349 during the Second World War

Since May 1940, the Belgian government was in exile in London. By the end of the year, while the Second World War was raging across the European continent, the Belgian politicians were concerned about a possible German invasion in Belgian-Congo, now Democratic Republic of Congo.

The colony was a major source of resources and of vital importance to the Allied war effort. In the interest of defending those resources, the Belgian authorities approached their British allies. Their goal? Create one or more Belgian aviation units that would be able to protect Belgian and Allied interests in Africa. After a few months of debating, the British Air Ministry accepted the Belgian demands and provided Belgium with no less than twenty-four Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk Mk.1s. 


 Jan 1943 Ikeja, Nigeria

On November 10, 1942, No. 349 (Belgian) Squadron was officially founded as a Belgian unit within the British Royal Air Force. Shortly thereafter, all personnel and material embarked a civilian ship (S.S. Amstelkerk) in service of the Royal Navy heading towards West-Africa. After a long journey where they had been chased by German Submarines and tormented by heavy storms, the Squadron finally set foot on Lagos.




Chapter from the 1st Squadron report written by CO Malengreau:

After a long voyage, we arrived at destination at last. General impression was that we had been extraordinarily lucky, after having evaded incessant attacks by German submarines, we finally found ourselves on our own, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, fighting one of the worst storms the vessel had ever endured. This cost us two Tomahawks , even before they ever took the air. The crates containing the planes were literally blown over board like wisps of straw, notwithstanding the strong mooring lines.


On January 11, 1943, the Squadron started its operational duties out of Ikeja, Nigeria with only five P-40s and two T-6 Harvards.

The beginning was hard because of the poor serviceability of the P40 Tomahawks. Also the tropical climate caused serious health problems such as Malaria to ground and air crew .

Nevertheless, the pilots of No. 349 (Belgian) Squadron didn't see a lot of action during their time in Ikeja. While the Squadron was conceived for local defense duties over Belgian Congo, they didn't become operational as such, ferrying aircraft to and from the Middle-East.


Only a few months after their arrival, in May 1943, after German and Italian forces in Africa were forced to surrender, 349's job in Africa was finished and the Squadron was disbanded and its personnel was transferred back to the UK.


 Jun 1943 Wittering/Kingscliffe, United Kingdom

Not even a month later, on June 5, 1943, the Squadron was reformed at RAF Wittering, where it received its first Supermarine Spitfire Mk.V. 

Flight Lieutenant I.G. Du Monceau de Bergendal D.F.C. was appointed Officer Commanding of the the newly reformed Squadron. The squadron had accommodations at Collyweston and flew from Kingscliffe.  By August the Squadron received the last Spitfire V a/b.  

 Aug 1943 Wellingore / Digby, United Kingdom

Despite the short stay in Wellingore, it is the place from which 349 Squadron flew its first operational flight, even if it was only a defensive mission. After only two weeks 349 Squadron was ordered to move to Digby. At Digby 349 Squadron stayed 2 weeks as well and kept flying defensive missions.

 Aug 1943 Acklington, United Kingdom

Arrived at Acklington 349 Squadron had to change accommodations for the third time in one month. The 27th Aug 349 Squadron had its first scramble. It was a rather uneventful one, the enemy aircraft turned out to be a MOSQUITO.

The 4 of September 1943, CO Du Monceau de Bergendal is proposing a crest for the newly reformed Squadron.

Oct 1943 Friston, United Kingdom

In October 1943, 349 Squadron moved to the South of England, Frsiton.


In Friston 349 kept flying Fighter sweeps and escorts. The 02nd of January 1944, 349 stood for the first time face to face with the German Luftwaffe.  It is also the day we lost our first pilot in an operational sortie.

Extract from the Squadron book:

02/01/1944: A Ramrod on Amiens arranged for the morning was canceled. In the afternoon 4 A/C led by F/L VAN DE VELDE went out on a rhubarb. They did not locate the target, but on the return journey they were intercepted by 4 F.W 190's. Red Section consisted of 1 F/L VAN DE VELDE, 2 F/S VAN DEN BROECK, 3 P/O BAILLY, 4 Sgt MOUREAU A.. Red Leader led them into attack, but was unable to fire accurately as his windscreen was covered with oil. The enemy aircraft were very fast and our pilots were unable to make any claims. Immediately afterwards Red 1 called the section and all replied that they were not in trouble, then his R/T transmission went u/s. Red 1 & and 3 landed at base together at 16.38 hrs., Red 4 five minutes later, but all trace of Red 2 (F/S VAN DEN BROECK ,see picture) had been lost.

