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  #11  
Old 30th March 2005, 12:41
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawk-Eye
Yes but Townsend did all the harm when he PUBLISHED his book, which was quite successful in the whole world and published in French too. Both the English and the French edition were published in... France. Incredible isn't it. I insist that his whole story must be forged - until I'm PROVEN wrong. No fighter unit what stationed at Villacoublay on 3 June 1940, this is a fact. Some fighter units were based there for short periods of time but NOT on this day.
You know the general subject interests me, so please keep in mind I am not trying to discredit the french fighter pilots of '39-40. But the above statement does show some double standards, especially if set against what you've written in the Graf/Closterman and the all yellow Fw 190 thread. So your opinion of French pilots is more important than an eyewitness account of a British AVM? Of course you could write page upon page of french accomplishments, but that does not automatically discount this account. The same thread covers the theme of slander, but in this case both Townsend and Sholto Douglas are being described as liars and forgers. Unfortunately you are using a double standard.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawk-Eye
I know I believed certain things on MY OWN LIFE which were wrong, as I discovered later. I didn't lie, I just was wrong. For example I would have sworn that I was on a certain airfield and did a certain thing but in fact it was another airfield (as my logbook proves). My memory betrayed me. Such things will happen.
So it may have been another field, but who's to say that on that field there were not a number of (fighter) pilots who acted as witnessed by Sholto Douglas? Maybe Sholto Douglas was wrong in some of his account, does that make him or Townsend forgers and liars?


Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawk-Eye
Perhaps I can explain the error about "pilots". As you know RAF pilots (proudly) wear their "wings" on their battle-dress. They are made of some textile material. In the French AF EVERY MAN wears similar wings on his battle-dress, even the lowest ranks (ordinary soldiers).

Anyway nobody has the right to draw such drastic conclusions, on a foreign airfield, about a situation which he has no chance to understand if nobody explains it for him.

Again, this is not personal attack, which is the last thing on my mind Yves, just looking at the case, which you yourself have been presenting on numerous occasions, on its own merit. But here you set an annecodotal episode of a book against what amounts to nothing but an assumption, one that also assumes that AVM Sholto Douglas doesn't know the difference between an ordinary airman and a pilot, albeit a frenchman. Perhaps you assume that this AVM also saluted to the local janitor because like all french generals he had such a beautiful moustage?

The main point you fail to put into proper perspective is that Sholto Douglas (or Townsend by quoting) is decribing an event as he witnessed, and as AVM RAF he deserves the same credence or perhaps more than all those other personalities - like Closterman - we are so fond of. His authority is his senior rank and background as a WW1 fighter pilot of some repute.

Bottom line remains that Sholto Douglas is a reputable witness, if his observations do not agree with your sense of what's right and what's wrong, it is time to double check the facts, not attack the person. Since I am very particular (and peculiar) about this sort of thing I couldn't help but order a copy of Years of Command: A personal story of the second war in the Air (Collins, 1966), to check this episode myself.

There may be mistakes, but if we don't like what we read it doesn't mean we are also looking at lies and forgeries. One question, did you ever double check Sholto Douglas' biography?

Again, is it really impossible that AVM Douglas saw a number of nonchalant french pilots that did not jump to "their" airplanes, during an air attack, keeping in mind the aggressive nature of this senior officer? Also with his background in mind is it really surprising if he looked favorably upon the free-french under his command, compared to what he saw in those darker days of 1940?

Instead of considering lies and forgeries, I'd be more inclined to believe that there were indeed moments when élan was not as high as usual amongst the french, especially through the eyes of a visiting senior officer. Those were days of defeat, not victory...

Back to Townsend, his book covers the campaign in France to a limited extend, but doesn't do so any worse than other titles from an RAF perspective, I wonder how much harm his publication really did. Did French fighter pilots really suffer that much from his publication? As I've tried to point out by quoting Townsend, there are also positive signals that even things out - in my humble opinion.

In the eyes of the British, the French failed by discontinuing the fight, those are pretty harsh terms but set against the summer of 1940 and without the benefit of hindsight, not really surprising. The questionable role of Vichy France doesn't make it easier.

It is obvious that there was resentment between the British and French after the collapse in the west. The men of that generation took (at least some part of) that resentment with them, judging by your writing some of that resentment has been passed to the next generation and still lingers on.

What remains obvious is that something went terribly wrong in the summer of 1940 and for some the explanation needs a scapegoat.

Writing as an enthusiast, not as a moderator.
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  #12  
Old 31st March 2005, 19:03
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Christer Bergström
those that some seem bent on trying to denounce
1. Who's really denouncing who, on this forum or even in literature?
2. There is actually a lot of irrelevant material in this thread.

First the idea that French fighter pilots are being slighted wholesale by the world, by the British, by the french, by everyone, except a few honorable men...

nonsense

Second a thread basically dealing with a single book by a single writer, who's occused of anything but canibalism and child molesting, but those are probably lesser crimes

However this book seems to be a reoccuring theme, call it the catalyst, to fuel this ongoing pashionate blaze.

What I don't see is any reasoned argument, I see a lot of irrelevant writing about pre-war france and even the fact that little Holland was attacked by Germans in dutch uniforms, but not a solid thing about why Sholto Douglas is unequivocaly wrong, or proof that Townsend misinterpreted his annecdote.

The accusation is one of forgery and lies, should these statements not be backed up some relevant facts?

This post is not a personal attack against anyone.

I do not remember reading about french traitors, cowards and murderers, about french forgers and liars etc etc etc. But every now and then this AA vs RAF theme pops up and these words fly...towards the British that is.

So I'll ask all of you a question.

Why should I allow this thread to continue?
Should I allow this discussion ever to raise its head again?

If not with reason and objectively, not at all.
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  #13  
Old 31st March 2005, 20:10
Hawk-Eye
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Stand by please! I am working on my reply to your preceding posting, which is quite long. It takes time because I am reading YOUR text carefully and writing my replies carefully too. You'll see you're too heated and too quick in your conclusions.

