Jero Farman type militaire 1912 - © Copyright

1 Squadron

The official creation of 1 Squadron dates back to the Royal Decree of 16 April 1913 organizing the Company of Aviators and, among others, a 'number of squadrons' equipped with four aircraft and comprising four crews composed of a pilot and an observer. The widespread idea among staffs at the time was to use these units to observe the movements of troops on the ground.. However, upon analysis of certain documents, including letters from Major Mathieu - head of the Compagnie d'Aviateurs -, it is reasonable to think that 1 Squadron exists de facto as early as September 1912, when it can dispose of the first four JERO-Farman military type 1912. The Royal Decree of 16 April 1913 only confirms the structuring of the Company of Aviators since two squadrons already exist!

 Félix Liedel - © Copyright

On June 27, 1914, during manoeuvres in the Ardennes, 2nd lieutenant Félix Liedel of Squadron I is the first Belgian military pilot to be killed during air service.

 Ten Bogaerde - © Copyright

During the first clashes in 1914, Escadrille I HF (for Henri Farman), under the command of Arsène Demanet, its first CO, is engaged in the defense of the Place Forte in Liège ; it then withdraws successively towards Antwerp, Ostend and finally Saint-Pol-sur-Mer near Dunkirk. Between March 15 and 19, 1915, The Company of Aviators (name since 1913) changes its name to Military Aviation. On March 20, the Squadron moves to the "Ten Bogaerde" (Coxyde) site.

Later, in December 1916, it settles in the Moëres (Coxyde).

 Nieuport 10 - © Copyright

During the month of April 1915, the Squadron is equipped with the Nieuport 10, a small, light and manoeuvrable biplane; It had only HF Farman aircraft so far, a large and unwieldy biplane. On April 17, 1915, the crew of pilot Fernand Jacquet and observer Henri de Vindevoghel, on HF 20, shots down a German Albatross, thus marking the first victory of the Belgian Military Aeronautics.

 "Bébé" Nieuport 11 - © Copyright

In January 1916 the decision is taken to create a two-squadron fighter unit. On February 22, Squadron "I" officially becomes Nbr 1 Fighter Squadron. In August of the same year, the Nieuport 10 is replaced by the Baby 11.

 Ponnier M.1 - © Copyright

In 1916, the squadron also receives some Ponnier M.1. These are refused by pilots who consider the aircraft too dangerous. This machine has already been refused by French pilots for the same reason. Ten units are nevertheless delivered.

 Hanriot HD.1 - © Copyright

In 1917, Nbr 1 Squadron is equipped mainly with Nieuport 120hp. Its replacement is the Hanriot HD.1 equipped with a 110hp engine, a light and maneuverable aircraft but with a somewhat reduced climb rate. After some reluctance on the part of André de Meulemeester and Jan Olieslagers, the new arrival quickly enthuses the drivers of the 1st.

 André de Meulemeester - © Copyright

It is at this time, at the initiative of André de Meulemeester, that the Scottish thistle appeares on the planes of the 1st Squadron. This first emblem is not the most successful as it ends with a "champagne cork". This first sketch, reworked by Willy Coppens, gives birth to the Thistle we know and is painted on the flanks of the Squadron’s Hanriot HD.1. The motto is added to the emblem « Nemo me impune lacessit –Nobody provokes me with impunity– » on top and across the aircraft fuselage.

 Sopwith Camel F.1 Camel - © Copyright

At the beginning of 1918, the Squadron momentarily receives a few Sopwith F.1 Camels with 130 hp Clerget engine, which are quickly transferred to another squadron. In March 1918, the organization of the Belgian Military Aviation evolves once again and is organised in groups. The Fighter Group, commanded by Commander Jacquet, now includes three squadrons, the first of which becomes the 9th Fighter Squadron.

 Fernand Jacquet - André de Meulemeester - Jan Olieslaegers - Willy Coppens and Edmond Thieffry (2 Sqn) - © Copyright

At the signing of the armistice, the Thistle Squadron has four of the five 'Aces' recognized in the Belgian military aviation : Fernand Jacquet, André de Meulemeester, Jan Olieslaegers and Willy Coppens. Not to mention all its pilots who show extreme courage throughout the conflict and too many who pay with their lives.

 Fokker DVIII - © Copyright

In March 1919, the 9th Squadron is based at Berchem-St-Agathe (Brussels). Due to lack of financial means to re-equip the Military Aviation, our airmen, especially at the 9th Squadron, use aircraft from the surplus of the French Army but also captured from the enemy, so the thistle blooms on Fokker DVII, Morane Saulnier MS.30 E and also on Spad XIII C1.

 Schaffen - Diest - © Copyright

At the beginning of 1920, the name "Military Aviation" is changed to "Military Aeronautics". In March 1920, the 1st Fighter Group is stationed in Schaffen, consisting of two squadrons, the 9th (Thistle) and the 10th (Comet). During this period, the inventory of the 9th identifies two DH-9F12, still with English roundels, three Hanriot HD.1 and three Fokker DVII. In 1921, a new change took place and the 9th is transferred to the 4th Aviation Group, which consists of five fighter squadrons.

