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Old 27 May 2006, 03:58 AM   #1
mad dan
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Question Help on French transport plane


I'm currently researching the (eventually aborted) attempt by the French Army to drop paratroops behind German lines in the Ardennes during October 1918. The aim was to land an 8 man raiding team equipped with explosives to disrupt rail and power facilities. In the end, the Germans retreated faster than the planners could rework the operation, and it never took place.

My main question is: what type of aircraft would they have used? None of the French types that I am aware of seem suitable.

Hoping that someone can help with this (esoteric) question!


Old 31 May 2006, 04:09 PM   #2
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Hello Danny

As far as I know this operation took place.
On october 20th, 5 Voisin 10 from escadrille 200 "la mysterieuse" carried 10 soldiers (1 pilot and 2 soldiers for each plane). The planes landed in the middle of Ardennes forest, very much like Westland Lysander 20 years later.
René Chambe, historian and former WW1 pilot, wrote a chapter about this mission in the book "dans l'enfer du ciel" (published circa 1938).
Are you interested in the mission or the airplanes?
Do you read french?

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Old 1 June 2006, 01:58 AM   #3
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Danny, good morning. I don't know about this specific mission, but the following may be of use. In his book "Histoire du Transport Aerien Militaire Francais" (History of French Military Aerial Transport), General Raymond Barthelemy noted that (in my poor translation)

"As regards the transport of agents or combattants, there are only two solutions to get them to a designated point: either by landing them by air [aerotransport] or by dropping them by parachute. During the first world war, France did not have recourse to the parachute, unlike Great Britain and Italy. But numerous pilots such as Vedrine, Navarre, Guynemere, Emrich, Viard (called "Cyclops"), etc. distinguished themselves during special missions in the course of which an agent was placed behind the lines.....

In the course of the war, airplanes had become more and more specialised, so that by 1918 there were no fewer than 13 categories of machines in service, including a category L2 "two-seater for liaison and resupply". The airplanes of this category were simply the Caudron G3 and the Maurice Farman of 1914 which, withdrawn from units at the front as they were replaced by more recent machines were retained at the general staffs for liaison and the training of former pilots."

Thus, it would appear from this reference that the most likely aircraft to be used for this landing of agents in the Ardennes would have been the Caudron G-3 or the Maurice Farman of 1914. I guess the Voisin 10 use reported by Gilles was another option, and may have actually been used in this operation, but Barthelemy would seem to indicate that the Caudron or the Farman were more normally used in this context. Doc
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Old 1 June 2006, 08:51 AM   #4
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General Billy Mitchell was working on scheme to deliver a Division of Infantry by parachute behind the German Lines in 1919. I'll give him credit for being a visionary! First of all the US Army did not have a parachute capable o safely dropping a parachutist from an airplane. Second the Allies did not have a large transport aircraft. Possibly, the Handley-Page V1500 could have been modified to carry 10 paratroopers = 2000 pounds. they would have needed 500 V1500s to deliver 5000 per trip. Quite an idea!
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Old 1 June 2006, 12:19 PM   #5
mad dan
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Cher Gilles,

Many thanks for that information - I was despairing that I would find ANYTHING more than the paragraph which I had describing the mission.

I am mainly researching the mission - according to "Les origines du parachutisme militaire français" (Carnet de la Sabretache; 1992), it was cancelled. I am very interested in any details about this operation, and I can read French (though I speak it very badly!). I asked about the aircraft because I wanted to get some idea of how the operation might have happened.

Thank you again.


Old 1 June 2006, 12:21 PM   #6
mad dan
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And also thank you Doc - I now have some choices of information. Better than my guesswork, anyway!
Old 1 June 2006, 04:25 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Doc
Thus, it would appear from this reference that the most likely aircraft to be used for this landing of agents in the Ardennes would have been the Caudron G-3 or the Maurice Farman of 1914.
I agree outdated Caudron G3 or MF would have been perfect STOL planes in 1918 for dropping and collecting agents/spies.
But this mission involved a commando with explosives, weapons, radio, pigeons, food...too heavy for those underpowered airplanes.
About escadrille 200, the SHAA book states it was created on september 5,1918 as "centre d'instruction pour les reconnaissances de nuit a longue portée" (long range night recce), and then became VR200 (Voisin-Renault I guess, 200 is out of sequence for french squadrons) on october 1st, equipped with 6 black painted Voisins 10.
So it seems french army created an unit dedicated to support commando/sabotage missions. The CO, Commandant Evrard, was not a flyer but a specialist of intelligence missions behind enemy lines.
As he was a member of the Ardennes commando, I guess this mission was the one and only this unit made.

About the mission itself, out of the 5 planes, 3 could not land and went back, one had a mechanical failure behind german lines (pilot Viard and the 2 soldiers were found by advancing troops just before november 11) and Evrard's plane was surprised by a german patrol after landing. As the tanks were punctured, the pilot Lt Emrich set it on fire and joined the (smallish) commando.
Primary objective was the destruction of a railway tunnel at Laifour but there the three men found that most of the traffic was by the Meuse river so they destroyed a lock at Valnacor (north of Fumay, but I can't find the exact location).
They could get back to allied lines only on november 9th.

I have found that the inevitable Jacques Mortane (in "missions speciales" published 1929) also write a chapter about this mission.
Danny PM me your email and I will send you scans. Chambe's account is longer (70 pages) but not more detailed. Both relied heavily on Evrard's testimony.

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Old 2 June 2006, 01:02 AM   #8
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If we are talking of late 1918 or 1919 I guess the farman F50 could have been converted to carry troops and in 1919 the farman F60 goliath made its maiden flight it coule have upt to 12 passengers
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