Para and/or Glider units in West Europe (1940)

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Para and/or Glider units in West Europe (1940)

Post by K.Kocjancic » 06 Mar 2004 12:35

Were there any such units in armed forces of France, Belgium, Norway, Danmark before capitulation?

Regards,
Klemen

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Post by David Lehmann » 06 Mar 2004 14:40

The first French airborne troops were called "infanterie de l'air" and officially created on 1st April 1937, after a decision taken on October 20, 1936. Two "Groupes de l'Infanterie de l'Air"(G.I.A.) were formed (601st in Reims and 602nd in Baraki in Algeria).

Each group is composed of :
- one HQ
- one transport aircraft squadron
- one airborne infantry company : 8 officers, 25 NCOs and 174 parachutists organized in 2 platoons + 1 support platoon (with 37mm TR infantry guns and Hotchkiss Mle1914 MGs).

Groupe de l'infanterie de l'air 601 (1937)
- commander : commandant Arsac
- commander of the infantry company : capitaine Sauvagnac assisted by lieutenant Glaizot.
(the lieutenants in the squads are Le Bourhis, Mayer, Audebert, Lespina, Fournier and Foucault)

Groupe de l'infanterie de l'air 602 (1937)
- commander : commandant Michel
- commander of the infantry company : capitaine Loiseau assisted by lieutenant Dupouch
(the lieutenants in the squads are Fleury, Morel, Chevalier, Lemaître, Lemire and Bastouil)

Each 12-men squad is armed with MAS-36 rifles, 2 FM 24/29 LMGs per squad, VB launchers and hand grenades ... MAS-38 SMGs are also present and later EMP SMGs too. The 37mm guns and HMGs are launched in separate containers.
The doctrine and formation are inspired from the big Russian trainings observed in Kiev in 1935.
Many specific equipments, girdles for the fixation of various equipments etc. are specially studied and realized by the French Air Force. These equipements were presented to the British forces in 1939 and adopted by the British S.A.S.

In September 1939, the 601st is based in Avignon and the 602nd in Montélimar. In November 1939 they are directed towards Calais where they keep on alert, ready to embark in Farman 224s during one week. They were thought to jump over Walcheren in the Netherlands but the operation was never launched.
The French airborne companies are then used to form 4 "groupes francs" under the authority of the 28th alpine infantry division in Alsace. These groupes are based in the No Man's Land, in Lembach (Alsace), 12km NE of Niederbronn (in the operationnal area of the 7th and 27th BCA - bataillon de chasseurs alpins -, alpine troops).

On February 14, 1940, the four "groupes francs" :
- Lieutenant Chevalier (based in Lembach)
- Lieutenant Le Bourhis (based in Lembach)
- Lieutenant Audebert (based in Obersteinbach, at 15 km)
- Lieutenant Lemaître (based in Obersteinbach, at 15 km)
are commanded by Capitaine Henri Glaizot whose HQ is in Lembach.

Usually the work is divided into 3 days of patrol and 1 resting day during which Capitaine Glaizot who is also a pilot, uses a recon plane from the obervation squadron of Haguenau.

During February/March 1940 they led 28 patrols and 23 ambushes behind the German lines. They lost only 2 KIAs and 3 WIAs.
On March 14, they returned in Niederbronn in the French lines and 54 French parachutists were awarded various medals.

In May/June 1940 the two G.I.A were reserve units based in Vimory next to Montargis. On detachment was used for the protection of the French Air Force HQ and the General Vuillemin. During the different retreats of the French army, they organized the defense of different towns along the Loire river mais they saw grossly no combat. The French airborne troops led only offensive actions during the phoney war.

On June 23 1940, the "infanterie de l'air" is transferred in North Africa and on July 27 the units are disbanded.


