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Old 13th March 2020, 19:31
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Fighter victories 1940 – A few French figures

As I already mentioned in the previous thread “French fighter scores, mainly 1940” (it was closed, which is a pity)

- here is the direct link to it:

http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=55141

many ill-informed people, including quite a few misguided Frenchmen who strangely denigrate their own fighter pilots, all the time have spread an absurd legend about French fighter victories won mainly in May-June 1940.

So I had a look at the figures published by one of them, who probably was the foremost anti-French Frenchman (there are others). These figures are to be found in the Armée de l’Air archive kept in the Château de Vincennes (which is virtually the same as Paris – South-East of it with excellent bus, métro and RER (fast regional railways) links to the center of Paris (about 5 km). In any case the figures I’m reproducing below are his figures not mine.

He published the list of all French fighter pilots who won at least one “certain” (you could say “confirmed” or “bestätigt”) victory in the period September 3, 1939, to May 8, 1945. For every single victory he mentioned the number of pilots to whom it was credited and the location. These numbers of pilots range from 1 (in many cases) or 2 (idem) to 16 (I don’t think I found any case with higher a number of pilots having taken part). Besides, this already shows very clearly that the French fighter arm was far more numerous than almost all authors – in France and abroad – have been claiming and clamouring ever since, French patriots with tears in their eyes: “So few !” Otherwise the French pilots would never have attacked a single, poor He 111, Ju 52 (!) etc. with more than 2 or 3 fighters but often it was 4, 6, 9, 12 and yes, sometimes 16.

As you already know on May 10, 1940 (German attack) France had about 1,000 modern fighters in combat units including the French Navy with about 50, and 50 more in various small local units (“chimney flights”) protecting important places like aircraft factories, big cities, marshalling yards etc. Both Navy and “chimney flights” had got the same fighter types as the Armée de l’Air. Aircraft production was at last high and rising by the day - Bloch 152s and even Curtiss H-75s too - and 57 Dewoitine 520s delivered by May 10 had become approximately 420 by June 24 – of course they had suffered some losses in the meantime: exactly 50 in combat (including 4 to Flak) according to main loss expert Paul Martin plus 6 in accidents (and one more in April, before the French Campaign started): about 420 produced, 57 lost! (Same figure as above but this is coincidental.)

Well, I calculated the sum of about 1/3 of all registered “victoires sûres” and also the number of victories credited to all participating pilots (from 1 or 2 to 12 or 16, as I said): a pretty hard piece of work – yes I am a hero. Here are the raw figures:

Number of
- mentioned fighter pilots (at least 1 certain victory): 198
- actual certain victories: 469 (in 15 days not 12*)
- all individual pilots’ scores together: 1,292
- number of “victoires sûres” credited to one single pilot: 117 or 29.4 % of all actual victories, virtually 30 %.

So he who sneered and laughed at fighter pilots of his own country (some Frenchmen still are doing so) and gleefully claimed that the Armée de l’Air ridiculously inflated the grand total of victories because they added all individual scores containing victories won by more than one single pilot published overwhelming evidence to the contrary himself: the grand total (a partial one calculated by me) of all individual or collective victories is 1,292 as compared to 469 actual victories claimed for all individual pilots having taken part. These figures are only about 1/3 of the actual totals because for lack of time I was not able to go on and make the same calculations (it takes hours, which explains that nobody did this before – it seems). They are statistically relevant for in most cases this starts at about 100 and we are well over 100 and even 400.

So I can make a calculation to get approximately the GRAND TOTAL (100 % of the pilots and of their victories not 1/3 or 33 % as above):
Number of pilots credited with a least one “victoire sûre” (the total number of pilots having fought was about 1,100 including 111 Czechs and 177 Poles – not unlike the Battle of Britain as far as both these nationalities are concerned):

597 fighter pilots.
Grand total of actual victories credited to these 597 pilots: 1,414,
of which 30 % were credited to one single pilot, i.e. 424.
Average score of pilots credited with at least one victory: 2.37
Total of all individual, personal scores: 3,895!

Of course hundreths of a victory don’t make any sense (not for the period 1940-1945 either), not tenths of a victory either. This is purely arithmetical.
All these figures are approximations but they are close to reality.

The approximate total of 1,414 victories is close to the total losses of about 1,470 suffered by the Luftwaffe. Assuming that this figure of German origin is accurate (I am not definitely convinced that this is true) there is a certain amount of French overclaiming, and the above-mentioned total does not contain any “victoires PROBABLES” nor those won by French bombers, recce AC etc., which I guess amount to a few dozen, possibly 30-50.

