“The Colour and Spirit of France”

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Another mystery photo today. A cheery group of French personnel posing in front of an impressive lineup of Spifires Mk. V. This picture originates ...

Another mystery photo today. A cheery group of French personnel posing in front of an impressive lineup of Spifires Mk. V. This picture originates from a wartime Air Ministry propaganda pamphlet entitled Wings For Freedom, published towards the end of the war. According to censorship standards of the day,  the original caption was rather enigmatic:

“The colour and spirit of France were carried to Britain by French patriots. Men of the French Fleet Air Arm work as ground staff on the airfield from which a French fighter squadron operates”

French Fleet Air Arm? French fighter squadron? Could anyone shed a light on when and where this photo was taken and perhaps even the guess the identity of this wonderful vehicle?

[Crown Copyright via HMSO Publications/Ashley Gates]

5 Comments | Add New

By Antoni Lachetta  |  2011-03-01 at 19:49  |  permalink

Possibly 340 (Free French) Squadron.

The Air Ministry and RAF were very reluctant to allow the formation of National squadrons unless they could provide their own support staff. The Polish Air Force was pretty much self sufficient and able to provide most of its own personnel but the other nations, while able to find pilots, often had difficulties in finding ground crew. This meant that the RAF had to support them and the RAF did not want to do this. Exactly this problem arose with the formation of 340 Squadron. The Free French could not find enough ground crew and the British would not provide any. The French solved the problem by drafting in technical personnel from the Free French Navy that had served in the French FAA. This led to tensions between the French Air Force and French Navy and everything nearly fell apart when the French Navy threatened to withdraw its personnel.

By Editor  |  2011-03-01 at 21:40  |  permalink

Antoni,

Interesting. I’ve been also (quite naturally) thinking about no. 340 Squadron but wasn’t aware about the nature of the Naval connection. The next question is: WHEN would it place the photo ?

Martin

By Antoni Lachetta  |  2011-03-01 at 23:13  |  permalink

March 1942 – Oct 1942
March 1943 – Feb 1944

By Magnus  |  2011-03-04 at 21:36  |  permalink

Can anybody tell me what kind of strange contraption they are riding?

Regards Magnus

By John Brown  |  2011-03-05 at 07:44  |  permalink

From what is visible of the vehicle it looks to be based on a typical agricultural tractor of the period, fitted with a half-track conversion. The drive belt (?) casing seems to be connected to the round object the man at the front is sitting on, could that be a winch? My guess would be either a recovery vehicle of some kind or a self-propelled barrage balloon winch.

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