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  #31  
Old 3rd August 2008, 15:32
Grozibou
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All right!

Ruy, this is perfectly all right for me. I have no objection.

I hope you noticed that, in spite of my sometimes angry tone, my arguments and QUOTATIONS are accurate and objective. One of the main problems in life quite generally is that many people want to look or sound interesting (!) but are much too lazy, often too stupid too, to inform themselves properly first. This is how some people absolutely wanted to explain for me in detail how I worked in my old profession (no connection with aviation), just in order to look clever, but of course they talked nonsense and I was forced to give them the correct version, which they really didn't like at all : pretentious clots. I fear all physicians (aka doctors) in the world know this problem : many patients insist on explaining medicine for them. Many non-native English speakers, too, feel they have a better command of English than any native speaker. This is why German people insist on saying "bleck, beck, treck" etc. for "black, back, track", and many other horrible things : they know better ("Beserwisser").

With this particular 1940-problem it's quite similar. In fact most people don't really know - with certainty - but they guess, they are under the impression that, they heard that, they feel, they "read somewhere" etc. Example : France (and also the UK, to the very same degree) suffered a terrible defeat 1940 so all the "Schlaumeier" (German phrase for "clever" nitwits) directly infer that the French Air Force (!) was hopeless and that the UK was NOT beaten (that's what they're told at school in the UK, I assume - now I'm guessing too) for the defeat took place... in France so "obviously" it was a FRENCH only defeat, and in the BoB which followed soon the UK was not beaten so "only the French were beaten". But what army was so thoroughly beaten that it fled over the sea in a hurry? Not the French army in any case.

I think I can understand the Brits pretty well - maybe I'm wrong. For all their life since 1940 they have been told and taught, and this is going on still today, that they always were wonderful (at least from 1066 through 2008) and their armed forces never were beaten, which is optimistic to say the least. Now that horrible French frog, or is it an old owl, is telling them that this is not quite accurate and that they ought to stop insulting the French, in particular their aircrew, and that 1940 the UK was not saved by the RAF but by the sea*, which prevented the nazi hordes from overwhelming their country, and perhaps also by the sacrifice of the French land and air forces which, admittedly fighting for their own country, kept the ruthless enemy busy for six weeks (46 days not 42 to be accurate) and inflicted losses on the Luftwaffe which most probably tipped the balance** in the BoB. This is a change and they don't like it.

* Of course this is only pure theory - just reasoning - for if that sea had not existed everything would have been very different in Europe. Perhaps the UK would have been part of Germany, or of France, or of the Netherlands, or conversely in all three cases. In any case Hitler's and Guderian's tanks had a problem crossing that French Channel.

** But what else could French aircrew do ? France was at war with Germany so the Armée de l'Air fought the Wehrmacht. Oh, I forgot : according to noted British historians French aircrew preferred to take shelter in their underground concrete "bunkers" or to eat lunch among exploding bombs (fairly cold-blooded people I have to say) instead of taking off to fight the enemy.

Yves Michelet (Grozibou, alias Big Owl)
  #32  
Old 3rd August 2008, 16:03
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"Chicken"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian View Post
Implying that because some RAF squadrom commanders did not lead their squadrons into battle meant they were "chicken" comes out of comic books.
You didn't get it (to be clear for non-English native speakers : you didn't understand). This was IRONY. It was really harmless indeed after all the British insults the French had to endure for over 68 years, including "there were no brave French people 1940" (Peter Townsend in "Duel of Eagles"). It meant : "Were RAF Sqn Ldrs possibly as devoid of courage as the French?" (who had 30 % of their number killed in action in 5 weeks). If they had been 100 % of them would have been dead by October at the latest (this takes the lull 25 June-10 July into account). Were they?
  #33  
Old 3rd August 2008, 16:46
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Small correction, Townsend quotes Sholto Douglas. I've got (and read) his two part autobiography and I can get a full quote of the events if need be. Overal Douglas is very positive about the french. Townsend can only be criticized for quoting without double checking the events.
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Old 3rd August 2008, 17:47
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Wise Owl aka Yves

I give up! Surrender! White flag! I can't keep up with your rhetoric! Perhaps I am too simple, as implied, to understand.

I trust you will excuse me but I must get back to writing my latest effort. I will endeavour to be kind to the French (if you have read any of my books you will note how I have always expanded favourably on those French airmen who did manage to reach British lines (see 'Hurricanes over Tobruk', for example).

Best

Brian (aka Brian Cull)
  #35  
Old 3rd August 2008, 19:05
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Re: All right!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Grozibou View Post
German people insist on saying "bleck, beck, treck" etc. for "black, back, track", and many other horrible things ...

