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Old 13th March 2020, 19:31
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Fighter victories 1940 – A few French figures

As I already mentioned in the previous thread “French fighter scores, mainly 1940” (it was closed, which is a pity)

- here is the direct link to it:

http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=55141

many ill-informed people, including quite a few misguided Frenchmen who strangely denigrate their own fighter pilots, all the time have spread an absurd legend about French fighter victories won mainly in May-June 1940.

So I had a look at the figures published by one of them, who probably was the foremost anti-French Frenchman (there are others). These figures are to be found in the Armée de l’Air archive kept in the Château de Vincennes (which is virtually the same as Paris – South-East of it with excellent bus, métro and RER (fast regional railways) links to the center of Paris (about 5 km). In any case the figures I’m reproducing below are his figures not mine.

He published the list of all French fighter pilots who won at least one “certain” (you could say “confirmed” or “bestätigt”) victory in the period September 3, 1939, to May 8, 1945. For every single victory he mentioned the number of pilots to whom it was credited and the location. These numbers of pilots range from 1 (in many cases) or 2 (idem) to 16 (I don’t think I found any case with higher a number of pilots having taken part). Besides, this already shows very clearly that the French fighter arm was far more numerous than almost all authors – in France and abroad – have been claiming and clamouring ever since, French patriots with tears in their eyes: “So few !” Otherwise the French pilots would never have attacked a single, poor He 111, Ju 52 (!) etc. with more than 2 or 3 fighters but often it was 4, 6, 9, 12 and yes, sometimes 16.

As you already know on May 10, 1940 (German attack) France had about 1,000 modern fighters in combat units including the French Navy with about 50, and 50 more in various small local units (“chimney flights”) protecting important places like aircraft factories, big cities, marshalling yards etc. Both Navy and “chimney flights” had got the same fighter types as the Armée de l’Air. Aircraft production was at last high and rising by the day - Bloch 152s and even Curtiss H-75s too - and 57 Dewoitine 520s delivered by May 10 had become approximately 420 by June 24 – of course they had suffered some losses in the meantime: exactly 50 in combat (including 4 to Flak) according to main loss expert Paul Martin plus 6 in accidents (and one more in April, before the French Campaign started): about 420 produced, 57 lost! (Same figure as above but this is coincidental.)

Well, I calculated the sum of about 1/3 of all registered “victoires sûres” and also the number of victories credited to all participating pilots (from 1 or 2 to 12 or 16, as I said): a pretty hard piece of work – yes I am a hero. Here are the raw figures:

Number of
- mentioned fighter pilots (at least 1 certain victory): 198
- actual certain victories: 469 (in 15 days not 12*)
- all individual pilots’ scores together: 1,292
- number of “victoires sûres” credited to one single pilot: 117 or 29.4 % of all actual victories, virtually 30 %.

So he who sneered and laughed at fighter pilots of his own country (some Frenchmen still are doing so) and gleefully claimed that the Armée de l’Air ridiculously inflated the grand total of victories because they added all individual scores containing victories won by more than one single pilot published overwhelming evidence to the contrary himself: the grand total (a partial one calculated by me) of all individual or collective victories is 1,292 as compared to 469 actual victories claimed for all individual pilots having taken part. These figures are only about 1/3 of the actual totals because for lack of time I was not able to go on and make the same calculations (it takes hours, which explains that nobody did this before – it seems). They are statistically relevant for in most cases this starts at about 100 and we are well over 100 and even 400.

So I can make a calculation to get approximately the GRAND TOTAL (100 % of the pilots and of their victories not 1/3 or 33 % as above):
Number of pilots credited with a least one “victoire sûre” (the total number of pilots having fought was about 1,100 including 111 Czechs and 177 Poles – not unlike the Battle of Britain as far as both these nationalities are concerned):

597 fighter pilots.
Grand total of actual victories credited to these 597 pilots: 1,414,
of which 30 % were credited to one single pilot, i.e. 424.
Average score of pilots credited with at least one victory: 2.37
Total of all individual, personal scores: 3,895!

Of course hundreths of a victory don’t make any sense (not for the period 1940-1945 either), not tenths of a victory either. This is purely arithmetical.
All these figures are approximations but they are close to reality.

The approximate total of 1,414 victories is close to the total losses of about 1,470 suffered by the Luftwaffe. Assuming that this figure of German origin is accurate (I am not definitely convinced that this is true) there is a certain amount of French overclaiming, and the above-mentioned total does not contain any “victoires PROBABLES” nor those won by French bombers, recce AC etc., which I guess amount to a few dozen, possibly 30-50.

