American Edward Rickenbacker was well known before the First World War as a racing car driver having completed four Indianapolis 500 races and earning the name, “Fast Eddie”!
In 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and Rickenbacker enlisted in the US Army, arriving in France on 26 June 1917 as a Sergeant First Class. Initially, because of his mechanical abilities, he was assigned as engineering officer to the 3rd Aviation Instruction Center, the US Air Service’s pursuit training facility. He practised flying in his spare time but his engineering skills were so highly valued that his superiors tried to prevent him from attaining his wings. Eventually, after Rickenbacker found a suitable engineer replacement, he was allowed to join the 94th Aero Squadron (known as the “Hat-in-the-Ring” squadron after its insignia) as a pilot.
He shot down his first enemy aircraft on 23 April 1918 and a month later became an ‘ace’ after shooting down his fifth. On 24 September 1918, Rickenbacker, now a Captain, was named commander of the 94th and by the end of October had been credited with the destruction of 13 Fokker D.VIIs, 8 other enemy aircraft types and five observation balloons. He had achieved most of his victories flying a French built Spad S.XIII biplane scout aircraft. This aircraft was powered by a 220 horsepower Hispano-Suiza 8B water cooled V-8 geared engine and was armed with two Vickers .303 machine guns.
A FRAMED ORIGINAL WATERCOLOUR OF A SPAD S.XIII SCOUT IN THE COLOURS AND MARKINGS OF CAPTAIN EDDIE RICKENBACKER’S AIRCRAFT IS DISPLAYED IN THE MUSEUM’S TANGMERE HALL FIRST WORLD WAR EXHIBITION.