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  #1  
Old 9th November 2019, 07:36
keith A keith A is online now
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Fulmar claims

Did the Fairey Fulmar ever record any confirmed victories against Vichy French aircraft? My question stems from reading that the Martlet/Wildcat was the only Naval aircraft to make claims against all the major enemies of WW2.

regards

Keith
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Old 10th November 2019, 16:10
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Fulmar claims against Vichy French AC

Nick : I understand what you mean but I am trying to explain why French aircraft, although they did not belong to a ”major enemy” of the UK, no doubt attacked British ones off North Africa, given the opportunity, after the MeK shelling. Without these explanations it’s impossible to understand why ”Fulmars” and French AC could have fought each other.

Hello Keith,

Too bad I know nothing on the "Fulmar" but I wouldn't call the Vichy Air Force a major enemy. It could have been but Germany watched residual French forces, especially the air force, very closely and, among other things, limited the number of flying hours very severely.

I understand only the reaction of French fighters based in the vicinity of the big French fleet base of Mers-el-Kébir near Oran (West Algeria), when the Royal Navy performed its incredible, extremely brutal attack on July 3, 1940, saved the French Air Force from total disappearance on German orders (9 days after the end of the fighting in France and exactly one month after the end of the common Dunkerque evacuation, in which French troops and vessels of all kinds had strongly contributed - suffering heavy losses in men and in ships - to the overall success of the evacuation of British and French troops) - a British attack on French ships moored in harbour (their main guns pointed in the direction of land, their boilers cold, so that they were unable to move or to fire back). This was a kind of "Pearl Harbor" 1 year and 5 months before the Japanese one but with British aggressors and French victims: a few capital ships, and others, were destroyed or damaged and virtually 1,300 good men of the French Navy were killed. Everybody knows what the USA did to Japan after PH and a terribly concerned (!) Churchill wondered for at least one whole day whether he now was at war with Germany and France at the same time (the UK would not have survived) – he should have thought over this BEFORE killing his friends. As you possibly know even a small naval incident was considered a casus belli and so could trigger a full-blown war. At Mers-el-Kébir the naval incident was not small.

This absolutely incredible aggression was, most probably, the main factor making Pétain popular in France (he was very popular 1940-42 or so) and French retaliation of all kinds was very costly to the treacherous UK. Hundreds and hundreds of battle-hardened French aircrew were about to join the RAF (flying first to Gibraltar), including hundreds of top-class, very experienced French fighter pilots including, again, dozens of aces. If they had taken part in the Battle of Britain they would have suffered some losses but saved hundreds of British lives in the air and thousands in the cities. Conversely if Pétain had decided to retaliate in kind there is little doubt that the RAF would have succumbed quickly under German-French air attacks flown by state-of-the-art French bombers (LeO 45, Amiot 351-354) and fighters (Dewoitine 520 and the much-improved 523 from August on, clearly better than any British or German fighter), etc. Pétain chose not to hit back because he felt his country had suffered enough already (including in 1914-18) and, besides, he didn’t really like Germany and German soldiers even though he had no other choice than accepting German occupation (he went much too far but this is another story and off topic here).

(c) Copyright from now on. This British attack on July 3, 1940 was very stupid. I understand only 8 % of the French combat fleet were at Mers-el-Kébir including 2 or 3 capital ships but the Royal Navy (battleships plus an aircraft-carrier) was not even able to destroy them all, far from it. They did use their biggest guns, though, against their allies from 9 days earlier, in order to be sure that nobody would survive: they did not contend with using smaller guns to disable the ships without slaughtering their friends. It was obvious that using the biggest naval guns on ships moored in harbour would possibly kill thousands of seamen. So clearly they wanted to KILL as many as possible, not only make warships unusable. I understand, too, that they kept firing after their main attack and sent carrier-borne aircraft to finish the wounded and kill those swimming in a mixture of sea water and heavy fuel-oil (just what the Japs did at PH, too). "If" Pétain had joined the Germans to fight the UK the latter would have lost: the "rest" of 92 % of the French fleet was mainly in other French bases like Bizerte (Tunisia), Toulon, Dakar (Senegal) and more, and many ships were seized by surprise in “friendly” British ports, their crews often being the victims of mistreatment (!). The French Navy had more than 60 ocean-going submarines, Germany had about 20 at best and they were quite a nuisance already 1940-1941… French battleships (Richelieu and Jean-Bart, two state-of-the-art ships with 8 x 360 mm main guns) and cruisers were very fast, mostly faster than the British ones. A German-French naval war against British shipping would have changed everything (to the worse).

No wonder this operation “Catapult” was not really popular in France, even less within the French Navy and among its crews. It started, or renewed, strong, lasting hate for everything British. “You never can trust them” is the most frequent opinion still today. I was surprised when I discovered, a few years ago, that this event is still present in the memories of most French people including much younger generations than those of 1940, and this will certainly go on for many centuries to come just like for other events of a similar nature. (c) Copyright, end.