... infer that the ... UK was NOT beaten (that's what they're told at school in the UK, I assume - now I'm guessing too) ... "only the French were beaten". But what army was so thoroughly beaten that it fled over the sea in a hurry? Not the French army ...

I think I can understand the Brits pretty well ... since 1940 they have been told and taught, and this is going on still today, that they always were wonderful (at least from 1066 through 2008) and their armed forces never were beaten, which is optimistic to say the least.
First point: the English upper classes of the 1930s and '40s also said "bleck, beck, treck" etc. for "black, back, track." This may readily be confirmed from old movies and newsreels and is widely regarded as absurd by the somewhat less deferential British of today. I trust that this adds something to your "understanding" of the British although I infer from the unremitting anger of your posts that you "understand" them (I'm English myself) through the distorting lens of some cherished personal resentment.

I know no one who doesn't believe British forces in France were beaten. But Britain continued as an active belligerent when the French Republic could not and I would suggest that this was to the long term benefit of both nations.

I don't need to assume: I actually went to school in England (from 1957–1969) and no one taught me anything about 1940. I was told a lot about the Romans in Britain (55 BC–410 AD) though. My generation picked up their first knowledge of the war from the adults around them, all of whom had lived through it, and from the bomb damage that was part of our everyday surroundings.

I have learned since that Britain in 1940 had an integrated air defence system that no other country in the world had then come close to matching and that this was a critical factor in frustrating German war aims. That system was designed for the air defence of an island, the inhabitants having noticed, several thousand years before you mentioned it, that they were surrounded by water.

Your wish to see proper recognition for the efforts of the Armée de l' Air is undestandable. Your posts do appear to confirm that France had not managed by May 1940 to equip itself with a really substantial force of its best fighter, nor the integrated command, radar and reporting networks that might have realised their full potential in air defence. An effective force for the tactical support of French armies in the field is of course another matter, albeit one of comparable importance for a nation sharing a land border with a potentially hostile power, I should imagine

P.S. You are more than a little out of touch with what is "going on still today" in the teaching of British history.
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  #36  
Old 3rd August 2008, 21:13
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Sholto Douglas, Peter Townsend, June 3, 1940

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruy Horta View Post
Small correction, Townsend quotes Sholto Douglas.
- Yes I know, this is correct. Nevertheles when I read the English text (that book was published in France but in both languages - separately - at the same time) I had the strong impression that S. Douglas was just an excuse, convenient to Townsend to publish his own views. In any case he adopted them readily. Did he add that he didn't share these (ludicrous) views? No he didn't so clearly he shared them (otherwise he wouldn't have quoted (?) them anyway). Alledgedly Villacoublay airfield was bombed by the LW on June 3, 1940, precisely when the top commanders of the French and British air forces and navies had a meeting on this very airfield! But both the British and the French were informed of this attack by their respective secret services so I have a few small doubts about this exciting story. (France had even installed a special, powerful radio transmitter on top of the Eiffel Tower to send orders to the fighters on this day, and on the same day all French fighter pilots in the Paris area and eastwards (GC I/5...) were on extreme readiness from dawn on, which proves they were informed, but this is another story). SD/PT :<< At least (or about) FIFTY French fighters were standing on the airfield but the pilots sitting in the mess kept having lunch while German bombs were exploding outside, which didn't seem to interest them in the least. >> ALWAYS THE SAME STORY : enemy bombs exploding and those horrible French pilots not taking off. A bit monotonous. Ain't this a perfect story for an "Indiana Jones" film? Or a Tex Avery cartoon? I say, these "pilots" proved a calmness and a cold-bloodedness of which only very few Britons, in particular RAF marshals, are able. This is even better than "Monty-Pythons". Frankly, who can take such a story seriously? I don't know who was nuts - Townsend or Douglas - and invented this horror story in which four Allied top commanders were involved, but this is a pure invention. Nonetheless it is precisly with such fairy tales that French people are SYSTEMATICALLY libelled in certain countries. Remember the 2nd Iraq-war : "Up yours Chirac!" could be read on almost every newspaper (big headlines) in those same countries. Chirac had DARED disapprove of the new invasion and say so. What a crime! How dared he fail to obey orders from London and Washington! After all he was just a little French president. No : he is a very tall man (and he knows this kind of war : he was a young officer in the Algeria war...).

Oh, just a little detail : French HQ considered this Villacoublay-airfield too close to the city of Paris itself (I am able to confirm this for I know this place) so NO FIGHTER UNIT was based there on this day. You can check on this easily in both editions of Paul Martin's book ("Invisibles vainqueurs" / "Ils étaient là"), which gives the locations of all airfields used by every French unit 1939-40. General Accart, the 1940-44 unique hero, insisted strongly on the part "on this day" when - very upset - I discussed this matter with him. Of course he was right : various fighter units were based at "Villa" at different times, according to circumstances, but NOT on June 3.

