The Airmen's Stories - Sgt. R E de Cannart d'Hamale
Roger Emile de Cannart d’Hamale was born on 22nd August 1919 at Saint-Gilles, a municipality of Brussels. He was educated at the Sacred Heart school there followed by enrolment in the College of Saint-Jean Berckmans.
Deciding on a military aviation career d'Hamale took the entrance exam for second-lieutenants in February 1938 and on 1st September he was admitted to the Belgian Air Force as a member of intake 78. On 16th August 1939 he qualified as a pilot and was posted to 7 Squadron of III Group of the 3rd Regiment flying the Fairey Fox.
Above: d'Hamale standing, second from left.
Below: d'Hamale (left) in the pilot's position in a Fairey Fox)
On 10th May 1940, the first day of the German invasion, d'Hamale was operating from Le Zoute airfield and was ordered to fly to Lonzee airfield in company with his Observer Captain Abel Maquet. On 12th May, early in the morning, he was detailed for a sortie over Huy, this was flown with Observer Flying Officer Lippens. The German advance was so rapid that they moved again to Fosses airfield, east of Charleroi but stayed for just one day, moving again to Aalter, west of Ghent.
On the morning of 18th May Aalter airfield was attacked and most of the remaining aircraft were destroyed on the ground. The order to evacuate to Saint-Omer in France was given and after stops at Alençon and Charentilly the squadron reformed at Tours airfield in France where they were told that they were to assemble at Moissac in the south of France and await the armistice.
Roger de Cannart d’Hamale managed to leave Moissac and made his way to England, landing at Plymouth on 20th June 1940. On this day the light cruiser ARETHUSA and destroyer BERKELEY evacuated the staff of the British Embassies of Brussels and Paris from Le Verdon near Bordeaux so he may have sailed with them.
As he was already fluent in English he was able to convert to the Hurricane at 7 OTU Hawarden and was then posted to 266 Squadron at Wittering as a Sergeant pilot. As this squadron was equipped with Spitfires he was rapidly reassigned to 46 Squadron at Digby on 13th August 1940.
On 1st September 46 Squadron was moved nearer to the combat zone at North Weald and was in action on the 3rd. On the 11th d'Hamale's section engaged a formation of Do17s escorted by Me110s and Me109s. His Hurricane, V6549, was shot down and d’Hamale baled out, landing with a head injury at Court Lodge, Bodiam, Sussex. His aircraft came down at School Fields, Sandhurst, Kent.
On 17th October, flying in very poor visibility, d'Hamale ran out of fuel and crash-landed, unhurt, at Parkers Farm, Abbess Roding, Essex.
On 1st November 1940 the squadron was patrolling over Hawkinge when it was engaged by Me109s. D’Hamale's aircraft, V7616, was seen to fall away from the combat and crash at Smersole Farm, Swingfield, Dover. D’Hamale did not bale out and was killed. His oxygen line had been shot away but it is not known if this was the reason for his loss.
He was buried in England, probably at Hawkinge, and his body repatriated to the Pelouse d’Honneur in Brussels after the war.
Photos and additional research courtesy of Andre Bar at www.bamfbamrs.be/RAF/index.htm