A downed German airplane in the open sea.



The Aviatik at low tide. (Fonds Robert Thys)

La Panne, 21 May 1916. (Fonds Robert Thys)


The remains Aviatik on the shore. (Fonds Robert Thys) 


History of the Aviatik C-1 227/16 w/n 832

In 1975, Pierre Cryns discovered, amongst the treasures of the Army museum, the remains of an aircraft unique in the world: an Aviatik C-1.

Result of long research, here is the history of this wreck through the documents and witnesses of the time:


Extract of the daily report, Belgian military aviation

The 20 may l9I6, night flight, Cne JACQUET - Lt ROBIN 20h05- 20h50 - 2300 G.Q.G.

"We found ourselves not far from La Panne amongst around ten enemy airplanes. We attacked successively 5 airplanes. The first at 300 m, the second at 75 m above us, it dived heavily, the third at 15 m, we shooted it down: it felled in open sea, 2km in front of Nieuport-Bains . There were two persons on board. At 100 m of us, the observer fired a last flare.

Above the central wing there was a pink light that looked like a light head of hair. This is this light that allowed us to see the trajectory of the airplane down to the sea. It dived nearly vertically. A Fokker went in the meanwhile 20m above us and shooted at us, we were hit.

Attacked the forth jerry at 300m then a fifth. At 100m of this last enemy, our machine gun jammed. All those airplanes were equipped with a pink light on the central wing. They were cruising at around 2300m and were firing from time to time red and white flares to, apparently, stay grouped. This helped us to find them easily in the darkness."

NB : the Belgian aircraft was a Farman F40


An artillery carriage is bringing the remains to the dike. (Fonds Robert Thys)



Houtem, May 1916


Auto-canon Dion Bouton, armed with a 75mm gun, model 1897 !

The army post

On the Belgian frontline. Week of the 21 to the 26 may 1916.

Aviation: the 20 may, at night, during an aerial encounter in front of Nieuport, a Belgian aircraft shooted down a German aircraft that crashed in open sea. Another enemy airplane, hit by our flak, went down to the sea. The passengers drowned. The airplane was successfully recovered and brought back to the beach.

Belgian Army commandment

Annex to the B.I. of 22 may 1916, lIe Bureau

The airplane that went down in front of St-Idesbald in the night of the 20-21 May is of the Aviatik type, model 1915, powered by a 160 HP Mercedes, bi-place with the pilot in the back seat.

Two machine guns mounts are installed on the sides of the fuselage, allowing the machine guns to run alongside. The machine guns are only able to fire sideway.

Three bomb launchers (for 10 Kg bomb) are placed next to the pilot but can be controlled by the observer. These bomb-launchers are nothing more than a steel tube with no sighting device.

An opening between the feet of the observer allowed him to throw smaller size missiles. On board, there was neither camera nor TSF equipment. The other instruments are of known type.

The barograph shows a flight of 20 minutes before the fall, that seems to have been caused by a shrapnel. The fall, from a height of 1800m, took 7 minutes. There was no indication about the squadron.

Extract of the information bulletin of the 22 may 1916

The plane that crashed in open sea in front of St Idesbald as been brought back to the coast. After examination, it will be transported to Le Havre.


The pilot seat of a brand new Aviatik.



The observer's place, with the flares box and the side michine-gun rails.

The machine gune travel was limited by tubing to prevent disasters.


wider view of an Aviatik C-I.

En Belgique, la zone de l'avant

tableaux, portraits et paysages 1915-1916 par Henri Malot, librairie académique Perrin et Cie

"The day after, at early morning, on the vast bank, the high tide was slowly covering a wreck, an enemy airplane hit by our troops and that crashed there.

A rescue ship tried to bring it back without success because of the weight. A few bits were recovered and the number of the airplane discovered on a wing.

At high tide, a small tugboat and two requisitioned rescue ship lifted the wreck and brought it as far next to the beach as possible. When the tide went down, the wreck was beached, looking like a wet bird with dismembered wings. At first, there was no trace of the aviators, till their bodies were washed ashore. "

Extract from Jan Wuyts's letter

At this time, I was at the AAA 1er SAC (section autos-canons). We were equipped with French 75 guns, specially reinforced and mounted on a Dion-Boutons car. The firing range was 5000 m height and 9000 m distance. They were delivered by the anti-aircraft service of the French army..

There was, in 1916, only one section of two guns for the Belgian frontline. In 1918, there were three sections. In 1916, we took position at the terminus of a tramway at La Panne, not far of the " villa Royale " where the jerries throwed a few shells or a big calibre bomb

I have a vague remembrance of the aircraft retrieved in open sea at St-Idesbald, where we had an observation post.

It was probably one of our two guns that destroyed the airplane, because we had high precision weapons at the "autos-canons" section. The others anti-aircraft guns were nothing more than Belgian 75 guns mounted on a revolving wheel. We called them the " claques-buss ".


What was left of the Aviatik in 1975.



What's that ? The stabilo's remains

The fuselage being reconstructed with basic tools equipment.


Because of its state, a new cockpit floor was manufactured..

Last information to date

Thanks to new search done by Yves Duwelz, here are some complementary information about Aviatik C-I 227/16 w/n 832 from Peter Grosz

Reconstruction of the Aviatik C-1

Thanks to the numerous documents gathered during his research, Pierre Cryns started the reconstruction of the Aviatik in mid-June 1975.

From the aircraft subsisted the front fuselage (with the engine) and various bits and pieces of the wings, tail and landing gear.

During more than three years, a team of two was busy reconstructing the fuselage, the tail, the landing gear, and the totality of the wing ribs. They drew as well all the missing parts needed to finish the airplane.

Many of those missing pieces (amongst others, mast base) have been manufactured at the time by the FN (Fabrique National)) thanks to the reconstituted drawings.

At the end of 1976, because of the urgency to save the remains of the Battaille triplane, all work stopped.

Nowadays, the non-fabric covered fuselage of the Aviatik is presented to the public in the 14-18 gallery.

Project for the Aviatik

The time that benevolents can spent on restoration being limited, a sponsor is neededto help finish the reconstruction work on the Aviatik C-1.

Thanks to this sponsoring, much of the work will be handled by specialized companies.

Because of the fact that, in 1976, the benevolents were not well equipped (if not equipped at all), and because of the conservation conditions in the Great Hall (no conditioning system, birds flying around), the Aviatik suffered after years of neglect.





It will be necessary to dismantle completely the fuselage so as to treat and protect correctly all the metallic parts and to manufacture the ones to weak to support the aircraft weight.

Wings will be reconstructed thanks to new wing beams, the ribs having been already reconstructed in 1976.

Other works, like the construction of wing masts and of all the missing bits and pieces, the reassembly and the refurbishing and reinstallation of the engine will need to be realized.

References, links

The following magazines articles describe in detail an Aviatik C-I captured by the allies.

  • Flight, February 15, 1917
  • L'Aérophile, 1er-15 Mai 1916
  • L'Aérophile, 1er-15 Octobre 1916

The "L'Aérophile " magazine being rather difficult to find, the best is to look for a copy of "Cross & Cockade Vol.13 No.1 1982" where the original article has been reproduced.