RAeC Aviator's Certificate to 
Lieut. Louis Leon De Jean

This is Royal Aero Club Certificate Number 6982 issued to Lieutenant Louis Leon De Jean, Royal Air Force.  Born in Buffalo, New York, on either 14 or 19 September 1893, De Jean was one of the few hundred United States citizens who joined the Royal Flying Corps and trained in Canada. De Jean’s Training Transfer Card accompanied this lot and traces his career, from October, 1917, when he was sent to Canada for training, to Texas and back again, to the following summer.  He managed to get on one of the last boats ferrying pilots 'across the pond' to the  war in Europe in the summer of 1918.  He was stationed in Eastbourne.

This 'ticket,' as they were called, is dated August 3rd, 1918.  He received his Aviator’s Certificate on that date and the very next day, while undergoing further training at Eastbourne as part of 50 T.D.S., he smashed up a “crate,” Sopwith Camel B6340. 

De Jean's court of enquiry found that the accident was “due to an error of judgment on the part of the pilot whilst executing a right hand turn, resulting in a spinning nose dive into the earth,". He never made it to the front and spent the rest of the year and the war recovering from a broken jaw and other injuries.  The photograph to the left, identical to the one in his license on the right, is courtesy of the archives at the Royal Air Force Museum Hendon.

De Jean's aircraft, Sopwith Camel B6340, had seen extensive combat in France before being flown back to England to become a trainer for 50 T.D.S.  The photo at right is of this same aeroplane.  The painting below  depicts B6340 in combat.  The artist is Harold Hooker and this work of his graced the cover of the journal Cross & Cockade International, Vol. 25, No. 1, 1994.  The painting is described as "G C T Hadrill is brought down by Ltn Werner Voss for this 27th victory."  Remarkable to think that the Camel DeJean smashed up may have been in a dogfight with Voss.  Voss's 27th is reported as Sopwith Pup A6174 of No. 54 squadron shot down May 9, 1917 over Lesdain at 16:45.  I do not know if B6340 was assigned to No. 54 at the time.

B6340 was on the roster of Royal Naval Air Service No. 8 squadron up to February, 1918,  most often flown by Robert John Orton Compston, seen on the left,  who had 13 victories in B6340 and eventually 25 by war's end.

De Jean's ticket had a non-regulation addition, a small sketch of an aviator in profile seen on the inner right page overlaying the lower right corner of the photograph.  This sketch resembled  De Jean, himself, but also appeared to be printed, not an original.  This clue led to a search for the publication from which it came, a magazine perhaps.  

After the war, De Jean made a name for himself as the 'balladeer of the air' writing several books of poems and songs, including Winged Trails, the frontispiece of which is shown below.  The sketch of De Jean on the inside front cover is identical to the much smaller one pasted into his 'ticket.'  Editors at the time celebrated De Jean and his work, never quite seeming to realize that he never actually flew against the enemy.  The photograph of De Jean at the lower right is a copy of an original which resides in a copy of the book in the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum archives.  A search of social security records found his application in the early 1940s at which time De Jean notes he is not employed and gives his address on Hollywood Boulevard. DeJean would publish several more books including a mystery, The Girl in Black Velvet.