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"Bombing the Meuse" Topic

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Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP03 Jan 2019 9:33 p.m. PST

What type of bomber would the French have used to bomb the German bridgehead over the Meuse River in 1940?

daveshoe03 Jan 2019 10:21 p.m. PST

Based on this Wikipedia article link

LeO 451s, Breguet 693s, and Amiot 143s.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 12:17 a.m. PST

Didn't think to search for Sedan. Thanks!

Mark 104 Jan 2019 11:37 a.m. PST

Are we asking "would" or "did"?

The Wiki page in the link above gives the "did". Amiot 143s, LeO 451s and Breguet 693s were there and were used.

But "would" implies a conditional question -- what would they have used in some case or other.

What would they have used if the AdA had their act together? Or if Gamelin had recognized the threat and ordered a concentrated effort? Or if they had not given up after the first attacks and persisted with bombing even after the breakout from the bridgehead (a very useful way to cut off the penetration). In part it depends on when, and also which bridges. It was literally a matter of weeks and even days to change the choice of available aircraft, as squadrons were coming on-line with newer types throughout the spring of 1940.

The Amiot 143 was available at the start of the campaign in May, and even prior to that during the "Sitzkrieg" period. But it was really an obsolete design, not only by the start of the campaign in May of 1940, but even by it's first squadron deliveries 5 years earlier.

They were used almost exclusively for night missions during the campaign. The bombing of the Sedan bridges / bridgehead was a notably exception. But only something like 10 Amiots were available for that mission, and they suffered heavily against Luftwaffe fighters. They were a poor choice for interdiction bombing such as bridges.

It is not entirely fair to put the losses at the feet of the aircraft, as the AdA seems to have been rather incompetent at managing their control of French fighters. Interdiction bombing raids were very often unescorted (a REALLY bad idea, but not everyone had received the memo yet), and even when efforts were made to provide escorts, the bombers and fighters, operating from different bases and with very poor communications, frequently did not meet up. But in the case of the Sedan bombing by the Amiots, the escorts were provided, and did in fact meet up with the bombers. And still they suffered losses that, while not catastrophic, were enough to prevent trying a second time with the Amiots.

More modern bomber and attack aircraft fared notably better than the Amiots. But still, it would have taken a far more concentrated effort to make an actual difference.

LeO 451s were still coming online in growing numbers as the Spring progressed. The specs look very good for that plane. I've often wondered why they didn't do better, but I have not read much about successful attacks by LeO's. They seem to have suffered pretty high loss rates.

The Breguet 693s were also still coming online as the campaign progressed. They were "attack" planes (vs. bombers), meant for strafing attacks on enemy troops and transport (although typically not combat air support as the Luftwaffe practiced, but rather against rear area concentrations). The aircraft were of modern design and spec -- fast, nimble and powerful, although perhaps not rugged enough, and the crews trained on tree-top flying, shooting and bombing tactics. They typically carrying smaller bombs in the 20-50-100kg range. They seem to have been well suited for attacking troop concentrations around bridgeheads. It would probably have been a waste to try dropping a real bridge, but they were probably dead useful for attacking engineering girder or pontoon bridges. However their low-level attacks prior to Dunkirk led to high losses from abundant German light flak -- which appears to have been a shocking idea to most militaries in 1940. So in the second phase of the campaign most Breguet squadrons tried shifting to higher level bombing, with reduced effectiveness in their results.

The most effective aircraft for bombing Meuse bridges would have been the American aircraft coming on line as the campaign progressed. The question is whether they would have been service-ready in time. A few hundred Martin 167 light bombers (scheduled to be the A-22 if it had been accepted by the USAAF, and called the Maryland in service with the RAF) had been ordered by the AdA, and several dozen went into service during the campaign with a couple of French squadrons. They were hands-down the most effective bomber type in the AdA during the campaign, undertaking some of the most dangerous missions, yet suffering lower loss rates than any of the French aircraft.

The Douglas DB-7 (A-20 to the USAAF, Boston to the RAF) also would have been an excellent choice, but I am pretty sure they didn't see squadron service in time.

(aka: Mk 1)

Marc33594 Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 2:32 p.m. PST

Very nice run down Mark.

An interesting article on the DB-7 in French service:

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2019 7:32 p.m. PST

Great write up Mark. Thanks for the link Marc. I am putting together a French Campaign for Bolt Action and I thought having the correct aircraft models for bombing would be a nice touch. Since the French may have used a variety of bombers, it may come down to what models are available and what I like aesthetically. Thanks to everyone who responded.

deephorse05 Jan 2019 12:11 p.m. PST

The Douglas DB-7 (A-20 to the USAAF, Boston to the RAF) also would have been an excellent choice, but I am pretty sure they didn't see squadron service in time.

Two groups of DB-7s were formed and they flew several missions starting on 22 May, sometimes alongside the Martin 167s. The 167s couldn't be used when they first arrived in France because they lacked bombsights.

If you want to go partial ‘what if' (because all these aircraft types were used to bomb/dive bomb German targets or key points), and you can find the models, then consider using the following aircraft;

Breguet 691 & 693
Potez 633
Bloch MB.210 at night
Amiot 351/354 at night
Farman F.222
LN 401/411 naval dive bombers
Chance Vought V-156-F dive bombers
Late 298 floatplane bomber
Farman F.223.4 – it actually bombed Berlin

If France had held out for a few more weeks the possibility existed for Northrop A-17As and Curtiss SBCs to have been involved too.

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