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Old 12th February 2020, 16:18
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Spitfire in France, May-June 1940

Perhaps 6-10 years ago someone asked about Spitfire(s) on French airfields in May-June 1940. As you know the Spit was still considered secret and too precious to be risked on the continent where the German army was on the rampage. Nevertheless one or two photo-reconnaissance Spits, possibly more, were briefly based on French airfield(s) to be able to penetrate more deeply over German territory for strategic reconnaissance.

What follows is from the French book "Le Morane-Saulnier MS 406", a very comprehensibe monograph published 1998 by Lela Presse (12 authors), page 142:

On June 1, 1940 the French fighter unit GC III/7 landed at Coulommiers (-airfield) at 7.15 hours. The RAF was there already with a squadron of "Blenheims" flying night missions and one reconnaissance "Spitfire" "fiercely guarded in a hangar, nobody is able to come nearer. All these aircraft disappeared discretely on June 4."

The city of Coulommiers is exactly East of Paris at a distance of about 50 km. That's at least one airfield (there is still a small aerodrome near Coulommiers (except if it was removed recently), NW of the city. I think at least one PR Spit (possibly the same one) was based elsewhere in France for a few days in May, more in the northern part of the country - the fine French review "Icare" mentioned this in one of the 17 or 19 issues on the 1940 French Campaign.
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Old 12th February 2020, 16:25
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Chris Goss Chris Goss is offline
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Re: Spitfire in France, May-June 1940

P9331 of 212 Sqn based at Meaux suffered a glycol leak on 6 June 1940 and landed at Reims-Champagne where it was abandoned and later captured. By this stage they Luftwaffe had one or two Spitfires but not a PR one
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Old 12th February 2020, 19:53
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Re: Spitfire in France, May-June 1940

Rof120,

The Special Survey Flight and 212 Sqn operated PR Spitfires from the following French airfields during 1940:

Bar-le-Duc, Coulommiers, Lille/Seclin, Nancy, Meaux/Villenoy, Le Luc, Bastia, Ajaccio and Orléans/Bricy.

Best regards

Andy Fletcher
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Old 12th February 2020, 22:27
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Spitfire in France, May-June 1940

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Fletcher View Post
Rof120,

The Special Survey Flight and 212 Sqn operated PR Spitfires from the following French airfields during 1940:

Bar-le-Duc, Coulommiers, Lille/Seclin, Nancy, Meaux/Villenoy, Le Luc, Bastia, Ajaccio and Orléans/Bricy.

Best regards

Andy Fletcher
- Wow! Many thanks Andy. Obviously Le Luc (far in SE-France near the Mediterrenean), Bastia and Ajaccio (both in Corsica) were used for missions over Italy.

Do you happen to know how many PR Spitfires were used?
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Old 13th February 2020, 02:55
Karoband Karoband is offline
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Re: Spitfire in France, May-June 1940

F/Lt. Louis Douglas "Tug" Wilson force-landed P9331 at Champagne. He made his way to Poitiers where a ground crew repaired a damaged and abandoned Fairey Battle L5360 RH-C of 88 Sqn. The ground crew then drew cards for a place on the aircraft and Wilson flew four of them back to Heston.

Here are some photos of P9331 that seem to indicate it was stripped by the Germans for replacement parts. Perhaps its engine had seized. Note the tear drop "blister" on the canopy of PR Spitfires.

http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/album....&pictureid=674

http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/album....&pictureid=675

And these photos show P9331 abandoned in a different hangar whose broken windows let in the snows of the winter of 1940/41?

http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/album....&pictureid=676

http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/album....&pictureid=677
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Old 13th February 2020, 11:13
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Re: Spitfire in France, May-June 1940

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Originally Posted by rof120 View Post
Obviously Le Luc (far in SE-France near the Mediterrenean), Bastia and Ajaccio (both in Corsica) were used for missions over Italy.

Do you happen to know how many PR Spitfires were used?
Rof120,

Indeed you are correct, Le Luc, Bastia and Ajaccio were used for sorties covering Italian targets.

