer.
Indeed, there had been talk of sending him to Paris on that solemn
occasion, but he had declined. He loved glory, but hated show, and he
had followed his squadron to Flanders, where he had taken to his bed.

The foregoing letter bears Guynemer's mark unmistakably. The son of rich
parents rejoicing over having a room to himself, after having renounced
all comfort from the very first day of his enlistment, and willing to
begin as _garçon d'aérodrome_; the joke about the German airplane sunk
so deep in the wet ground that it would have to be dug out, and the
surprise of the pilot; the delight over Raymond's promotion; the amusing
allusion to sea-sickness by the man who had no equal in air navigation,
are all characteristic details.

Sheik Jabias thus sums up his impressions after visiting the Cid in his

     Vous dominiez tout, grand, sans chef, sans joug, sans digue,
     Absolu, lance au poing, panache, au front....

And that Cid had never fought up in the air.


To quote him once more, Sheik Jabias, after being dazzled by the Cid in
his camp, is supposed to see him in his father's castle at Bivar, doing
more humble work.

     ...Que s'est-il donc passé? Quel est cet équipage?
     J'arrive, et je vous trouve en veste, comme un page,
     Dehors, bras nus, nu-tête, et si petit garçon
     Que vous avez en main l'auge et le caveçon,
     Et faisant ce qu'il sied aux écuyers de faire,
     --Cheick, dit le Cid, je suis maintenant chez mon père.

Those who never saw Guynemer at his father's at Compiègne cannot know
him well. Of course, even in camp he was the best of comrades, full of
his work, but always ready to enjoy somebody else's success, and
speaking about his own as if it were billiards or bridge. His renown
had not intoxicated him, and he would have been quite unconscious of it
had he not sometimes felt that unresponsiveness on the part of others
which is the price of glory: anything like jealousy hurt him as if it
had been his first discovery of evil. In Kipling's _Jungle Book_,
Mowgli, the man cub, noticing that the Jungle hates him, feels his eyes
and is frightened at finding them wet. "What is this, Bagheera?" he asks
of his friend the panther. "Oh, nothing; only tears," answers Bagheera,
who had lived among men.

One who, on occasion, told Guynemer _not to mind_ knows how deep was his
sensitiveness, not to the presence of real hostility, which he
fortunately never encountered, but even to an obscure germ of jealousy.
The moment he felt this he shrank into himself. His native exuberance
only displayed itself under the influence of sympathy.

Friendship among airmen is manly and almost rough, not caring for
formulas or appearances, but proving itself by deeds. To these men the
games of war are astonishingly like school games, and are spoken of as
if they were nothing else. When a comrade has not come back, and dinner
has to begin without him, no show of sorrow is tolerated: only these
young men's hearts feel the absence of a friend, and the casual visitor,
not knowing, might take them for sporting men, lively and jolly.

Guynemer was living his life in perfect confidence, feeling no personal
ambition, not inclined to enjoy honors more than work, ignoring all
affectation or attitudinizing, never politic, and naturally unconscious
of his own simplicity. Yet he loved and adored what we call glory, and
would tell anybody of his successes, even of his decorations, with a
childlike certitude that these things must delight others as much as
himself. His French honors were of course his great pride, but he highly
appreciated those which he had received from allied governments, too:
the Distinguished Service order, the Cross of St. George, the Cross of
Leopold, the Belgian war medal, Serbian and Montenegrin orders, etc. All
these ribbons made a bright show, and although he generally wore only
the _rosette_ of the Legion of Honor, he would sometimes deck himself
out in them all, or carry them in his pocket and occasionally empty them
out on a table, as at school he used to tumble out the untidy contents
of his desk in search of his task.

When he went to Paris to see to his machines, he first secured a room at
the Hôtel Edouard VII, and immediately posted to the Buc works. When he
had time he would invite himself to dinner at the house of his
schoolmate at the Collège Stanislas, Lieutenant Constantin. "Every time
he came," this officer writes, "some new exploit or a new decoration had
been added to his list. He never wore all his medals, his 'village-band
banner,' as he amusingly called them; but when people asked to see them,
he immediately searched his pockets and produced the whole disorderly
lot. When he became officer in the Legion, he appeared at my mother's
quite radiant, so that she asked him the reason of this unusual joy.
'Regardez bien, madame, there is something new.' The new thing which my
mother discovered was a tiny _rosette_ ornamenting his red ribbon."

This _rosette_ was so very small that nobody noticed it, and Guynemer
felt that he must complain to the shopman at the Palais Royal who had
sold it to him.

"Give me a larger one, a huge one," he said; "nobody sees this."

       *       *       *       *       *

The tradesman spread a number of _rosettes_ on his counter, but Guynemer
only took back again the one of which he had complained, and went out
laughing as if the whole thing had been a good joke.

His officer's stripes gave him as much pleasure as his decorations.
Every time he was promoted, he wanted his stripes sewn on, not in a day
or an hour, or even five minutes, but immediately. He received his
captain's commission the same day he had been given the Distinguished
Service order, and he promptly went to see his friend, Captain de la
Tour, who was wounded in the hospital at Nancy. This officer had lost
three brothers in action, and loved Guynemer as if he had been another
younger brother. Indeed, Guynemer said later that La Tour loved him more
than any other did.

"Don't you see any change in me?" Guynemer asked.

"No, you're just as usual."

"No, there's a change!"

"Oh, I see; you mean your English order; it does look well."

"There's something else. Look closer."

La Tour at last discovered the three stripes on the cap and sleeves.

"What! Are you a captain?"

"Yes, a captain," and Guynemer laughed his boyish laugh.--This kid a
captain! So I am not an impressive captain, then? I haven't run risks
enough to be a captain, probably!--His laugh said all this.

Lieutenant Constantin also says in his notes: "Guynemer disliked walking
about Paris, because people recognized him. When he saw them turn to
look at him, he would grumble at the curse of having a face that was
public property. So he preferred waiting for evening, and then drove his
little white car up the Champs Elysées to the Bois. He enjoyed this
peaceful recreation thoroughly, and forgot the excitement of his life at
the front. Memories of our boyhood days came back to him, and he dwelt
on them with delight: 'Do you remember one day in _seconde_ when we
quarreled and fought like madmen? You made such a mark on my arm that it
is there yet.' He did not mind, but I was ashamed of having been such a
young brute. Another day, in May, 1917, coming home on leave I met
Georges just as he stepped out of his hotel, and as I had just been
mentioned in dispatches I told him about it. Immediately he dragged me
into a shop, bought a _croix de guerre_, pinned it on my _vareuse_, and
hugged me before everybody."

Guynemer had a genius for graciousness, and his imagination was
inexhaustible when he wished to please, but his temper was hot and
quick. One day he had left his motor at the door of the hotel, and some
practical joker thought it clever to leave a note in the car with this
inscription in large letters: AVIATORS TO THE FRONT! Guynemer did not
take the joke at all, and was boiling with rage.

His complete freedom from conceit has often been remarked. At a luncheon
given in his honor by the well-known deputy, Captain Lasies, he would
not say a word about himself, but extolled his comrades until somebody
said: "You are really modesty itself."

Whereupon another guest asked: "Could you imagine him bragging?"

Guynemer was delighted, and when the party broke up he went out with the
gentleman who had said this and thanked him warmly. "Don't you see how
little they understand? I don't say I am modest, but if I weren't I
would be a fool, and I should not like to be that. I know quite well
that just now some of us are getting so much admiration and so many
honors that one may get more than one's share. Whereas the men in the
trenches--how different it is with them!"[24]

[Footnote 24: _Journal des Débats_ for September 26, 1917.]

But it was inevitable that he should be lionized. People came to him
with albums and pictures. He wrote to his father that a Madame de B.
wanted something, just one sentence, in an album which was to be sold in
America. "I am to be alongside the Generalissimo. What on earth can I

An American lady who was also a guest at the Hôtel Edouard VII wanted to
have at any price some souvenir of the young hero. She ordered her maid
to bring away an old glove of Guynemer's which was lying on a chest of
drawers, and replace it by a magnificent bouquet. "This lady put me in a
nice dilemma," Guynemer explained, "as it was Sunday and there was no
way of getting any more gloves."[25]

[Footnote 25: Anecdote related in the _Figaro_ for September 29, 1917.]

He had no affectation, least of all the kind that pretends to be
ignorant of one's own popularity; but surely he cared little for
popularity. Here again he puts us in mind of a medieval poem. In
_Gilbert de Metz_, one of our oldest epics, the daughter of Anséis is
described seated at the window, "fresh, slim, and white as a lily" when
two knights, Garin and his cousin Gilbert, happen to ride near. "Look
up, cousin Gilbert," says Garin, "look. By our lady, what a handsome
dame!" "Oh," answers Gilbert, "what a handsome creature my steed is! I
never saw anything so lovely as this maiden with her fair skin and dark
eyes. I never knew any steed that could compare with mine." And so on,
while Gilbert still refuses to look up at the beautiful daughter of
Anséis. Also in _Girard de Viane_, Charlemagne, holding his court at
the palace of Vienne, has just placed the hand of the lovely Aude in
that of his nephew Roland. Both the girl and the great soldier are
silent and blushing while the date of the wedding is being discussed,
when a messenger suddenly rushes in: "The Saracens are in France! War!
war!" shout the bystanders. Then without a word Roland drops the white
hand of the girl, springs to arms, and is gone. So Guynemer would have
praised his Nieuport or his Spad as Gilbert praised his steed, and
_belle Aude_ herself could not have kept him away from the fight.

[Illustration: COMBAT]

One day his father felt doubts about the capacity of such a young man to
resist the intoxication of so much flattery from men and women.

"Don't worry," Guynemer answered, "I am watching my nerves as an acrobat
watches his muscles. I have chosen my own mission, and I must fulfil

After his death, one of his friends, the one who spoke to him last, told
me: "He used to put aside heaps of flattering letters which he did not
even read. 'Read them if you like,' he said to me, and I destroyed them.
He only read letters from children, schoolboys and soldiers."

In _L'Aiglon_ Prokesch brings the mail to the Prince Imperial, and
handing him letters from women, he says:

     Ce que c'est d'avoir l'auréole fatale.

As soon as Prokesch begins to read them, the Prince stops him with the
words: "_Je déchire_." Even when a woman whom he has nicknamed "Little
Spring"--"because the water sleeping in her eyes or purling in her voice
has often cooled his fever"--announces her departure, hoping he may
detain her, he lets her go, whispering again like a refrain, "_Je

Did Guynemer deal with hearts as he dealt with the besieging letters, or
as the falcon of St. Jean l'Hospitalier dealt with birds?--No "Little
Spring," had her voice been ever so rill-like, could have detained him
when a sunny morning invited him skywards.

       *       *       *       *       *

Safe from the admiring public, Guynemer would relax and breathe freely
with his people at Compiègne, where he became once more a lively, noisy,
indulged, but coaxing and charming boy, except when absorbed in work,
from which nothing could distract him. He spent hours in pasting and
classifying the snapshots he took of his enemies just before pulling the
trigger of his machine-gun and bringing them down. One of his greatest
pleasures when on leave was to arrange and show these photographs.

His eyes, which saw everything, were keen to detect the least changes in
the arrangement of his home, even when mere knickknacks had been moved
about. At each visit he found the house ornamented with some new trophy
of his exploits. He was delighted to find that a miniature barkentine,
which he had built with corks, paper, and thread when he was seven years
old, still stood on his mother's mantelpiece. Even at that age his
powers of observation had been evident, and he had forgotten no detail
of sails or rigging.

He had taken again so naturally his old place in the family circle that
his mother forgot once and called the tall, famous young man by his old
familiar name, "_Bébé_." She quickly corrected herself, but he said:

"I am always that to you, Mother."

"I was happier when you were little," she observed.

"I hope you are not vexed with me, Mother."

"Vexed for what?"

"For having grown up."

He was naturally full of the one subject that interested him, airplanes
and chasing, and he would go round the house collecting audiences.
Strange bits of narration could be overheard from different rooms as he
held forth:

"Then I _embusqued_ myself became a slacker...."


"Oh! I _embusqued_ myself behind a cloud."

Or, "The light dazzled me, so I hid the sun with my wing."

He never forgot his sisters' birthdays, but he could not always give
them the present he preferred. "Sorry I could not present you with a

He was hardly different when his mother received company: he was never
seen to play the great man. Only on one subject he always and instantly
became serious, namely, when the future was mentioned. "Do not let us
make any plans," he would say.

       *       *       *       *       *

A page from one of my own notebooks will help to show Guynemer as I used
to see him in his home.

