Flight Lieutenant Jean Henri Marie 'Peike' 'Pyker' Offenberg DFC

3 July 1916 – 22 January 1942

Jean Offenberg was born at Laeken, Brussels in Belgium on 3 July 1916.

He joined the Aeronautique Militaire and was a pupil pilot in the 77e Promotion of the Aviation Militaire Belge. He graduated on 1 March 1938, trained as a fighter pilot, and was posted to 4/II/2 at Nivelles in March 1939, equipped with Fairey Firefly biplanes.

During the night of 8/9 September 1939 six Whitleys of 77 Squadron and six from 102 Sqadron took off from England to undertake leaflet dropping operations over Germany. Two Whitleys from 77 Squadron strayed over Belgium on their return. Duty pilots at Nivelles fighter base were alerted when the incursions were first reported, and shortly afterwards Captain Lucien Boussa of the 5e Escadrille of Flight Regiment 2 took off in a Fairey Fox, joined by two Fairey Fireflies of the 4e Escadrille, piloted by Daniel Leroy du Vivier and Marcel Michotte. The trio intercepted one Whitley and Boussa fired a burst in front of its nose in an effort to force it to land. Instead the Whitley's gunner returns fire, hitting Leroy du Vivier’s Firefly obliging him to make a forced landing forthwith.

Another Fairey Fox flown by Boussa's No 2, Adjutant Albert Genot with Corporal Roger Alaffe as his gunner, had now also got off the ground and pursued another bomber signalling, its position by radio. A white Verey light was fired at the bomber which replied with a red and continued on its way. Genot drew off and like Boussa fired a burst across the Whitley’s bows. This aircraft too returned fire, hitting the Fox in the tail and rear fuselage and setting it on fire. The crew baled out as the stricken aircraft went down to crash on the estate of Count Gaston d’Oultrement at Nouvelles. Genot was wounded in the hand, and Alaffe broke his right shoulder on landing.

It would seem that their opponent was Whitley K8951 (Flight Lieutenant Connell), the crew of which reported shooting down a fighter. The bomber was itself damaged in this encounter and went on to crash-land at Lognes, France, the pilot having suffered a slight head wound (the aircraft was later repaired).

Meanwhile on the ground the news of the interceptions was out and two more pilots (this time from the 4e Escadrille) Alexis Jottard and Sous-Lieutenant Offenberg pulled on flying suits over their pyjamas, taking off in their Fireflies to join in. They soon spotted Whitley DY-J (K8985) flown by Flight Lieutenant W. V. G. Cognan, on its way back from Kiel and Hamburg. They fired a green flare and forced the bomber down to land on their own airfield, where the crew were interned.

The crew were released a short time later but the Whitley was still at the airfield on 10 May and presumed destroyed during the German invasion.
Early in 1940 the unit received Italian-built Fiat CR.42s.

In the early morning on 10 May the IIème Group was ordered to evacuated from Nivelles to Landing Field No 22 at Brustem.

At 06:05 five Fiat CR.42s took off from Brustem to provide cover for the airfield. The second patrol (Sous-Lieutenant Offenberg, 1er Sergent Jean Maes and 1er Sergent Alexis Jottard) attacked Dornier Do17s and a Bf109. Offenberg claimed one destroyed Do17, and fired on one other aircraft, which dived away. One of the aircraft he shot at was a Dornier Do17 of II/KG77, which was damaged east of Waremme at 06.30 (there are some confusion regarding Offenberg's claims and some sources only credits him with a damaged Do17). Jean Maes damaged a Dornier Do17 of II/KG77, near St Trond at 06.30. This claim is not confirmed.

After a few days, the remains of his unit withdrew to Chartres in France. From here he and Sergeant Alexis Jottard flew two Caudron Simouns to Montpelier on 19 June, and then on to Algeria, via Corsica, next day, where they joined the Belgian flying school which had been set up at Oujda. Finding morale low here, they attempted unsuccessfully to obtain an aircraft to fly to Gibraltar, so took a train to Casablanca, where they met a group of Poles and other Belgians, getting away by the cargo-ship Djebel Druse to Gibraltar.

They sail to England on the ship Har Sion in July, reaching Liverpool on 16th.

Offenberg was commissioned in the RAF on 30 July and went to 6 OUT at Sutton Bridge on the same day.

Here he converted to Hurricanes and on 17 August he joined 145 Squadron at Westhampnett together with Jottard.

With the RAF his nickname 'Peike' became degraded to 'Pyker'.

On 1 November he shot down Oberleutnant Hermann Reiff-Erscheidt, Staffelkapitän 1./JG2, who belly-landed his Bf109E4 (5159) 'White 9' intact near Mapson's Farm, Sidlesham, Sussex, at 16.15. Reiff-Erscheidt was captured unhurt.

At 08.30 on 9 November Flight Lieutenant Bungey and Offenberg intercepted a Ju88 near the Isle of Wight. This was probably a machine from I/KG51, which was attacked and claimed damaged jointly by the two pilots. The Ju88 made a crash-landing on returning to Villaroche.

He was appointed 'B' Flight commander in May 1941, and in June, became the first Belgian to receive a DFC.

On 17 June he was posted to 609 Squadron together with Baudouine de Hemptinne where a (unofficial) Belgian flight was forming.

