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lritger
17th February 2005, 18:21
After reading the fantastic book "Strange Victory" by Ernest R. May, I've been trying to get a more detailed picture of air operations of all the combatants involved in the assault on the Low Countries and France, particularly the French AF. I've found a book called "The Forgotten Air Force: French Air Force Doctrine in the 1930s" by Anthony Cain which seems to hold promise, but would be interested to hear others opinions on this book.

The reason I ask for "reliable" sources is that I've seen some rather unflattering depictions of the French Army and AF's actions in May/June 1940 over the years, and May's book indicates that the fall of France centered more on process and leadership failures rather than a lack of initiative or willpower on the part of the troops and airmen. Several passages in "Twelve Days In May", however, give the impression that the French did not "press home their attacks with vigour"... one such allegation was attributed only to "a historian", not a particular eyewitness or combat report. This seems rather out of place in an otherwise well documented book, and this seems to be a theme in other histories of the period as well.

Unfortunately, Belgian and Dutch AF operations are somewhat glossed over in "Twelve Days" as well... so further information on these air forces would also be welcome.

I welcome any suggestions, and would like to avoid stirring any rancor... this topic occasionally stirs emotive responses, and it would be nice to see this discussion kept "above board".

Thanks much in advance for any assistance-

Lynn

Graham Boak
18th February 2005, 12:37
I have Cain's book, and find it fascinating. However, it is more concerned with organisation and doctrine rather than operations.

There are a number of French books on the subject which unfortunately I do not have to hand: however the magazine Aero Journal has been running a series of articles on French fighter units in turn, which will add up to a complete description. I suggest that you refer to the advertising pages of any of the leading French aviation magazines; start with Avions and AeroJournal.

The passing reference in 12 Days In May is purely a note of the impression created by one unit on one day, and (correct or not) should not be extrapolated to the entire L'Armee de l'Aire effort. There certainly was an impression at the time that the French military (overall) had not fought with the same vigour as their WW1 predecessors. The unfairness of this should be clear to the better-informed today.

Franek Grabowski
18th February 2005, 16:09
A great in depth insight into AdA is provided by Stefan Łaszkiewicz in his 'Od Cambrai do Coventry' (From Cambrai to Coventry) diary/memoirs. He was a Polish staff officer but in France volunteered to flying duties and was attached to a regular fighter unit.
He notes bitter words of Fonck, general disorder, bad habits, etc. but never called French pilots with whom served - cowards. He believed that if the campaign lasted longer, natural exchange of French pilots would cause significant improvement.
Sadly the book is available only in Polish but it can be translated, of course. Any publishers here?
Franek

Juha
18th February 2005, 19:00
Hello Lynn
have You seen Mushroom's Fighters over France and the Low Countries (2002), only 152 pages, but it had chapters on fighter activity of the Dutch, Belgian, French, Polish AFs, of RAF, of LW and on Czech fighter pilots.

Juha

Graham Boak
18th February 2005, 23:22
The only specific book I can think of in English is the old Ian Allan "Air War over France" by Robert Jackson.

For the Drole de Guerre there is of course Shores et al Fledgling Eagles from Grub Street.

However, I have "Ils etaient la...." by Jacqueline and Paul Martin, which is still available from Aero Journal's publishers, which covers all combat losses. For claims there is the recent work in two volumes Les Victoires de l'Aviation de Chasse Francaise. I don't have this last one, and am not sure that the second volume is yet published.

Hawk-Eye
19th February 2005, 14:17
(Posting repeated under « Reviews »)

Books etc. on 1939-1940 French Air Force

Sorry I can’t give many details : I am about to move… How terrible !

I take it you meant 1939-40 not 1936-40? Nothing special – I mean no fighting – took place 1936-Sept. 1939.

The most comprehensive book I know on the 1939-40 French Air Force is a BRITISH book, or rather booklet, already mentioned by Graham Boak above :

Air War over France 1939-40, by Robert Jackson, Ian Allan Ltd., London, 1974.

ISBN 0 7110 0510 9

It also deals with the non-French (mainly British but Dutch and Belgian too) Allied air forces, bomber operations, French naval aviation, local « chimney flights » etc. This book contains a few errors but as a whole I consider it outstanding in spite of the few pages (154) and I think it can still be obtained. On page 112 the story about Mölders being shot down is completely wrong : this happened on 5 June not on 14 May. « Orléans in Southern France » is a bit strong (this famous city is approx. in the centre of France). Please note once and for all : Mölders’ French victor was s-lt. René Pomier Layrargues. Only ONE m, no hyphen, a final s (I met his brother Jean, a rear-admiral). Everybody mutilates this hero’s name, which is not acceptable (he shot down a 2nd 109, then was killed by half a dozen others).

« Blitzed ! », by Victor Bingham, is a good book too but gives the sole RAF all too much credit for virtually all German losses (the usual legend).

« Phoenix Triumphant », by E.R. Hooton, is interesting too.

The by far very best book on the 1940 French Campaign and German politics and armed forces I know is German. This outstanding work ought to be translated (but correctly… !) into all languages :

Blitzkrieg-Legende – Der Westfeldzug 1940 (there was no German Blitzkrieg-strategy, not even the word, at the time ; this word was created in Britain it seems) – by Karl-Heinz Frieser. Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt. Oldenburg, München 1996. ISBN 3-486-56201-0

This is a remarkable historical work at a high academic level but not boring to read, quite on the contrary (exciting). 472 pages, numerous pictures, maps etc. If only all historical books were of the same quality… It deals with all operations, not airpower only. About aviation there are a few errors but this is not serious. Interesting details on Flak and tanks. If you don’t read high-level German try to lay your hands on a translation, if any, but mind the often terrible translating errors and the cuts.

Not surprinsingly most books on 1939-40 French airpower were published in French. Most of the very best ones undoubtedly belong to the Docavia-series published by Editions Larivière in Clichy near Paris, even if these remarkable books were published between about 1972 and 1986. Raymond Danel (not « Daniel ») and Jean Cuny wrote virtually perfect books (in spite of a few unavoidable errors on some AC serial numbers etc.).

« L’aviation de chasse (the fighter arm) française 1918-1940 » is absolutely fantastic. This THE one book you MUST have on this subject : technical descriptions, statistical tables (production, numerical strengths etc.), fighter performance etc. Larivière should reprint it, I mean it ! They also wrote « Le Dewoitine D.520 », a nearly ideal monography (« A 109 diving in front of a D.520 was dead » « In a dogfight the D.520 made the 109 ridiculous. »), and « LeO, Amiot 350 et autres B4 » (on modern French twin-engined bombers). J. Cuny and Gérard Beauchamp published (also a Docavia) « Le Curtiss Hawk 75 », excellent too. All these books contain interesting pages on 1939 and mainly 1940 operations.