Also just to clarify Bar-le-Duc was used only in 1939 and most sorties from Nancy and Lille were flown prior to May 1940.

I can find eleven different Spitfires that were used by the Special Survey Flight or 212 Sqn for operational sorties during 1939 to June 1940. For the May-June period nine Spitfires were used.

Hope the information is of use.

Best regards

Andy Fletcher
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Last edited by Andy Fletcher; 13th February 2020 at 11:15. Reason: Typo
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Old 13th February 2020, 11:28
Icare9 Icare9 is offline
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Re: Spitfire in France, May-June 1940

I understood that the PR Spitfires were taken from a Turkish order, presumably had different equipment to "normal" fighter Spitfires so used for PR, Meteorological etc Flights rather than convert them to fighter standard....
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Old 13th February 2020, 11:46
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Re: Spitfire in France, May-June 1940

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Originally Posted by Icare9 View Post
I understood that the PR Spitfires were taken from a Turkish order, presumably had different equipment to "normal" fighter Spitfires so used for PR, Meteorological etc Flights rather than convert them to fighter standard....
Not the ones used this early in the war. They were initially modified from the standard fighter version (Ia) by the Heston Flight/No.2 Camouflage Unit/PDU and used for operational trials/development. The PDU/PRU were a bit of a law unto themselves, especially in 1939 and 1940 and even when the PRU became a more 'formal' unit it was still rather independently minded.

Best regards

Andy Fletcher
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Old 13th February 2020, 15:29
rof120 rof120 is offline
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NUMBERS OF Spitfires in France, May-June 1940

Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Fletcher View Post
Rof120,

(…)

I can find eleven different Spitfires that were used by the Special Survey Flight or 212 Sqn for operational sorties during 1939 to June 1940. For the May-June period nine Spitfires were used.

Hope the information is of use.

Andy Fletcher
- Wow again! Many more thanks.

I never imagined that so many PR Spitfires were sent to France. I would have guessed 2-3. I suspect that Air Marshal Dowding was not aware of this "waste" of his best fighter aircraft for he would have opposed this with great energy. Obviously the Spitfire-secrets, if any, couldn't really be preserved for one example or more could fall into "rude German hands" any time, which indeed was the case (two AC if I understood the above details correctly, possibly more). So the remarkable RR Merlin engine and its interesting supercharger, and the whole design of this aircraft type, were no secret to the enemy already weeks before the Battle of Britain started. In particular climb rate, ceiling and top speed were of interest. I'm curious to know whether this information was circulated to the German fighter units.

On the other hand at least the German top brass was convinced that their equipment was vastly better than anything abroad including in Britain, so that they didn't need to bother. It seems that most German fighter pilots, or all of them, were painfully surprised by the Spitfire's excellent performance, so they were probably not informed after all. (See, among others, Galland's remarks in his first book, "The First and the Last").

Most authors mention that the first Spitfires were based in France only after the landings in Normandy in June 1944. Well, this is true as far as fighters are concerned.

"Hope the information is of use."

- Oh yes, certainly. I find it very interesting myself even though I had asked this question to answer another guy's very old question at last. At the time we were hardly able to give a satisfactory answer.

So many thanks again.
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Old 13th February 2020, 16:00
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Re: NUMBERS OF Spitfires in France, May-June 1940

Quote:
Originally Posted by rof120 View Post
- Wow again! Many more thanks.

I never imagined that so many PR Spitfires were sent to France. I would have guessed 2-3. I suspect that Air Marshal Dowding was not aware of this "waste" of his best fighter aircraft for he would have opposed this with great energy.
Rof120,

You have to bear in mind that at no time were there ever eleven or nine Spitfires in France at the same time. 212 Sqn was basically the overseas element of the PDU and pilots and machines were interchangeable. Probably the most Spitfires that were in France at one time was half a dozen or so.

Regards Dowding, it was he who Cotton, the driving force behind the formation of the 'PRU', persuaded to supply two Spitfires in 1939 for his (Cotton's) experiment. By the time of the invasion of France the experiment had proved so successful that people more senior than Dowding were pushing for results.

Cheers

Andy Fletcher
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