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Formed in July of 1912, Escadrille 3 “Les Cigognes” (The Storks) became one of the most famous, if not the most famous, aviation unit of the French Armée de l’Air during World War I. Their emblem of the stork in flight would go on to be the inspiration for Hispano-Suizas famous car mascots, with Hispano-Suiza supplying the engines to power the squadrons aircraft. This print is 1/13 ever made, six for the Armée de l’Air, six for the featured pilots, and one for the artist himself, proving itself to be an exceptionally rare piece of French militaria.


Command of the unit was assumed by Capitaine Felix Antonin Brocard in April 1915, who in 1916 summoned a young artist by the name of Jean de Moulignon to his office with an offer; in exchange for 48-hours leave, de Moulignon would sketch a commemorative fresco for the unit featuring six of its most successful pilots. These were some of the most successful fighter pilots of the entire war with over 120 confirmed aerial victories between them.


Although de Moulignon thought himself ill-suited for the job, typically painting animals, Brocard believed this only made him the perfect choice stating “It was necessary to have an animal painter to sketch us, that's why we are so successful!”


Featured in this piece from left to right: The Stork mascot of the unit equipped with a Lewis machine gun, Capitaine Felix Antonine Brocard (Commanding Officer April 1915 – June 1916), Capitaine Georges Guynemer (Commanding Officer 4th September 1917 – KIA 12th September 1917), Sous Lieutenant René Pierre (Pére) Marie Dorme, Capitaine Alfred Heurteaux (Commanding Officer (June 1916-March 1917), Capitaine Albert Louis Deullin with his dog Parasol, and finally Capitaine Mathieu Marie Joseph Antoine Tenant de la Tour.


All six of the pilots were highly decorated and revered. The squadrons leader, Capitaine Brocard would be awarded the Croix de Guerre 1914-18 avec trois palms and the prestige of Commandeur de la Légion d’honneur.


Capitaine Guynemer would be the most famous of all, becoming a national war hero by the time of his death and the 2nd highest scoring French Fighter Ace in history. He was a sickly child born into French aristocracy, however despite being rejected four times for military service he was accepting as a mechanic and eventually gained acceptance to be trained as a pilot and joined Escadrille 3 in June 1915 where he remained for the rest of his service. July 19th 1915 Guynemer scored his first aerial victory, becoming an Ace with his 5th victory in February, 1916, earning himself the rank of lieutenant. By the end of the year, Guynemer would have 25 victories to his name, earning him the reputation as Brocard’s ‘best stork’. Less than a year later Guynemer had risen to the rank of Capitaine and Commander of the squadron. On the 11th of September, 1917, Guynemer failed to return from a combat mission. Reportedly, Guynemer sighted five German Albatross fighters and bore down on them with his wingman, but unknown to them more enemy fighters were patrolling the skies above them, including the infamous ‘Red Baron’ Baron von Richtofen. In the confusion the wingman managed to shake of enemy and escape, but Guynemer was nowhere to be seen. It is assumed that Guynemer perished in this battle and later confimed by a captured German pilot. With a total of 54 combined victories, Guynemer was matered and become a symbol of French military skill and prowess.


Lieutenant Réne Pierre Marie Dorme, more commonly known as Père, was an arguably equally skilled fighter, but due to his unusual disinterest for keeping tally we can’t be exactly certain just how skilled he was. Dorme distinguished himself both in skill and style, decorating his plane with his nickname ‘Papa Dorme’ and the squadrons stork mascot. Dorme had 23 aerial victories officially confirmed. Unconfirmed claims amount to 19 more listings. Dorme was notoriously lax in filing combat claims, sometimes only doing so when prompted by wing mates. The haphazardness of his victory list has led to speculation that he scored as many as 43 victories, or perhaps even 70 victories. For his service he was awarded the Médaille Militaire on 4 August 1916, and the Legion d'honneur on 18 October 1916. He was gravely wounded in action on 20 December 1916. While in hospital recuperating, he was commissioned as a Sous lieutenant on 23 January 1917. He returned to flying duty on 1 March 1917. He died in combat on 25 May 1917, being shot down by Heinrich Kroll of Jagdstaffel 9. Kroll noted the skill of which Dorme flew with in his diary, stating that the fight had begun at 5300 meters and continued to as low as 800.


The fourth pilot to feature is the revered, and often feared, Alfred ‘The Bullet Catcher’ Heurteaux. Heurteaux gained this quite brilliant name after his many clashes with death. On 5 May 1917, he was seriously woundedby in a dogfight with nine Albatros D.III’s. He was hit through both cheeks and both thighs, as well as his head being grazed by a near-miss. Heurteaux was fortunate to survive a bullet through his femoral artery; an ordinary bullet would have proved fatal, but the incendiary round that hit him cauterized the wound, sealing off haemorrhaging. He struggled back to Allied lines, and lived. When he recovered, he toured the U.S.A lecturing on fighter tactics. Credited with 21 confirmed and 13 unconfirmed victories, Huerteaux was recognised for his service and was raised from Chevalier in the Légion d'Honneur to Officer, being awarded the Croix de Guerre avec 15 palms and two bronze stars. He attended the ceremony on canes. Heurteaux’s military career did not end here however, becoming a part of the French resistance in WW2, surviving imprisonment at Buchenwald Death Camp and surviving the war to rise to the rank of Brigadier General in the Armée de l’Air.


The penultimate pilot, Capitaine Albert Louis Deullin, was another extremely successful pilot scoring 20 aerial victories, fighting throughout the war in its entirety. Deullin was recognised and awarded the Croix de Guerre avec 14 palms, being raised from Chevalier to Officer de la Légion d'Honneur.


Finally Capitaine Mathieu Marie Joseph Antoine Tenant de la Tour became an ace scoring 5 aerial victories within the unit, and is credited with with one of the first air-to-air combat kills downing a balloon. Like his peers, de la Tour was highly decorated, awarded the Croix de Guerre and earning the rank of Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur.

Escadrille 3 'Les Cigognes' Rare 1/13 French Militaria Print - Now Sold

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