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  #21  
Old 5th April 2005, 11:29
Hawk-Eye
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Correction

CORRECTION
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hawk-Eye
... 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).
I have no idea who put this yellow icon instead of the figure 8. Certainly not me. Please read :
(in fact 18 ...)
Smudger Smith : I really cant' reply now, I have a profession etc. Just one thing : about the idea of French AC flying to England I already answered this either in this thread or in another one : "Fighter pilots chicken?" or Ruy's "Battle of France-Battle of Britain". In a few words : when French fighters were not too far from England and had the range to reach it the fighting was in full swing over France itself so there was no reason to leave, which would have been DESERTION. For this normally you are shot by a firing squad but this is not what deterred the French fighter pilots : they had a lot to do fighting the Fluftwaffe and the German army and they were destroying hundreds of German aircraft, much to England's benefit.
Later the German invasion pushed all French forces to southern France. When the decision to fly to England could have been taken it was too late, far, they didn't have the range to fly (possibly fighting German fighters en route to England). A few did fly to England, I don't know under what circumstances. Fighter pilots are no great navigators : possibly many were scared to end in the ocean West or South of England. The French Channel is very narrow at Dover-Boulogne but very wide around Land's End! Even from Cherbourg Me 109s later had just the range. If you miss... It would have been advisable to fly over the Atlantic in order to avoid German interception.
Remember that the RAF fighters' range was just sufficient to fly to Dunkerque and back, and fight a little, during the evacuation, but there the distance is very short. From Bordeaux, Toulouse or Perpignan it was simply virtually impossible to reach England with a fighter except twin-engined AC.
I explained already how all French airmen were trapped by Pétain's unexpected plea for an armistice : some in France, some in French North Africa. They all had been expecting a continuation of the fighting from Africa so until 17 June 1940 they had absolutely no reason to become deserters and fly to England. After that it was too late. Also, remember that Pétain was the LEGAL head of the French government (even if I hate him) and at the time was the by far most prestigious, most respected Frenchman (a WW I marshal, "Verdun's hero" etc.) so every soldier including pilots had a tendency to believe and obey him (which was wrong). 1940 Pétain had exactly the same place in French society and the same prestige as 1945 or 1958 Charles de Gaulle! Only a few pilots refused to listen to him.You can't expect such a feat from everybody, this would be asking too much. Besides, the US President, F.D. Roosevelt, preferred Pétain against de Gaulle (!) for several years and had full diplomatic relationships and excellent contacts with Vichy-France (which means Pétain) until November 1942!!! Almost 2 1/2 years after the end of the French Campaign! FDR knew about Pétain's collaboration etc., 1940 fighter pilots did not. So you see a simple French fighter pilot can be excused for having made the same error!
Those who stayed in France because their fighters didn't have the range to fly to N. Africa couldn't fly to England either. They were trapped in France.
I would have found it WONDERFUL if all French fighter pilots had taken part in the Battle of Britain but almost immediately they would have had to fly British aircraft for lack of French spares (the British industry was producing enough fighters for this). But I am not sure that the British government would have wished such a massive French participation and possibly dozens of French fighter pilots becoming great heroes in the eyes of the British population. This WOULD have happened for they all were very combat-hardened and dozens of them were "aces" already, at least 10 were great aces. No British government wished that...
No time now for the rest.

Last edited by Hawk-Eye; 5th April 2005 at 13:58. Reason: "Fluftwaffe"
  #22  
Old 5th April 2005, 13:58
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Perhaps part of the problem is how people perceive the western campaign of 1940. It appears that most believe that the western campaign was almost finished after the evacuation of Dunkirk, while this would only mark the beginning of the Battle of France. This is of course based upon the British point of view.

12 Days in May...

The BEF and offensive edge of the Anglo-French forces might have effectively been knocked out, but the Germans still had an undefeated French army opposing them. It isn't surprising that they were not keen to throw their panzers into the Dunkirk cauldron. Unfortunately geography didn't favor the French after the May disaster.

However the loyalty of french pilots would have been with France, with the hardest days yet to come, and rightly so, wouldn't you say? Those who stayed after Dunkirk choose to fight on, those who evacuated were (temporarely) OUT of the fight.

