Monday 30 October 2023

Vichy Airforce at War (book review)

 Vichy Airforce at War

By Jon Sutherland & Diane Canwell

Pen & Sword, 2011

ISBN 978-1-84884-336-3

173 pages

First off I should say I know Jon Sutherland and have communicated with him via Facebook, etc over quite a few years. He is a stalwart member of our wargames community and his figures and games often grace the pages of the glossy magazines for us all to admire and lust after. I should also add that the co-author Diane Canwell is now Diane Sutherland who`s wonderful terrain "how to`s" grace the pages of the glossies, Diane is an amazing modeller.

All this being said regular readers of this blog know I have a somewhat obsessive interest in all things French and have actively studied the conflict between Britain and her former ally (now Vichy France) after the collapse in 1940. So when Jon mentioned his book when commenting on one of my Syria/Lebanon games here, I went straight onto the internet and bought myself a copy.

The book is written is easy not to technical style over nine chapters.

The first covers the Armée de L`Air and how it was equipped and operated during the interwar era and into early WW2 up until the capitulation. This is not a period I`m particularly well read on and I found the it interesting and enlightening.

The following chapters then proceed to cover the actions of what became the French Airforce under the new Vichy Government. Each of these sections gives a near (as possible) complete record of air to air actions and losses on both sides:  

The British attack on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kébir and the abortive attempt to seize Dakar.

The rebellion by Rashid Ali in Iraq where the Vichy allowed the Germans to use airfields in Syria to send aid to the rebels against the British. Whilst I knew this I was unaware that the British attacked those airfields and there were air battles over them between RAF and French planes!  

Next we have Syria/lebanon - Operation Exporter, something I`ve read quite a bit about, but the coverage here of the airwar was very good and I learned quite a bit of new information.

After Syria we come to Madagascar - Operation Ironclad, again this book told me some things which I`d previously not known.

Finally we have Operation Torch which saw the end of the fighting between the forces of Vichy and the Allies.

The book finishes with sections on French pilots serving with the Luftwaffe and some biographical information on some of the Vichy pilots and technical info on the various aircraft.There are also appendices on the make-up of the Armée de l`Air 1940; The Vichy Airforce from September 1940; a list of victory credits for Vichy pilots; the make-up of the Vichy Airforce in Indochina and finally Aéonautique Navale (Naval air-arm).

There are also 32 pages of B/W photos illustrating aircraft, pilots, etc.

All-in-all an interesting book which added to my knowledge of this period of WW2.   


  1. I bought this book when it was published-the cover caught my eye - I found the book a good read and it provided some excellent context through the aircraft and their pilots for the various actions fought. Not my usual scene but my interest in it really started with a charity buy about the murder of admiral darlan-now I often look out for French World War Two stories-thanks for reviewing

    1. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Airwar isn`t my thing either, but the book did give a good overview of the various campaigns fought by the Vichy. The stuff on the 1940 airwar was something I knew very little about also, so that was interesting.

  2. Great post Richard, add to the Christmas list.