Rodolphe de Hemricourt was born in Etterbeck, Brussels
on 18 November 1911, undertaking his military service in the cavalry. He
also obtained a civil pilot's licence (no. 371).
In September 1936 he volunteered for service with the
Nationalist forces in Spain, joining a unit of the Falange formed mainly
of Argentinean troops. On 19 November he was wounded in the right leg, and
whilst in hospital encountered a wounded pilot who was interested to learn
that his neighbor in the ward was a nobleman with a flying licence.
In consequence, he attended the Escuela Tablada (Flying
School) at Seville in December 1936 and on 1 February 1937 joined 3-G-11
at Saragossa, to fly He46 reconnaissance aircraft. In March he moved to
1-G-2 on He51 fighters, seeing action over the Aragon Front. On 1 November
1937 he was moved to 4-G-12 on Meridionali Ro37 army co-operation
aircraft, and then on 8 December to 3-G-3 on Fiat CR.32 fighters. On 15th
he moved to the similarly equipped 2-G-3 and he saw see much action over
the Teruel Front.
In March 1938 the Group took part in Aragón offensive
and on the 12th of the month 2-G-3 encountered enemy aircraft attempting
to stop the sweeping advance. During the afternoon eighteen Fiats, led by
Commander Ángel Salas Larrazábal, escorted Ju52s on a raid, and having
completed this task made a sweep of the front as far as Híjar, where they
encountered twenty Chatos. In the ensuing dogfights, Salas claimed one
probable, while Garcia Pardo destroyed one Chato, which fell near Híjar.
The wreckage of this machine was recovered subsequently, and a piece of it
was retained, on which ensuing victories of 2-G-3 were recorded, as well
as the names of all those in the group who were killed. Guerrero set fire
to another Chato, whose pilot took to his parachute from a very low
height. Salvador attacked another machine, which began to trail smoke, but
he was unable to continue his attack as his Fiat was almost out of fuel;
unable to return to his base at Tauste, he had to land at Saragossa.
Carlos Serra, Carlos Bayo Alessandri and De Hemricourt each were
successful in shooting down an enemy machine.
On 4 May Commander Ángel Salas had his fuel and water
tanks holed by machine-gun fire from the ground, forcing him to make an
emergency landing at Aguilar aerodrome, which had been occupied only days
before. During the same sortie the Fiats flown by Carlos Bayo, Muntadas
and De Hemricourt all received damage from ground fire.
On 31 May 2-G-3 took off with a total of eight
machines, in company with Captain Murcia’s squadron (3-G-3). Their task
was to escort a number of Ju52s and Ro.37s over the Puebla de Valverde
On arrival they encountered 25 Chatos and ten Ratas. Combat began
immediately but the Nationalist crews were successful in protecting the
bombers, which, their task completed, made good their escape.
Eight I-15s and two I-16s were shot down without losses. The successful
pilots were De Hemricourt (I-15), Salvador (2 I-15s and 1 I-16), Simon
(I-15), Vázques (I-15), Murcia (2 I-15s) and Meurza (I-16).
During this combat Commander Ángel Salas was attacking a Chato when three
enemy fighters in turn attacked him. His Fiat was hit several times before
he managed to break away from the attack, but his machine was vibrating so
badly that he had to return to base.
During a second sortie on 19 June, ten Fiats of 2-G-3
took off at 18:00 led by Commander Ángel Salas, to escort Ju52s bombing
Puebla de Valverde. They encountered a formation of 18 Chatos, which they
chased as far as Alcublas, where nine Ratas joined the fray. Salas dived
over the Chatos to attack, but was unable to fire his guns because a leak
had emptied his compressed air bottle. Despite this he continued to make
dummy attack during a battle, which ranged as far as Alcublas, being hit
five times by the Ratas, one bullet puncturing the coolant radiator.
Salvador enjoyed better luck, destroying two Chatos, one of which exploded
in the air, the other following in flames. He then had to retire with an
overheating engine. García Pardo effectively removed a Rata from the tail
of Aristides’ Fiat by shooting it down. De Hemricourt downed a Chato near
Alcublas, then a Rata to the north of Villar del Arzobispo, and saw a
Chato turn somersault as it attempted to land at its aerodrome. Esteban
Ibarreche fired at a Chato close to the ground, and this separated from
the rest of the formation and fell near to Higueruela. Ansaldo had to
return to base when an engine cowling parted company from his Fiat.
On 14 August Groups 2-G-3 and 3-G-3 attacked a
formation of Ratas, which were pursuing some He111s over Gandesa. Other
Chatos and Ratas later joined in the battle.