Yellow Section (Yellow 1 F/O SANS, Yellow 2 F/O SIRAUT) took off at 1715 hrs. to search the sea between Berck and Pointe de St. Quentin. They flew within 5 miles of the French coast, but were unable to discover anything and landed at 18.26 hrs. and 18.10 hrs. respectively.

February 1944 was marked by 2 noticeable events. First the Squadron was re-equipped with brand new Spitfires IX LF. Second, the news came that the squadron was to be transferred to the 2TAF. hoping to give the squadron the opportunities to getting real action.

Also the squadron started night flying at Friston.


It is at Friston were the maces were first placed on the spitfires as symbol of 349 Squadron, which became the crest of the the squadron.

11th of March 1944, the Squadron is now under command of the 2TAF, with this happening, the Squadron has to move once more, this time to Hornchurch.

Apr 1944 Llanbedr/Selsey

It is the 6th of April when the Squadron receives the news to move to the other side of the country, Llanbedr, Wales. It is a short stay, not even a week to break up the tents again and move to Selsey.


03/06/1944: When the Squadron landed after a Bombing mission, ground crews rushed towards the aircraft and proceed to adorn the machines with black and white stripes. The atmosphere is tense with expectation of great things. In the night of the 5th of June at 11.15PM the Squadron is briefed on a big operation, the operation called "OPERATION NEPTUNE" , and will go down in history as D-DAY.  The invasion will start at dawn. 0530am take off to what will be one of the most Memorable days in history.

It is also the day 349 Squadron opened the score by shooting down a Ju88 over the battle area, and being with 485 (NZ) Squadron, the first of the 2nd TAF to score a victory over the beachhead.

Extract from the Squadron Book:

Up at 03.45, the boys get tea at 04.00 hrs., are at readiness at 04.40 and take off for first sortie at 05.30 to patrol eastern flank of the invading forces. No enemy aircraft seen on first sortie. Weather cloudy. On the other hand much flak was experienced from the "suspicious" naval forces we were supposed to escort. Bofors and "chicago pianos" gave us all they had. After 30 minutes we had nothing to escort, these forces having entered Le Havre harbour and firing at point blank range on installations.

Second sortie was uneventful. Weather improved. Utter absence of the Luftwaffe.

Third sortie led by F/L SEYDEL met some JU 88/188 near Caen and we shot down two and damaged three others. F/O SANS and F/S J.MOREAU share one destroyed. SGT BRAGARD destroys another, F/L SEYDEL and F/S BRANT - one damaged. F/O VAN DE VELDE and F/O BAILLY - one damaged and F/O SANS one damaged. It was F/S BRANT's first operational sortie and a good one at that.

Fourth sortie was uneventful although the weather improved very much. From the air the ground seems to be quiet and peaceful for a few fires. A tough battle is going on - we can see tanks and lorries advancing while the naval guns are blazing away. A very tired Sqdn went to bed early. 


10th of June 1944, the Squadron landed at St. Croix-sur-Mer (France) at 1645., being the First Belgian Unit to land on liberated soil of Western Europe.

In June the crest was accepted: 

The crest shows 2 crossed "masses of arms called "goedendags" in Belgian History. The Goedendag is an historic and a national weapon used in 1302 at the ballte of Courtrai when allied to the black prince, men from the Flemish and Wallon provinces of what was then Belgium, defeated the common enemy.

It is felt by the squadron that the proposed crest would be a good emblem of Belgium's incessant fight for freedom and also a reminder of traditional Anglo Belgian friendship.

The motto used for the crest is a citation from a speech of Prime Minister Winston Churchill


In very simple words, the British Prime Minister once again states in a very strong way the will to win. Home can be understood with a double meaning.

Every Squadron member received a copy of the scroll with crest, signed by King George VI.


July 1944 Coolham / Funtington

Even during operational sorties, 349 Squadron had to move to Coolham on the 30th of June and already had to leave to Funtington on the 04th of July.

The 22nd of July CO S/L I G du Monceau de Bergendal DFC  had to stop flying operational sorties as he already passed his limit of 2 operational tours. He will hand over the command of the Squadron to F/L A. Van de Velde.

Squadron Leader I. G. "DUKE" du Monceau de Bergendal


  • CO du Monceau de Bergendal was one of the few Belgian aces. Destroying 8 enemy aircraft, damaging 6 and 3 probably destroyed.
  • For his actions he received a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) and Bar.
  • Flying in many Squadron of which 609, 350, 349
  • Officer Commanding of 349Squadron
  • Being the First commander of the 10 Tac Wing (Kleine-Brogel)
  • Ended his carreer as Commander of the Tactical Air Force

The 26 of July 349 added some Me109 to it's score.

