The Airmen's Stories - P/O R F F G Malengrau
Roger Fernand Fulgeance Ghislaine Malengrau was born in Brussels with his twin sister on 1st August 1914. His father and uncle (also twins) were the inspiration for Thomson and Thompson, the two bowler-hatted detectives in ‘Herge’s Adventures of Tintin ’. Malengreau was educated in Brussels at the Jesuit College of St. Michel and entered the Belgian Royal Military Academy in 1934.
Graduating in November 1936, he was commissioned and joined the Aviation Militaire Belge. He was at the School of Navigation in 1937 and qualified as a pilot in 1938.
Malengreau joined an Army Co-operation Squadron, flying Fairey Foxes. The squadron moved to an airfield near Liege on 10th May 1940 but was wiped out by enemy action, mostly on the ground, on the 12th. The pilots escaped to France but there were no replacement aircraft found for them.
On 21st June the French signed an Armistice with the Germans and the Belgians were ordered to stay put. With other pilots, Malengreau reached Port Vendres, where with the help of a British destroyer and the support of the Belgian Embassy in London, they caught a passing convoy and embarked on the SS Apapa on the 24th.
After arriving in Liverpool on 7th July the Belgians went to Beeston Castle, Cheshire until 13th July when they were moved to 7 School of Technical Training.
Malengreau was commissioned in the RAFVR and posted to 7 OTU Hawarden on the 19th and after converting to Hurricanes he joined 87 Squadron at Exeter on 12th August and flew his first interception patrol the next day.
Above L to R: F/O R Watson, Sgt. LA Thorogood, P/O RFF Malengrau (BEL), F/lt. IR Gleed, F/O KW Tait (NZ), F/O RMS Rayner.
Above L to R: F/O RMS Rayner, P/O RFF Malengrau, W/Cdr. JS Dewar.
Images courtesy of the collection of F/O R Watson.
Malengreau was posted to 56 Squadron at North Weald on 8th December 1940 and flew in the early sweeps over Northern France. He moved to 609 Squadron at Biggin Hill on 7th April 1941 and on 30th June he shared a probable Me109 with Paul Richey on a Blenheim-escort to Lens.
In October 1942 Malengreau left 609, having then carried out 178 operational sorties. He was offered the job of forming a new Belgian squadron, 349. After accepting he found that its base was to be in Lagos, Nigeria.
Malengreau arrived in West Africa on 1st January 1943. On the voyage from the UK the planes on the ship’s deck were smashed by severe gales. Subsequently Malengreau and his fellow pilots were usefully employed ferrying fighters which had been landed by sea in West Africa across to Khartoum, then up to Egypt to reinforce the Desert Air Force.
At his request the squadron was recalled to the UK in June 1943 and Malengreau relinquished his command and went on sick leave.
In October 1943 he was posted to HQ Fighter Command. In May 1944 he was on a twin-engine conversion course but was recalled to Bentley Priory for D-Day.
Malengreau requested special service and was detached in July to the 12th US Army Group, with which he witnessed the liberation of Paris and Brussels.
When Belgium was completely liberated, Malengreau became a liaison officer between SHAEF and the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Malengreau began a career in the Belgian Foreign Service in August 1945, during the course of which he served in China and Africa and was Ambassador to Malaysia, Singapore and later Chile.
In 1948 he was posted to Peking where he encountered many difficulties following upon Mao’s civil war with the Nationalists.
In the upheaval Malengreau assisted a Manchu princess, a daughter of the Empress Dowager Tzu Hsi, to preserve financial resources banked in Belgium. He was also concerned with the safety of Belgian missionaries and priests of whom there were many in China at the time.
He was made an honorary CBE in 1988 by Britain.
Malengrau died in June 1996.