Where and how it all started: 131 (County of Kent) Squadron RAF      

(Pictures kindly provided by André BAR from Custer's album, Collection Jean-Louis Roba and Collection Philippe Deman)

No 131 (County of Kent) Squadron RAF - ORB entries relating to the Belgian Flight. 
(© Geoff Kennell - Serge Bonge  no reproduction without permission.)


131 Squadron R.F.C. was originally formed on 15 March 1918, just two weeks before the RFC and the RNAS merged on 1 April 1918 to become the RAF. It then became 131 Squadron RAF, and was a training squadron with D.H.4’s and F.E.2b’s at RAF Shawbury, Shropshire – where it disbanded on 17 August 1918.

131 (County of Kent) Squadron reformed on 30 June 1941 at RAF Ouston, Northumberland and, from late August 1941, had a large proportion of Belgian pilots – the Belgian flight being the squadrons B Flight. The Squadron became operational in October and had several abortive scrambles. However, the Belgian Flight, and the CO, moved from RAF Atcham, Shropshire to RAF Valley, Anglesey to form 350 (Belgian) Squadron on 12 November 1941.

(Jean-Louis Roba Collection)


Organisation memorandum No 57 dated 21/8/41 received from Headquarters No 9 Group giving notification of formation of Belgian Flight in No 131 Squadron.



(Front row L-R : De Puysseleyr, Smets, Picard, Gonay, Deltour, Guillaume, Boussa, Plisnier, Arend. Back row : ?, De Wever, Plas, Menu, Ester, Harmel and Seydel)
(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)


Pilot Officer G.F.D Deltour. F.P.9327, Pilot Officer X.L.A. Menu, Pilot Officer J.V. de Puysseleyr 87692, P/O R de Wever and 1299926 Sgt G.M. Seydel, Belgian pilots posted in for flying duties from No 58 O.T.U.


(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)

(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)


87697 P/O M.J. Plas, 87693 P/O H.A. Picard, 87694 P/O H.J.J. Smets and P/O A.M.A.T.V. Plisnier, Belgian pilots posted in from No 58 O.T.U. for flying duties. P/O N.M.G de Hemptinne posted in from No 609 Squadron for flying duties and with a view to being considered for the post of Flight Commander of the Belgian Flight.

(H. Picard)(Jean-Louis Roba Collection)


Pilot Officers Arend, Boussa, and Guillaume, Belgian pilots posted to this unit for flying duties.


(On the ground L - R: Seydel, Deltour, ? . On the plane : ?, De Wever, ?, ?, Boussa, ?)(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)



Pilot Officer B.H. De Hemptinne promoted to the War Substantive rank of Flying Officer with effect from the 30th July 1941.


F/O De Hemptinne posted to No 64 (F) Squadron, Turnhouse on authority of No 9 Group.


(Left to Right: De Wever, Arend, Gonay, Smets, Deltour, ?, Menu and de Puysseleyr)(André BAR Collection )


P/O E.J. Plas (87697) in Spitfire R6771 landed with his wheels up, having omitted to lower them. At the time he had 41 hours on Spitfires, and 85 hours solo in total. The cause of the accident was attributed to 'Gross carelessness'.

        (Sitting : Deltour. Standing L -R : Van Leerberghe, ?, ?, Menu, Plas, Smets)
                                (André Bar Collection from Custer's album)



Flight Lieutenant H.A.C. Gonay posted in from No 64 Squadron to fill the post of Flight Commander of the Belgian Flight in the squadron.

(Flight Commander : F/Lt H. Gonnay)(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)



Flight Lieutenant S.P.V. Bird posted out to No 135 Squadron on handing over to Flight Lieutenant H.A.C. Gonay.

(Left to Right: ?, ?, Deltour, Plas, Gonay, De Wever, Plisnier, Guillaume and Boussa)
(André BAR Collection)


Henri Picard - It was told by one of the 131 sqdn ground staff that he was the pilot of Spitfire AR218 which collided with the squadron's Miles Magister 'hack' R1977 on the 28/9/41 at RAF Atcham. The two occupants of the Magister were both killed, P/O P Chub (65521) & Sgt S.D. Lee were both killed. I should say that I've not found any confirmation that Picard was indeed the pilot.

