The Loss of Squadron Leader Henri Gonay
14th June 1944
Service Number: 81635
Unit:. 263 Squadron
Aircraft Type: Typhoon Ib
Base: RAF Harrowbeer, Yelverton, Devon.
On the 14th June 1944 Squadron Leader Henri Gonay had been leading an eight-plane attack on a shipping convoy south of Jersey. On his return to the base, he spotted targets on the Island and engaged them, but was hit by German Flak.
His damaged RAF Typhoon 1B fighter flew north-west, but more flak from German batteries brought it down near Grantez at around 9 am. Below is the German Flak Range map and we have marked the crash site.
Henri Alphonse Clement Gonay was born on 21st July 1913 at Theux and joined the Belgian Air Force in November 1931. He was promoted to Corporal on 24th May 1933 and posted to the 2nd Regiment de Chasse at Schaffen. An exceptional pilot, he was transferred as an instructor to the Flying School at Wevelghem in November 1938.
Gonay was transferred as Adjutant to the 3rd Escadrille at Deurne (Antwerp) when the Germans invaded Belgium. His unit left the country three days later and went to Tours (France) and later on to Bordeaux. After the capitulation of France, Gonay and his colleagues Phillipart, Dieu and Buchin deserted and boarded the Dutch ship Queen Emma at Bayonne, it sailed for England, and they arrived at Plymouth on 23rd June 1940.
Gonay was commissioned in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a Pilot Officer on 12th July. He would be known by the nickname Moustique (Mosquito) during his RAF service.
Gonay joined 235 Squadron on 5th August. He shared in destroying a He59 off Cherbourg on 8th October. He was posted away on the 23rd to instruct at the French-Belgian Flying School at Odiham.
On 23rd June 1941 Gonay was posted to 58 Operational Training Unit to convert to Spitfires.
Promoted to Flying Officer, his subsequent postings were 123 Squadron at Drem, followed by 64 Squadron and then 131 Squadron at Atcham on 28th September, where he became commander of 'B' Flight, composed entirely of Belgian pilots. He was an Acting Flight Lieutenant.
He was awarded the Croix de Guerre (Belgium )(gazetted 21st July 1941).
"Belgian Pilot Officer that excellently led his squadron during three attacks on Dieppe and that flying at a low altitude, assured the safety of the ground forces and fought off attacks of enemy bombers excellently."
Received with bronze palm.
On 14th October 1941 131's commanding officer, Squadron Leader JM Thompson, moved with twelve Belgian pilots, Gonay amongst them, to RAF Valley. There they formed the first entirely Belgian fighter squadron, 350 Squadron.
Gonay next went to 232 Squadron at Atcham on 17th April 1942 and was awarded the Croix de Guerre (France) for the Dieppe operation on 19th August. He was posted to command 129 Squadron on 31st August as a Squadron Leader and led it until September 1943.
After a course at the Central Gunnery School, he converted to Hawker Typhoons and took command of 263 Squadron on 24th February 1944 at Beaulieu.
Gonay's award of the DFC was gazetted on 2nd July 1944, the citation stating that he had completed 138 operational sorties.
"Squadron Leader H. Gonay has completed 138 operational sorties and has displayed outstanding ability, courage, and determination which have contributed largely to the successes achieved by his squadron. Squadron Leader Gonay has destroyed one enemy aircraft and damaged further three. He has also sunk a 100-ton support vessel".
The Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, General Dwight D Eisenhower, accompanied by senior Army and RAF officers, examines a Hawker Typhoon Mark IB of No. 609 Squadron RAF during a tour of inspection of No. 123 Wing at B77/Gilze-Rijen, Netherlands.
June 14, 1944
Local diary entry by Leslie Sinel
"Planes, planes, planes from midnight onwards, but very little A.A. At about 2.30 a.m., sounds of naval gunfire which shook the Island came from the direction of the Minquiers, and then from 4 o'clock onwards, there was much activity in the harbours.
Three torpedo boats or mine sweepers were brought in during the morning, and two were placed on the " hard, " both torn open above the water-line. The third was so badly damaged that torpedoes had to be removed and put on shore.
This was the result of a naval engagement, later described by the B.B.C.; a destroyer of the Tribal Class and a Polish destroyer had encountered seven enemy minesweepers off the Island and had gone into action at 3,000 yards; it was claimed three were sunk, one probably sunk, and two left burning.
Casualties were brought up all morning and taken to the various hospitals. It is believed that there were over 200 wounded and many dead. At about 9 a.m., Allied planes attacked five escort vessels off Noirmont; one sank immediately and another a few minutes later. Still later in the morning, planes bombed guns at St. Ouen's and machine-gunned positions around the Airport. German A.A. opened up, and, unfortunately, one of the planes was hit and crashed into a house at Grantez, St. Ouen's; the house was burned out, and the pilot (unidentified) burned to death. The Germans are calling in civilian curfew passes, the only exception being expectant mothers."
Below is the official Jersey casualty report and help from the red cross to identify the airman.
Local diary entry by Nan Le Ruez
"It has been a very upsetting and trying day. At 9 o'clock I was just
writing a note for Joyce to take to Elsie when suddenly the air was filled with the noise of gunfire of all kinds and of planes. I went to the attic, which I shouldn't have done, and I was scared for a shell exploded quite close and I heard falling shrapnel and a plane very low. The Germans were shooting all the time, and I found it strange that the plane was going so slowly instead of trying to escape. It disappeared behind trees, and then I saw a huge column of black smoke. Even then, I hoped the plane had not crashed, but to my sorrow, it had. Raymond went to find out where. The plane had crashed straight unto Grantez Farm, where Maman Amy used to live, and the house and outbuildings had been completely burnt out. No attempt could be made to save a scrap of anything, and no Fire Brigade was sent for because the Germans refused to let anyone near. They were pleased to see it burn, no doubt. "
Henri Gonay was formerly buried at the St. Helier War Cemetery (above), Jersey. He was reinterred in Belgium in 1949. In 2014, to mark the 70th anniversary of the crash, a Jersey road close to the crash site was named after him.
Sources of Information
German Documents are housed at The National Archived in Washington or Archive in Kew UK
T-78 Roll 318
T-78 Roll 317
T-315 Roll 1639
T-315 Roll 1643
T-311 Roll 27
T-312 Roll 1545
AOK 7 War Diary
OKW War Diary
photos and additional research courtesy
of Andre Bar at www.bamfbamrs.be/RAF/index.htmOperation
ITV News Jersey
Battle of Britain Monument
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Green Arrow - Occupation of the Channel Islands MOD 584
Allied Technical Intelligence Reports 1944-45
Leslie Sinels Occupation Diary
Nan Le Ruez Diary
German Preparations for Invasion of the United Kingdom 1941-42
B-833, 319th Infantry Division (1941-45)
German Seacoast Defenses, European Theatre - prepared by the Seacoast Artillery Evaluation Board
Jersey Occupied by Michael Ginns - ISBN 978-1-905095-29-2
RAF Photos care of The National Collection of Aerial Photography
Bundesarchiv - Multiple Photos - and Files
A Map of slave labour camps. Kindly Provided by Emilio Pérez
Photo's and information provided by supporters & Members
Onsite visits & internet research
After the Battle Multiple Magazines
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