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  • Base history starting in 1940.
  • Birth of 350 Squadron in 1941 within the RAF.
  • Birth of 349 Squadron in 1943 within the RAF.
  • Both squadrons join 135Wing in Fassberg.
  • Birth of 160 (Belgian) Wing within the 135Wing.
  • Return of both squadrons to Beauvechain with their Spitfire MK. XVI.

 

 

 

Audeo Aciem4

"Audeo Aciem"

(I dare engage combat - Tacite)

 

 

HISTORY OF THE BASE.

The Beauvechain Charles Roman Air Base has its origins in the eraly stage of the World War II.
 

1940 

Following the surrender of the Belgian army in Mai 1940, some military, considered as deserters by our government, are joining the Great Britain at great risk, where they are welcomed by the RAF.
Thirty four of our aviators : pilots, navigators, gunners, join operational units, the first in early August, just-in-time to take part to one of the most important air battles of history: the Battle of Britain.

 

1941 - 350 Squadron 

During the first months of the war, our pilots are grouped within different RAF units, isolating them of each other.
In January 1941, an agreement is reached between the British and the Belgian governments: whenever possible, our pilots will be reunited into national units.
This is the way the first Belgian “flight” is created in February 1941 within the 609 Squadron.
A second one is created within the 131 Squadron in August 1941, this one will be the basement of the 350 Squadron  in November 1941.
Its first commanding officer (CO) is British: S/Ldr J.Thompson.

 

 350 Squadron Badge lowres

 

 

The badge of the 350 Squadron, as all RAF Squadron badges are designed in repect with the same canvas. It consists of a "Royal Air Force blue" disk surrounded by the British Crown, and incorporating a specific emblem.
In this case, the emblem represents the head of Ambiorix the Gallic, chief of the Eburon tribe. The disk is surrounded by the mention :

350 (BELGIAN) SQUADRON – ROYAL AIR FORCE

 

A golden listel on the bottom contains a motto:

BELGAE GALLORUM FORTISSIMI : Julius Cesars famous words in “de bello gallico”: “From all Gallic tribes, the Belgians are the bravest...
 

The badge has been designed by the squadrons chaplain, Sqn Ldr Clément Boone. The original drawing, signed and approved by King Georges VI, is preserved at the College of Arms.

It is to be noted, that the first project, that was sent to the Ministry for approval on May 23, 1944.was accepted on June 7, but will be refused later by RAF, considering, that Ambiorix’ hair was to long !

The drawing will be finally modified in order to be accepted by King George VI.

 

See “links – Beauvechain & BAF” to find a site dedicated to 350 Squadron during the Battle of Britain”, or click here.

 

 

1943 - 349 Squadron 

 

The 349 Squadron, our second national Squadron, is created on January 11, 1943 in Ikeja (Nigeria).

349 Squdron badge lowres

 

 

The squadron badge is approved in August 1944 by King George VI. It has been disigned by the Chester Herald of the Royal College of Herald.
 
The 349 Sqn badge differs from the 350 Sqn badge by the following :
The emblem in this case is the two “Goedendag”, two crossed "masses of arms" on a white background surrounded by the Royal Air Force Blue circle surrounded by the squadron designation :

349 (BELGIAN) SQUADRON – ROYAL AIR 

The CO du Monceau de Bergendael (*) had the idea to use the “Goedendags”, as this weapons was one of the most feared in the Middle Age history of Belgium.

The “Goedendags” were used on July 11, 1302 during the battle of Courtrai (Battle of the Golden Spurs), when the Walloons and the Flemish joined Robert de Bétune (son of Gui de Dampierre, Count of Flanders) to evict the king of France, Philippe IV.

(*) CO 349 Sqn from June 8 until July 22, 1944.

The motto used for the 349 Squadron is a citation of the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill :


 STRIKE HARD – STRIKE HOME 

(source : http://www.349sqn.be/)

1945

 

 

- May 7, 1945 : The defeat of Germany is near.
 