A good, serious French author published an approximate figure of 830 (as compared to 735 published by the Armée de l’Air, at the time I think), again based on the German figure of about 1,470 losses. In this case the overclaiming rate would be about 70 % (1,414 as compared to 830).

Such an overclaim rate is very far from the German one (about 200 %) and even more from the RAF one (400 % - victories claimed by RAF pilots being 5 times the number of actual victories).

According to Brian Cull’s book “Twelve Days in May” about 200 RAF fighter pilots flying about 100 “Hurricanes” (taking very high losses into account – well over 300 “Hurricanes” were lost to all causes) claimed 700 victories in 12 days; Cull lowered this to 300, which is still wild overclaiming even if he did this in good faith. It was rather 20 % of 700, which is 140, which is not bad at all under such terrible conditions. (This does not include the Dunkerque score.) Those RAF fighter pilots did their best and they did it bravely.

In any case the heavy libelling of 1940 French fighter pilots and Air Force, according to which they added all individual scores to get a scandalously inflated total of 735-1,000 (according to various authors), has no connection to reality or serious historical work. The grand total of all French victories including those credited to multiple pilots is several times higher than all published totals of actual victories, which range from 735 to 1,009. Clearly nobody ever added all those individual scores, which would result in almost 4,000 (3,895). No French optimist ever claimed such a thing.

* 12 days in May. See book TDIM by Brian Cull.

Last edited by rof120; 15th March 2020 at 15:15.
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Old 15th March 2020, 15:49
rof120 rof120 is offline
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A corrected figure

Yesterday I corrected a typing error I made - sorry, I apologise:

The calculated total of French fighter victories is 1,414 including 424 won by one single fighter pilot each.

This is 30 % for "alone" (individual) victories (not shared, not collective).

Unfortunately I made that typing error and wrote 24.9 % - don't ask me why - probably tiredness.

As I mentioned above (in the preceding post) the estimated total of 1,414 real victories (one enemy aircraft destroyed for one victory) most probably is about 70 % higher than the actual number of about 830. This does not change the percentage (30 %) of "alone victories", though. Without the French system of "collective victories" - one full victory credited to every pilot having taken part in the fight, even to 12, 15 or 16 pilots - for example with the German way of crediting every victory to one pilot only, this percentage would probably have reached at least 50 % for those pilots who were instrumental in destroying the E/A would have been credited with one full victory, their comrades with none. The total number of destroyed E/A would have been hardly different. When one pilot only would not quite have achieved a victory one or several others would have finished the job (in this case it would have been a shared victory with shares of 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 etc. which didn't exist in the 1940 Armée de l'Air, not a "collective victory" credited to 2 to 16 pilots).

As interesting and fascinating such thoughts and figures may be let us not forget that real fighting took place with numerous airmen killed or badly wounded on both sides with corresponding, horrifying suffering, not to mention many widows and orphans. The French Air Force alone had 736 men (flying personel) killed in combat or in accidents including from September, 1939 to May 9, 1940, the Luftwaffe 3,278 (found in Peter Cornwell's big book TBOFTN - victims of all enemies of Germany: Dutch, Belgian, British, AA and AAA, and mainly French fighters). A large part of the German AC which were shot down were bombers or twin-engined recce AC with 4 or 5 crew members each. This explains the high figure for German human losses.

Last edited by rof120; 21st March 2020 at 13:11.
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Old 21st March 2020, 13:57
rof120 rof120 is offline
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A correction

The figures for French fighter victories above include those victories won during the "Phoney War" (before May 10).

Accordingly I should have given the German losses from September 3 on, not from May 10 on - sorry for this error: 1,814 aircraft not 1,460 (according to Peter Cornwell in his book TBOFTN), which is 354 more. In September '39 over Poland the Luftwaffe lost no less than about 250 AC to Polish aircraft, AA and accidents. This leaves about 104 losses in the West but the Luftwaffe suffered some losses in Denmark and mainly Norway during the invasion of these neutral countries, mainly to British fighters and all Allied AA, some of them to Norwegian fighters (with provisional reservations) and also to SWEDISH AAA. Sweden was neutral too and not invaded by Germany but when German aircraft strayed over the Swedish-Norwegian border into Swedish air space Swedish AAA opened fire, often with success, with their excellent Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns (the famous Bofors 40 mm gun is a Swedish gun made by the firm Bofors in the city of Bofors, on the North shore of the immense lake Vänern (Swedish name; Vaener if you prefer. Swedish people say "Booforrrsh", rolling their European r's, but this is certainly too much for Americans!).

