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...
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.
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/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
perfectly identifiable, with the badge of flotilla appearing above the entry.
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.
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) .
An inspection on the aug 31 1939
shows that the GC is ready for combat…
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/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.
2: Photograph/comment: J. Prott: The same monument,
September 26, 1939: Lieutenant VINCOTTE
from the “Diable Rouge” is promoted to Commanding Officer of the “Petit
September 28, 1939 : War prize...
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
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).
you to Mr Michel KNITTEL, historian in Geudertheim, for the provided
information and documents)
30, 1939: On this date the II/4 is largely leading the list of
French Fighters, with 17
The missions follow one another, often with victories; with the reports allowing the possible homologation.
Even if the conditions on the ground are not
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).
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.
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,
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.
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
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…
J. Prott: H75 Curtiss in snow in Xaffevillers, during winter 39/40
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/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
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/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
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...
Curtiss from " Petits Poucets", Marignane base
(photograph extracted from the book
"Curtiss Hawk 75" from Jean Cuny and Gerard Beauchamp. Docavia/
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
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
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
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:
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.
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
Photograph/comment: J. Prott: The adjudant pilot Pierre Villey and his
"appointed" mechanic: the sergeant mechanic Alexandre Decker.
May 31, 1940: New war trophy...
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/comment: J. Prott: Another photograph of the plane above.
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
June 7, 1940: Captain GUIEU, CO Spa 160 "Diable
missing in dog fight. Lieutenant GIRARD, "Petits Poucets", is put in command of
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
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
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
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....