Interestingly on most airfields where French fighter units really were stationed - Chantilly, Lognes, Brétigny, Coulommiers, Claye-Souilly - they took off among exploding bombs and under strafing by Me 109s and 110s. This is why many French pilots died on this day : almost all (95 % IIRC) who were shot down were either killed (most of them) or badly wounded, which is exceptional; usually the proportion of survivors is much higher. The alert and take-off in due time had been spoilt by a stupid error made by... the generals (!) as usual. So as you see the REAL story of what ACTUALLY happened proves that French fighter pilots certainly took off among exploding bombs and under attack by enemy fighters already while they were trying to become airborne and also during the climb, when they were sitting ducks. Easy victories for the "Huns".

Quote:
I've got (and read) his two part autobiography and I can get a full quote of the events if need be.
- Yes, please. You did this already some months, or maybe 1-2 years, ago, which was very kind of you, but repeating this unique piece of literature can only be very instructive.

If Sholto Douglas was fair to the French (but possibly the FREE-FRENCH only… for they were fighting within the RAF!) then Townsend must have invented his whole hair-raising story, in which not one single element CAN be true.
  #37  
Old 4th August 2008, 10:40
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Repeating an earlier quote:

Quote:
Peter Townsend
Duel of Eagles
Presidio Press, 1991

p.237
Operation Paula was a concerted blow at the airfields and aircraft factories in the Paris region. It was also meant to impress the French public. II KG 2 (Werner Borner was with them in Gustav Marie) bombed Orly. 'The very few French fighters we met,' he said, 'fought bravely.'

It happened that Air Vice Marshal Sholto Douglas and Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake landed at Villacoublay on a visit to Admiral Darlan and General Vuillemin, Chief of Air Staff. 'We rather expected that there would at least be someone there to welcome us...' said Sholto Douglas. As they got out of the aircraft '...a little man wearing a tin hat with a gas mask bouncing on his backside....shouted at us to take cover.'
Sholto, who had not forgotten the night he dived under the piano at Bertangles, needed no encouragement. He and Admiral Blake bolted for the nearest shelter, 'a not very reassuring mound of sandbags and corrugated iron ...' A second later Luftwaffe bombs were plastering Villacoublay's airfield and hangars.
Sholto had seen three French fighters take off. Of the fifty others parked around the airfield many were blown to smithereens. Sholto wondered why the French fighters did not hurl themselves at the enemy. The British Air Staff had warned the French the day before of Operation Paula.
He entered the mess with Admiral Blake. There they found the French pilots 'sitting down quietly having their lunch ... They were not at all interested in what had just happened.' His thoughts went back to the French aces of his day, Fonck and Guynemer and their generation. It was not until later, 'when I had free French pilots under my command that I found ... Frenchmen who could be as keen and gallant...'

Here are some further quotes from Townsend.

P.208
On 10 May the Franco-British air Forces in France were pitifully inadequate against this mighty host...(n)ot even the supreme and selfless gallantry displayed by the allied airmen could make up for such mediocre equipment and meagre numbers.

p.215
With disaster now staring them in the face the French High Command called their own and the British bomber forces to make a supreme effort on 14 May against the German bridgehead at Sedan ... (s)oon after noon the few remaining French bombers went in. Their losses were so terrible that further attacks were cancelled.

p.222
Gamelin lamented the French inferiority in the air and pleaded for more RAF squadrons, above all fighter squadrons. Among other things, these were needed, he said to stop enemy tanks. (The Généralissime must have been out of his senses. How could fighters with rifle-calibre machine-guns stop tanks?) Churchill reminded him that the fighter's business was to 'cleanse the skies' above the battle.*

p.233
Meanwhile forty thousand Frenchmen were fighting doggedly alongside the British, holding the Germans at bay on Dunkirk's perimeter. Loyal allies, the British and French fought valiantly while their comrades were carried to safety in the Navy's ships...

(*Included to demonstrate the lack of support for tactical air support demonstrated by the RAF in the first half of the war, looking at air power in terms of (pre-war) orthodox doctrine. Terraine touches the subject again, with his coverage of the brief Greek campaign. Of course fighter interdiction can be a very effective weapon against tanks, perhaps not directly, but against the support train - fuel trucks etc. The roads were packed with German transports, Hurricanes would certainly have been more effective in ground support and strafing than Battles. But this really is a different subject.)
Original text from Years of Command, the second volume next to Years of Combat, the autobiography of Sholto Douglas.

p.65/66

On instructions from the Chief of the Air Staff, I flew to Paris with the Deputy Chief of the Naval Staff, Admiral Sir Geoffrey Blake, to discuss with Admiral Darlan and General Vuillemin, the Chief of the French air force, what action the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force should take when Italy came into the war, an event which, it was anticipated, would happen within the next few days.

