French Fighting ability

Discussion in 'General' started by Owen, May 3, 2006.

  1. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    We've had discussions on the forum before about total number of BEF dead and it doesn't appear that we came to a certain conclusion. Has Geoff's Search Engine now been refined to a degree that it could help on this ?

    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/1940/10918-bef-losses-human-before-dunkirk-evacuation-5.html

    What is certain is that the figure of 3457 KIA quoted above is far too low as this is less than the number shown on the Dunkerque Memorial to those who have no known grave, excluding the Air Component who, as RAF, would be shown on the Runnymede Memorial. Many nations do not differentiate between the services as the British do.

    Total BEF dead must exceed 10,000 and the figure Owen quoted of 11014 may well be accurate although one gains the impression, reading accounts of how many battalions were anihilated that it could have been more
     
  2. ayac

    ayac Junior Member

    Hello,
    This nice talk let me think about an other story of brave men. It's not the good place, as it's about WWI, but still deals with conscription and call to arms, but I would like to remind that in 1914 the Russian army began to fight sooner than expected, thus retaining a lot of german divisions far from the western front, even at heavy cost. Spaciba.

    Back to our subject :
    "Total BEF dead must exceed 10,000 and the figure Owen quoted of 11014 may well be accurate"
    and would be more logical when Belgium had about 7500 KIA.
    Is there any government site where one can find the name of the soldiers and regiments ?

    Now, French Air Force. It needs just three words :
    1-lack of autonomy in the Army (not authorized to fly according their own will), so often late.
    2-some good airplanes (Dewoitine 520), too many not so good, too old, to slow, too often outnumbered.
    3-heavy casualties for the men (35%), the spirit of the Air Force.
    As a result, some authors give these data, about 500 German airplanes destroyed (1/3 of the total) at the cost of about 800 French airplanes. I don't know if it's correct.

    Our next subject : how to translate "le grand Charles"... No, not "Big Charlie", surely not.

    Did Owen enjoy his travel in Normandie ?
     
  3. takata

    takata Junior Member

    Hello everybody,

    We've had discussions on the forum before about total number of BEF dead and it doesn't appear that we came to a certain conclusion. Has Geoff's Search Engine now been refined to a degree that it could help on this ?

    http://www.ww2talk.com/forum/1940/10918-bef-losses-human-before-dunkirk-evacuation-5.html

    What is certain is that the figure of 3457 KIA quoted above is far too low as this is less than the number shown on the Dunkerque Memorial to those who have no known grave, excluding the Air Component who, as RAF, would be shown on the Runnymede Memorial. Many nations do not differentiate between the services as the British do.

    Total BEF dead must exceed 10,000 and the figure Owen quoted of 11014 may well be accurate although one gains the impression, reading accounts of how many battalions were anihilated that it could have been more

    As I was browsing this 1940 forum's section, I went accross several posts, including this one, which are often providing global figures for human losses - be it French, British, allied or German - during this 1940 campaign for pointing their comparative level.

    Many times, an end figure of "about 80,000-100,000" French KIAs is quoted as to illustrate, either the effectiveness/galantry or rather ineffectiveness/cowardry -insert your favorite adjective here- of the French Army.
    :smile:

    My opinion is that it is certainly debatable to argue to what extent those figures of "killed in action" are really telling us about this period. Whatever is our analyze anyway, once such "hard facts" numbers are thrown into the discussion, they should be at least a bit scrutinized before making any usefull comparison, and this is one subject I am investigating for a long time.

    So, here come few "facts" behind those numbers which are purely related with methodological problems: all campaign losses agregated figures quoted here and there are most of the time unreliable because they have not been reported (and understood) the same way: it will depict mostly what one will take into account or not in his figure. Then everything cannot be added, then, later compared fruitfully.

