Vassilios Vassiliades

The Greek RAF ace pilot

 

 

 

 

July , 2014

 

 

 

Vassilios Vassiliades

( 1920 – 1945 )

Victories: 

 

Aircraft :

11,5   destroyed

5        damaged

 

2 trains destroyed

1 tank   destroyed

60 vehicles & barges destroyed

 

 

 

DFC

 

 

DFM

 

 

 

·         An unknown Greek Ace

·         Short biography

·         The Runnymede Memorial

·         Crash Location in Normandy

·         A recent (2014) new monument for Vassiliades

 

 

 

 

 

 

An unknown Greek Ace

 

It was the year 1998. For the first time for me the name Vass has emerged through the lines of the book of Pierre Clostermann , ‘The Big Show’ . He mentioned the loss of Vass , a pilot of the RAF Sq 3 , based with him in Volkel Holland in 1945 . Occasionally they were sharing the same aircraft , a Tempest , the JF-A , s/n EJ755  The name smelled of a short-cut for a non English name . My first thought, was for a Greek-Cypriot person of the British Commonwealth that participated in WW2 with the British forces. Apart from this short nick name I had no other pertinent information and despite this word being a real family name in the Czech language , yet my instinct directed me towards a greek-origine full name like say Vassilopoulos , Vassilakis etc... 

But as my amateur historian instinct would not allow me settle with something hypothetical , I asked for  a 'general call' to an old colleague I knew , Brian Dark,  who is an active member of the RAF veteran members still participating with their meetings here and there. It was due to Brian that the first good news came to me when he told me there have been some old RAF members that remembered a guy called Vassiliades Basil (Vassilios) , an RAF pilot of Greek citizenship that fought with them : '...the son of a Greek ship-owner, killed in 1945 and whose father had named a liberty ship after him ...' . That was a real trigger that started a chain reaction in me. 

I then tried to find a contact with the archives in Chios island , Greece  , regrettably however but not surprisingly , without any success. I then approached Clostermann (still alive at that time) via a friend , Manuel  Perales. Clostermann did confirm Vassiliades name and existence in the 3rd RAF squadron adding a short description  out of his memories. He said : "...a very thin and shy young man around his 20s , known for his audacity in the air, lost bravely few days before the war end over Germany..". Some days later , magnificent researchers I came upon on the internet provided me with his first ever picture to me. Starting from there onwards mainly by persistence of Angelos Thalassenos within a year's time had discovered the sister of Vassilis Vassiliades , Maria ,  living in Canada , who had the pleasure to accept his visit and then by the help of his son , has presented Angelos , Vassilios personal log and other historical belongings , more pictures ,  his helmet , etc. Angelos with his mind of the ceaseless researcher was to locate further data and even the son of the last German pilot whom Vassilios shot down (Georg Genth - still alive in 2007). On my side I searched from the Henton RAF Museum archives his official log in RAF that included even a B/W picture of his Mustang QV-D plane when this type was first integrated in RAF , 19th squadron - the pilot inside the cockpit should not have been Vassiliades , however. Then Angelos let me know that once he was shot down over France in his Mustang QV-V, near Rouen , were he was given shelter by a family under the possible name of O-z-e-r. Searching on the French yellow-book list I detected that in this area there was only one  similar family name : Oger , and I sent letters to three persons found with this name asking for any help on the matter. I then got a reply from Jean Oger , a 85 year old man , a keen amateur historian who was the young son of this family and has seen and known Vassiliades well during his staying there. In August 2005 we both visited Mr Jean Oger at his home in the country side of Louviers-Les Elbeufs , South of Rouen , in France. After a very warm and touching welcoming he has shown us the exact place he was hiding and the very spot his plane has fallen. He narrated as well lots of other little stories of his staying there until he contacted the advancing allies and rejoined his squadron. In the meantime Angelos was finding more details on combat descriptions Vassiliades has participated in , cross checked from archives of the RAF and the Luftwaffe and other internet serious historical researchers.  . The next visit was planned in 2006 is Runnymede , near Windsor in UK , to the Memorial of the Commonwealth Pilots where the name of Vassiliades appears engraved. During a shiny 2-day summer trip in UK me and Angelos ran along the southern coast of the Thames on course to Windsor then went up the hill some 3 Km before the city to arrive to the Runnymede Memorial and get pictures from the column were Vassiliades name is engraved on 

By this day Angelos has collected a vast volume of material concerning Vassiliades , the most possible accumulation of data that could be found from everywhere that lead to a large article (monography) on Vassiliades published in 2007. 

 

Short biography

 

 

 

 

 

The parents of Vas.Vassiliades were Mr Michael Vassiliades and Miss Augustine-Madline Braquehays. They met at Rouen in France , got married and their first son , Vassilios , was born on the 1st Nov 1920. In 1929 they came to Greece and lived in the island of Chios. Vassilios was to follow the family business , his father was a ship owner , and was sent to Hydra to study at the Merchant Naval Academy.

On the picture to left he is standing at the back of the family picture and wearing the Academy’s uniform. On the right the young boy is his brother Nikolaos and on the left his sister Mary. On the center you can distinguish the parents.

On year 1939 he was sent to England to continue his studies when the war broke out. He volunteered for the RAF .

Vassilios joined as a Flying Master Sergeant the RAF Sq. 19 and took part on attacks to occupied Europe flying Spitfire Vb. His first citation was a DFM ( Distinguished Flying Medal ) for his 102 sorties and 220 flying hours and 2 victories till then. Near D-Day Sq. 19 will receive Mustangs II and III.  He was then already a Flying Officer.