 Nieuport-Delage NiD 29 C1 - © Copyright

Two years later, a new reorganisation takes place and, in February 1923, the 9th Fighter Squadron, togheter with 10th Fighter Squadron, become part of the 5th Fighter Group of the 2nd Aeronautical Regiment still based at Schaffen. The name "Régiment aéronautique" continues until 1940, except for the period 1924-1925, when the regiments are called "Groupements". During this period, the 9th is part of the 1st Fighter Group of the 2nd Air Group. In 1924, to replace the aging fleet but also for standardization, the Nieuport-Delage NiD 29 C1 enters service at 9 Squadron.

 Fiat CR.1 - © Copyright

In 1925, the Belgian Military Aviation tests two copies of the Fiat CR.1, one by the 9th squadron and the other one by the 10th. The tests are not conclusive, the Fiat don'tt really improve compared to the NiD 29 and no order follows.

 Avia BH-21 T-9 - © Copyright

In 1926, yet another restructuring of the Military Aeronautics takes place; 9th Fighter Squadron becomes the 2nd Squadron of the 1st Fighter Group of the 2nd Fighter and Bombing Aircraft Regiment; it’s is still based at Schaffen.

In 1927, the first Avia BH-21 T-9 with a total order of 44 aircraft arrived in Schaffen and flew with the 2nd and 1st Squadrons, which continued to fly the NiD 29 C1 at the same time. Very quickly, the Avia evoked a certain disappointment with the pilots; it seems that this is why the Nieuports continued to fly.

 Fairey Firefly IIM - © Copyright

In 1929, an evaluation of potential replacements is started; Among others we find the Nieuport Delage NiD 72 C1 of which one or two bear the thistle, but none are withheld. In November 1930, the Military Aeronautics orders Fairey Firefly IIM aircraft to replace its previous fighters; a total of 87 units are ordered from the newly installed Fairey company in Gosselies, the first 25 units being built at the parent company in England.

The 1/I/2Aé (Comet) was the first to receive the new planes in May 1931, followed by the 2/I/2Aé (Thistle). With respect to the Squadron name change, the effective date of the change varies from 1931 to 1934.

 Fairey Firefly IIM - © Copyright

With the arrival of the Fairey Firefly IIM in units, the number of accidents increases significantly. These occur mainly during acrobatics. Authorities are quick to react by creating an improvement center in Wevelgem.
As a result, the aircraft soon is healthy and the number of accidents decreases dramatically.

 Hawker Hurricane I - © Copyright

At the end of 1936, the aircraft no longer meets the needs of the moment, mainly as a function of the modernization of the fleets in other countries and more particularly in Germany.

The Belgian Government then decides to acquire Gloster Gladiators for the 1st (Comet) and Hurricane for the 2nd (Thistle). These aircraft were delivered in 1937 and 1938/1939 respectively. In September 1939, the Thistle Squadron had 15 aircraft.

 Xavier Henrard "Le Sioux" - © Copyright

The first Belgian pilot shot down by the Germans, lieutenant Xavier Henrard -nicknamed the Sioux- belongs to this squadron.

On March 2, 1939, nearly two months before the beginning of the conflict, he falls victim to the machine guns of a German Dornier 17, which he has intercepted over the Ardennes together with two other Hurricanes

 Beauvechain Air Base - © Copyright

On May 10, 1940, at 4:30 am, three Messerschmitt BF-110 attack Schaffen airfield, followed by six successive waves of light bombers. Only two Hurricanes (a repaired plane was to follow a few hours later) and a handful of Gladiators (13 aircraft, one of which makes a makeshift landing in the field) manage to take off and reach their dispersion aerodrome at Beauvechain.

The next day, the last aircraft are destroyed at dawn.

 Escapees in Morocco waiting to join UK - © Copyright

Several pilots join England where they will continue fighting in the Royal Air Force. They once again show impressive courage; unfortunately, many of them pay with their lives.

1940 - 1945 1940 - 1945 - © Copyright
1940 - 1945 1940 - 1945 - © Copyright
 Florennes Air Base - © Copyright

When in 1947 the 161st Wing de Chasse is created in Florennes and commanded by Major Aviateur Raymond Lallemant DFC & Bar, the 351st Squadron of Chasse is re-named 1st Squadron.

It resumed the traditions and the Thistle badge.

 Supermarine Spitfire MK 14 - © Copyright

In February 1948, the 161st Wing becomes the 2nd Day Fighter Wing and 351 Squadron is renamed the 1st Fighter Squadron.

Little by little, the squadron acquires Supermarine Spitfires MK.14 and one or two North American Harvard T-6, to keep its hand; the Spits indeed arrive in dribs and drabs. In February 1949, there are 10 aircraft for the 1st of which eight are flying and two are under inspection.

 Willy Coppens de Houthulst - © Copyright

In September 1949, when for various events all units of the young Belgian Air Force are present in Florennes, chevalier Willy Coppens de Houthulst (p91) hands over the thistle flag to the commander of 1 Squadron, major Avi de Wever.