    Lets use this British example for the BEF in 1940 from another thread:
    Casualties suffered by the B. E. F. May-June 1940 :

    1. Officers and other Ranks:
    - Killed: 4,206
    - Wounded: 21,021
    - Missing: 48,159
    Total 1: 73,386 men.
    (The national archives, learning curve Western Europe 1939 -1945: Invasion)

    2. British casualties.
    - Killed and Died of Wounds: 11,014
    - Wounded: 14,074
    - Missing/POW: 41,338
    Total 2: 66,426 men.
    (F.A.E. Crew, The Army Medical Services: Volume 1 London 1953).

    ... and so on. I easily could find 20+ other "sources" quoting different figures for the BEF, the French Army or the Wehrmacht during this campaign, and be sure that all the used sources are taken from "official" factual reports made at one point or another.

    Nonetheless, a closer look at both serie above may show something:
    - killed: 11,014 - 4,206 -> dif. 6,808
    - wounded: 21,021 - 14,074 -> dif. 6,947
    - Missing/POW: 48,159 - 41,338 -> dif. 6,821

    a) There is a difference of about 7,000 for each category, including the total. This may be due to a double count of 7,000 "losses" in one table or 7,000 forgotten in the other.

    b) Table 2 from the Medical Service is including "Died of Wounds" added with "killed". This should imply that those "Died of Wounds" (DOW) should be substracted from the "Wounded" as they were previously reported as "wounded" before dying, then no problem with difference here. (this is the reason why the number of DOW -which is mostly of interest for Medical service relative effectiveness- should always be kept aside from those initialy recorded as "Wounded"). Taking 7,000 transfered from "Wounded" to "Killed" doesn't explain the difference of 7,000 men missing/POW lacking also in table 2.

    c) Now, if 6,947 "Wounded" died later of their wounds, this would make an appalling rate of 33% DOW which would be extraordinary high. WWI average DOW rate in French Army when, most of the time, the Medical Service could not cope with high casualties was about 12%. This seems impossible to have such a rate for the BEF in 1940. It was under 5% in the US Army during the whole period of 1941-1945.

    d) The ratio Wounded/Killed seems not right on both table. All staff studies for the period are showing a pretty constant field ratio of 3 wounded evacuated for 1 killed in combat. Once the number of DOW is added to those Killed -and substracted from Wounded- it is closer to 1 to 2, depending of the particular DOW rate related to respective Medical Service field effectiveness.
    - table 1 ratio is too high: 5 wounded per killed, instead of ~3.
    - table 2 ratio is too low: 1.3 wounded per killed, instead of ~2.5 as it included DOW.

    What would affect this ratio is most of the time the number of missing (but dead) personnel. All Wounded are, of course, evacuated in priority over the deads. When the battle is very dynamic, the deads are often left behind and collected much later. This is obvious when one look, in particular, into German battlefield statistics. But this ratio could have been modified also by a high level of Naval and Air force losses if they have been mixed with low Army losses. Naval losses are mostly killed or missing and very few wounded. Air losses are about 2 killed/missing per one wounded. But this bring up the question of the number of known POW at the time the report was issued.

    Another dataset:
    3. England.
    - Tote: 3,458 (killed)
    - Verwundete: 15,800 (wounded)
    - Gefangene: 21,600 (prisonners)
    Total 3: 40,858 men.
    (Fritz Hahn, Waffen and Geheimwaffen des deutschen Heeres 1933-1945)

    This one is interesting for the number of 21,600 POWs vs 41,000-48,000 "missing" of the previous series.

    But I've got a better one from the French Archives:
    4. Britanniques:
    - Killed: 3,457
    - Wounded: 13,602
    - Missing: 3,267
    ("État récapitulatif établi rétroactivement le 10 juillet 1942". Ref: SHDT 7N23)

    It should be underligned that Hahn total for killed is the same... Where it is annoted in French document (from 1942) that those figures are the British losses sent to the French GHQ up to Dunkerque (Belgium and Northern-France), then excluding the evacuation and later disasters.

    While French Army total for the May-June campaign is also mentioned in the same document:
    - Killed: 52,329
    - Wounded: 352,314 (a typo or this is including sick in hospitals)
    - POW: 1,194,806

    Hahn gives also 1,817,418 Franzozen POW but all the official Wehrmacht listings published between 1940-1941 are giving a total under 1,000,000 POW... He adds 90,000 "Tote", 200,000 "Wervundete" which certainly is from the official French Army estimate of 90,000-129,000 dead at that time.

