Monday, March 9, 2015

Two Frenchmen Flying with the RAF


The rollcall of French pilots in the RAF included James Denis, who had made a daring escape from France in a Farman 222 with 19 others in June 1940. Although then 34 years old, having learnt to fly in 1929, Denis thought he had missed his chance for combat. Briefed by de Gaulle himself to rally support in Cameroon, he then found his way to Egypt, then Greece and eventually the Western Desert, where he was attached to No 73 Sqn. With them, in one month of combat (May 1941) over Tobruk, he downed nine aircraft, all confirmed. One, a Bf 109E which crash-landed on 23 April, was flown by Ofw Hans-Joachim Marseille . . .

Denis then went to Syria, where his diplomatic skills helped prevent French airmen fighting each other, before returning to join the FAFL HQ. Postwar, he commanded the base at Bourget before retiring in 1953.

Many of the first French pilots in the RAF proved to be exceptional. Jean-Francois Demozay, better known by his nom de guerre 'Morlaix', was discharged soon after call-up in 1938 as being unfit for military service. A civil pilot, at the outbreak of war he served as an interpreter with the RAF. After the collapse, and discovering an abandoned Bristol Bombay in June 1940, he flew this, along with 15 troops, to England. Claiming to be a fighter pilot, he joined the FAFL, then No 1 Sqn RAF, and proved to be precisely that. A report of his activities on 9 August 1941 read, 'A magnificent example of courage and skill. On 12 July, descending to low level he attacked and destroyed an enemy aircraft over northern France. On 17 July he sank enemy mines with his cannon. On the 26th he shot down his seventh enemy aircraft. 31 July, off Dunkirk, he engaged three Bf 109s in combat. He shot down two and damaged the third for his eighth and ninth kills'. Sadly, after service in FAFL HQ and in France after D-Day, he was killed in a flying accident near Buc on 19 December 1945. At the time of his death he had 21 officially confirmed kills and two probables, most while with No 91 Sqn. Not one was shared.

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