     _Wednesday, June 27, 1917._--Compiègne. Called on the Guynemers. He
     is fascination itself with his "goddess on the clouds" gait--as if
     he remembered when walking that he could also fly--with his
     incomparable eyes, his perpetual movement, his interior
     electricity, his admixture of elegance and ardor, and with that
     impulse of his whole being towards one object which suggests the
     antique runner, even when he is for an instant in repose. His
     parents and sisters do not miss a single gesture, a single motion
     he makes. They drink in his every word, and his life seems to
     absorb them. His laugh echoes in their souls. They believe in him,
     are sure of him, sure of his future, and that all will be well.
     Noticing this certitude, whether real or assumed, I could not help
     stealing a glance at the frail god of aviation, made like the
     delicate statuettes that we dread breaking. He talks passionately,
     as usual, of his aërial fights. But just now one thought seems to
     supersede every other. He is expecting a new machine, a magic
     machine which he planned long ago, found difficult to get built,
     and with which he must do more damage than ever.

     Then he showed us his photographs with the white blotches of
     bursting shells, or the gray wings of German airplanes. One of
     these is seen as it falls in flames, the pilot falling, too, some
     distance away from it. Thus the victim was registered, and the
     memory of it made him happy.

     I swallowed a question I was going to ask: What about
     yourself--some day? because he looked so full of life that the
     notion of death could never present itself to him. But he seemed to
     have read my thoughts, for he said:

     "You have plenty of time in the air, except when you fight, and
     then you have no time at all. I've been brought down six times, and
     I always had plenty of time to realize what was happening." And he
     laughed his clear, boyish laugh.

     As a matter of fact, he has been incredibly lucky. In one fight he
     was hit three times, and each time the bullet was deadened by some
     unexpected obstacle.

     Finally I was shown photographs of himself, chronologically
     arranged. Needless to say, it was not he who showed them. There was
     the half-nude baby, with eyes already sparkling and eager, then the
     schoolboy with the fine carriage of the head, then the lad fresh
     from school with a singularly calm expression, and well filled-out
     cheeks. A little later the expression appeared more mature and
     tense, though still ingenuous. Later again there was a decidedly
     stern look, with the face less oval and thinner. The rough fingers
     of war had chiseled this face, and sharpened and strengthened it. I
     looked from the picture to him, and I realized that, compared to
     his former pictures, his expression had now indeed acquired
     something terrible. But just then he laughed, and the laughter
     conjured away all phantasies.


As a tiny boy who had invented an enchanted bed for his sisters' dolls,
as a boy who, at Collège Stanislas, had rigged up a telephone to send
messages to the last forms in the schoolroom, or manufactured miniature
airplanes, as a recruit who, at Pau, had gladly accepted the work of
cleaning, burnishing, and overhauling engines, Guynemer had always shown
a passion for mechanics. Becoming a pilot, and later on a chaser, he
exhibited in the study and perfecting of his airplanes the same
enthusiasm and perseverance as in his flights. He was everlastingly
calling for swifter or more powerful machines, and not only strove to
communicate his own fervor to technicians, but went into minute details,
suggested improvements, and whenever he had a chance visited the
workshops and assisted at trials. Such trials are sometimes dangerous.
One of his friends, Edouard de Layens, was killed in this kind of
accident, and Guynemer was enraged that a gallant airman should perish
otherwise than in battle. He was in reality an inventor, though this
statement may cause surprise, and though it may not be wise at present
to bear it out by facts.

Every part of his machine or of his gun was familiar to him. He had
handled them all, taking them apart and putting them together again.
There are practical improvements in modern airplanes which would not be
there had it not been for him. And there is a "Guynemer visor."

Confidence and authoritativeness had not come to him along with glory,
for from the first he talked as one engrossed by his ideas, and it is
because he was thus engrossed that he found persuasive words to bring
others round to his views. But, naturally enough, he had not at first
the prestige which he possessed when he became Captain Guynemer, had
high rank in the Legion of Honor, and enjoyed world-wide fame. In his
'prentice days when, in workshops or in the presence of well-known
builders, he would make confident statements, inveigh against errors, or
demand modifications, people thought him flippant and saucy. Once
somebody called him a raw lad. The answer came with crushing rapidity:
"When you blunder, raw lads like myself pay for your mistakes."

It must be admitted that, like most people brought up with wealth, he
was apt to be unduly impatient. Delays or objections irritated him. He
wanted to force his will upon Time, which never admits compulsion, and
tried to over-ride obstacles. His peculiar fascination gradually won its
way even in workshops, and his appearance there was greeted with
acclamation, not only because the men were curious to see him, but
because they were in sympathy with him and had put his ideas to a
successful test. The workmen liked to see him sit in a half-finished
machine, and explain in his short, decisive style what he wanted and
what was sure to give superiority to French aviation. The men stopped
work, came round, and listened eagerly. This, too, was a triumph for
him. What he told them on such occasions he had probably whispered to
himself many times before when, on rainy days, he would sit in his
airplane under the hangar, and think and talk to himself, while
strangers wondered if he was not crazy.

However, he had made friends with well-known engineers, especially Major
Garnier of Puteaux and M. Béchereau of the Spad works. These two,
instead of dismissing him as a snappish airman continually at variance
with the builder, took his inventions seriously and strove to meet his
requirements. When M. Béchereau, after long delays, was at last
decorated for his eminent services, the Secretary of Aëronautics, M.
Daniel Vincent, came to the works and was going to place the medal and
red ribbon on the engineer's breast, when he saw Guynemer standing near.
He graciously handed the medal over to the airman, saying:

"Give M Béchereau his decoration; it is only fair you should."

In September, 1916, Guynemer had tried at the front one of the first two
Spads. On the 8th he wrote to M. Béchereau: "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 meters in
between at 3000 meters. 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." Here he went into
technicalities about his new machine-gun, but further on reverted to the
Spad: "She loops wonderfully. Her spin is a bit lazy and irregular, but
deliciously soft." The letter concludes with many suggestions for minor

His correspondence with M. Béchereau was entirely devoted to a study of
airplanes: 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. "Yesterday," he
wrote on October 21, 1916, "five Boches, three of them above our lines,
came within ten meters 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." In fact, a few
days later he wrote exultingly, having discovered that the jamming was
due to cold and having found an ingenious remedy.

     _November 4, 1916._ Day before yesterday I bagged a Fokker
     one-seater biplane. It was two meters 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 meters 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.

On November 18 next, after going into particulars concerning his engine
which he wanted made stronger, he told M. Béchereau of his 21st and 22d

     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 meters 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 meters, when he adopted the
     vertical, and blazed up on crashing to the ground....

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.

     _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 meters 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).

     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....

The letter adds only some recommendations as to the necessity for more
speed and a better propeller.

But much more important improvements were already filling his mind. He
had conceived plans for a magic airplane that would simply annihilate
the enemy, and as he would doggedly carry on a fight, so he ruminated,
begged, and urged until his idea was realized. But he was forced to
practice exhausting perseverance, and on several occasions the lack of
comprehension or sympathy which he encountered infuriated him. Yet he
never gave up. It was not his way in a workshop, any more than in the
air; and when, after some ten months' struggling, trying, and frequent
beginning over again, he saw himself at last in possession of the
wonderful machine, he rejoiced as a warrior may after forging his own

In January, 1917, he wrote to M. Béchereau urging him to make all
dispatch: "Spring will soon be here, and the Germans are working like
niggers. If we go to sleep, it will be '_couic_' for us." Henceforth his
correspondence, sometimes rather dictatorial, with the engineer was
entirely devoted to the magic airplane,--its size, controls, wing-tips,
tank, weight, etc. The margins of his letters were covered with
drawings, and every detail was minutely discussed. In February he wrote
to his father as if he had been a builder: "My machine surpasses all
expectations, and will soon be at work. In Paris I go to bed early and
rise ditto, spending all day at Spad's. I have no other thought or
occupation. It is a fixed idea, and if it goes on I shall become a
perfect idiot. When peace is signed, let nobody dare to mention a weapon
of any kind in my presence for six months."

He thought himself within reach of his goal; but unexpected obstacles
would come in his way, and it was not till July 5, 1917--the same day on
which he received the _rosette_ of the Legion of Honor from General
Franchet d'Esperey at the Aisne Aviation Camp--that he could at last try
the long-dreamed-of, long-hoped-for airplane. But in a fight against
three D.F.W.'s, the splendid new machine got riddled with bullets, he
had to land, and everything had to be begun over again. But Guynemer was
not afraid of beginning over again, and in fact he was to give the
airplane another chance in Flanders, and to see all his expectations
fulfilled. The 49th, 50th, 51st and 52d victories of Guynemer were due
to the magic airplane.

He managed to impose his will on matter, and on those who adapt it to
the warlike conceptions of man, as he imposed it on the enemy. Then,
spreading out his wings on high, he might well think himself




After the battle on the Aisne Georges Guynemer was ordered to Flanders,
but he had to take to his bed as soon as he arrived (July, 1917) and
only left the hospital on the 20th. He then repaired to the new aviation
camp outside Dunkirk, which at that time consisted of a few rows of
tents near the seaside. He was to take part in the contemplated
offensive, on his own magic airplane--which he brought from Fismes on
the 23d--for the Storks Escadrille had been incorporated into a fighting
unit under Major Brocard. No disease could be an obstacle to a Guynemer
when an offensive was in preparation. In fact, all the Storks were on
the spot: Captain Heurtaux, now recovered from his wound received in
Champagne in April, was in command, and Captain Auger (soon to be
killed), Lieutenant Raymond, Lieutenant Deullin, Lieutenant Lagache and
_sous-lieutenant_ Bucquet were there; while Fonck and Verduraz,
newcomers to the squadron but not by any means unknown, Adjutants
Guillaumat, Henin, and Petit-Dariel, Sergeants Gaillard and Moulines,
Corporals de Marcy, Dubonnet, and Risacher, completed the staff. As
early as June 24 Guynemer had soared again.

In order to realize the importance of this new battle of Flanders which,
begun on July 31, was to rage till the following winter, it may not be
out of place to quote a German appreciation. In an issue of the _Lokal
Anzeiger_, published at the end of September, 1917, after two months'
uninterrupted fighting, Doctor Wegener wrote as follows:

     How can anybody talk of anything but this battle of Flanders? Is it
     possible that some people actually grow hot over the
     parliamentarization, or the loan, or the cost of butter, or the
     rumors of peace, while every heart and every eye ought to be fixed
     on these places where soldiers are doing wonderful deeds! This
     battle is the most formidable that has yet been fought. It was
     supposed to be ended, but here it is, blazing afresh and promising
     a tremendous conflagration. The Englishman goes on with his usual
     doggedness, and the last bombardment has excelled in horrible
     intensity all that has been known so far. Even before the signal
     for storming, the English were drunk with victory, so gigantic was
     their artillery, so dreadful their guns, so intense their

These lines help us to realize how keen was the anxiety caused in
Germany by the new offensive coming so soon after the battles of
Champagne in April. But the lyricism of Dr. Wegener stood in the way of
his own judgment, and prevented him from seeing that the battle on the
Marne which drove the enemy back, the battle on the Yser which brought
him to a standstill, and the battle round Verdun which effectually wore
him out, were each in succession the greatest of the war. The second
battle of Flanders ought rather to be compared to the battle on the
Somme, the real consequences of which were not completely visible till
the German recoil on the Siegfried line took place in March, 1917. While
the first battle of Flanders had closed the gates of Dunkirk and Calais
against the Germans, and marked the end of their invasion, the second
one drove a wedge at Ypres into the German strength, made formidable by
three years' daily efforts, secured the Flemish heights, pushed the
enemy back into the bog land, and threatened Bruges. In the first
battle, the French under Foch had been supported by the English under
Marshal French; this time the English, who were the protagonists, under
Plumer (Second Army) and Gough (Fifth Army), were supported by the First
French Army under General Anthoine.

It was as late as June that General Anthoine's soldiers had taken their
stand to the left of the British armies, and after the tremendous fights
along the Chemin des Dames and Moronvillers in April, it might well be
believed that they were tired. They had borne the burden from the very
first; they had been on the Marne and the Yser in 1914, at the
numberless and costly offensives of 1915 in Artois, Champagne, Lorraine
and Alsace; and in 1916, after the Verdun epic, they had had to fight on
the Somme. Indeed, they had only ceased repelling the enemy's attacks in
order to attack in their turn. Among the Allies, they represented
invincible determination, as well as a perfected military method. Those
troops arriving on June 15, on ground they had never seen before, might
well have been anxious for a respite; yet on July 31 they were in the
fighting line with the British. Two days before the attack they crossed
the Yser canal by twenty-nine bridges without losing one man, and showed
an intelligence and spirit which added to their ascendancy over the
enemy and increased the prestige of the French army. And while Marshal
Haig was finding such an exceptional second in General Anthoine, Pétain,
now commander-in-chief, was aiding the British offensive by attacking
the Germans at other points on the front: on August 20 the Second Army
under Guillaumat was victorious on the Meuse, near Verdun, while the
Sixth Army under Maistre was preparing for the Malmaison offensive which
on October 23 secured for the French the whole length of the Chemin des
Dames to the river Ailette.

