Luftwaffe and Allied Air Forces Discussion Forum

Luftwaffe and Allied Air Forces Discussion Forum (
-   Allied and Soviet Air Forces (
-   -   Book on French AF 1939-40? (

The_Catman 18th July 2008 13:10

Book on French AF 1939-40?

Are there any decent books about the French Air Force from Sep 39 until the surrender?

I know that they were largely ineffective, but for such a large fleet of aircraft they must ahve done something, and what happened to all of them?



Laurent Chambon 18th July 2008 15:18

Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?
LOL ineffective !!!???? For sure French Air Force didnt manage to change the battlefield outcom but to have a more strategic view, do you know how many german planes were shot down and not avalaible for the battle of britain ? French Air Force was certainly badly employed due to strategical misconception from the HQ, their planes where mostly outdated but they fought valliantly and finally shot around 730 german planes.

They are many good books in French about that subject - For english one I cant advise you.


Peter Cornwell 18th July 2008 15:41

Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?
Amen to that Laurent - well said. The French Air Forces in 1939/40 were generally well-equipped but badly utilised by a high command paralysed by indecision - particularly when it mattered most. Despite this the vast majority of its pilots and aircrews fought magnificently even when the outcome was no longer in question. Regretably most British authors continue to cling to the outrageous belief that the French were merely a load of 'cheese-eating surrender-monkeys' - an insult as pathetic as it is misguided. As a consequence most available English-language accounts follow the same despicable line in perpetuating this grotesquely distorted view of history.

Grozibou 18th July 2008 18:34

Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?
Bravo Laurent, bravo Peter. Peter's views, I think, are even more accurate and close to reality. Congratulations. May I add that not only France but also the Netherlands and Belgium, both being small countries but modern, well-equipped and well-armed, and having brave armies, and also the cream of the British Army were beaten too, or even worse than the French. Even if France had possessed an air force which would have been PERFECT (for the time, 1940) in every respect including numbers, Germany would have won because of its particular, very clever but very risky strategy (Ardennes, Sedan, race to the coast etc.) and because of the incredibly incompetent, stupid and slow-reacting top Allied commanders (French AND British). 1940 no country was in a position to win a big war thanks to its air force alone and it is doubtful even of 1944-45 - the western Allies and the USSR all engaged great quantities of tanks, artillery and... infantry. They certainly had good reasons to do so instead of relying on their huge air forces alone.

As for books there are many - in French, in English and in German. This question was discussed here some months ago : you should be able to find it - and the titles of many books - using a few well-chosen key-words : French Air Force, 1940 + books, French Campaign, 1940 air war etc., both here at TOCH and on the general Internet (Google, Yahoo).

In my eyes - this is only my opinion! - the best allround-book on this is :
"Air War over France 1939-40", by Robert Jackson, published 1974 by Ian Allan Ltd, Shepperton, Surrey, England. ISBN 0 7110 0510 9
It should be possible to find it, for ex. on the Internet. It has only 154 pages of normal size (about 1/2 A4) and deals with virtually everything : bombers, recce, fighters etc., Allied night bomber operations, all countries involved in the fighting including the Netherlands and Belgium, and even the French local fighter units at Bourges, Châteauroux, Lyon etc. and the French naval aviation! This really is quite an achievement! Statistics, general results, description of the main aircraft etc. Of course you can't expect a detailed account of ALL operations and of every single air battle with the complete list of losses and victories, but this work is excellent indeed. There are a few errors, but they don't matter much : for ex., "Orléans in Southern France" (this city is in Central France, on the river Loire) or famous ace Werner Mölders shot down on 14 May (top of page 112) instead of 5 June.
A highly recommended book!

There are only two French allround-books I know of. They are much bigger and both were researched and written mainly by Paul Martin : "Invisibles vainqueurs" (1991, normal book size) (title invented by his publisher Yves Michelet, who added more "optimistic" pages and photos, totalling 50 % of the contents, to Martin's dire hundreds of French aircraft shot down and dead aircrew [almost nothing on the German losses except tables of French fighter victories (with AC types shot down and French units) in the annexes and their number for every day, in the main text, in a few short words]) and "Ils étaient là..." (2001), an enormous book in large format, mainly a 2nd edition of the preceding book, Y. Michelet's comments and views being replaced by new publisher C-J Ehrengardt's (Aéro Editions publishing company, Fleurance, France) and author P. Martin having added numerous French aircraft losses (and probably human losses too), for ex. 11.43 % for Morane 406s and 56.25 % for Dewoitine D.520s. The photos are mostly not the same ones as in the 1st edition. Martin's books are a precious source of data mainly on French aircrew and aircraft losses of all types (bombers etc.) (which are described in detail whenever possible) and also on French fighter victories but readers who are not well-informed before reading this get a very sad, pessimistic impression of permanent, heavy French losses which does not correspond reality for both sides suffered heavy losses fighting each other, the German losses being higher, in particular in bombers.