A good, serious French author published an approximate figure of 830 (as compared to 735 published by the Armée de l’Air, at the time I think), again based on the German figure of about 1,470 losses. In this case the overclaiming rate would be about 70 % (1,414 as compared to 830).

Such an overclaim rate is very far from the German one (about 200 %) and even more from the RAF one (400 % - victories claimed by RAF pilots being 5 times the number of actual victories).

According to Brian Cull’s book “Twelve Days in May” about 200 RAF fighter pilots flying about 100 “Hurricanes” (taking very high losses into account – well over 300 “Hurricanes” were lost to all causes) claimed 700 victories in 12 days; Cull lowered this to 300, which is still wild overclaiming even if he did this in good faith. It was rather 20 % of 700, which is 140, which is not bad at all under such terrible conditions. (This does not include the Dunkerque score.) Those RAF fighter pilots did their best and they did it bravely.

In any case the heavy libelling of 1940 French fighter pilots and Air Force, according to which they added all individual scores to get a scandalously inflated total of 735-1,000 (according to various authors), has no connection to reality or serious historical work. The grand total of all French victories including those credited to multiple pilots is several times higher than all published totals of actual victories, which range from 735 to 1,009. Clearly nobody ever added all those individual scores, which would result in almost 4,000 (3,895). No French optimist ever claimed such a thing.

* 12 days in May. See book TDIM by Brian Cull.

Last edited by rof120; 15th March 2020 at 15:15.
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Old 15th March 2020, 15:49
rof120 rof120 is offline
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A corrected figure

Yesterday I corrected a typing error I made - sorry, I apologise:

The calculated total of French fighter victories is 1,414 including 424 won by one single fighter pilot each.

This is 30 % for "alone" (individual) victories (not shared, not collective).

Unfortunately I made that typing error and wrote 24.9 % - don't ask me why - probably tiredness.

As I mentioned above (in the preceding post) the estimated total of 1,414 real victories (one enemy aircraft destroyed for one victory) most probably is about 70 % higher than the actual number of about 830. This does not change the percentage (30 %) of "alone victories", though. Without the French system of "collective victories" - one full victory credited to every pilot having taken part in the fight, even to 12, 15 or 16 pilots - for example with the German way of crediting every victory to one pilot only, this percentage would probably have reached at least 50 % for those pilots who were instrumental in destroying the E/A would have been credited with one full victory, their comrades with none. The total number of destroyed E/A would have been hardly different. When one pilot only would not quite have achieved a victory one or several others would have finished the job (in this case it would have been a shared victory with shares of 1/2, 1/3, 1/4 etc. which didn't exist in the 1940 Armée de l'Air, not a "collective victory" credited to 2 to 16 pilots).

As interesting and fascinating such thoughts and figures may be let us not forget that real fighting took place with numerous airmen killed or badly wounded on both sides with corresponding, horrifying suffering, not to mention many widows and orphans. The French Air Force alone had 736 men (flying personel) killed in combat or in accidents including from September, 1939 to May 9, 1940, the Luftwaffe 3,278 (found in Peter Cornwell's big book TBOFTN - victims of all enemies of Germany: Dutch, Belgian, British, AA and AAA, and mainly French fighters). A large part of the German AC which were shot down were bombers or twin-engined recce AC with 4 or 5 crew members each. This explains the high figure for German human losses.

Last edited by rof120; 21st March 2020 at 13:11.
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Old 21st March 2020, 13:57
rof120 rof120 is offline
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A correction

The figures for French fighter victories above include those victories won during the "Phoney War" (before May 10).

Accordingly I should have given the German losses from September 3 on, not from May 10 on - sorry for this error: 1,814 aircraft not 1,460 (according to Peter Cornwell in his book TBOFTN), which is 354 more. In September '39 over Poland the Luftwaffe lost no less than about 250 AC to Polish aircraft, AA and accidents. This leaves about 104 losses in the West but the Luftwaffe suffered some losses in Denmark and mainly Norway during the invasion of these neutral countries, mainly to British fighters and all Allied AA, some of them to Norwegian fighters (with provisional reservations) and also to SWEDISH AAA. Sweden was neutral too and not invaded by Germany but when German aircraft strayed over the Swedish-Norwegian border into Swedish air space Swedish AAA opened fire, often with success, with their excellent Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns (the famous Bofors 40 mm gun is a Swedish gun made by the firm Bofors in the city of Bofors, on the North shore of the immense lake Vänern (Swedish name; Vaener if you prefer. Swedish people say "Booforrrsh", rolling their European r's, but this is certainly too much for Americans!).

