Polish Air Force in France 1939-1940, Part II - combat aircraft
First Polish fighter unit in France was 2/8 Dywizjon Myśliwski Krakowsko-Poznański
(Groupe de Chasse Polonaise 2/8
- note the unusual number with two Arab numerals), formed in january 1940 at Montpelier (and commonly named Grupa Montpelier - Montpelier Group
). It reached operational readiness on 26 March 1940 but never operated together as it was divided into 6 3-plane detachments spread to various French fighter units:
-Klucz 1 "Ła"
attached to GC III/2
, planes: MS.406 (26.03-31.05), Curtiss H-75 (31.05-20.06.40);
-Klucz 2 "Pe"
attached to GC II/2
, planes: MS.406 (26.03-06.06), MB.152 (06.06-19.06) D.520 (20.06.40);
-Klucz 3 "Su"
attached to GC III/6
, planes: MS.406 (26.03-14.06), D.520 (15.06-20.06.40);
-Klucz 4 "Bu"
attached to GC III/1
, planes: MS.406 (26.03-19.06.40);
-Klucz 5 "Br"
attached to GC I/2
, planes: MS.406 (26.03-19.06.40);
-Klucz 6 "Go"
attached to GC II/7
, planes: MS.406 (26.03-28.05.40), D.520 (28.05-24.06.40);
(two-letter symbols in names came from first letters of detachment' commanders names)
Next figther unit - and only to operate as full unit, was 1/145 Dywizjon Myśliwski Warszawski
(Groupe de Chasse Polonaise 1/145
), formed on 6 April 1940 and operational since around 10 May 1940. It used MS.406 (06.04-18.05), CR.714 Cyclone (18.05-19.06, as the only combat unit to use the type) and MB.151C1 (11.06-19.06.40, only very few vere delivered).
Two more units: 3 Polski Dywizjon Myśliwski
and 4 Polski Dywizjon Myśliwski
were undergoing last stages of training when France fell.
Seven 3 to 6-plane autonomous detachments were spread to French front-line fighter units:
-Klucz (1) "Ba"
attached to GC III/6
, planes: MS.406 (25.05-15.06), D.520 (15.06-20.06.40);
-Klucz (2) "Ce"
attached to GC II/6
, planes: MS.406 (16.05-06.06), MB.152 (06.06-19.06), D.520 (20.06.40);
-Klucz (3) "Wy"
attached to GC II/10
, planes: MS.406 (05-02.06), MB.152 (03.06-18.06.40);
-Klucz (4) "Ja"
attached to GC II/1
, planes: MS.406 (05-18.05.40), MB.152 (18.05-18.06.40);
-Klucz (5) "Ga"
attached to GC III/10
, planes: MS.406 and D.501 (05-31.05.40), MB.152 (01.06-18.06.40);
-Klucz (6) "Wi"
attached to GC III/9
, planes MS.406 and D.501 (05-31.05.40), MB.152 (01.06-18.06.40);
-Klucz (7) "Jan"
attached to GC II/7
, planes: D.520 (30.05-24.06.40).
Additionaly Polish personnel manned a number of territorial air defense units, so called Patrouilles de Protection
(in Polish commonly called "klucze kominowe" - "smokestack flights", since they were usually protecting major industrial plants):
-Klucz (1) "Ko"
at SNCAC factory Bourges, planes: Curtiss H-75 (11.05-18.06.40);
-Klucz (2) "Op"
at EAA-301 depot at Romoratin, planes: MS.406 (17.05-17.06.40);
-Klucz (3) "He"
at SNCASO factory Chatearoux, planes: MB.152 (05-18.06.40);
-Klucz (4) "Kr"
at D'Etampes, planes: Koolhoven FK.58 (1-15.05.40?);
at Villacoublay, planes: Koolhoven FK.58 (1-15.05.40?);
at Lyon, planes: Koolhoven FK.58 (1-15.05.40?);
at Aulnat, planes: Koolhoven FK.58 (1-15.05), MS.406 (16.05-18.06.40);
at Caen, planes: Koolhoven FK.58 and D.501 (16.05-18.06.40);
at Cognac, planes: Koolhoven FK.58 (16.05-18.06.40);
at La Rochelle, planes: Koolhoven FK.58 and D.501 (16.05-18.06.40);
at Angers, planes: MS.406 (15.05-18.06.40);
at SNCAM factory Toulouse, planes: D.520 (05-06.40);
at Rennes, planes: MS.406 (15.05-18.06.40);
at Chateaudun, planes: MB.152, Koolhoven FK.58 and MS.406;
at Tours, planes: MB.151 (15.05-18.06.40);
at Bourges, planes: MB.151 (15.05-18.06.40);
-2 Eskadra "Salon" (2e Escadrille de Salon)
, divided into detachments at Salon, Clermont-Ferrand at Istres; planes: Koolhoven FK.58 (15.05-18.06.40).
