Who's Who - Jan Olieslagers

Jan Olieslagers Jan Olieslagers (1883-1942) was, for all that he was officially credited with just six victories, one of Belgium's most successful First World War fighter pilots.

Born in Antwerp on 4 May 1883 Olieslagers' life prior to the outbreak of war in 1914 was equally active.  An avid motorcyclist he was the first man to reach 100kph on his motorcycle and was known as the 'Antwerp Devil'.

Olieslagers' skill with the motorcycle brought him the world championship in 1902, followed by success in the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris race of 1904.

Drawn by the nascent civil aviation industry Olieslagers, along with his two brothers, purchased a Bleriot XI monoplane in 1909 and set about breaking a series of established world records - seven in total.

With Germany's invasion of Belgium in August 1914 Olieslagers and his two brothers were prompt in offering not only their services as airmen, but also their three Bleriot XI aircraft.  An overtly daring fighter pilot, Olieslagers tackled his early German opponents armed solely with a pistol.

Although he flew some 500 sorties and involved himself in almost 100 dogfights, Olieslagers finished the war with a stunted tally of six confirmed victories (one each in 1915 and 1916, and two more in each of 1917 and 1918), flying Nieuport and Hanriot aircraft.  In large part however this was because Olieslagers paid scant attention to formally claiming recognition for his 'kills'.  In reality his score was far higher.

Following the end of the war Olieslagers helped to establish Antwerp airport, which opened in 1923.

He died on 23 March 1942 in Antwerp, aged 58.

Click here to read Lord Northcliffe's account of the early stages of the Battle of Verdun.

An Adrian Helmet was a French regulation helmet named after its designer.

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