The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. O G Lejeune
Olivier George Lejeune was born in the Uccle municipality of Brussels, Belgium on 8th June 1917, the family hailed from Ostend. After attending school he applied to study Philosophy and Literature at the Catholic University of Leuven. Before taking up his place he volunteered for two years service in the Belgian Air Force and on 1st June 1939 he joined the 81st intake at Wevelgem. He was awarded his elementary flying badge on 1st September 1939.
He was promoted to Corporal in February 1940 and passed out as a fully qualified pilot on 25th April 1940. His first posting, now a Sergeant, was to 3/I/3, the night reconnaisance squadron of the 3rd Aviation Regiment, operating the Fairey Fox from Evere, Brussels.
With the German attack on 10th May his squadron deployed to their forward airfield of Neerwinden. On landing Lejeune's aircraft was hit by German strafers and he received facial injuries. Sent to Leuven military hospital, he was later evacuated to Brussels and then Ostend. By the time he recovered his unit has retreated to Charentilly near Tours in France. He had to make his way there through crowds of refugees via Boulogne, Dieppe, Nantes, Montpelier, Marseille and Paris, eventually catching up with them on 31st May.
The unit moved to Pompignan in southern France on 20th June but Lejeune and many of his squadron colleagues decided to make their way to England to avoid capture under the coming armistice.
The party made their way to St. Jean de Luz near the Spanish border and boarded the SS Ettrick, which landed them at Plymouth on 27th May. Lejeune was taken to a processing centre at Tenby from where he enlisted in the RAFVR as a Sergeant. He arrived at 5 OTU Aston Down on 16th July to convert to Blenheims. His first posting was 235 Squadron, operating Blenheims at Bircham Newton, on 4th August 1940.
Belgians of 235 Squadron (L to R):
Sgt. ACA Michiels, Sgt. FA Venesoen, Sgt. RJG Demoulin, Sgt. OG Lejeune, Sgt. L Heimes.
He served with them during the Battle until late October when he was one of the pilots sent to Aldergrove to form 272 Squadron, which operated Blenheims on anti-shipping operations.
In May 1941 the squadron converted to Beaufighters and was sent via Gibraltar to Egypt. They were immediately sent to provide fighter cover for the evacuation of Crete. They then continued on on convoy escort and intruder missions plus an occasional anti-shipping operation. On a deployment to Malta on 24th September 1941 Lejeune and two other Belgian pilots attacked and damaged two Ju52s over the Gulf of Bomba.
272 took part in the unsuccessful 'Operation Crusader' in November 1941, operating from LG10 and returning to their base at Edku near Alexandria when it ended. He was commissioned on 25th May 1942, was rested and returned to the UK.
His next posting was 3 Delivery Flight, followed by service with 5 Advanced Flying Unit at Ternhill until October 1942 and 61 OTU at Rednal until November 1942. He then spent a month at Gatwick familiarising himself on the Curtiss Tomahawk. This was to prepare him for service with 349 (Belgian) Squadron at RAF Ikeja near Lagos in Nigeria, the squadron being formed on 10th November 1942.
Intended for local defence duties, the squadron did not become operational with Lejeune and the other pilots being used for ferrying aircraft to the Middle East instead. The squadron was disbanded in May 1943 and Lejeune returned to 272 in Egypt.
He was engaged in intense strafing and anti-shipping sorties until July 1943 when he was rested with a posting to 4 Ferry Control Unit. Always agitating to return to his Belgian colleagues in 272, Lejeune returned to them at Catania, Sicily in October 1943. In early 1944 he returned to England and served in a number of Belgian-related appointments, including a stay in the RAF Hospital Halton for an unknown ailment. He led a detachment of Belgian airmen in the victory parade in London in 1945.
Lejeune decided to serve in the reformed Belgian Air Force and returned to Coxyde in Belgium in June 1946 as commanding officer.
On 10th April 1947 Belgian Air Force C-47 K-14 of 366 Squadron, 169 Wing at Evere, Belgium was scheduled to deliver the ferry crew of an Oxford, one of whom was Lejeune, to Prestwick. It would then return with two crews of other C-47s that had brought their aircraft to the maintenance facility there.
It is believed that the C-47 became lost in very poor conditions as it struck the summit known as Carlin's Cairn (2647 ft.) in Galloway Forest Park. Lejeune was killed as were the five others on board:
Capt. Loyen (pilot)
Adj. Dierickx (navigator)
Adj. Curtis (radio op.)
Adj. Cardon (Oxford crew)
Adj. Rodrique (Oxford crew)
Lejeune is buried in the family grave at Ostend.
He was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm and made a Chevalier of the Order of Leopold.
Photos and additional research courtesy of Andre Bar at www.bamfbamrs.be/RAF/index.htm