Extract from the squadronbook.

Weather improved from fair to good and this was the day of some excitement. Whilst escorting 36 Mitchells and 24 Bostons attacking P.O.L. Alençon, the Squadron was lucky in meeting a number of enemy aircraft consisting of approximately 30 plus FW 190's and Me 109's. We shot down 2 of the Me 109's and damaged 3 others. The pilots responsible for the two destroyed were F/L SEYDEL and F/L SIROUX (new "A" Flight Commander) and the three damaged by F/O ESTER, F/O UYDENS and SGT SMERDON. Our losses were nil.


03 August 1944, VIP escort for the squadron, turned out to be General Eisenhower. 349 Squadron was scrambled to escort a VIP from Thorney Island to an American Airstrip in France. After the landing the pilots were very elated to see it was the General. General Eisenhower took the time to thank them and shake hands.

August 1944 Selsey

With still an average of two missions a day, mainly bomber escorts and sweeps , the Squadron had to move back to Selsey.

August 1944 Tangmere

20 August 1944, awaiting the order to air lift to France, the Squadron had to wait together with 222Sqn and 485Sqn in Tangmere. Not that bad for the boys for Tangmeres accomodations were comfortable with all its static facilities, hot water, baths, showers and comfortable beds.

August 1944 B17 Carpiquet (France)

26 August 1944, the first elements of 349Squadron set foot on liberated soil but it will take until the 31th of August for the Squadron to be complete. After only 1 week the squadron had to move on to land in Godelmesnil on 08 August 1944.

September 1944 B35 Godelmesnil (France)

Due to the fast pace of the invasion, the squadron was ordered after 4 days to advance further towards Merville.

September 1944 B53 Merville (France)

12 September 1944, In Merville, still living in tents, the operational tempo dropped down mainly due to the weather and the absence of the German Luftwaffe. Missions flown were maily bombing missions over still occupied Holland.

November 1944 B65 Maldegem (Belgium)

2 November 1944, The first time since long that the Squadron had roofs over their heads in addition, being on Belgian soil after years, squadrons moral was high. the next 2,5 months B65 will be the homebase for the squadron.


Extract for the Squadron book

Last night we had accommodations "in heaven". It was the first occasion since our arrival in France that we have been housed under a roof and four walls and everybody agreed having slept in perfect peace without the disturbing sounds of hurtling rain and flap­ping tents. We are living in houses in the town of Maldegem and with the additional furniture obtained from German sources and their collaborators, our comfort in comparison with tents, is assured.

25 December 1944: The first sighting of a Me262 for 349 Squadron.




01 January 1945, Extract from the Squadron book: Operation Bodenplatte

Presumably as a New Years' greeting the Hun got up early and strafed our Airfield causing considerable losses to aircraft. The attack commenced at about 09.20 with pro­bably a dozen Me 109's and lasted for 7/8 minutes. At first a dummy run was made, they then came in at almost out of the sun. They aimed at the aircraft and very little damage was caused to buildings and hangars. We were very fortunate in that we lost only one aircraft as against thirteen in 485 Sqdn'. The reason for this was that all our aircraft were dispersed in a dip and the Hun coming in over them, could not see because of hangars and when over the aircraft it was too late for strafing. The airfield A/A guns were moved some days previously and the only defense we could offer was by vigorously firing rifles, Sten guns and revolvers, which are hardly effective against diving aircraft. The Hun chose the timing of the attack after careful deliberation of local conditions.

Half an hour after the attack our aircraft were off the ground on defensive patrol and this precaution is now a daily routi­ne. The A/A guns are returning. Luckily there were no fatal casualties.

January 1945 B77 Gilze-Rijen (Holland)

The weather improved tremendously, 349 Squadron's duties were mainly escorting bombers and carrying out bombing missions until the squadron was told on 13 February to move to Predannack for the coversion to Tempest.

February 1945  Predannack 

20th of February 349 Squadron embarked in Ostend to move to Predannack for the conversion on hawker Tempest. Conversion is done on Typhoons and the newly received Tempests. 

7th of March CO Van de velde is end of tour and will be replaced by S/L "Cheval" Lallemand, DFC and Bar, and former CO of 609Squadron.


Squadron Leader R. A. "Cheval" Lallemand


  • CO Lallemand was one of the few Belgian aces. Destroying 7 enemy aircraft, and 1 probably destroyed on Typhoon
  • For his actions he received a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) and Bar.
  • Flying in many Squadron of which 609, 198, 349
  • Officer Commanding of 609 and 349 Squadron
  • Being the commander of the 2 Fighter Wing (Florennes)
  • 14Sep1944 hit by Ground fire over holland, the engine of his Typhoon caught fire and he crash landed at B53 Merville were 349 was staying at the time. He suffered serious burns.

