Who's Who - Maurice Boyau

Maurice Boyau Maurice Jean Paul Boyau (1888-1918) was a leading French so-called 'balloon buster' of the First World War.

Born in Algeria Boyau came to the First World War with a set of skills in an entirely different arena - he was a popular and well-regarded pre-war captain of the French rugby team.  However he did also serve with the French infantry prior to the outbreak of war and was employed as a driver in the Army Service Corps in 1915.

Having requested a transfer to the nascent French Air Service  Boyau emerged with his pilot's brevet in November the same year, and was initially assigned to instructor duties.  The following September - 1916 - saw Boyau assigned however to active unit N77.

Specialising as something of a balloon buster, i.e. as one of those pilots who chiefly engaged in the notably dangerous practice of bringing down enemy observation balloons (invariably heavily protected by anti-aircraft artillery and patrol flights) Boyau quickly established himself as an ace.

Killed in action on 16 September 1918 while attempting to down yet another German balloon, Boyau - then aged 30 - had to that date attained a total of some 35 air successes of which 21 were comprised of enemy balloons.  He was the recipient of both the Medaille Militaire and the prestigious Legion d'Honneur, both achieved for his aerial activities in 1917 and 1918.

A "gutzer" was slang for a stroke of bad luck.

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Who's Who