The 350 Sqn is based in Fassberg, at 40 km from the Elbe river, the line of demarcation between the British and the Russian zones.
The Squadron Leader H.Walmsley is in command of the squadron. consisting of 22 pilots,  5 of them are British.
 
The 349 Sqn is based in Varrelbush.
The Squadron Leader “Cheval” Lallemand being in command. The squadron is composed of 27 pilots, 7 of them are British.

Both squadrons are a part of the 2TAF.

Hundred and thirty-four Belgian pilots served in 2TAF; thirty-four of them will loose their live in combat.

In the early part of 1945, the two Belgian squadrons are equipped with two different types of aircraft.
The 349 Sqn uses the Spitfire Mk.IX while the 350 Sqn flies the Spitfire Mk.XIV
The 349 Sqn will keep the Spitfire Mk.IX till May 1945, then will be equipped with the Mk.XVI, while the 350 Sqn will retain the Spitfire Mk..XIV till November 1945, before to be reequipped with the Mk.XVI.

 

- July 1945 : For the first time, both squadrons are reunited within the same unit, the 123Wing based in Wunsdorf.

- August 1945 : The 350 Squadron moves from Wunsdorf to Fassberg, it will be joined very soon by the 349 Sqn in November.
 

- November 1945 : Both squadrons join the 135 Wing in Fassberg.

At mid-September 1944, the major part of the national territory is freed. On the 8th of September already, the Belgian government is back in the country.
It is the time now to rebuild a military aviation, released from the RAF guardianship. There is of course a great desire to see the Belgian nationality markings back in the sky.
But it is clear, that at the end of 1945, there is no airfield in acceptable condition to accept the aircraft, there is no operational as well as logistical structure, and not enough technicians to maintain the aircraft.

Fortunately, the Royal Air Force authorities accepts to keep our squadrons under its command and organization until the end of 1946. This period is used to create a “Commission to reorganize the Belgian Military Aeronautic” as well as a “Commission for Airfields”.

It quickly appears that the only airfields, that can be used, are the ones built by the Luftwaffe during the war. They've been all bombed during 1944 and they all need heavy repair before receiving our squadrons.
As early as September 1945, the choice for Beauvechain is clear, only the financial support to rebuild the airfield is missing.

 

1946
 

- 1946 : An agreement for 20 million BF is signed with the “Compagnie des Chemins de Fer et d’Entreprises”  to restore Beauvechain airfield.

 

160 (Belgian) Wing
 

- Early 1946 : the Belgian Wing is formally created in Fassberg, as a part of 135Wing and is identified as 160 (Belgian) Wing.

The first Wing Commander is Daniel Le Roy du Vivier. His Second in Command, Squadron Leader Léon Prévot, becomes the first OSN (Senior Flying Officer), he will replace him as from July. 

The squadron leaders are :

  • Sqn Ldr Albert Van de Velde, CO of the 349 Squadron since the 17th of December 1945.
    He succeeded to the Sqn Ldr R.Lallemand (CO since 1945)
  • Sqn Ldr Remy Van Lierde, the V1 Fying Bomb Ace, in command of the 350 Squadron since the 16th of August 1945.

The British pilots have now left the two squadrons , each of them comprising now more than 30 pilots per squadron.

 

 

Picture 4600-01 : Some members of the 135 Wing around a Spitfire Mk.XVI belonging to the 349 Squadron.  (From L to R)

  • Sqn Ldr R.N.G. Allen C.B.E, D.F.C                                 
  • Sqn Ldr Remy Van Lierde D.F.C                                    CO 350 Sqn
  • Gp Capt H.P. Broad C.B.E, D.F.C                                    
  • Wg Cdr Léon Prévot D.F.C                                               Wing Leader 160 (Belgian) Wing

    Spitfire Mk.XVI - Presumed TE191 GE-G "STAD GENT"  - Personal aircraft of  CO Albert Van de Velde.  

