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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:

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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