Raymond A. “Cheval” Lallemant, one of Belgiums leading World War II Aces, pioneered allied “tank-busting” tactics flying the Hawker Typhoon. He was born in 1917 in Blicquy, Belgium. On 10 May 1940, while he was a student in pilot training at the Aeronautique Militaire in Wevelghem, Belgium, Luftwaffe Dornier Do 17’s attacked the schools airfield; the Sitzkrieg turned into the Blitzkrieg. With Belgium quickly overrun by Guderians panzers , Lallemant and six of his classmates fled through France to Morocco, where they hoped to continue their flight training. In the chaotic days that followed, they joined a group of nearly 400 Polish airmen hoping to make their way to England and enter the Royal Air Force (RAF).
At Casablanca, Lallemant’s group of aviators boarded the SS Harison . Under continued threat from U-boats and long-range Focke Wulf FW 200 Condor bombers, they convoyed through the North Atlantic, arriving at Liverpool, England, on 12 July 1940. After being arrested as a suspicious foreigner, Lallemant was posted to an RAF flying school at Innsworth, Gloucester, and then to Oldiham, England, were he completed his flight training. In September 1941, Sergeant-Pilot Lallemant was assigned to 609 Squadron at Biggin Hill, Kent, on the southeastern edge of London. Pilots of 609 Squadron came from many countries, including Belgium, France, Norway, and Canada. Lallemant checked out in the Hawker Typhoon and quickly showed his mettle by shooting down five Focke Wulf Fw 190’s.
He was awarded the RAF’s Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in March 1943. Posted to the Napier Engine Factory, he tested production Hawker Typhoons and Tempests and flew the little known Blackburn Firebrand. Promoted to Flight Lieutenant, he did a short stint with 197 Squadron, and then joined 198 Squadron as a flight commander. In 198 Squadron, he downed a Messerschmitt Me 109 Zerstör twin-engined fighter and “shared” in the downing of a Messerschmitt Me 109 Nachtjäger flown by Oberfeldwebel Helmut Vinke, one of the Luftwaffe’s night fighter experten. Promoted again, to squadron leader, he returned to his beloved 609 Squadron as Officer Commanding (OC) in August 1944. With the battle for the hedgerows of Normandie roaring, Lallemant, using a squadron-level modification of the gunsight, made “train and tank busting” with the rocket-firing Typhoon into a fine art!
The Stars and Stripes newspaper flatly declared 609 Squadron to be the best Typhoon-equipped unit in the allied 2d Tactical Air Force. On 14 September 1944, while Lallemant was flying his Typhoon, named “Winston Churchill,” bad luck struck. He was attacking a German anti-aircraft artillery position, during the Allies’ ill-fated attempt to reach “a bridge too far” at Arnhem in the Netherlands, when he was hit by ground fire. With his canopy jammed and unable to bail out, Lallemant crash landed his burning “Tiffy” in France. He spent several months recovering from the burns to his hands and face. Awarded his second DFC, he returned to duty as OC, 349 (Belgium) Squadron. He flew Spitfires over occupied Germany, until he was forced back to England for more “guinea-pig” plastic surgery. Returning to his native country, Lallemant remained in the Belgian Air Force, where he served first as Director of Operations, and then became Commander of a flight wing at Florennes. He spent a year at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, at Air War College and then returned home to a variety of assignments, including Command of the Belgian Fighter School and a staff tour at NATO Military Headquarters. He retired from active service in 1972 as a colonel.