I may be arguing with Yves over some minor points, but that does not include the bravery of french forces (not only the fighter pilots btw). I don't even think that we should blame the officer corps. A lot went wrong, many new lessons were to be learned (or mistakes to be repeated).
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  #23  
Old 5th April 2005, 14:16
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

This sounds much better.
Yes to virtually all British, German and other authors the French Campaign ended on 3 June 1940 with the end of the Dunkerque evacuation. Most of their books don't even mention the Battle of France (5-24 June), they jump directly from Dk. to the BoB, clearly showing that the French are wholly unimportant and uninteresting, only the British part being interesting.
I don't think that ANY French pilot went to England before June 17. Certainly some aircraft landed there for various reasons but they were not joining the RAF (not yet). I have explained why not already. During the Dk. operation (Dynamo) one French unit was sent to England (GC II/8 equipped with about 20-25 Bloch 152s and having 25-30 pilots) and based at Lympne from 30 May to 5 June (for 5-6 days). This was ordered by French HQ and certainly government. I believe the reason was not so much the Dk. evacuation but the fact that they could better intervene over N. France from Lympne. (No warranty). GC II/8 shot down 1 Ju 88 on 1 June, nothing else (much ado...), and had no losses.
  #24  
Old 5th April 2005, 16:17
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Smile Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Hello Artist - do you paint aircraft?
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  #25  
Old 5th April 2005, 19:13
Hawk-Eye
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smudger Smith
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.
I agree entirely with them and with you Smudger but let us remember that taking part in a great war, or not, very rarely is a personal, individual decision (there are only a few individual volunteers). Government takes these decisions. After Pétain's very unfortunate words almost every person in France was FIRMLY CONVINCED of what he had just said : we must cease fighting ("Je vous dis - I am telling you - qu'il faut cesser le combat"). If admiral Nelson during his lifetime, or Churchill, had said the same thing, how many Britons would note have followed him and refused to cease fire?
I repeat : Pétain was "THE" French hero, the man of Verdun, "THE" enemy of Germany, almost a holy man! He was just what de Gaulle was from 1944 on. Or what Churchill was to Britons 1940-45.

Hindsight :
(To non-English native speakers, in particular French readers, I'd like to explain that "hindsight" means "afterwards", looking backwards etc. : it's very easy to be wise and clever with the benefit of hindsight, 20 to 3,000 years later. When you know everything about a problem (people didn't know at the time) you can solve this problem much better and look very clever!).
Yes hindsight is very useful and helps a lot.
I didn't claim I hadn't the benefit of hindsight. I have. Clearly many things I / we know today were not known 1940. This does not make my reasoning wrong, on the contrary.
In any case I repeat for the millionth time : wholesale insulting a whole nation (in a nutshell : "No Frenchman was keen nor gallant 1940") cannot be accepted, that's all I wanted to say at the start. What's more, it's an extremely stupid statement and very easy to prove the opposite including using British statements only (Churchill's etc.), for ex. about the French rearguard at Dunkerque.
The fact remains that - in half the time - French fighter pilots, including their brave and much-valued Czech and Polish comrades, destroyed as many German aircraft as the RAF did in the BoB. In half the time! So they did their share of the job, the RAF finished the job and did the 2nd, remaining half. It had become easier for all the well-known reasons (radar, own soil etc.) but also because the French (including AA in many cases) had destroyed a large part of the German aircraft (German production was very insufficient at the time) AND of the German aircrew, almost exclusively perfectly-trained, combat-hardened men including many a German fighter ace who didn't survive. These AC and these aircrew would have done a lot of harm in the English sky and possibly would have tipped the balance. Townsend ought to have been very grateful to the French instead of spitting at their graves!
Last but not least : the French should not have surrendered? What about the Dutch, who surrendered already on 15 May, a bit hastily I think (I am aware of the Rotterdam fire), what about Belgium, which surrendered on 28 May, leaving the French army "in the air", in a very awkward (and deadly) position, what about the British, who started their evacuation planning very early indeed, namely on 20 May (!) and possibly in September 1939, and let down their ally exactly in the middle of the fighting, what about the USA, which didn't even take part in this war although they knew perfectly well that eventually they would have to but waited until they were forced to do it by Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor, the US forces being terribly ill-prepared even in December 1941 (France was at war, and experienced some fighting, more than two years earlier!).

