Home News The Belgian RAF section during WWII
The Belgian RAF section during WWII
Date:06 July 2018
Following the German invasion and cease-fire in Belgium in May 1940, several Belgian Squadrons were stationed in France where they fought alongside the French. When France capitulated a month later, the Belgian military were instructed to return to occupied Belgium. However, several pilots refused to obey orders and escaped to the UK. Between the British Government and the Belgian Embassy in London it was agreed that all flying personnel would be integrated into the RAF. Consequently, 30 Belgian pilots participated in the Battle of Britain in September 1940 of whom 8 were killed. It took until June 1942 for an agreement to be reached between the Belgian Government in Exile (in London) and the British Government to incorporate Belgian pilots and ground crews into the RAF Volunteer Reserve.
BELGIAN RAF UNITS 1940 - 1946
In August 1940 a depot was raised at St Athan in Wales. (The depot was later transferred to Malvern and Goring-on-Thames). Two months later, a French-Belgian Pilot School opened in Odiham (Hampshire) where French and Belgian pilots were taught English before being sent to the British Flying Schools. On February 11 1941 a first Belgian "Flight" was created in the 609 Squadron. A second Belgian "Flight" followed six months later. Once there was enough personnel, the Belgian and British Governments decided to erect the first Belgian Squadron.
The 350 RAF Squadron was raised at Northolt on February 11 1942. The squadron received the Standard of the Belgian "Aéronautique Militaire", smuggled out of occupied Belgium to the UK. The Squadron participated in the raid on Dieppe on August 19 1942 and the Landing in Normandy on June 6 1944.The 350 Squadron always flew on Spitfire. In November 1942, a second Belgian Squadron was set up; the 349 Squadron. This squadron went to Africa where it was stationed on the West Coast. At the end of the Africa Campaign in July 1943, the squadron returned to the UK. The 349 Squadron participated in the Landing in Normandy. Both Squadrons took part in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 - January 1945) and the campaigns in Holland and Germany in 1945. Belgians also served in Bomber Command, Coastal Command, and in the Middle East (272 Squadron).
Between June 1 1940 and May 8 1945, 521 Belgian officers served as pilot or navigator in the RAF and 128 were killed. Overall, 1,200 Belgians served in the RAF during the course of the Second World War. Many were also trained in the South African Air Force SAAF, and consequently took part in the operations in Africa. From the 134 Belgians trained in the SAAF as flying personnel, 44 stayed in the SAAF, with 12 killed and 56 were transferred to the RAF.
On October 15 1946, the RAF Belgian Section was transferred to the Belgian Armed Forces.