The Belgians of Six-o-Nine

   

609 “West Riding” Squadron was formed in 1936 and was heavily engaged in the Battle of Britain. 

In the spring of 1941, a handful Belgians joined the squadron; most of them experienced combat pilots. They formed the nucleus of the continuous Belgian presence in one of the RAF’s most successful fighter units.

  Flying Spitfires until April ’42, the squadron converted to Hawker Typhoons. This aircraft type was conceived as a low-level interceptor against German intruders over the UK.  But the Typhoon was above all an exceptional ground attack aircraft and 609 as such 609 saw considerable action during the campaign over Normandy – the squadron moved on to the Continent in July ’44 - and played an important role attacking ground targets with rockets over Belgium, Holland, and finally Germany. It was stationed on the Continent until VE-day.  

609 Squadron

609's stay at Kluis, March 1945. (Via Jan Mathijs)

  Three Belgians commanded the squadron:

S/L Lodewijk Geerts DFC (June-August 1944)

S/L Raymond Lallemant DFC (August-September 1944)

S/L Charles Demoulin DFC (November-December 1944)

 

Fifty-five Belgian pilots served in 609. Fifteen lost their lives in the squadron, several more were killed whilst serving in other RAF-squadrons. Today, only a handful of Belgian 609’ers is left.

  Below is an alphabetical list of the Belgian Six-o-Niners with brief biographical notes. The dates under the name indicate the date of arrival in the squadron and the date of departure (be it due to being killed or taken prisoner). Aé Mil stands for Aérontautique Militaire, the pre-war Belgian Air Force.

   

André R. Blanco "Le men"    

13 January 1942/31 October 1943 - 11 April 1944/30 October 1944

Ex Aé-Mil. Died 1975.

 

Serge E.L. Castermans

27 April 1944 - 2 June 1945

Arrived in 609 via Belgian Congo

 

Paul H. Cooreman DFC "Paolo"

29 October 1943- 6 December 1944

Shot down on August 3, 1944 in

Typhoon MN322 "PR-F" by Flak over Normandy, but escaped. Ended his tour with 130 operations.

 

Armand F. Crekillie

12 September 1944 - 1 October 1945

Flew 98 Ops

Later Chief of Staff of the Belgian Armed Forces

 

Jean Y.R.C. Creteur "Le Canard"

12 May 1942 - 15 March 1943

Ex Aé Mil. Died 1992

   

Georges J.G. Daix

7 December 1943/4 January 1944

Ex Aé Mil.  Joined 195 Sq., transferred to 609. Crashed in North Sea in Typhoon JR374 on January 4, 1944

 

Alain H. de Blommaert de Soye

1 April 1945/13 April 1945

Killed near Nijmegen on April 13, 1945 in Typhoon RB250 "PR-A". Both de Blommaert and P/O Rendall died at near the bridge of Grave.  He was the last Belgian to die in 609.

 

Jean-Florent De Bruyn

12 September 1944 - 2 June 1945

Flew 7 Fighter missions, and 59 RP-missions. Survived (baled out) crash with

Typhoon MN360 "PR-D" over Handel.

 

Guy F. De Bueger

27 August 1944 - 2 June 1945

Flew 83 operations. Survived (baled out) crash with Typhoon JR379 on January 2, 1945. KIFA in F-84F in 1961.

 

Baudouin M.G. de Hemptinne

25 June 1941 - 10 September 1941

Ex Aé Mil. Shot down a Bf 109 on August 16, 1941. KIA on May 1942 in 122 Sq.

 

Rodolphe G.C. de Hemricourt de Grunne "Dolfo"

28 April 1941/21 May 1941

Was refused by the Belgian Army to start training as a pilot. After some private courses, he went to Spain to join the Nationalistic Forces of Franco. to become the most successful non-Spanish ace of the Nationalists.

Over the Spanish fronts, “Dolfo” flew German planes as the IIIth Reich supported Franco. De Grunne was puzzled when that same Reich invaded his country in May 1940. At that time, he was serving in the sole Belgian Hurricane-squadron that was however wiped out the first hours of the war.

De Grunne escaped to England and flew as one of Churchill’s “Few” during the Battle of 1940. He was shot down and became severely burned.

Spring 1941 he joined 609, but only stayed less then four weeks in the squadron.

De Grunne’s Spitfire P7436 "PR-M" was lost during Circus 10.

  609 Squadron

609's stay at Kluis, March 1945. (Via Jan Mathijs)

Charles J.V.G. Demoulin DFC

15 March 1943 - 12 April 1944 - 14 November 1944 - 5 December 1944

Charles Demoulin was trained in the RAF and joined the squadron in spring 1943. On September 26, 1943 he ditched his Typhoon JP543 "PR-A" but was soon rescued. One week later he scored his first victory, a Bf 110 near Florennes. On January 30, 1944 he bagged two FW 190’s and on February 29 he shot down a Ju 88 near Cambrai. He ended his first tour in April ’44 and was sent to 184 Squadron. On August 8 he became CO of 164 Sq., but on November 14, 1944 he was the third Belgian who led 609. be it for a short while, as he was shot down by Flak near Ede (Holland) on December 5, flying Typhoon PD470 "PR-D". He became a POW.