    Nowaday, the number of "Wounded" actually evacuated by the French Medical Service is... 122,695 in May-June.

    The whole dataset, from France War Victims archives, of the French military deaths, all causes, worldwilde, excepting the Navy but including the Air force, which I'm actually studying is totalling... 61,062 files for the full period from 1 May to 30 June 1940.

    Even adding a further 3,000 additional files or so without dates, it would be hard to find amongst them more than 45,000-50,000 combat related deaths (KIA) plus an additional 10-12,000 Died of Wounds (DOW). Effective "Natural attrition" caused by sickness and accidents was taking about 1,500 soldier monthly considering the size of the Armed Forces. This will make quite a lot of people which died from September 1939 to the end of 1940 and which were included into the number of "Killed soldiers" during the 1939-1940 period as well as civilian losses. Lately, the Army has revised the number at 55,000 "morts pour la France" for May-June.

    Finally, people should be very carefull when using such data from War graves listings and archives as all those people listed doesn't translate automatically and directly into "KIA", "WIA", or "MIA" classes (due to enemy action). One need always to check the methodology used and what is behind the numbers quoted before using it.
     
  4. ayac

    ayac Junior Member

    Many times, an end figure of "about 80,000-100,000" French KIAs is quoted as to illustrate, either the effectiveness/galantry or rather ineffectiveness/cowardry -insert your favorite adjective here- of the French Army.
    :smile:

    Hi,
    It's amazing to see how some people deal with casualties numbers, forgetting that behind the numbers, they are talking about men.
    Obviously the idea of French soldiers fighting for their country is hard to accept for some guys.
    Just a little perfidious remark with the usual smiley, showing either the honesty/thoroughness or rather hollowness/cowardry -insert your favorite word here- of the vice-Master of Preterition.
    And life and death of thousand of men would be discredited.
    We were talking about a dramatic subject in a friendly spirit.
     
  5. takata

    takata Junior Member

    Hi,
    It's amazing to see how some people deal with casualties numbers, forgetting that behind the numbers, they are talking about men.
    Obviously the idea of French soldiers fighting for their country is hard to accept for some guys.
    Just a little perfidious remark with the usual smiley, showing either the honesty/thoroughness or rather hollowness/cowardry -insert your favorite word here- of the vice-Master of Preterition.
    And life and death of thousand of men would be discredited.
    We were talking about a dramatic subject in a friendly spirit.

    I just feel that you should keep it a little bit less "emotional". In fact, History doesn't really need emotionaly based argumentation in order to be told the right way, rather the contrary.

    "It's amazing how some people..."
    Right, then you should feel amazed by yourself as you did exactly what could end up with your point: "And life and death of thousand of men would be discredited."

    See your own post:
    For the French the campaign is 45 days, not 17 (nice british lapsus...), as things didn't stop at Dunkerque for us.(...)
    About casualties :
    « Allied human losses :
    · Belgian losses in 19 days : 7500 KIA and 15850 WIA
    · Dutch losses in 6 days : 2890 KIA and 6889 WIA
    · British losses in 26 days : 3457 KIA , 13602 WIA and 3267 MIA
    · French losses in 45 days : about 80,000 KIA and 120,000 WIA

    156,492 German losses (KIA and WIA) in 45 days, that's 3477 losses/day but in fact the French resistance is harder in June than in May...

    I just pointed out that such use of unverified data will only lead one to commit himself into useless analysis whatever point of view (favorable/unfavorable) he was supposed to show.
    But when considering now your reaction, I will add that certainly it will be highly descrediting for the French soldiers actually killed during the May-June 1940 combats to mix them with those who commited suicide in Indochina in 1939, died from heart attack, delirium tremens, polio, typhus, or were crushed by their tractors when making farmwork at home.