Remember : censorship can't prevent the facts from existing, on the contrary, they make them more interesting and attractive.

I don't know why you sound so angry now. I don't think anybody attacked YOU or your statements. I suspect you read other postings too fast, too hastily, and then you draw some wrong conclusions. Or is it forbidden even to criticise anything British? I know relationships between UK and NL are very tight. I feel up till now this was a gentlemanly discussion even if I used the word "liar", which I can prove is justified. I was called quite other names at TOCH some years ago, including some of the worst English words, which you neither forbade nor deleted for a long time (and Christer recently was called names too, including "liar", which you didn't delete IIRC).

Let us calm down and keep a cool head. Are you as quick-tempered as your Brazilian fellow-countryman Coronel Pierre Clostermann? In any case I am not your enemy either, I just want to discuss this matter thoroughly and completely. No reason to explode. After all the insultees are THE FRENCH as usual. Remember what the UK-US press wrote when Bush's 2nd Irak-war started and the French (like the Russians, the Germans and many other countries on top of the UNO) disagreed. They were traitors, cowards etc. as usual, the French President was a "worm". Well, what do you say now (the Irak problem is not solved yet)? Who was right? Was it soooo terrible to have said "no"?

Same thing here : please have a little patience, wait a little, it won't kill you. I happen to have a few other concerns and business to attend.

Last edited by Hawk-Eye; 31st March 2005 at 20:23.
  #14  
Old 31st March 2005, 20:22
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

STOP...

There is no censorship on this forum, period.

The original case, mainly against Townsend, should be made without the use of irrelevant information.

Take all the time you need, there is no rush.

As I have pointed out, at least as far as I am concerned, it is not about attacking anyone or anything (I think that my main line of argument will support my claim).
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  #15  
Old 1st April 2005, 07:37
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Yves your last post has been considerably altered after my message was posted, the two actions could have coincided (see my posting time, and your original time and edit time).

Never-the-less I reacted to a much simpler message as posted at 08:10, not the one after editing at 08:23.

Some of that edited material seems actually to be an answer to my reply, so that will confuse people even more.

BTW, my personal views on the UK, France or even the 2nd Iraq war are irrelevant when it comes to this discussion. Actually I am simply waiting for that copy of Years of Command to arrive so I can double check Sholto Douglas.

IF Sholto Douglas is the originator, that will release Townsend, since quoting an AVM RAF who'd actually been on the spot won't be regarded as a faux pas, not even if the message is one we don't like.
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  #16  
Old 1st April 2005, 11:57
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Coincidence

Yes when my last posting was finished I was surprised to find your reply already! It was there. I assumed you were able to read my text whereas I was still writing. I can't remember I edited it afterwards but, if so, only typing errors and the like. I avoid to add important parts afterwards now because I feel part of the readers would miss them, which I obviously don't wish.
I don't feel Townsend can be considered innocent in any case for he visibly enjoyed quoting (or inventing) S. Douglas' thoughts. Repeating wrong accusations doesn't make you innocent in the eyes of a court even today.
But stand by, you'll see. EVEN IF some French pilots really kept eating lunch under falling bombs it is very risky to draw such hateful conclusions. There can be hosts of explanations. Want an example? They had just landed and were quickly having lunch at last (often this was not simple) whereas their aircraft were being refuelled. See? Taking off without any petrol in the tanks nor ammunition would have been rather pointless. There are other possible explanations... But to me this whole story, which I consider highly suspicious and disgusting, was forged.
"Aviators' mathematics are not so simple" (Adolf Galland).

Last edited by Hawk-Eye; 1st April 2005 at 11:59. Reason: One typing error
  #17  
Old 3rd April 2005, 18:43
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts - continued!

Thanks Ruy
for this posting .
(Much later) Ruy, this reply became very long indeed. I can’t help it. You wrote quite a provocative reply, repeating yourself again and again, so forcing me to answer again and again.
Please BEAR IN MIND that I am NOT a great, a glowing French patriot. But if the whole world, so it seems, is spitting at the graves of heroes who died fighting for their country and for liberty (they were very well aware of what nazi Germany was and they fought this too) I have to do something. I already stated that I don’t really like 1940-45 German soldiers including pilots. Nevertheless when fanatic and silly French people spred some stupid anti-German legends on German fighter pilots’ victories I fought this nonsense too – 15 years ago already! This nonsense was that a twin-engined AC gave 2 victories, a 4-engined AC gave 4, that a German formation leader got all victories of his pilots for himself , etc. In this case, too, I couldn’t do otherwise than telling the truth.
Clearly the so-called 1940 “French” defeat, which was an overall ALLIED defeat, and English propaganda gave everybody the impression that the French alone were terrible. In fact the British were no better. This French responsibility was certainly true of… unfortunately the French top-command. According to me this incompetent top-command is typically French even if you can see similarities with many other countries including UK and USA.
Given just a little time, the French army would have recovered and things would have greatly improved; the French government had decided to sack Gamelin (supreme commander) on… 10 May! Of course the German attack made the change impossible. Gamelin was replaced a little later by Weygand… who made some very serious errors too. Just like in other countries including the USA after PH top-command would have been renewed and refreshed but the Dunkerque evacuation covered by 40,000 French crack troops only (no British troops were left behind) purposely sacrificed by the French government prevented this, afterwards there was no time to recover and reorganise, and troops were in short supply.

