22.01.1942 No. 609 Squadron Spitfire Vb AB188 PR-Y Fl/Lt. Jean H.M. Offenberg DFC
Date: 22nd January 1942 (Thursday)
Unit: No. 609 Squadron
Type: Spitfire Vb
Base: RAF Digby, Lincolnshire
Location: Over Blankney, Lincolnshire
Pilot: Fl/Lt. Jean ‘Pyker’ Henri Marie Offenberg DFC 82517 RAFVR Age 26. Killed
REASON FOR LOSS:
The first Belgian pilot to be awarded the DFC for his service - claims amount to 6 with a further 2 shared. Inflicting damage on 7 others, he had earned the status of ‘Ace’.
During training over Lincolnshire the squadron were subjected to mock attacks from pilots of 92 Squadron.
When a Spitfire, AD229, collided with Fl/Lt. Offenberg's Spitfire, cutting off the tail which then out of control, crashed in the village of Blankey, killing the pilot. It is not know what happened to the 92 Squadron FFAF pilot Sgt. de Renzi.
With many thanks to Jack Brook (RAF historian) for further information submitted in August 2015.
Fl/Lt. Frank H. Ziegler, the intelligence officer of 609 Squadron, wrote a poem for Jeans epitaph.
Spitfire AB188 'Forestry Commission' donated Spitfire.
During his service he kept a diary of his life which, later in 1956 was published as ’Lonely Warrior’ - still available today. Edited by Victor Houart. "The Few: no words of praise can ever be too high for them. Jean Offenberg was one of their number, and his own brilliant story is a searing record of how it felt to be a pilot in those dangerous days. He left his native Belgium in 1940 to join the RAF - a handful of Hurricanes and Spitfires endlessly hurling themselves against a relentless enemy. The grim task of holding off the invader affected him deeply.
With hands calloused by the controls of the Spitfire, he scribbled down his eye-witness accounts of the day's battles. This is the story he wrote - the story of a lone fighter living out his brief life in the certain knowledge that the scales of death were loaded against him..." The diary of a Belgian DFC winner and Squadron Leader serving in the RAF, whose diary was published when it was found after his death in the war.
There is a memorial in Brussels to Belgian pilots lost in the Battle of Britain. It is placed in a square named for Jean Offenberg.
Fl/Lt. Jean Henri Marie Offenberg DFC. Initially buried at Scopwick Cemetery on the 26th January 1942 - reinterred after war end at the Brussels town cemetery Belgian Airmen's Field of Honour. Grave 25. Born in Laeken, Brussels, Belgium on the 3rd July 1916. Next of Kin details currently not available - are you able to assist completion of these and any other information?
Researched and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot with thanks to Josette Bens and Mr. Alain Rosseels for further information and photographs. Also to Jack Brook for detailed information.