    What I can tell you is that out of 202,991 official files of French Army and Air Force dead soldiers during WWII,
    - 5,595 of them died (all causes) or were missing from 4 September to 31 December 1939.
    - 76,155 of them died (all causes) or were missing from 1 January to 31 December 1940, including 61,062 recorded in May-June (61 days). So far the dataset seems fairly complete, even if filled with errors, including double files for the same soldier.

    As it may be added for the total duration of the war another 7,051 cases without any date recorded, by statistical repartition weighted by period, I ended up with 63,908 total maximum for May-June 1940.
    Less -at least- 3,000 for non-combat worldwilde attrition (evaluated by taking dataset samples).
    => 61,000 max combat losses (KIA+DOW), about which no more than 77% direct losses (KIA) = 47,000.
    This rate is due to an appalling rate of DOW close to 10% in those battlefield's conditions where the French Medical Services was unable to work in moblile warfare.

    And this end number is actually half the usual official figure published before 2010.

    S~
    Olivier
     
  6. ayac

    ayac Junior Member

    Mr Olivier,
    You know well what is the real subject of my messages. You did try the usual trick about the French army, and you have got what you deserve.


    Now you play the second usual card, the emotional thing, trying to give a smart picture of yourself, as a cold-hearted and logical historian.


    The lenght of your post, the sophistication of your exemples, the pathetic attempt to establish what or who is « amazing », don't give any evidence of sang-froid.


    And this time, no smiley.


    As said before, we were talking in a friendly spirit. If you were here just to share this, you would not have adopted an offensive tone.


    PS
    Comme il est possible que vous soyez francophone, vous aurez l'obligeance de ne pas prolonger cet absurde échange en anglais. Je ne pense pas devoir vous consacrer davantage de temps.


    Taka Takata, le petit Japonais.
     
  7. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Ayac, this is an English language forum, whether you consider the exchange with Takata absurd or not.

    I also don't think that this forum is the place to come picking a fight about French conduct or losses in 1940 either. Those of us who like to consider ourselves serious students of the 1940 campaign are very well aware of many of the strengths and weaknesses of the armies involved.

    Nobody's interests are served by having incomplete or inaccurate statistical information and in all honesty, I don't think that Takata has a hidden agenda. Nevertheless, it is clear that many of the figures relating to losses by the allies have been based on period reports from a time when accurate counting was not possible.

    Although total deaths give us an idea of how 'engaged' a force was, it sheds no light on how well they fought at all. I do feel however, that we rather owe it to the memory of those who died to try and arrive at some sort of accurate figure. It does them no service to round off those personal tragedies to the nearest ten or twenty thousand.

    Personally, as an Englishman living in Belgium, I read the names on French village war memorials to myself when I'm there, just as I do with those in England or Belgium or in war cemeteries.

    I would like to understand the scale of these casualties. Please don't think that all those who try to do this have some wish to denigrate the french army of 1940.

    Rich
     
    Owen likes this.
  8. ayac

    ayac Junior Member

    Hi,
    I understand your point of view, and I don't want to disturb anything.
    But I don't agree with you.
    All I said is that the tone used by Mr Olivier is not correct. And it's an exception in this thread.
    Read again the beginning of his first message : you won't accept this kind of remarks about your own citizens, with or without smiley.

    And then, read again the other messages. They are written with honesty. Sometime we can say, I agree, or, do you think so, but the talk is nice. I appreciate to read the answers, for exemple, about the BEF, from a British or US point of view.

    Now who is coming on this forum "picking a fight about French conduct or losses in 1940 either" in his first post ? Is this the conduct of a gentleman ?

    Your comment "it sheds no light on how well they fought at all" is your opinion. An other serious student did answer in an other way about that point already.

    "I read the names on French village war memorials to myself when I'm there, just as I do with those in England or Belgium or in war cemeteries."

    That's the difference between you and Mr Olivier, Rich : as you show respect for these men, as many other people do in this english speaking forum, I don't think that you (or anybody else) have "some wish to denigrate the french army of 1940."

    I don't think you will be seriously hurt by my private attempt in french adressed to Mr Olivier to close our controversy. And I don't need any leçons de morale.