For a few years Docavia’s place has been taken by Lela-Presse, which published :

Le Morane-Saulnier MS 406 (by 12 authors) (Collection Histoire de l’Aviation n° 5), 336 large-format pages, hundreds of photographs. Technical description. Day-by-day account of all the Morane-fighting, etc., some color photos and profiles. Highly recommended !

In this same collection, n° 12 is an astounding achievement, a life’s work : « Le Bloch MB-152 » (in fact 150 through 157), by Serge Joanne. 528 (!) large-format pages plus several folding technical drawings, 900 (!) photographs, color profiles etc. Technical description and history of the type(s), unit-by-unit and day-by-day (inside the unit stories) account of the fighting, victories, losses… Color profiles. A fantastic book.

If you read the 4 « Docavias » and the 2 « Lela Presse » you’ll have a fairly good idea of the subject already ! Don’t forget Robert Jackson’s aforementioned, REMARKABLE booklet. I feel even if normally you don’t understand French you’ll be able to extract the most important contents. If you don’t understand the word « Pertes » you’ll understand it means « Losses » very quickly, for example.

There is a new French series of AC monographies now, "Ailes de Gloire" (Wings of Glory) by Patrick Marchand (text) [/b]and Junko Takamori (artwork). 42, 54, 64, 68 pages each : Potez 63, LeO 451 (bomber), Breguet 690 series (light bombers), D.520, MS 406, Curtiss H 75, Bloch 152 series. Technical description, photographs, colour pictures, pilots’ portraits, brief account of the fighting, colour samples for modellers. Very interesting for the price of 10-15 euros (plus p&p). Gabi Schmidt, bookseller in Munich, has got them. They’re certainly worth the money in spite of the very poor French spelling (this is fashionable in France now).

Arnaud Gillet published 2 volumes alone (2003 and 2004) : Les victoires de l’aviation de chasse française 10 mai-15 mai 1940 / 16 mai-4 juin 1940. Very interesting documents comparing French claims (often British ones too) and German losses ; photographs etc. Terrible French spelling. When I was a child aged 8 they would have kicked my bottom if I had made only ONE of the hundreds of Gillet’s very serious spelling errors (he holds a high French university degree in law…). Don’t laugh : if you’re unable to be exact in spelling can you be exact in history ? No doubt Gillet’s work is mostly very interesting but it should not be taken at face value and read… « very carefully ». The most important feature is that he is using a document written by two excellent French colonels (Salesse and Accart, the latter probably being one of the best fighter pilots AND LEADERS in the world) in the 1950s ( !!!) as the basis of his reasoning on French fighter victories. In the ‘50s they found appox. 245 which had been officially confirmed by the French Air Force. I consider it absurd to use such a document 50 years later to claim to publish a HISTORICAL work – in spite of the comparison of Allied and German documents, combat and loss reports etc. The existence of this document (at SHAA) certainly is interesting. Nevertheless now the point is the ACTUAL German losses inflicted by the AA (Armée de l’Air) not AdA (by Jove, I was a member of it myself many years ago!). According to myself – and I am a serious researcher not an amateur – the real figure ranges between approx. 600 and 1,000, possibly more. Yes this sounds odd ant it is odd. « More » in my future book (not before 2007), be patient.

A. Gillet is a likeable amateur, his work is commendable but his errors and amateurism, and spelling errors (they improved much in the last volume), are not acceptable. For example he stated that the Potez 631 had a « weak armament ». This is ridiculous for two 20 mm cannon and mostly several machine-guns, a very powerful punch at the time (according to myself one French cannon was worth 3 German ones, assuming a comparison is possible at all, for the rate of fire, the missile velocity and the range of the German MG FF were very poor, which was corrected only 1941 by the MG 151). Gillet also states that the Bloch 152 (two cannon, 2 machine-guns) had a « weak armament » ; same remark as before. He corrected this in his 2nd volume (after I wrote to him), stating that it was « average », which is wrong : it was very powerful (for 1940 standards). Gillet adds that the 152’s engine power was « satisfying ». This is exactly the contrary of what ALL experts say. The power figure was relatively high… but it was a radial engine ! Visibly A. Gillet has no idea of the difference between radial and in-line engines, as far as the necessary engine power is concerned. He probably never heard or read the word « drag ».

He thinks that the Me 109 and 110 cannon had 100 rounds per gun but it was 60 r p g like the French. Exaggeration : 66.66 %.

He also thinks that a fighter having much more machine-gun ammunition has a much higher « fire-power » than another one, armd with one cannon and 2 MGs. This is very serious nonsense. Gillet did not correct this error (and not others either) in spite of my explanations. Translations from German and English into French are very poor : simplistic, word by word, litteral translations like « board cannon » for « Bordkanone » etc. The fact remains that as a whole these works are an interesting contribution, in particular many comparisons between French and German combat reports for the same combats.

A useful point is that he really looked at the German archive and concludes that :

1. In order to find all 1940 German losses you have to look for them until the end of 1941 in the documents (because some losses were registered or corrected belatedly).

2. French fighter claims were much more serious and reliable than German and above all British ones. This is a confirmation of a fact which by now is well-known. The most reliable claims of WW II were Finnish and French.

Gillet published a 3rd volume together with Jacques Sacré, a confirmed aviation writer whose influence is very visible in this volume. Much fewer spelling errors, no horrible nonsense (but I wasn’t able to read it all). This volume deals with the Namur-Cambrai-Troyes-Luxembourg area, 10-18 May 1940, mainly the Sedan battle.

The French magazine « Avions » has published many special issues (Hors séries) on the 1940 air fighting, including one on GC I/3, the first unit equipped with the legendary D.520. The list is too long to reproduce here.

Hawk-Eye
19th February 2005, 15:23
ICARE

Sorry I forgot to mention this beautiful series of reviews published by the SNPL, the main French civil aviation aircrew trade-union.

Each issue has a different main feature and looks more like a luxurious album than like a magazine.

Since 1970 or 72 they published a total of 17 or so issues on the 1939-40, most on the 1940 French Campaign with first-hand accounts, remarkable historical analyses by Raymond Danel (not "Daniel"), many remarkable photographs etc. The 4th issue on French fighters was published 1996. Other issues include the Belgian and the Dutch Air Forces.

Long ago they published 3 issues on the Battle of Britain and 1 or 2 on Pearl Harbor.

Christer Bergström
20th February 2005, 02:24
« More » in my future book (not before 2007), be patient.


Now that sounds most interesting! What book?

All best,

Christer Bergström

lritger
20th February 2005, 07:38
...especially Yves for the long list of suggested reading. I've seen enough howlers in Luftwaffe books I've read to know that any itemized history of those turbulent days must be taken with a grain of salt, at best! I do have a basic, working knowledge of French and can get through most German documents (although I keep a couple of dictionaries nearby at all times), so those recommendations will prove very helpful indeed.