April 1945  B106 Twente (Netherlands)

When arriving at B106 and join 132 (Norwegian) Wing.  349 Squadron takes over the Spitfire IX of 331 and 332 squadron.

April 1945  B113 Varrelbusch (Germany)

News received that 349 squadron is once again being moved around, this time 349 squadron is ordered to join 131 (Polish) Wing but now at B113 Varrelbush well into Germany. It brings the Squadron to a stage nearer to the end of the war and on each front comes news of unconditional surrender by certain sections of the German forces.




06 May 1945: Victory in Europe.   extract from the Squadron book:

The weather is bad all day and the Squadron is at 60 minutes. Unhappily we don't get released, so we are unable to go out. Most pilots make use of the time to go down the officer's shop or do odd jobs on the camp. Practically everybody hangs on the wireless to hear the news of "VE day1" which is expected to be announced pretty soon. There is lots of gaiety in the evening and quit a little drinking both in the officers' and sergeants' messes. On returning to the billets after nightfall, one noti­ces a great amount of enthusiasm everywhere which seems to express itself mostly by lots of wild shooting. rifles, revolvers, Sten guns etc. Green and white cartridges go up from all round the aerodrome and the Tanney's invitati­on to stop shooting does not appear to have much effect.

May 1945, The squadron receives Spitfire XVI.

07 May 1945 Victory Fly Pass

Extract from 349 Squadron book:

We now come to the end of one of the most momentous months in the history of Europe which culminated in the Allied Victory. Since May 8th we have settled down to a sort of hum-drum existence which has its difficult reactions after the many years of intensive operations. It is hoped that we shall shortly leave N° 131 (Polish) Wing for a more interesting part of Germany or preferably to one of the permanent aerodromes in Belgium.

June 1945  B116 Wunstorf (Germany)

Moving once more but everybody is delighted with the new billets and messes with plenty of hot and cold water. Since VE Day the squadron is mainly busy with formation flying. Flying starts to look more a hobby after all those months of operational flying.





08 July 1945, Air Commodore Wouters Pays a visit.

November 1945  B152 Fassberg (Germany)

30 November 1945, the squadron had to move once more, this time Fassberg where they will be stationed together with 350 (Belgian) Squadron.

17 December 1945, CO Van de Velde takes over command of 349 Squadron


Squadron Leader A. "Fiske" Van de Velde


  • CO Van de Velde did 2 tours as CO of 349 Squadron
  • He can claim 1 damaged Ju 88
  • Flew 299 war missions.
  • received a DFC for different reasons, but flying operational with his plaster is the most remarkable one. The plaster supported the whole back, which he broke during an airtest . 
  • W/C of the 1 Wing & 2 Wing


extract from the Squadron book:

And so for the first time in the history of 349 Squadron we finish the year 1945 in peace. During this year we have achieved splendid results and known many successes, thanks to the work on the ground and in battle. This however, has cost the lives of several of our best friends, the memories of whom we shall keep faithfully.



In the beginning of 1946 a Belgian Wing was created within the 135Wing, called the 160 (Belgian) Wing.

By April the Spitfire of the Belgian Squadrons are changing the RAF Roundel for the Belgian Roundel.

For a press meeting in Brustem in May 1946 349 polished a spitfire and created a silver spitfire.

The 8th of May the Squadron leaves for Sylt to do some bombing practice. Participating in exercises will be from now on a common procedure. 

On the 7th of September  349Squadron was invited at the Ghent Town Hall, where Mr Anseele accepts the Gotherhood over 349Squadron in the name of Ghent.

The next day 349 and 350 Squadron take part in an aviation meeting at St Denijs Westrem with 24 planes as remembrance of the liberation of Ghent in September 1944.

the 15th of October 1946 the Belgian military aviation was founded. To build the new founded Belgian Air Force, the 2 Belgian squadrons were handed over from the RAF to the Belgian authorities. As the 2 Belgian squadrons cease to be under command of the RAF, a new age for the squadron is beginning.

In total 142 Pilots, 33 British and 109 Belgian, served in 349 (Belgian) Squadron during the War. 18 of them lost their lives fighting for our freedom. During the War years the bankers (callsign for 349) flew over 450 war missions, destroyed 7  aircraft, damaged 9 others. 

Together with 349 Squadron we may not forget the tremendous work and support of all airmen serving in 6349 Support Squadron, making all this achievements possible.

We, 349 Squadron, will never forget them.