• Aircraft: Spitfire IX BS548
  • Pilot: Lieutenant Claude Raoul-Duval
  • 341 ‘Alsace’ Squadron – Biggin Hill
  • Lost: 17 April 1943
  • Location: Tancarville, France

Spitfire IX BS548, 341 ‘Alsace’ Squadron, piloted by French Spitfire pilot Claude Raoul-Duval, was lost on 17th April 1943 on Circus 286, led by Squadron Leader René Mouchotte, at Tancarville, east of Le Havre. Luckily, Claude managed to bale out, parachuting to safety into the trees of the nearby woods.

Claude and another Free French pilot, Lt Philippe Béraud, were claimed by Fw Herbert Gumprecht of 11/JG2. Béraud was killed near Etretat and is buried at Le Havre Sainte Marie cemetery. Gumprecht himself was shortly later killed in action, on 16th August 1943, in Normandy.

Claude’s wartime career is outstanding. After being shot down near Tancarville he was back in the UK six months later having travelled via Spain and Gibraltar. With him were two USAAF crews – and his bride, a member of the French underground. He returned to 341 Squadron and served until 1945.

He wrote a book ‘Ciel de Sable’ (Sky of Sand) about his time in Libya and Egypt in 1942 when he was credited with a Ju88 shot down.

Spitfire BS548 had flown previously with Free French 340 Squadron ‘Ile de France’. It then went for a short time to 402 (RCAF) Squadron, then went back to 340 and later to 341. BS548 dived into reclaimed marshland and was completely buried.

It was located by researcher Laurent Viton and excavated in September 2012 with Claude Raoul-Duval in attendance, and about 90% of the aircraft was recovered. The serial number was confirmed by the discovery of “548” stencilled in several places.

A display dedicated to Claude and his fellow Free French Pilots, along with parts from BS548, can be seen at the Wings Museum.

The crater was still clearly evident in 2012!
The crash site was located by French historians close to the estuary
Gareth shows Claude BS548’s Rear View mirror – he commented he should have looked in it!
Claude very kindly signed parts of his Spitfire for the recovery team
A Bullet hole – evidence of the combat
Lieutenant Claude Raoul-Duval 1943 – Free French Air Force
Rare still taken from film footage showing Spitfire BS548 taxiing. Claude could well be at the controls. Note the Free French insignia below the cockpit

The Wings Museum would like to thank the following people for the opportunity of attending this unique excavation: Gareth Jones, Steve Vizard, Simon Parry, Geoff Carless, Laurent Viton, and also the various French researchers and historians who made the excavation possible.