Air Losses Over Dunkirk

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Air Losses Over Dunkirk

Postby Pips » 19 Sep 2006 22:03

In the fierce air fighting over Dunkirk from 26 May to 3 June 1940 the RAF reported a loss of 87 aircraft and claims for 377 German planes.

Does anyone know what the actual Luftwaffe losses were for that 9 day period? And the total claims made?

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Postby JonS » 19 Sep 2006 22:27

From Murray, Strategy for Defeat, page 38:
Over Dunkirk, the Luftwaffe suffered its first serious rebuff of the war. As Galland has noted, the nature and style of the air battles over the beaches should have provided a warning as to the inherent weaknesses of the Luftwaffe's force structure.{62} Admittedly, the Germans fought at a disadvantage. Although positioned forward at captured airfields, the Bf 109 was at the outer limits of its range and possessed less flying time over Dunkirk than did the "Hurricanes" and "Spitfires" operating from southern England. German bombers were still located in western Germany and had even farther to fly. Thus, the Luftwaffe could not bring its full weight to bear so that when its bombers hammered those on the beaches or embarking, the RAF intervened in a significant fashion. German aircraft losses were high, and British fighter attacks often prevented German bombers from performing with full effectiveness. Both sides suffered heavy losses. During the nine days from May 26 through June 3, the RAF lost 177 aircraft destroyed or damaged; the Germans lost 240.{63} For much of the Luftwaffe, Dunkirk came as a nasty shock. Fliegerkorps II reported in its war diary that it lost more aircraft on the 27th attacking the evacuation than it had lost in the previous ten days of the campaign.{64}

{62} Adolf Galland, The First and the Last (New York, 1954), p.6.
{63} Ellis, The War in France and Flanders, p . 246 . The German losses, it should be noted, were for the entire western theater of operations, but most of the Luftwaffe's effort was concentrated in this time period over Dunkirk .
{64} "Einsatz des II.Fliegerkorps bei Dankirchen am 27.5.40.: Schwerer Tag des II.Fliegerkorps," AFSHRC: K 113 .306-3, v.3.

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David Lehmann
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Postby David Lehmann » 20 Sep 2006 00:08


One can also note that the area over Dunkirk was not only a RAF versus Luftwaffe situation even if the British Air Force provided by far the biggest part of the air cover.
The French Fleet Air Arm was also present in the skies as well as the French Air Force. But indeed most of the French Air Force was engaged south of the Somme River.

There were also many French AA guns in the pocket, which have also probably scored several German planes. The German losses include also planes downed by AA guns from British and French ships.

Example of engagement of the French Fleet Air Arm:
Vought V-156Fs of AB1 (6 planes remaining at that time) provided air support during the Dunkirk evacuation. From 26 May to 4 June, AB1 attacked German armor and artillery, with a loss of one aircraft only.

The French Air Force did even send several planes to England (at Lympne) to support the action over Dunkirk:

On 27 May:
- 3 Potez 63-11 from GR I/14 for reconnaissance missions
- 1 Bloch 220 (transport)

On 27 May at Deauville (France) and 30 May at Lympne:
- 13 Bloch 152 fighters from GC II/8 [One 1 June they e.g. downed 1 Junkers 88 and 1 Heinkel 111]. One of these fighters will be fired at and damaged (14 bullets) by a British fighter.

On 1 June:
- 2 Glenn-Martin 147F from GB I/63 with the task to parachute medical equipment over Zuydcoote

After 3 June the French troops still fighting in the pocket can roughly only rely on the few French planes.


On 25 May, Lord Gort decided unilaterally to retreat all the British troops to Dunkirk. Initially the Belgian army is defending the eastern part of the pocket but it surrenders on 28 May and the size of the pocket is reduced. The eastern part is then defended by the French 12e DIM and British troops.

The British evacuation begins on 27 May but on 30 May the British troops are still playing a role in the defense of the pocket on the eastern part with the French 12e DIM. This role will nonetheless very quickly decrease each day, the troops having the main task to retreat. Nonetheless, until 1 June there are still very small British elements on the south-eastern part of the pocket.

1) On 30 May the main troops defending the Dunkirk pocket are 100,000 French troops commanded by general Fagalde and admiral Abrial. These men are from various units, often very reduced units :

- Organic elements of various armies and corps (1st Army, 7th Army, Ist, IIIrd, IVth and Vth Army corps), including the 18e GRCA and 4 tank battalions attached to the 1st and 7th Armies.

- Divisions :
---o 1e, 5e, 9e, 12e, 15e and 25e DIM
---o 4e, 32e and 43e DI
---o 1e DM
---o 1e, 2e and 5e DINA

- French cavalry corps with the remnants of the 1e DLM, 2e DLM and 3e DLM. The 39 last operational tanks (21 Somua S35 and 18 Hotchkiss H35/39 tanks) are grouped under the command of squadron commander Marchal. They will play a decent role in the defense of the allied pocket. Many times their intervention even in small numbers of 1-5 tanks allowed to defeat German attacks on the pocket and to delay the fate of the trapped troops. The last Somua S35 tanks are out of fuel and scuttled beginning June.

- Territorial units :
---o Secteur Fortifié de l'Escaut (SFE)
---o Secteur Fortifié de Maubeuge (SFM)
---o 11th regional infantry regiment
---o Cavalry depot of the 1st region

- Various French Navy ground troops (including 2 mobile batteries of 155mm L Mle1932 guns – 8 guns)

- Main AA defenses
---o 8 groups of 75mm self-propelled guns (96 guns)
---o 4 groups of towed 75mm AA guns (48 guns)
---o 12 batteries of 25mm AA guns (45 guns)
---o at least 1 battery of 90mm AA guns (4 guns) from the French Navy
---o AA elements of the 1st region (DAT)

There are also about 20,000 British troops, elements from the 1st, 5th and 42nd divisions for a total of 120,000 men.

2) Beginning June 1940, about 30,000-40,000 French troops constitute the very last barrier to cover the evacuation of the BEF against about 130,000 German troops. The main elements involved in this last stand are from these main units :

- The 12e DIM (general Janssen) reduced to about 8,000 men
- The 68e DI (general Beaufrère)
- The tank group Marchal with the last tanks of the cavalry corps
- Reconnaissance groups (92e GRDI, 7e GRDI and 18e GRCA)
- Engineer battalion of the 60e DI
- Elements of the 32e DI
- Various units and remnants of units attached to the Secteur Fortifié des Flandres (SFF)



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