The French airborne units of the free French forces were then created by General de Gaulle on 29th september 1940, under the command of Captain Georges Bergé (father of the French SAS). The first platoon was Jump certified at Christmas with the first British paratroopers in Central Landing Establishment - Ringway. In March and May 1941, two missions under the control of the SOE were completed in occupied France under the command of G.Bergé. ("Savanah" and "Josephine B").
These two missions were the first realized by allied forces in France. They have shown the ability to introduce a commando in occupied territory and exfiltrate it after the mission completed.
In june 1941, the 1st Coy was cut in three Platoon. The first was assigned to the BCRA - the secret service of Free French- for special missions in occupied France. The two other platoons were the new 1st Air Infantry company (= CIA = Compagnie d'Infanterie de l'Air).

In July 1941, the 1st Air Infantry company went in North-Africa. After a time in Lebanon, the company becomes 1st "Compagnie de Chasseurs Parachutistes" (= CCP)and did a para training course in the Kabret Para Training Center.
In September, Bergé who was now a great friend of David Stirling, obtained the authorization of General de Gaulle to be 3rd Squadron SPECIAL AIR SERVICE BRIGADE, because the ancestors of the famous General have fight in middle-age with the King of Scotland. The French General was along his life a great friend of Scottish. In november the 3rd Squadron - 1st CCP (Compagnie de Chasseurs Parachutistes) (50 Officers, NCOs and men) began its SAS specialized training. During this time in Great Britain a new Para Unit was created to welcome volunteers in a 2nd CIA.

From June to November 1942, a lot of missions were completed successfully by French and British SAS together on airfields and logistic bases on the coast of Lybia and Cyrenaïca. At this time the mission under the command of Bergé and Lord Jellicoe in Creta island was completed, but unfortunatly Bergé and two paras were captured, and one was killed in Heraklion. Some weeks after Stirling also failed and was captured. Along the war Bergé and Stirling were interned in the Colditz fortress in Germany.

At the end of December the 1st CCP has finished its operations in middle-east and went back in Great-Britain. At this time, a new 2nd SAS Para Company was created to operate in Tunisia with some officers and veterans of the French SAS Squad. After some successfull fights, in January and February the 2nd company went also back in Great-Britain. The first page of French SAS history was written.

The French SAS received as a great award and tribute the famous SAS wings and three gold inscriptions on their battle-honour. In March 1943, the veterans of the 1st and 2nd SAS companies were totally integrated to the French forces in Great-Britain and formed the 1st and 2nd "Bataillon d'Infanterie de l'Air" (= BIA = Air Infantry Battalion).
In November a 3rd BIA was created in Lebanon and Algeria and was sent to Great-Britain. On 11th January 1944, 1st BIA (renamed 4th BIA) and 3rd BIA were integrated to the new SAS Brigade under the command of General Mac Leod as 4th SAS and 3rd SAS. From February to May the French SAS trained sometimes with the 1st Polish Para Brigade in Largo to prepare the landing in Europe and the operations to liberate occupied territories.

During the night of 5 june 1944, 4 sticks of 4th SAS were dropped on north and south Britanny to prepare SAS bases ("Samwest", "Dingson", "Grog"), to take contact with local Resistance and established DZ and LZ for the battalion. The mission of the French SAS was to destroy all communication lines, to prepare ambushes and sabotages in order to prevent all ennemies movements toward Normandy. These men were amongst the first allied soldiers engaged for D-Day operations with allied pathfinders units. This fact was a decision of General Montgomery. Immediatly after his landing, the stick from lieutenant Marienne had to fight against German troops (Ukrainians from Vlassov's army), and corporal Bouétard was wounded and killed by a german NCO. It is often said it was the first allied soldier KIA during D-Day operation.
One night after the D-Day, 18 French SAS teams known as "Cooney parties" were dropped on all parts of Britanny to accomplish sabotages on railways, roads etc. in order to cut hinder all German movements towards the Normandy beachheads. At this time in Britanny about 150,000 Germans were ready to head for the Normandy landing areas. Night after night, sticks of French SAS -4th Battalion- and containers were dropped in the area of St-Marcel (Morbihan) -"Baleine DZ"- to led ambushes and sabotages and all actions were successful. They grouped also about 10,000 French resistants to fight with them. The French SAS were never more than 450 men in that area. On June 18, in the villages of Saint-Marcel and Serent aa battle was led by 200 French SAS, 4 armed jeeps and 2,500 men of the French resistance (FFI) against more than 5000 Germans supported by 81mm mortars. Along the day, the French resisted to the attacks helped in the afternoon by CAS provided by P47s from the USAF but at night they had to leave the battle area and get back in the maquis. Today a Resistance Museum with a SAS display is located in the village of Saint-Marcel. After this combat, the SAS were strongly hunted and many retaliation acts were realized against the civilians.