During the Norwegian Campaign the Luftwaffe lost a few dozen aircraft of all kinds (including naval aircraft) but I have no reliable figure for these losses. Thirty (30) could be close to the real figure, leaving approximately 74 along the Gerrman-French (and Belgian) border. French fighters alone claimed 71 and British fighters claimed a few dozen too so there was an amount of Allied overclaiming during the "Phoney War". I'll try to find more accurate information.

Taking the German losses during the "Phoney War" into account (French victory claims too, which I did from the start) lowers the overclaim rate of French fighters, if any, somewhat. Please consider what I wrote on this rate provisional only for I have to look at some important data again.

Last edited by rof120; 22nd March 2020 at 10:51.
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Old 1st April 2020, 14:48
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Correction, reservation

It seems that Peter Cornwell's figures for German aircraft losses do not include those losses suffered in the nordic countries (Norwegian Campaign in Denmark and mainly Norway, April-May 1940). I'll check on this as soon as possible (but please be patient). Obviously if that is so it increases the losses to Allied forces over the Benelux countries and France accordingly, possibly by about 30 aircraft lost. The grand total for the French Campaign (FC) remains the same - 1,460 - but we need not substract about 30 "Norwegian" losses to know the purely FC losses. Somme sources give 1,469 or 1,471 instead of 1,460.

About the overclaim rate of the French fighter arm (the known figures are the units' figures not the pilots') I found approximately 70 % (100 actual victories for 170 published ones) but it's quite possible that I made an error and overclaimed myself, which means that the real fighters' overclaim rate could be significantly lower, something like 0 to 40 %. I don't know yet. I have to check on this again very carefully. This is not a simple, straightforward matter. Sorry for that, I'll try to find the correct answer to this question. If someone knows more he's very welcome with corresponding information but I am aware of what has been published by Williamson Murray, J. Prien et al, and many other authors in various books or reviews (of course I don't know everything: I'm just an ordinary person, very interested in this matter). I own copies of most books in French, German or English published on this period but a few ones are still not here.

Please remember that numerous jokers, many of which were/are French, have gleefully, sardonically, grinning claimed that the total of French fighter victories was ridiculously inflated because HQ or patriotic authors added all individual scores, most of which contained numerous victories credited to two to sixteen pilots, so that one destroyed E/A could be counted even 16 times. (The corresponding total then would be about 4,000 victories.) As I showed in the preceding post(s) THIS IS NOT TRUE and this wrong assertion is an insult to and heavy libelling of about 1,100 very young men (including 111 Czechs and 177 Poles, of wich quite a few were killed fighting Nazi Germany) who fought very gallantly, approximately 160 being killed in but 38 days (the last 8 of 46 FC-days were almost completely idle), not to mention several hundred who survived with terrible wounds, many of these pilots being heavily handicapped for the rest of their life.

Last edited by rof120; 1st April 2020 at 19:56.
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Old 2nd April 2020, 15:21
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Including Norway? No.

After having had several close looks at Peter Cornwell's big book I am able to add that this book and its loss figures do NOT cover the Norwegian Campaign. The loss statistics cover the fighting over continental Western Europe ("Poney War", September 1939-9 May 1940 and French Campaign 10 May-24 June 1940), sometimes over the UK or over British waters, e.g. when German reconnaissance aircraft were caught over the UK and around it.

The Campaign in Norway is NOT included.

It could be considered obvious as the title of the mentioned book reads "The Battle of France Then and Now", aka TBOFTN or TBFTN, which doesn't include Norway, so you may call me a fool but I wanted to be quite sure. Besides, the Polish Campaign is not included either even though it took place in September 1939.

So we need not lower the German (or Allied) loss figures in order to take the Norwegian Campaign into account and obtain the pure "Battle of France" figures. They are pure already. As author Peter Cornwell explained numerous aircraft from all countries were heavily damaged but they were not taken into account when calculating the losses, even if they were written off (mostly in the rear) eventually. For both the German and the French air forces this adds a few hundred aircraft losses to the known totals.

