Born in Belgium the son of a highly respectable Bruges lawyer. At the age of eighteen he went out to the Congo to run a family plantation near Bafwasende to the north-east of Stanlyville.
In early 1961 he fled like so many other Belgian colonials, during the troubles following Independence and ended up in Katanga after first taken refuge in Uganda. There he was enrolled as a training Officer at Kamina base and after taking part in the fighting at E’ville as one of Robert Faulques junior commanders. He was sent to Kansimba in North Katanga where he recruited fifteen to eighteen year olds from the local tribes and formed his own “leopard Group” officered by himself and a couple of other Belgian ex planters. In Katanga he did not cut much of a figure, he was reputed to have been shy and rather nervous, and eager to please.
With the end of the fighting in Katanga on 21.01.63, Schramme along with Denard and Puren retreated with just under 100 Mercenaries across the border into Portuguese Angola. Alowing the authorities to deny, as they always did, that no Mercenaries had ever set foot on Portuguese soil.
In 1964 Schramme was back in Angola where his Katangese Gendarmes force had now swollen to over 8000 exiles, crossing over the border back into Katanga he joined up, with the ANC as a leader of a commando. However, Bob Denard was not with them. He had followed his former leader Faulques to the Yemen.
Schramme then established himself at Fizi-Baraka to the East of the province of Maniema, an area where he had owned a plantation. He also renamed his unit, to 10 Commando.
He was arrested on 27th June 1968 shortly after his return to Belgian, on the charge of having murdered a Belgian planter Maurice Quintin in the Congo the year before (in May1967). In court Schramme claimed that Quintin was trying to de-stabilise the area by putting one Mercenary up against the other, also his aim was to stay loyal to Mabutu by trying to find out if a coup was being hatched against him. Quintin suspected it was, so in order to find out for Mabutu, he flew to Schrammes camp with the idea of asking him to take part in a coup against Mabutu hoping that Schramme would agree thus proving him right in the eyes of Mabutu. In his defence Schramme claimed that it was his duty to kill Quintin, because he could not run the risk of reprisals against himself and his men. “It was my duty to prevent him from putting his plan into action, I then shot him and ordered Rodrigues (a Mercenary barman) to finish him off and dump his body into the Lowa River”.
However, there was a little twist in the story, it is rumoured that Schramme was part of the “ Kyrellis Plan”, a plan to return Moise Tshombe back from exile in Spain and once again President of the Congo, bye over throwing Mabutu. This plan was thrown in to turmoil when, Francois Bodenan (age 33) hijacked Tshombe off the coast of Spain 1967. Tshombe was flown to Algiers where he spent two years in prison before being killed after an unsuccessful attempt by Bob Denard to break him out. Denard lost six or seven Mercenaries in the attempt, but escaped safely from Algiers.
15 years later in 1982 Francois Bodenan was brought before a Spanish Court Martial at Palma De Majorca, accused of infringing Tshombe’s human rights, he received 24 years in prison.
Tshombe’s death was announced on 30th of June 1969, 2 years to the day after his kidnapping, 5 years to the day after his appointment as Prime Minister to the Congo and 9 years to the day after the Congo’s independence.
In the spring of 1969 while still on bail and awaiting trial for the murder of Maurice Quintin, Schamme applied for and acquired permission to fly to Brazil to buy a plantation. But he did not arrive, it is thought that he changed his name Passport and destination, he has not been heard of since. It is thought that he is in Bolivia working with the State Security Force. He was also reported to have been in Spain working for a publishing house with US connections, as well as playing a role as technical adviser to ELP in Angola.
Update to this article from Pedro Marangoni 23.02.10
Jean Schamme lived on his farm in Mato Grosso, central Brazil. He died some years ago, a natural death. I remember seeing it reported in local Brazilian newspapers.