Women Combat Pilots of WW1

Female pilots volunteer for military service

With the advent of World War I, a number of well-known female pilots volunteered for military service, but only a few were actually permitted to serve in the military. Hélène Dutrieu volunteered for war service with France's Air Patrol in 1914 and was accepted. She made flights from Paris to check on the location and movement of German troops.[10]

Can anyone confirm these flights from formal government records?

and still with a French focus Dave Lam adds [20/10/02]...

You might also want to add Marie Marvingt (1875-1963) to your section on women in war-- Official French Government documents (her citation for entry to the Legion of Honor) credit her with piloting bomber missions over Germany in WWI. She is probably the first woman pilot to actually participate in combat operations.

In Russia, Princess Eugenie M. Shakovskaya was assigned duty as an artillery and reconnaissance pilot; Lyubov A. Golanchikova, a test pilot, contributed her airplane to the Czarist armies; Helen P. Samsonova was assigned to the 5th Corps Air Squadron as a reconnaissance pilot; Princess Sophie A. Dolgorukaya was a pilot and observer with the 26th Corps Air Squadron; and Nadeshda Degtereva was posted to the Galician Front, where she flew reconnaissance missions.[11]

[10] Charles Paul May, Women in Aeronautics, New York: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1962, p. 80

[11] Edgar Meos, Amazon Pilots and Lady-Warbirds, Cross and Cockade Journal, Winter 1975, pp. 375-79

Princess Eugenie M. Shakhovskaya

Princess Eugenie Shakhovskaya was the first woman to become a military pilot when she flew reconnaissance missions for the Czar in 1914. She became a member of the secret police during the Russian Revolution and was later named chief executioner of Kiev.


Princess Eugenie M. Shakhovskaya was Russia's first woman military pilot. Served with the 1st Field Air Squadron. Unknown if she actually flew any combat missions, and she was ultimately charged with treason and attempting to flee to enemy lines.

Sentenced to death by firing squad, sentence commuted to life imprisonment by the Tsar, freed during the Revolution, became chief executioner for Gen. Tchecka and drug addict, shot one of her assistants in a narcotic delerium and was herself shot.

Lyubov A. Golanchikova

Actress Lyubov A. Golanchikova apparently returned to flying during the Russian Civil War and joined the Training Squadron of the Red Air Fleet. She flew several sorties for the Reds [which means there's a very good chance she flew Nieuports or SPAD VIIs] and spent much time training new Red pilots. For some reason, she fled to Germany after the war and eventually ended up a cab driver in New York dying in 1961

Helen P. Samsonova

Princess Sophie Alexandrovna Dolgorunaya

Princess Sophie Alexandrovna Dolgorunaya, who had obtained her pilot's license in 1914, volunteered for the Air Service in 1917 and flew missions with the 26th Corps Air Squadron for nine months. Because of her connection to the Imperial family she was demobilized after the October Revolution.

Nadeshda Degtereva

In 1915 Nedeshda Degtereva had the distinction of being the first woman pilot to be wounded in combat while on a reconnaissance mission over the Austrian front in Galicia.

Women pilots in WWI : A 1997 discussion on the 'WWI History List'

Note : Some of the above entries are taken from this discussion

Date: Sat, 29 Mar 1997 01:38:05 -0800
From: "Marian Hollinger, Bradley Omanson"
To: wwi
Subject: Women pilots in WWI (forwarded from WWI history list)

Carl J. Bobrow wrote: Taken From: In The Air 03/27/97 #49

During W.W.II Russian women showed the world their metal, on the ground as well as in the air. This tradition, among others established by Russian pilots, first flowered in the skies over the war torn fields on the eastern front during W.W.I. No less than five women found their path upward as military pilots, despite or perhaps because of the anachronistic policies of the Russian military.

In 1915 Nedeshda Degtereva had the distinction of being the first woman pilot to be wounded in combat while on a reconnaissance mission over the Austrian front in Galicia. So that their names should not be forgotten I submit the following for your approval; Princess Eugenie M. Shakhovskaya, Lyubov A. Golanchikova, Helen P. Samsonova and Princess Sophie A. Dolgorukaya.


Greetings all,

the women in WWI aviation discussion was quite intriguing, but I must side with the sceptics. In the case of Germany, further evidence of the armed forces' chauvinism can be found in the case of a Fraulein Riotte, who in the spring of 1914 successfuly completed all the requirements to become a bona fide airship pilot.

The issue then came up at a meeting between government officials and representatives of the army and of the Zeppelin Co. (led by some fellow named Eckener..:-) at which it was decided that even though she had played it all by the rules there was no way that she could be admitted into the "fraternity."

The memo I found in the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz suggests that she was then offered "honorary" pilot status, but I do not know what her reaction was (certain events of summer 1914 likely put an end to any argument).

The same goes for women on the French side.

Up to WWI there was an aeronautical club named the "Stella" where, although most women got together and played along within the traditional boundaries of female activities (tea and crumpets; raise money for the valiant male aviators and the occasional ballooning picnic), several members including Marie Marvingt and Jane Herveu were daredevils of sorts (easily surpassing Melli Beese or the already departed Harriet Quimby).

I found out from a couple of letters and newsletters of the time that when war broke out, while the club ceased activities, Marvingt and possibly Herveu, too, sought to establish a special air service to transport the wounded. The French higher-ups would have none of it, and thus this early air support did not appear till after WWI, with no trace of the women who had offered their services.

Dave Lam adds [21/10/02]...

This is a bit incorrect-- Although the fact that the French rejected Marvingt's proposals (made as early as 1910) for the development of air ambulance services (as well as numerous other proposals by males in the 1912-1914 era), the first actual evacuations seem to have taken place in 1915 during the retreat of the French Army in Serbia, when a group of wounded were saved from capture by being flown out in combat aircraft.

In 1917, Dr. Chassaing in France was given some old Dorand AR-II aircraft to convert into airplane ambulances, which he did, and which he subsequently flew on the Amiens front for a short period, mostly for testing. Thus, it is true that no real organised air evacuation took place in WWI, but the initial efforts did appear during the war.


G. de Syon History, Albright College Reading, PA 19612-5234

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