Just a small remark on the side: from the historical point of view it is generally agreed that the period September 3-June 9 was the "Phoney War", aka "waiting period" or initial period, during which there was a certain amount of aerial activity with about 70 French fighter victories (not couting AAA successes). The French Campaign (FC) or Campaign in France (but it took place in the Netherlands and in Belgium too so FC is better) began with the all-out German offensive on May 10,1940. The BATTLE OF FRANCE was the second part of the FC, starting on June 5 (after 26 days) with the second German offensive towards the deep French territory, crossing the Somme and Aisne rivers first. It ended after 20 more days with the French-German cease-fire on June 25, 0.35 hrs, the German army having reached the Atlantic coast.

Last edited by rof120; 2nd April 2020 at 16:18.
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Old 4th April 2020, 10:04
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Re: Fighter victories 1940 – A few French figures

Interesting stuff, although a lot of supposition on your part, which is not surprising given the lack of hard evidence to quantify scores. However - and please accept this as constructive criticism - your writing does not 'flow' and is difficult to follow. You also make additions and amendments which complicate matters even further. If I may suggest, proof reading is key, prior to submission.
Many thanks for taking the trouble to do this. I realise how much work is involved.
Kind rgds
Jonny
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Old 4th April 2020, 16:46
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Re: Fighter victories 1940 – A few French figures

Quote:
Originally Posted by jonny956 View Post
However - and please accept this as constructive criticism - your writing does not 'flow' and is difficult to follow. You also make additions and amendments which complicate matters even further. If I may suggest, proof reading is key, prior to submission.

Kind rgds
Jonny
Sorry Jonny , i do not agree, it is well written.
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Old 6th April 2020, 15:36
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Welcome discussion

Quote:
Originally Posted by jonny956 View Post
Interesting stuff, although a lot of supposition 1 on your part, which is not surprising given the lack of hard evidence to quantify scores. However - and please accept this as constructive criticism 2 - your writing does not 'flow' and is difficult to follow 3. You also make additions and amendments which complicate matters even further 4. If I may suggest, proof reading is key, prior to submission.5
Many thanks for taking the trouble to do this. I realise how much work is involved.
Kind rgds
Jonny
Many thanks to you for this criticism, which is constructive indeed. I am always grateful for reactions and comments so I'm not upset at all. Here are my own comments and reactions. I added big red numbers to the different topics:

1. "A lot of supposition" - here I can't quite follow you. Could you be more specific? Certainly I made some suppositions, which is virtually inevitable in such matters, but was it sooo much? The explanation for the presence of suppositions is most probably that I am working, so to speak, at the very cutting edge of the history of aerial WW II - it's partly "exploration", discovery. Some points might look like suppositions but actually are real, for example the remark according to which the officially known (or evaluated) loss figures - of all air forces - are in fact bottom figures, minima because the repair organisation in the rear, or the industry, discovered new, lethal damage on or inside the damaged aircraft. Likewise, some AC needed a new wing (left or right, or both) or a new engine or a new landing gear etc. All this together on dozens of individual AC needed production of corresponding wings, engines etc. by the aero-industry, thus lowering the quantity of new AC which could be delivered to the air forces' fighting units.

Well, any examples?

2. I do believe you and I accept this remark. The explanation is most probably that English is far from being my mother tongue. Without being all too modest I suspect that my command of this language is about as good as possible at all for a non-native speaker (or writer). I have massive evidence for this but this would be clearly off topic and upset Super Moderator Nick Beale. So I fear I can hardly become better here, also because I have only a very limited amount of time at my disposal to deal with this matter, which I consider very important. Additions and amendements have about the same causes.

3. I noticed that people often express themselves differently in different countries and languages, and often it's surprising to the non-native reader. In some serious English books on WW II I have sometimes to read the same sentence 2-3 times because its construction is so strange. It has partly to do with the way they think and how their school education was and influenced them.

Once, in Germany, I read extremely detailed technical instructions for the assembly of very heavy (high-power) turbogenerators weighing several hundred (metric) tons in new power plants so it was very important that the work was done with great precision. On a particular point there were two pages of instructions and the whole ended with this (at the bottom of page 2 of 2): "IMPORTANT: before you start any work on this you must do xxx yyy."
I was flabbergasted for I would have put this paragraph at the very beginning, making it the first lines of the whole text (first page, recto).

4. Certainly all I wrote is far from being 100 % perfect. But what author(s) is (are) perfect, hmmm? Of course you can avoid this problem if you avoid writing on the most difficult and tricky points but these are precisely the most important and interesting ones, like for example "How many E/A did French fighters really shoot down in May-June 1940?". This has been debated for 80 years by now and I don't know whether I'll succeed in giving a definitive reply (which certainly will be an approximation in any case, like 600-700 or 800-850 etc.). Very exact figures like 731 or 827 are just illusions, such precision is not possible. For the moment I consider 830 a good educated guess.

