The Rise and Fall of the French Air Force

French Air Operations and Strategy 1900-1940

Greg Baughen

Why did the French lose in 1940? Were their aircraft inferior? Were there stockpiles of unused planes? Was defeat inevitable? Greg Baughen separates the facts from the myths. He describes the problems the French faced, the operations they flew and how, even with the available resources, defeat might have been avoided.
Date Published :
April 2018
Publisher :
Fonthill Media
Illustration :
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781781556443
Pages : 320
Dimensions : 9.25 X 6.15 inches
Stock Status : In stock


On 10 May 1940, the French possessed one of the largest air forces in the world. On paper, it was nearly as strong as the RAF. Six weeks later, France had been defeated. For a struggling French Army desperately looking for air support, the skies seemed empty of friendly planes. In the decades that followed, the debate raged. Were there unused stockpiles of planes? Were French aircraft really so inferior? Baughen examines the myths that surround the French defeat. He explains how at the end of the First World War, the French had possessed the most effective air force in the world, only for the lessons learned to be forgotten. Instead, air policy was guided by radical theories that predicted air power alone would decide future wars.

Baughen traces some of the problems back to the very earliest days of French aviation. He describes the mistakes and bad luck that dogged the French efforts to modernize their air force in the twenties and thirties. He examines how decisions made just months before the German attack further weakened the air force. Yet defeat was not inevitable. If better use had been made of the planes that were available, the result might have been different.

About The Author

Greg Baughen was educated at Sussex University where he obtained a degree in Mathematics. In a varied teaching career, he has taught Maths and English as a Foreign Language, to children and adults, in Britain and abroad. His interest in military aviation was sparked at a very early age by curiosity over the defeat of British and French air forces in the Battle of France in 1940. For forty years, he has delved though public archives in Britain and France seeking explanations. The quest has taken him back to the origins of air power in both countries and forwards to what might have been in the Cold War. He then set to work writing a definitive history of air power in both countries.


“Highly Recommended for Beginner to Advanced builders who want to understand what happened in 1940.”


"British aviation writer Baughen gives us the first comprehensive history in English of the French Air Force through the disaster of 1940."

- The NYMAS Review

"This book is an excellent reference for students of the French Air Force and of air power policy and modernization."

- Air Power History

"Get this intriguing, informative study. Recommended!"

- David L. Veres, Cybermodeler, November 2018

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