5704 in-depth character profiles from comics, games, movies

Lady Spitfire (Laure Chevalier)

Laure Chevalier, Spitfire ace


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

Francophone comics have a long tradition of aviation adventures, much of which stems from the Belgian writer Charlier  and his decades-spanning Buck Danny and Tanguy et Laverdure (which themselves draw inspiration from wartime novels such as WWII ace Pierre Clostermann’s The Big Show). Lady Spitfire is a minor example of this.

As it happens it is further grounded in tradition – serving with the Royal Air Force during World War Two is also an important part of the archetypal adventurer of Francophone comics and pulp fiction, Bob Morane.

On one hand this profile includes S P O I L E R S, but on the other hand those are unlikely to affect our non-Francophone readers. This entry covers the first three books.


Background

  • Real Name: Laure Chevalier.
  • Other Aliases: Charlie Johnson, Callsign Charlie, “Lady Spitfire”.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Father (name unrevealed, deceased).
  • Group Affiliation: 1B Squadron of the RAF, later the Special Operations Executive.
  • Base Of Operations: Mobile.
  • Height: 5’4” Weight: 110 lbs.
  • Eyes: Blue Hair: Black


Powers & Abilities

Laure is a gifted fighter pilot, whose strong instincts for aerobatics greatly enhance her survival chances. She has a fiery personality, remarkable courage and stubbornness, and a good head for mechanics.

However, Chevalier can’t do much in a brawl since most men will have about four inches and 40 pounds over her. In game terms this corresponds to her low STR. As she gets more brawling experience she learns to compensate to some extent, for instance by kneeing male opponents in the groin.

Chevalier flies the legendary Supermarine Spitfire interceptor , and is an expert with this high-performance single-seat fighter. This is especially notable since her exploits take place early during the Battle of Britain, when production of Spitfires is still slow and struggling.

The exact variants she flies aren’t mentioned, but it was probably a mix of MkIs and MkIIIs with a Rolls Royce Merlin engine as her squadron replaced lost aircrafts.

These Spitfires are armed with eight .303 Browning machineguns. A Spitfire can approach 600 mph when diving, and 50,000 feet when climbing.


History

Born in 1920, Laure Chevalier grew up on the since-closed Lille-Ronchin airfield, in Northern France. Back then, Lille-Ronchin was a major, bustling airfield used by amateur, commercial and military airplanes.

Close to Belgium and convenient for flights coming from England, Lille-Ronchin was quite the international hub by the standards of the entre-deux-guerres (France between 1918 and 1940).

A scene of the Battle of Britain

Laure was the daughter of a World War One ace fighter pilot. From the markings on his SPAD  biplane, it seems likely that Mr. Chevalier was one of the French pilots fighting along the American volunteers of the 124 Lafayette fighter squadron  during the war.

Wings

Apparently bilingual, Mr. Chevalier continued to associate with anglophone pilots and mechanics after the war. This was especially true after 1937, when the RAF rebased at Lille-Ronchin a squadron flying liaison Westland Lysanders . It stands to reason that he taught English to his daughter, explaining her own fluency.

Even as a little girl, Laure was fascinated by flying and was determined to become a pilot. By age 16 or so she was already working in aviation, flying her dad’s old SPAD to take paying clients on tours.

During that time she grew close to a young anglophone mechanic named Terry, who worked for her father.

Flying the French variant of the P-36 Curtiss Hawk , Mr. Chevalier narrowly survived the Fall of France. However, all other men on his squadron at Lille-Ronchin were killed in action. As the Nazi military blitzed through Lille, he decided to escape to Great Britain with his daughter, and had her fly a Curtiss that no longer had a pilot.

France Libre

Taking off under fire from German ground forces, the two Curtisses flew over the Operation Dynamo evacuation at Dunkirk , where they were intercepted by two Me-109s  harrying the Allied boats.

Neither of the Curtisses having its machineguns loaded, Mr. Chevalier sacrificed himself by crashing into one of the Messerschmitts to save his daughter. She evaded the second Me-109 long enough for a RAF fighter to gun down the distracted Nazi pilot.

A WWII Spitfire in a dogfight against Nazi fighters

The RAF man was Julian Hunt, 11th Lord Brighton, the commander of 1B Squadron. Seeing Chevalier’s talent, Hunt was very supportive of her and helped her mourn her father.

The Frenchwoman soon volunteered to join the RAF. But as a woman the only posting she could get was with the Air Transport Auxiliary as a WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), ferrying planes from depots and manufacturing plants to military airfields for male pilots to fly. This was a very similar arrangement to the American WAF – see our first Carol Danvers profile for more.