Some funny guy claimed that the UK “was NOT beaten 1940”. Really? What do you call the fact of retreating after a few days, planning your evacuation over the French Channel after 2 weeks or less and leaving the battlefield and all heavy weapons (an immense loss of precious equipment), with your tail between your legs, after 3 weeks? The English sigh of relief after the evacuation could be heard as far as the planet Mars. “Great! Now we are between us at last!”, they all said in England (not at all pretentious). It’s good and reassuring to have reliable allies when you go to war with a great power.
To most people, especially in France, the “French” defeat implies that it took place mainly in the sky for airpower and aircraft were the most visible and most spectacular element. Curiously even artillery, of which France possessed a lot and which often could do much more harm than aircraft, disappears entirely from such discussions : it is by far not as spectacular as AC.
So the Air Force was the ideal scapegoat, especially in France! Besides, you certainly know that BRITISH fighter pilots shot down over Dunkerque often were shot at under their parachutes by British troops and insulted after landing, for “the RAF was doing nothing” (they obviously were the right people to hear that!). A famous such fighter pilot, an officer (I forgot his name), even was forbidden by an Army major to embark on a ship bound for England – out of pure revenge, because the RAF was not preventing German air attacks (what about heavy artillery shelling and infantry attacks?). So the British ground troops behaved exactly in the same way as the French towards their own fighter pilots.
French HQ really sent French fighters to attack German tank columns several times, for these fighters, especially Morane 406s, had a cannon so they could destroy tanks! To be honest I have to add that normally they got special, armour-piercing ammunition, which sometimes was not issued in time. Coming in at tree-top level they did destroy some “tanks”, or more probably some light armoured vehicles but in several instances they were butchered not only by the Flak but by all German army weapons including rifles and of course thousands of infantry machine-guns. Losses were heavy, the useful effect nil. This is how French HQ sacrificed so precious fighter aircraft and their excellent pilots, who were so useful fighting German bombers. (Curiously they hardly sent any Bloch 152s, which had got two cannon not one and were much sturdier, and never “the precious D.520s” for even a moustached Army general realised this would be nonsense). These ridiculous anti-tank missions show how much the French army understood of airpower.
Anyway, immediately almost the whole French Army lamented that “they never saw one single French aircraft”, which is extremely ridiculous but not surprising : they had decided that ANY aircraft was “German” and they shot at ANY aircraft (of course mostly without any deflection but sometimes with…) and often at any parachuted aircrew.
In spite of all this I own several French books, written by Army veterans who report how they saw some French fighters shooting down some German planes – even near Sedan in one instance. The French troops were absolutely enthusiastic. But they never understood that their own fighters were NO theatrical company having to make daily performances for them, but had some other tasks and orders to obey, very often too high in the sky to be seen or looked at in the middle of the ground battle.
So everything was the fault of the French airmen “who wouldn’t fight” or even didn’t exist at all. This legend spread to UK troops and, it seems, also to RAF officers and generals like Sholto Douglas. Just look at all the photographs of French AC wrecks at ebay and you’ll be better informed than them already. Strangely German troops SAW at least the wrecks but Allied troops did not see them. French aircraft probably had a remarkable anti-friendly-troop camouflage making them invisible to friends only (the reverse would have been a better idea) and changing them into Stukas in the sky. No, seriously, there WAS an army which saw all the French aircraft perfectly well : the German army! Whenever they appeared and were within range, French aircraft were immediately under fire (often from the French or British army too). THE GERMANS did see them, which proves that they could be seen after all. Their Flak alone shot down 188 Armée de l’Air AC according to Paul Martin’s figures (I had to calculate this figure). We must not forget the Aéronavale (French naval aviation) AC lost to Flak too, a few dozen. So the Flak alone shot down well over 200 French planes which nobody ever had seen.
There was a strongly established anti-Air Force legend very early in the campaign. Experience shows that when a legend exists almost everybody repeats it on and on and on even 50, 60 or 70 years later. Even today many French clots keep repeating that “we (the French) had got no aircraft” and that on 15 September 1940 (latter called “Battle of Britain Day”) the RAF shot down 185 and even 228 German aircraft. The true figure is approx. 50 and it’s perfectly all right, a fair score. Some of these experts are well-known French “historians” who are producing “historical” TV programs, DVDs etc. all the time, and earning incredible sums of money with “their wonderful programs”. Really pitiful. In a highly-praised TV-program one of them told us for example that “almost 500 Morane 406s were produced”. The true figure is 1 083 (in France only; Switzerland produced it in significant numbers too) and it ought to be known to a “historian”! The rest of his program(s) is of the same wonderful quality. Of course this phenomenon applies to the 1940 French Campaign too : “There were no French AC, we never saw one, etc.”. And of course the main culprits are the fighter pilots for THEY ought to have fought the Stukas and the German bombers which destroyed the country and killed people.
This is the general context of what Sholto Douglas alledgedly said (I don’t know whether he really said it) and what Townsend wrote in his book (he did write and publish it).
Now to your posting Ruy. “Double standards”? I’m not sure I know what you mean. “Espec…. what you’ve written in the… yellow 190 thread”. Hmmm? Please be specific and say clearly what you mean. I’m no good at guessing. I had a close look at my posting with a big magnifying glass : you seem to mean I wrote “I wouldn’t accept such odds, I need a chance” (instead of having 6 out of 8 aircraft shot down in one single attack at 700-800 km/h and their 6 pilots killed). These are no double standards. Clearly no force in the world can accept a loss rate of 75 % at every mission. I think even the 8th USAAF, which was fairly “generous”, accepted only a permanent, average loss rate of 7 % IIRC. The first Schweinfurt attack in August 1943, with its appalling losses, was a terrible shock for US top brass. They came back only in October.Even the top leaders of the 8th USAAF refused too high a loss rate.
Of course many men of all countries sacrificed their own lives under special circumstances, in order to prevent even heavier losses, disaster etc. but obviously this is another story.
<< You know the general subject interests me, so please keep in mind I am not trying to discredit the french fighter pilots of '39-40. >>