And Yves, the timeframe was not a typo... I am also interested in the buildup to the conflict, and was curious if there were other sources besides Cain that might cover this.

Thanks again to all who replied, I'm off to check Amazon and www.half.com...

Lynn

Hawk-Eye
20th February 2005, 11:56
From 1936 on...

Oh, sorry! Actually I guess many "1940"-books cover the period before WW II, often starting 1933 or at least 1935. Obviously this is true of Danel and Cuny's "L'aviation de chasse française 1918-1940" (Docavia, published by Editions (Publishing Cy) Larivière). Most books of this category (Lela Presse too) start with the "prehistory" before 1939 but mostly this part is short. In Serge Joanne's "Le Bloch MB 152" this period is covered too but not in great detail, the subject being a certain aircraft family.

I can't be very specific any more because many of my books are in cardboard boxes already.

There are other Docavia-books I forgot to mention : Emile Dewoitine (a biography) and, if I remember correctly, "Les avions Dewoitine" as well as "Les avions Farman". Most of the Docavias are out of print but can be found 2nd-hand and they are in certain libraries like SHAA's.

There is a book covering exactly what you're looking for but I didn't even think of mentioning it because I find it so terrible : "L'Armée de l'Air dans la tourmente", by Patrick Facon. This fellow holds the highest ranks and honours in official history : he is SHAA's official historian I think, he gives lectures at the French Army and Air Force (Salon) academies and of course he holds the highest university diploma in history. The only snag is that this book contains an enormous quantity of nonsense, horrible errors and also plagiarism. An important and very typical statement on the 1940 French Campaign was fetched directly from my own pages in the book "Invisibles vainqueurs", by Paul Martin (and myself for about 50 %) I published 1991. This passage was re-written but all the same it is like a photocopy of one of my strongly worded remarks, approximately : "Contrary to the widespread legend the Armée de l'Air was certainly not wiped out in a single Luftwaffe blow at dawn on 10 May 1940, quite on the contrary : taking the enormous resources engaged by the LW the results (approx. 70-90 first-line French combat aircraft destroyed) were very mediocre and disappointing, and the LW suffered heavy losses (not only in the Netherlands but also) at the hands of the French fighters (and AA). It is time now to realise and say this at last."

Those who are familiar with my "strongly worded" statements probably know that you can recognise them even if re-written.

At the end of this book there is an appendix on 1940 aircraft (German, British, French...) with many shocking errors, like much too low a top speed for the He 111, wrong armament in several cases, "1 000 kg" of bombs for the Stuka (Ju-87 B2) instead of 500 kg (and officially, according to RLM, it was 250!).

This book has over 300 pages (302, 314 or some) but only about 91 are devoted to the subject given on the (soft) cover : air war, fighting. All the "rest" deals with the "prehistory", starting 1918 and even, I think, 1903 or 1910 but I'm not sure. Of course I KNOW any historical event has its origins and roots in the past but "you have to draw the line somewhere" - and not all too far from your subject. So this book certainly covers the period you're interested in but I never read this part about French internal politics, successive governments, worker strikes, ministries, generals, Air Force successive forms of organisation etc. If its historical quality is as poor as the last 91 pages it'll be very difficult to extract the actual facts and any wisdom from it but you can try. It's not expensive. Publisher is "Economica".

Nevertheless I think you could find all you need at SHAA, which is in Vincennes (same thing as if it were in Paris) : all books, unpublished documents (archive, theses etc.) and SHAA's own publications et reports. But beware : some of these were contributed by Patrick Facon!

Ruy Horta
20th February 2005, 12:23
H-E,

Please, especially since you've been a very active part in a legal battle before, I strongly suggest that you curb words like plagiarism etc.

At best we'll only hear one side of the case (your side), never enough to form a proper judgement.

If you have a quib based on your 1990 publication of Paul Martin's Invisibles vainqueurs I urge you to take this up with Patrick Facon, since he cannot defend his case on our forum and as such it is not the right place to conduct this discussion.

No harm done, but please let us not continue on this track.

Hawk-Eye
20th February 2005, 12:37
« More » in my future book (not before 2007), be patient.


Now that sounds most interesting! What book?

All best,

Christer Bergström

- Well, I have been working on a book on the French Campaign for a very long time, and other researchers too (but our various books will be different and independent from each other even if we share some information from time to time). I feel the history of this campaign still has to be published, in any case in the way I see it.

If someone tries to overtake me and publish a competing book before I do in order to shoot me down he'll fall on his nose for he'll never be able to have MY thoughts and write MY book (and conversely I couldn't write someone else's book...), both being quite original, as you know. "THE" cult-book on the French Campaign now is "Invisibles vainqueurs", to which I very strongly contributed (50 % of the text - not the loss statistics - aprox. 74 % of the pictures, the dust jacket, etc.) and not "Ils étaient là...", published a few years ago. I guess there must be a reason for this difference, perhaps precisely my "wild nonsense" (élucubrations) - see below.

Of course I can't give away all my little secrets here but I can give you an example on top of the Facon plagiarism I mentioned in my other reply. I published it 1991 in "Invisibles vainqueurs" already so it's not new any more but almost nobody read my 30 pages in very small (too small) print except a few bilious, vicious people who heroically mentioned my "wild nonsense" in their low-grade magazines without ever giving one single example (quotations) of this wild nonsense.

Well, part of this "nonsense" was as follows : Since 1940 most French people and authors writing on 1940 wail and cry all the time, reporting sinister disasters only. "We had got nothing (in matter of armaments), we could do nothing, we were overwhelmed by huge quantities of German soldiers and giant armaments, oh, poor little us", etc. By now (almost) everybody knows this to be completely wrong. I gave an example : I always had read that French fighters were poorly armed and had a tough time trying to fight German aircraft possessing a powerful armament with huge quantities of ammunition (you always make your enemy bigger and stronger, this started when our ancestors lived (?) in caves).

In particular even French heroes among fighter pilots, having fought all the way (some of them on the fabulous D.520) and won many victories (considering the short time) were still complaining, 30-50 years later, about the "good cannon" which alas had "60 rounds only". Of course German cannon were supposed to be fed with at least 120, why not 300 rounds. (Remember that many Me 109 E-3s, and their cannon drums, were shot down during the Phoney war, some of them were captured). What a surprise it was to me when I started reading GERMAN documents and first-hand accounts : hear hear, German cannon equipping the Me 110 and part of the 109s had got... 60 r p g! Much later I "discovered" the respective technical data of the French and German cannon : clearly the French one was much, much better (in muzzle velocity or Vo, in rate of fire and in range... in one word, in everything). Besides, the French started introducing belt-fed cannon in June 1940 (Bloch 155) with 120 r p g, whereas the Germans waited until the introduction of the MG 151 about February or April 1940 (I'm not quite sure).