    I am coming on this forum to share questions, answers and points of view. Sometime I see that I can give something new and different to english reading people, because I have access to other books, other sites.
    For exemple I have seen a lot of questions about De Gaulle and Churchill. It would be interesting to see what French historians like Kersaudy have to say about that.
    It's not amazing to see that people don't know a lot about french battles like Stonne or Gembloux. But there are questions about it. That's why I post on this forum. And I think it helps to understand each other.
    All the previous messages show that it works.

    To go back to our subject, people interested by the men of 1940 can find a very valuable magazine, "GBM. Guerre, blindé et matériels"
    Histoire & Collections - Blindés & Matériel - La motorisation militaire à la française
    Even if you don't read french, you will enjoy the pictures and colour profiles.

    Bye.
     
  9. takata

    takata Junior Member

    Hi,

    Ayac, this is an English language forum, whether you consider the exchange with Takata absurd or not.

    I also don't think that this forum is the place to come picking a fight about French conduct or losses in 1940 either. Those of us who like to consider ourselves serious students of the 1940 campaign are very well aware of many of the strengths and weaknesses of the armies involved.

    Nobody's interests are served by having incomplete or inaccurate statistical information and in all honesty, I don't think that Takata has a hidden agenda. Nevertheless, it is clear that many of the figures relating to losses by the allies have been based on period reports from a time when accurate counting was not possible.

    Well, I don't think either that I came to post here with any kind of "hidden agenda" against I don't know what... whatever this dude is saying about it!
    As for ad-hominen attacks due to imaginatory "offense", it is so pathetic that I feel very confident that any reader could make its own opinion about this poster's comment.

    Although total deaths give us an idea of how 'engaged' a force was, it sheds no light on how well they fought at all. I do feel however, that we rather owe it to the memory of those who died to try and arrive at some sort of accurate figure. It does them no service to round off those personal tragedies to the nearest ten or twenty thousand.

    This is also my own opinion about the whole matter.
    The same inacurate losses, be there from Allies or German, were used by each side, very early, to make quite opposite points: taking the very high figure for their soldiers "killed", the French point was to show that the Army afterall fought "quite hard" in May-June, even telling that this 6 weeks 1940 campaign killed more soldiers (120,000) than the first 6 weeks of 1914 when the bloody frontier battles made about 700,000 French losses, killed, wounded, missing and prisonners from 15 August to 30 September 1914... On the other hand, the German used this very same published figure in order to enlight their efficiency when compared to Wehrmacht's figure of Heer's "26,000 KIA", then a ratio of about 4.6 French soldiers killed for each German soldier. When adding other allies casualities, it would be above 5.

    As far as I can trace it, those figures were advertised very early: by Hitler himself right after the battle and by French officials right after the war - even if the figure of 120,000 killed was already mentioned much earlier inside Vichy circles. But what is very surprising afterall is that they were not subject to a closer look during the six following decades and are still taken at face value by many authors today. Historiography will show that the main figure for the French losses was taken from Commandant Pierre Lyet which published a serie of articles about the Campagne de France in the Revue Historique des Armées, 1946.

    - Lyet, Paris, 1946 => 120,000 killed, 250,000 wounded;
    - Barroux, Paris, 1947 => 97,000 killed;
    - Dubreule & Courtasol, Paris, 1950 => 127,743 killed, 250,000 wounded;
    - Santini, Paris, 1954 => 129,466 killed;
    - Benoist-Méchin, Paris, 1956 => 110,000 killed;
    - Hillgruber, Düsseldorf, 1978 => 92,000 killed; 200,000 wounded
    - Horne, Paris, 1990 => 90,000 killed, 120,000 wounded;
    - Crémieux-Brilhac, Paris, 1990 => 100,000 killed;
    - Hahn, Bonn, 1992 => 92,000 killed, 200,000 wounded;
    - Dutailly in Corvisier, Paris, 1992 => 123,000 killed;
    - Jackson, Paris, 2000 => 100,000 killed;
    - Frieser, Paris, 2003 => 120,000 killed;
    - Lormier, Paris, 2005 => 100,000 killed;

    In fact, only Dr. Arzalier, a reserve officer from the Army Medical Service, published a paper for the colloque La Campagne de 1940 in 2001 showing that the French Army losses in combat in May-June were in fact certainly between 40,000-60,000 KIAs when all other figures included died of wounds, from any other cause, soldiers who died in captivity up to the end of the war, included also civilians killed during the battle and possibly also the military losses from the Vichy period and all military deaths from the begining of the war.

