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Old 7th November 2018, 00:48
MW Giles MW Giles is offline
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French Air Force

The questions about French units reminded me of a question I have wanted answered for a long time. Sorry, it is very basic and demonstrates my complete ignorance. It has to do with unit nomenclature

Units in the 1940s were given role descriptors GC, GB etc, which I am comfortable with

I believe that the basic unit was a Groupe, for example GC I/3.

Basic Question 1 Is GC I/3 the Groupe or is the Groupe GC3 and GC I/3 a sub unit?

Perhaps I am thinking too much of the Lw.

I believe several Groupes under one command formed an Escadre, but if the Groupe is GC I/3 and GC3 of itself has no function, why link several Groupes together e.g. GC I/3, GC II/3 etc.


Basic Question 2

I am happy that air force units in the Battle of France were noted as Roman numeral/GC Arabic numeral (GC II/3). I think this carried on under the Vichy Regime.

However after the N Africa landings the French Air Force was reconstituted to work alongside the Allies, using units from the Free French Air Forces (FAFL) etc. Opinion seems to vary (even amongst French authors); should the new units follow the old style e.g. GC II/3 or did they become GC 2/3 in the new regime. Post war they were definitely GC 2/3 but when did the change happen?


Help


Regards Martin
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Old 7th November 2018, 10:17
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Alfred.MONZAT Alfred.MONZAT is offline
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Re: French Air Force

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Originally Posted by MW Giles View Post
Basic Question 1 Is GC I/3 the Groupe or is the Groupe GC3 and GC I/3 a sub unit?
GC I/3 is composed of two escadrilles (each of 12 fighters) and 2 HQ fighters. At first it (alongside GC II/3) belongued to the 3ème Escadre (until 1939 when organisation was changed and there was no longer correlation between the groupe's second number and the escadre's number.

To complicate things, the Free French wanted to create their own groupes in the foreign air forces. Those created early in the MTO used a single number : GC 1, GB 2 and GC 3 (this one would become the "Normandie-Niemen"). Then they changed designation to match with the rest of the French Air Force, GC 1 became GC 3/2 (note the roman number are no longer used) and so on. But I am not aware of GC 3 ever being renamed before war's end.

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I am happy that air force units in the Battle of France were noted as Roman numeral/GC Arabic numeral (GC II/3). I think this carried on under the Vichy Regime.
Yes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MW Giles View Post
However after the N Africa landings the French Air Force was reconstituted to work alongside the Allies, using units from the Free French Air Forces (FAFL) etc. Opinion seems to vary (even amongst French authors); should the new units follow the old style e.g. GC II/3 or did they become GC 2/3 in the new regime. Post war they were definitely GC 2/3 but when did the change happen?
They should have been using arabic numbers but you know, tradition, bureaucracy,... Both appears at first then to be replaced by the new designation.

If you want more details, please ask I'll give you them when I'm at home.
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Old 7th November 2018, 12:16
Phil L. Phil L. is offline
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Re: French Air Force

If I'm not wrong the usage of arabic numbers came into effect when the Free French Air Force was merged with the former French Vichy Air Force on 1 July 1943.
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Old 7th November 2018, 23:34
MW Giles MW Giles is offline
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Re: French Air Force

Thanks for replying so quickly, you have both been really helpful

One supplementary question please.

Escadrilles (Flights) were they numbered according to the Groupe

Groupe I - 1 and 2 Escadrille
II - 3 and 4
III - 5 and 6
IV - 7 and 8

or were they just 1 and 2, like the RAF had A and B Flights on most squadrons

Were there any three flight Groupes?

Thanks again
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Old 8th November 2018, 01:11
Graham Boak Graham Boak is offline
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Re: French Air Force

Neither. The Escadrilles carried forward the tradition (and the markings) of WW1 fighter units, where the numbering convention was very different. So, if I may invent an example (not having real ones to hand) a sample Groupe could be made of Escadrilles SPA46 and SPA121, both having operated SPAD fighters in WW1.
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Old 8th November 2018, 08:59
MW Giles MW Giles is offline
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Re: French Air Force

Interesting, because with 346 Sqn also known as Groupe GB 2/23 Guyenne
the flights are definitely 3 and 4 and with 347 Sqn (Groupe GB 1/25 Tunisie) they are 1 and 2
Are the SPAxxx flights honorary titles and in practice they simply used 1 and 2 etc. for day to day use or do they just apply to fighter units?

Martin
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Old 8th November 2018, 10:56
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Re: French Air Force

Quote:
Originally Posted by MW Giles View Post
One supplementary question please.

Escadrilles (Flights) were they numbered according to the Groupe

Groupe I - 1 and 2 Escadrille
II - 3 and 4
III - 5 and 6
IV - 7 and 8

or were they just 1 and 2, like the RAF had A and B Flights on most squadrons

Were there any three flight Groupes?
While what Graham said is true, the Escadrilles were also numbered like you said before the reorganisation of 1939 when the new II, III or IV groupes' escadrilles were all numbered 1 and 2 (in addition to the WWI traditional designation... if they had one, that was not always the case).

In 1943 the Armée de l'Air tried to add a 3rd escadrille to its groupes (to copy the USAAF) but that was very short lived. And there's also the Groupe de Chasse Normandie which grew up all along the War, ending IIRC at four escadrilles.
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Old 8th November 2018, 23:53
MW Giles MW Giles is offline
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Re: French Air Force

Once again, thank you everyone for your kind help

Martin
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