The Airmen's Stories - P/O J H M Offenberg
Jean Henri Marie
Offenberg was born at Laeken, Brussels on 3rd July 1916. His father was from Rotterdam in Holland and his mother was Belgian, Offenberg did not take Belgian nationality until 1935.
When the Germans invaded Belgium he was a pilot in 2 Group, 4th Squadron, 2nd Regiment d'Aeronautique. He destroyed a Do17 on 10th May.
After the country was overrun he flew with other pilots and their Fiat CR42s to France. At the request of the French the Belgians were put on aerodrome defence at Chartres.
Offenberg and his fellow Belgian, AR Jottard, took two Caudron Simouns on 20th June and flew to Corsica, then to Phillipeville, Algeria, then to Oujda, where the Belgians had set up a training school. Finding morale
there to be low the two took a train to Casablanca. Here they met some other Belgians, who were trainee pilots, and some Poles.
Above: Jottard (left) and Offenberg.
The Poles had permission to sail that evening in a cargo boat for Gibraltar. The Belgians and some French airmen slipped aboard with them. They transferred to a British ship at Gibraltar and disembarked at Liverpool on 16th July 1940.
Offenberg went to 6 OTU Sutton Bridge on the 30th and on 17th August he joined 145 Squadron at Westhampnett. He claimed a Do17 destroyed on 8th September, probably destroyed a Me109 on 27th October, destroyed a Me109 on 1st November, shared a Me109 on the 6th, damaged a Ju88 on the 9th and shared a He111 on 11th December.
On 5th May 1941 Offenberg claimed a Me109 destroyed plus a He60 with another damaged. He was appointed 'B' Flight Commander on 21st May 1941 and awarded the DFC in June, the first Belgian to receive this award.
On 17th June 1941 Offenberg was posted to 609 Squadron at Biggin Hill. He destroyed a Me109 on 22nd June and another on 7th July. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre (Belgian) on the 21st and became 'B' Flight Commander on the 27th.
Offenberg probably destroyed Me109's on 19th July, 6th August, 27th and 29th August and damaged two more on 27th September and 13th October.
Whilst training a new pilot on 22nd January 1942, Offenberg was subjected to a mock attack by a pilot of 92 Squadron. This resulted in a collision and the tail unit of Offenberg's aircraft was cut off. He was only at 1000 feet, went into a vertical dive and was killed in the crash.
He was buried with full military honours on 26th January in Scopwick Church Burial Ground. As well as his five confirmed victories Offenberg was credited with five enemy aircraft probably destroyed and seven others damaged.
After the war his remains were reinterred
at the Pelouse d’Honneur Cemetry in Brussels at Evere.
Above: the Liebig card collection included Offenberg in their 'Belgian Air aces' series
Photos and additional research courtesy of Andre Bar at www.bamfbamrs.be/RAF/index.htm