- All right, all right! But in fact what you wrote on them doesn’t really make them look better.
<< But the above statement does show some double standards, especially if set against what you've written in the Graf/Closterman and the all yellow Fw 190 thread. >>
- Please explain. I don’t get it, other readers even less. You can’t expect everybody to remember every word written by sweet little me. Besides, I would appreciate if you would kindly give up calling what I wrote “double standards” all the time. Clearly when I dare dislike what a BRITISHER wrote or said you find this is “double standards”. You never used this phrase after I criticised the French, which I often do (my thinking is NOT ONE-SIDED but objective, or so I hope, in any case much more objective than many people’s).
<< So your opinion of French pilots is more important than an eyewitness account of a British AVM? >>
- Wow, this is a very tendentious way of putting it. What makes you say it's (only) my opinion? You are not neutral (contrary to your country 1940) and you’ve got it all wrong. Firstly I am not spreading my OPINION here but facts. I was naive enough to believe I had given sufficient evidence ot this : figures etc. Here is a sample of opinion : in my opinion – “IMHO” - most French landscapes are more beautiful than most German ones. On the other hand I find German BIG cities far better, and in many cases more beautiful, than French ones. There is no proof of this, it is only my opinion and nobody has a duty, or is forced, to concur. The truth is not “more important”, as you put it, nor less important, it is simply the truth : so and so many FPs killed, so and so many Hun aircraft shot down etc. PLEASE TRY TO UNDERSTAND THIS AT LAST : I am perfectly objective and honest. This does not make me unfallible, obviously I may be wrong sometimes, but hardly on overall, very general topics like this. We had 65 years time since 1940 to study this matter and EVIDENCE, PROOFS! This is a little more time than S. Douglas had. WHAT THE HELL MAKES YOU THINK THAT IF I DISAGREE WITH AN ENGLISHMAN I AM CERTAINLY WRONG AND HE IS AUTOMATICALLY RIGHT? We do not write History in this way my friend. << Eyewitness account >>, you say. Are you so sure? Was he actually an eyewitness of this HAIR-RAISING STORY? I don’t believe it. On the contrary I believe that the RAF including him were not stupid enough to send an Air-Vice-Marshal to a place where a German air attack was to take place, and the Allies had been knowing it for far longer than one day. This is a phoney story and I’m not even convinced that Douglas himself told it. This sounds more like hearsay, tittle-tattle, hostile gossip : libelling. The fact that Douglas was an AVM doesn’t impress me in the least. He could be the World President or the Bouddha, or Margaret Thatcher, my opinion wouldn’t change. Besides, 65 years later I know this matter much, much better than he ever did. I had time, hindsight and documents at my disposal. Look here : 1939 the French Prime Minister said : “Nous vaincrons parce que nous sommes les plus forts”, we shall win for we are stronger. So shall I respect the Prime Minister and be convinced that he was right? This kind of respect for the autority(ies) is typically German and it made the rise of nazism much easier. Think of this. Those who respect any “superiors” blindly end up within the SS. No thanks.
<< Of course you could write page upon page of french accomplishments, but that does not automatically discount this account. >>
- Yes it does. Ruy, really I’m tired of being forced to write some long replies just because you didn’t read carefully before you wrote your reaction. You have every right to your own opinion but please do not read one of my words in ten, distort what I wrote and conclude that I must be wrong. “It does” BECAUSE the Douglas quotation, in any case as Townsend put it, applies to ALL 1940 French pilots. Quotation from your own quotation : “It was not until later [stress LATER!], when I had Free-French pilots (…), that I found… Frenchmen who could be as keen and gallant.” Together with the preceding sentences this clearly means that 1940 French pilots, contrary to the WW I-ones and to the F-F, were not keen and not gallant, ALL of them. In other words, according to Towsend and possibly to Douglas, NOT ONE SINGLE 1940 French pilot was keen nor gallant. Such a statement is so idiotic and ridiculous that I’m really tired of commenting on it, which ought to be fully unnecessary! These are clearly insults and he who reports them – be it S. Douglas or P. Townsend - is, as I already wrote, a liar because it is not true. Wait a little, you’ll see. Personally I know nothing on S. Douglas except this here but it seems he had enough experience to recognise French pilots (no simple “airmen”, as the RAF calls them). But who knows! Flying overalls, mechanics’ overalls… Badges and stripes (rank insignia) usually were not worn on French overalls, as far as I know. Pilot badges certainly not. The men knew each other but S. Douglas didn’t know who was who.
<< The same thread covers the theme of slander, but in this case both Townsend and Sholto Douglas are being described as liars and forgers. Unfortunately you are using a double standard. >>
- Again! On and on and on! WHAT double standard?
I’d be interested in having Douglas’ own text.
Originally Posted by Hawk-Eye
…in fact it was another airfield (as my logbook proves). My memory betrayed me...
<< So it may have been another field, but who's to say that on that field there were not a number of (fighter) pilots who acted as witnessed by Sholto Douglas? >>
- You’re right : the particular place where it occurred, if it did occur at all, doesn’t matter. Nevertheless you’ll admit that serious errors on the place and on the date - 3 June is IMPOSSIBLE, the French AF had other concerns than small talk with His Highness Douglas on this day of battle - make the whole story really in-credible, not credible. It reeks of invention and libelling. Possibly some French clot (even a fighter pilot) “stole” Townsend’s girl-friend, or proved more clever than him, or beat him in mock-fights, or spoke plain language to him about the Mers el-Kébir aggression or the French corsairs in the past or whatever, I don’t know, but this story stinks of personal revenge. Too bad I discovered it too late to ask Townsend to explain it for me and to clobber him (he was an old man already so I wouldn’t have touched him, I am not English, I wouldn’t dream of shelling my friends paralyzed on ships in harbour either). I can tell you that general Jean Accart, an exceptional hero - which nobody disputes - who had very high responsibilities within the French Air Force, NATO and SHAPE in the 1950s and 1960s, and always defended England, strongly resented what T. had written. Besides, in May 1940 he took off at least once amongst exploding German bombs at Suippes, just like Townsend did during the BoB (or so Townsend told us). The French did this often. I already mentioned that Accart had a German machine-gun bullet exactly between his eyes until he died 1992, but he went back to the fighting as soon as he was able to do so. He was included in Townsend’s wholesale libelling of ALL 1940 French pilots.
<< Maybe Sholto Douglas was wrong in some of his account, does that make him or Townsend forgers and liars?>>
- YES because it is a very serious thing to call ALL pilots of a country “not keen and not gallant”. Absolutely disgusting. Here it’s hard for me NOT to use any bad words but I’m able to control myself : I am not an English AVM or Group-Captain. I hope you noticed, long ago already, that I never retaliated in kind, calling all RAF pilots cowards etc. (this is what English people would do if the situation were reversed). On the contrary, in my book on the French Campaign that you have got, I stressed the RAF pilots’ gallantry and the German’s too. So you see I am definitely not an Englishman because I am fair and objective.
If you don’t think that stating that “NO 1940 Frenchman was brave”, is a lie, we have no chance to understand each other. Of course it’s a lie, this is fully obvious. This filthy lie means also those French pilots (not only fighter p.s) who were killed in combat BEFORE the ominous day and those who were killed on that same day (12 plus 2 non-pilot aircrew were killed on 3 June plus one pilot in an accident and 10 were badly wounded,) and after that day. But WHAT day was it? I consider 3 June out of the question. Top commanders (including Darlan, French Navy’s C-in-C, and Vuillemin, French Air Force’s) don’t use to meet on the day and at the place of a bombing attack. Besides, all the rest of this story is ludicrous : seemingly numerous “pilots” quietly eating lunch under falling bombs etc. Frenchmen are brave and crazy but not THAT crazy.
Originally Posted by Hawk-Eye
Perhaps I can explain the error about "pilots". As you know RAF pilots (proudly) wear their "wings" on their battle-dress. They are made of some textile material. In the French AF EVERY MAN wears similar wings on his battle-dress, even the lowest ranks (ordinary soldiers).
Anyway nobody has the right to draw such drastic conclusions, on a foreign airfield, about a situation which he has no chance to understand if nobody explains it for him.