Morane-Saulnier MS.406C1 was most first and most numerous of front-line fighters used by PSP
in France. Some 128 were used by Polish fighter units, becoming earliest operational equipment of GC 2/8, GC 1/145
and autonomous front-line detachments, as well as occasional equipment of some protection flights, and few used in training units. Most of the aerial victories of Polish pilots during the French campaign were acquired on these planes.
Poland, Morane-Saulnier MS.406
Many thanks to DarthPanda and Caddaric79 for their earlier work on MS.405 and MS.406
Failed Caudron-Renault CR.714 Cyclone light fighters were supposed to be delivered to Finland, but after the end of Winter War that idea was mostly scrapped and only several planes were actually delivered there, with most being eventually reverted to Polish GC 1/145
. Soon it become obvious that these fragile and underpowered planes were useless as front-line fighters, but despite official ban on their use since 25 May, lack of any replacement aircraft forced units' pilots to continue flying them for the rest of the campaign. Polish Cyclones achieved 12 air victories confirmed and 2 probable to a loss of 7 pilots. Also several Caudrons were flown at Lyon-Bron.
Poland, Caudron CR.714 Cyclone
Dutch-produced Koolhoven FK.58 light fighters were purchased by Armee de l'Air
for it's colonial units (mainly in Indochina), but due to outbreak of war their delivery to Far East was postponed (and ultimately never happened), with majority of them being sent to Polish protection flights who were their only combat user. They had only marginally better performance than Cyclone but were much more reliable and were remembered quite fondly by their crews.
Poland, Koolhoven FK.58
American-built Curtiss H-75 fighters were used only in small numbers by PSP
in two fighter flights (one front-line and one protection). At least 4 air victories were achieved on them.
Many thanks to Nighthunter for his drawing of Curtiss 75.
Poland, Curtiss H-75 Hawk
Modern but troubled Bloch MB.151 and MB.152 fighters equipped several protection flights and were planned to become replacement of Cyclones in GC 1/145
(but only several - possibly just 2 - were delivered to that unit). They achieved the distinction to be the last planes to achieve air victory by Polish pilot in the French campaign (He-111 on 18.06.40) and to be the only combat planes used for evacuation of Polish airmen directly to Great Britain (by Klucz "He"
Many thanks to Garlicdesign for his drawing of MB.152.
Poland, Bloch MB.152
Dewoitine D.520 fighters become equipment of several of Polish smaller fighter units in the last weeks of French campaign. Unfortunately only 15 Polish pilots flew these great planes.
Poland, Dewoitine D.520
Contrary to fighter units, bomber units of PSP
had no opportunity to participate in combat operations (though some bomber crews made combat flights in French units). Polish crews were undergoing training at Lyon-Bron and in various French training units, but formation of front-line bomber unit got delayed and delayed. That has somewhat changed on 21 May 1940 when commander of the Zone d'Opérations Aériennes des Alpes
(Alpine Zone of Air Operations
) - to which Lyon belonged - demanded urgent formation of provisional combat units based on training establishments. As a result a Polska Bombowa Jednostka Marszowa
(Groupe de Bombardement de Marche Polonais, GBMP
) was formed, with Bloch MB.131 planes as their equipment. Problems with supplies of equipment needed for combat operations delayed the training process until by early June deliveries of Martin 167 aircraft opened the possibility of equipping with them a "real" bomber group. Therefore on 6 June 1940 GBMP was dissolved and incorporated into formed already several days earlier 1 Polski Dywizjon Bombowy
(1er Groupe de Bombardement Polonaise, GBP 1
). Combat training of that unit lasted until the final days of the campaign, though.
Despite the modern appearance, the Bloch MB.131 medium bombers were quite outdated by 1940, especially since they suffered from weak engines. Seveal such planes were used as advanced bomber trainers at Lyon-Bron and (together with planes from several French units) were pressed into service in GBMP
Poland, Bloch MB.131
Modern US-built Martin 167 were to become equipment of GBP 1
. Polish crews were undergoing operational training on these planes in June 1940, but the aircraft actually belonged to various French units and were only "loaned" to Poles.
Poland, Martin 167
Army Co-operation aircraft
Polish army co-operation units were to be equipped with Potez 63.11 aircraft. Several of them were used at Lyon-Bron for specialized crew training. In april 1940 1 Polski Dywizjon Współpracy
was formed at Lyon-Bron, followed by 2 Dywizjon
in late may, but neither of these units received any aircraft on their own, although significant group of Polish crews did made operational flights on these planes while attached temporarily to French units (GR I/35, GR I/14, GR II/22, GR I/36
Poland, Potez 63.11
Starting next week: Polish Air Force in Great Britain (1939-1946)!