General Anthoine had had less than six weeks in which to see what he
could do with the ground, organize the lines of communication, and post
his batteries and infantry. But he had no idea of delaying the British
offensive, and on the appointed day he was ready. The line of attack for
the three armies was some 20 kilometers long, namely, from the
Ypres-Menin road to the confluence of the Yperlée and Martje-Vaert, the
French holding the section between Drie Grachten and Boesinghe. It had
been settled that the offensive should be conducted methodically, that
its objective should be limited, and that it might be interrupted and
resumed as often as should seem advisable. The troops were engaged on
the 31st of July, and the first rush carried the French onward a
distance of 3 kilometers, not only to Steenstraete, which was the
objective, but further on to Bixchoote and the Korteker Tavern. The
British on their side had advanced 1500 yards over heavily fortified or
wooded ground, and their new line lay along Pilkem, Saint-Julien,
Frezenberg, Hooge, Sanctuary Wood, Hollebeke and Basse-Ville. Stormy
weather on the first of August, and German counter-attacks on
Saint-Julien, prevented an immediate continuation of the offensive, but
on August 16 a fresh advance took the French as far as Saint-Jansbeck,
while they seized the bridge-head of Drie Grachten. General Anthoine had
been so careful in his artillery preparation that one of the attacking
battalions had not a single casualty, and no soldier was even wounded.
The French then had to wait until the English had advanced in their turn
to the range of hillocks between Becelaere and Poelcapelle (September 20
and 26), but the brilliant British successes on those two dates were
making another collective operation possible; and this operation took
place on October 9, and gave the French possession of the outskirts of
Houthulst forest, while the British fought on till they captured the
Passchendaele hills.

Every great battle is now preceded and accompanied by a battle in the
air, because if chasing or bombarding squadrons did not police the air
before an attack, no photographs of the enemy's lines could be taken;
and if they did not afford protection for the observers while the troops
are engaged, the batteries would shoot and the infantry progress
blindly. It is not surprising, therefore, that the enemy, who could not
be deceived as to the importance of the French and British preparations
in Flanders, had as early as mid-June brought additional airplanes and
"sausages," and throughout July terrible contests took place in the air.
Sometimes these engagements were duels, oftener they were fought by
strong squadrons, and on July 13 units consisting of as many as thirty
machines were seen on either side, the Germans losing fifteen airplanes,
and sixteen more going home in a more or less damaged condition.

While in hospital, Guynemer had heard of these tremendous encounters,
and wondered if the enchanting cruises he used to make by himself or
with just one companion must be things of the past. Was he to be
involved in the new tactics and to become a mere unit in a group, or a
chief with the responsibility of collective maneuvers? The air knight
was incredulous; he thought of his magic airplane and could not persuade
himself that, whatever the number of his opponents, he could not single
one out for his thunder-clap attack.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile the artillery preparation had begun, towards the fifteenth of
July, and the earth was quaking to the thundering front at a distance
of 50 kilometers. These are flat regions, and there would be no beauty
in them if the light radiating from the vapors rising from the fields or
the sea did not lend brilliance and relief to the yellow stone villages,
the straggling woods or copses, the well-to-do farms, the low hedges, or
the tall calvaries at the crossroads.

Guynemer was in splendid condition. His indisposition of the previous
month had been caused by his refusing to sleep at Dunkirk, as the others
did, until their new quarters were ready. He wanted to be near his
machine the moment there was light enough to see by, and slept in some
unfinished hangar or under canvas in order not to miss any enterprising
German who might take advantage of the dusk to sneak over the lines, spy
on our preparations, or bombard our rear. He had paid for his imprudence
by a severe cold. But now, comfortable-looking wooden houses stood along
the shore, and Guynemer was himself again.

On July 27, while patrolling with Lieutenant Deullin, his chum of Somme
and of Aisne days--in fact, his friend of much older times--he brought
down in flames, between Langemarck and Roulers, a very powerful
Albatros, apparently a 220 H.P. of the latest model. This fell far
within the enemy lines, but enthusiastic British soldiers witnessed the
scene. Guynemer had chosen this Albatros for his victim among eight
other machines, and had pulverized it at a distance of a few yards.

This victory was his forty-ninth. He secured his fiftieth the very next
day, bringing down a D.F.W. in flames over Westrobeke, the enemy showing
fight, for Guynemer's magic airplane was hit in the tail, in one of the
longitudinal spars, the exhaust pipe, and the hood, and had to be
repaired. This day of glory was also one of mourning for the Storks.
Captain Auger who, trusting his star after seven triumphs, had gone
scouting alone, was shot in the head, and, after mustering energy enough
to bring his machine back to the landing-ground, died almost

Fifty machines destroyed! This had been Guynemer's dream. The apparently
inaccessible figure had gradually seemed a possibility. Finally it had
become a fact. Fifty machines down, without taking into account those
which fell too far from the official observers, or those which had been
only disabled, or those which had brought home sometimes a pilot,
sometimes a passenger, dead in their seats. What would Guynemer do now?
Was he not tired of hunting, killing, or destroying in the high regions
of the atmosphere? Did he not feel the exhaustion consequent on the
nervous strain of unlimited effort? Could he be entirely deaf to voices
which advised him to rest, now that he was a captain, an officer in the
Legion of Honor, and, at barely twenty-two, could hardly hope for more
distinction? On the other hand, he had shown in his unceasing effort
towards an absolutely perfect machine a genius for mechanics which might
profitably be given play elsewhere. The occasion was not far to seek,
for he had to take his damaged airplane back to the works; and what
with this interruption and the precarious state of his health--for he
had left the hospital too soon--he might reasonably have applied for
leave. Nor was this all. The adoption of the new tactics of fighting in
numbers might change the nature of his action: he might become the
commanding officer of a unit, run less risk, indulge his temerity only
once in a while, and yet make himself useful by infusing his own spirit
into aspiring pilots.

Slowly all these ideas occurred, if not to him, at all events to his
friends. Guynemer has slain his fifty--they must have thought--Guynemer
can now rest. What would it matter if some envious people should make
remarks? "It is a pleasure worthy of a king," Alexander once said after
Antisthenes, "to hear evil spoken of one while one is doing good." But
Guynemer never knew this royal enjoyment; he never even suspected that
well-wishers were plotting for his safety. He took his machine to the
works, supervised the repairs with his customary attention, and by
August 15 he was back again at his sport in Flanders.

       *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile his comrades had added to their laurels. Auger was dead, it is
true; but Captain Derode, Adjutant Fonck--a perfect Aymerillot, the
smallest and youngest of these knights-errant, Heurtaux, Deullin (both
wounded, and the latter now risen to a captaincy), Lieutenant Gorgeus
and Corporal Collins--all had done well. Besides them many, too many,
bombarding aviators ought to be mentioned, but we must limit ourselves
to those who are now laid low in Flemish graveyards: Lieutenant Mulard,
Sergeant Thabaud-Deshoulières, _sous-lieutenant_ Bailliotz,
_sous-lieutenant_ Pelletier, who saved his airplane if he could not save
his own life, and was heard saying to himself before expiring: "For
France--I am happy...."; finally Lieutenant Ravarra, and Sergeant
Delaunay, who had specialized in night attacks and disappeared without
ever being heard of again.

Guynemer had reported at the camp on August 15. On the seventeenth, at
9.20 o'clock, he brought down a two-seated Albatros which fell in flames
at Wladsloo, and five minutes later a D.F.W. which collapsed, also in
flames, south of Dixmude. This double execution avenged the death of
Captain Auger and of another Stork, Sergeant Cornet, killed the day
before. On the eighteenth, Guynemer poured a broadside, at close
quarters, into a two-seated machine above Staden; and on the twentieth,
flying this time on his old _Vieux-Charles_, he destroyed a D.F.W. in a
quick fight above Poperinghe. This meant three undoubted victories in
four days under circumstances which the number of enemy machines and the
high altitude made more difficult than they had ever been. The weather
during this month of August was constantly stormy, and the Germans were
taking every precaution to avoid surprise; but Guynemer was quick as
lightning, took advantage of the shortest lulls, and baffled German

The British or Belgian airmen of the neighborhood called on him, and he
liked to return their politeness. He loved to talk about his methods,
especially his shooting methods, for flying to him was only the means of
shooting, and once he defined his airplane as a flying machine-gun.
Captain Galliot, a specialist in gunsmithery, who overheard this remark,
also heard him say to the Minister of Aviation, M. Daniel Vincent, who
was inspecting the camp at Buc: "It is not by clever flying that you get
rid of a Boche, but by hard and sharp shooting."

It is not surprising, therefore, that he began his day's work by
overhauling his machine-gun, cartridges, and visor. He did not mind
trusting his mechanicians where his airplane and motor were concerned,
but his weapon and ammunition were his own special care. He regarded as
an axiom the well-known maxim of big-game hunters, that "it is not
enough to hit, but you must shoot down your enemy with lightning
rapidity if you do not wish to perish with him...."[26]

[Footnote 26: _Guynemer tireur de combat_ (_Guerre aérienne_ for October
18, 1917, special number consecrated to Guynemer).]

Of his machine itself Guynemer made a terrible weapon, and he soon
passed his fiftieth victory. On August 20 his record numbered
fifty-three, and he was in as good condition as on the Somme. On the
24th he was on his way to Paris, planning not only to have his airplane
repaired, but to point out to the Buc engineers an improvement he had
just devised.


"Oh, yes, the dog always manages to get what he wants," Guynemer's
father had once said to him with a sad smile, when Georges, regardless
of his two previous failures, insisted at Biarritz upon enlisting.

"The dog? what dog?" Guynemer had answered, not seeing an apologue in
his father's words.

"The dog waiting at the door till somebody lets him in. His one thought
is to get in while the people's minds are not concentrated on keeping
him out. So he is sure to succeed in the end."

It is the same thing with our destiny, waiting till we open the door of
our life. Vainly do we try to keep the door tightly shut against it: we
cannot think of it all the time, and every now and then we fall into
trustfulness, and thus its hour inevitably comes, and from the opening
door it beckons to us. "What we call fatalism," M. Bergson says, "is
only the revenge of nature on man's will when the mind puts too much
strain upon the flesh or acts as if it did not exist. Orpheus, it is
true, charmed the rivers, trees and rocks away from their places with
his lyre, but the Maenades tore him to pieces in his turn."

We cannot say that the Guynemer who flew in Flanders was not the same
Guynemer who had flown over the Somme, Lorraine or Aisne battle-fields.
Indeed, his mastery was increasing with each fresh encounter, and with
his daring he cared little whether the enemy was gaining in numbers or
inventing unsuspected tactics. His victories of August 17 and 20 showed
him at his boldest best. Yet his comrades noticed that his nerves seemed
overstrained. He was not content with flying oftener and longer than the
others in quest of his game, but fretted if his Boche did not appear
precisely when he wanted him. When an enemy did not turn up where he was
expected, he made up his mind to seek him where he himself was not
expected, and he became accustomed to scouting farther and farther away
into dangerous zones. Was he tired of holding the door tight against
destiny, or feeling sure that destiny could not look in? Did it not
occur to him that his hour, whether near or not, was marked down?

Indeed, it is certain that the thought not only presented itself to him
sometimes, but was familiar. "At our last meeting," writes his
school-fellow of Stanislas days, Lieutenant Constantin, "I had been
struck by his melancholy expression, and yet he had just been victorious
for the forty-seventh time. 'I have been too lucky,' he said to me, 'and
I feel as if I must pay for it.' 'Nonsense,' I replied, 'I am absolutely
certain that nothing will happen to you.' He smiled as if he did not
believe me, but I knew that he was haunted by the idea, and avoided
everything that might uselessly consume a particle of his energy or
disturb his sang-froid, which he intended to devote entirely to Boche

[Footnote 27: Unpublished notes by J. Constantin.]

When had he ceased to think himself invincible? The reader no doubt
remembers how he recovered from his wound at Verdun, and the shock it
might have left, merely by flying and offering himself to the enemy's
fire with the firm resolve not to return it. Eight times he had been
brought down, and each time with full and prolonged consciousness of
what was happening. On many occasions he had come back to camp with
bullets in his machine, or in his combination. Yet these narrow escapes
never reacted on his imagination, damped his spirit, or diminished his
_furia_. But had he thought himself invincible? He believed in his star,
no doubt, but he knew he was only a man. One of his most intimate
friends, his rival in glory, the nearest to him since the loss of Dorme,
the one who was the Oliver to this Roland, once received this confidence
from Guynemer: "One of the fellows told me that when he starts up he
only thinks of the fighting before him; he found that sufficiently
absorbing; but I told him that when the men start my motor I always make
a sign to the fellows standing around. 'Yes, I have seen it,' he
answered; 'the handshake of the airman. It means _au revoir_.' But maybe
it is farewell I am inwardly saying," Guynemer added, and laughed, for
the boy in him was never far from the man.