Needless to say, of the hundreds of precious, combat-hardened French aircrew who had decided to join the UK in its fight against Germany almost everybody quickly gave up any idea of this kind after the British had – literally – murdered 1,300 French seamen in the direct vicinity. It was hardly possible to step over these bodies to join those who had killed them without any valid reason. So almost all French aircrew stood where they were and almost never lost any opportunity to shoot down any British aircraft which foolishly flew within range of the French fighters (they included about 200 Dewoitine 520s…). Fairey “Fulmars” could have been among the victims too but I don’t think that they flew close enough to North African coasts (in fact I don’t know). The British navy was wise enough not to come back in the region before the American-British landings of operation “Torch” in November 1942, and, because of the British presence, all French forces put up a short but violent fight against these landings: French navy, army and air force. French ships, army units and airfields were viciously attacked without any warning (and without any right to do it) and hundreds of good men died on both sides. French human losses once more amounted to about 1,300 killed (roughly 1,350). French fighters including D.520s, even more Curtiss H-75s, were clearly obsolescent then and suffered heavy losses inflicted mainly by modern US fighters sporting US stars even if their pilots were British… Very brave as usual the French fighter pilots took off against overwhelming odds, suffered heavy losses but inflicting rather significant ones too. Many good French and American pilots died – what for? But no Frenchman could forget the Mers-el-Kébir attack.

A short explanation on the obsolescent French fighters: they were the same types as those used 1940, and many had logged numerous flying hours. Germany strictly forbade and prevented any modernisation or renewal of French combat aircraft and even more the design and production of new, much improved types (they were strongly in the pipe in June 1940). French factories had to produce a number of German or even French AC types for Germany, and a small part for France.

I feel that Fairey “Fulmar” looks like the twin brother of the very ill-fated Fairey “Battle”. I don’t think it ever fought any French aircraft but honestly I have to admit that I don’t know but I hope I made it clear why French aircrew would have destroyed any “Fulmar”, given the opportunity. It could have been some skirmishes at most, like similar skirmishes which did take place, not making France a major enemy either, for Pétain did not want this. Victories won by « Fulmars » on French AC is an even more remote possibility, not quite impossible but almost so.

Last edited by rof120; 10th November 2019 at 19:26.
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Old 10th November 2019, 17:40
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Re: Fulmar claims against Vichy French AC

Quote:
Originally Posted by rof120 View Post
Hello Keith,

Too bad I know nothing on the "Fulmar" … but I'll complete these explanations very soon.
Please remain on topic when you do.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 11th November 2019, 09:28
keith A keith A is online now
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Re: Fulmar claims

I listed Vichy France solely because of it's conflicts with the Commonwealth armies in Syria and Operation Torch, as well as the numerous encounters in air combat in the Mediterranean in 1940-42. To dismiss Vichy as a minor player in the conflict might have incited even more Gallic ire from elsewhere

I do understand those that fought to defend France as part of the Vichy state did it out of an interpretation of their duty which was different from the Free French. I would draw attention to my many posts on the post-1942 French air force as credentials of my interest and admiration of France and the French. As a proud Scot the "Auld Alliance" burns deeply in my heart

regards

Keith
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Old 11th November 2019, 11:11
rof120 rof120 is offline
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French pride etc.

Quote: I listed Vichy France solely because of it's conflicts with the Commonwealth armies in Syria and Operation Torch

- I see. I haden't thought of these operations in connection with "Fulmars". I don't think they were used in "Torch" (too weak a fighter type) but possibly in the conflict around Syria (regrettably I have no idea but I don't think so either).

Quote: "To dismiss Vichy as a minor player in the conflict might have incited even more Gallic ire from elsewhere"

- Hmmm, I don't think so. Even the most fanatic French patriots or admirers of Pétain are aware that Vichy-France in fact WAS a minor player because of all the limitations and surveillance from the German side. Besides, de Gaulle's forces were a minor player too. Their contribution was useful but inevitably small at least until the landings took place in southern France (St-Tropez-Agay region near Toulon) on August 15, 1944, with a non-negligible French participation at last.

Quote: "I do understand those that fought to defend France as part of the Vichy state did it out of an interpretation of their duty which was different from the Free French. I would draw attention to my many posts on the post-1942 French air force as credentials of my interest and admiration of France and the French. As a proud Scot the "Auld Alliance" burns deeply in my heart."

- Hmmm, part of the French Vichy-lovers were clearly Nazi-lovers too. They really wanted Germany to win the war, yiiks.

The post-1942 French air force… Well, they fought as bravely and as well as usual but they had no other possibility than flying American and even British aircraft. Here, too, their contribution was useful and welcome (at least after a while) but I would consider it minor too, except perhaps from August 1944 on, when a large part of France was liberated and possibly thousands of French aircrew were available again (and needed training on more recent AC before taking part in the fighting). In any case the Allies would have won exactly as they did, even without any French contribution in the air.