Last edited by Hawk-Eye; 5th April 2005 at 23:34. Reason: Typing error devil.
  #26  
Old 5th April 2005, 23:14
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Yes, I very much enjoy painting aircraft. This ones almost done,still fiddling with the plane.

Last edited by Artist; 7th January 2006 at 04:15.
  #27  
Old 6th April 2005, 10:42
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Je vous dis qu'il faut cesser le combat
Maybe he was right in the summer of 1940, especially without the benefit of hindsight.

No Frenchman was keen nor gallant 1940
Fortunately those are your words, not Townsends and anyone on this forum.
You misquote and take out of context, odd for someone who's good in languages as yourself - perhaps Freudian

In half the time!
It isn't about time Yves, it is about sorties flown. How many sorties did the Luftwaffe fly during the Battle of France compared to the Battle of Britain? Again I'd be surprised if you really didn't know the difference.


"L'Invicibles Vainqueurs"
So they did their share of the job, the RAF finished the job and did the 2nd, remaining half. It had become easier for all the well-known reasons (radar, own soil etc.) but also because the French (including AA in many cases) had destroyed a large part of the German aircraft (German production was very insufficient at the time) AND of the German aircrew, almost exclusively perfectly-trained, combat-hardened men including many a German fighter ace who didn't survive. These AC and these aircrew would have done a lot of harm in the English sky and possibly would have tipped the balance. Townsend ought to have been very grateful to the French instead of spitting at their graves!

Your standard Britain should be very greatful, since it was France who practically won the Battle for Britain before it started. Yet there are no numbers. How many aces did the Jagdwaffe loose? What is the exact number of aircrew lost over France, air crew that didn't return like Mölders did. Did this really influence the balance? The Luftwaffe had to lick its wounds (rest its crews and replace lost a/c and men after two months of campaigning), but is there any proof that they were planning a size increase before the attack on Britain? Did the Luftwaffe enter the Battle of Britain with a significantly weaker force? Judging by the 1941 forces that engaged the Soviet Union, I'd be tempted to say (without checking my sources) that such an expansion was not really part of the plan. Would larger reserves have helped during the Battle of Britain campaign, sure, but they would not have tipped the balance. Lets not even start on almost exclusively perfectly-trained, combat-hardened men, that is a gross exaggeration.

Last but not least : the French should not have surrendered? What about the Dutch, who surrendered already on 15 May, a bit hastily I think (I am aware of the Rotterdam fire)
Fight fire with fire right? Indeed the dutch could have fought on, for what, two days longer and achieve what? The main towns in ruins and no strategic gains. You do not understand the dutch situation, Fortress Holland, although valuable in the days before the aeroplane, had become worthless in WW2. Fortress Holland also contains all the "big" cities concentrated in a rough triangle Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Utrecht. Sure the dutch could have lasted a couple of days extra - only the army, since the AF had fought itself to oblivion.

Fighting on for more ruins and dead civilians.

Je vous dis qu'il faut cesser le combat
The problem with modern states is that there is a difference between the time they've been beaten and the time they accept they have lost. The dutch being good tradesmen, know when a cause is lost, they than start looking at cutting their losses and the next hopefully more profitable deal.

In this case the next deal happended to be the continued fight from Britain.

Unlike France the dutch had a poor bargaining position.

what about Belgium, which surrendered on 28 May, leaving the French army "in the air", in a very awkward (and deadly) position.
Don't you mean Anglo-French armies?

what about the British, who started their evacuation planning very early indeed, namely on 20 May (!) and possibly in September 1939, and let down their ally exactly in the middle of the fighting.
It is not at all strange that they started planning the evacuation at the earliest date. It is called a contingency, to be ready in the case of ... defeat. If the British General Staff was worth its red stripe they'd would have had the outline of an evacuation plan not long after they had a plan to put forces on the continent - the two plans should go together. Deployment + Evacuation.

I believe there were still British units on the continent after Dunkirk (Highlanders?) but I am too lazy to check any sources. That the British army let their ally down in the middle of fighting was not really a matter of their choosing, now was it? Or have you suddenly forgotten the military reality in the North?

But this is (yes here it comes) a better example of your double standard, because if a Britton had used similar words to describe the french effort, you'd be incensed. Remember how Britain was let down by France when did not continue the fight. In the end, we must assume this to be little more than a tit for tat game.

