De Selys Longchamps, Jean Michel Paul, Baron.

Back to all people

De Selys Longchamps, Jean Michel Paul, born 31-05-1912, in Brussel  the son of Major of the Cavalry Baron (from 1958 Count) Raymond de Selys Longchamps (1880-1966) and his wife Emilie de Theux de Meylandt et Monjardin (1880-1972). He was a trained rider from a young age and by the time he was only 16 he was already competing in several competitions. It was therefore logical that Selys joined the First Regiment of Guides in July 1933 for his military service. He rose to (reserve) lieutenant.

De Selys’ secondary studies at the abbey school of Maredsous and at the Collège Cardinal Mercier in Braine-l’Alleud did not yield any remarkable results. He followed commercial sciences at the Catholic University of Leuven for two years, but did not obtain a diploma. He then went to work for the Banque du Crédit Anversois. When Germany attacked Belgium on 10–05-1940, Selys had been called up again in the armored troops of the First Regiment of Guides. He fought as a machine gunner for more than eighteen days.

On 28-05-1940, the Belgian army capitulated. De Selys was then in East Flanders. He moved to De Panne and was able to sail to Margate on 29 May. After staying with other Belgian soldiers in Tenby for a few days, he sailed back to Brest and joined the French army. After the Armistice of June 18, he traveled around, from France to Gibraltar, Oran, Marseille, Casablanca, Tangier, Gibraltar, finally landing in Glasgow on 25-12-1940. He volunteered at the Royal Air Force, Belgian section. He started his training and after obtaining the necessary pilot’s licenses he was assigned to Squadron 609   at Biggin Hill. under command of S/Ldr. C.J.G. “Windmill” Demoulin, DFC   In 1942 he was promoted to Flight Commander and flew (more than 702 flight hours) a Hawker Typhoon fighter plane.

With this aircraft De Selys fought against German bombers. His record included shooting down two German aircraft and destroying numerous ground targets in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Selys was known as an aristocrat, dignified and somewhat old-fashioned. For example, he still wore the officer uniform of the Belgian army at ceremonies.

At the end of 1942 he hatched the idea, as the diary of his squadron states, ‘dealing a punch that will boost Belgian morale’. In the early morning of Wednesday 20 January 1943 there was good visibility and he took off. His plane was equipped with four 20mm Hispano guns, which could fire 650 rounds per minute. Together with another pilot, he first completed the assigned mission, targeting a number of targets around Ghent and Kortrijk. His colleague then flew back to England, but De Selys continued on his way to Brussels, meeting no German resistance.

In the capital, which he knew very well, De Selys flew to Avenue Louise. When the tall building of Gestapo headquarters at number 453

  came into his sights, he dived towards it and fired his four guns. The accuracy of his fire was so great that no neighboring house was hit. Bombs were not used as they were not on board after the earlier deployment in Ghent.

De Selys then flew close to the roofs a few times, opened the cockpit and threw a large Belgian flag above the royal palace and a Union Jack a little further. On the way back he threw out a thousand Belgian flags.

The arrival of De Selys had lured several Germans to the windows, causing his board fire to kill five and wound four, including several senior citizens. In particular, the deaths of SS-Sturmbannführer Alfred Thomas, head of the SD, and SS-Obersturmführer Werner Vogt, head of the Security Police, is believed to have an impact on German security policy in Belgium and northern France. The Brussels Sipo-SD was disrupted for six weeks and moved to a less exposed location a little further away.

After his action, De Selys returned to England just before German fighters could intercept him. The flight, which lasted from 8:32 am to 9:44 am, was seen as an act of heroism, but also had negative consequences for De Selys: he was reprimanded for flying on his own and taking unnecessary risks. In addition, he was demoted to Pilot Officer and transferred from Squadron 609 to Squadron 3. However, three months later he was awarded a high decoration, the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Death and burial ground of Jean Michel Paul de Selys Longchamps.

In the night of 15 to 16 August 1943 he died after a mission over Ostend. Its landing gear had been shelled by German anti-aircraft defense forces and was badly damaged, causing the aircraft to split in two and crash upon landing at Manston airport. Jean de Selys was killed instantly. He was buried at the war cemetery of Minster-in-Thanet (near the airport, now the airport for Kent).

After the war, De Selys became a posthumous knight in the Order of Leopold with palm. It is in great honor to him that in 1958 his father was granted the title of Earl, transferable to the eldest son. Near the airport of Bierset (Grâce-Hollogne) a street was named after him. A family of resistanceJean de Selys Longchamps’ sister and brothers were also active in the Resistance: Baroness Monique de Selys Longchamps, Ambassador François de Selys Longchamps and Baron Ede de Selys Longchamps.

A gilded bronze bust of the aviator on a bluestone pedestal can be seen on a small bed in the median strip of Avenue Louise in Brussels. Unveiled in 1993, the sculpture is the work of sculptor Paul Boedts, who was born in the Brussels municipality of Ixelles. Furthermore, on the facade of the building where the Gestapo headquarters was located during the war years, a memorial plaque commemorates the writ of Jean de Selys Longchamps.

Message(s), tips or interesting graves for the webmaster:


Share on :


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *