WANNA SEE MY WILLY?
Frontier Editor said...
"I almost forgot HE - would there happen to be a Willy Coppens in your family tree in the last century or so? "
"HE's ancestor was a hairy-chested, he-man WW I fighter pilot who had the guts to pancake his Hanriot fighter on top of a German observation ballon, roll off and air-start his engine before escaping a whole lot of German ack-ack."
Here is my Willy.
Willy Coppens was indeed Belgium's leading WW1 Fighter Ace with 34'victories' and yes Willy specialised in shooting down German observation balloons!?
As Frontier Editor noted on one occasion he accidentally lodged his aircraft on top of a balloon!
Incredible as it sounds, Willy had the presence of mind to cut his engine and wait for the plane to roll off the GAS filled balloon before starting it up and flying off.
On Oct.14, 1918, Coppens shot down #34, another balloon, before a hail of anti-aircraft fire tore into his plane and shrapnel lodged into his leg.
Willy managed to pull his Harriot out of a spin and made a crash landing. He survived the wreck but had to have his leg amputated.
Willy Coppens was later knighted as a Chevalier by King Albert.
I can remember my grandfather, Joseph 'Jeff' Coppens, telling me stories about his heroic distant cousin Willy, as well as the horrors of
WORLD WAR ONE which my Grandfather unfortunately witnessed first hand and became the impetus for emigrating to Canada.
Actually I should have added this to the Flanders Fields/McCrae Medals post to complete my Belgian connection.
Since there are only a handful of Coppens over here in North America and it is a very unusual name, as a young lad I was thrilled hear about this stuff from my grandfather and see my last name in a real history book!
Luckily my Mother's German/Prussian side of the family had emigrated well before the expansion plans of the Kaiser and his Red Baron so we were allowed to boast about our famous Flying Ace.
I cannot to this day go past the word Kaiser (German; Caesar) without remembering a line from the film The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean starring Paul Newman. The line, recited by Ned Beatty, goes something like this...
"While all the boys was off fightin' the Kaiser the women got the vote and everything went to hell. All them things what came natural to a fella, drinkin', whorin' and gamblin' became illegal!"
Now I tend to reflect upon the First World War as a brutal senseless slaughterhouse that heralded the advent of modern warfare. The War to end all Wars failed to stop mankind's disturbing predilection for exterminating other humans and within a generation WW2 dragged us 'kicking and screaming' into the Age of the Atomic Bomb.
Any War Heroes in your closet?