… But here you set an anecodotal (YM : !!!) episode of a book against what amounts to nothing but an assumption, one that also assumes that AVM Sholto Douglas doesn't know the difference between an ordinary airman and a pilot, albeit a frenchman. Perhaps you assume that this AVM also saluted to the local janitor because like all french generals he had such a beautiful moustage?
- You didn’t even realise I was trying to be nice to Sholto Douglas. The confusion between RAF “wings” (pilot) and French wings (airman) would be all too natural. Certainly it occurred thousands of times. I used the word “error” not “slander”. An error can be easily excused.
The main point you fail to put into proper perspective is that Sholto Douglas (or Townsend by quoting) is decribing an event as he witnessed,

- This is what YOU say. I doubt either of them witnessed anything of this kind. Prove it! In order to have witnessed something writing so is not enough! Of course French fighter pilots, JUST LIKE THEIR BRITISH AND GERMAN COLLEAGUES, were not airborne all the time, 24 hours a day! 2, 3 fighter missions and a pilot was exhausted, especially if he had had to fight, which often was the case.
and as AVM RAF he deserves the same credence or perhaps more than all those other personalities - like Closterman - we are so fond of
- Not at all. I have no obligation whatsoever to believe everything an English general says – in particular an English general! I believe what I think is believable. His story – if any - is not. You are bowing in front of “authority” again like most Germans did in the 1930s, which led directly to Nazi-Germany and WW II. I warn you for this tendency. A second “3rd Reich” will NOT be accepted and not be permitted. I willingly will bow for people who deserve it , for example Churchill (in spite of the Mers el-Kébir aggression, which can’t be forgiven, never, and covered his hands with the blood of 1,300 innocent French seamen), Sir Benjamin Britten, admiral Nelson, Beethoven, Pasteur (you know: pasteurisation, pasteurised!), Botticelli – ah, Botticelli! - Marcel Bloch / Dassault or the Dalai Lama. In particular the latter (OT???). And yes, I very much admire the Pope who is dying right now (he died in the meantime, as you know). I won’t go into his churches and I don’t care about his “moral” guidelines but I admire his courage and his intelligence (against the late USSR…) and I certainly respect such a man. If you want me to respect an RAF AVM give me a good reason.
His authority is his senior rank and background as a WW1 fighter pilot of some repute.
- This does not impress me at all. 1918 was not 1940. A few little things had changed. I don’t know why a 1918 hero should be unfallible on a 1940 air attack. The Armée de l’Air was created in the meantime (very late, 1936 I think). So S. Douglas knew NOTHING on it based on his own experience, possibly not even the various insignia. You’re right : any Pigalle-janitor looks like the Army commander-in-chief of Guatemala or Honduras... or of the French Air Force, if you don’t know the difference. You really have to KNOW the difference between a pilot and an airman to tell it. Besides, when I was just an airman myself many people, looking at my uniform, asked me if I was a pilot (this is always the first question). So you see!
Bottom line remains that Sholto Douglas is a reputable witness,

- Is he this? You repeat yourself. Is he a witness? Really? So he saw something that never took place (which I proved sufficiently)?
I couldn’t help but order a copy of Years of Command: A personal story of the second war in the Air (Collins, 1966), to check this episode myself.
- Good! Please post an ACCURATE quotation asap. Remark : even an accurate quotation can be entirely wrong.
Here is a quotation :
Daniel Costelle in the TV-program “Histoire de l’Aviation” : “Most pilots (flying Morane 406s) will be killed”. In fact they were approx. 270 at the start and 55 of these were killed (10 of them by Flak) according to Paul Martin’s figures (which I used for my calculation).
According to your “system” I have the duty to believe and repect everything this Costelle fellow says because he’s a famous TV-program-maker. Don’t count on me for this! Every program he makes is full of serious errors.
There may be mistakes, but if we don't like what we read

- I don’t like LIES and LIBELLING nor INSULTS. There is a certain difference. Do you know the difference between a normal statement (example : the Allies were unable to resist the German onslaught on the ground) and an insult (example : all Englishmen are yellow because they fled from Dunkerque, letting down their French allies).
it doesn't mean we are also looking at lies and forgeries.
- See my whole posting.
One question, did you ever double check Sholto Douglas' biography?
- What for? I’m not interested in this fellow. I have no interest for this old boot. Have I a duty, as a Frenchman, to know everything on each of Our Most Honorable English Masters?
But let me reply : precisely an RAF AVM has the duty to write and publish only reliable things, with the greatest accuracy, not such old-grandmother-nonsense. In publishing such disgusting refuse he put RAF’s prestige at risk.

