Stanley Gibbons Stamp Guides

Panorama : Alison Boyd looks at the stories behind some new and recent issues

World War I flying ace

On 11 September France released a €5.10 stamp honouring World War I flying ace Georges Guynemer (1894–1917). Following a sickly childhood, Guynemer tried to join the French Air Service at the outbreak of war but was rejected on health grounds. However, he persevered and began training as a mechanic on 23 November 1914. After finally being accepted for flight training, his first flight behind the controls was on 26 January 1915. He joined the French squadron Escadrille MS.3, based at Vauciennes near Villers-Cotterets, and flew a two-seater Morane-Saulnier L monoplane. It was at this time that he experienced his first aerial victory.

At the beginning of 1916, Guynemer’s squadron was renamed Escadrille N.3 and began using Nieuport 11 biplanes – a fast and manoeuvrable single-seater craft which could stand up to the German Fokker monoplanes. In 1916, the squadron moved to the Verdun battle sector and then further north to the Somme, where they took part in the Battle of the Somme during the summer and autumn. Here, the squadron joined with others to form a battle group called the Groupe de Chasse des Cigogne, which translates as the Storks Chasing Group.

The Stork was the symbol of the province of Alsace, where Escadrille MS.3 had been stationed prior to the outbreak of World War I, and their squadron’s flying had been likened to the annual arrival of storks into the region. Consquently, the stork become a symbol for the desire of the French people to liberate Alsace from German control.

In 1917, the squadron moved further north into Flanders to play a part in the Third Battle of Ypres. On the morning of 11 September 1917, Georges Guynemer, commander of Escadrille N.3, took off in a Spad XIII. He did not return to the squadron airfield at Dunkirk and was posted as missing in action in the vicinity of Poelkapelle. His aircraft and remains were never discovered, and it is believed that after being shot down all evidence was destroyed by the intense shelling in the area


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