    Now, it looks like he was right as the dataset, without the Navy but for all deaths cause and worldwide, is only filed with 61,062 files.

    Here is the daily detail:

    1940 May 01 58
    1940 May 02 54
    1940 May 03 63
    1940 May 04 77
    1940 May 05 65
    1940 May 06 65
    1940 May 07 52
    1940 May 08 53
    1940 May 09 73
    1940 May 10 417 -> "Fall Gelb"
    1940 May 11 317
    1940 May 12 603
    1940 May 13 817
    1940 May 14 1,253
    1940 May 15 1,444
    1940 May 16 1,421
    1940 May 17 1,532
    1940 May 18 1,512
    1940 May 19 1,404
    1940 May 20 1,707
    1940 May 21 925
    1940 May 22 711
    1940 May 23 1,329
    1940 May 24 1,061
    1940 May 25 978
    1940 May 26 904
    1940 May 27 1,158
    1940 May 28 975
    1940 May 29 715
    1940 May 30 802
    1940 May 31 1,181
    1940 May xx 424 (no day recorded)
    1940 May Total 24,150

    1940 Jun 01 868
    1940 Jun 02 973
    1940 Jun 03 860
    1940 Jun 04 620
    1940 Jun 05 2,287 -> "Fall Rot"
    1940 Jun 06 1,850
    1940 Jun 07 1,496
    1940 Jun 08 1,623
    1940 Jun 09 2,683
    1940 Jun 10 2,271
    1940 Jun 11 1,400
    1940 Jun 12 1,626
    1940 Jun 13 1,521
    1940 Jun 14 2,304
    1940 Jun 15 1,970
    1940 Jun 16 1,979
    1940 Jun 17 2,167
    1940 Jun 18 1,769
    1940 Jun 19 1,519
    1940 Jun 20 1,353
    1940 Jun 21 924
    1940 Jun 22 611
    1940 Jun 23 300
    1940 Jun 24 287
    1940 Jun 25 206 -> Armistice day with Germany & Italy.
    1940 Jun 26 155
    1940 Jun 27 129
    1940 Jun 28 119
    1940 Jun 29 108
    1940 Jun 30 155
    1940 Jun xx 779 (no day recorded)
    1940 Jun Total 36,912

    Another 3,000 cases without date could be statistically added to it but they would be compensated by those 3,000 cases substracted from non-combat attrition. Other war theaters were also Norway in May and the Alps in June 20-25th but those fights caused comparatively very few casualities. Most of those who died of their wounds would die also during this same period.

    Beside, one can note that the bloodiest day was June 9th where the Army sustained around 8,500 casualities, wounded included, and that organized resistance did not really broke off before June 20th. Of course, total losses would also include several times the bloody casualties as POWs.

    On the other hand, the Wehrmacht sustained about comparable bloddy losses by adding Luftwaffe's to Heer's KIAs/MIAs as well as those who died of their wounds. British exact losses are still very difficult to evaluate (figures varying from 1 to 3) and Belgian/Dutch ones are looking suspect. They are also fairly too high comparatively with the number of fighting days and engagements. I'm suspecting also that most civilian losses were added to them.

    In fact, the level of losses sustained is more or less a function of the number of regiments engaged in frontal battles. This number and losses was much higher on both side in June than during May combats where manoeuvers dominated: one side exploited the breached front when the other one was redeploying to the Aisne and Somme while fighting a retreating battle in Belgium - only a small fraction of the French Army had fought a frontal battle in the vicinity of Sedan area in May, but with heavy losses amongst few divisions.