During "Circus 18" on 22 June he claimed a damaged Bf109E east off Gravelines.

On 7 July he took part in "Circus 37" which was an attack on the Potez repair works near Albert. The raid was uneventful and on the return near the French coast he saw a ship convoy with a couple of escorting Messerschmitts, low down. Whether these only were decoys is not certain but as Offenberg's section turned in on them more Messerschmitts came down on them off Le Touquet. Sergeant Evans was attacked by two Bf109s; the first one zoomed past and down, but the second one hit the Spitfire with a burst of cannon, setting the Spitfire's engine on fire. Meantime, Offenberg went after the first Bf109, following it down in a steep dive until he had to pull up to avoid the water. The German pilot appeared to misjudge his dive, for as Offenberg looked down, he saw a large splash right among the ships.

Evans was forced to leave his burning Spitfire and came down in the Channel from where he was later rescued by a British rescue launch with splinters in his right leg.

In 21 July 1941 he was decorated with the Belgian Croix de Guerre by the Belgian Minister of Defence in the Belgian National Government in London, M. Camille Gutt, at Wellington Barracks.

In the end of July he took command over 'B' Flight when John Bisdee became tour expired and on 30 July he was promoted to Flying Officer.
Whilst on a training flight with a new pilot on 22 January 1942, he was subjected to a mock attack by a pilot of 92 Squadron. The latter's aircraft collided with Offenberg's Spitfire, cutting off the tail, and it crashed vertically into the ground, killing him.

His diary was later edited into a book, Lonely Warrior, by Victor Houart (Souvenir Press, 1956).
Offenberg had claimed 1 biplane victory and a total of 5 and 2 shared victories at the time of his death.



Kill no. Date Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
  10/05/40 1 Do17 (a) Damaged Fiat CR.42   near St Trond, Belgium 4/II/2 Aé
1 10/05/40 1 Do17 (b) Destroyed Fiat CR.42   near St Trond, Belgium 4/II/2 Aé
  08/08/40 ½ Do17 Shared damaged Hurricane Mk.I   35m E Montrose 145 Squadron
  27/10/40 1 Bf109E Probable destroyed Hurricane Mk.I   5m S Bembridge 145 Squadron
2 01/11/40 1 Bf109E (c) Destroyed Hurricane Mk.I   N Selsey 145 Squadron
  06/11/40 ½ Bf109E (d) Shared destroyed Hurricane Mk.I   5m SSE Dun Nose, Isle of Wight 145 Squadron
  09/11/40 ½ Ju88 (e) Shared damaged Hurricane Mk.I   S Isle of Wight 145 Squadron
  11/11/40 ½ He111 (f) Shared destroyed Hurricane Mk.I   off Selsey Bill 145 Squadron
  05/05/41 1 He60 (g) Damaged Spitfire Mk.IIb   N Point de Barfleur 145 Squadron
3 05/05/41 1 He60 (g) Destroyed Spitfire Mk.IIb   N Point de Barfleur 145 Squadron
4 05/05/41 1 Bf109E (h) Destroyed Spitfire Mk.IIb   mid Channel 145 Squadron
  22/06/41 1 Bf109E Damaged Spitfire Mk.Vb W3236 E Gravelines 609 Squadron
5 07/07/41 1 Bf109F Destroyed Spitfire Mk.Vb W3236 off Le Touquet 609 Squadron
  19/07/41 1 Bf109 (i) Probable destroyed Spitfire Mk.Vb   Dunkirk 609 Squadron
  06/08/41 1 Bf109 (j) Probable destroyed Spitfire Mk.Vb     609 Squadron
  27/08/41 1 Bf109 Probable destroyed Spitfire Mk.Vb   NE France 609 Squadron
  29/08/41 1 Bf109 Probable destroyed Spitfire Mk.Vb   Hazebrouck 609 Squadron
  27/09/41 1 Bf109 Damaged Spitfire Mk.Vb W3574 5m N St Omer 609 Squadron
  13/10/41 1 Bf109F Damaged Spitfire Mk.Vb W3574 10m NW Le Touquet 609 Squadron

Biplane victories: 1 destroyed, 1 damaged.
TOTAL: 5 and 2 shared destroyed, 5 probables, 5 and 2 shared damaged.

(a) Dornier Do17 of II/KG77 damaged east of Waremme at 06.30.
(b) This claim has not been possible to verify.
(c) Bf109E4 'White 9' of 1 staffel.I/JG2; Oblt Hermann Reiff-Erscheidt POW.
(d) Shared with pilot of 56 Squadron. Probably Obfw Heinrich Klopp of II/JG2, 'Black I' -- also attacked by McDowell of 602 Squadron
(e) Believed to be a Ju88 of I/KG51 which crash-landed on return to Villaroche.
(f) He111 of II/KG27, which crashed at Le Havre. Initially shown as a 'Probable' in Combats and Casualties, but in Offenberg's records as confirmed and possibly therefore confirmed by 'Y' Service later.
(g) These were aircraft of I/Seenot Gruppe, and one was lost.
(h) This appears to have been credited initially as a probable, but is shown in Offenberg's records as confirmed.
(i) Shown in Combats and Casualties as damaged.
(j) Not shown in Combats and Casualties.