So there is still a lot to be said and I'm trying to do so. Be patient!

Ruy Horta
20th February 2005, 14:15
When presenting a case its wise not to overdo it.

In particular even French heroes among fighter pilots, having fought all the way (some of them on the fabulous D.520) and won many victories (considering the short time) were still complaining, 30-50 years later, about the "good cannon" which alas had "60 rounds only". Of course German cannon were supposed to be fed with at least 120, why not 300 rounds. (Remember that many Me 109 E-3s, and their cannon drums, were shot down during the Phoney war, some of them were captured). What a surprise it was to me when I started reading GERMAN documents and first-hand accounts : hear hear, German cannon equipping the Me 110 and part of the 109s had got... 60 r p g! Much later I "discovered" the respective technical data of the French and German cannon : clearly the French one was much, much better (in muzzle velocity or Vo, in rate of fire and in range... in one word, in everything). Besides, the French started introducing belt-fed cannon in June 1940 (Bloch 155) with 120 r p g, whereas the Germans waited until the introduction of the MG 151 about February or April 1940 (I'm not quite sure).

If french pilots complained about their cannon, it was their right, its not fair to answer their case by simply pointing towards the Germans and their lack of a superior gun. After all these were the pilots fighting the air war of 1940, not us...

Indeed "discovered" is the right way of putting it, this information has been fairly easy to obtain after WW2.

Explaining the Battle of France in terms of French supriority would not pay tribute to the men, nor do justice to the subject, in fact you'd probably end up with a french equivalent of "The Luftwaffe War Diaries".

Using the Bloch 155 and belt fed cannon development in 1940 is beside the point, since it didn't matter much in operational terms. How many of these a/c were operational during the Battle of France, and how many saw combat? Besides the equivalent of an operational MB 155 would be a Bf 109F, eventually with a MG 151 or MG 151/20, equally belt fed. This only shows that technological development progresses more or less evenly amongst the protagonists. Also, but that's my own opinion, it rarely pays to overextend one's particular knowledge or field. Those who specialize in general history or operational history tend to make bad judges of technology (and vice versa I must add).

The French AF had to do a difficult job, in some areas they did a superb job, in others they were less successful - reasons ranging from the technical to the political. But such variables come in to play in every war and every battle. The french aren't unique...

IF the French AND British (the latter seem to gloss over their role in the continental defeat) armies had been able to fight the Germans to a stand still, the French AF would probably have been able to perform at an inreasingly effective level - technologically and strategically. France didn't have the benefit of a sea to hide behind. The defeat of the French AF wasn't caused by the Luftwaffe, it was caused by the Heer. Their is no substitute for a tank on the runway...

What would be nice is to break through the British myths which form the basis of most (english) sources period.

I'd love to see an objective analysis on the air war over france, not a subjective glorification reversing the myth.

Graham Boak
20th February 2005, 17:43
As far as the RAF's contribution to the battle over France, I'd have thought that the books available covered the subject pretty well, with the distinct exception of the Lysander units. We are not without the equivalent books on the brief British contribution to the land campaign, though for details it may be necessary to resort to the individual regimental histories.

It is worth pointing out here that, as far as the air war specifically was concerned, the one major difference between the French position and the British was that the French had no radar chain and, more importantly, the command, control and communications that produced an overall defence screen. Perhaps the lack of unified control of the air units had something to do with this, but I would prefer to be more informed before judging. However, I would point out that the respective qualities of the aircraft and airmen are less significant than being able to place them in the right place at the right time. Difficult enough at any time for the French in 1940, but even more so in the teeth of the Blitzkrieg (whatever the origin of the name!)

Ruy Horta
20th February 2005, 18:58
The strength of fighter command and its radar network were inforced by the geographic position of Britain.

Fighters became the first line of defence (for lack of major german naval activity), its a unique situation for Britain, you cannot apply its variables on a one on one basis to another belligerent

Now think of France with a similar effective air defence system, yet no channel to protect its borders? The battle on the continent was one of armies and tactical aviation, not one of strategic air defence. The first line of defence was formed by divisions of infantry, tank regiments and supporting artillery, of aircraft used in a tactical role supporting the armies. The Battle of France poses a different set of rules, period.

The whole concept of British air defence is basically built upon the island fortress, the RN protecting the sea lanes, the RAF the air. Britain could always fall back, fighting on the seas and the periphery, waiting for the USA to join the fight at some point (if only to ensure the return of its loans etc in a post war world).

British focus on air defence, although effective when it came to home defence, made it impossible to really commit themselves to a continental war, always retaining one foot at home, recipe for defeat in 1940.

Ruy Horta
20th February 2005, 19:32
In the prvious post I wrote:

British focus on air defence, although effective when it came to home defence, made it impossible to really commit themselves to a continental war, always retaining one foot at home, recipe for defeat in 1940.

When I add this to another Britain related subject I posted, it would not surprise me if I ruffled a few feathers. So I'll repeat my apology here as well, as this was not my intention.

One could easily argue that the recipe of defeat in 1940, is the primary ingredient of a 1944/45 victory. Without fortress Britain, europe would have been a different place today.

I must share that I was somewhat inspired by the writing of John Terraine in The Smoke and the Fire, but may have misrepresented his case.

However to be fair, one should try and build a 1940 scenario won by the Anglo-French at least to the point of a continental stalemate, without stepping to far from reality.

What should have been done or could have been done to change the outcome of 1940?

One possible answer might be a(n anglo-)french advance in 1939, but would such a move have been politically or psychologically possible?

These questions are fair as long as 1940 is portrayed as somehwat of a french failure...

Hawk-Eye
21st February 2005, 00:01
Dear Ruy, please don’t force me to write any long replies right now, I simply haven’t the time : I am filling moving boxes with books etc., or rather I am trying to. At the end of next week perhaps I’ll have more time…

And right now a German TV-network is showing the film « Independence Day », which I MUST see for the 3rd time while I’m writing this ! This is torture on an innocent veteran.

I don’t understand why I am the only person in the world who has no right to say the truth on certain books and their authors. You could call this « review ». Innumerable book reviews published daily all over the world are MUCH HARDER than mine about P. Facon’s mediocre book on the 1940 French AF. On TOCH we could read many very harsh book reviews, for ex. about Osprey and others. So what’s the matter ? Have I only limited civil rights ?

Let us see FACTS that even you hardly can dispute. Facon’s appendixes : page 270, Bf 109’s top speed 550 instead of 570, a figure so well-known that I have been knowing it by heart for 20 years. Even the French experts found out precisely this figure when they flight-tested some captured 109s 1939. The reports are in SHAA’s archive and Facon is « Directeur de Recherche » at SHAA.