As an ATA pilot, Chevalier received further training on de Havilland Tiger Moth trainer biplanes , and quickly qualified to familiarisation with the superb Supermarine Spitfire fighter she was to ferry to combat pilots.

Fuming and wanting to fight to avenge her father, Ms. Chevalier was chiefly known to the ATA as a discipline problem. However, she was obviously a gifted pilot.

It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World

Whilst ferrying a Spitfire to her friend Julian Hunt’s squadron in Brighton, Laure found the airfield under attack by a He 111 bomber  and two Stukas . Her guns not being loaded, she resorted to a surprise dive that took down the Stukas, as the first enemy pilot reflexively dodged her Spitfire and crashed into his colleague.

After helping break up a pub fight between Chevalier and one of his pilots who had insulted France, the eccentric and pragmatic Julian Hunt decided to let the Frenchwoman join his squadron.

1B Squadron had recently lost an effeminate young pilot without immediate relatives, Charlie Johnson, on his very first outing. Hunt had Chevalier steal Johnson’s identity so she could serve. In his view, his squadron could use all the pros it could get regardless of gender — rather than send young men to their death hoping they’d get the hang of air combat.

A WWII Spitfire squadron scrambling

By resorting to the traditional measures of cutting her hair, compressing her breasts with a long band of fabric and always wearing a uniform, Laure could reasonably pass for Charlie. At least as long as nobody actually looked at her and she did not speak.

As to the rest of the squadron, they had a gentlemen’s agreement to ignore her gender and never mention it to outsiders. Laure Chevalier was declared dead in a bombing so she could become Charlie Johnson.

Beyond her friend the Lord Brighton (callsign Hunter), Laure grew close to his second-in-command, the disfigured Lieutenant Gregory Mitchell (callsign Spirit). She also became a friend of the Squadron’s chaplain, who doubled as one of the combat pilots, Tom Moore (callsign Holy Tom).

Chevalier narrowly survived her first combat mission against the Luftwaffe, winning two confirmed victories and thus her place among the mainstays of the 1B. Her callsign was simply Charlie.

In omnibus princeps

Squadron 1B is, to the best of our knowledge, fictional. The comic presents it as an anomaly existing as a political favour to the previous Lord Brighton. Likewise, the Lord Brighton is, as far as we can tell, a fictional peerage.

With the war, there is considerable pressure to stop playing and fold 1B into the main No. 1 Squadron at Tangmere, which is the unit that existed in the real world.

1B shares the tradition of the real-world 1 Squadron, including the motto In omnibus princeps (“First in all things”). This refers to its role as the first British air unit (hence the number) and its track record of being deployed in nearly all conflicts involving British forces.

On several occasions Brighton’s 1B flies along with its sister unit, Tangmere’s 1, which is at that point equipped with Hawker Hurricane fighters.

Der Henker

In 1940, Charlie’s mentor Hunter was among the numerous British aces killed by a German ace piloting a prototype Messerschmitt and nicknamed der Henker (the Executioner). Squadron 1B nearly disintegrated following the loss of the charismatic Lord Brighton, and Spirit struggled to take command in such conditions.

Charlie became Spirit’s assigned wingwoman, and eventually his lover. However, with the death of the Lord Brighton, Command wanted to shut down 1B and reassign the planes and pilots to Tangmere .

To prove that they could still operate as an unit, the men and woman of 1B swore to kill the Executioner. Chevalier came up with the idea to paint Spirit’s Spitfire using the same pattern as der Henker’s Messerschmitt to provoke him. Spirit and Charlie engaged the Nazi, and Chevalier killed him.

This exploit earned Squadron Leader Mitchell the Distinguished Flying Medal , and made “Charlie Johnson” a hero of the RAF.

All for one and one for all

By late August 1940, “Charlie Johnson” was an ace with an impressive 16 confirmed victories, putting “him” firmly among the RAF’s best. However, her cover was blown by Turner, an arrogant new pilot who hated her guts. Turner even attempted to rape and kill her.

Spitfire squadron flying above the clouds

Knowing that she would soon be denounced as a woman to the Air Marshall, Chevalier launched a solo mission using a captured Me 109. Passing herself for a German pilot, she joined a huge Nazi attack wave long enough to broadcast her position to the RAF.

Receiving such early warning allowed RAF defense fighters to coordinate among themselves to attack en masse. They thus defeated the assault before it could reach Britain.

Though she had been spotted as an impostor by the Luftwaffe, and Turner once again tried to kill her after claiming not to recognise her Messerschmitt, Chevalier survived the battle. She and Spirit were to be court-martialed over her presence in a RAF Squadron, but Major Sinclair of the Intelligence Service came to the rescue.