5. Proof-reading? Oh yes, of course. Want some evidence? How many typing errors did you find in my long, numerous posts? Perfect writing is not made easier by the fact that the system here puts unnecessary capital letters at the beginning of many words, the most frequent one being "Don't". See? I wrote don't but I was corrected and I got Don't. This is certainly the result of some différences (I wrote differences) between a normal English keyboard and mine, wich is not English although it starts with QWERT.

Well, thanks again. I think your input is going to be useful in any case.

Last edited by rof120; 6th April 2020 at 19:19.
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Old 19th April 2020, 18:40
rof120 rof120 is offline
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May 19, 1940: TWO air battles not one (Moranes)

In order to give you some interesting reading (or so I hope) in the meantime I am posting the following account of an air battle between a Schwarm (4 fighters) from JG 27 and some French fighters. * or ** refer to explanations below the text proper. You need not read these at once; you can read the whole main text first.

An air battle seen by German fighter pilots

May 19, 1940.

In the excellent book « Jagdgeschwader 27” (27 Fighter Wing) by Hans Ring and Werner Girbig, published 1991 (7th printing run) by Motorbuch Verlag in Stuttgart, we can read the following on pages 33-34. Quotation:

“The Gruppe [II./JG 27 with a standard complement of 40 fighters in theory; losses, attrition and maintenance resulted in about 60 % or 24 AC which were serviceable (US: in commission)] – well, this Gruppe performs escort missions for Stukas in northern France. During one of these missions a Schwarm from 5. Staffel is suddenly attacked by about two dozen* Moranes**. While the leader of this Schwarm, Oberleutnant*** Schäfer, defends himself against a Morane he doesn’t notice that another French aircraft positioned itself on his tail already. But Leutnant Strobel joins them and is able to shoot down the enemy fighter. The danger seems to be over but (…) four more Frenchmen are now flying behind Strobel. He tries desperately**** to escape to the East in hedgehopping flight. The Moranes don’t allow him to lose them though. His engine being destroyed by gunfire*****, and having suffered over 80 hits Strobel eventually has to perform an emergency landing. But this was not the end of it [because there were some British troops on a nearby road and they chased Strobel, who had a hard time escaping in a forest. He succeeded in joining some German troops eventually but this was not easy.]

Oberleutnant Schäfer, too, is unable to escape the overwhelming strength of the French fighters. He is forced to bale out from his burning aircraft and is taken prisoner by the French, having suffered heavy burns. Later he was freed by advancing German troops.”

* “two dozen” (about 24) Moranes is an overclaim (there were 15) for this air battle is known on the French side. Paul Martin gave some details in the book “Invisibles vainqueurs” (1991) written by himself and Yves Michelet (both contributed very different parts to this book, about 50 % of the whole each). Paul Martin’s details here read as follows (slightly shortened) on page 195:
GC III/1 – Mission de destruction (…) together with GC II/2. [Both units are equipped with Morane 406s.] 9 fighters from GC III/1 are flying in the lower position, protected by 6 more from GC II/2 flying top cover. The whole force is comprised of 15 fighters. Take-off time 16.50 hrs (Allied time – German time was 17.50 hrs IIRC).

Near the town of Guise they meet a strong formation of Me 109s. The French formation is assailed from all sides.

Lt Marche is shot down in flames and killed in Morane N° 730.
Sergent Pralon, wounded in an arm and in a leg, has to land on the airfield at Le Plessis-Belleville.

The Morane flown by sergent Pinochietti is heavily damaged. Two fighters from GC II/2 land wheels up.

French Lt Leenhardt (GC III/1) wrote a corresponding combat report confirming these details.

** The involved French fighters were Morane 406s indeed. This time they were not misidentified by the German pilots. The German story clearly shows that this fighter type was not as hopeless as most people claim or believe. The combat altitude possibly favoured the French this time or they were simply flying higher than the 109s when the argument started.

*** Oberleutnant = Flying Officer (RAF) or First Lt. (USAAF) or lieutenant (Armée de l’Air).

**** Leutnant Strobel « tries desperately to escape”. This does not sound like the usual libelling or ignoring of French fighters, of which all too many people believe, or pretend to believe, that they hardly existed and that they were helpless anyway. The Morane 406 was the least advanced and the least brilliant French fighter type, which did not make it unable to attack German bombers and “even” fighters nor to hit back. The excellent Messerschmitt 109 had a few flaws but as a whole it was a remarkable, very brilliant fighter by 1939-1940 standards (everybody knows this), especially in speed and climb rate, which did not make it invulnerable to enemy gunfire.

