Biplane fighter aces


1er Sergent Denys Rolin

Denys Rolin was born in 1919.

Rolin joined the Belgian Air Force in the thirties.

He served with the Lère Escardrille de Chasse ("La Comète") in the Ième Group de Chasse equipped with Gloster Gladiators at the time of the German invasion of Belgium in May 1940.

Shortly before 07.00 on 11 May 1940, nine Belgian Fairey Battles of 5/III/3 Aé were dispatched to bomb the Albert Canal bridges, which had fallen intact into German hands. Six Gladiators of 1/I/2 Aé were to escort them. The Gladiators flew in two sections. The first section was led by the Commandant Capitaine Max Guisgand (Gloster G.27) and included Sergent André Pirlot (Gloster G.19) and Sergent A. Vanden Broeck (Gloster G.31). The second section took off 10 minutes later and was led by 1er Sergent Rolin (Gloster G.22) and included 1er Sergent Henry Winand (Gloster G.32) and Sergent Henri Clinquart (Gloster G.34).
When they arrived to their assigned sector, they became involved in a dogfight with eight to twelve German Bf 109s from I/JG1. During this dogfight 1er Sergent Winand claimed a damaged Bf 109 and 1er Sergent Rolin was credited with one Bf 109 probable damaged. He didn't see if his victim dived away or crashed because right after this he was shot down and taken prisoner. The only known losses suffered by I/JG 1 on 11 May was a plane of 3./JG 1, which ran out of fuel and made a forced landing near Achen and was 70% destroyed.
During the dogfight five German pilots (all from 1./JG 1) claimed seven victories in the Maastricht area:
- Leutnant Günter-Erwin Mann (06.50 h) (possibly Capitaine Max Guisgand (Gloster G.27))
- Leutnant Ludwig Franzisket (06.53 h) (victory 1 of totally 43) (possibly Sergent Henri Clinquart (Gloster G.34))
- Staffelkapitän Hauptmann Wilhelm Balthasar (06.55, 06.58 and one more during the same mission) (victory 1-3 of totally 47) (possibly 1er Sergent Rolin (Gloster G.22) and Sergent André Pirlot (Gloster G.19))
- Unteroffizier Heinz Gillert (07.01 h) (possibly Sergent A. Vanden Broeck (Gloster G.31)).
- Unteroffizier Emil Clade (07.01 h) (possibly 1er Sergent Henry Winand (Gloster G.32))
Only four Gladiators of 1/I/2. Aé were however lost:
- Sergent André Pirlot (MIA) was shot down in flames in Gloster G.19.
- 1er Sergent Rolin (POW) was shot down but saved himself in parachute but was taken prisoner. His aircraft (G.22) was abandoned over Heukelom at 05:55).
- Sergent Henri Clinquart (KIA) was shot down in flames. His aircraft (G.34) crashed between Flexhe and Slins, north of Liege.
- Capitaine Max Guisgand made a forced landing in a field at Faimes close to Waremme after that his Gloster (G.27) had been damaged by enemy fire and he was wounded in the face. The aircraft was later burned.
Sergent A. Vanden Broeck (Gloster G.31) and 1er Sergent Henry Winand (Gloster G.32) returned to Beauvechain with badly damaged aircraft. Both pilots were unhurt and both aircraft were repairable.
The attack on the bridges by the Battles was a failure and six of them were lost.

After the occupation of Belgium he was kept as a prisoner since the Germans didn't want an experienced fighter pilot escape to the Allies. He tried to escape four times but was each time captured and punished but this didn't discourage him. In 1944 during his fifth attempt he managed to reach Sweden and from here reach his Belgian fighter friends in Great Britain.

Rolin ended the war with one probable damaged enemy aircraft. This was claimed while flying biplanes.

After the war he joined Sabena and flew a whole range of the company's aircraft - De Havilland Dove, the DC-3, then first four-engined planes DC-4, DC-6, Convair 240, and finally jets: Boeing 707 and Boeing 747.

In 1958 he commanded a DC-6 full of passengers, which by mistake strayed over into Hungarian airspace. They were immediately intercepted by Soviet-made fighters and forced to land on a Hungarian military airport. The situation was however quickly solved diplomatically and the aircraft could soon continue its flight to Brussels.

Denis Rolin passed away on 17 February 2000.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 11/05/40 07:00- 1 Bf 109 (a) Probable damaged Gladiator G.22 near Sichem Lère Escardrille

Biplane victories: 1 probable damaged.
TOTAL: 1 probable damaged.
(a) Claimed in combat with Bf 109s from I/JG 1. Rolin didn't see the enemy plane crash, he just saw it dive away. This claim hasn't been possible to verify with German sources.

Air Force on the Edge - Dionisio Garcia, 2001, Air Enthusiast November/December 2001
Escadrilles Au Combat - Jean Delaet kindly provided by Luc Faucon
Luftwaffe Claims Lists - Tony Wood
The Battle of France Then and Now – Peter D. Cornwell, 2008 After the Battle, ISBN 9-781870-067652
Additional information kindly provided by Luc Faucon, Lars Larsson, Peter Taghon and Michel Terlinden

Last modified 08 December 2008