During all July the French SAS accomplished many missions in order to delay the German forces. Less than 500 men were opposed to very importance ennemy forces. In August, the 3rd US Army (Patton) came in Britanny. The 2nd Squadron of 3rd SAS was dropped in Britanny to reinforce 4th SAS. Also a lot of armed jeeps landed by gliders (the only one glider SAS operation of WW2). At the end of the Britanny campaign the French SAS had lost more than 65% of their men. Immediatly, the SAS wings worn directly on left breast were awarded to 4th SAS renamed 2nd RCP (= Régiment de Chasseurs Parachutistes). The 3rd SAS became 3rd RCP. At the end of the Britanny campaign the French SAS had received for the first time the red beret. It is worn with the para cap-badge but without the lion and the crown.
From 1942 to September 1944 the French SAS have had the black beret with the same insignia. Only on November 11, the 2nd RCP got the red beret with the SAS winged dagger embroidered cap badge to parade in Paris on the "Champs Elysées". A few time after the 3rd RCP received also the red beret with SAS cap-badge.

In August a team of 4th SAS was the first to fight in Paris for the liberation of the city. They are the first allieds to enter into Paris. From September to November 1944, many SAS operations were realized in France by the two French regiments : "spencer", "harrods", "barker", "bullbasket2", "dickens", "moses", "derry", "samson", "salesman", "marshall", "snelgrove", "jockworth", "newton" and "abel". In the same time the 1st and 2nd SAS operated successfully in central and eastern France while 5th SAS operated in Normandy and on the Belgian border.
On September 4, in the small town of "Sennecey le Grand" took place an epic combat. 4 jeeps of 3rd RCP under the command of Lieutenant Combaud de Roquebrune attacked a strong ennemy convoy. Many Germans were killed, but unfortunatly, the jeeps were destroyed by tanks. Now, in Sennecey le Grand stays the Interallied Memorial of the SAS Brigade, as a wish of David Stirling himself. At Christmas, 2nd RCP was engaged in the battle of the Bulge during operation "Franklin". Only at the end of January 1945 the regiment went back to France. After a time of training in Great Bitain, the SAS were prepared for a new mision, the last of the war.

In april 1945 the last and the most important SAS operation of WW2 ("Amherst") under command of Brigadier General M. Calvert, was completed in northern Holland by 700 men of the two French regiments (this was the biggest SAS operation of WW2). Dropped, as an arrow head for the 1st Armoured Canadian Corps during night and with very bad meteorological conditions, the sticks landed far from planed DZ. The operation was succesfull. In the same time British SAS had realized operation "Keystone".

On May 8, at the end of WW2 in Europe, the two French SAS regiments were assigned to French Air Force. The flag of the French SAS presented to 4th BIA in Edimburgh on May 11, 1944, was a gift of the French-Scottish association. It was one of the most awarded allied unit during WW2. On November 11, 1944, General de Gaulle during a famous parade on Champs-Elysées in Paris added the Cross of Liberation to the flag of the French SAS. The 2nd and 3rd RCP were disbanded (September 1945) and a new 2nd RCP was created. Later a SAS half-brigade was created to fight in Indochina (1946-1948) and the 2nd RCP was disbanded in Algeria at Philippeville which was also the garrison of British 2nd SAS after the landing in North-Africa in November 1942. After the half-brigade was also disbanded in 1948, the Para-Commandos of Oversea Forces took the traditions of the French SAS.
Since 1981, 1st RPIMa (1st Parachute Marine Infantry Regiment) has the missions and the traditions of the French SAS as an airborne intelligence and special operation unit. The SAS wings of WW2 with in the middle the Chimera of Indochina are worn as a special qualification on the left breast like british SAS wings, after three missions. "Who Dares Wins" is also the motto of french SAS "Qui Ose Gagne". The missions were completed in Africa, in Middle-East, during Desert Storm, in Kosovo, Yougoslavia, on Serbian border and in Afghanistan etc.

