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Archive Report: Allied Forces

Compiled from official National Archive and Service sources, contemporary press reports, personal logbooks, diaries and correspondence, reference books, other sources, and interviews.

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27.08.1942 No. 350 Squadron Spitfire Vb BM297 P/O. Henri A. Picard

Operation: Circus 208

Date: 27th August 1942 (Thursday)

Unit: No. 350 Squadron (Belgian)

Type: Spitfire Vb

Serial: BM297

Base: RAF Kenley, London.

Location: English Channel off France

Pilot: P/O. Henri Albert Picard Croix de Guerre. 87693 RAFVR Age 26. PoW No: 685. Camp: Stalag Luft III


Henri Picard, an RAF Flight Lieutenant, was originally an officer in the Belgian Army and had graduated from the Ecole Militaire in 1938. He was amongst the first group of Belgian soldiers to arrive in Great Britain after the tragic events of May 1940. In July that year, he landed in England by way of France and Morocco. 

By 1941 he was attached to the Belgian 350 Squadron, which in the Dieppe raid destroyed 7 German planes for certain and one probably, and in addition damaged a dozen others. His victories as well as his brilliant general ability won from him the Croix de Guerre with two palms, which he received on the 21st July 1942 during the Belgian National Day ceremonies. 

During a 'Rhubarb' on the Sunday, 16th August 1942 his aircraft a Spitfire Vb EN796 hit high tension wires near Merville, France, the aircraft suffering category B damage, (wing tip) but he survived.

In November 1941 the first Squadron of Belgian volunteers was formed in Fighter Command. One of its pilots was Pilot Officer H. A. Picard, seen here on the wing of his Spitfire at Kenley in July 1942. His aircraft was among a number 'presented' by the Belgian Congo, and bears the name of one of its principal towns.

Shortly afterwards, on the 27th August he was reported missing from an air battle over the Abbeville region. Part of a fighter escort, protecting the rear of the bomber formation with 3 of his fellow pilots. 20 Focke Wulf 190s came up to attack the allied machines and Picard and the two other pilots endeavoured to intercept them. Fierce fighting took place, in which the enemy was favoured by numbers and by the fact that the sun was in his rear. 

Picard's plane was hit and he had to bale out over the sea. Although seriously wounded in one leg, he succeeded in seating himself in his dinghy. But his trials were by no means over. He drifted for five days and six nights in his tiny craft, buffeted by two storms and suffering from his wound as well as from hunger and thirst. Finally when he was almost delirious and utterly exhausted, his dinghy was thrown up on the French coast and he fell into Germans hands. 

Only a man endowed with his outstanding physical and mental qualities could have survived such an ordeal. He slowly recovered from his wounds and in his last letter expressed the hope that he would be free to fight again. 

After recovery of his wounds, he was send to Stalag Luft III. During the preparation of the evasion, Henri was part of the team of Fl/Lt. Walenn who copied real ID papers and passes. The evasion taking place during the night of 24th/25th March, Henri Picard was recaptured at Scheidemühl, then murdered shortly afterwards on 29th March 1944 by Hauptmann Reinholt Bruchardt from the Danzig Gestapo.

Hauptmann Bruchardt was traced in 1948 and sentenced to death but later had his sentence commuted to 21 years of imprisonment. 

Burial Details:

Henri Picard's body was cremated at Danzig and buried at Poznan Old Garrison Cemetery.

A memorial plaque for Henri Picard was inaugurated at Beauvechain Airbase on 1st December 1951 during the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Squadron.

P/O. Henri Albert Picard. Croix de Guerre. Poznam Old Garrison Cemetery. Coll. Grave 9.A. Born 17th April 1916 from Belgium, n.o.k details not known.

Acknowledgments: 350 Squadron for great information, Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses Vol 2', Commonwealth Graves Commission.

Acknowledgements: Sources used by us in compiling Archive Reports include: Bill Chorley - 'Bomber Command Losses Vols. 1-9, plus ongoing revisions', Dr. Theo E.W. Boiten and Mr. Roderick J. Mackenzie - 'Nightfighter War Diaries Vols. 1 and 2', Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt - 'Bomber Command War Diaries', Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Tom Kracker - Kracker Luftwaffe Archives and Fred Paradie - Paradie Archive (both on this site), Robert Gretzyngier, Wojtek Matusiak, Waldemar Wójcik and Józef Zieliński - 'Ku Czci Połeglyçh Lotnikow 1939-1945', Anna Krzystek, Tadeusz Krzystek - 'Polskie Siły Powietrzne w Wielkiej Brytanii', Norman L.R. Franks 'Fighter Command Losses', Aircrew Remembered Databases and our own archives. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of UK Imperial War Museum, Australian War Memorial, Australian National Archives, UK National Archives and Fold3 and countless dedicated friends and researchers across the world.
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Last Modified: 23 April 2015, 12:42

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