A comparison : during the Falklands War the Brits really were angry at the Argies. Nonetheless they highly respect the Argentine pilots and their gallantry. The French really are the ONLY victims of systematic insults and libelling. There certainly is a reason, Englishmen ought to know it.(…)
Back to Townsend (…) I wonder how much harm his publication really did.

- A LOT because he was a squadron-leader 1940, and a Wing-Commander, or Group-Captain already, 1945. He was one of the so-called “few” (not THAT few actually) and he was made really world-famous by his romance with Princess Margaret. This wouldn’t be different today : remember all the incredible fuss about Princess Diana (I mean before her accident) or her son Prince Harry. So Townsend was world-famous, enjoyed the sympathy of the whole world including France, in particular romantic females, he was a star in France and elsewhere. What he published DID matter.
As I've tried to point out by quoting Townsend, there are also positive signals that even things out - in my humble opinion.
- NO because he mentioned a few isolated, positive things which could be considered special cases, whereas his libelling was aimed at ALL 1940 “Frenchmen”, this is the word he used (fighter pilots or not). Do you understand the difference between one pilot and all Frenchmen (there were 40 million)?
In the eyes of the British, the French failed by discontinuing the fight,

- OK, this is understandable, the more so for the French and the Brit. governments had undertaken NOT to quit separately. But then came Pétain… HE is the culprit, the bad guy! In fact very numerous generals, soldiers and virtually all surviving airmen wanted to keep fighting. Pétain’s person was decisive – unfortunately. I can confirm that French airmen including bomber and recce crews in no way felt they were beaten, I’d say on the contrary, for THEY saw and knew what happened in the sky, they knew their losses and victories. On top of this their morale, very high at the start, was still enhanced by the fast, massive arrival of more and more brand-new, much-improved aircraft, for example LeO 451s and the excellent Douglas DB-7 (the future “Boston”) replacing the antique-looking Amiot 143 and Bloch 200s or 131s etc., the superlative Bloch 174 replacing vulnerable recce AC. Aircraft losses were more than replaced. Of course they were SAD because their country was partly destroyed again and occupied, once more, by the hated Boches, but certainly not discouraged or demoralised, quite on the contrary : now at last, with all the new aircraft, they could teach’em! Pétain’s decision to sue for an armistice annihilated them totally by surprise.
those are pretty harsh terms but set against the summer of 1940 and without the benefit of hindsight, not really surprising.
- All right but this is no reason to insult 40 million French people. Even Englishmen recognise and respect the great feats of the Free-French, then simply French, wing “Normandie-Niémen” in Russia. May I remind them and you that 2 of the 3 commanding officers were French fighter pilots having taken part in the 1940 fighting (Pouyade and Delfino)! Several of the other pilots too. The 1st C.O., Tulasne, had been stationed in the Lebanon and so he never had a chance to take part, much to his chagrin. He joined the Free-French at the first opportunity – but he had to wait for 6 months! There is no real difference between the Free-French and the others, this is old female’s chat. Some of the Free-French fighter pilots in England had fought in May-June 1940 already. The others had been too young (like Clostermann, aged only 19, and famous Jacques Andrieux, “Jaco”, a great ace) or too far away and prevented from fighting, which made them very angry, like René Mouchotte, of RAF and Biggin-Hill fame, who was an instructor in North Africa – much to his chagrin too. He died heroically 1943 leading the Biggin-Hill wing over France.

It is obvious that there was resentment between the British and French after the collapse in the west. (…) judging by your writing some of that resentment has been passed to the next generation and still lingers on.

- It will do so forever, it will NEVER be forgotten, never ever. Not because we were beaten. I discovered this progressively, to my own surprise, listening to French radio programs. Clearly some 1940 events are engraved in the collective national memory of the whole French population. I repeat I was surprised, I had expected “these old stories” to be forgotten. Quite on the contrary. Even young French people borne 1975 or 1985 strongly resent that “England let “us” (sic) down at Dunkerque” (instead of fighting it out, a nice British phrase) and attacked “us” (sic) at Mers el-Kébir. I would never have expected this. But we, too, have some traditions, not only England. We still admire Jeanne d’Arc, whom Englishmen called a “hore” : they’ll never change will they. All right John Bull : if Jeanne d’Arc was a hore I love that hore and I kiss her feet. I admire her too but my favourite is Bertrand du Guesclin (1320-1380), who cut the Englishmen to ribbons with his good French sword. Cold steel. He threw England out of the French provinces of Normandie, Poitou, Guyenne – the SW part of France including Bordeaux and Cognac… - and Saintonge. He was borne one of the poorest French children and his prospects in life were bleak but he was a wonderful fighting man and very clever. Eventually he became the supreme commander of his king’s armies. (A typical French coward as usual, like Jean Bart and Surcouf, two more great heroes but on the sea, not really popular in England).
What remains obvious is that something went terribly wrong in the summer of 1940 and for some the explanation needs a scapegoat.

- They always need scapegoats after a defeat. Remember that.
Writing as an enthusiast, not as a moderator.

