August 10, 1920|
|Died||December 2, 2011(aged 91)|
|Years of service||1938-1966|
|Unit||Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres|
|Battles/wars||Battle of Britain|
|Awards||Croix de Guerre with three palms, Cross for Military Valour, Companion of the Ordre de la Libération|
|Other work||Director of the Paris Air Show|
Lafont was born in Cahors, France on 10 August 1920. Attracted by flying, he obtained his pilot's license and, in November 1938, entered the Armée de l'Air flying school at Istres. When the Armistice was signed on 22 June 1940, Lafont was just finishing a course at the Fighter School at La Sénia airfield near Oran, Algeria. He refused to accept the Armistice with Germany. With five other servicemen, including René Mouchotte and Charles Guérin, he escaped from Oran to join the Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres.
Air Force career
They escaped by flying a twin-engine Caudron Goéland transport aircraft, surviving a takeoff with sabotaged propellors locked in coarse pitch, to Gibraltar, navigating with the aid of a school atlas. The group joined the Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres in June 1940. They arrived in Britain in mid-July.
Lafont was one of eleven French pilots posted to RAF St. Athan in late July. He moved to No. 1 School of Army Co-operation at Old Sarum on 29 July and then went to Odiham on 10 August where he flew 15 hours on Tiger Moths and Hectors. He was posted to 6 OTU, Sutton Bridge on the 19 August, converting to Hurricanes and joined No. 245 Squadron at Aldergrove on 11 September.
On 18 September, Lafont was attached to No. 615 Squadron RAF at Prestwick and moved south with 615 to Northolt on 9 October, participating in the latter stages of the Battle of Britain flying Hurricanes. He claimed Bf.109s 'probably destroyed' on 26 February 1941 and on 15 March.
In May 1941, he was posted to 59 OTU as an instructor for French pilots coming from 10 FTS at Ternhill. There Lafont trained more than 60 French pilots. He later joined the Groupe de Chasse n°1 "Alsace" (later incorporated into No. 341 Squadron RAF), which was formed in the Middle East and took part convoy patrols during the campaign in Libya.
Wounded on 27 June 1942, he returned to action in January 1943, flying fighter operations over the Western Front. He finished the war flying a Spitfire Mk. IX, and had completed 230 operational missions. He left the air force in 1966 with the rank of colonel.
- Henry Lafont, Aviateurs de la liberté, mémorial des Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres, Service historique de l'Armée de l'Air, 2002
- Biography on the ordre de la Libération website (in French)
- "Décès du colonel Henry Lafont, Compagnon de la Libération" Archived 2011-12-24 at the Wayback Machine., Ouest France, 2 December 2011, accessed 20 April 2012
- "Last French Battle of Britain pilot", Pilot, February 2012, p12