Regards,

David

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Post by K.Kocjancic » 06 Mar 2004 14:54

Great article! :D

Thanks for sharing it with us!

Before capitulation did Paras used any gliders? If so, were there any French gliders used by German Fall.Jg.?

Regards,
Klemen

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Post by David Lehmann » 06 Mar 2004 15:24

Hi,

I forgot to give different sources :

A book from Patrick de Gmeline "Les Corps Francs 1939/1940"

http://anampara.chez.tiscali.fr/pages/h ... 0l'air.htm

http://perso.wanadoo.fr/skybirds/fev36.htm

http://www.hemaridron.com/twodescphotos0.html

The second part about the French SAS has been taken from http://souvenirsas.ifrance.com/souvenirsas/ but after some corrections and modifications.

The French airborne troops used Farman transport planes and Potez 25 planes ... they were AFAIK only parachutist units never glider assault units in 1937-1940. Later as French SAS they used both yes.

Regards,

David

Photo shows French infanterie de l'Air during a parade in 1938.
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Post by K.Kocjancic » 06 Mar 2004 15:28

Thanks again!

Regards,
Klemen

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Post by David Lehmann » 06 Mar 2004 15:30

Other photos :

Image

Image

Image

Image

Dropping during a training to take abridge, delay the ennemy and blow the bridge.

David

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Post by David Lehmann » 07 Mar 2004 01:57

Image

602e GIA insignia

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Post by David Lehmann » 10 Mar 2004 03:59

Image

Image

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Post by David Lehmann » 10 Mar 2004 04:19

Image

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Post by David Lehmann » 03 Jul 2004 20:14

Several corrections and addings for the 1935-1940 part of the story (with the help of Militaria Magazine (n°202 - May 2002 and n°204 - July 2002) :

Already in 1935 an airborne center is created by Captain Geille on Avignon-Pujaut. The first French airborne troops were called "infanterie de l'air" and officially created on 1st April 1937, after a decision taken on October 20, 1936. Two "Groupes de l'Infanterie de l'Air" (GIA.) were formed (601st in Reims and 602nd in Baraki in Algeria).

Each group is composed of :
- one HQ
- one transport aircraft squadron
- one airborne infantry company (= CIA = Compagnie d'Infanterie de l'Air) : 175 men organized in 3 platoons + 1 support platoon (with one 37mm TR infantry guns group and one Hotchkiss Mle1914 HMGs group).

Groupe de l'infanterie de l'air 601 (1937)
- commander : commandant Mayet
- commander of the infantry company : capitaine Sauvagnac assisted by lieutenant Glaizot.
(the lieutenants in the squads are Le Bourhis, Mayer, Audebert, Lespina, Fournier and Foucault)

Groupe de l'infanterie de l'air 602 (1937)
- commander : commandant Michel
- commander of the infantry company : capitaine Loizeau assisted by lieutenant Dupouts
(the lieutenants in the squads are Fleury, Morel, Chevalier, Lemaître, Lemire and Bastouil)

Each 12-men squad is armed with Mousqueton Berthier Mle 1892 M16, 2 FM 24/29 LMGs per squad, VB launchers and hand grenades (36 carbines and 6 LMGs in one platoon) ... and later EMP SMGs in the Corps Francs. The MAS 36 CR39, a MAS 36 with foldable stock specially designed for airborne troops was never put into service before the armistice. Seven Boys anti-tank rifles were also already used in the Corps Francs in 1939. The 37mm guns and HMGs are launched in separate containers in the bomb bay of the planes but the small arms are attached to the men during the drop.
The doctrine and formation are inspired from the big Russian trainings observed in Kiev in 1935.
Many specific equipments, girdles for the fixation of various equipments, the leg bag etc. are specially studied and realized by the French Air Force. These equipments were presented to the British forces in 1939 and adopted by the British SAS. The parachutes are first British Irvin sport models imported by the SGP (Société Générale des Parachutes) and Russian copies of the Irvin model and later French models : the Aviorex 120 and 130 models.