When Geoffrey Blake and I landed at the military aerodrome at Villacoublay, just outside Paris, we rather expected that, in view of the importance of our mission, there would at least be somebody there to welcome us. To our astonishment the only soul in sight was Douglas Colyer, our Air Attaché in Paris. We got out of our aircraft, and just as we did so a little man wearing a tin hat and with a gas-mask bouncing on his backside came dashing out of a dug-out nearby. He shouted at us to take cover because in a minute or two the Germans would be starting their bombing of the airfield.

With the nature of our welcome determined, Colyer and Blake and I rushed off to the nearest air-raid shelter. It was a not very reassuring mound of sandbags and corrugated iron, and just as we got to it the first bomb came down, bursting on a hangar about thirty or forty yards away. And then came a whole salvo of bombs which fell all over the aerodrome and the hangars. Later I was to learn that that day, the 3rd of June, 1940, was the one on which the Germans staged their one and only large-scale raid on the French capital during the whole of the Second World War.

There were some fifty or sixty fighters of the French air force standing parked around the aerodrome, and we saw a number if them blow up in the raid. Just as we were landing I saw three of the French fighters take off, but as far as I can ascertain these were the only fighters that attempted to go into action from Villacoublay that day. There could be no excuse for such a lack of interest in trying to get at the enemy because our Air Staff had obtained reports through our own Intelligence (RH: Ultra?) only a day or two before that the Germans were planning a big raid on Paris, and that information had been passed on to the French.

After the raid was over, Blake and Colyer and I made our way to the Officers' Mess, and there we found all the French pilots - with the exception of the three who were airborne - sitting down and not all interested in what had just happened. I could not help thinking what a striking contrast there was between their attitude and that of the gallant French pilots whom I had known in the First World War. It was an impression that stayed unhappily with me, and it was not until some time later, when I had Free French pilots directly under my command, that I found that there were still those Frenchmen who could be as keen and gallant as one could ever wish for.


He continues describing visits to both Darlan and Vuillemin, finding these encouraging and reassuring, having completed arrangements for cooperation with the French both at sea and in the air.

Judging by Years of Combat, Douglas is ready to praise the French, even at cost of the British as his acknowledgment as an artilleryman that British spit and polish were no match to French superficially unmilitary but in practice high efficiency illustrates.

Lets assume that there are no hidden agendas and that Douglas and the events are correct, that leaves interpretation as the main variable.

What types of aircraft could Douglas have seen at Villacoublay? He must have recognized fighters for what they were, but might he have overlooked if they were operational or not?

Those men in the Mess, were they fighter pilots?

Could culture and circumstance be part of the mix up, mistaking sang froid and nonchalance for lack of keenness? It is hard to show keenness if you see that defeat is almost certain. This is perhaps key between any Anglo-French comparison in this period, easily tagged as defeatism.

I cannot fault Douglas, because he clearly writes: I could not help thinking what a striking contrast there was between their attitude and that of the gallant French pilots whom I had known in the First World War. It was an impression that stayed unhappily with me, and it was not until some time later, when I had Free French pilots directly under my command, that I found that there were still those Frenchmen who could be as keen and gallant as one could ever wish for.

It is all about his perceptions and his feelings.

I can also understand why it is tempting to quote Douglas as a "concise" illustration of popular view in Britain of French defeatism, giving it the weight of rank and thus credibility. Townsend can be blamed for not digging any further, but this is but a small part of his book.

IMHO it is not worth all this energy to fight just one piece of writing as it is to discuss French (aerial) operations and their effects in general. By constructive debate we can create a better picture and even help dispel the notions of the defeatist and ineffective French air force.

To villanize an author is not the way to be taken seriously. Dispel the myth by reason, but also by reasonable debate.
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  #38  
Old 4th August 2008, 13:36
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

Many thanks for this Ruy. Who typed these long quotations? You? It must have been a lot of work! So thanks again - much obliged. Said quotations are very interesting.

I am really sorry but I can't reply in detail today, not to Nick Beale's post either, which I regret : I have the tax office on my tail and I MUST do something about it - in particular that hated paperwork. Rats!

