May 15, 1939: Creation of GC II/4 in Reims, from transferred personnel of the I/4, I/5 II/5 fighter groups, in preparation for the war with Germany

Photograph/comment: J.Prott: Personnel and aircraft of the II/4 Fighter Group photographed at the air Base 112 in 1939 in its hangar (current hangar of the Reconnaissance Squadron of 02.033 "Savoie", the first one when you come from the living area)

The new Group, integrated into EC. 4, takes again the traditions of the SPA 160 "Diable Rouge" (red Devil) and SPA 155
"Petit Poucet" (Little Thumb), dissolved in 1919.

Commanding the Group is Captain BORNE, the 3rd flotilla (Spa160) by Lieutenant GUIEU, the 4th flotilla by the Captain CLAUDE.





The personnel received the new Air Force uniform mod.39

Photograph/comment: J.Prott: Riolacci of the general service, photographed on the air Base 112 in front of the wooden barracks, used until their departure by the personnel of the 601ème Infantry Grouping. He is wearing the new Air Force uniform of 1939 (except the golden chin-strap)

On this date, the French Fighter Group is organized as follows: 

The tactical unit is the Fighter Group (Groupe de Chasse (GC)) composed of 2 squadrons, sometimes three. The Fighter Wing (Escadre de Chasse (EC)) is two or three fighter groups. Each flotilla is numbered in the squadron. Thus the SPA 160 "Red Devil " is the 3rd flotilla of EC. 4, the SPA 155 "Little Thumb" being the 4th flotilla, both making the GC II/4.
The flotilla 1 and 2 of EC. 4 (SPA 95 Le Martinet and SPA 153 Gypaète) forming the GC I/4...

The tactical unit of the flotilla is the patrol, which is organized as follows:
- Simple Patrol: 3 aircrafts.
- Light Patrol: 2 aircrafts
- Double Patrol: 6 aircrafts (2 simple Patrols).
- Double light patrol: 4 aircrafts (2 light patrols).
- Triple patrol: 9 aircrafts (3 simple Patrols).
- Triple light patrol: 6 aircrafts (3 light patrols).

The French fighter at the declaration of the War

EC 1

GC I/1

SPA 31-SPA 48

Chantilly les Aigles

8 POTEZ 630 - 37 DEWOITINE 510


SPA 94-SPA 62


EC 2

GC I/2

SPA 103-SPA 3

Beauvais - Tillé

80 MS 406 - 12 POTEZ 630


SPA 65-SPA 57

Clermont les F.


SPA 83-SPA 100

Cambrai Gniergnies

EC 3

GC I/3

SPA 88-SPA 69

Velaine en Haye

77 MS 406 - 9 POTEZ 630 -


SPA 37- PA 81




Salon de Provence

EC 4

GC I/4

SPA 95-SPA 153

Wez - Thuisy

54 CURTISS H-75 - 16 DEWOITINE 500 -


SPA 160-SPA 155


EC 5

GC I/5

SPA 67-SPA 75


53 CURTISS H-75 - 8 POTEZ 630 -


N 124-SPA 167


EC 6

GC I/6

SPA 96-SPA 12


54 MS 406 - 8 POTEZ 630 -
3 LOIRE 46


SPA 26-SPA 124

Anglures Vouarces




EC 7

GC I/7

SPA 15-SPA 77


59 MS 406 - 9 POTEZ 630 - 5 SPAD 510


SPA 73-SPA 78



SPA 152-Furie


EC 8

GC I/8



26 POTEZ 631 - 17 DEWOITINE 501 -


3C1-SPA 38


ECN 13

ECN I/13

VB 135


18 POTEZ 631 - 1 MUREAUX 113


RXI 239


29 POTEZ 631 - 1 POTEZ 630

  ERC 1/561



  ERC 2/561


7 NIEUPORT 622/629

  ERC 3/561


6 SPAD 510 - 6 NIEUPORT 622

  ERC 4/561



  ERC 562



  ERC 572


6 SPAD 510 - 6 NIEUPORT 622

  ERC 574



  5° GAC



  GAM 550


4 POTEZ 631

  Escadrille de Marche d'AFN


4 POTEZ 631

(tableau utilisé avec autorisation du créateur: Patrice GAUBERT)
 Visitez son site

The GC II/4 is equipped with the Curtiss H75 fighters (French name for the American P36, ordered from the United States to mitigate deficiencies of the national Aircraft industry), and 2 Potez 631.