       *       *       *       *       *

Towards the end of July, while he was in Paris seeing to the repairs for
his machine after bringing down his fiftieth enemy, he had gone to
Compiègne for a short visit. His father, knowing his technical ability
and his interest in all mechanical improvements, and on the other hand
noticing a nervousness in his manner, dared for the first time to hint
timidly and allusively at the possibility of his being useful in some
other field.

"Couldn't you be of service with respect to making engines, etc.?"

But he was embarrassed by his son's look of questioning surprise. Every
time Guynemer had used his father's influence in the army, it had been
to bring himself nearer to danger.

"No man has the right to get away from the front as long as the war
lasts," he said. "I see very well what you are thinking, but you know
that self-sacrifice is never wasted. Don't let us talk any more about

On Tuesday, August 28, Guynemer, having been obliged to come to Paris
again for repairs to his airplane, went to Saint-Pierre de Chaillot. It
was not exceptional for him to visit this old church; he loved to
prepare himself there for his battle. One of the officiating priests has
written since his death of "his faith and the transparency of his
soul."[28] The Chaillot parishioners knew him well, but pretended not to
notice him, and he thought himself one in a crowd. After seeing the
priest in the confessional, he usually enjoyed another little chat in
the sacristy, and although he was no man for long prayers and
meditations, he expressed his thoughts on such occasions in heartfelt
and serious language.

[Footnote 28: _La Croix_, October 7, 1917, article by Pierre l'Ermite.]

"My fate is sealed," he once said in his playful, authoritative way; "I
cannot escape it." And remembering his not very far away Latin, he
added: "_Hodie mihi, cras tibi_...."

       *       *       *       *       *

Early in September he made up his mind to go back to Flanders, although
his airplane was not yet entirely repaired. The day before leaving he
was standing at the door of the Hôtel Edouard VII when one of his
schoolmates at the Collège Stanislas, Lieutenant Jacquemin, appeared.
"He took me to his room," this officer relates, "and we talked for more
than an hour about schooldays. I asked him whether he had some special
dodge to be so successful." "None whatever," he said, "but you remember
I took a prize for shooting at Stanislas. I shoot straight, and have
absolute confidence in my machine." He showed me his numberless
decorations, and was just as simple and full of good fellowship as he
was at Stanislas. It was evident that his head had not been in the least
turned by his success; he only talked more and enjoyed describing his
fights. He told me, too, that in spite of opposition from airplane
builders he had secured a long-contemplated improvement; and that he had
had a special camera made for him with which he could photograph a
machine as it fell. His parting words were: "I hope to fly to-morrow,
but don't expect to see my name any more in the _communiqués_. That's
all over: I have bagged my fifty Boches."

Were not these strange words, if indeed Guynemer attached any meaning to
them? At all events, they expressed his innermost longing, which was to
go on flying, even if he should fly for nothing.

       *       *       *       *       *

Before reporting at Dunkirk, Guynemer spent September 2, 3, and 4 with
his people at Compiègne. Never was he more fascinatingly affectionate,
boyish, and bright than during those three days. But he seemed agitated.
"Let us make plans," he said repeatedly, in spite of his old aversion to
castle-building. His plans that day were for the amusement of his
sisters. He reminded the younger, Yvonne, that he had quarreled once
with her. It was at Biarritz, when he wanted her to make a _novena_
(nine days' special prayers) that he might not be rejected by the
recruiting board again; his sister did not like to promise, and he had
threatened to sulk forever, which he had proceeded to do--for five

His mother and sisters thought him more enchanting than ever, but his
father felt that he was overstrained, and realized that his almost
morbid notion of his duty as a chaser who could no longer wait for his
chance but wanted to force a victory, was the result of fatigue. M.
Guynemer no longer hesitated to speak, adding that the period of rest he
advised was in the very interest of his son's service. "You need
strengthening; you have done too much. If you should go on, you would be
in great danger of falling below yourself, or not really being

"Father, war is nothing else. One must pull on, even if the rope should
threaten to snap."

It was the first time that M. Guynemer had given undisguised advice, and
he urged his point.

"Why not stop awhile? Your record is pretty good; you might form younger
pilots, and in time go back to your squadron."

"Yes, and people would say that, hoping for no more distinctions, I have
given up fighting."

"What does it matter? Let people talk, and when you reappear in better
condition they will understand. You know I never gave you a word of
advice which the whole world could not hear. I always helped you, and
you always found the most disinterested approval here in your home. But
you will admit that human strength has its limits."

"Yes," Georges interposed, "a limit which we must endeavor to leave
behind. We have given nothing as long as we have not given everything."

M. Guynemer said no more. He felt that he had probed his son's soul to
the depths, and his pride in his hero did not diminish his sorrow. When
they parted he concealed his anguish, but he watched the boy, thinking
he would never see him again. His wife and daughters, too, stood on the
threshold oppressed by the same feelings, trying to suppress their
anxiety and finding no words to veil it.

In the Iliad, Hector, after breaking into the Greek camp like a dark
whirlwind unexpectedly sweeping the land, and which the gods alone could
stop, returns to Troy and stopping at the Scæan gates waits for
Achilles, who he knows must be wild to avenge Patroclus. Old Priam sees
his son's danger, and beseeches him not to seek his antagonist. Hecuba
joins her tears to his supplications. But tears and entreaties avail
little, and Hector, turning a deaf ear to his parents, walks out to meet
Achilles, as he thinks, but indeed to meet his own fate.

On September 4, Guynemer was at the flying field of Saint-Pol-sur-Mer
near Dunkirk. His old friend, Captain Heurtaux, so long Commander of the
Storks, was not there; he had been wounded the day before by an
explosive bullet, and the English had picked up and evacuated him.
Heurtaux possessed infinite tact, and had not infrequently succeeded in
influencing the rebellious Guynemer; but nobody was there to replace
him. September 5 was a day of extraordinary activity for Guynemer. His
magic airplane was still at the works, where he had complained of not
having another in reserve; and not being able to wait for it, he sent
for his old machine and immediately attacked a D.F.W. at close quarters,
as usual; but the Boche was saved by the jamming of both of Guynemer's
guns, and the aviator had to get back to his landing-ground. Furious at
this failure, he promptly soared up again and attacked a chain of five
one-seated planes, hitting two, which however managed to protect each
other and escape. After two hours and a half, Guynemer went home again,
overhauled his guns, found a trigger out of order, and for the third
time went up again, scouring the sky for two more hours, indignant to
see nothing but prudent Germans keeping far out of his reach. So, he had
flown five hours and a half in that one day. What nerves could stand
such a strain? But Guynemer, seeking victory, cared little for strain or
nerves. Everything seemed to go against him: Heurtaux away, his best
machine not available, his machine-guns out of order, and Germans
refusing his challenge. No wonder if he fretted himself into increased

       *       *       *       *       *

Guynemer liked Lieutenant Raymond, and every now and then flew with him.
This officer being on leave, Guynemer on September 8 asked another
favorite comrade, _sous-lieutenant_ Bozon-Verduraz, to accompany him.
The day was sullen, and a thick fog soon parted the two aviators, who
lost their way and only managed to get clear of the fog when
Bozon-Verduraz was over Nieuport and Guynemer over Ostend.

September 9 was a Sunday, and Guynemer over-slept and had to be roused
by a friend.

"Aren't you coming to mass?"

"Of course."

The two officers went to mass at Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, and the weather
having grown worse Guynemer did not fly; but instead of enjoying the
enforced rest, he resented it as a personal wrong. Next day he flew
three times, and was unlucky again every time. On his first flight, on
his two-gun machine, he found that the water-pump control did not work,
and had to land on a Belgian aërodrome, where he was welcomed and
asked to sit for his photograph. The picture shows a worried, tense,
disquieting countenance under the mask ready to be pulled down. After
frightening the enemy so long, Guynemer was now frightening his friends.

[Illustration: "GOING WEST"]

The photograph taken, Guynemer flew back to camp. The best for him,
under the circumstances, would have been to wait. Was he not hourly to
hear that he might go to the Buc works for his machine? And what was the
use of flying on an unsatisfactory airplane? But Guynemer was not in
Flanders to wait. He wanted his quarry, and he wanted to set an example
to and galvanize his men, and even the infantry. So, Deullin being
absent, Guynemer borrowed his machine, and at last discovered a chain of
German flyers, whom he attacked regardless of their number. But four
bullets hit his machine and one damaged the air-pump, an accident which
not only compelled him to land but to return by motor to the aërodrome.
Once more, instead of listening to the whisper of wisdom, he started, on
Lieutenant Lagache's machine; and this time the annoyance was the
gasoline spurting over the loose top of the carburetor. The oil caught
fire, and Guynemer had to give in, having failed three times, and having
been in the air five hours and a half on unsatisfactory airplanes. No
wonder if, with the weather, the machines, and circumstances generally
against him, he felt tired and nervous. He had never done so much with
such poor results. But his will, his will cannot accept what is forced
upon him, and we may be sure that he will not acknowledge himself


On Tuesday, September 11, the weather was once more uncertain. But
morning fogs by the seaside do not last, and the sun soon began to
shine. Guynemer had had a restless night after his failures, and had
brooded, as irritable people do, over the very things that made him
fretful. Chasing without his new airplane--the enchanting machine which
he had borne in his mind so many months, as a women bears her child, and
which at last he had felt soaring under him--was no pleasure. He missed
it so much that the feeling became an obsession, until he made up his
mind to leave for Buc before the day was over. Indeed, he would have
done so sooner had he not been haunted by the idea that he must first
bring down his Boche. But since the Boche did not seem to be willing....
Now he is resolved, and more calm; he will go to Paris this very
evening. He has only to while away the time till the train is due. The
prospect in itself is quieting, and besides Major du Peuty, one of the
chiefs of Aviation at Headquarters, and Major Brocard, recently
appointed attaché to the Minister of Aëronautics, were coming down by
the early train. They were sure to arrive at the camp between nine and
ten, and a conversation with them could not but be instructive and
illuminating; so, better wait for them.

But, in spite of these tranquillizing thoughts, Guynemer was restless,
and his face showed the sallow color which always foreboded his physical
relapses. His mind was not really made up, and he would come and go,
strolling from his tent to the sheds and from the sheds to his tent. He
was not cross, only nervous. Suddenly he went back to the shed and
examined his _Vieux-Charles_. Why, the machine was not so bad after all;
the motor and guns had been repaired, and yesterday's accident was not
likely to happen again. If so, why not fly? In the absence of Heurtaux,
Guynemer was in command, and once more the necessity of setting a good
example forced itself upon him. Several flyers had started on scouting
work already; the fog was quickly lifting, the day would soon be
resplendent, and the notion of duty too quickly dazzled him, like the
sun. For duty had always been his motive power; he had always
anticipated it, from the day when he was fighting to enlist at Biarritz
to this 11th of September, 1917. It was neither the passion for glory
nor the craze to be an aviator which had caused him to join, but his
longing to be of use; and in the same way his last flights were made in
obedience to his will to serve.

All at once he was really resolved. _Sous-lieutenant_ Bozon-Verduraz was
requested to accompany him, and the mechanicians wheeled the machines
out. One of his comrades asked with assumed negligence: "Aren't you
going to wait till Major du Peuty and Major Brocard arrive?" Guynemer's
only answer was to wave towards the sky then freeing itself from its
veils of fog as he himself was shaking off his hesitancy, and his friend
felt that he must not be urgent. Everybody of late had noticed his
nervousness, and Guynemer knew it and resented it; tact was more
necessary than ever with him. Let it be remembered that he was the pet,
almost the spoiled child, of his service, and that it had never been
easy to approach him.

Meanwhile, the two majors, who had been met at the station, were told of
his nervous condition, and hurried to speak to him. They expected to
reach the camp by nine o'clock, and would send for him at once. But
Guynemer and Bozon-Verduraz had started at twenty-five minutes past

They had left the sea behind them, flying south-east. They had reached
the lines, following them over Bixchoote and the Korteker Tavern which
the French troops had taken on July 31, over the Bixchoote-Langemarck
road, and finally over Langemarck itself, captured by the British on
August 16. Trenches, sections of broken roads, familiar to them from
above, crossed and recrossed each other under them, and they descried to
the north of Langemarck road the railway, or what used to be the
railway, between Ypres and Thourout and the Saint-Julien-Poelkapelle
road. No German patrol appeared above the French or British lines, which
Guynemer and his companion lost sight of above the Maison Blanche, and
they followed on to the German lines over the faint vestiges of

Guynemer's keen, long-practiced eye then saw a two-seated enemy airplane
flying alone lower down than himself, and a signal was made to attract
Bozon-Verduraz' notice. A fight was certain, and this fight was the one
which Fate had long decided on.