- Good!
Ruy, your remarks on this whole affair and your one-sidedness force me to reluctantly tell you what really happened in and over France on 3 June 1940. Reluctantly because these facts have been well-known for about 50 years or more and it’s a shame to be forced to repeat this story again and again. But the stake – History- makes it worthwhile. I know certain people read the postings here. Systematically defending – as you are doing - whoever I am attacking is neither objective nor clever nor historically relevant. After all I could be damn right. I am.
3 June 1940 : German operation “Paula”


The goal was to “deal the French Air Force the death-blow” thanks to attacks on airfields, the aircraft industry and also communications, mainly the railway system, and the morale of the population, which it was hoped would be scared (afterwards the population knew only one word : “Retaliation” – a few civilian buildings had been hit by bombs). Raymond Danel (not “Daniel”) gave many intersting explanations and details in the beautiful review “Icare” N° 54 (1972) dealing with “La Chasse”, the fighters. This was 33 years ago all right but it was 31 years after 1940 so I think that Danel, the very best historian of this period, was sufficiently informed. The French were warned of the attack well in advance (since 23 May), they had their own German spies. So they planned the defence of the vital Paris area, a target they could not afford to leave unprotected. Several “Groupes de chasse” were stationed in the region all the time anyway and AAA was strong. More fighter units were sent there, in particular to Chantilly, Lognes (in the East) etc., including GC I/3 and their about 30 Dewoitines, but no fighter unit was stationed at Villacoublay on 3 June, probably because it was too close to the city of Paris (?). About 7 Groupes de chasse totalling approx. 200 fighters were ready to welcome our German cousins plus units stationed in the East, which had the task to intercept the German formations on the return leg : 4 GCs with about 100 AC including 3 of the top-scoring units (GC I/5, II/5, II/7). About 50 twin-engined Potez 631 fighters were to watch the approach of the enemy. The Polish GC I/145 sent 3 CR 714 into the fight from Dreux (West of Paris) and destroyed 3 Me 109s.
French AF HQ had decided to send the take-off order by radio so a powerful radio transmitter was specially installed on the Eiffel Tower to get maximum range, but these nitwits used this same transmitter profusely in the days preceding the German attack (several thousand messages) so that the Germans were alerted and it was heavily jammed on the day of the attack, so that the fighter units did not hear or understand the order and “most French fighters stayed on the ground. Luckily not all of them” (Danel). Eventually most fighters took off amongst exploding bombs or under attack by German fighters. Of course in such a situation everybody must obey orders and must NOT take off independently, just as he likes and if it suits him. You must follow the plan. These men had to be highly disciplined and they were. To a fighter pilot this is the hardest thing to do : wait for orders, sitting in his aircraft under the sun but not take off. Of course they did it when under attack but it was too late : they won a few victories but they were slaughtered for in the take-off and climb phase a fighter was virtually a sitting duck. This is why 18 French fighters were shot down during this nightmare – very high losses by French fighter standards - one of them being a Potez 631 with a crew of 3 (all 3 were killed). The losses according to Paul Martin were 2 MS 406, 10 Bloch 152, 2 Curtiss H-75, 3 D.520 and 1 Potez 631. Of course this means that at least 10 times as many had started and yes, in fact French fighters flew 243 sorties on this day (not more because of the German radio-jamming). According to Townsend they all flew their sorties, and were killed in the air, while quietly having lunch at… Villacoublay. 12 pilots were killed in combat plus one in an accident, 2 other aircrew were KIA, 10 more pilots were wounded. 4 took to their parachutes. I feel everybody ought to respect the memory of these men and of the survivors as well instead of suggesting that they wouldn’t fight!
So it did happen indeed that whole French fighter units were waiting for the take-off order but never received it and they did not take off. It was not different within the RAF during the BoB : of course they waited for the order to take off. Did Sholto Douglas witness what he said? Certainly not. You don’t send an Air Vice-Marshal to the place of an air attack, just to enjoy watching the bombs falling on his head. Darlan, C-i-C of the Marine Nationale, and Vuillemin, C-i-C of the Armée de l’Air, were even less on one of these airfileds. Nonsense again and again! Possibly some indignant Polish pilot, a member of a French unit, later reported in England that the French would not fight and did not even take off on this day.
There is exactly the same stupid anti-French legend about a French airfield near Tours, covered with “over 50 fighters” which did nothing to prevent the bombing of this city. Possibly it’s in Townsend’s book too.
As Galland remarked this was the first attempt of a big strategic air attack during WW II, the Luftwaffe engaged considerable forces even though the published figures range from 500 to 1,200 (J. Prien) so it HAD to be a success and the OKW (not Goebbels, Prien replied to me) released a triumphant statement according to which 79 French AC had been shot down (in fact 18) and 300-400 destroyed on the ground (in fact 16 according to R. Danel; it could be 19). 32 soldiers were killed and 21 vehicles destroyed. All other destructions (railways etc.) were insignificant and the railway system was restored by the morning of the next day. French fighters claimed 17 victories, the LW acknowledged (possibly post-war) the loss of “about 25 aircraft”. AAA was to be reckoned with in this area. A Ju 88 was s/d by a Bloch 152 and a D.520, which led to Oberst (colonel) Josef Kammhuber, commanding KG 51, being taken prisoner. One more result which hardly can be disputed.
Now Ruy you so stubbornely repeated that maybe this and perhaps that, so “it” could be true after all, that I with equal stubbornness want to repeat that what Townsend wrote is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE because :
Because what he wrote means that 1940 not one single Frenchman was keen nor gallant (!). “Schweinerei! Sauerei! Viecherei, verdammt nochmal! Der Typ war eine Sau.” As you know, on the contrary, the whole world, most of all England, admires and celebrates the incredible gallantry of RAF pilots in the BoB. Let’s have a look at this. A comparison makes a lot of sense for the following reasons :
- Armée de l’Air and RAF had exactly the same enemy in the French Campaign and in the BoB;
- This enemy flew almost exactly the same aircraft although the German ones were progressively improved. These improvements prove that the Armée de l’Air already had given them quite a beating. After all, these aircraft types had been tried in combat over Spain and Poland except the Ju 88.
- RAF fighter types were exactly the same as over France although no Spitfire fighter was based in France before 1944 (one or two photo recce Spits were already 1940).
The Luftwaffe had been SIGNIFICANTLY weakened over France, my evaluation being that about 80 % of its losses of COMBAT aircraft were of French origin (excluding over 200 Ju 52s destroyed by the heroic and very good Dutch ground and air forces).
I WILL NOT elaborate here and now but Williamson Murray’s figures show that the Luftwaffe loss rate (= losses for the same duration) over France was twice as high as over England in spite of the decisive RAF advantages of radar and fighting only over the own territory : any German emergency landing meant a total loss (not so in France) and shot-down RAF pilots who were not killed were saved and could fight again (not so the German pilots). The RAF had another significant advantage : the French had greatly weakened the enemy already and German numbers were lower. Many a crack fighter pilot was dead or badly wounded. Same thing for the bombers, which suffered very heavy losses over France. See for ex. KG 27’s history (“Boelcke-Archiv”) by Walter Waiss. German bomber crews really did not always enjoy a good time in the French sky. This probably had but a few reasons including French fighters.
Roughly 1,000 fighter pilots took part in the May-June 1940 French Campaign with the Armée de l’Air. A total of approximately 160 were killed in 38 days (only s-lt Raphenne was killed – by Flak – after 17 June) including a few non-pilots (aircrew of Potez 631s). This means about 16 % in 38 days or about 13.2 % for an average month of 30.5 days. For the pilots only 12 % is certainly very close to the true figure.
In the Battle of Britain RAF pilots enjoyed one more advantage : no Flak and no low-level attacks on German tanks! Some would argue that British AA was as dangerous for the RAF as for the LW but this probably is not entirely accurate. According to the figures published by “Icare”, which were provided “on 11 November 1980 by Group Captain T.P. Gleave”, RAF losses in pilots killed in the BoB (not including Bomber and Coastal Command) from 15 July to 31 October were 435 or 18.5 % of the 2,357 pilots who took part (see Icare N° 99, La Bataille d’Angleterre Tome III, Hiver (Winter) 1981-82, page 111). This corresponds 5.7 % in 30.5 days. The French loss rate under the same conditions was about 2.1 times higher, more than double the RAF rate. You could say that 1940 French fighter pilots were twice as brave and keen as RAF pilots but I am not such a simple-minded English-hater.
I never thought that being killed proves you were a hero (contrary to virtually all official comments) but in this case, yes, these French pilots at least were prepared to fight and to die. Otherwise they wouldn’t have volunteered. There were some other jobs in the armed forces. These figures prove that whoever insults French fighter pilots (or those of any other country), or all Frenchmen, is a disgusting, repugnant fellow.
To me this is the end of this discussion, which was much too costly in precious time because of rather childish objections like “Perhaps…” and “Possibly…” but this matter had to be settled once and for all. Sometimes I felt like in a kindergarden, fighting silly, all-too-simple arguments. Think and read first, argue 2nd.
Ouf!