Photograph/comment: J.Prott: Winter 1939/1940 on the ground in Xaffévillers, flotillas SPA 160 "red Devil". On the picture, private Rene Lengrand, sits on the wing, direct hot air on the hands of the staff sergeant Courbot who needs to warm up his hands to carry out a delicate work.



August 28, 1939: GC II/4 leaves Rheims, its peacetime base, for Xaffevillers (close to Rambervillers), its base of operation, where it will remain a few months. The runway is a field, the planes are camouflaged under the vegetation, a cell every 50m (160 Feet), "Petit Poucet" in a forest oaks trees, "Diable Rouge" on the other side, in a forest of fir trees, with rudimentary barracks, such as the warrant officers mess of Spa 155 for example.

The DR’s first meal at Xaffevillers...

Photograph/comment: J.Prott: First meal taken by the personnel of flotilla SPA 160 " Diables rouges" at Xaffévillers on August 28, 1939 in mid-day.

The CP of the II/4 is located in a...bus, each flotilla’s CP is under a tent. Trucks are sent to Rambervillers to buy boards, which will be nailed directly on the trees trunks to fabricate temporary barracks for the men.

Photograph 1: Photograph/comment: J.Prott: The bus-CP of the GC II/4 photographed on June 18, 1940. The Ratchet-Schneider bus, left the road while trying to escape an enemy air attack...

Photograph 2: Photograph/comment: J.Prott: The regimental sergeant major Robert Cruchant photographed with his goat skin in Xaffévillers in front of the CP tent of 3rd flotillas SPA 160 "Diable rouge", perfectly identifiable, with the badge of flotilla appearing above the entry.

Photograph 3: Photograph/comment: J.Prott: September 1939 in Xaffévillers. Work to set-up defences of the airfield, shortly after the deployment of the GC II/4. One guesses on the right a barrack and his camouflage. On the picture, from left to right: Riolacci, sergeant Eiseman, Engrand and the foreman Jean Prott. Notice on the left a Hotchkiss machine-gun model 1913.

Photograph 4: Photograph/comment: J.Prott: Bar and kitchen entrance of the flotillas pilots of SPA 160 "Diable Rouge" in Xaffévillers. On the picture, from left to right: the adjudant mechanic Castelain called "Lumignon” (Candle end), the waiter Robert Hulin and the barman Francis Davout called "le Maudit"(Cursed) .

inspection on the aug 31 1939 shows that the GC is ready for combat…


Photograph/comment: J. Prott: H-75 Curtiss at the shooting range in Xaffévillers for adjustment of the synchronization of the machine-guns firing through the propeller.

Standing on the wing: sergeant Boneau, weapons techs. On board the aircraft, number 89: the staff sergeant pilot Antoine Casenobe. On the ground, from left to right: the adjudant Sebastien Tarroque, mechanic and " hangar chief " (in other words chief of all the mechanics assigned to the flotilla), then the sergeant Lecerf mechanic and the adjudant piloted Pierre Villey.
In an identical position to which it has on the picture, sergeant Boneau will receive on May 12, 1940, at the time of a strafing run of Xaffévillers, seventeen bullets or shrapnel in the legs from Messerschmitt Bf-109. He will be saved in extremis by Vasseur, just before the aircraft on which he was working on caught fire.

September 3, 1939: Declaration of war of France to Germany, following the invasion of Poland on September 1.


September 8, 1939: The SPA 160 "Diable Rouge" gets its first and second air victories of the world war II. Two Me 109, the first shot down by Staff sergeant Antoine CASENOBE, the second by the Adjudant Pierre VILLEY.

Photograph: Photograph/comment: J.Prott: From left to right: Pierre Villey, Antoine Casenobe and François Diétrich called "Marlène", all three from flotillas SPA 160 "Diables Rouges" of the Fighter Group II/4.

September 9, 1939: Sergeant JEAN of Spa 160 dies on takeoff, its landing gear touches the trees at the end of the runway, the aircraft crashed and caught fire.

