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Pre-WW2 Military and Naval Aviation Please use this forum to discuss Military and Naval Aviation before the Second World War.

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  #1  
Old 2nd January 2019, 19:39
adriangunn adriangunn is offline
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Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

Weird question: I am wondering how difficult it would be for an aircraft to cross into and traverse German airspace at night, and return undetected and unmolested?

A more specific (hypothetical) scenario:

In July 1939, military aircraft, such as a British Armstrong Whitworth Whitley takes off from an airfield in France near the German/Swiss border and flies at night over German to occupied Bohemia, drops some parachutists, and returns to France. A circuitous route along the Swiss border and then across Austria before turning north is around 400 miles or so (each way). Given the lack of hostilities, and lack of radar is it likely such a flight would be detected?

Regards,

Adrian
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Old 2nd January 2019, 23:08
Broncazonk Broncazonk is offline
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Re: Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

In my opinion, the flight would not be detected. It might have been heard in various locations as the plane flew over, but the lack of trained observers, observation posts and communication gear would have prevented the creation of actionable intelligence.

Navigation at night over that course would have been problematic.

Bronc
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Old 3rd January 2019, 00:54
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Re: Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

Intercepting such a flight if it was detected would be very hard for the Luftwaffe for sure.

But on the other hand, it would be very difficult for the RAF crew to find the location to drop their parachutists.

Any drop would have done at low altitude, and so could be seen and reported, and even possibly fired, from the ground.

Also the RAF had no base in France before September 1939, so such an operation will require secrecy from both the French and the British.

Last, I am not sure that using parachute to drop agents in foreign countries was planned in 1939. Inserting agents in Bohemia would probably be easier by land from Poland or Romania.

British para were not formed before 1940 and the RAF had no aircraft allowing to drop parachutists easily until late 1940 (modified Whitleys).

On the other hand, the first French parachutist unit was created in 1937, with people formed in Soviet Union. They were using Potez 65 and 540, and would have the range to reach Bohemia from France.
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Old 3rd January 2019, 02:47
Broncazonk Broncazonk is offline
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Re: Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurent Rizzotti View Post
Intercepting such a flight if it was detected would be very hard for the Luftwaffe for sure.

But on the other hand, it would be very difficult for the RAF crew to find the location to drop their parachutists.

Any drop would have done at low altitude, and so could be seen and reported, and even possibly fired, from the ground.

Also the RAF had no base in France before September 1939, so such an operation will require secrecy from both the French and the British.

Last, I am not sure that using parachute to drop agents in foreign countries was planned in 1939. Inserting agents in Bohemia would probably be easier by land from Poland or Romania.

British para were not formed before 1940 and the RAF had no aircraft allowing to drop parachutists easily until late 1940 (modified Whitleys).

On the other hand, the first French parachutist unit was created in 1937, with people formed in Soviet Union. They were using Potez 65 and 540, and would have the range to reach Bohemia from France.

A very good, very informative post.
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Old 3rd January 2019, 09:38
MW Giles MW Giles is offline
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Re: Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

Just one thought.

Before the war Europe was not blacked out at night, in fact it was lit up quite brightly so navigation at night on a good night not impossible

Martin
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Old 3rd January 2019, 12:30
Laurent Rizzotti Laurent Rizzotti is offline
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Re: Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

Good point Martin

By the way I was wondering when parachute was used first to insert agents in enemy territory and it was apparently during WWI. See http://ww1centenary.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ma...ent-parachute/, that gives a British archive reference AIR 2/181 (sadly not digitalized apparently). From the title of the document, "Notes on the use of Parachutes for Dropping Agents", I am not sure if this use was discussed or really done.

A French site (http://www.cheminsdememoire.gouv.fr/...-grande-guerre) says that the first agent dropped by parachute in enemy territory was an Italian officer, Tenente Tandura, on the night of 9 to 10 August 1918.

Before the use of parachute, agents in WWI were brought by aircraft that landed in enemy territory, or even used small balloons.

If you're interested in special operations before the start of WWII, the French Special Service mounted an operation to steal one of the new Bf 110s of the Luftwaffe. A French agent managed to contact a German test pilot, who had been thrown out of the Luftwaffe, and on 10 May 1939 he took off with a Bf 110C he was asked to test engines on the ground, refuelled in a small airfield with the help of his brother and then took off for France with him. Sadly they hit ground in fog in Jura mountains and were killed. The French returned the bodies but kept the wreck of the Bf 110 despite German demands.
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Old 3rd January 2019, 17:10
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Mikael Olrog Mikael Olrog is offline
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Re: Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

As pointed out earlier, navigating by night in pre-war times through Europe wouldn't have presented any great challenge for a trained crew. There were numerous scheduled night routes (especially mail-cargo) in operation succesfully for decades before the war broke out. A night flight would not have been identified, even if it was detected (heard) from ground. If the clandestine flight would have been undertaken during day time it is likely that it would have been both detected and acted upon by diplomatic means rather than scrambling a fighter. The day time clandestine reconnaissance flights conducted by e.g. Do 17 R during the Sudeten crisis over central Bohemia was detected and a verbal note was sent to the German foreign ministry from Czechoslovakian authorities. These included also the German civil registration of the aircraft.

Travelling in Europe was not as easy pre-war as it is today and required some paperwork, and it would likely have become tougher after the Sudeten crisis.
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Old 3rd January 2019, 17:35
Bruce Dennis Bruce Dennis is offline
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Re: Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

Hello Adrian,
If I was in 1939 and wanted to make a flight such as you describe, I would use a civilian aircraft.

HTH
Bruce
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Old 4th January 2019, 08:30
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Re: Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

Surely an act of aggression in peacetime by entering another country's airspace without permission & it would have been easier & less risky if one posed as a tourist? This is on the wrong board as it is pre-war?
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Old 4th January 2019, 08:44
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Re: Penetrating German airspace pre-war 1939

Alot of german tourist visited Holland in 1938-39 together with pencil and paper. Strangly enough they did not see the flower fields or such but other less intresting stuff like bunkers etc. And dont forget the zeppelins and overland air races etc.
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