F/L Anselme V J Vernieuwe DFC - 103 Squadron.
Belgian Air Force – Belgian Resistance – Pilot 103 Squadron RAF – Leading figure in Belgian Post War Civil Aviation.
Anselme “ Selmo” Vernieuwe was born on the 19th January 1916 in Antwerp Belgium.
In 1936 he joined the Belgian Air Force as and trained as an Observer at the Belgian Military Aviation College. In 1937 he decided he wanted a full time career in the Air Force as a pilot and attended the flying school at Wevelgem. He was married in April 1939 to Louise del Bono.
In 1940 he was posted to 3 Squadron of the Belgian Air Force with the rank of Pilot Officer and after the surrender of Belgium he joined the Resistance where he was in charge of the organisation of intelligence and the evacuation of agents and downed allied airmen to the UK. The portrait picture is as ID photo taken at that time.
During this period he was actively involved in numerous evasions. He crossed the border into Vichy France 19 times and travelled right through to Spain on 5 occasions. During this period he was awarded the Croix de Guerre. In August 1942 he left Belgium and evaded to the UK via Gibraltar where he volunteered for the RAF. He was already an experienced pilot with about 770 hours in his log book. After completing his basic pilot training he volunteered for Bomber Command and was posted to 30 OTU training on Wellington bombers and was to fly his first operation at this time. In June 1944 he was posted to HCU at Blyton flying Halifax and Lancaster aircraft.
Together with his crew F/O Vernieuwe was posted to 103 Squadron at Elsham Wolds from 11 Base on the 29th July 1944. This crew flew almost unchanged throughout their tour of operations from Aug 44 to Jan 45.
Vernieuwe’s first op was on the 17th Aug 1944 - Ertel de Rieme as second pilot in the crew of S/L Van Rolleghem. On the 25/26th Aug 1944 he captained his own crew on an operation for the first time to Russelheim. The Lancaster suffered an electrical problem but the pilot continued with the operation. Approaching the target the Lancaster was attacked by a twin engined night fighter which was hit by return fire and exploded. After dropping their bombs they were attacked by a single engined fighter which was also shot down. Soon after the Lancaster was attacked yet again and twin engined night fighter but this attack was evaded successfully. F/O Vernieuwe was recommended for the award of a DFC and another Palm to his Croix de Guerre for this operation. On the 26/27th Aug 1944 - Kiel. They successfully bombed the target and on the return flight flying low over the North Sea the crew spotted lights and flying over this position saw a dinghy with a 156 Sq Pathfinder crew who ditched in the sea. They reported the position and this crew were subsequently rescued.
An eventful tour of ops continued throughout the autumn and winter and was completed on the 5th Jan 45. For all these operations Vernieuwe flew under the assumed name of F/O R R Pamplin. This was the name which he adopted whilst with 103 Squadron to protect his identity and his family in Belgium if shot down and captured.
Vernieuwe wished to continue on bomber operation but was transferred to Transport Command at the request of the Belgian authorities. He was posted to 511 Sq Transport Command in Jan 1945.
On the 2nd February 1945 he was second pilot in an Avro York flying members of Winston Churchill’s staff to the Big Three Conference at Yalta. Prior to landing to refuel at Naples the York crashed. 15 passengers were killed and 1 passenger and 4 members of the crew including F/O Vernieuwe were injured.
On the 5th April he resumed flying duties as the Belgian liaison officer at the HQ of Transport Command at Bushy Park Teddington. In July 1945 F/O Vernieuwe was posted to 1332 RCU as first pilot on Liberator III and VI aircraft.
Post war Vernieuwe left the Air Force and became an air line pilot. He was a very well known and highly respected figure in Belgian civil aviation circles for many years.
He died at the age of 68 in a motor cycle accident at Huy in Belgium.
Acknowledgement - Thanks to the Belgian War Museum for the photo and some of the information in the above.
Item written by David Fell