***** A destroyed engine is most probably the result of hits by CANNON-fire for light machine-guns, however numerous their bullets, did not have the punch to crack an engine-block (1940 no air force was using heavy machine-guns (except perhaps the Italian AF) but light MGs only: France 7,5 mm, USA .30 inch (7,62 mm), UK .303 (7,7 mm), Germany 7,92 mm. The difference between, for example, 7,5 and 7,92 mm is signifiant for every increase, no matter how slight, in caliber meant a much larger increase in bullet weight and hitting power; the French 7,5 mm machine-guns were all too feeble; the French 20 mm cannon was exactly the reverse). In May-June 1940 on the Allied side only French fighters AND BOMBERS were cannon-armed (apart from a few dozen good Dutch fighters but their country gave up on May 14) and they all fired a certain proportion of armour-piercing missiles. This had been explicitely planned and demanded by French Air headquarters. Hundreds of Morane 406s were armed with an excellent 20 mm cannon plus hundreds of Bloch 152s (two cannon each) and 34-100 or 150 (depending on the time that had elapsed since May 10) Dewoitine 520s (one each) and about 100 twin-engined Potez 630 and 631s (1 or 2 cannon under their nose), plus 2 or 4 light machine-guns for all single-engined fighter types, 2 to 6 for twin-engined ones. These figures do not take replacement aircraft into account, only the standard complement of first-line units.

Something is not quite clear about this air battle for the French pilots reported that they were attacked from all sides by numerous Me 109s (not only a Schwarm of 4). This seems to be true for the French had one pilot killed, another one wounded, a further fighter heavily damaged and two more made wheels-up landings (the reason for this is not stated but it was most probably battle damage inflicted by the 109s.). So it seems that no less than five Moranes were more or less heavily hit by the 109s. Just a Schwarm of 4 Me 109s, of which two were shot down after Strobel had himself shot down lieutenant Marche (leader of his escadrille of 12), could hardly have inflicted such losses and such damage on 15 enemy fighters (their pilots, too, tried to escape enemy gunfire). But let us remember that Ring and Girbig wrote that II./JG 27 (the whole Gruppe, I assume) flew this mission, which means about 24 serviceable fighters (possibly 20-28) against 15 actual French ones. It is perfectly possible that a Schwarm of 4 was attacked by numerous Moranes, possibly six (see the German story) before their comrades were able to intervene.

All this sounds rather complicated but it is going to become much worse:

After having written most of the preceding lines I discovered Jochen Prien’s and Peter Cornwell’s versions and this was quite a surprise to say the least. Now I am forced to keep writing on this particular air battle, which I hadn't planned when starting.

Let us look first at the version of Jochen Prien, Hans Ring et al because it was published 2001 already (Peter Cornwell’s was published 2008): the well-known huge series “Die Jagdfliegerverbände der deutschen Luftwaffe 1934 bis 1945” (large size, purple cover; aka JFV; see “Books & Magazines” here at TOCH), Teil 3 [Volume # 3]. The chapter devoted to II./JG 27 begins on page 249 and ends with page 261. We can read the following in the four last lines of page 249:

“II./JG 27 (…) suffered two losses on May 19 in an air battle near Lille between a Schwarm from 5th Staffel [squadron] and a formation of about 25 Moranes [actually 15, this is certain] when two Messerschmitts were shot down. One pilot was taken prisoner, the other one was able to come back unhurt some time later.” [No more details here.]

The pilot who evaded capture was Lt Strobel, the other one was Oblt Schäfer. (Within the RAF Lt was Pilot Officer, Oblt was Flying officer).

On page 258 we find the victory (claim) table and the loss table. No victory was claimed on May 19. Both losses on this day – Oblt. Schäfer and Lt Strobel – match the preceding French and German data but are attributed to British “Hurricane” fighters. That’s odd already for J. Prien and his co-author Hans Ring disagreed on this particular point at a distance of only 9 book pages of which 4.5 pages are filled with photographs. Possibly Prien relied on the above-mentioned book on JG 27 (one of its co-authors was Ring) but Ring received new information in the meantime (?). No (again) I am not insulting Mr. Prien nor anybody else, I am just trying to know what really happened, and how.