September 25, 1939: Captain CLAUDE, Commanding Officer of the Spa 155 Petit Poucet, is killed In Action. After 20 minutes of combat where 5 German aircrafts are shot down, one of which by the Captain, he gets hit and has to eject. He gets is shot at the end of his parachute, and receives 2 bullets in the head. The unworthiness of his death generated a note from General D’Harcourt, inviting the pilots to use immediate reprisals if similar actions reoccur.

Photograph 1: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: Photograph taken at the time of the inauguration of the monument in memory of Captain Pierre Claude, killed at the end of its parachute in Witzenbach, shot after having shot down a Messerschmitt Bf-109. First fighter pilot killed in aerial combat of the war.

Photograph 2: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: The same monument, today.

September 26, 1939: Lieutenant VINCOTTE from the “Diable Rouge” is promoted to Commanding Officer of the “Petit Poucet”

September 28, 1939 : War prize...


Photograph/comment: J. Prott: September 28, 1939, this Messerschmitt Bf-109 E1 (serial number 3326), piloted by Georg Pavenzinger and from the second flotilla of IJ.G. 51, landed at Gendertheim (France) after it ran out of fuel. All aircraft "taken from the enemy" during the France campaign will be conveyed by the airs to Orleans where they are gathered for study. Taking into account his aptitudes, Commander Constantin Rozanoff, being a pre-war period test pilot at the Flight test centre and since affected to GCII/4 in January 1940, is put in charge by the Air Force with ensuring this transport.


This aircraft was the first captured by the French Army, from this would result, the first Military Cross from the conflict given to a civilian. The storie and photographs here (in French).

(Thank you to Mr Michel KNITTEL, historian in Geudertheim, for the provided information and documents)

September 30, 1939: On this date the II/4 is largely leading the list of French Fighters, with 17 confirmed victories.
The missions follow one another, often with victories; with the
reports allowing the possible homologation.

Even if the
conditions on the ground are not always easy...

Photograph/comment: J. Prott: A H-75 Curtiss photographed in Xaffévillers. The ground was very soft. Notice the wheels of the aircraft, deeply imbedded in the ground. The wheels being locked and the engine still running, the aircraft was naturally put in nose first, situation, which involves obviously the obligation to change the propeller of the aircraft.

November 12, 1939: Visit of the GCII/4 in Xaffevillers by the President of the Council (E.Daladier), the Minister for the Air (G.Lachambre) and the Generals Vuillemin (Cdt in Chief of the Air Forces), Bourret (Cdt 5th Army) and Tetu (1st Air Army).


Photograph/comment: J.Prott: From left to right: captain André Borne (Commanding the GC II/4 until he was killed in aerial combat June 16, 1940), Guy La Chambre (Air Minister), Edouard Daladier (Council president), adjudant Baudoin and sergeant Georges Lamothe (group radios operator) and sergeant mechanic equipment Barthélémy of the SPA 155 "Petit Poucet" called "Pépé". Notice leathers of the technical staff: black in colour, fit with a fabric neck and equipped with half-sleeves buttoned over the shoulder.


Photograph/comment: J.Prott: Visit from the French authorities on November 12, 1939 in Xaffévillers (Vosges) ground of operations of the GC II/4. Presentation of the pilots from the 3rd squadron SPA 160 "Red Devils" of the GC II/4. On the picture: Edouard Daladier (Council president), lieutenant Régis Guieu (Commanding the flotilla, killed in action on June 7 1940) and, behind him with the cap, the commander André Borne.

The visits at Xaffevillers are not always made by such eminent personages...

Photograph/comment: J.Prott: personnel of the GCII/4 on the way to the kitchen. From left to right: sergeant pilot François Diétrich, a doctor, the manager of Odéon (an establishment of Rambervillers) obviously invited to discover the installations of the flotilla, captain Andre Borne, an unidentified pilot, a woman (Denym), captain Paul Engler second in command GC II/4

(killed at the American beachhead at Oran on November 8, 1942), corporal pilot Jan Truhlar (Czech volunteer), an unidentified person and adjudant pilot Pierre Villey (shot down on May 25, 1940)…

November 22, 1939: Sergeant SAILLARD of Spa 160 is killed over Phasbourg by H. Wick of the III JG2, while protecting a Potez 631 from the 11/52 on a recognition mission.

