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French fighter pilots 1939-1945.

Edmond Marin La Meslée

by Christian-Jacques Ehrengardt
Philippe Listemann
Pierre-André Tilley

Translation: Michel  Léveillard

In French aviation circles, there is no need to introduce Edmond Marin La Meslée who was one of the finest fighter pilots in 1940, and considered the ace of ace of the May - June campaign.

It all began in the city of Valenciennes on February 5, 1912. To please his family, he entered law school, but his real vocation was elsewhere. Taking advantage of an aviation government program, he learned to fly at the Morane flight school, and he obtained his pilot license on August 11, 1931.

At the age of 19, he volunteered for two years and entered the French Air Force school at Istres. After graduation, he was assigned to the 2nd fighter regiment in Strasbourg with the rank of Second Lieutenant. With his French Air Force contract about to expire, Edmond re-enlisted for another two years, but he had to do so with only the rank of Sergeant. No one can say that he lacked motivation!

In October of 1937 he was admitted to the French Air Force Academy and promoted to Second Lieutenant once again. He was then assigned to GC 1/5 (Groupe de Chasse or Fighter Group) where Captain
Accart took him "under his wings" recognizing his potential as a future "crack" fighter pilot.

The record of his personal achievements attained under the difficult conditions of the French campaign needs no futher comments. On June 11, 1940, his chief was wounded in combat and Edmond replaced him as the leader of the 1st Escadrille.

On June 25 1940, it was "curtain time" for the French Air Force. The GC 1/5 evacuated to Saint-Denis-du-Sig, then on to Rabat Morocco in August 1940. The group was relatively spared by the combats between the Aviation of the Armistice and its old allied the British until November 8, 1942. Edmond had passed through the storm unscathed.

His group left for Tafaraoui in September 1943 and began to receive American material. First some P-40s in December 1942, then some P-39s in June 1943. Finally the group received P-47s in October 1944.

Edmond was then promoted as Commandant of GC 1/5 
Champagne on January 9, 1944, patiently awaiting the hour of revenge. The hour would come on September 30, 1944 when his group was transferred to Salon-de-Provence to support the French and Allied forces pursuing the Germans along the Rhône River. Pure fighter sorties were no longer on the agenda for the 1/5; they were now flying strafing missions and tactical air support.

On December 29, the group moved on to Dôle. On February 4, 1945, Edmond Marin La Meslée took off as the leader of a three-airplane patrol, with Captain Rouquette leading two other airplanes to provide upper cover. The three P-47s then attacked a temporary bridge near Neufbrisach. All went well, but after his attack, Marin la Meslée spotted a truck column, and despite an intense Flak, he proceeded to strafe the convoy. Returning to verify the results of his attack, a 40 mm shell hit his airplane behind the armor plate. Mortally hit, the P-47 (serial number 44-80384) crashed and exploded  upon ground contact at Rustenhart, a few kilometers from Neu-Brisach. Chief-Sergeant Uhry was also hit by Flak and killed, his airplane crashing near the one of his leader.

The Germans retrieved Marin La Meslée's body whom had sustained a shrapnel wound in the brain. It is however doubtful that he would have survived the crash. They took his body to the Rustenhart cemetery, but they did not have time to organize his funeral before the allied advance. This task would be left to the local village Priest.

MARIN LA MESLEE Edmond † February 4th 1945
Flying officer / First lieutenant
GC I/5

11.01.40 (2) Do 17     Longwy [54]
12.05.40 (1) Ju 87      Bouillon [B]
12.05.40 (1) Ju 87      Pouru St-Rémy [08]
12.05.40 (1) Ju 87      Ste-Cécile [B]
13.05.40 (1) Bf 109    Stonne [08]
15.05.40 (7) Hs 126   Vendresse [08]
16.05.40 (9) Do 215   Rethel [08]
18.05.40 (3) He 111   Rethel [08]
18.05.40 (5) He 111   Ponsart [51]
18.05.40 (5) He 111   Laon [02]
19.05.40 (2) He 111   Hesse [55]
24.05.40 (1) Hs 126   St-Loup-Terrier [08]
25.05.40 (4) Hs 126   Boult-aux-Bois [08]
26.05.40 (9) He 111  Tannay [08]
03.06.40 (4) Hs 126  Sommauthe [08]
10.06.40 (5) Ju 88     Chatillon sur Bar [08]

(X): total number of pilots participating to the destruction of the enemy airplane.
[XX]:  country or geographical French department.

© Aéro Editions, Aérostories, 2001.

J. Mutin collection                 Click!

Curtiss H-75 A  n° 217
Flying Officer / First Lieutenant
Edmond Marin la Meslée
GC I/5 1st escadrille
Suippes (France), May 10th 1940

Infography : Pierre-André Tilley, © Aéro-Editions

J. Mutin collection                 Click!