He flew down the Champs-Elysees at second floor window height

I’m not sure about second floor but it couldn’t have been too high to do that.
Damn but weren’t there guys who did the derring-do things well in those days?  Of course, the opportunities presented themselves in more ways back then.
Whatever it was, many of the guys back then and most especially the flyers, even looked the part.  Like a cross between David Niven and Errol Flynn.
They fought well and for a country that years later isn’t worthy of them or their achievements.  Maybe I shouldn’t say that being a guest here. For now.

I read about these guys now and then, and have had the opportunity to actually hold in my own hands, letters from them to home or from commanding officers with sad news of loss. Then I look around and see how things are now.  Not the same sort at all.  Just sad. 

The RAF pilot who dropped the Tricolor on occupied Paris

The audacious story of how a RAF pilot flew down the Champs-Elysees to drop a French Tricolor over Nazi-occupied Paris has emerged after his medals were put up for sale.


In a daring raid intended to boost the morale of the French, Wing Commander Ken Gatward flew just feet off the ground to put the wind up the Germans.

After dropping a huge French flag on top of the Arc de Triomphe, the British pilot headed towards the Gestapo headquarters which he raked with 20mm shells.

The attack sent the German SS troops running for their lives, to the delight of Parisians.

Wg Cdr Gatward’s antics were celebrated in British newspaper cartoons and raised the hope and morale among the British and French.

One of the cartoons depicted his aircraft doing a loop around the Eiffel Tower, with the word ‘Hope’ written in the sky using his trail smoke.

He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and after the war he was hailed a hero by the French government who presented him with a large bottle of Champagne and a Tricolor in Paris.

Wg Cdr Gatward’s medal set, that includes his DFC with bar and a Distinguished Service Order, have now been put up for auction after the recent death of his widow.

Being sold with it are the pilot’s log books and the wooden commemorative Champagne case inscribed with the words ‘In Remembrance of Your Flight Over Paris’.

A souvenir booklet featuring a sketch of the moment Wg Cdr Gatward and his observer dropped the Tricolor over the Arc de Triomphe with German army trucks on the ground is also being sold.

James Grinter, of auctioneers Reeman Dansie of Colchester, Essex, said: “Ken Gatwood’s act of bravery is a real Boy’s Own story.

“He was asked to volunteer for the ‘unsafe mission’ which was aimed at boosting the morale of the French and British people as well as undermine the Germans.

“This is June 1942 and the real dark days of war for the French and this was to demonstrate that the Germans weren’t invincible.”

Wg Cdr Gatward was chosen for the sortie as he had demonstrated a skill for accurate flying during low-level attacks on enemy positions after Dunkirk.

The British had been informed the Germans held daily parades down the Champs-Elysees and he was asked to strafe the parade.

He and his navigator, Flight Sergeant George Fern, took off from Thorny Island, near Portsmouth, on June 12.

After reaching Paris, he flew at just 30ft before Ft Sgt released the flag down the flare shute and over the Arc de Triomphe.

Mr Grinter said: “It is an amazing story - one of those that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“He flew down the Champs-Elysees at second floor window height. It was an incredible act of bravery and a real audacious attack.

“He attacked the Gestapo HQ and SS troops were seen to run for their lives. As he turned for home the Germans came out and shook their fists at him.

“The attack gave Parisians one of the greatest thrills of the war and had a huge effect on the morale of the French and at home.”

After returning unscathed to Britain, Wg Cdr Gatward wrote in his logbook: “Paris - no cover - 0ft. Drop tricolours on Arc Triomphe & Ministrie Marine. Shoot up German HQ. Little flak - no E.A. Bird in STBD oil radiator.

“Returned Northolt and on to command 61 photos. Heavy rain over England. France fair to light.”

The bird in question was a French crow that clattered into Wg Cdr Gatward’s Beaufighter plane as he approached Paris.

Upon his return to England, he removed the dead bird and laid it to rest at RAF Northolt.

Wg Cdr Gatward was awarded a second DFC in September 1944 for taking part in an aeriel attack on a German convoy in Norwegian waters.

He spent 30 years in the RAF before retiring. He lived in Frinton-on-Sea, Essex, with wife Pamela and died in 1998 aged 84.

His medals and other items are expected to sell for £8,000 at the auction on Friday.


Posted by peiper    United Kingdom   on 11/29/2012 at 10:15 AM   
  1. A story of REAL audacity of hope. Unlike some we can think of.

    Posted by Rickvid in Seattle    United States   11/29/2012  at  05:52 PM  
  2. Kind of a British version of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo . Just to fuck with their heads.

    Posted by Rich K    United States   11/29/2012  at  07:59 PM  
  3. I have driven down that road, its 6 lanes wide so 30 feet would be practical, a real feat of skill and daring, was it Barker who did that in italy in WW1?

    Posted by Chris Edwards    Canada   12/01/2012  at  06:19 PM  
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