Tuesday, May 24, 2016

SPAD XIII of Georges Felix Madon, SPA38, 1918

 Caporal, later capitaine Georges Felix Madon was born on July 28, 1892 in Bizerte, Tunisia. He was a short but remarkably strong man who played soccer and boxed. Madon became interested in aviation at the young age of 15, and he tried to build his own aircraft. This venture was not successful, but he continued building kites and models, including a bicycle-powered "aviette". As he grew older, he attempted to become a pilot in service of the Ottoman Empire, but he was not accepted into the Sultan's service. Manon then enlisted in the First Engineering Regiment in Versailles, where he became a cook. However, he continued requesting pilot's training, and he qualified as a pilot in June 1911 after 19 lessons, and he received a military pilot's license in January 1913 after training at Avord in France.

Madon was initially assigned to Escadrille BL30, where he reconnaissance missions in Bleriots. He also flew some of the first night-time bombing missions of the war. Madon was already a very experienced pilot, and this served him well when he was hit by a 77mm shell on October 30, 1914. He managed to perform a dead stick landing against the wind, but behind the French lines. 


On April 5, 1915, Madon was thrown off course by heavy fog while qualifying on a new Farman, and he landed by mistake in Switzerland, where he was promptly interned. Madon had little interest in remaining in Switzerland. It took him two attempts, but on December 27 he escaped by chloroforming and kidnapping his guard.

Madon was subsequently posted to MF218 and promoted to sergeant. He flew fire-direction missions for some time, but he requested transfer to a fighter escadrille. Madon was re-qualified for fighter aircraft at Pau and Cazaux, and he was posted to the Nieuport-equipped escadrille N38 on September 1, 1916. He shot down his first enemy aircraft on September 28.Three more followed in 1916, and he was promoted to Adjutant.  

Madon remained in action through most of 1917. He was wounded on July 2, 1917, after a mid-air collision with an enemy aircraft, and was commissioned a sous-lieutenant in August. Madon seems to have favored engaging the enemy at very short distances. Besides the mid-air collision in July, it is said that he returned with blood and brain tissue on his propeller on three separate occasions, and he once snagged an enemy observer's spectacles in his rigging. By October 1917 Madon's score had risen to 17 confirmed victories with another 20 unconfirmed, and by March 9, 1918, he had claimed 25 aircraft.

Madon assumed command of escadrille SPA38 om March 24, 1918, a unit that had just been re-equipped with the new SPAD XIII. The unit was tasked with photo reconnaissance and patrolling, and it had already received two unit citations for having downed 60 enemy aircraft when Madon took command. SPA38 adopted the black thistle that was used as a personal symbol by Madon alongside his motto "Whoever rubs aginst me gets pricked". Like Manfred von Richthofen, Manon painted his SPAD red to make it easier to identify, both for friend and foe. An earlier SPAD XIII, S484, was painted with an all-red fuselage, but this later mount had a white radiator ring.

SPA38 fought in the skies above Cuvilly and the Mareuil and l'Epinette forests, and in May, SPA38 was assigned to the 7th Army. The escadrille was engaged against advancing German forces in the Courcy and Leuilly areas between May 27 and June 5, and on July 5 SPA38 became part of Groupe de chasse (GC) 22 together with SPA87, SPA92 and SPA152. This unit fought mainly in the Champagne area under the 4th and 5th Armies up to the final advances of the war. Besides Madon, SPA 38 included the following notable pilots:  Hector Garaud (13 victories), Jean Casale (12 victories), David Putnam (12 victories), Gustave Douchy (9 victories), and Jean Romatet (7 victories). Madon played a significant role in mentoring these pilots and developing their tactics. He also got to fly the SPAD XVII with a 300 h.p.Hispano Suiza engine. However, only about 20 of these excellent aircraft were completed before the Armistice, "for which", observed Madon, "let the Boches be thankful".

Madon ended the war with 41 confirmed victories out of 100 claims. This made him the fourth ranking ace in the French Air Force. When asked about his unconfimed victories, he simply claimed that "the Boche knows his losses". Madon was promoted to a temporary Capitaine on Armistice Day, and he was also made an Officier de la Legion d'Honneur. Madon was killed in a tragic flying accident in 1924 while flying in tribute to Roland Garros. The Avord Air Base in France is named "Base Aérienne 702 Capitaine Georges Madon" in honor of Madon's long service to his country.

The Model

The kit is an old Esci SPAD with all the shortcomings of a 1960s kit. It has, however, recently been re-boxed by Italeri. and it comes with a glorious decal sheet that will be saved for an Eduard SPAD at some later date. I do really like the SPAD, especially the SPAD XIII. It looks very art deco to me, having somewhat of the looks of a sports car, and lacking the blunt appearance of the Camel, the angular quirkiness of an SE.5a, or the steampunk radiator of a Fokker D.VII. I added a windscreen, rigging and a new propeller, but otherwise the kit is out of the box with decals from the spares drawer. The kit is actually a bit underscale for 1/72, and it probably measures up to 1/76.  


Jon Guttman. SPAD XII/XIII Aces of World War 1
Joseph A Phelan. Heroes & Aeroplanes of the Great War 1914-1918

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