The Airmen's Stories - Adj. F H E J A de Labouchere
Francois Henri Edmond Joseph Andre de Labouchere was born on 18th September 1917 at the Chateau d'Hauterive, Saint-Jean-le-Vieux in the Ain département.
His parents were Pierre de Labouchère (1886-1940) and Edith de Labouchère (nee de Bonnefoy 1889-1965).
His father was a senior officer in the 6th Dragoons and they were in action at Cavillon, west of Amiens when he was killed on 5th June.
For its heroic conduct, the 6th Dragoons received the following citation:
'On June 5, 1940, engaged with all its squadrons under the command of Colonel Jacottet, assisted by the squadron leader de Labouchere killed during the action, maintained against a very superior enemy in number and despite a violent bombardment all the points of support entrusted to him. Resistant until encirclement, only tried to break free on order: was able to bring back part of its workforce. From June 9 to June 11, engaged with his last platoons, contained for thirty-six hours a very superior enemy in number, inflicted heavy losses on him and fought until exhaustion. Has lost to date 2 officers and 348 officers and cavalry'.
In 1938 Francois de Labouchere joined l'Armee de l'Air as a pupil pilot at the flying school at Istres.
De Labouchere was still undergoing training at the flying school at Avord as the Armistice was signed by the French on 22nd June 1940. The flying school was evacuated first to the Pyrenees then by ship from Bayonne to Morocco.
Anxious to join the Free French in England, de Labouchere and several like-minded French airmen boarded the French armed trawler President Houduce in Casablanca on 3rd July 1940, arriving in Liverpool on the 13th.
De Labouchere and ten other French airmen went to RAF St. Athan for assessment and he was posted to No. 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum on 29th July. A weeks flying at Odiham followed, where he flew 15 hours on Tiger Moths and Hectors. He was then posted to 5 OTU Aston Down and, after converting to Hurricanes, he joined 85 Squadron as a Warrant Officer at Castle Camps on 13th September 1940.
He was next posted to 145 Squadron on 3rd December 1940 and moved to 242 Squadron at Stapleford Tawney on 26th April 1941. De Labouchere claimed his first victory on 23rd June, a Me109 shot down during a Blenheim escort.
On 18th April 1941 F/O Skalski, Capt. de Scitivaux and Adj. de Labouchere took off on a formation flying exercise which ended in disaster when all three aircraft collided. Skalski force-landed his Hurricane on the airfield, minus its propeller, de Scitivaux landed nearby but de Labouchere was obliged to bale out of Z2522.
On 13th September 1941 de Labouchere was posted to 615 Squadron at Manston and on the 18th he shot down another Me109.
In November 1941 the first Free French fighter unit was formed, 340 Squadron at Turnhouse. De Labouchere joined it on the 7th, as a Flight Commander. During the Dieppe operation on 19th August 1942 de Labouchere shot down two Do217s.
Over Rouen on 5th September 1942 he was leading Yellow section on Circus 214 when it was jumped by Fw190s out of the sun. All four aircraft were shot down, De Labouchere in Spitfire Vb GW-L BL803, and all four pilots were killed - Sgt. RAJ Taconet, Sgt. LB Thibaud and Adj. VJ Dubourgel.
De Labouchere's aircraft came down in the Bay of the Somme and his body was not recovered.
De Labouchere was awarded the Croix de la Liberation and the DFC (gazetted 23rd July 1942).
(Above: De Labouchere is commemorated (above) at his family home in Paris and (below) by a sports centre at 92 boulevard Flandrin, 75 Paris).
(Above images courtesy of www.aerosteles.net)