French Squadrons at Elvington during WW2

346 “Guyenne” Squadron and 347 “Tunisie” Squadron — Yorkshire Air Museum

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The French Heavy Bomber Squadrons of RAF Bomber Command

346 Squadron and 347 Squadron were the only French Air Force heavy bomber squadrons of the allied air forces during World War Two. They were based at RAF Elvington, York from June 1944 until October 1945.

The French squadrons had fought from the outbreak of war in September 1939 until the end of the Battle of France and the armistice with Germany on 25th June 1940. They withdrew to Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria until the Anglo/American invasion of North Africa (Operation Torch) on 8th November 1942, where they operated in support of the Allies from early 1943.

In September 1943 the re-formed Groupes 2/23 “Guyenne” and 1/25 “Tunisie” were shipped from Algiers to Liverpool to begin intensive re-training with Royal Air Force Bomber Command at various training
establishments in Britain for air-gunners, radio operators, navigators, flight-engineers, bomb-aimers, and pilots. Their new aeroplane would be the 4-engined Handley Page Halifax.

On 16th May 1944, No. 346 “Guyenne” Squadron RAF was officially formed at Elvington, followed by No. 347 “Tunisie” Squadron RAF on 20th June 1944. About 2300 French airmen and ground crew would eventually be part of these units. “Guyenne” became operational on 1st June 1944, and attacked enemy gun positions on the coast of Normandy during the night of 5th June, prior to the “D-Day” Invasion. For their first mission, eleven “Tunisie” Halifaxes bombed the V-weapon site at Mont Candon on 27th June. Both squadrons took part in the Battle of the Ruhr and the Battle of Berlin.

Their last mission of the war was on 25th April 1945 making a total of 2,834 sorties in which they dropped 8,621 tonnes of bombs and ferried 165,725 gallons of petrol to the 2nd Army in Brussels. They lost 41 aircraft, and 216 airmen were killed in 8 months.

“Guyenne” and “Tunisie” returned to Bordeaux in liberated France in October 1945.

On 31st March 2009 the Egyptian Eagle crest of BR66 Guyenne squadrons were revived once again by the Rafale fighter squadron “Gascogne” based at Saint-Dizier. On 6th October 2010 Tunisie was also revived with the Rafale conversion squadron “Aquitaine” at Saint-Dizier.

The Sud-Ouest Branch, assisted by our friends in the Amicale des Anciens et Amis des Groupes Lourds, arranged for the official emblems of 346 (Guyenne) Squadron and 347 (Tunisie) to be registered and approved by the College of Arms in the United Kingdom and added to the historical collection of Royal Air Force emblems at the RAF Club in London.

Crests of the 346 & 347 Squadrons registered by Thomas Woodcock, Garter King of Arms, Inspecxtor of Royal AirForce Badges, College of Arms, July/September 2012.