The account is as follows- 'Whilst at Atcham, 131 'B' flight had a bad day. A flying accident in the true sense of the word. I have never forgotten this day. I had obtained permission from Flying Control for P/O Picard to take-off on sector recce (remember the Belgian aircrew had just joined 131 and had started their programme). I can remember him taxying past our flight HQ to take up position on No 1 runway. In the mean time 'A' flight's Magister had just landed and was taxying down the runway when P/O Picard took off. I grabbed the Very pistol and ran out to the 'perim', I think Corporal Redman had seen this too, took the pistol from me and ran towards the runway fireing red warning shots towards P/O Picard's Spit, too late for him to see the Magister, he was at full throttle by now and the tail had just come up, he collided with the Magister at Midships, an absolute tragedy. P/O Chub was already dead when we arrived on scene and Sgt Lee was badly injured, he died later that day. Remember we had no such thing as 'Airfield Control' in those days and during the Court of enquirey, the question of 'permission for take-off' was mentioned. I think this might have been the start of 'Airfield Control', as we came to know them as the war went on'

The Atcham ORB has this to say on the 28th, - 'There was an unfortunate incident this afternoon when a Spitfire of 131 sqn taking off apparantly failed to see a Miles Magister on the runway, collided with it when just airborne, and killed the two occupants of the Magister, P/O Chub and Sgt Lee.'

The 131 sqdn ORB Summary says- '65521 Pilot Officer P Chubb and 927861 Sergeant S.D. Lee, pilot and passenger respectivly of squadron's Magister aircraft were killed when the Magister was struck by a Spitfire aircraft taking off.'

In the part where the flights are recorded, the Magister's sortie is recorded as being 'To Hucknall', with take off from Atcham at 14.40 & landing at Hucknall at 15.35. The return journey was commenced at 16.00 & they landed back at Atcham at 16.40 hrs. It goes on to say 'Machine involved in accident with Spitfire AR218 killing both P/O Chubb and Sgt Lee'

Getting back to Picard, another ground crew remembered that he 'was very popular with the ground crews, they were teaching him English'.


(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)


(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)


J. Ester posted in for flying duties from No 53 O.T.U.

(Left to Right: Plisnier, De Wever, Plas and Deltour)(André BAR Collection)


Visit paid to squadron by Lieutenant General F.H.T. van Strydonck de Burkel (Bart), Inspector General of the Belgian Forces and Colonel L.F.E. Wouters, C.B.E., M.C., Belgian Military and Air Attache.


Spitfire P.7422 (pilot, Flight Lieutenant H.A.C. Gonay), made forced landing on beach near Golf Course, Prestatyn, North Wales, owing to lack of petrol.


(Albert Custers standing in front of a Spitfire MK IIa)
(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)


(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)


Pilot Officers R.A. Guillaume and A.L. Boussa posted out to No 79 squadron, Fairwood Common, for flying duties.


Squadron Leader J.M. Thompson posted to No 350 Squadron, Valley, to Command. Squadron Leader M.G.F. Pedley posted from No 61 O.T.U. to command this unit. Flight Lieutenant H.A.C. Gonay, Pilot Officers G.F. Deltour, R. De Wever, J. De Puysseleyr, X.L. Menu, H.A. Picard, A.M. Plisnier, M.J. Plas, and J.J. Smets and Sergeants G.M. Seydel, L.G. Ester, and L.J. Harmel (Belgian pilots) posted to No 350 Squadron, Valley, for flying duties.


(André Bar Collection from Custer's album)


Samples from Xavier Menu's logbook  ( Kindly provided by Philippe Deman)


(Sample of Xavier Menu's Logbook)(Philippe Deman Collection)

(Sample of Xavier Menu's Logbook)(Philippe Deman Collection)

(Sample of Xavier Menu's Logbook)(Philippe Deman Collection)