The attack on a two-seater flying over its own lines, and consequently
enjoying unrestricted freedom of movement, is known to be a ticklish
affair, as the pilot can shoot through the propeller and the passenger
in his turret rakes the whole field of vision with the exception of two
angles, one in front, the other behind him under the fuselage and tail.
Facing the enemy and shooting directly at him, whether upwards or
downwards, was Guynemer's method; but it is not easy on account of the
varying speeds of the two machines, and because the pilot as well as the
passenger is sheltered by the engine. So it is best to get behind and a
little lower than the tail of the enemy plane.

Guynemer had frequently used this maneuver, but he preferred a front
attack, thinking that if he should fail he could easily resort to the
other, either by turning or by a quick tail spin. So he tried to get
between the sun and the enemy; but as ill-luck would have it, the sky
clouded over, and Guynemer had to dive down to his opponent's level, so
as to show him only the thin edges of the planes, hardly visible. But by
this time the German had noticed him, and was endeavoring to get his
range. Prudence advised zigzagging, for a cool-headed gunner has every
chance of hitting a straight-flying airplane; the enemy ought to be
made to shift his aim by quick tacking, and the attack should be made
from above with a full volley, with the possibility of dodging back in
case the enemy is not brought down at once. But Guynemer, regardless of
rules and stratagems, merely fell on his enemy like a cannon ball. He
might have said, like Alexander refusing to take advantage of the dark
against Darius, that he did not want to steal victory. He only counted
on his lightning-like manner of charging, which had won him so many
victories, and on his marksmanship. But he missed the German, who
proceeded to tail spin, and was missed again by Bozon-Verduraz, who
awaited him below.

What ought Guynemer to do? Desist, no doubt. But, having been imprudent
in his direct attack, he was imprudent again on his new tack, and his
usual obstinacy, made worse by irritation, counseled him to a dangerous
course. As he dived lower and lower in hopes of being able to wheel
around and have another shot, Bozon-Verduraz spied a chain of eight
German one-seaters above the British lines. It was agreed between him
and his chief that on such occasions he should offer himself to the
newcomers, allure, entice, and throw them off the track, giving Guynemer
time to achieve his fifty-fourth success, after which he should fly
round again to where the fight was going on. He had no anxiety about
Guynemer, with whom he had frequently attacked enemy squadrons of five,
six, or even ten or twelve one-seaters. The two-seater might, no doubt,
be more dangerous, and Guynemer had recently seemed nervous and below
par; but in a fight his presence of mind, infallibility of movement, and
quickness of eye were sure to come back, and the two-seater could hardly
escape its doom.

The last image imprinted on the eyes of Bozon-Verduraz was of Guynemer
and the German both spinning down, Guynemer in search of a chance to
shoot, the other hoping to be helped from down below. Then
Bozon-Verduraz had flown in the direction of the eight one-seaters, and
the group had fallen apart, chasing him. In time the eight machines
became mere specks in the illimitable sky, and Bozon-Verduraz, seeing he
had achieved his object, flew back to where his chief was no doubt
waiting for him. But there was nobody in the empty space. Could it be
that the German had escaped? With deadly anguish oppressing him, the
airman descended nearer the ground to get a closer view. Down below
there was nothing, no sign, none of the bustle which always follows the
falling of an airplane. Feeling reassured, he climbed again and began to
circle round and round, expecting his comrade. Guynemer was coming back,
could not but come back, and the cause of his delay was probably the
excitement of the chase. He was so reckless! Like Dorme--who one fine
morning in May, on the Aisne, went out and was never heard of
afterwards--he was not afraid of traveling long distances over enemy
country. He must come back. It is impossible he should not come back;
he was beyond the reach of common accidents, invincible, immortal! This
was a certitude, the very faith of the Storks, a tenet which never was
questioned. The notion of Guynemer falling to a German seemed hardly
short of sacrilege.

So Bozon-Verduraz waited on, making up his mind to wait as long as
necessary. But an hour passed, and nobody appeared. Then the airman
broadened his circles and searched farther out, without, however,
swerving from the rallying-point. He searched the air like Nisus the
forest in his quest of Euryalus, and his mind began to misgive him.

After two hours he was still waiting, alone, noticing with dismay that
his oil was running low. One more circle! How slack the engine sounded
to him! One more circle! Now it was impossible to wait any more: he must
go back alone.

On landing, his first word was to ask about Guynemer.

"Not back yet!"

Bozon-Verduraz knew it. He knew that Guynemer had been taken away from

The telephone and the wireless sent their appeals around, airplanes
started on anxious cruises. Hour followed hour, and evening came, one of
those late summer evenings during which the horizon wears the tints of
flowers; the shadows deepened, and no news came of Guynemer. From
neighboring camps French, British, or Belgian comrades arrived, anxious
for news. Everywhere the latest birds had come home, and one hardly
dared ask the airmen any question.

But the daily routine had to be dispatched, as if there were no mourning
in the camp. All the young men there were used to death, and to sporting
with it; they did not like to show their sorrow; but it was deep in
them, sullen and fierce.

At dinner a heavy melancholy weighed upon them. Guynemer's seat was
empty, and no one dreamed of taking it. One officer tried to dispel the
cloud by suggesting hypotheses. Guynemer was lucky, had always been;
probably he was alive, a prisoner.

Guynemer a prisoner!... He had said one day with a laugh, "The Boches
will never get me alive," but his laugh was terrible. No, Guynemer could
not have been taken prisoner. Where was he, then?

On the squadron log, _sous-lieutenant_ Bozon-Verduraz wrote that evening
as follows:

     _Tuesday, September 11, 1917._ Patrolled. Captain Guynemer started
     at 8.25 with _sous-lieutenant_ Bozon-Verduraz. Found missing after
     an engagement with a biplane above Poelkapelle (Belgium).

That was all.


Before Guynemer, other knights of the air, other aces, had been reported
missing or had perished--some like Captain Le Cour Grandmaison or
Captain Auger in our lines, others like Sergeant Sauvage and
_sous-lieutenant_ Dorme in the enemy's. In fact, he would be the
thirteenth on the list if the title of ace is reserved for aviators to
whom the controlling board has given its visé for five undoubted
victories. These were the names:

     Captain Le Cour Grandmaison         5 victories
     Sergeant Hauss                      5  "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Delorme           5  "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Pégoud            6  "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Languedoc         7  "
     Captain Auger                       7  "
     Captain Doumer                      7  "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Rochefort         7  "
     Sergeant Sauvage                    8  "
     Captain Matton                      9  "
     Adjutant Lenoir                    11  "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Dorme            23  "

Would Guynemer's friends now have to add: Captain Guynemer, 53? Nobody
dared to do so, yet nobody now dared hope.

A poet of genius, who even before the war had been an aviator, Gabriele
d'Annunzio, has described in his novel, _Forse che si forse che no_, the
friendship of two young men, Paolo Tarsis and Giulio Cambasio, whose
mutual affection, arising from a similar longing to conquer the sky, has
grown in the perils they dare together. If this book had been written
later, war would have intensified its meaning. Instead of dying in a
fight, Cambasio is killed in a contest for altitude between Bergamo and
the Lake of Garda. As Achilles watched beside the dead body of
Patroclus, so Tarsis would not leave to another the guarding of his lost

"In tearless grief Paolo Tarsis kept vigil through the short summer
night. So it had broken asunder the richest bough on the tree of his
life; the most generous part of himself ruined. For him the beauty of
war had diminished, now that he was no longer to see, burning in those
dead eyes, the fervor of effort, the security of confidence, the
rapidity of resolution. He was no longer to taste the two purest joys of
a manly heart: steadiness of eye in attack, and the pride of watching
over a beloved peer."

_For him the beauty of war had diminished_.... War already so long, so
exhausting and cruel, and laden with sorrow! Will war appear in its
horrid nakedness, now that those who invested it with glory disappear,
now, above all, when the king of these heroes, the dazzling young man
whose luminous task was known to the whole army, is no more? Is not his
loss the loss of something akin to life? For a Guynemer is like the
nation's flag: if the soldiers' eyes miss the waving colors, they may
wander to the wretchedness of daily routine, and morbidly feed on blood
and death. This is what the loss of a Guynemer might mean.

But can a Guynemer be quite lost?

       *       *       *       *       *

     Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, _September_, 1917
     (From the author's diary)

     Visited the Storks Escadrille.

The flying field occupies a vast space, for it is common to the French
and the British. A dam protecting the landing-ground screens it from
the sea. But from the second floor of a little house which the bombs
have left standing, you can see its moving expanse of a delicate, I
might say timid blue, dotted with home-coming boats. The evening is
placid and fine, with a reddish haze blurring the horizon.

Opposite the sheds, with their swelling canvas walls, a row of airplanes
is standing before being rolled in for the night. The mechanicians feel
them with careful hands, examining the engines, propellers, and wings.
The pilots are standing around, still in their leather suits, their
helmets in their hands. In brief sentences they sum up their day's

Mechanically I look among them for the one whom the eye invariably
sought first. I recalled his slight figure, his amber complexion, and
dark, wonderful eyes, and his quick descriptive gestures. I remembered
his ringing, boyish laugh, as he said:

"And then, '_couic_'...."

He was life itself. He got out of his seat panting but radiant,
quivering, as it were, like the bow-string when it has sent its shaft,
and full of the sacred drunkenness of a young god.

Ten days had passed since his disappearance. Nothing more was known than
on that eleventh of September when Bozon-Verduraz came back alone.
German prisoners belonging to aviation had not heard that he was
reported missing. Yet it was inconceivable that such a piece of news
should not have been circulated; and, in fact, yesterday a message
dropped by a German airplane on the British lines, concerning several
English aviators killed or in hospital, was completed by a note saying
that Captain Guynemer had been brought down at Poelkapelle on September
10, at 8 A.M. But could this message be credited? Both the day
and hour it stated were wrong. On September 10 at 8 A.M.
Guynemer was alive, and even the next day he had not left the camp at
the hour mentioned. An English newspaper had announced his
disappearance, and perhaps the enemy was merely using the information.
The mystery remained unsolved.

As we were discussing these particulars, the last airplanes were
landing, one after another, and Guynemer's companions offered their
reasons for hoping, or rather believing; but none seemed convinced by
his own arguments. Their inner conviction must be that their young chief
is dead; and besides, what is death, what is life, to devoting one's all
to France?

Captain d'Harcourt had succeeded Major Brocard pro tem as commandant of
the unit. He was a very slim, very elegant young man, with the grace and
courtesy of the _ancien régime_ which his name evoked, and the
perfection of his manners and gentleness seemed to lend convincing power
to all he said. Guynemer being missing and Heurtaux wounded, the Storks
were now commanded by Lieutenant Raymond. He belonged to the cavalry, a
tall, thin man, with the sharp face and heroic bearing of Don Quixote, a
kindly man with a roughness of manner and a quick, picturesque way of
expressing himself. Deullin was there, too, one of Guynemer's oldest and
most devoted friends. Last of all descended from the high regions
_sous-lieutenant_ Bozon-Verduraz, a rather heavy man with a serious
face, and more maturity than belonged to his years, an unassuming young
man with a hatred for exaggeration and a deep respect for the truth.

Once more he went through every detail of the fatal day for me, each
particular anticipating the dread issue. But in spite of this narrative,
full of the idea of death, I could not think of Guynemer as dead and
lying somewhere under the ground held by the enemy. It was impossible
for me not to conjure up Guynemer alive and even full of life, Guynemer
chasing the enemy with strained terrible eyes, Guynemer of the
superhuman will, the Guynemer who never gave up,--in short, a Guynemer
whom death could not vanquish.

A wonderful atmosphere men breathe here, for it relieves death of its
horror. One officer, Raymond, I think, said in a careless manner:

"Guynemer's fate will be ours, of course."

Somebody protested: "The country needs men like you."

To which Deullin answered: "Why does it? There will be others after us,
and the life we lead...."

But Captain d'Harcourt broke in gaily: "Come on; dinner's ready--and
with this bright moon and clear sky we are sure to get bombed."