Do 17 Z : « 7 machine-guns ». It was rather 3. We are still dealing with the French Campaign only not what happened afterwards.

He 111 H : top speed « 365 » (ludicrous, slower than the Stuka) – Armament one 20 mm-cannon ( !), one 13 mm-MG ( !), 3 light MGs. The heavy armament possibly was added during the BoB, I’m not quite sure, but in any case this never was standard equipment. I hope BoB experts can help on this point.

Ju 87-B Stuka : top speed 370 (faster than the He 111 H according to Facon), bomb load 1 000 kg instead of 500 (officially still 250 but OK, 500 quickly became standard).

I didn’t check everything in the more than 6 pages of such data…

We could generously say that 136 of the 305 pages (plus preface but including index and bibliography) are more or less devoted to the subject announced on the cover : L’Armée de l’Air dans la tourmente (Subtitle : La bataille de France 1939-1940). It is really incredible, for a man covered in honors and titles like Rudel was covered in medals, that this subtitle contains TWO major historical errors and they cannot be disputed either : the correct phrase is « La Campagne de France » (not bataille de France, which officially is the designation of the 2nd part only, starting on 5 June along the Somme and Aisne rivers). Even worse, it didn’t start 1939 but on 10 May 1940 ! And this man is a great historian ? This is precisely what a well-known, respected researcher disputed several years ago when he told me that Facon is considered unserious ; I fully agree with this.

On pages 169-170 Facon compares the numerical strength of SERVICEABLE French AC and ALL German AC, serviceable or not. This is how you can « prove » that we poor little Frenchies had got nothing but our heroical chests to stem the tide of millions of German tanks and giant aircraft. The truth is that France had made, and possessed, much more numerous and much better tanks than Germany. The only problem was the right way to use them (no place here to elaborate on this, see the remarkable German book I mentioned).

Now guess who wrote the following – was it me or Facon ? (… are the passages I deleted)

<< A first way of reporting the 1940 battle tells us that the Armée de l’Air was crushed on its airfields right at the start of the offensive… There is no other choice than to note how wrong this is. The French Air Force was no more nailed to the ground than were the Polish AF in September 1939 or the Belgian AF in May 1940. 47 airfields were attacked in the whole [French] country… and about 60 Ac of all kinds were destroyed. Such a figure is certainly not negligible but it is nonetheless very far from corresponding an annihilation of the French AF. In the Northern zone of air operations, where 16 of these attacks took place, the losses on the ground were « insignificant » according to the history of the Air zone, with the exception of one Groupe de Chasse which lost 13 fighters [from approx. 30]. The damage to facilities was fairly limited. …

THE ARMÉE DE L’AIR IS NOT CRUSHED ON THE GROUND

The figures trumpetted by OKW (German GHQ) could give the illusion of an immense success. Indeed, the Germans announced the destruction of 300-400 Allied planes on 10 May… [and so on]. At this pace, Armée de l’Air and BAFF would have disappeared within a few days [and Jochen Prien keeps spreading these figures in spite of my remarks about this already years ago, sometimes adding that these figures are disputed on the Allied side, which does not means that they are wrong]. But this is not the case. In fact the Armée de l’Air was not crushed on her airfields, neither on the first day… nor in the following weeks. French airpower did not become the system, deprived of all cohesion and unable to react, which usually many English-speaking historians, who are poorly informed to say the least, use to claim… French fighters are markedly effective already on the first day… More than 50 He 111s and at least 25 Do 17s were shot down [by all Allied forces including AA]. This is one of the little known facts of this May-June air battle… >> And so on.

Well, what do you say ? Whose style is this ? Who wrote this (in French) ?

Something else : history is officially considered part of literature. (For ex. a liter. Nobel prize can be awarded to an historian.) So it is very sad that Mr. Facon’s French really is very poor and he makes horrible linguistic mistakes.

H-E,

Please, especially since you've been a very active part in a legal battle before, I strongly suggest that you curb words like plagiarism etc.

At best we'll only hear one side of the case (your side), never enough to form a proper judgement.

- Why don't you make the same statement evry time a book is criticised here?

If you have a quib based on your 1990 publication of Paul Martin's Invisibles vainqueurs I urge you to take this up with Patrick Facon, since he cannot defend his case on our forum and as such it is not the right place to conduct this discussion.

- Of course he is able to defend himself! I am not cowardly attacking a defenceless little baby but a so-called "historian" who is a mighty man and has all advantages on his side : high positions, high university degrees, prestige, certainly influential friends etc. He can reply here any time if he so wishes. I think nobody will try to prevent him from doing so.

No harm done, but please let us not continue on this track.

Hawk-Eye
21st February 2005, 00:51
When presenting a case its wise not to overdo it.
If french pilots complained about their cannon, it was their right

- Ruy, please! Read my statements before you answer them! I explicitely wrote that the pilots found their cannon "good" but lamented the small ammo provision, "only" 60 rounds.

its not fair to answer their case by simply pointing towards the Germans and their lack of a superior gun.

- I don't understand this remark. In any case you know I use to fiercely defend French fighter pilots but this does not mean accepting what they wrongly believed at the time (and even later) just because they did not have the information, which was not their fault.

After all these were the pilots fighting the air war of 1940, not us...

- I couldn't agree more and this fight was damn hard (for the German aircrew too).

Indeed "discovered" is the right way of putting it, this information has been fairly easy to obtain after WW2.

- Perhaps but in France you got the wrong data very long after the war. Indeed one of the greatest 1940 French aces published a book 1985. In this book he reported that the Germans had got "15,700" combat aircraft on 10 May 1940 and, if my memory is OK, "15,000 tanks with 15,000 more in reserve". This was 45 years after 1940! I respect and admire this man very much, he won many victories including on 109s and he very nearly was killed but this cannot prevent me to say that he is, or was, not an historian. This is not an insult but just the truth. I still respect him.

A war hero is rarely a good historian.

Explaining the Battle of France in terms of French supriority would not pay tribute to the men, nor do justice to the subject, ...

- Who spoke of "French superiority"? I did not. The French lost didn't they (but NOT in the air) so there must have been a strong overall German superiority. This German superiority was mainly in the BRAINS of the top-ranking military leaders and also, often, of the middle-ranking ones : Guderian, Rommel and others. Did you really read what I wrote? The French CANNON was better. This was good but not quite enough to establish a French superiority! I am not as stupid as you seem to think. I KNOW the Me 109 was better than all French fighters except the D.520, which came too late to have a decisive impact (but it did harm the Luftwaffe). Nevertheless we should never forget this : "better" is not the same as "invincible". Hundreds of 109s were destroyed in the French Campaign (not by the French only). Many were shot down "even" by supposedly "inferior" Morane 406s whose pilots were brave and above all good.

