The Airmen's Stories - F/O N leC Agazarian
Berge Agazarian (1890-1944) was an Armenian who escaped persecution in his native Armenia, arriving in Liverpool in 1911. He went on to marry Jacqueline Marie-Louise de Chevalier, a young French woman sent to study in London. They remained in England and went on to have a successful electrical business and a family of three boys and two girls. The boys would serve in the RAF and one girl with the Air Transport Auxiliary, perhaps influenced by the WW1-surplus Sopwith Pup in their garden, it had been bought by their father.
Although only Noel flew in the Battle, the remarkable stories of his siblings are recorded here also.
Noel le Chevalier Agazarian was born on 26th December 1916, the third of the four brothers to be educated at Dulwich College. A fine athlete, he left from the Modern VI and went up to Wadham College, Oxford in 1935, taking an Honours degree in Jurisprudence in 1938. Agazarian was in the University Air Squadron and after coming down he joined the RAFVR and was commissioned in February 1939.
Called up at the outbreak of war, he went to 3 ITW Hastings in October, where he met future Battle airman Richard Hillary, who described him as 'cosmopolitan by nature, intelligent and a brilliant linguist'.
In November both men were posted to 15 FTS Lossiemouth. With the course completed they went to No.1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum in early May 1940 for further training. On 23rd June Agazarian went to 5 OTU Aston Down and, after converting to Spitfires, he joined 609 Squadron at Warmwell.
His first victory came on 11th August 1940 when he destroyed a Me110. On the 12th Agazarian shot down two Me109s and damaged a Me110. He shared in the destruction of another Me110 on the 25th. There were no further victories until the last week of September. Agazarian shared a He111 on the 25th, destroyed a Me109 and damaged two Do17s on the 26th, shot down a Me110 on the 27th and damaged a He111 on the 30th. Another Me109 was destroyed on 15th October.
Agazarian's final victory with 609 came on 2nd December when he shared a Do17 off Southampton with F/O Nowierski of 609.
Having volunteered for the Middle East, Agazarian was posted there in late January 1941 and joined 274 Squadron on 6th April at Amriya in the Western Desert. He shot down a Me109 over Tobruk on 1st May 1941 but on the 16th he was shot down and killed when 274 was intercepted by Me109s over Gambut.
Agazarian is buried in Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma, Libya.
His Spitfire from 1940, R6915, is now in the Imperial War Museum in London. Agazarian's portrait was done by Cuthbert Orde in 1940 (below).
Above: he is also commemorated in the Temple Church in London.
Monique Agazarian was born on 17th April 1920, she was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton and then sent to a finishing school in Paris.
At the outbreak of war she became a nurse with the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) stationed at the Royal Air Force station at Uxbridge.
She also nursed aircrew patients at the burns unit in Queen Victoria hospital in East Grinstead.
She was accepted for training by the Air Transport Auxiliary in 1943, one of only 10 young women similarly accepted. She claimed it was a childhood dream to fly, having once been taken to see Peter Pan. She was a fraction under the height limit but a sympathetic doctor passed her.
The ATA was mainly composed of qualified pilots over the age limit for military service plus some women pilots, their task was to ferry replacement aircraft of every type to operational squadrons to relieve the workload on combat pilots.
Wartime flying was of course hazardous, with patchy weather reports, blacked-out towns, the necessity for radio silence and the absence of navigation aids. There was also the possibility of meeting an enemy aircraft or engine failure.
Postwar Monique Agazarian gained her commercial pilot's licence and embarked on a career in civil aviation starting with piloting for Island Air Services, a small charter company based at Croydon. By 1948 she had become Managing Director of IAS, which was expanding. She married Captain Ray Rendall, a fellow commercial pilot, who took over as MD of IAS while Monique became chairman as well as chief pilot. They had three daughters.
She was instrumental in the development of flight simulators, an early model installed in a room of the Grosvenor Hotel, London. She was the author of an extremely popular manual on instrument flying.
Monique Agazarian died in London on 3rd March 1993 from cancer.
Levon Berdj Agazarian was born in London on 31st July 1914. He was educated at Dulwich College. Before the outbreak of the Second World War he worked in France, and then served with the Scots Guards.
Agazarian joined the RAF in 1940 and was commissioned two years later. In 1942 he was flying Hurricanes with 17 Squadron in defence of Calcutta. For a runway the Hurricanes used the Red Road running parallel with Chowringhee, the city's main thoroughfare.
He later transferred to the Chindits, going on patrols behind Japanese lines in Burma. The RAF members of the columns made effective air support and jungle air rescue possible. Maj-Gen. Orde Wingate, the leader of the Chindits, appointed Agazarian as his ADC. The brigade commander, Brigadier Mike Calvert, recalled that he was 'very brave and with an attacking spirit if somewhat of a wild card'.
His next posting in 1944 was to 146 Squadron, flying P-47 Thunderbolts. The squadron specialised in low-level strikes and contributed to the success of the 14th Army's campaign in Burma.
Shortly before VJ Day in 1945 Agazarian was sent out on a lecture tour of the United States. Upon his release from the RAF he established an import business in New York. He was a president of the P-47 Thunderbolt Pilots Association.
Agazarian married Sonia Izmirlian, a Khartoum-born Armenian. He died in Nice, France in 1995.
Jack Charles Stanmore Agazarian was born on 27th August 1915 and educated in both France and England at Dulwich College. After completing his education he worked with his father in the family business.
After joining the RAF at the outbreak of war, he was recruited as a wireless operator by the SOE. In December 1942 Agazarian arrived in Paris to join the newly formed Prosper network of the SOE.
He was joined later by his wife Françoise Isabella (nee Andre 1913-1999) operating separately under the codename Francine.
Jack Agazarian became known to the Gestapo and on several occasions he narrowly escaped arrest.
There was a strong suspicion that the circuit had been compromised and on 16th June 1943 Agazarian was returned to England by Lysander.
Tasked with trying to rebuild Prosper, he returned to France on 22nd July 1943 but was captured by the Germans at a network meeting in Paris.
He endured torture for six months at Fresnes prison and was then moved to Flossenbürg concentration camp. After being kept there in solitary confinement, Agazarian was executed on 29th March 1945.
He is commemorated on the Runnymede Memorial, on the SOE memorial at Flossenbürg and also on the Roll of Honour on the Valençay SOE Memorial in France.