  • Sqn Ldr Albert Van de Velde D.F.C                                CO 349 Sqn
  • Wg Cdr Robert Deacon-Elliott  O.B.E, C.B,  D.F.C       Wing Leader 135 Wing
  • Sqn Ldr Dennis.C. Usher D.F.C, D.F.M.                          CO 16 Sqn RAF 
  • ???

 

 

 - July 1946 : Negotiations with the British authorities are initiated, the pupose of these being to provide all the necessary equipment required to establish an independent military aviation ; the equipment going from combat aircraft to kitchen supply.
The negotiation on combat aircraft concerns the equipment of our two squadrons in Fassberg, the creation of a two new fighter squadrons and one night fighter squadron.
Our two squadrons (349Sqn & 350Sqn) are then still equipped with Spitfire LF XVI with Rolls-Royce Merlin engines (1520 HP).
96 Spitfire XIV with Rolls-Royce Griffon engines (2050HP) are initially ordered to equip 4 squadrons with 16 aircraft and guarantee a reserve of 32 aircraft.
22 Mosquitos NF30 will be ordered as future night fighters.

  • Pictures 4511-01 to 4511-08 : 349 Sqn & 350 Sqn in Fassberg.
  • Picture 4511-04 : Jack Daniels (engine technicians) with a Spitfire Mk XVI. Note the weapon technician working on the gun of TB480 GE-Y of 349 Sqn.
  • Picture 4511-05 : The GE-R (TD184) is one of the first Spitfires MK.XVI of 349 sqn. It’s part of the 10 loan Spitfire's received from the RAF, pending the delivery of the Mk.XIV. It was delivered on April 30, 1945.

- September 7 & 8 : First official appearance of 349 sqn & 350 sqn during an air show organized by the city of Gent on the field of Sint Denijs Westrem. This air show is the first in Europe since the end of the war.
A total of 24 Spitfire are presented to the Belgian public.
Amongst the 349 Sqn Spitfires, 2 remain unpainted. Both aircraft, GE-D (TD237) and GE-G (TE191) wear special painting for this occasion.
As the city of Gent officially sponsored 349 Sqn, Spitfire GE-G is named “City of Gent”. Squadron Leader A. Van de Velde, coming from Gent himself, offers Mr Anseele, Mayor of Gent , a picture of the Squadron Crest.

  • Pictures 4609-05 & 4609-06 : CO Raymond “Cheval” Lallemand with Cdt Pierre Arend, display pilot, facing Spitfire GE-R TD184 of 349 Sqn named “Suzy”.
  • Picture 4609-07 : Left :                    Flt Lt André Vanderheyden.
                                    Pipe smoking : Alexander Uydens.
                                    Right :                 Léon Branders.

- October 15, 1946: As agreed with the British authorities, our squadrons are not under British command anymore. “ Belgian Military Aviation” is born.


 

24 Oct 1946 : The return.

 

- October 24, 1946 : Both 349 and 350 Squadrons leave Fassberg and move to Beauvechain (Le Culot).

Before arriving at the airfield, the aircraft land in Evere, where the official welcoming ceremony lead by the Minister of Defence, Colonel Raoul de Fraiteur, takes place.
The allied authorities present in Belgium are also present.
This ceremony marks the revival of our independent Military Aviation.

- October 24, 1946, p.m. : An engine roaring sound fills the sky above Beauvechain, braking the rural quietness of a fall day: 22 Spitfires wearing Belgian crests with blue propeller hubs (349 Sqn code GE) and red propeller hubs (350 Sqn code MN) fly over the airfield, sleeping since the end of the war, then land one by one (*).

 

(*) It has to be noted that to make the difference between the two squadrons, each one will choose an specific colour. It will be blue for 349 Sqn and red for 350 Sqn.
The 350 Sqn will modify its crest by replacing the classical "RAF blue" colour by a flashy red one.

The Belgian military aviation is born ;  “349” and “350” squadrons is the basement of it.
This part of the Province of Brabant will be for the next fifty years, the home of the faithful of Ambiorix and Goedendags.

 

350 02    349 02

Next : 1Wing : 1946 - 1955 

 
 
 
 
 

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