Group 2-G-3 claimed three Ratas (García Pardo, Carlos Bayo and de
Hemricourt) and 3-G-3 claimed two more (Morato and O’Connor). 2-G-3s
record of operations described the combat:
“García Pardo attacked some Ratas which were
pursuing an He111, shooting down one of the which fell near to Mora de
Ebro … Lieutenant Bayo attacked three Ratas and succeeded in destroying
one which fell on the edge of the Blanerías mountains. Later he attacked
a Chato, but was unable to ascertain whether it was destroyed as damage
to his engine forced him to land at Horte…
Lieutenant de Hemricourt fired at one Rata without any result; and then
attacked some Ratas engaged with other Fiats, hitting one which fell in
a wood to the north of Reus.”
The Republican side reported that 1st, 3rd and 4th
Squadrons fought against 90 enemy aircraft, which included seven Bf109s
and 27 He111s, and claimed the destruction of three Fiats and one He111.
They lost one Rata from 4th Squadron and two more pilots were injured.
Republican pilot Meroño also managed to get a Rata back to base with half
of the elevator shot away. According to Nationalist records no bomb fell
on this day, and the only Fiat to be lost was that of Second Lieutenant
Mesía (3-75) which did not return to base. Lieutenant Bayo (3-127) had to
make a forced landing and Second Lieutenant Alonso Fariña (3-139) was
wounded and landed at Puig Moreno. Second Lieutenant Manrique’s Fiat was
hit 30 times, but he managed to get back to base at Escatrón. Krug’s He51
was also badly mauled by enemy fire, but he too got back to base at Mas de
On 1 September Garcá Pardo and Rodolphe De Hemricourt
de Grunne surprised a squadron of Grumman Delfins and managed to destroy
On 20 September a series of daily battles began,
culminating in fierce combats on 2 and 3 October. Groups 2-G-3 and 3-G-3
fought jointly in all these battles, achieving a total of twenty-five
victories (17 by 2-G-3). On 22 September de Hemricourt claimed two of
these victories (one I-16 and one I-15) followed by one I-16 on 2 October
and another I-16 the next day.
On 2 November during two missions the two Spanish
fighter Groups claimed 17 enemy aircraft. De Hemricourt claimed one of
these, an I-15, over Pinell.
Next day, 3 November, he claimed another I-15 over
On 12 November eighteen Fiats of 2-G-3 and six from
3-G-3 took of under the leadership of Salas, to escort Ju52s and He70s in
the Segre sector. Six Katiuskas were encountered, escorted by two
formations of Ratas. De Hemricourt succeeded in destroying one Rata, and
one Katiuska was shot down by the combined attack of about five machines.
As the Fiats landed back at base from this sortie - one, which had been
damaged in combat, collided with machine No 3-61, Salas’ aircraft,
damaging the lower wings. This latter machine, one of the first to serve
with the group, was repaired by the middle of January and Salas finished
the war in it.
This combat marked the end of air operations in support of the battle of
the Ebro, which ended on 16 November with the retreat of the XV Army
He claimed his last victory in Spain when he claimed an
I-15 on 2 January 1939 over Ciervoles. By now he had claimed 14 victories.
With the end of the war in Spain, he returned to
Belgium in June, where in September 1939 he was mobilised - but into the
infantry! After making strong representations, he gained a transfer to the
Aviation Militaire Belge as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1940. He was sent to a
pilot school, and rapidly received his military licence, being posted to
2/I/2 Groupe at Schaffen on Hurricanes.
He engaged an intruding Do17 on 12 March 1940, but had
to break off due to mechanical failure. Following the destruction on the
ground of all the unit's aircraft at the start of the German attack in May
1940, he withdrew to France with many other pilots, leaving for England on
20 June on the SS Apapa, reaching Liverpool on 7 July.
He was commissioned in the RAF on 19 July as a Pilot
After training at 7 OTU, Hawarden, he was posted to 32
Squadron at Biggin Hill on 9 August.
On 16 August he claimed a Bf109E off Dover.
The next day he claimed another Bf109 as a damaged.
On 18 August he claimed a shared Do17 before being shot
down by escorting Bf109s, baling out of Hurricane V6535 near Herne Bay,
seriously burned at 17.35.
On release from hospital in February 1941, he went to
Portugal to recuperate. It was reported that he was involved in some
espionage here, but while he may well have met some of his Civil War
acquaintances, this is nonetheless unlikely.
Returning to the UK, he joined 609 Squadron on 28 April
1941, but on 21 May, whilst involved in 'Circus 10', which involved escort
of Blenheims raiding Bethune, he was shot down over the Channel in
Spitfire P7521, again the victim of a Bf109. He baled out over the Goodwin
Sands, but was not found.
On 21 July, Belgium National Day, War Minister Gutt
presented Croix de Guerre at Wellington Barracks, de Hemricourt's being
received by his sister. During the same year in Spain a number of awards
of the Cruz Militar were made on the day of Our Lady of Lareto; one of
these was for de Hemricourt.
De Hemricourt was credited with 14 biplane victories
and a total of 15 and 1 shared destroyed at the time of his death. All of
the biplane victories were claimed during the Spanish Civil War.