Finest hour

The photographs that Chevalier had salvaged from the captured Me 109 had proven a boon to his analysts. Furthermore, Sinclair was very interested in recruiting an air ace who, as a foreign female, was unlikely to be suspected of being a British agent.

Sinclair arranged for an intervention from Winston Churchill, who ordered the Air Marshall to cancel the court martials and concentrate on the fighting. And after investigating Turner, the Air Marshall sided with Spirit and Charlie – though Chevalier couldn’t continue to serve much longer with the 1B.

As the Nazis focused their raids on London  to break British morale, the 1B found itself fighting over the capital. This is where Laure flew her last missions with her comrades. Overwhelmed by the Luftwaffe, the 1B took more losses.

With her machineguns dry, Chevalier resorted to crashing her Spitfire into the tail of a He 111, saving the St Thomas’s Hospital . Spirit was then killed when his Spitfire collided with debris from a Me 109 he had just shot down, and Charlie was shot through the abdomen by a strafing fighter.

While still hospitalised and mourning her man, Laure Chevalier was recruited by Major Sinclair to join the recently-created Special Operations Executive as an expert pilot.


Description

See illustrations.


Personality

Chevalier loves the sky, and hates the Nazis for turning her playground into a battlefield. She’s fiery, remarkably stubborn, and behaves completely improperly by the standards of her time. One of her closest friends, the heroic Lord Brighton, was gay, and her lover was a badly disfigured school teacher turned killer ace.

A former tomboy, Charlie is one of the guys in most aspects that matter.

Spitfires over a convoy in the Channel during WWII

Originally, she was driven by a bloodthirsty wish to avenge her father. But after her first combat mission and briefly hallucinating the presence of her father, she became more at peace with that.

Her motivation from there became a mix of :

  • Her need to fly.
  • Her friendship with Hunter, Spirit and their men.
  • Her wish to fight for France and the United Kingdom.

Much of her characterisation follows the traditional lines for a heroic WWII pilot – courageous, cunning, full of initiative, two-fisted, honourable, daring, nerves of steel, occasionally cocky and swaggering, etc.

Laure is just 20, and still has some childlike mannerisms such as sticking out her tongue, or hollering when she wins something. Being French she also tends to speak more freely and to have a more direct body language than proper English women of her age, such as the other WAAF.


Quotes

Lord Brighton (reviewing a new batch of four trainees as they stand at attention): “How many hours of flight experience with Spitfires ?”
Pilot #1: “10 hours, sir.”
Pilot #2: “8 hours, sir.”
Pilot #3: “9 hours sir.”
Pilot #1: “Sir, I believe there might be a mistake. Why is the Frenchwoman wearing a flight suit ?”
Lord Brighton: “How many flight hours do you have logged with Spitfires, Charlie ?”
Chevalier (looking evilly at the other pilots): “32 hours, sir.”


Sharing

The links to follow us and/or subscribe to our monthly newsletter are at the bottom of this page.



Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Lady Spitfire

Dex: 02 Str: 01 Bod: 02 Motivation: Responsibility
Int: 04 Wil: 03 Min: 04 Occupation: Fighter pilot
Inf: 03 Aur: 03 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 002
Init: 009 HP: 020

Powers:
Enhanced Initiative: 05

Bonuses and Limitations:
Enhanced Initiative is a Skilled Power and only works when she is flying a fighter aircraft, making her Initiative then a 014.

Skills:
Evasion (Ranged only): 03, Gadgetry: 04, Military science (Cartography): 03, Vehicles (Air): 06, Weaponry (Machineguns): 05, Weaponry (Firearms): 04

Bonuses and Limitations:
Gadgetry is limited to maintenance, repair and power user operations on conventional vehicles (and, as it turns out, watches).

Advantages
Familiarity (RAF equipment and protocols), Language (French).

Connections:
Julian “Hunter” Hunt (High, deceased), Gregory “Spirit” Mitchell (High), RAF 1B Fighter Squadron (High), Major Sinclair of the intelligence service (Low).

Drawbacks:
Secret Identity.

Equipment:

  • SUPERMARINE SPITFIRE [STR 05 BODY 08, Flight: 08, Projectile weapons: 10, Radio communications: 10, R#2].
  • Webley service revolver [BODY 03, Projectile weapons: 04, Ammo: 06, R#02, Drawback: Long reload].

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: The French comics series Lady Spitfire by Latour and Maza.

Helper(s): The Lille-Rochin history page at Anciens Aérodromes  ; Peter Piispanen, Darci.

Writeup completed on the 8th of December, 2013.

Subscribe to our MINI-NEWSLETTER !

One bare-bones e-mail per month. Plain text. Short. To the point. Learn more.