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Staff-Sergeant Corentin QUIDEAU


Source (Photos and documents) : Page published with the kind permission of Mr Jean-Claude QUIDEAU: Staff Sergeant Corentin QUIDEAU was his Great-Uncle.
The text below is an extract from Mr QUIDEAU's website : Le Leo 451 No95 ne répond plus
On this site, you will find a very detailed page on Corentin Quideau, of course, but also on the GB I/31, its men, a tribute to the research work of the deceased pilots carried out by Mrs Germaine l'Herbier-Montagnon and many other very detailed subjects.


This is the story of the aviator Corentin Jean-Marie Quideau :

Corentin Quideau was born on 27 May 1917 in Plobannalec in a "penty" located in the heart of the village.
Today it is the commune of Plobannalec-Lesconil in the Bigouden country. Practically the whole family lived in this farmhouse, which used to be part of an old Breton manor.

In 1937, he joined the Air Force..
He attended the radio navigation course at the Saint-Jean d'Angely-Fontenet air base in the Charente-Maritime.
From July 1937 onwards, the 2nd squadron of the 31st bombing wing of Tours, equipped with Bloch MB200s, took part in numerous events, in particular those of 14 July.
On 14 July 1937, the Bloch MB 200 No 122 flown by Laurent Pochart with Lieutenant Prat as pilot, Midshipman Leroux, Staff Sergeant Bordenave and Master Corporal Quideau participated in the 14 July parade over Paris.

In 1938, Corentin Quideau obtained his radio navigation certificate. Promoted to sergeant, he was assigned to the Bloch MB-200 bombers.
He met Laurent Pochart, already an experienced pilot from Finistère, born in Saint-Pierre Quilbignon, a district of Brest.

In 1939, he was assigned to the new Lioré & Olivier 45 (LeO) bombers which were just starting to equip the French Air Force.
He joined the Groupement d'instruction de l'aviation de bombardement du Sud-Est (South-East Air Force Training Group) and then the Bombardment Wing No. 6 at Toulouse-Francazal Air Base 101, which housed the South-East Bombardment Wings.
He was reunited with his Breton comrade Laurent Pochart, who had already flown a number of LeO 45s: Nos. 3, 4, 6, 22, 27, 94 and No. 18 during the war mission in September 1939 from Connantre to Coblentz and back.
He was assigned to the 31st Wing, based at Lézignan - Corbières, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Devé.

This 31 st Wing, was commanded at the beginning by Lieutenant Hirsch then from 29 10 1939, directed by Major Schmitter.
In 1939, the 31st Bombardment Wing was composed of two groups, the I/31 and the II/31
Each group or squadron had two squadrons.
- The 1/31 equipped with 14 LeO 451s commanded by lieutenant Hirsch as from 01 09 1939. The badge of the 1/31 squadron was a golden eagle passing through a red horseshoe.
- The 2/31 equipped with 11 LeO 451s was commanded by Major Chasseval then by Captain Moncheaux from 15/12/1939 to 20/05/1940, and finally by Lieutenant Fangeaux. The insignia of the squadron was a porcupine with the words "qui s'y frotte s'y pique" ("he who rubs it, stings it").
The LeO serial numbers were not marked on the fuselage.
For 12 and 31 Wing the numbers next to the fuselage roundel were not serial numbers but tactical codes. For the 31st Wing they were only affixed from 24 May 1940.
The tactical numbers were distributed as follows for the 31 :
- GB I/31: 10 to 19 for the 1st squadron, 20 to 29 for the 2nd squadron.
- GB II/31: 31 to 39 for the 3rd squadron, 41 to 49 for the 4th squadron.

No. 95 therefore had neither insignia nor tactical number when it fell on 20 May 1940. It bore only its black registration number under its wings: I - 631 (I-6 under the left wing and 31 under the right).

14 April 1940, the last flight of LeO 451 No 111

Warrant Officer Laurent Pochart takes off from Lézignan air base at the controls of LeO No 111.
Shortly after take-off, which is always tricky on this type of aircraft (see Pierre Salva's account in his book later in the story), LeO No 111 crashed to the ground at 3pm in Conilhac Corbières, at a place called "Entre deux Jourres".
Indeed this magnificent aircraft, Leo 451, was overweight due to the solidity of its structure which also meant very average climbing performance and a mediocre ceiling.
Taking off with a full load was less easy with the Lioré 451 than with aircraft less designed for manoeuvrability.
However, a very serious problem appeared as soon as the plane was integrated into the units. A loss of power at take-off meant a crash, which is fatal when the plane is both full of fuel and full of bombs.
From 3 September 1939 to 10 May 1940 inclusive there were 20 accidents, a significant proportion of which resulted in death and serious injury. This represented about 20% of the losses.
Warrant Officer Laurent Pochart was one of his victims of a failed take-off with a stall and a crash on his back.
However, he had 1100 flying hours, 100 of which were at night.
He had flown during his short career the LeO numbers 3 ,4 ,6 ,18, 22, 2, 94, 95, and the last one the 111...with which he met a sad end, shortly before many of his comrades of the 31 st Bombardment Wing.
Laurent Pochart is cited in the Wing Order for the accomplishment of four reconnaissance missions in enemy territory.

Corentin Quideau loses one of his friends. Shortly afterwards he also lost his life.

Bombers and their crews literally sacrificed in 1940
The Lioré and Olivier 451 were bombers with heroic but desperate actions.
During the first battles of 1940, the unfortunate Leo-451s that were sent to the Meuse front were almost all 'chopped up' by the anti-aircraft guns of the Flack (Fliegger Abwehr Kanone) and the Messerschmitt Bf 109s and 110s of the German fighter force that literally dominated the skies.