On 7th October 1937, capitaine Sauvagnac beats the world record of free fall without inhalator with 74 seconds.

At First the doctrine is concerning the use of small saboteurs groups for the destruction of factories or bridges. Many trainings were organized for the new airborne troops. For example in August 1937 the 601st CIA seized a bridge on the Durance and in September 1937 after a drop of 100m only in a rainy sky they seized by surprise the HQ of a whole division.

In October 1938 the whole 601st CIA is dropped on BA112 airbase by 5 planes and in less than 3 minutes after the beginning of the dropping the first 37mm rounds were shot. The German observers invited to this presentation were impressed and unlike the French high command they used these lessons.

In September 1939, the 601st is based in Avignon-Pujaut and the 602nd in Montélimar. In November 1939 they are directed towards Calais where they keep on alert, ready to embark in Farman 224s during one week. They were thought to jump over the Flessingue airbase and Arnemuisen isthmus in the Netherlands but the operation was never launched.

The French airborne companies are then used to form 4 "Groupes Francs" (52 men from the 601st CIA and 91 men from the 602nd CIA commanded by capitaine Glaizot) under the authority of the 28th alpine infantry division in Alsace. These groups are based in the No Man's Land, in Lembach (Alsace), 12km NE of Niederbronn (in the operational area of the 7th and 27th BCA - bataillon de chasseurs alpins -, alpine troops).

On February 14, 1940, the four "Groupes Francs" :
- Lieutenant Chevalier (based in Lembach)
- Lieutenant Le Bourhis (based in Lembach)
- Lieutenant Audebert (based in Obersteinbach, at 15 km)
- Lieutenant Lemaître (based in Obersteinbach, at 15 km)
are commanded by capitaine Henri Glaizot whose HQ is in Lembach.

Usually the work is divided into 3 days of patrol and 1 resting day during which capitaine Glaizot who is also a pilot, uses a recon plane from the observation squadron of Haguenau.

From 14th February to 11 March 1940 they led 28 patrols and 23 ambushes, sometimes more than 3 km behind the German lines. They lost only 2 KIAs (sergent Baratte - 602nd CIA - on 24th February and sergent Solacroup - 601st CIA - on 7th March) and 3 WIAs. They scored about 30 German soldiers.
From 11th to 17th March, they returned in Niederbronn in the French lines and 54 French parachutists were awarded citations and on 22nd March the Corps Francs are disbanded, the men return to their infanterie de l'air companies.

On April 24, a group of 30 men from the 601st CIA under the commandment of capitaine Mayer was used for the protection of the French Air Force HQ and the General Vuillemin.

On April 29, the 601st CIA left Avignon-Pujaut for Vimory next to Montargis (like the 602nd a bit later) and on 11th June the 601st CIA went to Avord. On 12th June a Farman 224 is shot down by a Me110 making 2 KIAs and 4 WIAs. During the different retreats of the French army, they organized the defense of different towns along the Loire river but they saw grossly no combat. The French airborne troops led only offensive actions during the phoney war.

Between June 17-27 1940, the "infanterie de l'air" is transferred in North Africa and on August 25, 1940, the units are disbanded.
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Post by David Lehmann » 03 Jul 2004 20:19

A few photo including a rare one showing the airborne troops with Boys Anti-Tank rifles. Note the Mousqueton Mle1892 M16 on the side of the men, they dropped with their weapons while infantry guns and HMGs were in containers.
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Post by K.Kocjancic » 04 Jul 2004 07:15

Thanks!

Regards,
Klemen

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