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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Fleeing in the dark

by Gunter Verhoeven

Contributed by 
Gunter Verhoeven
People in story: 
Lieutenant General Pilot Baron Michel Donnet CdG, CVO, DFC
Location of story: 
Brussels - UK
Background to story: 
Royal Air Force
Article ID: 
A4180592
Contributed on: 
11 June 2005

Pilot Officer 'Mike' Donnet and Pilot Officer André Plisnier receiving their Belgian Croix de Guerre.

Michel "Mike" Donnet was born at Richmond (UK) on April 1, 1917 . On 1 March 1938 he volunteers for two years at the Aéronautique Militaire Belge. He was commissioned as sergant-pilot on 26 March 1939 and signed in for another three years on 1 March 1940. Donnet saw service with the 9/V/1Aé at Bierset. When the Germans invaded Belgium on 10 May 1940, he saw action during the 18-Day campaign and was taken POW by the Germans when Belgium capitulated. After a captivity of 10 months he was repatriated to Belgium. Immediately he gathers some friends and starts collecting fuel and restores an aircraft Stampe-Vertongen which was heavily guarded by the Germans near Brussels. Nevertheless they managed to restore the aircraft into its original and airworthy state. In the evening of 4 to 5 July 1941 Donnet and his fellow pilot, sergant-pilot Léon Divoy took off with the aircraft. They put on their uniform under civilian clothes in case they would have to land or would be taken prisoner. Somewhere over the Channel the engine failed and they lost height very quickly. On the very moment they thought of disappearing in the Channel the engine started again bringing both brave pilots savely to England.Here they landed in the countryside where they immediately asked for the Police office. On 24 July 1942 , Donnet and Divoy were accepted by the RAF Volunteer Reserve and were affected at Heston.They received the rank of Pilot Officer. After conversion on Spitfire he went to 64 Sqn. Here he commanded a flight during September 1942.Donnet himself saw action in the attack on the German battlecruisers 'Gneisenau' and 'Scharnhorst'.During March 1943 he was promoted Squadron Leader of 64 Squadron.With 64 Squadron he saw action against enemy ships alongside the Dutch and Belgian coast, he supplied fighter escort for Allied bombers, took part during the devastating landing at Dieppe,... During his command of 64 Squadron he was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the British Distinguished Flying Cross. By this time he made more than 100 operational flights.

On March 23, 1944, Mike was posted to command 350 Sqn. Leading the Sqn till 23 October 1944 he was promoted W/Cdr, to lead the Hawkinge - Wing, and the Bentwaters-Wing in 1945. The Hawkinge Wing was assembled of two British, one Australian and one Canadian squadron. The Bentwaters Wing was supplied with Mustangs.In September 1944 he also took part during Operation Market Garden. He was the CO of 350th Belgian Squadron during the Allied invasion on 6 June 1944. Two hours before the armistice Wing Commander Donnet DFC made his final operational sortie during war when attacking German convoys and U-boats.In August 1945 Donnet studied at the RAF Staff College. After the war, he was posted to the Ministry of Defense. He then led the HQ of the 83 Anglo-Belgian Group, he became commander of Air Defense Central Europe and then Commander of HQ of 2 TAF. He took presidency of the direction comity of the project NADGE and afterwards became Military Attaché at the Embassy in London. He was member of the Military comity of the NATO and finally he retired as Lt - General in 1975. Lieutenat General pilot Baron Michel Donnet CdG, CVO, DFC is still living. He wrote several books.

Personally I had the privilige meeting him and I must say, he is a very remarkable man indeed.Hair as white as a piece of paper and eyes as blue as the sea, but still a very youthfull and vivid man.

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