The Airmen's Stories - P/O L J Dejace
Leopold Joseph Dejace was born in Liege, Belgium on 24th January 1909. In March 1926 he obtained his civil pilot's licence before entering the Belgian Air Force in the 52nd intake in September 1927. He continued in service till February 1938 when he was taken off flying duties but had recovered by July that year. At the time of the German attack on 10th May 1940 he was serving with squadron 5/III/2 operating the Fairey Fox from Schaffen. The squadron joined in the general retreat through France, ending up near Montpelier. Deciding like many other Belgian airmen to escape capture under the terms of the coming armistice, he made his way to Brest and was able to embark on the Polish ship Sobieski, landing at Plymouth on 27th June 1940.
He was processed through the depot at RAF Gloucester to 5 OTU Aston Down to convert to Blenheims. His first posting was 236 Squadron where he arrived on 5th August. He served there alongside many other Belgians till November 1940 when he was posted to the newly-formed 272 Squadron, equipping in Northern Ireland with the Beaufighter.
The squadron moved to Egypt via Gibraltar and operated over Malta and North Africa. Dejace was posted back to the UK in October 1941 to join 1403 Met Flight (later absorbed into 1401 Met Flight), operating Mosquitos and other aircraft from Bircham Newton gathering weather data over Europe and the North Sea. On 26th July Dejace was lost when Mosquito IV DK289 was shot down off the Lista peninsula on the Norwegian coast. His body was washed ashore but his navigator Sgt. GA Prag was never found.
Dejace was buried in Arendal Hogedal Cemetery but on 12th May 1960 he was repatriated to his home town and he now lies in Robertmont Communal Cemetery, Liege.
The headstone at Arendal remains in place (below).
Above cemetery images courtesy of The War Graves Photographic Project