Using the Bloch 155 and belt fed cannon development in 1940 is beside the point, since it didn't matter much in operational terms.

- My God, this was just a technical detail showing the technical advancement of the Armée de l'Air in June 1940. The LW needed at least 6 more months, possibly 8 or 10, to do the same and introduce a belt-fed cannon which was the German equivalent of the French one. This progress in FRance in June 1940 had hardly any effect for just a few 155s saw any action at all. Just a few more months... Everything was in the pipe, was being produced in French factories. In Sept. 1940 (nearing the end of the BoB) air war over France would have been VERY different. It is not entirely UNinteresting to think of what would have happened, had the damned French and British armies held the ground a little better, which was fully possible, as you wrote yourself in another posting.

Besides the equivalent of an operational MB 155 would be a Bf 109F, eventually with a MG 151 or MG 151/20, equally belt fed.

- No, no, the 155 was an improvement but still slower than a 109 E, let alone an F. The French planned only a limited 155-production. But when the F entered service on the French side it would have faced D.524s, which were fully able to put up a good fight against any F, and D.551s, which simply were a fighter pilot's dream, and other, much-improved types (Arsenal...).

The French AF had to do a difficult job, in some areas they did a superb job, in others they were less successful - reasons ranging from the technical to the political. But such variables come in to play in every war and every battle. The french aren't unique... [Just ask the dames!]

- Yes, all this is true.

IF the French AND British (the latter seem to gloss over their role in the continental defeat) armies had been able to fight the Germans to a stand still, the French AF would probably have been able to perform at an inreasingly effective level - technologically and strategically.

- Yes, I have been spreading this remark for the last 15 years. But more importantly, it was possible to get a standstill. Read my future book, in a few years, if you want to know how!

France didn't have the benefit of a sea to hide behind. The defeat of the French AF wasn't caused by the Luftwaffe, it was caused by the Heer.

- Yes, certainly. The German Army occupied the French airfields. What could the Air Force do? Fly to North Africa, which Government ordered it to do.

Their is no substitute for a tank on the runway...

- But the French had more tanks and better ones. What a mess!

What would be nice is to break through the British myths which form the basis of most (english) sources period.

- OH YES!

I'd love to see an objective analysis on the air war over france, not a subjective glorification reversing the myth.

- If you mean ME I certainly do not feel I glorified anything nor anybody. I just shared some information (facts) with the readers. I feel perfectly objective. For ex. I certainly do NOT like 1940 German soldiers but already 1991 (not 1990) I wrote in "Invisibles vainqueurs" that German aircrew (not fighter pilots only) were brave and fought on in spite of their heavy losses. These losses were in fact often appalling but they did not give up. And shortly afterwards they suffered new, heavy losses over England and didn't give up either...[/quote]

Hawk-Eye
21st February 2005, 01:10
It is worth pointing out here that, as far as the air war specifically was concerned, the one major difference between the French position and the British was that the French had no radar chain

- Yes, this is true. The French, too, were perfectly aware of radar and the famous ocean liner "Normandie" was equipped with it (as a protection against icebergs I think, and against collisions in general), but the French military did not understand its military significance (not the Americans either, and this as late as December 1941!!!). Alledgedly the French were supplied with several mobile radar units by the British but they didn't really understand how useful they could be, and these radars were not arranged into a network like in Britain...

and, more importantly, the command, control and communications that produced an overall defence screen.

- Yes, this is true. Nevertheless it is highly probable that the German invasion of France would have taken place in any case and all the radar stuff would have been overrun and captured, and made useless very quickly.

Perhaps the lack of unified control of the air units had something to do with this, but I would prefer to be more informed before judging.

- There WAS a unified control (HQ etc.) which already in the first days shifted hundreds of fighters towards Belgium-NL or back towards Sedan. It worked for ex. on 3 June in spite of heavy radio jamming by the Germans, which made it far less effective. On 5 June hundreds of French fighters were concentrated in the Somme-Aisne area and fought very effectively. I guess internally, within the AF, competent people were improving communications as fast as they could. The command system was not always very effective (but often it was) because French military communications were so poor and relied mostly on the civilian telephone network (!!!).

However, I would point out that the respective qualities of the aircraft and airmen are less significant than being able to place them in the right place at the right time.

- Certainly. The best AC in the world flown by the best aircrew in the world are not really useful in an area where nothing happens.

Difficult enough at any time for the French in 1940, but even more so in the teeth of the Blitzkrieg (whatever the origin of the name!)

- Hmmm... It was the French's top-ranking generals'own fault. They - and the British - had got enough warning early enough : in Spain, then in Poland, more than 8 months before the fighting started in earnest in the West. But they ignored what happened in Spain, then in Poland. "We are no Spaniards... We are no Poles...", they said with great superiority ("We are the best army in the world"). Their very costly 1918 victory had made them ridiculously pretentious. They just would not listen and not see. Their country, and the whole world, and the Jews and Gipsies, paid a very high price for this stupidity.

Hawk-Eye
21st February 2005, 01:22
What should have been done or could have been done to change the outcome of 1940?

- I can't give away my answers publicly yet! Sorry!

One possible answer might be a(n anglo-)french advance in 1939,

- CERTAINLY, definitely.

but would such a move have been politically or psychologically possible?

- Why not? The Allied populations would have been enthusiastic. But the French generals kept repeating that their army was not suited for offensive!

These questions are fair as long as 1940 is portrayed as somehwat of a french failure...

- Well, it WAS a French failure to a large part, the greater part, but not only. Britain played a major part too in this and has NO reason to be proud either - except of her brave fighting men.[/quote]

Graham Boak
21st February 2005, 11:13
Are we talking about the entire military political scenario of the late 1930s, or the performance of the l'Armee de l'Air in May 1940? My last comments were specifically directed at the latter. I stand by the suggestion that a defender with good CCI will make better use of their resources. The Channel did indeed stop the Panzers when the French landmass failed, but this does not make all other comparisons invalid.

In the wider picture, that Britain's defences were entrusted (at a time of massive economic depression) into the navy rather than a large land army is only to be expected, given centuries of history that proved this worked. That the army had only a small modern element capable of fighting continental warfare was probably inevitable, but all of it was committed to France. Thankfully sufficient funds and forethought had been given to the RAF's structure.

I think it would be very difficult to support an argument that a larger British army on the Continent would somehow prevented or reversed the German successes; whereas a weaker Navy and RAF could well have been disastrous. Nations, like individuals, must fight to their strengths, whilst minimising their weaknesses.

Ruy Horta
21st February 2005, 12:59
I think it would be very difficult to support an argument that a larger British army on the Continent would somehow prevented or reversed the German successes; whereas a weaker Navy and RAF could well have been disastrous. Nations, like individuals, must fight to their strengths, whilst minimising their weaknesses.

