Un duel dans les airs…
A duel in the skies. How sergeant Frantz… brought down a plane …
Lithograph with hand colouring through stencils.
Given by Sophie Gurney 1994 P.17-1994 No. 14 from the series La Grande Guerre.
The caption of this print recounts fairly accurately (and graphically) the first recorded aerial combat not only of the war, but of all time. On 5 October 1914 French pilot Sergeant Joseph Frantz and mechanic Corporal Louis Quénault chased and shot down a German Aviatik near Reims. They flew a Voisin, a biplane produced by brothers Gabriel and Charles Voisin, whose company had manufactured planes since 1907.
The use of aeroplanes in military combat was in its infancy. France was far ahead of the rest of the world, with 36 planes in their air corps, more than all the other fighting nations put together. Although planes were not yet perfected for long-distance flying (the Voisin depicted here had a range of 125 miles), their potential during wartime, for ‘chase, observation and bombardment’ was soon realised. The pilots were talented individuals; many turning to stunt work after the war ended. Flying was extremely dangerous: life expectancy of pilots was thought to be a matter of weeks or even days.
This is the most worn of all the prints in the series, clearly one of the previous owner’s favourites.
The French caption with English translation:
_UN DUEL DANS LES AIRS. Comment le sergent FRANTZ, accompagné de son mécanicien le soldat QUENAULT, ont descendu un “ aviatik “
Le 5 Octobre 1914 dans la région de Reims on apercut un avion allemand, qui apres avoir survolé nos lignes se préparait à rentrer dans les lignes ennemies. Aussitôt les aviateurs FRANTZ et QUENAULT, montés sur un appareil muni d’une mitrailleuse, s’envolèrent pour donner la chasse à l’avion allemand. La lutte fut épique. Français et Allemands la suivirent avec anxiété. L’appareil français attaqua de flanc l’avion allemand dont le moteur fut atteint et explosa aussitôt. L’avion en flammes s’abattit lourdement sur le sol dans les lignes françaises. Les deux allemands qui le montaient etaient carbonisés, l’un d’eux avait été atteint par plusieurs balles à la gorge. L’enthousiasme de nos troupes fut grand après ce spectacle poignant, dont les deux héros furent décorés._
A Duel in the skies. How Sergeant Frantz accompanied by his mechanic Quenault soldier brought down a plane
On 5 October 1914 in the region of Reims we saw a German plane, which after flying over our lines, was preparing to go back into the enemy lines. Soon after, the aviators FRANTZ and QUENAULT mounted on a plane with a machine gun, flew to hunt the German plane. The fight was epic. French and German people followed it anxiously. The French aircraft attacked the side of the German aircraft whose engine was hit and immediately exploded. The burning plane fell heavily to the ground on the French side. The two Germans pilots were charred: one of them had been hit by several gunshots to the throat. The enthusiasm of our troops was great after this poignant spectacle, and the two heroes were decorated.