It seems clear that they really meant June 3, 1940. As I already explained several times I consider this impossible. You don't round up any top-ranking generals and admirals to an airfield on the very day you know the Huns are going to bomb that same airfield! This is absolutely hair-raising. Any airfield was a most dangerous place anyway during the war. Darlan was the Commander-in-Chief of the whole French navy (it was much smaller than the British navy but much bigger than the German one, with six battleships, 60 good submarines (twice the German sub force), 1 aircraft carrier, many cruisers and destroyers etc. and more of these being made, under Darlan's top responsibility too : several fast battleships and several aircraft carriers, etc. - this work was stopped by the armistice). Vuillemin was the C-i-C of the French Air Force. I think nobody can imagine that these four most important men would have gathered under falling German bombs just for fun. Possibly S. Douglas mixed up different days when he wrote this (such errors will happen often).

In any case it is a FACT that no French fighter unit was based at Villa on June 3. If really 3 fighters took off these were the airfield's own protection fighters (so-called local flights or "chimney flights") for several important aircraft factories were situated at or near Villacoublay and the new AC were test-flown there : Breguet (Br 693 / 695), LeO (LeO 451), possibly more. Nevertheless there was no local defence flight at Villa, probably because several well-armed fighter airfields were situated around Paris. Often the few defending fighters were flown by local test pilots (one of them, having started from Châteauroux or Bourges, won a victory flying a prototype fighter - as a civilian! Probably a very rare occurence in WW II.) Of course it is quite possible that some fighters were parked there, in particular awaiting repair of battle damage. The Morane-Saulnier factory of Puteaux was not far away and the new AC were flight-tested there (at Villa), but MS 406-production was being phased out : the Armée de l'Air received 7 in April, 10 in May and the last 4 in June. During the same months they received 371 D.520s (including 196 in June only - in 24 days not 30! In a complete month of June well over 250 D.520s would have been delivered), production rate still rising strongly (made far away from Paris : in Toulouse, where I was borne, heh heh heh, which is not surprising for a future old owl).

"The aircraft (MS 406) are assembled and flight-tested at Vélizy-Villacoublay" (sic : I think the double name didn't exist yet 1940). Found in the book "Le MS 406", a remarkable monograph published by "Avions"-Lela-Presse (12 authors including Mathieu Comas, Christophe Cony, Michel Ledet, Lucien Morareau, Lionel Persyn et al). So yes Villa was Morane-Saulnier's aerodrome too so possibly a dozen or more MS 406s can have been there on 3 June 1940 but with no fighter pilots, no ammunition and probably they were not airworthy.

Remember, please, that the Breguet 690 series had been originally designed and ordered as heavy twin-engined fighters (hence probably the powerful armament of one cannon and several MGs in the nose, more firing backwards) and were produced at Vélizy, which later merged with Villacoublay : nowadays the city's name is Vélizy-Villacoublay. Not surprisingly the produced Br 691, 693 and 695 were test-flown at Villacoublay airfield and yes, they could very much look like fighters - they had been designed as fighters! But if SD's story is true at all, which I strongly doubt, these were new Br 693s / 695s he saw; they had just rolled off the factory and were being or would have been test-flown in those very days. The "fighter-pilots" he "saw" in the officers' mess were certainly no fighter-pilots but test-pilots at best, possibly no pilots at all but other personnel (there were about 100 men for 1 fighter pilot in the A.A.). In any case these AC, whatever the type (most probably Br 693/695), had not been test-flown and certainly carried no ammunition to shoot at the naughty German bombers. Taking off among exploding bombs is a lot of fun (why did SD not take off himself with one of the 50-60 "fighters"?) but not really useful if you're unable to fire your guns.

Enough now : this in-credible story quite simply is not true, that's all.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ruy Horta View Post
When Geoffrey Blake and I landed at the military aerodrome at Villacoublay, just outside Paris
Grozibou : actually it was more the aerodrome used by the surrounding aero-industry producing Breguet, LeO and Morane-Saulnier aircraft. This means a production of hundreds and hundreds of aircraft. No wonder the LW wanted to bomb it. Obviously during a war the Air Force will use any aerodrome which suits their needs.

Quote:
With nature of our welcome determined, Colyer and Blake and I rushed off to the nearest air-raid shelter. It was a not very reassuring mound of sandbags and corrugated iron, and just as we got to it the first bomb came down, bursting on a hangar about thirty or forty yards away. And then came a whole salvo of bombs which fell all over the aerodrome and the hangars.


- Visibly he was scared out of his wits by a few harmless small bombs. This'll kill me! (I'll be an innocent victim of those nazi bombs over 68 years later!)

Quote:
There were some fifty or sixty fighters of the French air force standing parked around the aerodrome, and we saw a number if them blow up in the raid. Just as we were landing I saw three of the French fighters take off, but as far as I can ascertain these were the only fighters that attempted to go into action from Villacoublay that day.


