Remy Van Lierde
|Remy Van Lierde
Portrait of Van Lierde in RAF uniform
14 August 1915|
|Died||8 June 1990
|Service/branch|| Belgian Air Force
Royal Air Force
|Years of service||1935–1940, 1946–1968 (BAF)
Squadron Leader (RAF)
|Commands held||No. 164 Squadron RAF
1st Fighter Wing
7th Fighter Wing
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Awards||Distinguished Flying Cross (UK) & 2 bars|
Colonel Remy Van Lierde DFC** (14 August 1915–8 June 1990) was a Belgian pilot and fighter ace who served during World War II in the Belgian and British Air Forces, shooting down six enemy aircraft and 44 V-1 flying bombs, and achieving the RAF rank of Squadron Leader. He returned to the Belgian Air Force after the war and went on to hold several important commands before retiring in 1968.
Early career and outbreak of war
He entered the Aviation Militaire Belge ("Belgian Military Aviation", the predecessor of the Belgian Air Force) on 16 September 1935. He first trained as an observer, but began pilot training on 1 May 1937, qualifying in April 1938. He was assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 1st Aviation Regiment.
With the rank of Sergeant he made several reconnaissance flights during the German invasion in an antiquated Fairey Fox III biplane. He was shot down by flak on 16 May 1940, was wounded and captured. In September 1940, after recovering from his injuries, he left Belgium, crossed occupied France, and entered neutral Spain. He was arrested for illegally crossing the border, and was confined in various Spanish prisons, including the notorious concentration camp at Miranda de Ebro. Nevertheless, he eventually escaped, and reached England on 22 July 1941.
Career in the Royal Air Force
After the standard interrogation by MI5 at the London Reception Centre, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve on 5 September. Van Lierde spent three months at No. 57 Operational Training Unit at RAF Hawarden, before being assigned to No. 609 Squadron on 6 January 1942 with the rank of Pilot Officer.
Van Lierde claimed his first victory while flying a Typhoon Ib on 20 January 1943 when he shot down a Bf 109-G fighter during a raid on the south coast. On 26 March he shot down a Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft while en route to an attack on the German air base at Chièvres. This was witnessed by local inhabitants, including Van Lierde's wife, who surprised her husband after the war by showing him pieces of wreckage from the aircraft at the bottom of his garden. On 14 May 1943 he was the first person to drop bombs from a Typhoon, and shot down a He 111 bomber on his return journey. He downed another Bf 109 on 30 July, and on 5 October he shot down a Junkers Ju 88 heavy fighter and destroyed another aircraft on the ground. His last victory, a Messerschmitt Bf 110 bomber was claimed on 30 November, bringing his score to 6 kills and 1 destroyed on the ground.
Van Lierde was promoted to Flight Lieutenant in September 1943 and on 22 December 1943 was posted to the Central Gunnery School at RAF Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, returning to RAF Manston on 7 February 1944.
On 27 April, he was posted to No. 3 Squadron, flying the Tempest Mk.V, before taking command of No. 164 Squadron on 20 August 1944 with the rank of Squadron Leader, tasked with combating the V-1 offensive. He was credited with shooting down or destroying 44 flying bombs solo, with another 9 shared, making him the second highest-scoring "doodlebug" killer.
Van Lierde then led his squadron into Europe during the western campaign. From May 1945 Van Lierde served in 84 Group Support Unit, and as a Belgian Liaison Officer at 2nd Tactical Air Force Headquarters.
Commissioned into the Belgian Air Force as a Major in June 1946, Van Lierde took command of the 1st Fighter Wing (formed from 350 and 349 Squadrons) at Beauvechain Air Base. From October 1947 to November 1950 he was Head of the Office of Group Operations, and also studied at the RAF Staff College in 1948. He was appointed Detachment Commander at Chièvres Air Base, and then on 1 December 1950 as Commander of the 7th Fighter Wing. In 1953 he was appointed to the Operations Group of Chiefs of Staff. Van Lierde was appointed Aide to the former King Leopold III in September 1953.
Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in September 1954 he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff to the Minister of Defence in September 1956. Appointed Colonel in September 1958, from early 1959 he was in command of the air base at Kamina in the Belgian Congo in the run-up to Congolese independence. He returned to Belgium, and served as Chief of Operations to the Chiefs of Staff, as Commander of 7th Fighter Wing, and Commander of the Chièvres Air Base. He retired on 1 January 1968.
Alleged encounter with a giant snake
On the episode of Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World entitled "Dragons, Dinosaurs and Giant Snakes", Van Lierde claims that in 1959 he encountered a giant snake in the Katanga region of the Belgian Congo while returning from a mission by helicopter. He claims to have then turned around and made several passes over the snake in order to allow another person on board to photograph the creature.
Van Lierde describes the snake as being close to 50 feet in length. He claims it was a dark shade of brown and green with a white coloured belly. He claimed the snake's head was 3 feet wide, and that the jaws were of a triangular shape.
Van Lierde claims that as he flew lower for a closer inspection, the snake rose up approximately 10 feet, giving the impression it would have attacked the helicopter if it had been within striking range.
- Peter Celis & Cynrik De Decker, Mony Van Lierde, Flying Pencil (2008) (Dutch)