During the Norwegian Campaign the Luftwaffe lost a few dozen aircraft of all kinds (including naval aircraft) but I have no reliable figure for these losses. Thirty (30) could be close to the real figure, leaving approximately 74 along the Gerrman-French (and Belgian) border. French fighters alone claimed 71 and British fighters claimed a few dozen too so there was an amount of Allied overclaiming during the "Phoney War". I'll try to find more accurate information.

Taking the German losses during the "Phoney War" into account (French victory claims too, which I did from the start) lowers the overclaim rate of French fighters, if any, somewhat. Please consider what I wrote on this rate provisional only for I have to look at some important data again.

Last edited by rof120; 22nd March 2020 at 10:51.
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Old 1st April 2020, 14:48
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Correction, reservation

It seems that Peter Cornwell's figures for German aircraft losses do not include those losses suffered in the nordic countries (Norwegian Campaign in Denmark and mainly Norway, April-May 1940). I'll check on this as soon as possible (but please be patient). Obviously if that is so it increases the losses to Allied forces over the Benelux countries and France accordingly, possibly by about 30 aircraft lost. The grand total for the French Campaign (FC) remains the same - 1,460 - but we need not substract about 30 "Norwegian" losses to know the purely FC losses. Somme sources give 1,469 or 1,471 instead of 1,460.

About the overclaim rate of the French fighter arm (the known figures are the units' figures not the pilots') I found approximately 70 % (100 actual victories for 170 published ones) but it's quite possible that I made an error and overclaimed myself, which means that the real fighters' overclaim rate could be significantly lower, something like 0 to 40 %. I don't know yet. I have to check on this again very carefully. This is not a simple, straightforward matter. Sorry for that, I'll try to find the correct answer to this question. If someone knows more he's very welcome with corresponding information but I am aware of what has been published by Williamson Murray, J. Prien et al, and many other authors in various books or reviews (of course I don't know everything: I'm just an ordinary person, very interested in this matter). I own copies of most books in French, German or English published on this period but a few ones are still not here.

Please remember that numerous jokers, many of which were/are French, have gleefully, sardonically, grinning claimed that the total of French fighter victories was ridiculously inflated because HQ or patriotic authors added all individual scores, most of which contained numerous victories credited to two to sixteen pilots, so that one destroyed E/A could be counted even 16 times. (The corresponding total then would be about 4,000 victories.) As I showed in the preceding post(s) THIS IS NOT TRUE and this wrong assertion is an insult to and heavy libelling of about 1,100 very young men (including 111 Czechs and 177 Poles, of wich quite a few were killed fighting Nazi Germany) who fought very gallantly, approximately 160 being killed in but 38 days (the last 8 of 46 FC-days were almost completely idle), not to mention several hundred who survived with terrible wounds, many of these pilots being heavily handicapped for the rest of their life.

Last edited by rof120; 1st April 2020 at 19:56.
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Old 2nd April 2020, 15:21
rof120 rof120 is offline
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Including Norway? No.

After having had several close looks at Peter Cornwell's big book I am able to add that this book and its loss figures do NOT cover the Norwegian Campaign. The loss statistics cover the fighting over continental Western Europe ("Poney War", September 1939-9 May 1940 and French Campaign 10 May-24 June 1940), sometimes over the UK or over British waters, e.g. when German reconnaissance aircraft were caught over the UK and around it.

The Campaign in Norway is NOT included.

It could be considered obvious as the title of the mentioned book reads "The Battle of France Then and Now", aka TBOFTN or TBFTN, which doesn't include Norway, so you may call me a fool but I wanted to be quite sure. Besides, the Polish Campaign is not included either even though it took place in September 1939.

So we need not lower the German (or Allied) loss figures in order to take the Norwegian Campaign into account and obtain the pure "Battle of France" figures. They are pure already. As author Peter Cornwell explained numerous aircraft from all countries were heavily damaged but they were not taken into account when calculating the losses, even if they were written off (mostly in the rear) eventually. For both the German and the French air forces this adds a few hundred aircraft losses to the known totals.

Just a small remark on the side: from the historical point of view it is generally agreed that the period September 3-June 9 was the "Phoney War", aka "waiting period" or initial period, during which there was a certain amount of aerial activity with about 70 French fighter victories (not couting AAA successes). The French Campaign (FC) or Campaign in France (but it took place in the Netherlands and in Belgium too so FC is better) began with the all-out German offensive on May 10,1940. The BATTLE OF FRANCE was the second part of the FC, starting on June 5 (after 26 days) with the second German offensive towards the deep French territory, crossing the Somme and Aisne rivers first. It ended after 20 more days with the French-German cease-fire on June 25, 0.35 hrs, the German army having reached the Atlantic coast.

Last edited by rof120; 2nd April 2020 at 16:18.
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