Photograph/comment: J.Prott: Sergeant pilot Pierre Saillard (on the left) and lieutenant Regis Guieu (on the right) in front of the C. P. tent 3rd flotilla, with Pratt and Whitney, the two mascots of the flotilla.

November 28, 1939:
Citation of the GCII/4 to the order of the 1st Air Army, with attribution of the Military Cross with palms.

December 1939: One of the most rigorous winters appears, temperatures dropping as low as -35°C (-31
°F). In spite the weapons tech efforts and their attempts with every " lubricant produced", even "dry", the planes machine-guns, sometimes remain resolutely "silent", the cold not allowing the correct operation of the bolt... By chance, the Germans seem to have the same phenomenon! The climatic conditions thus reduce the aeronautical activity during December 39 and January 40…

Photograph/comment: J. Prott: H75 Curtiss in snow in Xaffevillers, during winter 39/40

Photograph 1
: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: H 75 Curtiss of flotillas SPA 160 "Diable Rouge" dissimulated by snow and under branches in Xaffévillers during the winter of 1939/1940. From left to right: three of the pilots of the flotilla: Gilbert Cuny, Régis Guieu and Antoine Casenobe.

Photograph 2: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: A Citroën hot air blower of flotillas SPA 160 "Diable Rouge" used for the thawing of the planes during the very hard winter of 1939/1940. Taking into account the exceptional rigour of this winter, decision will be made to equip each flotilla with a vehicle of this type.

Photograph 3: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: In Xaffévillers during winter 1939/1940. Standing: Sergeant mechanic Jean Danloup who was to be wounded on May 12, 1940 when German planes strafe the airfield.

Photograph 4: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: On the ground in Xaffévillers during winter 1939/1940. The pilots Pierre Villey, Régis Guieu and Gilbert Cuny having fun in the snow since the planes cannot fly, the thickness of snow and the cold keeping them grounded. The cold was so intense during this winter that it dilated metals to the point to make the machine-guns that where on the planes unusable.

Photograph/comment: J.Prott: The 4th flotillas SPA 155 "Petit Poucet" personnel in Xaffévillers during winter 1939/1940. On the last row, fifth from the to left: Jean Prott. Below him: Alexandre Saguet, help mechanic of the lieutenant pilot Max Vinçotte, flotilla’s Commanding Officer.

February 7, 1940: Resting!!! The GC is tired... the pilots "spitting blood" consequence of the high altitude flights in repetition, the mechanics are dead tired from maintaining the planes in icy cold conditions, GC II/4 is dispatched in Marignane, close to Marseilles, in order to recover.

The base of Xaffevillers is entrusted to the GC I/2 "Cigognes"(Storks), with its MS 406, which will suffer much more from the cold then the H75 Curtiss from the II/4...In Marignane the planes are fixed, the men relax and see new manpower arriving in reinforcement for the fight to come...


H75 Curtiss from " Petits Poucets", Marignane base
 (photograph extracted from the book "Curtiss Hawk 75" from Jean Cuny and Gerard Beauchamp. Docavia/ Larivière editions)


Photograph/comment: J.Prott: Alignment of H 75 Curtiss of the 3rd flotillas SPA 160 "Diables Rouges" of GC II/4 in Marignane where the GC was sent to rest from February 7 to April 7, 1940. The number 89 plane on which you can read "Fanfan la Tulipe" inscription belongs to Antoine Casenobe.

10 avril 1940 : Après une semaine passée sur la base de Nancy-Azelot, retour du II/4 à Xaffevillers. Avec le printemps l'activité s'intensifie, malgré que l'ennemi surclasse de plus en plus souvent le chasse française.

April 10, 1940: After a week spent on the Nancy-Azelot base, the II/4 returns to Xaffevillers. With spring arriving, the activity intensifies, although the enemy outclasses more and more often the French.