Now more on topic, why didn't the British pour in their AF more aggressively when they had the opportunity (right from the beginning). The Battle of Britain is always used as the excuse to proof the decision right, but at the time it was too cautious an act. The RAF employed wholesale (with a less large reserve at home, including Bomber Command) could have had a significant impact on the course of the Western campaign.

The British Army did all it could, but the RAF was not fully committed, and most histories try to explain this fact "away" in terms of home defense and the coming Battle of Britain. Of course those RAF men that were deployed fought to their best ability, but RAF High Command did not. They were fighting a safe war with strong reserves at home and strong adherence to doctrine. Now the debate will undoubtingly enter the numbers game - what RAF FC considered to be the minimal number of squadrons needed to defend the Realm.

Just consider that during the actual Battle of Britain the RAF was still able at all time to maintain a number of Groups that were practically reserve groups and even No.12 group wasn't a real front line group until the bombing of London.

The RAF might have been too cautious and rigidly doctrinal in their 1939/40 campaign on the continent.

what about the USA, which didn't even take part in this war although they knew perfectly well that eventually they would have to but waited until they were forced to do it by Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor, the US forces being terribly ill-prepared even in December 1941
That is democracy for you. The US population was isolationist in 1940, why should their sons be killed (again) in a european squabble? Can't really say that I blame them for that. In their view 17/18 hadn't solved the european issue, why bother a second time?

Of course the politicians were smarter. Sell weapons against dollars or gold, let those dumb Europeans buy themselves into financial dependency (Clive Ponting 1940 - Myth and Reality).

France bought, Britain bought and kept buying and finally loaning. If at one stage your now dependent countries are near to losing the war, you can always back them up militarily (to ensure final payment of debts after the war has been won - the cynic would add).

The Battle of Britain was more a Battle for Washington...but not a less important battle to win!!

The Arsenal of Democracy was a very profitable business before the Japanese forced the issue and started the global war

Off topic, but that's what this tread is all about, right?

Most of this is opinion
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  #28  
Old 6th April 2005, 13:25
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

Artist - very nice!
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  #29  
Old 6th April 2005, 16:20
Hawk-Eye
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Ruy unfair to Britain

Sorry Ruy, I simply can't reply now but I'll just mention that you're being unfair to the British about their aerial effort in May-June 1940. I think they really did all they could do over NL-B-F. The outcome of the BoB really could have been different and Britain would have been more comfortable without the losses suffered over the continent but then, Britain had been first to declare war on Germany so a war, which also means losses, must be expected.
More some other time (?).
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Old 6th April 2005, 18:25
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Re: Fighter pilots' guts

So now I am being unfair to the British, now that's irony for you!!

I wonder if some Brits here on this forum wonder if they should believe their eyes.

Sorry, I am not attacking the effort of British pilots or other military men, I am not talking of treason and abandonment (or worse), I am only questioning the grand strategic picture of RAF High Command, especially Dowding. Whereas the British Army gave it their best shot, the RAF kept large reserves, both in terms of fighters and bombers in adherence to rigid doctrine (strategic bombing and a strong deterant against strategic bombing).

Later events don't necessarily proof the correctness of this doctrine, although supporters of Dowding like to stress this point. But the whole argument becomes hypothetical.

Still I like the irony in the sudden role reversal here, won't be long or its me that will be accused of being anti-British with you as their champion.

I'll throw in a nice quote from someone who wrote without the benefit of hindsight:

But we hadn't wanted this bloody awful war that the Huns seemed to think so glorious. We had been forced to fight. 'And now that were are fighting,' we thought, 'we'll teach you rotten Huns how to fight! We'll shoot your pissy little fighters out of the sky, we'll rip your dirty great bombers to shreds, we'll make you wish to Christ you'd never heard of the aeroplane! We'll teach you the facts of war!' And we knew we could - if we were reinforced.

We were sure we had the measure of the Germans. Already our victories far exceeded our losses, and the Squadron score for a week's fighting stood at around the hundred mark for the deficit of two pilots missing and one wounded. We knew the Huns couldn't keep going at that rate, but we also knew we couldn't keep it up much longer without help. We were confident that help would soon come. We reckoned without Dowding.

Paul Richey, Fighter Pilot

Apart from the optimistic claim this annecdote illustrates I am not completely bonkers for even suggesting that there might have been a bigger RAF effort (again, do not read this as more effort from the men already on the Front!)
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