  Demoulin wrote his autobiography “Firebirds” and died in Monaco in 1998.

 

Arthur R.H. Deschamps

12 September 1944 - 8 June 1945

Arthur Deschamps flew in the Aé Mil and escaped to the UK in 1942. On April 16, 1945 he made a forced landing with his Typhoon JR294 "PR-K" near Kampe.

Arthur Deschamps was killed whilst flying for Sabena in 1948

 

Jean M. de Selys Longchamps

30 September 1941/13 March 1943

Probably the best known Belgian of 609 was Jean de Selys Lonchamps. He escaped as a cavalry officer to England to join the RAF. On May 29, 1942, he had to bale out of his Typhoon R7647 which crashed at Sutton Village (Ely).

On January 20, 1943, he decided to attack the headquarters of the German Sicherheitsdienst at the Avenue Louise in Brussels. It should be noted that Brussels was at that stage of the war out of range for allied fighters by daylight. Although his attack was successful, and he safely returned, this exploit was not liked by his superiors. He had to leave the squadron, only to be killed in a flying accident on August 16, 1943 in 3 Squadron

 

François X.E. de Spirlet

15 April 1941 - 26 June 1942

François de Spirlet, an experienced Belgian pilot joined the RAF during the Battle of Britain. On June 17 1941 he claimed his first victory, but one week later, on June 22, he was shot down over the Channel but rescued. On August 29 he shot down a 109. De Spirlet was killed whilst colliding during take off on June 26, 1942, crashing in Typhoon R7710 "PR-E".

  609 Squadron, burial F. de Spirlet

Burial of François de Spirlet, June 1942. Six Belgians escorting his coffin to its resting place. Front row (L. to R.): Raymond Lallemand, Jean Creteur, Bob Wilmet; Back row: Raymond Doperé, Robert Roelandt, Remi Van Lierde.

Charles Detal DFC

23 March 1943 - 23 March 1944

Charles Detal was one of the most promising pilots of the squadron. He shared a first victory on October 16, 1943. On December 4 he got a Do 217 near Eindhoven and on January 3, 1944, bagged a FW 190 near Cambrai. The following day he intercepted successfully a Do 217 near Gilze-Rijen. On January 27 he got two victories: a Bf 109 and a Bf 110 near Brussels.

Detal was killed in a flying accident on March 23, 1944 (Typhoon MN140) near North Seaton/Acklington (Northumberland), exactly one year after he joined the squadron.

 

Giovanni E.F. Dieu DFC

4 August 1941 - 1 August 1942

Joined 236 Sq. (Coastal Command) in 1940, but was transferred to 609 one year later. On March 8, 1942, he claimed a FW 190 near Dunkirk. After his one-year tour in 609 he was sent to 245 Sq.  Giovanni Dieu died in 1978.

   

Raymond A. Doperé

12 May 1942/23 October 1942

Raymond Doperé, being an experienced pilot in the Belgian air force, joined the UK in March 1942.  On October 23, 1942, he was killed during a defensive patrol over Hastings Bay (Typhoon R8812 "PR-K")

 

Count Yvan G. du Monceau de Bergendael DFC "Duke"

10 April 1941 - 30 March 1942

"Duke" du Monceau was the first Belgian to join 609 Squadron. On August 18, 1941 he claimed a Bf 109 near Calais; on September 27 he got another 109 near Mardijck. On February 18, 1942 he successfully intercepted a Do 217 over the Humber and on March 8, 1942 he shot down a FW 190 near Cap Griz Nez. Du Monceau was transferred to 350 “Belgian”  Squadron in March 1942.

He died in 1984.

 

J.J.M. Fromont

27 August 1944 - 8 February 1945

After serving in 349 “Belgian” Squadron, J. Fromont joined 609 in August 1944.

He died in 1984.

 

Lodewijk-Emmanuel Geerts DFC "Manu"

22 February 1943 - 14 August 1944

When "Manu" Geerts joined 609 he was already 36, but being a very skilled pilot he easily outclassed many other fighter pilots soon after his arrival. On January 2, 1944, he shot down a FW 190 near Charleville; two days later he intercepted a Do 217 over Gilze Rijen.

Because of his experience – “Manu” flew since 1926 -, he maturity and the respect he earned from his fellow squadron pilots, he became the first Belgian to take command of 609 in June ’44. Geerts flew 204 missions, 55 of which were rocket attacks.