Bombed, indeed, we were, and pretty severely, but in convenient time,
for we had just drunk our coffee. A few minutes before, the practiced
ear of one of us had caught the sound of the _bimoulins_, the bi-motor
German airplanes, and soon they were near. We gained the sheltering
trench. But the night was so entrancingly pure, with the moon riding
like an airship in the deep space, that it seemed to promise peace and
invited us to enjoy the spectacle. We climbed upon the parapet and
listened to the breathing of the sea, accompanying with its bass the
music of the motors. There were still a few straggling reddish vapors
over the luminous landscape, and the stars seemed dim. But other stars
took their place, those of the French _Voisins_ returning from some
bombing expedition, their lights dotting the sky like a moving
constellation, while at intervals a rocket shot from one or the other
who was anxious not to miss the landing-ground. Over Dunkirk, eight or
ten searchlights stretched out their long white arms, thrusting and
raking to and fro after the enemy machines. Suddenly one of these
appeared, dazzled by the revealing light, as a moth in the circle of a
lamp; our batteries began firing, and we could see the quick sparks of
their shells all around it. Flashing bullets, too, drew zebra-like
stripes across the sky, and with the cannonade and the rumbling of the
airplanes we heard the lament of the Dunkirk sirens announcing the
dreaded arrival of the huge 380 shells upon the town, where here and
there fires broke out. Meanwhile the German airplanes got rid of their
bombs all around us, and we could feel the ground tremble.

The Storks looked on with the indifference of habit, thinking of their
beds and awaiting the end. One of them, a weather prophet, said:

"It will be a good day to-morrow; we can start early."

As I spun towards Dunkirk in the motor, these young men and their
speeches were in my mind, and I seemed to hear them speaking of their
absent companion without any depression, with hardly any sorrow. They
thought of him when they were successful, referred to him as a model,
found an incentive in his memory,--that was all. Their grief over his
loss was virile and invigorating.

       *       *       *       *       *

After watching his friend's body through the night, the hero of
d'Annunzio goes to the aërodrome where the next trials for altitude are
to take place. He cannot think of robbing the dead man of his victory.
As he rises into the upper regions of the air he feels a soothing
influence and an increase of power: the dead man himself pilots his
machine, wields the controls, and helps him higher, ever higher up in
divine intoxication.

In the same way the warlike power of Guynemer's companions is not
diminished. Guynemer is still with them, accompanying each one, and
instilling into them the passionate longing to do more and more for


In seaside graveyards, the stone crosses above the empty tombs say only,
after the name, "Lost at sea." I remember also seeing in the churchyards
of the Vale of Chamonix similar inscriptions: "Lost on Mont-Blanc." As
the mountains and the sea sometimes refuse to give up their victims, so
the air seems to have kept Guynemer.

"He was neither seen nor heard as he fell," M. Henri Lavedan wrote at
the beginning of October; his body and his machine were never found.
Where has he gone? By what wings did he manage thus to glide into
immortality? Nobody knows: nothing is known. He ascended and never came
back, that is all. Perhaps our descendants will say: "He flew so high
that he could not come down again."[29]

[Footnote 29: _L'Illustration_, October 6, 1917.]

I remember a strange line read in some Miscellany in my youth and never
forgotten, though the rest of the poem has vanished from memory:

     Un jet d'eau qui montait n'est pas redescendu.

Does this not embody the upspringing force of Guynemer's brilliant

Throughout France some sort of miracle was expected: Guynemer must
reappear--if a prisoner he must escape, if dead he must come to life.
His father said he would go on believing even to the extreme limits of
improbability. The journalist who signs his letters from the front to
_Le Temps_ with the pseudonym d'Entraygues recalled a passage from
Balzac in which some peasants at work on a haystack call to the postman
on the road: "What's the news?" "Nothing, no news. Oh! I beg your
pardon, people say that Napoleon has died at St. Helena." Work stops at
once, and the peasants look at one another in silence. But one fellow
standing on the rick says: "Napoleon dead! psha! it's plain those people
don't know him!" The journalist added that he heard a speech of the same
kind in the bush-region of Aveyron. A passenger on the motor-bus read in
a newspaper the news of Guynemer's death; everybody seemed dismayed. The
chauffeur alone smiled skeptically as he examined the spark plugs of his
engine. When he had done, he pulled down the hood, put away his
spectacles, carefully wiped his dirty hands on a cloth still dirtier,
and planting himself in front of the passenger said: "Very well. I tell
you that the man who is to down Guynemer is still an apprentice. Do you

The credulity of the poor people of France with regard to their hero was
most touching. When the death of Guynemer had to be admitted, there was
deep mourning, from Paris to the remote villages where news travels
slowly, but is long pondered upon. Guynemer had been brought down from a
height of 700 meters, northeast of Poelkapelle cemetery, in the Ypres
sector. A German noncommissioned officer and two soldiers had
immediately gone to where the machine was lying. One of the wings of the
machine was broken; the airman had been shot through the head, and his
leg and shoulder had been broken in the fall; but his face was
untouched, and he had been identified at once by the photograph on his
pilot's diploma. A military funeral had been given to him.

Nevertheless, it seemed as if Guynemer's fate still remained somewhat
obscure. The German War Office published a list of French machines
fallen in the German lines, with the official indications by which they
had been recognized. Now, the number of the _Vieux-Charles_ did not
appear on any of these lists, although having only one wing broken the
number ought to have been plainly visible. Who were the noncommissioned
officer and the two soldiers? Finally, on October 4, 1917, the British
took Poelkapelle, but the enemy counter-attacked, and there was furious
fighting. On the 9th the village was completely occupied by the British,
and they searched for Guynemer's grave. No trace of it could be found in
either the military or the village graveyard.

In fact, the Germans had to acknowledge in an official document that
both the body and the airplane of Guynemer had disappeared. On November
8, 1917, the German Foreign Office replied as follows to a question
asked by the Spanish Ambassador:

     Captain Guynemer fell in the course of an air fight on September 11
     at ten A.M. close to the honor graveyard No. 2 south of
     Poelkapelle. A surgeon found that he had been shot through the
     head, and that the forefinger of his left hand had been shot off by
     a bullet. The body could neither be buried nor removed, as the
     place had been since the previous day under constant and heavy
     fire, and during the following days it was impossible to approach
     it. The sector authorities communicate that the shelling had plowed
     up the entire district, and that no trace could be found on
     September 12 of either the body or the machine. Fresh inquiries,
     which were made in order to answer the question of the Spanish
     Embassy, were also fruitless, as the place where Captain Guynemer
     fell is now in the possession of the British.

     The German airmen express their regret at having been unable to
     render the last honors to a valiant enemy.

     It should be added that investigation in this case was only made
     with the greatest difficulty, as the enemy was constantly
     attacking, fresh troops were frequently brought in or relieved, and
     eye witnesses had either been killed or wounded, or transferred.
     Our troops being continually engaged have not been in a position to
     give the aforesaid information sooner.

So there had been no military funeral, and Guynemer had accepted nothing
from his enemies, not even a wooden cross. The battle he had so often
fought in the air had continued around his body; the Allied guns had
kept the Germans away from it. So nobody can say where lies what was
left of Guynemer: and no hand had touched him. Dead though he was, he
escaped. He who was life and movement itself, could not accept the
immobility of the tomb.

German applause, like that with which the Greeks welcomed the dead body
of Hector, did not fail to welcome Guynemer's end. At the end of three
weeks a coarse and discourteous paean was sung in the _Woche_. In its
issue of October 6, this paper devoted to Guynemer, under the title
"Most Successful French Aviator Killed," an article whose lying
cowardice is enough to disgrace a newspaper, and which ought to be
preserved to shame it. A reproduction of Guynemer's diploma was given
with the article, which ran as follows:

     Captain Guynemer enjoyed high reputation in the French army, as he
     professed having brought down more than fifty airplanes, but many
     of these were proved to have got back to their camps, though
     damaged it is true. The French, in order to make all verification
     on our side impossible, have given up stating, in the past few
     months, the place or date of their so-called victories. Certain
     French aviators, taken prisoner by our troops, have described his
     method thus: sometimes, when in command of his squadron, he left it
     to his men to attack, and when he had ascertained which of his
     opponents was the weakest, he attacked that one in turn. Sometimes
     he would fly alone at very great altitudes, for hours, above his
     own lines, and when he saw one of our machines separated from the
     others would pounce upon it unawares. If his first onset failed, he
     would desist at once, not liking fights of long duration, in the
     course of which real gallantry must be displayed.[30]

[Footnote 30: Der Erfolgreichste Französische Kampfflieger Gefallen.
Kapitän Guynemer genoss grossen Ruhm im französischen Heere, da er 50
Flugzeuge abgeschossen haben wollte. Von diesen ist jedoch
nachgewiesenermassen eine grosse Zahl, wenn auch beschädigt, in ihre
Flughäfen zurückgekert. Um deutscherseits eine Nachprüfung unmöglich zu
machen, wurden in den letzten Monaten Ort und Datum seiner angeblichen
Luftsiege nicht mehr angegeben. Ueber seine Kampfmethode haben gefangene
französische Flieger berichtet: Entweder liess er, als Geschwaderführer
fliegend, seine Kameraden zuerst angreifen un stürzle sich dann erst auf
den schwächsten Gegner; oder er flog stundenlang in grössten Höhe,
allein hinter der französischen Front und stürzte sich von oben herab
überraschend auf einzeln fliegende deutsche Beobachtungsflugzeuge. Hatte
Guynemer beim ersten Verstoss keinen Erfolg, so brach er das Gefecht
sofort ab; auf den länger dauernden, wahrhaft muterprobenden Kurvenkampf
liess er sich nicht gern ein.--Extract from the _Woche_ of October 6,

This is the filth the German paper was not ashamed to print. Repulsive
though it is, I must analyze some of its details. An enemy's abuse
reveals his own character. So this German denied the fifty-three
victories of Guynemer, all controlled, and with such severity that in
his case, as in that of Dorme, he was not credited with fully a third of
his distant triumphs, too far away to be officially recognized; so this
German also vilified Guynemer's fighting methods, Guynemer the
foolhardy, the wildly, madly foolhardy, whose machines and clothes were
everlastingly riddled with bullets, who fought at such close quarters
that he was constantly in danger of collisions--this Guynemer the German
journalist makes out to be a prudent and timid airman, shirking fight
and making use of his comrades. What sort of story had the German who
brought him down told? Was it not obvious that if Guynemer had engaged
him at 4000 meters, and had been killed at 700, that he must have
prolonged the struggle, and prolonged it above the enemy's lines?
Finally, the German journalist had the unutterable meanness and infamy
to saddle on imprisoned French aviators this slander of their comrade,
insinuated rather than boldly expressed. After all, this document is
invaluable, and ought to be framed and preserved. How Guynemer would
have laughed over it, and how youthfully ringing and honest the laugh
would have sounded! Villiers de l'Isle Adam, remembering the Hegelian
philosophy, once wrote: "The man who insults you only insults the idea
he has formed of you, that is to say, himself."

As a whole army (the Sixth) marched on May 25 towards that hill of the
Aisne valley where Guynemer had brought down four German machines, and
acclaimed his triumph, so the whole French nation would take part in
mourning him.

At the funeral service held at Saint Antony's Compiègne, the Bishop of
Beauvais, Monseigneur Le Senne, spoke, taking for his text the Psalm in
which David laments the death of Saul and his sons slain _on the
summits_, and says that this calamity must be kept secret lest the
Philistines and their daughters should rejoice over it. This service was
attended by General Débeney, staff major-general, representing the
generalissimo, and by all the surviving members of the Storks
Escadrille, with their former chief, Major Brocard. His successor,
Captain Heurtaux, whose unexpected appearance startled the
congregation--he seemed so pale and thin on his crutches--had left the
hospital for this ceremony, and looked so ill that people were surprised
that he had the strength to stand.

A few hours before the service took place, Major Garibaldi, sent by
General Anthoine, commander of the army to which Guynemer belonged, had
brought to the Guynemer family the twenty-sixth citation of their hero,
the famous document which all French schoolboys have since learned by
heart and which was as follows:

     Fallen on the field of honor on September 11, 1917. A legendary
     hero, fallen from the very zenith of victory after three years'
     hard and continuous fighting. He will be considered the most
     perfect embodiment of the national qualities for his indomitable
     energy and perseverance and his exalted gallantry. Full of
     invincible belief in victory, he has bequeathed to the French
     soldier an imperishable memory which must add to his
     self-sacrificing spirit and will surely give rise to the noblest

On the motion of M. Lasies, in a session which reminded us of the great
days of August, 1914, the Chamber decided on October 19 that the name of
Captain Guynemer should be graven on the walls of the Panthéon. Two
letters, to follow below, were read by M. Lasies, to whom they had been
written. One came from Lieutenant Raymond, temporary commandant of the
Storks, and was as follows:

     Having the honor to command Escadrille 3 in the absence of Captain
     Heurtaux, still wounded in hospital, I am anxious to thank you, in
     the name of the few surviving Storks, for what you are doing for
     the memory of Guynemer.

     He was our friend as well as our chief and teacher, our pride and
     our flag, and his loss will be felt more than any that has thinned
     our ranks so far.

     Please be sure that our courage has not been laid low with him; our
     revenge will be merciless and victorious.

     May Guynemer's noble soul remember us fighting our aërial battles,
     that we may keep alight the flame he bequeathed to us.

