by: Tim Hatton [ ]
As a child I remember my Dad used to subscribe to a magasine in the late sixties and early seventies called The History of WWII. I think it was published by Putnams. Occasionally in it there were some wonderful images and colour profiles of French aircraft before and after the armistice with the Germans in 1940. I particularly remember the more archaic aircraft such as the Farman 222 and wondered how they managed against the far superior aircraft of the Luftwaffe. Now author Dominique Breffort and illustrator André Jouineau bring you a book with all the fighters, bombers, reconnaissance and observation types of the French Air Force aircraft from the period 1939 – 1942 in one volume.
All the text is translated into English from the original French edition. Chapters within the soft back cover includes:
-From the birth of the Armée de l'air to the dissolution of the Vichy air force.
-Those that never were......
-Abbreviations and Glossary.
“In November 1918, France had the world's strongest air force; twenty one years later on the eve of WWII, it was in a much less enviable situation and paid dearly for the procrastinations, delays and other strategic mistake which charicterised the inter war period”.
The opening paragraph sums up beautifully the problems that the Armée de l'air had when they faced the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe at the start of WWII. The chapter is split into sections:
-A Succession of Plans.
-The Phoney War.
-The Battle of France [May-June 1940].
-On the Side of the Axis.
-The Development of Camouflage and Markings [1939-1942].
A Succession of Plans describes in detail the catalogue of mis guided plans and confusion that would eventually see the Armée de l'air capitulate to the superior aircraft of the Luftwaffe. The Phoney War covers the preparations for the possible invasion of France. It describes the reconnaissance flights over the Saar and skirmishes along the Sigfried line. Also discussed is the numbers of more modern fighter and bomber aircraft that were hurriedly manufactured to beef up the defenses and to take the fight to the Germans. The Battle of France started on the 10th May 1940 and saw the Germans launch their Yellow Plan, which sought to cripple not just the Armée de l'air, but also the Air Forces of Holland, Belgium as well as the Advanced Air Striking Force [AASF] of the RAF. The chapter describes the Armée de l'air desperate and at times suicidal fight to support their ground forces and also repel the German bombers from hitting military as well as civilian targets. Capitulation became inevitable when the Italians opened up a second front on the 10th June. On the Side of the Axis describes events after the Armistice was signed on 22nd June 1940, the Armée de l'air had claimed 733 aircraft at a loss of 852 machines, proving that the
Armée de l'air was a threat. This resulted in the Armée de l'air being all but disbanded and all aircraft facing destruction. Ironically when the RAF attacked the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir, the Germans allowed a heavily supervised French Air Force to operate to protect Vichy France and it's territories.
The Development of Camouflage and Markings will particularly interest the modeler and takes you through the various colour and marking changes seen on machines of the Armée de l'air and the Aéronatique Navale during 1939 to 1942. This brief look along with the colour profiles should inspire any aero modeler becoming tired of purely camouflaged aircraft and try their hand at some of these rather colourful aircraft.
There are seven pages of notes about Groupement of the Armée de l'air. The chapter is split into geographical zones. Information includes location of bases, aircraft used and the badges of the Groupement. Also included is a very helpful map of the border between France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy and the location of fighter, reconnaissance and observation groups of the Armée de l'air.
Although my title for this chapter, it describes in some depth the aircraft serving with the Armée de l'air and the Vichy Air Force. The chapter looks at the specifications of each aircraft from prototypes to production models and their variations. The combat experience of the aircraft and their crews are also discussed. Some of the aircraft look down right archaic in design, while some of the others could have made promising combat aircraft with further developmental time. Aircraft include:
Amiot 143: 4 pages, 12 profiles and 4 black and white photos.
Amiot 351 & 354 3 pages, 8 profiles, 2 black and white photos.
ANF – Les Mureaux 113, 115 & 117: 3 pages, 7 profiles, 2 black and white photos.
Arsenal VG 33 & 39: 3 pages, 4 profiles, 4 black and white photos.
Blériot-Spad 510: 2 pages, 4 profiles, 1 black and white photo.
Bloch MB 131: 3 pages, 4 profiles, 3 black and white photos.
