Biplane fighter aces


Capitaine Jean de Callatay, RAF no. 137228

27 November 1906 – 21 May 1995

Jean de Callatay was born on 27 November 1906 in Antwerp.

He joined the Belgian Army on 8 August 1927 and went to the Military School in November 1927.

On 1 December 1929, he was detached to the Aéronautique Militaire.

When the Wermacht launched its assault on the Low Countries on 10 May 1940, the Aéronautique Militaire had accepted around 30 CR.42s and the IIème Group had around 25 operational CR.42s.
The 3ème Escadrille of the IIème Group was commanded by Capitaine de Callatay with 14 CR.42s (R.1, R.3, R.4, R.6, R.7, R.8, R.11, R.14, R.15, R.16, R.17, R.18, R.19 and R.20).
The 4ème Escadrille of the IIème Group was commanded by Capitaine Thiery d’Huart with 10 CR.42s (R.2, R.5, R.12, R.22, R.23, R.24, R.25, R.28, R.29 and R.30). On 10 May, the unit received an additional aircraft (R.26) from the Etablissements Généraux.
Then there was Major Lamarche’s R.43 (ex. R.13), wearing the insignia of the 3/II/2. R.21 and R.27 were in the hangar at Nivelles, unserviceable. A third CR.42 was on airfield number 41, with mechanical troubles.

In the early morning on 10 May the IIème Group was ordered to evacuated from Nivelles to Landing Field No 22 at Brustem.
When the last aircraft were preparing to land, the flight led by Capitaine Callatay spotted a formation of Ju 52/3ms over Tongres. The transports were from 17/KGzbV5 tasked with dropping dummy parachutists. The three CR.42s took on the Ju 52s and Callatay scored hits on a Ju 52 near Alken at 05.30. This aircraft crash-landed at Maastricht. The Belgian pilot were immediately pounced on by escorting Bf 109s from I/JG1 and the three Belgian pilots broke off the engagement and headed back to Nivelles thinking that the field at Brustem had been put out of action by German bombers.
Callatay was later credited with a destroyed Ju 52/3m.

On 14 May, the IIème Group took into action its remaining serviceable aircraft to cover the retreat of the French 7th Armée from Fleurus. The two-hour sortie saw a bitter clash with the 8./JG3 in the Flerus area at 13.55 and one Bf 109E was claimed destroyed by Capitaine Callatay and another was damaged by 1er Sergent Marcel Michotte. Also during this sortie Sergent E. de Moerlose claimed a damaged enemy Do 17. 8./JG3 claimed five of the Fiats during this combat. Claiming Luftwaffe pilots were Oberleutnant Wilhelm Gäth (victory no. 1 of 14), Oberfeldwebel Willi Bauer, Unteroffizier Rudolf Saborowski (victory no. 1 of 39), Unteroffizier Karl Flebbe and Unteroffizier Josef Keil (victory no. 1 of 16).
It seems that the Belgian unit didn't suffer any losses and it has not been possible to verify if 8./JG3 sustained any losses in this combat.

He left with his unit to France on 15 May 1940 and returned to Belgium on 20 August 1940.

On 4 February 1942, he evaded from Belgium arrived in Great Britain on 27 March 1942.

Enlisted into the Belgian Section of RAF on 4 May 1942 and was sent for training to 5 PAFU on 5 August 1942 and to 58 OTU on 20 October 1942.

On 12 January 1943, he was promoted to Pilot Officer.

He was to 616 Squadron on 18 January 1943 before joining 350 (Belgian) Squadron on 3 March 1943.

He left this unit on 1 July 1943 to become flight commander in 3 Squadron.
On 12 July 1943, he was promoted to Flying Officer.

During a ”Roadstead” mission in the morning on 25 September 1943 Pilot Officer Callatay was shot down in a Typhoon Mk.Ib (JP439/L) over the Krammer Estuary.
He was taken PoW and sent to Stalag Luft III.
He was most probably shot down by AA fire since there seems to be no Luftwaffe claims in the area during this day.

Callatay ended the war with two biplane victories.

He rejoined the Belgian Air Force after the war.

De Callatay died on 21 May 1995.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 10/05/40 05:30 1 Ju 52/3m (a) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   near Alken 3/II/2 Aé
2 14/05/40 13:00 1 Bf 109E (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   Fleurus area 3/II/2 Aé

Biplane victories: 2 destroyed.
TOTAL: 2 destroyed.
(a) Ju 52/3m from 17/KGzbV5 calimed near Alken at 05.30, the aircraft crash-landed at Maastricht. Confirmed in Décision Aé. M. No 27-07.02.47.
(b) Claimed in combat with 8/JG3. It has not been possible to verify if 8/JG3 sustained any losses in this combat. Confirmed in Décision Aé. M. No 27-07.02.47.

Désastre à Schaffen - Christian-Jacques Ehrengardt, 2000, Aéro Journal No. 12
Luftwaffe Claims Lists - Tony Wood
RAF Fighter Command losses: Volume 2 - Norman L. R. Franks, 1998 Midland Publishing Limited, ISBN 1-85780-075-3
The Battle of France Then and Now – Peter D. Cornwell, 2008 After the Battle, ISBN 9-781870-067652
Twelve Days In May - Brian Cull and Bruce Lander with Heinrich Weiss, 1999 Grub Street, London, ISBN 1-902304-12-8
World War 2: 350 (Belgian) Squadron RAF - Serge Bonge
Additional information kindly provided by Lars Larsson, Peter Taghon and Michel Terlinden.

Last modified 30 March 2023