     Commanding Escadrille 3.

The other letter came from Major Brocard:

     My dear Comrade:

     I am profoundly moved to hear of the thought you have had of giving
     the highest consecration to Guynemer's memory by a ceremony at the

     It had occurred to all of us that only the lofty dome of the
     Panthéon was large enough for such wings.

     The poor boy fell in the fullness of triumph, with his face towards
     the enemy. A few days before he had sworn to me that the Germans
     should never take him alive. His heroic death is not more glorious
     than that of the gunner defending his gun, the infantryman rushing
     out of his trench, or even that of the poor soldier perishing in
     the bogs. But Guynemer was known to all. There were few who had not
     seen him in the sky, whether blue or cloudy, bearing on his frail
     linen wings some of their own faith, their own dreams, and all that
     their souls could hold of trust and hope.

     It was for them all, whether infantrymen or gunners or pioneers,
     that he fought with the bitter hatred he felt for the invader, with
     his youthful daring and the joys of his triumphs. He knew that the
     battle would end fatally for him, no doubt, but knowing also that
     his war-bird was the instrument of saving thousands of lives, and
     seeing that his example called forth the noblest imitation, he
     remained true to his idea of self-sacrifice which he had formed a
     long time before, and which he saw develop with perfect calm.

     Full of modesty as a soldier, but fully conscious of the greatness
     of his duties, he possessed the national qualities of endurance,
     perseverance, indifference to danger, and to these he added a most
     generous heart.

     During his short life he had not time enough to learn bitterness,
     or suffering, or disillusionment.

     He passed straight from the school where he was learning the
     history of France to where he himself could add another page to it.
     He went to the war driven by a mysterious power which I respect as
     death or genius ought to be respected.

     He was a powerful thought living in a body so delicate that I, who
     lived so close beside him, knew it would some day be slain by the

     The poor boy! Other boys from every French school wrote to him
     every day. He was their legendary ideal, and they felt all his
     emotions, sharing his joys as well as his dangers. To them he was
     the living copy of the heroes whose exploits they read in their
     books. His name is constantly on their lips, for they love him as
     they have been taught to love the purest glories of France.

     _Monsieur le député_, gain admittance for him to the Panthéon,
     where he has already been placed by the mothers and children of
     France. There his protecting wings will not be out of place, for
     under that dome where sleep those who gave us our France, they will
     be the symbol of those who have defended her for us.

     Major Brocard.

These letters roused the enthusiasm of the Chamber, and the following
resolution was passed by acclamation:

     The government shall have an inscription placed in the Panthéon to
     perpetuate the memory of Captain Guynemer, the symbol of France's
     highest aspirations.

On November 5 the foregoing letters were solemnly read aloud in every
school, and Guynemer was presented as an example to all French

       *       *       *       *       *

The army then prepared to celebrate Guynemer as a leader, and in default
of any place suitable for such a ceremony they selected the camp of
Saint-Pol-sur-Mer, whence Guynemer had started on his last flight. On
November 30 General Anthoine, commanding the First Army, before leaving
the Flemish British sector where he had so brilliantly assisted in the
success, decided to associate his men with the glorification of

The ceremony took place at ten in the morning. A raw breeze was blowing
off the sea, whose violence the dam, raised to protect the
landing-ground, was not sufficient to break. In front of the battalion
which had been sent to render the military honors, waved the colors of
the twenty regiments that had fought in the Flemish battles, glorious
flags bearing the marks of war, some of them almost in rags. To the
left, in front of the airmen, two slight figures were visible, one in
black, one in horizon blue: Captain Heurtaux still on his crutches, the
other _sous-lieutenant_ Fonck. The former was to be made an officer, the
latter a chevalier in the Legion of Honor. Heurtaux, a fair-haired,
delicate, almost girlish young man, but so phenomenally self-possessed
in danger, had been, as we have said, our Roland's Oliver, his companion
of old days, his rival and his confidant. Fonck, whom I called
Aymerillot because of his smallness, his boyish simplicity and his
daring, the hope of the morrow and already a glorious soldier, had
perhaps avenged Guynemer's death already. For Lieutenant Weissman,
according to the _Kölnische Zeitung_, had boasted in a letter to his
people of having brought down the most famous French aviator. "Don't be
afraid on my account," he added, "I shall never meet such a dangerous
enemy again." Now, on September 30 Fonck had shot this Lieutenant
Weissman through the head as the latter was piloting a Rumpler machine
above the French lines.

While the band was playing the _Marseillaise_, accompanied by the
roaring of the gale and of the sea, as well as of the airplanes circling
above, General Anthoine stepped out in front of the row of flags. His
powerful frame seemed to suggest the cuirass of the knights of old, as,
silhouetted against the cloudy sky, he towered above the two diminutive
aviators near whom he was standing. The band stopped playing, and the
general spoke, his voice rising and falling in the wind, and swelling to
a higher pitch when the elements were too rebellious. He was speaking
almost on the spot where Guynemer had departed from the soil of his own
country on his final flight.

"I have not summoned you," he said, "to pay Guynemer the last homage he
has a right to from the First Army, over a coffin or a grave. No trace
could be found in Poelcapelle of his mortal remains, as if the heavens,
jealous of their hero, had not consented to return to earth what seems
to belong to it by right, and as if Guynemer had disappeared in empyrean
glory through a miraculous assumption. Therefore we shall omit, on this
spot from which he soared into Infinity, the sorrowful rites generally
concluding the lives of mortals, and shall merely proclaim the
immortality of the Knight of the Air, without fear or reproach.

"Men come and go, but France remains. All who fall for her bequeath to
her their own glory, and her splendor is made up of their worth. Happy
is he who enriches the commonwealth by the complete gift of himself.
Happy then the child of France whose superhuman destiny we are
celebrating! Glory be to him in the heavens where he reigned supreme,
and glory be to him on the earth, in our soldiers' hearts and in these
flags, sacred emblems of honor and of the worship of France!

"Ye flags of the second aëronautical unit and of the First Army, you
keep in the mystery of your folds the memory of virtue, devotion, and
sacrifice of every kind, to hand down to future generations the
treasures of our national traditions!

"Flags, the souls of our heroes live in you, and when your fluttering
silk is heard, it is indeed their voice bidding us go from the same
dangers to the same triumphs!

"Flags, keep the soul of Guynemer forever. Let it raise up and multiply
heroes in his likeness! Let it exalt to resolution the hearts of
neophytes eager to avenge the martyr by imitating his lofty example, and
let it give them power to revive the prowess of this legendary hero!

"For the only homage he expects from his companions is the continuation
of his work.

"In the brief moment during which dying men see, as in a vision, the
whole past and the whole future, if Guynemer knew a comfort it was the
certainty that his comrades would successfully complete what he had

"You, his friends and rivals, I know well; I know that, like Guynemer,
you can be trusted, that you meet bravely the formidable task he has
bequeathed to you, and that you will fulfil the hopes which France had
reposed in him.

"It is to confirm this certitude in presence of our flags, brought to
witness it, that I am glad to confer on two of his companions, two of
our bravest fighters, distinctions which are at the same time a reward
for the past and an earnest of future glory."

Then the general gave the accolade and embraced Heurtaux, now less
dependent on his crutches, and Fonck, suddenly grown taller, children of
glory, both of them, and still pale from the emotion caused by the
evocation of their friend's glory. He pinned the badges on their coats.
After this he added, in a lull of the conflicting elements:

"Let us raise our hearts in respectful and grateful admiration for the
hero whom the First Army can never forget, of whom it was so proud, and
whose memory will always live in History.

"Dead though he be, a man like Guynemer guides us, if we know how to
follow him, along the triumphal way which, over ruins, tombs, and
sacrifices, leads to victory the good and the strong."

Of itself, thanks to this religious conclusion of the general's ode, the
ceremony had assumed a sort of sacred character, and the word which
concludes prayers, the Amen of the officiating priest, naturally came to
our lips while the general saluted with his sword the invisible spirit
of the hero, and the blasts of the bugles rose above the gale and the


In the Panthéon crypt, destined, as the inscription says, for the burial
of great men, the name of Guynemer will be graven on a marble slab
cemented in the wall. The proper inscription for this slab will be the
young soldier's last citation:


"To deserve such a citation and die!" exclaimed a young officer after
reading it.

In his poem, _Le Vol de la Marseillaise_, Rostand shows us the twelve
Victories seated at the Invalides around the tomb of the Emperor rising
to welcome their sister, the Victory of the Marne. At the Panthéon, in
the crypt where they rest, Marshal Lannes and General Marceau, Lazare
Carnot, the organizer of victory, and Captain La Tour d'Auvergne will
rise in their turn on this young man's entrance. Victor Hugo, who is
there too, will recognize at once one of the knights in his _Légende des
Siècles_, and Berthelot will look upon his coming as an evidence of the
fervor of youth for France as well as for science. But of them all,
Marceau, his elder brother, killed at twenty-seven, will be the most

Traveling in the Rhine Valley some ten or twelve years ago, I made a
pilgrimage to Marceau's tomb, outside Coblenz, just above the Moselle.
In a little wood stands a black marble pyramid with the following
inscription in worn-out gilt letters:

     Here lieth Marceau, a soldier at sixteen, a general at twenty-two,
     who died fighting for his country the last day of the year IV of
     the Republic. Whoever you may be, friend or foe, respect the ashes
     of this hero.

The French prisoners who died in 1870-71 at the camp of Petersberg have
been buried, on the same spot. Marceau was not older than these
soldiers, who died without fame or glory, when his brief and wonderful
career came to an end. Without knowing it, the Germans had completed the
hero's mausoleum by laying these remains around it; for it is proper
that beside the chief should be represented the anonymous multitude
without whom there would be no chiefs.

In 1889 the remains of Marceau were transferred to the Panthéon in
Paris, and the Coblenz monument now commemorates only his name. It will
be the same with Guynemer, whose remains will never be found, as if the
earth had refused to engulf them; they will never be brought back,
amidst the acclamations of the people, to the mount once dedicated to
Saint Genevieve. But his legendary life was fitly crowned by the mystery
of such a death.

One of the frescoes of Puvis de Chavannes in the Panthéon, the last to
the left, represents an old woman leaning over a stone terrace and
gazing at the town beneath her with its moonlit roofs and its
surrounding plain, looking bluish in the night. The city is asleep, but
the holy woman watches and prays. She stands tall and upright as a lily.
Her lamp, which is seen at the entrance of her house, is one long stem
illuminated by the flame. She, too, is like this lamp. Her emaciated
body would be nothing without her ardent face. Her serenity can only
come from work well done and confidence in the future. Lutetia,
represented in this picture by Genevieve, is not anxious; yet she
listens as if she might hear once more the threatening approach of
Attila. It is because she knows that the barbarians may come back again,
and can only be stopped by invincible faith.

As long as France keeps her belief, she is secure. The life and death of
a Guynemer are an act of faith in immortal France.


The _ballades_ of olden times used to conclude with an _envoi_ addressed
to some powerful person and invariably beginning with King, Queen,
Prince or Princess. But the poet was occasionally at a loss, for, as
Theodore de Banville observes in his _Petit traité de Poésie Française_,
"everybody has not a prince handy to whom to dedicate his _ballade_."

Guynemer's biography is of such a nature that it must seem like a poem:
why not, then, conclude it with an _envoi_? I have no difficulty in
finding a Prince, for I shall select him from among the French
schoolboys. There is a little Paul Bailly, not quite twelve years old,
from Bouclans, a village in Franche-Comté, who wrote a beautiful theme
on Guynemer: he shall be my Prince. And through him I shall address all
the French schoolboys or girls, in all the French towns and villages.

Little Prince, I have no doubt that you love arithmetic, and I will give
you accurate figures which will satisfy your taste. You will like to
know that Guynemer flew for 665 hours and 55 seconds in all, which I
added up from his flying notebooks: his last flight is not recorded in
them, because it never stopped.

As for the number of fights in which he was engaged, that is difficult
to ascertain. Guynemer himself did not seem anxious to be sure about it.
But it must be more than 600, and might well be 700 or 800. Your
Guynemer, our Guynemer, will never be surpassed: not because he forgot
to hand over to his successors, rivals, and avengers the sacred flame
which in France can never go out, but because genius is an exceptional
privilege, and because the present methods of fighting in the air are
not in favor of single combats but engage whole units.

You will also love to hear about Guynemer as an inventor, and the
creator of a magic airplane. Some day this airplane will be exhibited;
and perhaps some of your little friends have already seen at the
Invalides the machine in which Guynemer brought down nineteen German
airplanes. On November 1, 1917, thousands of Parisians visited it; and
it was strewn with magnificent bunches of chrysanthemums, to which many
people added clusters of violets.