Bloch MB 151 to 155: 12 pages, 42 profiles [151 x 3, 152 x 35 and 155 x 4], 12 black and white photos.
Bloch MB 174 & 175: 4 pages, 9 profiles [174 x 6 and 175 x 3], 6 black and white photos.
Bloch MB 200: 2 pages, 7 profiles, 1 black and white photos.
Bloch MB 210: 4 pages, 11 profiles, 3 black and white photos.
Breguet 270: two pages, 4 profiles, 2 black and white photos.
Breguet 691 to 695: 6 pages, 12 profiles [691 x 2, 693 x 8 and 695 x 2], 15 black and white photos.
Caudron Cr.714: 3 pages, 5 profiles, 4 black and white photos.
Curtis H-75 A-1 to A-4: 13 pages, 42 profiles [A-1 x 22, A-2 x 10 and A-3 x 11], 16 black and white photos.
Dewoitine 500, 501 & 510: 4 pages, 7 profiles [501 x 1 and 510 x 6], 7 black and white photos.
Dewoitine 520: 12 pages, 48 profiles, 13 black and white photos and 1 colour photo.
Douglas DB-7: 4 pages, 12 profiles, 7 black and white photos.
Farman 221, 222 & NC 223: 4 pages, 8 profiles [all 222's] , 6 black and white photos.
Glen Martin 167F: 4 pages, 12 profiles, 4 black and white photos.
Koolhoven FK 58: 1 page 2 profiles, 1 black and white photos. Note this profiles for the Koolhoven FK 58 are with the profiles of the Potez 390.
Liore & Olivier H257 bis: 1 page, 1 black and white photos.
Liore & Olivier LeO C.30: 1 page, 1 black and white photos.
Liore & Olivier LeO 451: 8 pages, 24 profiles, 8 black and white photos.
Moraine saunier MS 406: 12 pages, 48 profiles, 13 black and white photos.
Potez 25: 2 pages, 5 profiles, 1 black and white photos.
Potez 390: 2 pages, 4 profiles, 1 black and white photos.
Potez 540/542: 2 pages, 6 profiles, 1 black and white photos.
Potez 630, 631, 633 & 637: 9 pages, 24 profiles [630 x 3, 631 x 17, 633 x 1 and 637 x 3], 15 black and white photos.
Potez 63.11: 6 pages, 14 profiles, 12 black and white photos.
I have to say that the quality of the photos are generally excellent. The profiles are all from the starboard side of the aircraft.
Those that never were.........:
A very brief look at the aircraft that were built as prototypes, but never went into production.
Bloch 135: 2 black and white photos.
Bloch MB 162: 2 black and white photos.
Bloch MB 700: 2 black and white photos.
Breguet 482: 3 view drawing, 1 black and white photo.
CAO 200: 2 black and white photos.
CAO 700: 3 view drawing, 3 black and white photos.
Caproni Ca 313: 4 view drawing, 1 black and white photo.
Arsenal Delanne 10: 3 view drawing, 1 black and white photo.
Dewoitine D 720: 2 black and white photos.
Dewoitine D 770: 2 black and white photos.
SNCAC NC150: 2 black and white photos.
Hanriot NC 530: 1 black and white photo.
Hanriot NC 600: 3 view drawing, 1 black and white photo.
Potez 230: 3 view drawing, 1 black and white photo.
Potez 220: 1 black and white photo.
SNCASE SE 100: 3 view drawing, 3 black and white photos.
Author: Dominique Breffort
Profiles: André Jouineau
Translator: Alan McKay
No of pages: 160
This is an excellent publication from Histoire & Collections and I have to say a must for any WWII modeler or historian. There is enough written content to make this a very interesting read, without it becoming to bogged down in detail. The translation by Alan McKay is first class and the text flows nicely. Some of the turns of phrases are delightful, discussing the very light weight fighter, the Caudron Cr.714, the author states “it's career was the reflection of its silhouette, rather slender! The quality of the photographs and the coloured profiles drawn by André Jouineau are superb. If there is a slight criticism it would be that some multi view drawings of each aircraft covered would have made this the perfect reference for French Aircraft of the era covered. Nice one Histoire & Collections