Catch – 22’s B – 25… What else ?


Sunday, May 30th, 2021.

Normally, I should not be at my home. Normally, I had to be on duty, along with other volunteers, at the Chièvres Air Base International Museum. Normally, my day should be among others dedicated to perfect my guide training ( except for the cell dedicated to the R.A.F. Belgian Section, 1940–1946, my « scope » ).

And yet, normality did not follow its course. Because of restrictions due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the museum had re – opened its doors ( May 2nd ) by allowing guided tours on reservation. Unfortunately, no reservation was made for Sunday, May 30th. « Day off » for everybody. It was a shame, but it was for another time.

So here I am at home, busy wrapping up and cataloguing some old artworks dating from my years of studies at the I.A.T.A. ( 1993 – 1998 ) and at Saint Luke, Liège ( 1998 – 2002 ). During the afternoon, I receive the usual newsletter from Yves Duwelz, a huge enthusiast of the dream of Icarus whose acquaintance I made in 2010, within the Air & Espace Section in the Royal Museum of Army and Military History ( Brussels ). Among the treasures that Yves always manages to dig up, a title ( in French ) catches my eye immediately, whetting my curiosity as well :

· Mission : sauver le B – 25 de George Clooney !

« Since when did George Clooney own his personal B – 25 ? », would ask a layman. Well, he does not own it, far from it ! Friend George may be famous and filthy rich as well, he rented an original B – 25 ( without the slightest « modern » modification and under restoration ) which was used for the filming of Catch – 22 ( 2019 ), a satirical dark comedy miniseries based on the novel published by Joseph Heller ( 1923 – 1999 ) in 1961.

Said B – 25 belongs to the BAPA ( Belgian Association Preservation Association ) and is restored by its members, a whole team of true enthusiasts !

On Tuesday, June 1st, I discover an E - mail from my supervisor, Patricia Henrion, in which she asks me to add the article on the Blog. Having not read my reply, she reminds me about it the following day, during a non reccuring stopover in the office.

Published by Pierre De Vuyst on .soirmag.be., the article is about the B – 25 of the non – profit association, as well as the willingness of its members to give birth to a Belgian Civil Aviation Museum in Wallonia, built around the star of the day. The rest of the article cannot be viewed without subscribing but, nevertheless, it leaves no doubt about a part of its content. As regards the B – 25, there were many Belgians, among the R.A.F. « Mitchell Boys », who flew on operations aboard during the Second World War. These airmen ( Pilots, Navigators, Wireless Operators / Air Gunners and Air Gunners ) were part of three Squadrons, forming No. 139 Wing in the 2nd Tactical Air Force :

· No. 98 Bomber Squadron.

· No. 180 Squadron.

· No. 320 « Netherlands » Squadron ( a Squadron essentially formed with Dutch aircrews ).

The BAPA’s members, including Vincent Jacobs, Stefaan Vancauteren, Jean – François Neefs, Éric Dessouroux and Marc Loward, would like to make these airmen known and, in a way, to honour their memory as well. I, for my part, had the chance, the honour and the joy to interview one of them, Lieutenant Colonel of Aviation ( retd ) Ernest « Nenesse, Titine No. 1, Loopy » Loop D.F.C. ( 1925 – 2011 ). These memorable few hours – immersed in History – took place at Ghent ( East Flanders, Belgium ), on Thursday, July 8th, 2010, together with André Bar ( free researcher in the Air & Space Section ).

Sergeant ( Sgt ) Ernest « Nenesse, Titine No. 1, Loopy » Loop, photographed in the Belgian restaurant « Chez Gaston », in London. ( source : « Chez Gaston » Collection via André Bar )

Ernest « Nenesse, Titine No. 1, Loopy » Loop, photographed at home on July 8th, 2010. ( source : André Bar )

Volunteer in Egypt at the age of 16 ( in the infantry… with his father as Company Commander ), he then came to Great Britain and joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve ( R.A.F.V.R. ). After being trained as an Air Gunner, he was posted to No. 98 Bomber Squadron and, during a certain period, was part of a full Belgian crew. At the end of the war, Ernest Loop completed 57 operations, achieved the rank of Flying Officer ( F/O = Lieutenant Aviator ) and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross ( D.F.C. ).

If you would like to learn more about the Belgian « Mitchell Boys », I invite you to visit the page dedicated to the following book ( written in French ) :

· Les aviateurs belges dans la Royal Air Force.

In conclusion, I do not deny my pleasure to show you this photograph, taken by Wilfried Spruyt, on the occasion of the open day organised by the BAPA ( Saturday, August 31st, 2019 ).

Your humble servant, dressed in a « Suits, Aircrew » uniform with the rank of Flight Lieutenant ( F/Lt = Captain Aviator, South African, R.A.F.V.R. ). I am accompanied by Jean – Luc Bogard, my « Navigator », at the controls of the B – 25.

Are you itching to fly and to travel as well ? Whether you are vaccinated or not, I invite you to find your own way through a new story… above the clouds.

Take care of yourself.

Cheers.

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1 comment

  • Bravo Mehdi,

    Je savais déjà que tu étais un as du crayon, je te découvre une belle plume et un vrai talent de conteur.
    Au plaisir de te lire.

    Bien à toi

    Yves Duwelz

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