May 10, 1940: General attack of France and Belgium by the forces of 3rd Reich. It is the end of what is described as "Funny War", in a perfectly inadequate way for the committed fighter groups...The base of Xaffevillers is bombarded: result: 1 soldier amputated by a shrapnel, and 3 damaged planes.

comment: J.Prott: The base was bombarded the first time on May 10, 1940 - day of the German ground offensive - at 4h15 in the morning. The losses in material, two H 75 Curtiss for the SPA 155 "Petit Poucet" and one H 75 Curtiss for the SPA 160 "Diables Rouges". The only victim: the reservist Louis Capmarty, cook affected to the SPA 160, who had his foot shredded and had to be amputated. Released from service a few days earlier by having reached the age Limit, fixed at 42, he had agreed to stay 15 additional days in order to allow Robert Hulin to go on leave.  

In the afternoon, second lieutenant TIXIER VIGNANCOURT of Spa 160 is killed south of Rambervillers flying a reconnaissance flight. 

May 11, 1940: New bombardment of the base, no damage.

May 12, 1940: Strafing of the base by several patrols of Me 109 and 110: result: sergeant-mechanic VINAY mortally wounded, 3 mechanics and 1 weapons tech wounded, 5 Curtiss destroyed. (photograph: Coll.Caluzio)

Photograph: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: Remain of H 75 Curtiss destroyed at the time of the strafing of Xaffévillers on May 12, 1940. This base, already bombarded on May 10, 1940, by Messerschmitt Bf-109s was again attacked. Result: one death and four wounded, all mechanics, among the personnel of both flotilla. Flotilla SPA 160 "Diables Rouges" lost two H75 Curtiss this day.

During the afternoon, the noise of engines fills the sky, lieutenant DUPERRET, second in command of Spa 155, is engaged by several 109 at takeoff. The plane goes into a tailspin, recovers, and then spins out again and it crashes a few kilometres from the base, killing the pilot.


Photograph/comment: J .Prott: In Xaffévillers. The staff sergeant mechanic Henri Courbot called Baldingue shows a broken canopy hit by German bullets. Notice on the ground the French grids. Behind him: H 75 A1 Curtiss.

May 14, 1940: Consequence of the German advance, G.C. leaves to settle in Orconte, close to St Dizier. The missions and the aerial combats follow one another, with many victories, without succeeding in slowing down the German advance.

May 25, 1940: Killed in Combat is adjudant VILLEY and Sergeant DIETRICH of Spa 160, during an escort mission of a Potez 631 in a recognition flight. They where pursuing a BF109 at very low altitude, DIETRICH, killed by bullets from a 109 coming from behind, touch the plane of VILLEY, he ejected, but his parachute opened too late.

Link to Sgt DIETRICH, child of Wintzenheim. (Thanks to Mr Guy Frank, member of the Wintzenheim History Company)

Photograph: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: The adjudant pilot Pierre Villey and his "appointed" mechanic: the sergeant mechanic Alexandre Decker.

May 31, 1940: New war trophy...


Photograph/comment: J. Prott: May 31, 1940, this Messerschmitt Bf-109 E (serial number 3247) piloted by Unteroffizier Rudolf Hager from the I/JG 76, lands at night, lost, in Blesme near Saint-Dizier. It is photographed here in Marne, on the airbase of Orconte (GC II/4’s base of operations from May 14, 1940, Xaffévillers had to be abandoned after the strafing on May 12) where it was transported, ready to join Orleans by air where the planes "taken from the enemy" are gathered. Constantin Rozanoff undertook to bring this plane to the base in Orconte where it was to be prepared to be able to fly to Orleans, a small mishap was going to hapen to him. It could not be prevented, before landing, to make some demonstrations above the ground. However, a patrol of H 75 Curtiss of the GC II/5 based in Saint-Dizier was just returning, precisely at this moment from a mission and almost shot him down: an enemy plane, perfectly identifiable with its black crosses, the base seemed indeed under attack!

On the right, leaned inside the cockpit: Constantin Rozanoff. In front: the Czech mechanic Macura.

Photograph 1: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: Another photograph of the plane above.

Photograph 2: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: Same plane then above. In the center: the regimental sergeant major mechanic Sebastien Tarroque of flotillas SPA 160 "Diables Rouges". On his left: the staff sergeant pilot Gerard Jaussaud of the SPA 155 "Petit Poucet". Between the two, with his hand to his mouth: Rene Lengrand, help mechanic.