Perhaps you noticed that I am NOT a fanatic, quick-tempered Frenchman, becoming immediately furious after the slightest criticism. Not at all. In spite of this I am able to think independently: for example the MeK attack by the British navy was TERRIBLE even from the point of view of British interests. I think possibly any French leader other than Pétain would have ordered a very powerful reaction against British shipping in the Atlantic (where the French fleet was still very strong, in particular fast cruisers and submarines) - Germany allowing this - even still without declaring war on the UK. After all the UK didn't declare war on France before attacking it… (just like Hitler did for Poland, Denmark, Norway, the USSR...).

Please don't get me wrong: I am not a friend of Pétain's, not at all. I find him terrible and very hypocritical but this is off topic. The Free French did the right thing, which 1940-42 needed an immense amount of courage, leaving their country and their loved ones to fight a triumphant and seemingly invincible great power (Nazi-Germany) - at a cost.

Oh, you're a Scot - very good. Let's be allies and fight those horrible Englishmen together with all Irishmen (to all Englishmen here: just joking! I'm not going to sink your "Queen Elisabeth" in retaliation for Mers-el-Kébir!). Can you see their sneaky scheme to sink the whole EU (again) with their incredible Brexit-show?

Last edited by rof120; 13th November 2019 at 17:06.
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Old 11th November 2019, 11:50
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Re: Fulmar claims

Stick to the topic please.
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Old 11th November 2019, 13:29
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Stick to the point

Hello Nick,

Once more I can tell you that I understand your point of view. OK, a large part of my remarks is off-topic, this is true. Nevertheless I don't consider it superfluous to see what is on the side of the main topic, like, for example: "Why was it possible that air battles took place between French and British (Fulmars in this case) aircraft (and where, if at all)? They were allies weren't they?" Another way to look at it is as follows: if the author of a post feels it interesting, or useful, to give explanations or details outside the strict scope of the initial discussion, why not? I'll bet most TOCH-readers were (are) not aware of the events and problems I discussed here. Many probably don't (or didn't) know that British battleships shelled some French naval ships moored in harbour with their biggest guns (406 mm calibre or so). This explains many subsequent events including air combat between French and British aircraft (North Africa, Syria, etc.) and also the all too close relationship (collaboration) between Pétain's Vichy-France et Nazi-Germany (hugh!). Air combat is one of the main areas of discussion here isn't it. Or didn't I understand what TOCH-readers find of interest? In my eyes British-French air combat was terrible but we can't pretend it didn't happen - sadly. I can only repeat: answering Keith's question about "Fulmar" fighters (I suspect that many people didn't even know that "Fulmars" were fighters! Me, for example.) could hardly be done without explaining the context of British-French hostility and the general situation and events.

Oh yes I am perfectly able - me too - to write very short replies which hardly anybody is able to really understand, except possibly - in this Fulmar case - Keith and a few others. This would have a great advantage for myself: save a lot of my very precious time (many hours). "Very precious" because - you won't believe it - I am extremely busy.
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Old 11th November 2019, 15:56
Tom Semenza Tom Semenza is offline
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Re: Fulmar claims

Keith,

In answer to your question, I have found only two claims by Fulmars against Vichy French aircraft. The first is rather vague. According to Shores & Williams in Aces High, Lt. R.C. Hay, RM (808 Sqn. Ark Royal) claimed a share in downing of a "French floatplane" on an unspecified date in January 1941 somewhere W of Sardinia. This is also shown in Sturtivant's FAA Aircraft 1939-1945 on page 160. The note in Aces High states that this claim was "recorded from his (Hay's) memory later." The other claimant is not mentioned.

The second claim was by Sub-Lt.(A) P.E. Palmer, RNVR along with his TAG L/A W.A. Taylor (807 Sqn. Argus) on 18 May 1942 for a D.520 of CG III/6 flown by Lt. Salaun. This occurred off the North African coast W of Algiers. The claim can be found in Those Other Eagles, Malta: The Spitfire Year, 1942, and the Sturtivant book.

Regards,
Tom
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Old 11th November 2019, 16:15
keith A keith A is online now
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Re: Fulmar claims

Many thanks chums,

Also, and by accident, Fulmars probably shot down a Vichy Farman 223 airliner on 27 November 1940 when it stratyed into an air battle between Fulamrs and an Italian formation (Malta:The Hurricane Years by they excellent Misters Shores, Cull and Malizia).

So, the Fulmar did indeed score aerial victories over German, Italian, Japanese and Vichy French opponents.

tanks and best regards

Keith
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Old 11th November 2019, 17:09
SteveR SteveR is offline
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Re: Fulmar claims

FWIW:
Shores' Dust Clouds in the Middle East mentions a combat off the coast of Syria on 8 June 1941 between 803 Squadron Fulmars and GC III/6 D.520s. Lt. Martin was shot down (he bailed out successfully and became a POW), Sous-Lt. Brondel reported he'd been downed by British aircraft (which he misidentified as Hurricanes).

Credit for the victory was given by the British to Royal Navy AA fire however...

Sorry for the sparse details, unfortunately that's all I know of the incident.

Last edited by SteveR; 11th November 2019 at 17:10. Reason: A word.
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