The Airmen's Stories - Adj. H J Bouquillard
Henri Jacques Bouquillard was born at Nevers on 14th June 1908. Called up for military service in 1928 he was posted to the Chasseurs Alpin and stayed as a Sergeant in the Reserve once his service with them was over.
He had developed an interest in aviation and decided to pursue this instead of studying as a lawyer as his family expected. His family being wealthy, he was able to purchase his own aircraft and enrolled in a flying school at Orly, Paris run by French female aviator Maryse Bastié.
He was able to transfer his Reserve obligation to the l'Armee de l'Air and gained his military wings in July 1938.
Mobilized at the outbreak of war with the rank of sergeant, Bouquillard was frustrated in his desire to serve in a combat unit, being posted to the military flying school at Avord for advanced training after which he was posted as an instructor to the flying school at Salon-de-Provence.
In May 1940 he was posted, still as an instructor, to Marrakesh in French Morocco. After the Armistice in June 1940 Bouquillard defied orders to stay put in Oran and made his way to Casablanca, being recorded by his unit as having deserted on 7th July 1940. With other French servicemen seeking to escape, he stowed away on a cargo ship, the Oak Crest, which had been chartered by the British to carry Polish troops to Britain. After a stop at Gibraltar they landed at Greenock on 17th July 1940 and Bouquillard arrived in London two days later to enlist in the RAF.
He was sent with other French airmen to RAF St. Athan for assessment, this resulted in Bouquillard and ten others being posted to No.1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum on 29th July. A week's flying at Odiham followed on 10th August where he flew Tiger Moths and Hectors. On the 18th Bouquillard went to 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge and, after converting to Hurricanes, he joined 245 Squadron at Aldergrove, Northern Ireland on 12th September.
He moved to 615 Squadron at Prestwick on the 18th and finally to 249 Squadron at North Weald on 1st October. Bouquillard was in action at last and damaged a Do17 on 16th October but two days later he made a forced-landing at Padfields Farm, Church Road, Thornwood Common after running out of fuel on the landing circuit.
He was shot down by a Me109 over North Kent on 25th October and made a forced-landing at Rochester. Seriously wounded, Bouquillard was admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital at Chatham. After a short convalescence he rejoined 615, just before Christmas 1940. He was the oldest pilot on the squadron.
Commissioned in February 1941, Bouquillard was appointed Compagnon de la Liberation. He was shot down by two Me109s on 11th March 1941 in Hurricane IIa Z2757 and was killed when he dived into the ground near Tilbury, Essex. He was buried on the 15th at Whyteleafe near Kenley.
Bouquillard later became the first member of the Free French Air Force to be appointed Membre du Conseil de l'Ordre de la Liberation. His remains were repatriated to his home town of Nevers after the war and lie in the family vault at Jean Gauthern Cemetery. There is also a memorial in the town (below).
Above image courtesy of aerosteles.net