Would a weaker, or less offensive (in terms of strategically oriented), RAF really have mattered that much in the Battle of Britain?

That's arguable.

I agree that the main defence of Britain rested upon the RN, guarding to sealanes, but I could picture a scenario where a less successfull Battle of Britain would not result in a British defeat as long as Germany proofed to be incapable of mounting an offensive.

Life in the south would have been more difficult, industry might have suffered more delays, but as long as the nation would stand behind a prolonged conflict there would be no defeat until defeated in the field, or at best at sea.

So the Battle of Britain could be defined as only the first step.

The germans needed a victory, even a draw wasn't enough.

Personally I think that Britain should have taken a more continental approach, but there are plenty of reasons (political, economic etc) why that could not be expected in 1939/40. Ironically I hold the reverse to be true in 1914, but that's off topic.

But without proper research (that is proper arguments and with source reference) I'm only spreading opinion and some of it not too strong. So my apologies for wasting a lot of time.

Laurent Rizzotti
22nd February 2005, 19:02
I don't think a good history of the Armée de l'Air in 1939-1940 or of the air battle in May-June 1940 exists now.

All books I know are interested mainly in only one airforce.

As for the French airforce, some books show victories (Gillet) while others show losses (Martin), few will describe operations, especially bombing and recon ones.

The greatest failure of Armée de l'Air IMOO was its failure to affect the ground battle. Bombers had almost nil influence and each unit was almost decimated in the first sorties. Fighters were unable to protect the troops from German bombers and Stukas (that were more efficient and used at the right places in great numbers), mostly due to doctrine of use.

Martin's book "Ils étaient là" lists all air losses of operationnal units of Armée de l'Air, not operationnal losses. Planes of second lines unit (local defence flights, for example) that get shot down are not shown, while planes of first line units lost in training, ferry and so on are.

It also doesn't cover the Aéronavale (French Fleet Air Arm).

No published source lists the French ground losses AFAIK. Armée de l'Air was never crushed on the ground but several units were decimated and retired to the rear to be recompleted. Most of the times they returned with more modern planes but so some units were missing on the frontline for some time.

Hawk-Eye
23rd February 2005, 13:39
Laurent, I think, is right on almost all points but NOT on his claim that French fighters were unable to protect the ground troops against German bombers. This they did very well indeed and they shot down dozens of « Stukas » (the RAF Hurricanes too) as well as hundreds of twin-engined bombers.Very often, too, German bombers which they were not able to shoot down jettisoned their bombs harmlessly in the countryside in order to escape the French fighters. Of course the latter did not shoot down 100 % of the attackers so most of these got through and bombed their objectives (but often precisely this, or at least accurate bombing, was prevented by French fighters). You almost never can destroy 100 % of the enemy bombers ! You never can wage war without receiving any blows : it began with stones, sticks, arrows, swords etc., later bullets, artillery shells, then bombs. This is totally inevitable, you never can prevent the enemy from trying to harm your own troops and often to succeed in this. If you are at war you’ll suffer losses. « Even » the USA had almost 300,000 men killed during WW II (far less than half the total French losses including civilians, which means mainly women and children).

It is well-known by now that Stuka attacks on Allied troops – at least 1940 – were very ineffective. Even very accurate bomb drops were not good enough if a bomb exploded 10 m away from dug-in soldiers, who remained unscathed. There is a famous example reported by a French officer whose unit (hundreds of men) were bombed by HOWLING Stukas for approx. 20 minutes IIRC. When it was over they slowly rose from their holes and shelters. Everybody was convinced that he was the sole survivor but in fact – IIRC – nobody had been killed ! Possibly there were a few wounded, I don’t know. But the PSYCHOLOGICAL effect had been terrific. Those who were shelled by artillery for several days without any serious effect were demoralised by a 10, 20 or 30 minutes’ Stuka attack ! But even this effect disappeared after a while, the troops got used to it and the Stukas were not more terrifying than artillery any more. Stukas often WERE very effective for destroying pin-point, small targets or making them useless : pillboxes (casemates) and the like, bridges, crossroads, railways, troop concentrations in the open etc. They also achieved success, like at Sedan, in forcing French troops to take cover while German troops were attacking and disabling French pillboxes or tanks (without outright destroying them, which was unnecessary).

Actually the main protection of French and British ground troops ought to have been their own, mobile (and also fixed) AA including AA-machine-guns against low-flying E/A. No country in the world could protect all ground troops against air attack at any time with own fighters, this was and is impossible. Even in the 1944 Normandy Campaign German fighter-bombers managed to get through and attack Allied ground forces in spite of over 15,000 Allied planes (including many bombers – which bombed German airfields, aircraft and hideouts in the woods). I think 1940 British troops were well-equipped in AA. The 1940 French had got excellent AA weapons (20 and 25 mm, Bofors 40 mm, 75 mm, 90 mm, machine-guns…) but often too few. In any case it happened only in rare instances during WW II, including in May-June 1940 over France and Benelux, that bombers were forced to abandon their attack competely. You could shoot down part of them but rarely scare them off.

Look here : during ground battles nobody expects the own ground troops to annihilate the enemy entirely, preventing him from inflicting losses on friendly troops. Likewise nobody expects the own artillery to entirely destroy the enemy’s artillery, preventing it from shelling own troops. Everybody would just love that but everybody knows it’s not possible. So why should it be possible, and demanded, in the field of airpower ? Nobody claims that French artillery failed 1914-18 just because German artillery kept shelling Allied troops. Whys should we be harsher to the fighters ? They did fight as best they could, the results prove it (and just ask German bomber veterans – those who survived…).

French AC destroyed on the ground BY GERMAN AIR ATTACKS were never really counted except perhaps on 10 May 1940 but you can make an evaluation, probably about 300. More or less the same number was destroyed by the retreating French (often just because there was no petrol left to fly them away, or they didn't have a spare wheel etc.) or just left behind. These are just rough evaluations.

Laurent Rizzotti
23rd February 2005, 14:01
I agree that French pilots shot down tens of Stukas and hundreds of Heinkels/Dorniers/Junkers. When a French (or a British for that matter) managed to fly close by a Stuka unit it usually suffered a lot, exactly like they did during BoB later. But the fact is that many German raids on the frontline weren't intercepted at all. Raids on rear positions (airfields, railways and so on) were more often intercepted.

The Allied bomber casualty rate was far greater than the German one. One of the reasons is that German Flak was far better than Allied AA but German fighter pilots also fly more missions than French pilots.

I agree that bombing is mostly inefficient against tanks or dug-in troops... except the pyschological impact, that was very important in the Stuka case. Bombing on moving units or trains is far more efficient and many French units were hurt like that.

To be precise, no airforce in 1940 was able to protect his Army the way the USAAF and RAF were able to cover Normandy in 1944. But the Luftwaffe had never to do that as the Allied hadn't the possibility to bomb efficiently German troops.