He passed away in 1992.

  609 Squadron

609's stay at Kluis, March 1945. (Via Jan Mathijs)

Henri F.R. Goblet

12 September 1944 - 3 March 1945

Joined the RAF in August 1940. On March 3, 1945 his Typhoon EK380 was shot down near Xanten. Goblet became a POW. In 1948 he was killed whilst flying for Sabena.

 

J.M. Geuffen

30 July 1943 - 4 October 1943

Ex Aé Mil. Joined the RAF in July 1942, was lost near Poix during a Rhubarb mission on October 4, 1943, being taken POW.

 

Léon L. Henrion "Mon Oncle"

11 May 1943 - 29 January 1944

Léon Henrion shot down a Bf 109 on October 1943, but on January 29 1944 he was shot down himself over Walcheren (Typhoon JP662). His body was never found.

 

Albert L.J.M. Hue "Pedro"

10 December 1943 - 12 April 1944

Ex Aé Mil. Flew in 195 Sq. before being transferred to 609.

 

Emile L.R. Jacquemin

25 October 1944 - 2 June 1945

Flew 59 sorties.

 

Georges L.R.C. Jaspis DFC "Poupa"

22 June 1943/12 April 1944 - 7 June 1944 - 2 December 1944

Ex Aé Mil. Scored his first victory against a Bü 133 near Paris on November 2, 1943. On January 10 he shot down a Ju 88 near Melsbroek. His third victim was a Ju 88, on February 26. He shared a fourth victory against a Ju 188 on February 29, 1944.

Georges Jaspis flew for Sabena after the war.

 

Albert G. Laforce

Flew 76 missions.

 

Maurice Jospe

27 April 1945 - 2 June 1945

 

Raymond Lallemant "Cheval" DFC & Bar

30 September 1941 - 24 June 1943 - 14 August 1944 - 14 September 1944

One of the best Typhoon pilots ever, “Cheval” Lallemant joined 609 in autumn of 1941. He scored his first victory over Deal, on December 19, 1942. He claimed another Focke Wulf over Dungeness on January 20, 1943, and a third one on February 14, over Dover.

In August ’44 Lallemant became CO of the squadron, following Manu Geerts. A few weeks later, on September 14, 1944, however, his Typhoon PD505 was hit by Flak but Cheval managed to fly back to Merville, but on landing he crashed and was severely burned.

He wrote his autobiography “Rendez-Vous avec la chance”, joined the post war BAF and spends his time painting.

 

Jacques P. Legrand

14 December 1943 - 24 April 1944

Ex Aé. Mil.

   

Roger Malengreau

15 May 1941 - 9 October 1942

Ex Aé. Mil., flew in the Battle of Britain and joined 609 in 1941. Joined the Corps Diplomatique after the war and passed away a few years ago.

 

Jan Mathys

12 September 1944 - 1 October 1945

Arrived in England via Belgian Congo.

  Jan Mathijs at 609 Squadron

P/O Jan Mathijs in Berthe, his personal "Tyffie".

609 Squadron 609 Squadron

 Jan Mathijs attacking an O.P. in a church near Wageningen (Nl.) - March, 1945.(via J. Mathijs)

Jean Morai

4 August 1941 - 18 April 1942

After his stay in 609, Jean Morai joined 349 “Belgian” Squadron, but was taken prisoner on June 14, 1944. Flew 118 missions, passed away in 1973.

   

José Muller

21 July 1941 - 21 November 1941

After his stay in 609 José Muller joined 122 Sq., and was taken POW on May 17, 1942.

 

Alex Nitelet

21 July 1941 - 9 August 1941

Alex Nitelet was engaged in the heavy aerial combat of Circus 68, during which W/C Douglas Bader was lost. He claimed a Bf 109 near Campagne, but was shot down himself by Karl Borris of 6./JG 26. He managed to survive, but lost an eye, and escaped via Spain to the UK. He died in 1981.

   

Jean Offenberg DFC "Pyker"

17 June 1941/22 January 1942

"Pyker" was one of the few Belgian pilots who managed to shoot down a German plane during the invasion in May 1940. He joined the RAF, flew during the Battle of Britain, was transferred to 609 where he received the DFC (first Belgian to get this award) and became CO of B-flight. On July 7, 1941 he shot down a Bf 109 near Le Touquet.

He was killed when his Spitfire Spitfire AB188 "PR-Y" collided with a Spitfire of 92 Sq. over Digby (Blackney Heath).

His diary was published after the war.

  609 Squadron

Duxford 1942, Belgian minister Camille Gutt visits the Belgian 609'ers. (L. to R.) Raymond "Cheval" Lallemant, Christian Ortmans, Jean de Selys, André Blanco, François de Spirlet, C. Gutt, Raymond Roelandt, Remy Van Lierde

 

Christian Ortmans

25 August 1941-1942

Killed in 615 Sq. on April 1, 1943.