Last edited by Hawk-Eye; 3rd April 2005 at 18:54.
  #18  
Old 3rd April 2005, 20:06
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Ruy Horta Ruy Horta is offline
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

As I expected you miss the the point and choose to ignore the main issue.

A quick glance shows the usual land fill of interesting, but to my question irrelevant information, flooding the reader with information, but giving no real answer.

Why no answer, because I never attacked French Fighter pilots, simple.

You choose to ignore Sholto Douglas, and even explain why you do so, but you miss the point. You are Yves Michelet, post war frenchman, he was AVM Sholto Douglas RAF, contemporary witness, his writings deserve better attention, even if you disagree. Until you can proof the annecdote to be false, your writing is just opinion, that's all.

And I must consider you to be a serious historian - ignoring first hand information because it doesn't conform to your views (note, I am not even discussing if the data is right or wrong)?

Personally I do believe the french fought hard (on average) and deserve more credit for the 1940 campaign. The irony is that I have left my own opinion (favorable to the French) out of the debate.

IMHO you have failed to act as an historian, that is a personal opinion and not a personal attack. Personally I think that you are quite a nice fellow as long as the subject isn't the French AF in 1940-41.
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Last edited by Ruy Horta; 4th April 2005 at 12:25. Reason: Change of Heart
  #19  
Old 4th April 2005, 21:00
Smudger Smith Smudger Smith is offline
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Not wishing to fan the flames of an already heated discussion, I have a few simple questions, which hopefully Hawk-Eye will be able to answer.



Firstly, let me make clear I have the greatest respect for the French fighter and bomber pilots who fought so valiantly during the French campaign.



I have read with fascination some of Hawk-Eyes argument, there are some truths in what he has stated, however hindsight is a wonderful thing. My conclusion to the tread is perhaps simplistic however here it is.



The French Airforce was comprehensively defeated; it failed in its prime role, the defence of France. It was not the courage of the French pilot’s, it was not the standard of their aircraft, it was their LEADERSHIP.



With bad leadership comes a loss of moral, the desire to continue the struggle, a loss of fighting spirit.



It was not the British who failed France but the French Generals. Our own generals failed the British in France during 1940, “ Lions led by Donkeys”. Comes to mind.



The RAF moral was not broken, nor the Poles or Czechs, for our leaders made it known that we would continue the struggle to the bitter end, the French sadly lacking this decisiveness did not. This in my opinion would have had a negative effect on French moral.



What I find truly amazing is that the same French pilots who fought with so much panache, skill and typical French zeal basically when ordered gave in, without a whimper. Not only did they surrender themselves they surrendered their aircraft. Inexcusable.



The Poles and the Czechs did not give in; they continued the fight whenever possible, the vast majority of French pilots chose not to.



A question, if with the inevitable collapse of France why did the French Government not order the remnants of the French Airforce to fly and operate from Britain, their Allies ?



They would have made a significant difference to the Battle of Britain, for they the French had proven their fighting ability over France.



France had a simple decision to make, continue the fight or give in and surrender, they chose to surrender. A brave few decided not to, they are a credit to France, and I salute their memory.
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Old 4th April 2005, 21:14
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Thank you, Smudger Smith, you have put my thoughts into the words I could not. I am not much for writing, that is why I paint. Well said!!

Bob
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