    Personally, as an Englishman living in Belgium, I read the names on French village war memorials to myself when I'm there, just as I do with those in England or Belgium or in war cemeteries.

    Sadly, there is very few information on French towns about May-June combats compared to 1914-1918 battles. Most of them were erected during the interwar. I tend to believe that there is much more 1944 "resistance action" plates on street and walls than about those combats.

    I would like to understand the scale of these casualties. Please don't think that all those who try to do this have some wish to denigrate the french army of 1940.

    Well, you really don't have to bother about people displaying such a "national persecution complex". I'm French and I perfectly understand your interest on such matter.

    S~
    Olivier
     
  10. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  11. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    One must recall that some of the French units had very poor logistics support and once their ammunition was gone they did the wise thing and withdrew, added to which the differing tactical models used in deploying armour and air assets plus the political dimension.
     
  12. wam

    wam Junior Member

    Could someone, please, remind me just when was the last time when the French won a war only by themselves ?
     
  13. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Algeria - only to be sold out by de Gaulle
     
  14. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

  15. 4/7 RDG

    4/7 RDG Member

    Back to 1940: A piece I read in "Finest Hour" sprang to mind when I scanned through this thread - it was from the testimony of 2nd Lieutenant Peter Vaux of the 4/RTR:

    On the fourth day Vaux finally came across a lone French anti-tank gun crew. The sergeant in command said he was waiting for the Germans, who were not far behind them. Vaux took his troop forward carefully and crossing a ridge suddenly saw an armoured column ahead. Spraying the leading motorcyclists with machinegun fire, he withdrew. Vaux radioed a report and retired. As he passed he told the French sergeant: "They're about two miles away and coming. Are you sure you won't move?" The answer impressed Vaux deeply: "No, no, I will stay and I will see these people off." The Frenchman had retreated as far as he was going to go.
     
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Was that around the area between Calais and Dunkirk? I think I've seen that mentioned in one of my Dunkirk books.
     
  17. 4/7 RDG

    4/7 RDG Member

    It must have been somewhere near Petit Vimy, since that is where Vaux's unit retired to.
     
  18. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    From ATB's BITW:

    On June 24 the Germans were at Saint-Etienne, at Saint-Valliers just to the north of Valence and were threatening Chambrey. That evening, at 9.00 pm, a telegram went out from Army General Headquarters putting an end to hostilities at 00.35 am next morning.

    When the moment arrived, General Olry could be proud of his Armee des Alps. The German Armeegruppe List had got no further than a line Aix-les-Bains, Voiron, Romans, and the Italians weer still stopped more or less on their start lines. The Armee des Alps, while it was battling to stop dead every Italian attack on its front, had also succeeded in containing the German advance on its rear and had done all this without suffering total casualties on both fronts of more than 70 killed, 200 wounded and some 400 taken prisoner or missing.
     
  19. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    I've just been reading about this battle this morning and thought it was worthy of being added to this thread. There's a great liitle account in ATB's Blitzkrieg in the West (Page 275) of a French Officer, Capitaine Pierre Billotte who describes engaging the German Armour and seeing them turn and run.

    Some links I've found via google about the battle:

    Stonne - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Battle of Sedan (1940) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Drew,

    The stereotype of the French soldiers and officers is often hard to shake. Recently, I read an account of Vimy Ridge in WW1 and was very surprised to learn that Gen. Currie attributed many of the successful tactics to lessons he had learned from his laison with French troops. He thought they were much more innovative and open to new methods than their British allies.
    Obviously much had changed by 1940 but my 'perception' about the French army , in either war, had not allowed for that.
     
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    During the evacuation at Dunkirk 40,000 French Troops were cut off at Lille held off the Germans for three days fighting in the industrial areas and in the suburbs until they ran out of ammunition. This defence had a direct effect on the pressure felt by the BEF whilst they were evacuating as the German resources being used at Lille for three days could not be deployed elsewhere against the BEF.


    Siege of Lille
     

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