- Yes, if this story is not 100 % invented for some reason, it is even surprising that as many as 3 airworthy fighters were to be found there, for French HQ had concentrated elsewhere all fighter units they could get their hands on. But perhaps 3 test-pilots just wanted to fly one aircraft each to safety in order to avoid its destruction. The other guys in the mess most probably were mechanics or possibly pilots of any kind (including bombers) who had not got any airworthy AC to fly at the moment, all other AC not being able to fly. In any air force of the world it is very difficult to know what kind of a pilot you are seing : they all wear the same pilot's badge. (I was an officer with the A.A. myself and I am used to this) Only the unit's badge can give you a clue but you have to be an expert to make the difference between hundreds of different, mostly strange or even weird badges. A pilot wearing his pilot's badge (RAF : his "wings") can be a bomber pilot or a young lad flying only light liaison AC (commandeered tourism AC), ambulance AC etc.


Quote:
He continues describing visits to both Darlan and Vuillemin, finding these encouraging and reassuring, having completed arrangements for cooperation with the French both at sea and in the air.
- This is ludicrous. Such arrangements had been completed as early as 1938 and possibly 1939, which didn't make some refinements or changes impossible but the main work had been performed long ago.


Quote:
What types of aircraft could Douglas have seen at Villacoublay? He must have recognized fighters for what they were, but might he have overlooked if they were operational or not?
- You hardly can tell by just looking at them. An aircraft must have sustained really heavy damage if you want it to be obvious to the onlooker that it can't fly at the moment.

Quote:
Those men in the Mess, were they fighter pilots?
- Certainly not. The fighter pilots were in their fighter units, based on all possible airfields but not at Villa. Civilian test-pilots of the companies Breguet, LeO and MS at best, most probaly unable to perform air-to-air shooting, in particular without any ammunition. In France no civilian person, no matter his competence, is authorised to use any military weapons in anger at war, not even a simple pistol or rifle.

Quote:
Could culture and circumstance be part of the mix up, mistaking sang froid and nonchalance for lack of keenness?
- French personnel were used to be attacked, British generals were not. What's more, even the most eager test-pilot or bomber-pilot is unable to fly a fighter in combat if this fighter is a Br 693 bomber which is not airworthy and has got no ammo.

Quote:
...giving it the weight of rank and thus credibility.
- Yes! Frankly I can't imagine how an RAF general or AVM or whatever should have known everything on the various insignia and badges of the FRENCH Air Force : this was not his business, he had to deal with quite different matters at top-level. His rank does not make his story more credible. As I already mentioned a top-ranking German general published a book in which he stated that the Japanese had conquered Midway (Adolf Galland). You could say : "Come on! Galland was a general! He could not possibly be wrong!" Bullshit.

Quote:
IMHO it is not worth the energy to fight this one piece of writing (two if we count Townsend) as it is to discuss French operations and their effects in general. By constructive debate we can create a better picture and even help dispel the notions of the defeatist and ineffective air force. To villanize an author is not the way to be taken seriously. Dispel the myth by reason, and reasonable debate.
- In theory you're perfectly right. Unfortunately Sholto Douglas is a very famous man, Peter Townsend, princess' lovelace, even more so, in particular in... France! His book is widely spread and often quoted from. You can be sure that even in 500 years people are going to "prove" French airmen's cowardice "thanks to" Townsend's book. This will never end so it must be fought "with every ounce of energy". Books, in particular historical books - here we have got TWO, written by S.D. and by P.T. - have an important characteristic (feature) : they never disappear, once they are here they are here to stay so such insulting libelling must be fought immediately (if possible) and with the last ounce of energy.

A last "small detail" : according to excellent airpower historian Raymond Danel ("Icare" N° 54) the huge German attack on June 3 gave the following results : on operational airfields 6 (!) French AC were destroyed on the ground, 7 were damaged, 32 men killed. 5 non-operational Amiot 351s were destroyed at Le Bourget and 5 D.520s of the naval aviation at Orly totalling 16 AC destroyed on the ground (none at Villacoublay, as you can see : zero aircraft destroyed by boms at Villa on 3 June). Damage to railways, factories etc. was insignificant.

And now back to the tax office. Sorry. HELP!

Last edited by Grozibou; 4th August 2008 at 15:21.
  #39  
Old 4th August 2008, 13:51
Grozibou
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Re: Book on French AF 1939-40?

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Originally Posted by Brian View Post
Wise Owl aka Yves
- OLD not wise! You can stuff me soon.

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I give up! Surrender! White flag!
- This is probably the sole French victory on England (except in rugger/rugby of course). What a triumph!

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I will endeavour to be kind to the French
- No please don't be kind. Just simply tell the truth, not any invented horror stories about French fighter pilots taking shelter under concrete instead of fighting the Hun bombers.