The most stunning event of his crashing in Normandy was that he was downed actually in a close distance from his birthplace ! The mother of Mr Oger , a strong Resistance member , arranged that he visited , under cover , his grand-mother in Rouen !

 

After his adventure in Normandy he was posted in 1945 to the RAF Sq 3 equipped with Hawker Tempest , in Volkel Holland. He was killed leading a ground attack under heavy flak near Bocholt (Osnabruck area) Germany on the 15th March 1945.

 

Vassiliades has remained totally unknown for the greek public until we started our research.

 

 

The Runnymede Memorial

 

Vassiliades Vassilios is the only Greek pilot known

to have his name engraved on the RAF Memorial Monument in Runnymede.

His name appears on the 266th panel of the peristyle of this edifice

 

 

 

 

 

 

Panel 266

The Runnymede RAF Memorial

 

 

VASSILLIADES, BASIL (of) MICHAEL ,Flight Lieutenant Nr 182875 ,date of death 25/03/1945

age 24,Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, United Kingdom

Panel 266. RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL

 

For the visitors : The coordinates of the entrance are : 51,437655 N , 0,565066 W .

 

 

The wider area around Runnymede : If you get the M25 southbound , on your left (right of this picture) you see the runways of Heathrow airport

Exiting left on the direction of Stains initially , you then turn right towards Windsor, parallel to the Thames river.

At about 2 Km from there you turn left up the hill on whose pick the Memorial is found

 

M Jean Oger et Mme Denise Oger who invited us with much warmth and friendliness to their house and had an extraordinary history revelation on Vassiliades in Normandy , not far actually from the city Vassilios was born !

The crash-site of Vassiliades plane , RAF sq 19 , Mustang III , QV-V , s/n FB116 . The plane had penetrated 2-3 m. into the ground. The very thick folliage saved the pilot from certain death

 

Crash Location in Normandy

 

The map of the crash area . The blue line shows the course of Vassiliades plane while hitting the bridges over the Seine River.

The red square indicates the site of the crash

Co-ordinates : 49.235360 N , 1.000888 E

Here is the detailed crash area indicated by the yellow circle. Near the village of La Harengére on the way to the nearest village La Petite Vallée on its North East.

Next to the crash site the farm where Vassiliades  has found a shelter just after the crash  is still standing today , as it was in 1944.

 

This is the profile of the Mustang III , QV-V , s/n FB116 , crashed in Normandy

 

 

The Tempest EJ755 flown both by Vassiliades and P Clostermann by the IPMS HELLAS Greek modelers association

 

A recent (2014) new monument for Vassiliades

 

 

It is Sunday , June the 8th 2014 . In a small village of Normandy , Ellon , near Bayeux , just 20 Km South of the landing areas of D-Day , we stand with emotion ! We have been invited me Yiannis , Angelos Thallasinos and Jean Oger to be present on a ceremony . It takes place 500 m east of the City Hall on the orchards that in 1944 were used as a base for the RAF Wing 122 , codenamed as landing field B12 , including the 19th Squadron Vassiliades was with. A very well organized ceremony by the Mayor of Ellon Mr Lemière and his assistant Mr Fabrice Dhollande that honors France, Ellon and History.

The emotion is triple ! First we can watch on the first lines a dozen of the heroes that fought from there , now at their 90+ ! All dressed with the same civil-RAF ‘uniform’ . On their jackets the labels carry the names of people you could only find in special historic articles and fighter aces books ! People you cannot believe that are still there alive and you would only dream to stand next to them. ! Then , we are stunned to see that RAF itself but also the Australian AF and people from the Dutch military band are there to complete the ceremony atmosphere. This is because many Australians and New Zealanders have fought with 122 and because this Wing has moved in 1945 till the war end in Volkel Holland , its second war base in the Continent. 

 

These are the living heroes , standing in front of the monument of Wing 122 during the ceremony

 

 

The last of the emotions is to be remembered till the end of our lives : Me , Angelos and Jean Oger stand up to receive the medal awarded for this ceremony to those alive and to those representing the ‘absent’ pilots of Wing 122. The diploma that follows is dedicated to Vassilidis Vassiliades and we three represent him as its closest ‘family’ members !! Jean Oger , with eyes full of tears says : ‘It is all due to my Mother , she did everything , the medal is for her not me ! ‘ and I squeezed my old friend into my arms as I could feel deeply his feelings of this moment. For Me and Angelos it is the apogee of a work we had taken at heart some 12 years ago for the first time .

 

Me and Jean Oger , wearing the medal and a RAF tie

The ceremony diploma for Vass. Vassiliades

Angelos and Jean Oger , wearing the medal

 

 

 

The Monument plate with the names of the Wing 122 pilots killed 

The medal awarded commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day (2014) and the end of WW2 (2015)

One before the end is the name of Vassiliades. It reads : F/Sgt B.M. Vassiliades , shot down on the 11th April 1944 , over Bedanne-Oissel

(Department of) SEINE-MARITIME

 

       For those who would like to visit this monument here is the location and its co-ordinates:

 

 

 

The RAF Wing 122 Monument is a walk of 500 m to the east of the City Hall (Mairie) of Ellon . Ellon is found at 14,2 Km South of the coast line of the D-Day beaches , 24 Km SE from Omaha Beach and 6 Km South of Bayeux , the nearest larger city of the area.  The roads around Ellon are classic narrow countryside roads after you quit the main National Road N13.  The monument co-ordinates are : 49.217270° N  0.671932° W