In Guynemer the technician and the marksman equaled and perhaps
surpassed the pilot. Captain Galliot, who is a specialist, has called
him "the thinker-fighter," thereby emphasizing that his excellence as a
gunner arose from meditation and preparation. The same officer adds that
"accuracy was Guynemer's characteristic; he never shot at random as
others occasionally do, but always took long and careful aim. Perfect
weapons and perfect mastery of them were dogmas with him. His
marksmanship, the result of perseverance and intelligence, multiplied
tenfold the capacity of his machine-gun, and accounts for his
overwhelming superiority."[31]

[Footnote 31: _Guerre aérienne_, October 18, 1917.]

But when you have realized the technical superiority of our Guynemer,
you will have yet to learn one thing, one great thing, the essential
thing. You have heard that Guynemer's frame was not robust; that he was
delicate, and the military boards refused him several times as unfit.
Yet no aviator ever showed more endurance than he did, even when
developments made long cruising necessary in altitudes of 6000 or 7000
meters. There have been pilots as quickwitted and gunners as accurate as
Guynemer, but there has never been anybody who equaled him in the
flashlike rapidity of his attack, or for doggedness in keeping up a
fight. We must conclude that he had a special gift, and this gift--his
own genius--must be ultimately reduced to his decision, that is, his
will-power. His will, to the very end, was far above his physical
strength. There are two great dates in his short life: November 21,
1914, when he joined the army, and September 11, 1917, when he left camp
for his last flight. Neither a passion for aviation nor thirst for glory
had any part in his action on those two dates. Will-power in itself is
sometimes dangerous, enviable though it be, and must be wisely directed.
Now, Guynemer regulated his will by one great object, which was to
serve, to serve his country, even unto death.

Finally, do not place Guynemer apart from his comrades: even in his
grave, even in the region where there is no grave, he would resent it. I
hope you will learn by heart the names of the French aces, at any rate
those names which I am going to give you, whatever may become of those
who bear them:[32]

     _sous-lieutenant_ Nungesser     30 airplanes brought down
     Captain Heurtaux                21     "        "
     Lieutenant Deullin              17     "        "
     Lieutenant Pinsard              16     "        "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Madon         16     "        "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Chaput        12     "        "
     Adjutant Jailler                12     "        "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Ortoli        11     "        "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Tarascon      11     "        "
     Chief Adjutant Fonck            11     "        "
     _sous-lieutenant_ Lufbery       10     "        "

[Footnote 32: List made September 11, 1917.]

These names will become more and more glorious--some have already done
so--and others will be added to the list which you will learn also. But
however tenacious your memory may be, you will never remember, nobody
will ever remember, the thousands of names we ought to save from
oblivion, the names of those whose patience, courage, and sufferings
have saved the soil of France. The fame of one man is nothing unless it
represent the obscure deeds of the anonymous multitude. The name of
Guynemer ought to sum up the sacrifice of all French youth--infantrymen,
gunners, pioneers, troopers, or flyers--who have given their lives for
us, as we hear the infinite murmur of the ocean in one beautiful shell.

The enthusiasm and patience, the efforts and sacrifices, of the
generations which came before you, little boy, were necessary to save
you, to save your country, to save the world, born of light and born
unto light, from the darkness of dread oppression. Germany has chosen to
rob war of all that, slowly and tentatively, the nations had given to it
of respect for treaties, pity for the weak and defenseless, and of honor
generally. She has poisoned it as she poisons her gases. This is what we
should never forget. Not only has Germany forced this war upon the
world, but she has made it systematically cruel and terrifying, and in
so doing she has sown the seeds of horrified rebellion against anything
that is German. Parisian boys of your own age will tell you that during
their sleep German squadrons used to fly over their city dropping bombs
at random upon it. And to what purpose? None, beyond useless murder.
This is the kind of war which Germany has waged from the first,
gradually compelling her opponents to adopt the same methods. But while
this loathsome work was being done, our airplanes, piloted by soldiers
not much older than you, cruised like moving stars above the city of
Genevieve, threatened now with unheard-of invasion from on high.

Little boy, do not forget that this war, blending all classes, has also
blended in a new crucible all the capacities of our country. They are
now turned against the aggressor, but they will have to be used in time
for union, love, and peace. _Omne regnum divisum contra se desolabitur;
et omnis civitas vel domus divisa contra se non stabit._ You can read
this easy Latin, but if necessary your teacher or village priest will
help you. The house, the city, the nation ought not to be divided. The
enemy would have done us too much evil if he had not brought about the
reconciliation of all Frenchmen. You, little boy, will have to wipe away
the blood from the bleeding face of France, to heal her wounds, and
secure for her the revival she will urgently need. She will come out of
the formidable contest respected and admired, but oh, how weary! Love
her with pious love, and let the life of Guynemer inspire you with the
resolve to serve in daily life, as he served, even unto death.

_December_, 1917, to _January_, 1918.




In _Huon de Bordeaux_, a _chanson de geste_ with fairy and romantic
elements, Huon leaves for Babylon on a mission confided to him by the
Emperor, which he was told to fulfil with the aid of the dwarf sorcerer,
Oberon. At the château of Dunôtre, in Palestine, where he must destroy a
giant, he meets a young girl of great beauty named Sébile, who guides
him through the palace. As he is astonished to hear her speak French,
she replies: "I was born in France, and I felt pity for you because I
saw the cross you wear." "In what part of France?" "In the town of
Saint-Omer," replied Sébile; "I am the daughter of Count Guinemer." Her
father had lately come on a pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, bringing
her with him. A tempest had cast them on shore near the town of the
giant, who had killed her father and kept her prisoner. "For more than
seven years," she added, "I have not been to mass." Naturally Huon kills
the giant, and delivers the daughter of Count Guinemer.

In an article by the learned M. Longnon on _L'Elément historique de Huon
de Bordeaux_,[33] a note is given on the name of Guinemer:

"In _Huon de Bordeaux_," writes M. Longnon, "the author of the _Prologue
des Lorrains_ makes Guinemer the son of Saint Bertin, second Abbot of
Sithieu, an abbey which took the name of this blessed man and was the
foundation of the city of Saint-Omer, which the poem of _Huon de
Bordeaux_ makes the birthplace of Count Guinemer's daughter. It is
possible that this Guinemer was borrowed by our _trouveres_ from some
ancient Walloon tradition; for his name, which in Latin is Winemarus,
appears to have occurred chiefly in those countries forming part, from
the ninth to the twelfth century, of the County of Flanders. The
chartulary of Saint Vertin alone introduces us to: 1st, a deacon named
Winidmarus, who in 723 wrote a deed of sale at Saint-Omer itself
(Guérard, p. 50); 2d, a knight of the County of Flanders, Winemarus, who
assassinated the Archbishop of Rheims, Foulques, who was then Abbot of
Saint-Bertin (Guérard, p. 135); 3d, Winemarus, a vassal of the Abbey,
mentioned in an act dated 1075 (_ib._, p. 195); 4th, Winemarus, Lord of
Gand, witness to a charter of Count Baudouin VII in 1114 (_ib._, p.
255). The personage in _Huon de Bordeaux_ might also be connected with
Guimer, Lord of Saint-Omer, who appears in the beginning of _Ogier le
Danios_, if the form, Guimer, did not seem rather to derive from

[Footnote 33: _Romania_, 1879, p. 4.]

[Footnote 34: With this note may be connected the following page of the
Wauters, a chronological table of Charters and printed Acts, Vol. II, p.
16, 1103: "Baldéric, Bishop of the Tournaisiens and the Noyonnais,
confirms the cession of the tithe and patronage of Templeuve, which was
made to the Abbey of Saint-Martin de Tournai by two knights of that
town, Arnoul and Guinemer, and by the canon _Géric. Actum Tornaci, anno
domenice incarnationis M.C. III, regnante rege Philippo, episcopante
domo Baldrico pontifice_. Extracts for use in the ecclesiastic history
of Belgium, 2d year, p. 10."]

Leaving the _chansons de geste_, Guinemer reappears in the history of
the Crusades. Count Baudouin of Flanders and his knights, while making
war in the Holy Land (1097), see a vessel approaching, more than three
miles from the city of Tarsus. They wait on the shore, and the vessel
casts anchor. "Whence do you come?" is always the first question asked
in like circumstances. "From Flanders, from Holland, and from
Friesland." They were repentant pirates, who after having combed the
seas had come to do penance by a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Christian
warriors joyously welcome these sailors whose help will be useful to
them. Their chief is a Guinemer, not from Saint-Omer but Boulogne. He
recognizes in Count Baudouin his liege lord, leaves his ship and decides
to remain with the crusaders. "_Moult estait riche de ce mauvais
gaeng._" The whilom pirate contributes his ill-gotten gains to the

[Footnote 35: _Receuil des Historiens des Croisades_, Western
Historians, Volume I, Book III and XXIII, p. 145: _Comment Guinemerz et
il Galiot s'accompaignierent avec Baudouin_.]

In another chapter of the _Histoire des Croisades_, this Guinemer
besieged Lalische, which "is a most noble and ancient city situated on
the border of the sea; it was the only city in Syria over which the
Emperor of Constantinople was ruler." Lalische or Laodicea in Syria,
_Laodicea ad mare_--now called Latakia--was an ancient Roman colony
under Septimus Severus, and was founded on the ruins of the ancient
Ramitha by Seleucus Nicator, who called it Laodicea in honor of his
mother Laodice. Guinemer, who expected to take the city by force, was in
his turn assaulted and taken prisoner by the garrison. Baudouin, with
threats, demanded him back and rescued him; but esteeming him a better
seaman than a combatant on the land, he invited him to return to his
ship, take command of his fleet, and navigate within sight of the coast,
which the former pirate "very willingly did."

A catalogue of the Deeds of Henri I, King of France (1031-1060)[36]
mentions in this same period a Guinemer, Lord of Lillers, who had
solicited the approval of the king for the construction of a church in
his château, to be dedicated to Notre-Dame and Saint-Omer. The royal
approval was given in 1043, completing the authorization of Baudouin,
Count of Flanders, and of Dreu, Bishop of Thérouanne at the request of
Pope Gregory VI, to whom the builder had gone in person to ask consent
for his enterprise. Was this Guinemer, like the pirate of Jerusalem,
doing penance for some wrong? Thus we find two Guinemers in the eleventh
century, one in Palestine, the other in Italy. About this same period
the family probably left Flanders to settle in Brittany, where they
remained until the Revolution. The corsair of Boulogne became a
ship-builder at Saint-Malo, having his own reasons for changing
parishes. The Flemish tradition then gives place to that of Brittany,
which is authenticated by documents. One Olivier Guinemer gave a receipt
in 1306 to the executors of Duke Jean II de Bretagne. He held a fief
under Saint-Sauveur de Dinan, "on which the duke had settled tenants
contrary to agreements." The executors, to liquidate the estate, had to
pay immense sums for "indemnification, restitution and damages," and
took care to "take receipts from all those to whom their commission
obliged them to distribute money."[37] The Treaty of Guérande (April 11,
1365), which ended the war for the Breton succession and gave the Duchy
to Jean de Montfort, though under the suzerainty of the King of France,
is signed by thirty Breton knights, among whom is a Geoffrey Guinemer. A
Mathelin Guinemer, squire, is mentioned in an act received at Bourges in
1418; while in 1464, an Yvon Guynemer, man-at-arms, is promoted to full
pay, and he already spells his name with a _y_.

[Footnote 36: _Catalogue des actes d'Henri I, Roi de France_
(1031-1060), by Frédéric Soehnée, archivist at the National Archives.]

[Footnote 37: _Histoire de Bretagne_, by Dom Lobineau (1707), Vol. I, p.
293. _Recherches sur la chevalerie du duché de Bretagne, by A. de
Couffon de Kerdellech_, Vol. II (Nantes, Vincent Forest and Emile
Grimaud, Printers and Publishers).]

It is somewhat difficult to trace the history of this lesser provincial
nobility, engaged sometimes in petty wars, sometimes in the cultivation
of their domains. In a book glorifying the humble service of ancient
French society, _Gentilshommes Campagnards_, M. Pierre de Vaissiére has
shown how this race of rural proprietors lived in the closest contact
with French agriculture, counseling and defending the peasant, clearing
and cultivating their land, and maintaining their families by its
produce. In his _Mémoires_, the famous Rétif de la Bretonne paints in
the most picturesque manner the patriarchal and authoritative manners of
his grandfather who, by virtue of his own unquestioned authority
prevented his descendant from leaving his native village and
establishing in Paris. Paris was already exercising its fascination and
uprooting the youth of the time. The Court of Versailles had already
weakened the social authority of families still attached to their lands.

[Transcriber's Note:

The following typographical errors in the original were corrected:

batallion (to battalion)
Fleugzeg (to Flugzeug)
éclaties (to éclatiez)
Kamfflieger (to Kampfflieger)]

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