Herstal (Rhees) Communal Cemetery  

History Information (Source: CWGC) 

The British Expeditionary Force was involved in the later stages of the defence of Belgium following the German invasion in May 1940, and suffered many casualties in covering the withdrawal to Dunkirk. Herstal (Rhees) Communal Cemetery contains the grave of one airman of the Second World War. The grave is in the Belgian pelouse d'honneur along the centre alley of the cemetery on the left.

Leading Aircraftman ROONEY, JOHN - Service Number 544996

Died 12/05/1940 - Aged 20

Son of Theresa Rooney, of Newcastle-on-Tyne.


Bristol Blenheim Mk IV P4923 from the 139 Squadron Royal Air Force, was airborne on May 12, 1940 at 0500 from Plivot airfield, Epernay, France, briefed to bomb and strafe enemy troop columns advancing from Maastricht towards Tongeren. Shot down at Herstal-Rhees (Liège), on the NE outskirts of Liège, Belgium. Leading Aircraftman John Rooney, aged 20, was KIA, the other crew members, Squadron Leader T.G. Tideman and Sergeant Hale made it back to own lines.


12/05/1940: Maastricht-Tongres, NL and B

At dawn the British air commander sent off nine A.A.S.F. Blenheim of No. 139 Squadron to attack a column on the road from Maastricht to Tongres. Running into the swarms of fighters previously reported over the area, they lost all but two of their number—a disaster which ended the life of the A.A.S.F. Blenheims as a useful force before it had begun, for the other squadron (No. 114) had been virtually destroyed on its airfield the previous day.