Baron Jean De Selys Longchamps

In 1939 where two old manor-houses had stood in the Avenue Louise Brussels, a new building was completed, number 453, it towered above the existing houses in the avenue. The architect was Stanislas Jasinski, a pupil of the Belgian master Victor Horta. When the Geramns army occupied Brussels the following year the Gestapo (Nazi Secret Police) made the building their main office On the 20th January 1943 the people of Brussels at last saw some retribution for their sufferings under the occupation. A Hawker Typhoon fighter piloted by Jean De Selys Longchamps swooped low over the Boitsfort horse racing track followed the Avenue de Nation (now the Avenue Franklin Roosevelt) until it joined the Avenue Louise. The fighter plane then flew straight at the Gestapo Headquarters building at number 453 Avenue Louise, as it did so letting rip a stream of deadly 20mm cannon fire right into heart of their evil organization. The people of Brussels were cheered and the occupiers were given a taste of what was to come. Hundreds of Brussels' citizens came to see the damaged building while angry German sentries tried to drive them away.

The building as it looked in 1943.

Baron Jean Michel P.M.G. De Selys Longchamps D.F.C., Chevalier de l'ordre de Leopold, Croix de Guerre, was the son of Baron Raymond Charles Michel Ghislain de Selys Longchamps. Born in Brussels on the 31st May 1912 he was a Belgian Cavalry Officer at the time of the German attack on Belgium. After the surrender in May 1940 he came to England with the Dunkirk evacuation and then immediately returned to France to continue the fight for France. With the surrender of the French forces he managed to escape via Marseilles in the south of France and reach Gibraltar. De Selys Longchamps then, in his eagerness to reach England to continue the war, travelled to Morocco to join up with Belgian aviators. He is arrested by the Vichy authorities in Morocco and returned to France and imprisonment in Marseilles and then an internment camp near Montpelier. He escapes from the camp and suceeds in crossing the Pyrenees into Spain and is able to reach England. Where, despite his age, he is accepted for training as a fighter pilot in the RAF. After completing training he joins 609 Squadron at Manston in Kent.
Before the attack De Selys Longchamps had asked permission for the mission from his RAF superiors but had not received an answer. On the day of the attack he was flying with another Typhoon piloted by Flight Sergeant Bianco on a mission attacking rail traffic in Flanders, but left his colleague to pursue his solo attack.
It is said that just after the attack De Selys Longchamps threw out of his cockpit the Belgian tricolour and a Union Jack. The results for the Gestapo are also uncertain , some reports say thirty were killed in the building, others four including a senior Gestapo officer Muller. Another, perhaps unlikely, story is of a British agent working under cover in the building was killed, a list containing the names of many agents was found by the Germans on his body, supposedly resulting in many arrests.

A view of the avenue E. Demot, in front of the Gestapo building, showing the back of the little monument to Jean de Selys Longchamps. It is easy to understand that he had plenty of room to attack the building at low altitude. On the left is the park of the "Abbaye de la Cambre" (art academy and national geographic institute). The ITT tower on the right was build after the war. View of the building, left, and the monument.
Monument to Jean de Selys de Longchamps, with the building in the background. Commemorative plate affixed on the wall of the building. Translation :
In full daylight On January 20th 1943 This building, the Gestapo's haunt during the war 1940-1945, suffered the avenging fire of the plane's guns of Captain Baron Jean-Michel de SELYS LONGCHAMPS of the 1st Regiment of Guides Flying Officer of the Royal Air Force
Photos by Raymond Herbigniaux

On his return from the mission De Selys Longchamps was demoted to Pilot Officer and transferred to 3 squadron but at the same time awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
On the 16th of August 1943, when returning from a mission over Ostend, he crashed and was killed on landing at Manston.

De Selys Longchamps is buried in grave 3002A in MINSTER CEMETERY, right next to Manston airport in Thanet, Kent.

Flight Lieutenant
Baron J M P M G De Selys Longchamps D.F.C.
Royal Air Force
16th August 1943
Age 31

Minster Cemetery, Thanet, Kent.
De Selys Longchamps' grave is located straight ahead from the main gate amongst a small group of war graves.

De Selys Lonchamps Typhhoon attack on Gestapo HQ
Pencil drawing of the attack presented to this website by the artist Patrick Sadler

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© John Clinch 2003