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(if you have read any of my books you will note how I have always expanded favourably on those French airmen who did manage to reach British lines (see 'Hurricanes over Tobruk', for example).
- No! Please! We are discussing the 1939-1940 FRENCH (not Free-French) Air Force here! I respect the Free-French (and Poles, Czechs, Norwegians, Belgians etc.) very highly, they were morally very brave (far from their homeland and their families, from their children in some cases) and physically too but Tobruk (1942) is not the French Campaign (1940). How can a discussion make any sense if we mix up entirely different periods? Nobody in England ever criticized or libelled the Free-French. To British aircrew the Free-French and the others (Poles etc.) were comrades who flew and fought together with them and took the same risks, or more. Of course they liked each other.

OF COURSE all Britons really LOVE the Free-French (and the other nationalities) who managed to escape to England or Egypt - it wasn't that easy! - and fought side by side together with them from the BoB on. We need no explanation on these obvious feelings.

Last edited by Grozibou; 4th August 2008 at 15:23.
  #40  
Old 4th August 2008, 15:18
Grozibou
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Well Nick...

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Originally Posted by Nick Beale View Post
First point: the English upper classes of the 1930s and '40s also said "bleck, beck, treck" etc. for "black, back, track." This may readily be confirmed from old movies and newsreels and is widely regarded as absurd by the somewhat less deferential British of today.
- All right, this is true but even 70-80 years later (!) no German has noticed yet. They're pretty slow sometimes, die haben eine lange Leitung (they've got a long pipe (to forward the message). How come that all other nationalities don't make this error, not even the French, who admittedly are not really good at languages?

Still today the Germans are the only people in the world saying "viski" for "whisky" (the Russians possibly too?). For several centuries they called the US capital "Voshington" (certain of being remarkbly fluent in English). I spent 18 years in Germany and I was incensed at this stupidity. "Ve heff a bird vith bleck vings". Absolutely ridiculous even if their knowledge in vocabulary and grammatics can be pretty good. They don't say "we have" but "ve heff". They are perfectly able to pronounce English perfectly well if they so wish but no, they have decided that only their "English" is the good one! They are taught it this way at school already and no English-speaking radios or TVs can change anything (AFN had their transmitters in Germany for about 50 years and most German youngsters listened to it very eagerly because of the music, or "music"). THey don't even believe their English-teachers from... England, they insist on being right.

The Nasdaq index and the lap-top were not invented in the 1930-40's but in Germany they say "Naisdaiq" and "Laiptop". Frankly I think they're nuts - sorry for our German readers, who know better, I know. The so-widely used @ is "ett" in Germany! Sole country in ze vörld! Zay eat a "Big Meck" (and they even write it "Big Mäc" - jokingly) ett "MaicDonald's". OK, let me stop or I'll explode. Just listen to German radio or watch German TV and you'll see... er, hear. Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton is called "Haymiltn" in Germany (yes they always think that the end must disappear : not "HaymiltOn").

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I infer (...) that you "understand" them (I'm English myself) through the distorting lens of some cherished personal resentment.
- Wrong as usual. 1940 I wasn't borne yet, far from it. No member of my family took part in the French Campaign, none was killed or wounded. No, the deep reason of my reactions is that I quite simply can't stand any big, shocking errors nor some swines insulting dead heroes who died fighting for their country, which is fair enough, but for liberty and civilisation too. The average French fighter pilot, for example, was aged about 24. So when Hitler took power they were aged 17 and still civilians. They had plenty of time (the older ones too) to think of it and decide what they would do, so it is absolutely outrageous to hear and read, again and again, that they were not eager to fight, not keen, not brave etc. They had joined the Armée de l'Air knowing perfectly well that Germany was about to start a war again (ze vhole vörld knew it), in which THEY would personally take part and probably die, for they were aware of all the dire hazards of being an aviator, in particular a combat aircrew. Admittedly many joined the Air Force because they wanted/loved to fly but this doesn't exclude the other part.

I mentioned repeatedly that in my book "Invisibles vainqueurs", published 1991 by myself, I stressed that British AND (even) GERMAN aircrew were brave men, simply because some people expressed doubts on this in France and elsewhere. Likewise I explained (1985 in "Les premiers et les derniers", or so I think) that it was a stupid legend (spread also by JE Johnson, RAF) to say that the high scores of German fighter pilots were easy to explain because a German unit leader would get all the credit for all victories won by his subordinates. Ludicrous! It would mean that some German commanders would have got the credit for 3,000 victories each, and more.

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I know no one who doesn't believe British forces in France were beaten. But Britain continued as an active belligerent when the French Republic could not
- Good! France had the bad luck not to be on the right side of a sea protecting her from the German hordes.

