One of the most famous French Fighter
Aces of WW2, he fought with the RAF.
He wrote the book "Le Grand Cirque" relating the details of his long
fighting experience as well as those of his colleagues.
He flew Spitfires Mk Vb , VII , IX and Tempest Mk V fighting mainly
against Fw190s and Me262s.
He later joined De Gaull's party after the war and became a prime minister
He was the only child of French parents, born on the 28th of February 1921
in Brazil . When he was still 9 he was sent to Paris to study . It was in
1935 that he first experienced flight and immediately fell in love with
aviation. On returning to Brazil he joined a local flying club . He
was instructed by a German named Karl Benitz , an already famous air
acrobat. Obtaining his license in 1937 he was awarded a scholarship to the
Air College of Engineers 'Ryan' in USA . He flew as a commercial pilot in
San Diego California while undertaking his studies.
On outbreak of WW2 he tried to join the French air force but was
considered too young. When 21, he joined the FAFL ( Forces Aériennes des
Français Libres) the Free French Air Force under the British RAF in
Squadron 'Alsace' commanded by another famous French fighter Rene
He was given the rank of a non commissioned officer and went under the
nickname of "Clo-Clo". Transferring to a squadron of British and foreign
pilots, he flew Mk V Spitfires, specialising in ground attack over
He was grounded due to stress after two years of service where he had
gained several 'kills'. Insisting a return to active duty, despite the
reservations of general De Gaul he was sent to Holland where he flew the
Tempest Mk V, the top RAF fighter at that time.
By the end of the war he had claimed the following victories :
In the air he shot down :
2 Dornier 24
1 Fieseler 156
1 Heinkel 111
On the ground he destroyed :
7 JU 88
2 Arado 323
Add to it some 72 locomotives , 5 tanks , 1 submarine and 2 destroyers
He was awarded the DFC Distinguished Flying Cross and DSO Distinguished
The last paragraph of his book "The Great Circus" is representative of the
spirit of those days and stands as 'a grand finale' of an heroic era:-
"The Circus is over. The public was
satisfied . The menu was rich and not so bad , except that the lions have
torn apart the tamer.
We'll remember them again later and even when all will be forgotten , the
music , the fireworks and their nice costumes , at the centre of the
square the trace of the big tent will remain , until the following rain
shall erase it for ever.
My friends that survived the Big Circus have , luckily , not realised it -
me neither for that matter- and that will be our final reward."