20 May 1940 from the field at Claye-Souilly in the Somme :

Only three bombers managed to participate in this mission.
At 7.00 pm, the 3 aircraft take off and are sent on the motorised columns between Amiens and the Albert canal. One of the aircraft, the LeO No 79 of Lieutenant Picelet, turned back because of navigation difficulties.
Lieutenant Hourtic continues his story:
"Of the I/31 group, there are only two aircraft available: Captain Moncheaux's LeO 45 No. 95 and mine No. 106."
"Captain Moncheaux is in command of the mission, I have to go behind him and six aircraft from the second group have to follow us, but during the whole mission I won't see them, I don't know what they have done."
"I give the order to disengage, and it is in a slight dive, full rubber, that we join Captain Moncheaux, to the west of Amiens."
"From the ground, the red trajectories of the tracer bullets are still coming towards us. Happy to have accomplished our mission, we rush towards the field. Only a few more minutes of flight and we will find our comrades. But a strong smell of burning comes to my place, at the same time my radio, corporal Roger tells me his concern. I turn around and see my gunner, Sergeant Desneux, making gestures that I don't understand, I no longer have a telephone connection with him, but I signal him to look at the sky, because I fear the hunt more than these red trails that are coming towards us."
"Later Desneux told me that when we bombed, the right engine was already leaving a trail of black smoke behind it. We had been hit on the way out by a projectile from the ground. We are still on a level with Captain Moncheaux. I can see him at his post as aircraft commander, measuring the route on his map. This is the last vision I will have of him."
"At this moment shells burst in the fuselage, fire sprays surround my aircraft and despite the mewing of the engines which are running at full speed, I hear my poor taxi cracking all over. We are being attacked by hunters; later soldiers will tell me that 22 hunters were on our tail. I look at the time on my watch: it is 7.50 pm."
I see Captain Moncheaux's plane leaving a long trail of fire behind it and descending slightly: its gunner shoots at the fighters which I cannot see from my seat, then the plane disappears from my sight.

Lieutenant Hourtic's account will be recorded in Germaine l'Herbier-Montagnon's book: "Disparus dans ciel".

"I know nothing about Moncheaux. I have sent a report of the mission to my commander, and have no news of my group. The first nurse who treated me told me that her cousin was an airman. Tragically, she is the cousin of Lieutenant Sudres, who was flying Captain Moncheaux's plane. I tell her about our fight. I trust Sudres, a very good pilot, he may have landed the taxi somewhere in the countryside. I write to Madame Moncheaux; I tell her my hope."

Alas, we will see later what happened to LeO No. 95
LeO No. 95, after being hit by anti-aircraft fire, was chased by Messerschmitt Bf 109s of Fighter Squadron No. 27 (JG 27).
The pilot, Lieutenant Sudres, voluntarily ran out of ammunition and charged at one of his attackers. Both planes crashed.
LeO number 95, in distress, crashed at about 8.50 pm into a field belonging to Mr Elie Douchet.
This field is located near the road from Jumel to Rossignol, not far from the commune of Berny-sur-Noye in the Somme.
Today, Berny-sur-Noye is part of the commune of Ailly-sur-Noye.
The plane immediately burst into flames, leaving no chance for the four unfortunate airmen. The aircraft was completely burnt out, with only a few pieces left.
The crew of the LeO No 95 was composed of:
- Captain Jean Moncheaux, pilot, navigator, Head of Aircraft,
- Lieutenant Augustin Sudres, pilot, observer,
- Staff Sergeant Corentin Quideau radio,
- Staff Sergeant Pierre Sommesous, gunner).

In the reports, there is no mention of the Bf 109 fighter hit by bomber number 95. It was however seen by the inhabitants of Berny-sur-Noye going down in flames at 20H30 on 20 May 1940 with the LeO. No parachute was seen.
The Germans, the first on the scene of the crash, probably made the debris of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 disappear. They probably did not want anyone to know that the flagship of their fighter had been shot down by a 'modest' French bomber.
In addition to the actual aircraft hit by LeO No. 95, three or four fighters would have been hit by the fire, but this needs to be verified.

There are still many grey areas surrounding this crash:

- Where is the wreckage of the Bf 109 that the LeO 95 harpooned on purpose?
- Why were only the charred remains of three Leo members found?
- Where were the remains of the fourth crew member?
- Who is he? Corentin Quideau, probably as indicated in the 71(7) card of Germaine l'Herbier Montagnon.
There were five bodies buried according to the report of Germaine l'Herbier Montagnon: 3 bodies at Berny and 2 at Cempuis,
The crew of Leo No. 95 consisted of four members.
Who was this fifth body mentioned by the witnesses of the crash and cited in a report of 12 August 1942 (Red Cross sheet no. 71 signed by Germaine L'Herbier)?
Was it the German driver hit by the No95 LeO? Did the Todt organisation's "cleaners" forget to collect their driver?
- To whom does the pilot's badge No 16824 belong? Jean Moncheaux, no doubt.
- Who does the mechanic's badge belong to? Pierre Soummesous, no doubt.
- How many hunters were hit or shot by the two leos, the 95 and the 106?
- Can the German archives be opened and give us information on this battle of 20 May 1940?

Adolf Galland claimed a victory on a Potez 63. He confused a Potez with a LeO, no doubt No 95.