Hawk-Eye
23rd February 2005, 18:02
To be precise, no airforce in 1940 was able to protect his Army the way the USAAF and RAF were able to cover Normandy in 1944. But the Luftwaffe had never to do that as the Allied hadn't the possibility to bomb efficiently German troops.

- I don't quite agree with your last sentence. 1940 Allied bombers, especially British (this was the result of a French-British agreement on airpower) very often attacked German troops, certainly often with success : Fairey "Battle", Bristol "Blenheim" and other types too (Hampden etc.) but the far better Vickers "Wellington" were retained at home in Britain and many good, brave RAF Bomber Command crews were slaughtered on the continent flying 'Battles" and "Blenheims". British bombers were used especially in order to slow down the German advance with the aim of giving British and French troops the time to escape to another place and eventually to ships sailing to Britain. They bombed some strategic and tactical targets too, like factories in Germany, airfields etc.

French bombers were far less numerous but their numbers were rising very fast : from almost nothing on 10 May to several hundred modern bombers LeO 451 (cannon-armed), Amiot 351/354 (idem), Breguet 693-95 (idem), Douglas DB-7 (6 machine-guns, the future "Havoc"), Glenn-Martin 167F (idem; 4 Groupes of this type alone were engaged in combat) - several hundred at the end in spite of heavy losses. The French Air Force was the only one to engage two "groupes" of 2 escadrilles each of heavy four-engined bombers (Farman 222), not counting two ex-Air France civilian, four-engined makeshift bombers Farman 223/4 used by the Aéronavale, of which one dropped over two metric tons (over 2 000 kg) of bombs on BERLIN in the night of 7-8 June : first air attack on Berlin ever, but they attacked carefully selected MILITARY targets only, no "area bombing" of the city.

The light assault bombers Breguet 693-95 were slaughtered in their first very low-level attacks because Allied HQ had not yet realised how powerful German light Flak was but HQ quickly changed tactics, giving up the hedge-hopping attacks. Nevertheless HQ behaved with great stupidity when they sent the excellent LeOs in very small units and much too low to be used effectively, at heights where all Flak guns (light or heavy) were able to hit them. Only when the collapse disorganised the chain of command were the good men able to organise reasonable missions at the LeO's best altitude, in formations allowing good mutual defense against German fighters with their excellent cannon plus machine-guns, where they could use the good bombing sight (which was impossible in the stupid low-level or medium-altitude attacks). The LeO was an EXCELLENT medium bomber but almost devoid of any armour and all too often HQ used it as an assault AC like the later Shturmovik or Typhoon! According to my data, which possibly is not quite accurate (but this is the only ones I have now) Breguet 693-695 light assault bombers flew approx. 500 combat soeries and lost 47 of their number, half of them to Flak. About 10 % losses is heavy losses but not really a complete slaughter. This figure certainly would have improved in July and August...

Bombers belonging to both Allied air forces certainly also inflicted some losses and damage on the German Army and on LW fighters, at a high cost in planes and in men. But let us not exaggerate the losses - this has been done, with big wailing, for 65 years. For example the famous Sedan battle cost... 3 (three) Amiot 143s. For several decades I had got the impression that it had been a terrible massacre of the old Amiots. British bombers certainly were shot to ribbons at Sedan in spite of all their crews' bravery and the efforts of Allied fighters. Perhaps Allied bombers made possible the escape of approx. 330,000 Allied soldiers at Dunkerque...

There were also other big escapes from many other French harbours including St-Nazaire IIRC, something like 150,000 more British and Polish troops. During the last phase of the campaign British bombers were very often used to slow down the German army. This means hitting the German troops too.

lritger
24th February 2005, 17:28
I want to thank Yves, Laurent, Ruy and Graham for continuing this discussion... I find this to be extremely valuable, and I greatly appreciate the continued input on this topic. The reason I asked the original question was to begin gaining a more thorough understanding of the French MILITARY position... I've always had a sense that they were not the "cheese-eating surrender monkeys" that postwar rhetoric would have us believe, but rather were a strong and proud fighting force handicapped by poor or outmoded tactics and completely inept political "leadership", such as it was.

One interesting point raised in "Strange Victory" was the abundant overconfidence exhibited by both the British and French- to them, it seemed positively inconceivable that Germany could possibly represent more than a large nuisance. France's political leaders were unable to recover from the shock of having that theory blown out of the water in a matter of hours ... they had fallen victim to a "bunker mentality", and now the enemy was in the bunker.

Anyway, thanks again to all concerned, I'm really enjoying this discussion. :)

Lynn

Ruy Horta
24th February 2005, 18:08
Well the Anglo-French are often blaimed for that lack of action during the Phoney War, you even see some of this here in this thread, but I think the whole thing is more complex.

First the allies needed time to build up their strength as well, certainly the British could only have benefitted from a combat pause in the West. The french might arguably have started sooner, but that would have meant a winter offensive and even the french forces were in part using the time to strengthen and modernize.

Second, once the spring offensive started in the West, you might arguably say that the Allies were AGGRESSIVE to the point of thrusting their spearhead North towards Holland and Belgium. These forces contained the cream of Anglo-French units.

Rapid early movement (or falling for the german trick) by the western allies was as much a culprit of defeat as were the german mobile spearhead tactics.

Allied initiative was quickly lost.

Of course the allies could be blaimed for not starting their own spring offensive, yet could we expect such aggressive behavior from liberal democracies? We should not underestimate the influence of WW1, or more accurately, the horror of war. Personally I do not think that those who tried to maintain peace in those days deserve the bad reputation that they have today - up to Prime Minister Chamberlin!

Just think in terms of stopping the Apocalypse...

I'd try, wouldn't you (without 20-20 hindsight).

Laurent Rizzotti
24th February 2005, 19:56
If French lacked some sort of courage it was not the physical courage of the soldiers, pilots or sailors but political courage before the war (Munich and so on) and then the courage to take risks and assume responsabilities by high commanders.

The whole Allied strategy in 1940 was purely defensive. The whole strategic thinking since 1918 from the winners of WWI was defensive. The losers started to imagine new tactics while the winners had obviously the good strategy.

The Allied advanced in Belgium because they were planning to arrive on fortified positions both in Belgium and Netherlands. Well existing lines (Canal Albert in Belgium and Grebe Line in Holland) were broken before their arrival and the Dyle line was hardly existing at all.

As for the reinforcement of French army during the winter of 1940, it is true but Luftwaffe and Wermacht were reinforcing at a faster pace !! For example D520 were not used in operations until mid-May 1940. On the other hand Luftwaffe replaced Bf109D with the far superior Bf109E. French were still thinking Bf109 was inferior to their fighters, but that was only true of the Bf109D that was met most of the times during the Phoney War.