As the Sopwith '5F.1 'Dolphin' build is getting close to completion, I've started preparing my next build.
This model will represent:
Nieuport XVII (17) C.1, Serial No: N1977 of N124 ‘Lafayette’ Escadrille during March 1917 and as flown by Sgt. Robert Soubiran.Background:
Robert Soubiran was born in France to Theodore and Clementine (Malapris) Soubiran, but grew up in New York City. As a young man, he had a knack for mechanical things and began
maintaining and racing automobiles with Ralph de Palma, the winner of the 1915 Indianapolis 500.World War One:
On August 7, 1914, three days after Germany declared war against France, Soubiran enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in Paris and was among the first group of 43 American volunteers.
He served in the Chemin des Dames sector with other future Lafayette Escadrille pilots James Bach, Bert Hall, Kiffin Rockwell, Paul Rockwell, and William Thaw.
When the French became aware of his mechanical abilities, he was tasked to drive a threshing machine to harvest the wheat within the war zone.
Soubiran served with the 2nd Foreign Regiment in the Battle of Champagne and the 170th Line Infantry Regiment.
He was injured in October 1915 and spent four months recovering in the hospital.
While there, he applied and was accepted into France's Service Aeronautique.
He underwent aviation and gunnery training at Pau, Buc, and the G.D.E. earning his brevet flying a Caudron aircraft on the 27th of May1916 and graduated on the 20th of October,1916.
He joined the N124 Escadrille Americaine (‘Lafayette’) at Cachy in the Somme sector on the 22nd of October 1916.
A year later, on the 9th of November 1917, Soubiran received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for an action on the 17th of October, 1917, when he received his first and only confirmed victory over an enemy aircraft.
His award citation read:
"An American enlisted since the beginning of the war in the Foreign Legion, where he took part in the combats in the Aisne in 1914 and in the Champagne attacks in 1915.
Wounded on the 19th of October 1915. Passed into the Aviation, he showed himself an excellent pilot, fulfilling with remarkable ardour the missions confided to him.
On the 17th of October 1917, while protecting an attack on Drachen’s (enemy observation balloons), forced an enemy to land out of control."
When the United States entered the war, Soubiran was transferred to the American 103rd Aero Squadron and commissioned as a Captain.
He flew combat patrols in the French built SPAD XIII.
He was then assigned as the 3rd Pursuit Group's Operations Officer.
On the 20th of August 1918, he married Ann-Marie Choudey in Langres, France with many of his Legionnaire and Lafayette Escadrille friends in attendance.
On the 18th of October 1918, he was assigned back to the 103rd Aero Squadron as its Commanding Officer and served there until the end of the war.
Soubiran accumulated over 400 hours of combat flight time in his 23 months with the French Air Service and in 10 months with the U.S. Air Service.Post World War One:
On the 19th of April 1919, France made Captain Soubiran a Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur and he was also awarded a second Palm to his Croix de Guerre.
This citation reads:
"American citizen enlisted in August 1914 in the Foreign Legion. Was distinguished in the infantry (wounded in September 1915), then as a pilot in the 'Escadrille Lafayette’, where he showed the highest qualities of courage and audacity."Foot note:
Robert Soubiran owned a Kodak camera and photographed all aspects of life and death as an aviator during World War I.
Fellow squadron pilot James Normal Hall said that the ‘Lafayette Escadrille’ pilots have Soubiran to thank for the squadron's only complete photographic record.Death:
Robert Soubiran died on the 4th of February 1949 and was buried next to wife, who died in 1982, in Pinelawn Military, East Farmingdale, Long Island, New York.