   

Victor Ortmans DFC "Vicky"

12 April 1941/1941

Brother of Christian flew during the Battle of Britain in 229 Sq., where he scored three victories.  Vicky Ortmans was the first Belgian to shoot down an enemy; a Bf 109 over Deal on May 21, 1941. On June 4th he claimed another one over Dover and a third Messerschmitt was claimed on June 30, near Lille. On August 18 he scored another victory.

  Three times he had to be rescued out of the North Sea; two times a British boat picked him up, but on October 21, 1941, it was a German boat, which saved him. However, during that same combat he was able to score a last time against a FW 190.

He was killed in a Tiger Moth in 1950.

   

Raymond Parthoens

25 October 1944/9 December 1944

Ex Aé. Mil. Joined the RAF in 1943, but only flew six weeks in 609. On December 9, 1944, he was killed when his Typhoon MN150 was lost in bad weather near Gorinchem (Almkerk).

 

Gaston Remy

1 April 1945 - 1 October 1945

Only saw a short time combat in the squadron but managed to destroy in 35 missions five locomotives and three trains.

After the war Remy flew for Sobelair, he passed away in 1992.

 

Joseph Renier DFC

18 August 1942 - 15 December 1943

Ex Aé Mil. Joined the RAF in 1942. Died in 1983.

 

Robert Roelandt

16 April 1942 - 26 August 1944

An experienced Belgian army pilot, "Balbo" Roelandt joined the RAF in 1941. During his second tour in 609 he was shot down by Flak near St. Hellier, (Rouen) on August 26, 1944

 

Eugene Seghers DFC "Strop"

15 April 1941 - 16 September 1941

Flew n the Battle of Britain and was one of the first Belgians to join 609 Sq.  Shot down a Bf 109 near Cassel on July 11, 1941.

He was killed in his Spitfire RM479 (91 Sq.) near Uckfield (New Road - Essex) whilst intercepting a V-1 Flying Bomb,

 

Pierre Soesman

9 November 1943 - 11 May 1944

Tried to ditch his Typhoon MN496 on May 11, 1944 during an attack on a German radar station. He has no known grave.

 

Louis Van Arenberg

23 September 1941 - 14 December 1941

After a short time in 609, Louis Van Arenberg became a flying instructor, but was killed near Snailwell in 1945.

 

Jean-Noël Van Daele

28 July 1944/28 September 1944

Killed near Alblasserdam on September 28, 1944 in Typhoon MN954.

Remi Van Lierde DFC & 2 Bars "Mony"

6 January 1942/22 December 1943

With Lallemant, one of the most outstanding Typhoon pilots ever. Claimed six victories in 609: January 20, 1943 (FW 190 near Dungeness); March 26 (Ju 52 near his birth place, over Ath), May 14 (a He 111 over Ostend); July 30 (a Bf 109 near Zandvoort); October 5 (a Ju 88 over France); November 30 (a Bf 110 near Hasselt) Became the Manston Gunnery leader, returned to 3 Sq., where he shot down 20+ V-1’s, and became CO of 194 Sq.

Mony Van Lierde passed away in 1983.

 

Willy Van Lierde

15 April 1941 - 16 June 1941

Flew during the Battle of Britain, spent two months in 609 and became a flying instructor.

 

Maurice Vanneste

16 March 1943 - 30 April 43

Missing in the North Sea since April 30, 1943, when his Typhoon R8883 "PR-K” crashed for unknown reasons.

 

Etienne Van Zuylen van Neyevelt

23 March 1943 - 6 April

Missing in the North Sea whilst trying to ditch his DN416 "PR-P" on April 6, 1943.

 

Georges Watelet

11 May 1943 - 17 November 1943

Shot down by FW over France on November 17, 1943 (Typhoon JR191); managed to escape.

 

Jean-Dennis Wathieu

12 September 1944/2 February 1945

Shot down by Flak near Weeze on February 25, 1944 in Typhoon MN178 "PR-V" but survived. Died in 1985.

 

Robert Wilmet "Bob"

17 April 1941 - 9 October 1942

Flew during the Battle of Britain, transferred to 349 “Belgian” Squadron but died in Ikeja in 1943.

   

Joseph  Zegers

11 May 1943 - 3 January 1944

Shot down by FW 190’s of JG 26 on January 3, 1944 (Typhoon JP425 "PR-B") near  Doullens/Pommiers. 

 "Billy the Goat"

"Billy the Goat", 609's mascot surrounded by Belgians.

 

  Sources :

Operations Record Book 609 Squadron

Under the white rose – Ziegler

Info provided by Jean-Louis Roba and Guy Dewin

 

 

 

 

Last updated 30/04/12 07:22 by  Daniel Brackx