Let us have a look at Peter Cornwell’s version. On pages 324 (bottom right) and 325 (top) we find the following:

3 Morane 406s lost by GC III/1 at 17.15 hrs (German time I presume), all three shot up by Me 109s from 3.(J)/LG 2 (Lt Marche s/d and killed by Hpm Mielke) or heavily damaged (sgt. Pralon badly wounded and Sgt. Pinochietti unhurt). All three Moranes were write-offs.

As for German fighter losses on this day P. Cornwell records a total of 18 “write-offs” on pages 326-329 including Schäfer’s and Strobel’s 109s, plus ten 109s damaged but repairable including 2 with “damage state not recorded” (I am adding: probably repairable).

According to this data both Schäfer and Strobel were shot down by “Hurricanes” and no less than eight (8) French fighters were shot down on this day including 3 by Do 17 bombers (it seems that they DID attack them after all...) and one mid-air collision in a head-on attack by a “not combat-eager” French pilot who was killed (S-Lt J. Ruby). According to Paul Martin they flew 300 sorties on this day and claimed 17 “victoires sûres” plus about 6-7 “probables” (my evaluation). They claimed 2 “sûrs” Me 109s (GC II/2 and III/3, both flying Moranes) and one Me 110 (GC I/5 flying Curtiss H-75s). This is what the late Paul Martin reported in his books “Invisibles vainqueurs” published 1991 by Yves Michelet and “Ils étaient là…” (They were there…) published 2000 by the late CJE.

The main task of French fighters was to destroy enemy bombers, which they did with success while suffering losses to return fire and to escorting German fighters, but on page 329 P. Cornwell records 2 Me 109s and one 110 shot down by them which seem to match Martin’s data. So everybody more or less agrees on this day’s losses and victories but not quite in the same air battle(s).

But let’s have a look at the Morane 406-monograph published by Lela Presse (12 co-authors). Quite comprehensive and authoritative, very interesting. It was released 1998 but obviously nobody cared to have a look. On May 19 no less than eight Groupes de chasse equipped with MS 406s (complement 26, 28 or 30 fighters – serviceable or not - according to the excellent French review "Icare", N° 54 "La Chasse"* (The Fighters) released 1970, pages 68-69) flew one or several combat missions. On pages 126-128 we find the story of various air battles between MS 406s and German aircraft of various types. GC III/1 and II/2 flew not only one common mission with 15 fighters on this day but TWO. Aha, German people would say, “da liegt der Hund begraben“ (this is where the dog is buried: that is the crux of the matter). 9 Moranes from GC III/1 flew a “mission de destruction” in the area Aulnoy-Le Quesnoy-Le Cateau-Guise from 6.00 to 7.00 hrs (Allied time – in German time this means 7-8 hrs) with 6 more Moranes from GC II/2 flying top cover. They were first shot at by Flak, then “assailed in the vicinity of Guise by 30 to 40 Me 109s” (I am adding this: this number is possibly an overclaim for a German Gruppe of 20 to 28 fighters). The above-mentioned French losses occurred, according to this version (I trust it), during this FIRST air battle taking place in the morning.

The 2nd mission was flown in the afternoon by the same two GCs but with inverted numbers: 6 Moranes from GC III/1 with a top cover of 9 more from GC II/2 to the Laon-Liesse area. At about 17 hrs (18 hrs German time) they were attacked by about 30 Me 109s and 110s. Three GC II/2-pilots were forced to fly back with battle damage. Capitaine de Calonne fired at a 109 at point-blank range; it dived out of control and disappeared in a forest. It is confirmed as a “probable” only, which once more shows that French fighter pilots did NOT quite have it their own way even if the enemy A/C obviously was destroyed. A dive proved nothing but firing one deadly cannon and two machine-guns at point-blank range had obvious results.
After the air battle in the morning GC III/1 was credited with 5 probable victories on Me 109s (which probably was partly optimistic) including 2 to Lt Marche, who was shot down and killed shortly afterwards. In the afternoon GC II/2 was credited with one certain and three probable victories.

What about Peter Cornwell’s data in TBFTN? Two victories – among many others – credited to “Hurricanes”: the victims were Schäfer and Strobel, which is quite credible. Only on the last page for May 19 do we find a few French victories: on page 329 we can see that two Me 109s from 1. and 2.(J)/LG 2 (sic for the indigestible German unit designations) are destroyed by Moranes as well as a Me 110 by Curtiss fighters from deadly GC I/5, the by very far top-scoring 1940 French unit. These 3 victories are to be found first on the last page of this day because destroyed or damaged AC are mentioned strictly in the alphabetical order of their main unit, here LG 2, then ZG 26, obviously at the end. This Z means that this is the very last victory on a German aircraft mentioned for this day, May 19.