 Republic F-84E Thunderjet - © Copyright

In April 1951, the first three Republic F-84E 'Thunderjets' arrive in Florennes to replace the obsolete Spitfires. 21 units are delivered to Belgium as part of the MDAP (Mutual Defense Assistance Program). They first equip Florennes, then they’re distributed to other units, Nbr 10 Wing of Kleine Brogel or Nbr 9 Wing of Bierset.

 Republic F-84G Thunderjet - © Copyright

The more efficient F-84G very quickly rejoins the ranks, among others at the 1st.

With the introduction of these first jets, 1 Squadron sees its role modified and becomes a fighter bomber squadron.

 Republic F-84F Thunderstreak - © Copyright

In the aftermath of the Korean War, these aircraft are very quickly overtaken by Soviet aircraft performance. As from 1955, the F-84F 'Thunderstreak' replaces the F-84E/G with the first aircraft to arrive at Nbr 1 in December 1955.

 First in flight - © Copyright

In 1971, the F-84F is in use with Nbr 1 for over fifteen years. On June 30, 1971, in preparation for its upcoming transition on Mirage 5B, for the last time a superb "1 " formation is flown overhead Florennes.

Then the squadron transfers to Bierset to its new installations, left vacant by the 42nd going the opposite direction.

 Mirage 5BA in flight - © Copyright

In January 1972, the conversion on Mirage 5B of pilots of Nbr 1 Sqn starts. On 27 January, the first Mirage 5 BA adorned with the thistle lands in Bierset.

 F-84F and Mirage 5BA - © Copyright

In May the last F-84F’s left the squadron’s inventory and were flown to Koksijde for storage.

The arrival of new aircraft continues and in march 1973, Nbr 1 squadron has its first Tac Eval. It is now operational on Mirage 5B.

Mirage 5BA 05 high level flight Mirage 5BA 05 high level flight - © Copyright
Mirage 5BA 23 in close formation approach Mirage 5BA 23 in close formation approach - © Copyright
Mirage 5BA 15 on landing Mirage 5BA 15 on landing - © Copyright
Mirage 5BA 44 on the back Mirage 5BA 44 on the back - © Copyright
 - © Copyright

As from 1973 onwards, it forms part of AMF south (Ace Mobile Forces - Ace stands for Allied Command Europe-). She already has this role on the F-84F since 1963.

AMF 1983 Diyarbakir AMF 1983 Diyarbakir - © Copyright
AMF 1985 Balikesir AMF 1985 Balikesir - © Copyright
AMF 1987 Diyarbakir AMF 1987 Diyarbakir - © Copyright
 Mirages 5 BA escorting first "Thistle" F-16 - © Copyright

The thistle squadron operates the Mirage 5 B until March 1989, when it returnes to Florennes as part of its transition on the F-16.

 1 Sqn Mirage 5 BA10 taxiing during TAM 1988 - © Copyright

Throughout this so-called "Cold War" period, the squadron does not participate in any conflict but contributes within NATO to preserve peace by participating in the policy of deterrence until the end of the 1980’s.

Bierset last flight 8 march 1989 Bierset last flight 8 march 1989 - © Copyright
Bierset last flight 8 march 1989 Bierset last flight 8 march 1989 - © Copyright
Bierset last flight 8 march 1989 Bierset last flight 8 march 1989 - © Copyright
Last corps meal in Bierset march 1989 Last corps meal in Bierset march 1989 - © Copyright
Various missions Various missions - © Copyright
Various missions Various missions - © Copyright
Various missions Various missions - © Copyright
Various missions Various missions - © Copyright
 F-16, KC-10 refuelling a Rockwell B-1 Lancer - © Copyright

In the nineties, the Chardon pilots participates in NATO operations over the countries of the former Yugoslavia, notably Bosnia and Kosovo.

 F-16 intercepting a SU-27 Flanker - © Copyright

From 2000 to 2020, they distinguishe themselves during numerous war missions in various theatres of operations such as Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria and the Baltic States.

 100th anniversary - © Copyright

In 2017, 1 Squadron celebrates its 100th anniversary.

 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II - © Copyright

To date, it is still operational on Fighting Falcon and will soon convert to F-35 Lightning II.

 First Thistle "champagne cork" designed by André De Meulemeester - © Copyright


The Scottish thistle, imagined by André de Meulemeester - First World War Ace - is featured on the Sopwith and Hanriot of the 1st and then 9th Squadron.

 Definitive Thistle re designed by Willy Coppens - © Copyright

Originally, the long stem of serrated leaves is topped with a sort of champagne cork but it is "improved" afterwards by Willy Coppens. Worn by the 1st Squadron in 1917, it is also carried by other squadrons as the numbering changes.

 1 Sqn badge - © Copyright

It is taken over at Florennes in 1947 by the "351st" which becomes the 1st Fighter Squadron a year later.

It adornes its aircraft since that date, from the F-84E/G to the F-84F and the Mirage 5BA, and since 1989, the F-16.

 - © Copyright


« Nemo me impune lacessit », « Nobody provokes me with impunity» is used by André de Meulemeester and is directly inspired by the motto of Scottish regiments.