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Louis Lemaire – Free France Air Force

RIP Louis Lemaire | 1918-2017
No.345 Squadron
No.141 Wing
Royal Air Force
Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres – Free France Air Forces

Louis Lemaire was born on August 5, 1918. Twenty years later, when the Second World War was about to break out in Europe, he joined the French Air Force to become a pilot. Despite the defeat of 1940 against Germany, he did not admit defeat: Louis Lemaire wanted to respond to the call of General de Gaulle and rally England to continue the fight, but mechanical trouble prevented him from crossing the English Channel. He continued to serve in the French Armistice army which deployed it in the French colonies: in June 1941 in Syria, he made his first air fight against the English, then he became the witness of the allied landing in North Africa (operation Torch) in November 1942. This last episode prompted him to join the Allies.

The young pilot, then 24 years old, joined the Coastal Command of the Royal Air Force, under British military command, to ensure the defense of English territory. In 1944, he served in the Free France Air Forces (Forces Aériennes Françaises Libres, FAFL), which were also equipped with aircraft of English design. Louis joined the No.345 Squadron, belonging to No.141 Wing of the Royal Air Force. This squadron, made up of French volunteers, is also known as Groupe de Chasse (GC) II/2 “Berry” from 16 January 1944. It is equipped with Spitfire V aircraft.

In May 1944, in preparation for Operation Overlord, the French pilots took part in numerous missions along the Channel coast, escorting bombers during strikes on German targets. As of 6 June 1944, the date of the Allied assault in Normandy, No.345 Squadron participated in air support operations, provinding covering missions over the Cotentin peninsula (Carentan – Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue ). Louis Lemaire operated in the area of ​​Utah Beach (Cotentin) during the landing operations of the 4th (US) Infantry Division. During these operations, around 11:00 in the morning a few kilometers from Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, Lieutenant Jacques Joubert of the Ouches from the Np.345 Squadron radioed problems of engine and jumped with a parachute at low altitude. His body will not be found.

Subsequently, GC II/2 “Berry” participated in the protection of British gliders between Littlehampton and the Caen region, covering the landing beaches between Grandcamp-Maisy and Pointe de la Percée (June 8-13), and over the towns of Port-en-Bessin and Ouistreham (14 June).

Lieutenant Louis Lemaire, promoted to captain in early 1945, contributed to air operations until the end of the Second World War in Europe, participating in 152 missions. He experienced several incidents in flight, having been hit by German shells twice (February 8 and 20, 1945). On 10 April 1945 over Holland, the left wing of his Spitfire was torn by enemy fire and forced Louis to attempt an emergency landing, which caused him only bruises.

After the Second World War, he continued his military career and served in Indochina where he carried out new air missions. He served also in Algeria with the rank of lieutenant-colonel and retired in the south of France to Aix-en-Provence. Louis Lemaire died on the day of his 99th birthday, August 8, 2017.

Commander of the Legion of Honor, he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre (military cross) with five citations, the Croix de la valeur militaire (Military Value Cross), and the British Distinguished Flying Cross.

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