June 3, 1940: State of
manpower ready for combat: 25 pilots including 4 Czechoslovakian, plus the HQ staff of the II/4 (Borne, Rozanoff and Engler)

June 7, 1940: Captain GUIEU, CO Spa 160
"Diable Rouge", goes missing in dog fight. Lieutenant GIRARD, "Petits Poucets", is put in command of the flotilla..



Photograph/comment: J. Prott: Identification Plate of H-75 Curtiss A2 n° 213, a new plane delivered to the SPA 160 "Diables Rouges" of the GC II/4 after May 20, 1940. This plane was assigned to Captain Régis Guieu, who was in command at the time he was shot down, on June 7, 1940; the plane then, fell to the bottom of a pond close to hamlet of Vaubéron in the commune of Mortefontaine in Aisne. It was found only six months later with, still sitting in the cockpits, the body of the captain.

Badge: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: Badge of flotillas SPA 160 "Diable Rouge" carried by the captain Régis Guieu when he was shot down on June 7, 1940. A part of enamel is missing, destroyed by fire.

June 12, 1940: The Germans continue their advance; the Group leaves Orconte and settles in Pouan (near d’Arcy sur Aube).

June 13, 1940: The Germans crossed the Marne, retreat of the GC to Auxerre, then the following day to Nevers, and two days later for Dun-sur-Auron...

June 16, 1940: Cdt BORNE, CO of GC II/4, is Killed In Action, in a reconnaissance mission ordered by the HQ with only one plane, which will have to be flown by an Officer, and qualified as a "suicide mission" by the pilots.

June 17 till 22, 1940: Cdt ROZANOFF takes over command of the GCII/4. This same day, in Dun-on-Auron, GC II/4 must set fire to 8 H-75A Curtiss in perfect condition, for lack of pilots to take them up towards Algeria. (Curtiss N° 18-21-52-87-96-189-215-253).

The 17th the group retreats to Poitiers, the 18th to Perpignan la Salanque, and crosses the sea the 20th in direction of North Africa, where it lands in Algiers.

The 21st arrives in Oran, the 22nd in Meknes.

The ground crew re-joined the group by
boat, on board "Cdt Dorize". (Photograph: Coll. Caluzio) In all there are 22 Curtiss, which crossed the Mediterranean...

June 22, 1940: Signature of the armistice in Rethondes.

June 23, 1940:
Citation of GC II/4 to the order of the Air Army.

In Meknes, the pilots do not fly any more, the Air Force having received on June 28 the prohibition of any flight of warplanes. It is the
idleness and the time of the doubts, to remain faithful to its duty as a soldier, to continue the fight by joining the English... Mers-El-Kebir will stop many interrogations. The white bands are painted on the Curtiss of the GCII/4.

The Armistice Conventions imposes the dissolution of a significant number of units and groups both in Metropolitan France and in North Africa. 

August 30, 1940:
Dissolution of the group, received to the GC on August 25th, but the news was known since the 14th. At this date, the pilots of GC II/4 show 113 victories (divided or individual) for 77 shot down enemy planes (including 51 confirmed), with 24 lost planes, 10 dead (including 1 mechanic), 15 wounded (including 6 mechanics), and 2 prisoners (including 1 mechanic). Dissolution and the defeat leave a bitter taste, even if many pilots are transferred in other Fighter Groups, and in particular to the GC 1/5....     

August 30, 1940, dissolution of the GCII/4 at Rabat, in Morocco (coll Plubeau)

Kneeling holding the flags: SC Delachapelle - Sgt Carrere

Sitting from left to right: S/Lt Plubeau - Lt Vincotte - Cne Engler - Cdt Rozanoff - Cne Housset -Lt Girard - Adjt Casenobe

Standing: Sgt De la Fleche – S/Lt Baptizet - AC Tesseraud – S/Lt Fauconnet - Lt Urvoas - Lt/Doctor Hardel

 Lt/ Mechanic Jombard – S/Lt Guillou - SLt Tremello – S/C Coisneau – S/Lt Gérard

For the flow chart, losses and victories of the II/4, click in the menu on "les hommes" (the men)

For the day to day reports/stories, click on "son journal" (its newspaper) for each flotilla.

(thanks to Patrice Leclerc aka DR-Jep for the translation)