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and I would suggest that this was to the long term benefit of both nations.
- Of ALL nations including Germany! But remember that the UK alone never would have been able to land back on the continent and chase the German army. Instead, the Red Army of our good Soviet friends would have invaded Europe entirely to the Atlantic coast, and eventually the UK probably too, as the last "horrible capitalist plutocratic country" (with a KING on top of the rest, can you imagine what good ol' Stalin thought of the British king!).

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I don't need to assume: I actually went to school in England (from 1957–1969) and no one taught me anything about 1940.
- Too bad! It would be bloody necessary. In France they are taught about WW II (I guess at the age of 16-18) but I fear they're taught a lot of bullshit, in particular about de Gaulle's imaginary influence on the 1940 fighting, and quite generally about Our Great Hero de Gaulle (tons of exaggeration). He did the right thing - no doubt - but his influence was much smaller than they claim in France still today.

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I have learned since that Britain in 1940 had an integrated air defence system that no other country in the world had then come close to matching and that this was a critical factor in frustrating German war aims.
- Indeed! It was emulated in the whole world in the meantime. You simply have to admire it.

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Your wish to see proper recognition for the efforts of the Armée de l' Air is undestandable.
- One more misunderstanding! This is not what I am looking for - it is French people's own job to reach this goal and I must say that in the last 17 years and even before ("Icare", starting 1970, and more) many authors and several publishers have made a tremendously good job which I very much admire and enjoy, mainly with remarkable aircraft monographs (I mentioned most of them at the beginning of this thread : Docavia, Lela-Presse, Icare, Les Ailes de Gloire, etc.) - "usual disclaimer" from my part. These works contain very interesting pages on actual fighting 1939-40, losses, victory claims etc.

No - what I wish from foreign (non-French) authors is just that they stop insulting and libelling French aircrew as non-keen, non-eager-to-fight cowards. Is it asking too much? As I already remarked these insults are ludicrous anyway, not credible in the least in view of the missions actually accomplished and of the losses in combat, and such insults eventually make only their authors dirty. They ARE dirty.

Besides, it happened quite a few times that French fighters protected British bombers effectively or took part in air battles against German fighters, together with British fighters. I never heard that they didn't look keen in these instances so why should they not be in other air battles?

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Your posts do appear to confirm that France had not managed by May 1940 to equip itself with a really substantial force of its best fighter
- This was a matter of but a few weeks! Bad luck! 6 more weeks and hundreds of excellent D.520s, soon the even better (!), much-improved D.523s and D.524s, would have shot the Luftwaffe to ribbons. I mean it. Remember : you can't always win and if your top generals are hopeless fools you have no chance to hold the ground and produce your excellent aircraft designs... (the UK was lucky enough to be able to do this but alas only the "Spitfire" was an excellent aircraft).

As I already remarked aircraft technical superiority is an alternating business : you are better for a while, then the enemy, then you again etc. This went on for the whole of WW II, ending with Me 262s and Ta 152s.

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nor the integrated command, radar and reporting networks that might have realised their full potential in air defence.
- Here I fear that they were just as hopeless as the US forces (remember Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, 1 1/2 years later! They were hardly better.). France was aware of radar, which equipped for ex. the Atlantic liner "Normandie" (for icebergs...), but those old moustached generals never realised its military potential even though I suspect that they were duly informed by their British counterparts but didn't take it seriously (!). Or was it TOO secret to be revezaled to the French?

I think that NO country is perfect in all categories at the same time : the French were making the best tanks and the best aircraft cannon in the world, which is not that bad, and from August 1940 on they would have mass-produced half a dozen superlative aircraft types : D.523-524-551, Bloch 175, CAO four-engined heavy bomber and many more. French naval ships including subs, albeit less numerous than the British, were superlative ships too, very fast, well-armed etc. The UK didn't produce any good aircraft weapon (except US Browning .30 machine-guns) but it did produce decent fighters (Hurricane) or excellent ones (Spitfire) in due time, not too late, and had the exceptional, unique merit of building up this remarkable (unique at the time) radar and radio-control system. Nevertheless the RAF still had a lot of "Gladiator" biplanes in May 1940... To sum up, one of the advantages of an alliance ist that every country has his own strong points and these can be shared.

Let us remember that French AC production was just approx. 4-6 weeks late : what are 4-6 weeks in a world war lasting for 6 years? But even 5,000 excellent French aircraft would not have prevented the clever German generals (Manstein, Guderian, Rommel and more...) from beating the senile French fools - I am not meaning the actual soldiers who fought on the ground. Did you know that the C-i-C of all Allied forces, general Gamelin, had been suffering from syphilis for years? This illness destroys your brain, too... Of course the French government was aware of this. But I guess Gamelin was a good-looking and welcome guest at political parties and the like, possibly for political reasons too. Well, I fear this is hardly different in Washington even today (No I have no insider informations!).
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