There are many more specialised French books (monographs etc.), many of them still available at least as second-hand copies : D.520, Curtiss H.75, French bombers ("LeO 45, Amiot 350 et autres B4"), and others, in the "Collection Docavia" of Editions Larivière (look in the magazine "Le Fana de l'Aviation for their publicity) and also excellent books published by Lela-Presse (magazine "avions") : MS 406, Bloch 152, Potez 174, Les Curtiss (français ; published 2008). Don't forget the excellent review "Icare" with 19 big issues devoted to the 1940 French Campaign 1970-2007 : Chasse, Bombardement, Reconnaissance, Bombardement d'assaut etc. The mentioned books all report war operations and individual air battles with units, losses and victories.

The best allround FRENCH book is probably a Docavia : L'aviation de chasse française 1918-1940, published 1972 (but still excellent) by the remarkable experts Jean Cuny and Raymond Danel. It deals mainly with the fighters but gives a good general idea of the whole story and precious tables and statistics (like : 912 modern French fighters in first-line (combat) units on 10 May 1940 - did you know that? - plus about 50 in local flights and 35 with the Naval aviation, the grand total being about 1,000 French fighters in combat units, but only 2/3 were supposed to fly, 1/3 being reserve aircraft which proved very useful, leaving approx. 670 "active" fighters on the front and also all over France for the factories and cities had to be protected against bombers). This book is out of print (épuisé) but you can find it, on the Internet too.

Most books can be found in libraries (French : bibliothèques !) and they exchange books if some of them can't be found otherwise.

Good luck!

Nick Beale 18th July 2008 22:20

Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Originally Posted by Peter Cornwell (Post 69733)
Amen to that Laurent - well said. The French Air Forces in 1939/40 were generally well-equipped but badly utilised by a high command paralysed by indecision

Did they have much in the way of early warning and command/control, i.e. the infrastructure of a modern air-defence system?

The_Catman 19th July 2008 00:07

Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Thanks for the answers so far, but any more ideas still welcome.

I am getting "Twelve Days in May" by B.Cull and B.Lander but as it is coming from Canada by surface mail I won't have it for a while.

Sorry, but only books in English are of any use to me.

Maybe "ineffective" wasn't the perfect word, but as is said above most WW2 histories dismiss the efforts of the French AF (along with Belgian and Dutch forces), and my interest was in seeing if a less simplistic history exists.

For instance, I have no idea of what damage was inflicted upon the Luftwaffe.

In response to a couple of other points raised here, whilst I do not doubt the skill and bravery of some of the men involved, to blame everything on a paralysed high command is surely too simplistic, in the same way as for instance Haig is misrepresented in the Great War as being a poor leader and as uncaring as to the fate of his men, when the opposite was the case.

It is surely not unreasonable to ask why the French armed forces as a whole, and the AF as an integral part, did not have more success in stemming the German advance, compared for instance (and I recognise a whole host of other factors are involved) to the success of the Finnish Air Force against the Soviet hordes.....

There again Finland isn't known for it's cheese...........



Juha 19th July 2008 02:00

Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?
Hello Catman
not a perfect book but one which might intrest You:
the Fighters over France and the Low Countries. Mushroom Model Magazine Special No 5104. Sandomierz 2002. In it there is an article by Bartlomiej Belcarz on L'Armée de l'Air (pp. 49 - 67 plus 6 pure photopages) The book seems to be good and the articles cover the fighter operations of all the combatants (Belgians, Dutch, French, RAF, Polish, Czechs and LW). And of course the Poles and the Czechs fought under overall French command. I think that book is well worth of its price. I paid for it 17€ in 2002 here in Helsinki. There is 152 pages, the last 27 pages are purely photo and colour profile pages and there are at least 150 other photos among the text on those 126 first pages .

Peter Cornwell 19th July 2008 08:13

Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Originally Posted by Nick Beale (Post 69745)
Did they have much in the way of early warning and command/control, i.e. the infrastructure of a modern air-defence system?

Yes they did, but nothing comparable to RAF Fighter Command's advanced system for home defence based upon RDF. So, along with most other air forces of that period, they relied on forward observation posts, radio intercepts, AA target marking, standing patrols, and ground-control by radio etc. It was a thoroughly workable system for the time but other better-informed members of this forum will be able to advise you further I'm sure.

Alex, for a 'less simplistic' account and details of all losses suffered by each air force involved you will, I believe, find answers to most of your questions in my own The Battle of France Then & Now published by After The Battle earlier this year. Grozibou's first paragraph above encapsulates nicely the main reasons behind the appalling collapse of the Allied armies in France in 1940. When the German offensive opened on May 10, 1940, they were simply unable to counter or contain German Blitzkrieg methods of rapid mobile warfare backed as it was by an audacious, decisive, and staggeringly effective strategy.

The_Catman 20th July 2008 16:00

Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Thanks Juha, but the book is probably not easy to find.

Reter, your book looks exactly the sort of thing I am looking for, but unfortunatley my interest won't quite reach to the price. I am sure it is excellent value for money to someone with a serious interest in the events and period, but as i have amore casual interest I will have to have a look for it in a couple of years time.


Peter Cornwell 20th July 2008 17:17

Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Understood. Try your local Reference Library - it may hold a copy.

All times are GMT +2. The time now is 04:41.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.7.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Copyright ©2004 - 2018,