Well, that wasn’t easy to say the least: in German, “Eine harte Nuss zu knacken”, a hard nut to crack. I almost gave up the idea of posting this rather complicated story with only a few destroyed aircraft – French and German – but it clearly shows how complicated it can get to sort it all out even though it’s a matter of only two French fighter sweeps flown by 15 aircraft each and of corresponding German missions (both probably escorting Stukas or other bombers). In this case there are very numerous details in Peter Cornwell’s book but nevertheless in many instances (as a whole probably several hundred) the cause for the loss of a particular German aircraft, including many fighters, is not known, or the nationality of mentioned (enemy) fighters responsible for the destruction or damage is not known, which leaves a lot of room for both British and French fighters and for Allied anti-aircraft (AA) too. The gaps in the published information are not P. Cornwell’s fault, he did as best he could with the available information (including in national archives, used directly or indirectly through published sources).

Everybody is welcome to help and especially to correct my possible errors or complete the given information.

A remark about the late Paul Martin’s both books on the air war fought by the Armée de l’Air during the “Phoney War” (September 1939-May 9th, 1940) and in May and June 1940: as I already mentioned about 97-98 % of his part of these books are devoted to French LOSSES, often in great detail. Both books are very similar but in the 2nd one he raised his loss figures, in some case(s) enormously, like + 56 % for Dewoitine 520s (50 were lost in air combat or to Flak – a few ones). As for the fighting of GC III/1 and II/2 on May 19 the following happened and I discovered it first yesterday (!), almost 29 years after the release of “Invisibles vainqueurs” (this title was created by publisher Yves Michelet). I discovered it because I wanted to give sweet little yous an account, as comprehensive and exact as possible (sorry: this is how I was made, I can’t help it), of a typical air battle between French and German fighters (actually there were two separate air battles). P. Martin gave an account of the fighting of GC III/1 and II/2 in the afternoon only (take-off at 16.50 hrs, Allied time – 17.50 hrs German time). He not only wrote nothing on the similar mission, by the same units, in the morning (6-7 hrs, Allied time) but he transferred the French losses, suffered in the morning, into the afternoon mission. The explanation for this incredible error (I don’t think it was done deliberately) is that Martin was interested in French LOSSES only and only just mentioned victories in a few words. So if we believe what he published twice we believe that GC III/1 and II/2 fought in the afternoon only (not in the morning as well) and suffered losses during this afternoon mission only, which is wrong, and we don’t understand how both German pilots Schäfer and Strobl were shot down by “Hurricanes” (which seems to be correct) not by Moranes (which were perfectly able to achieve this and often proved it).

As for Hans Ring and Werner Girbig’s account of this day their error “Moranes” instead of “Hurricanes” has probably its origin in the combat reports of the German pilots themselves. These pilots very often mixed up Moranes and Hurricanes, sometimes even Moranes with Bloch 152s or Curtiss fighters.

Regrettably we cannot rely on Martin’s account of the 1940 aerial French Campaign, as this example shows. He did not even mention numerous air battles in which there were no French losses (sometimes no victories either), no matter how many victories were achieved (up to six in the same air battle). He mentioned only air battles which had resulted in some French losses (but not the victories won at the same time). General Jean Accart was probably the genuine French top-scorer with 15 confirmed victories although he was very badly wounded after only 3 weeks of fighting and 3 weeks before the end. Official top-scorer Edmond Marin la Meslée, Accart’s deputy squadron CO and best friend, was officially credited with 16 but 2 of these were added 1940 by some over-eager general at HQ and are very far from being certain victories. In his foreword to the book “Invisibles vainqueurs” Accart made a corresponding remark about French victories and of course he was perfectly right.
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* This issue of "Icare" (N° 54) contains a remarkable historical article (pages 66-74) by the late Raymond Danel (not "Daniel"). Same remark for N° 53 (pages 74-85).

PS: your remarks and comments, if any, are always very welcome. Never hesitate to post them right here. This includes possible criticism, even a harsh one. Experience shows that criticism and even enemies' comments are very useful. "What doesn't kill me makes me stronger."

For more details see my first thread on the French fighter arm: http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=55141

Last edited by rof120; 23rd April 2020 at 14:15.
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Old 4th April 2020, 18:48
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Re: Fighter victories 1940 – A few French figures

No need to apologise Snautzer old chap; each to his own....
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