For decades, I have seen bits and pieces on French World War II era flying boats- a piece in “Air Enthusiast” here, a profile and photos in a Squadron book there, some information in the Hikioki “KG 200” book and small segments and color drawings in the Macmillan and Rand McNally World Aircraft books. So I was very excited to see Gerard Bousquet’s “French Flying Boats of WWII” advertised as a pre-order on Amazon in 2013. While waiting for the book’s publication, I came across a three volume set of French Flying books in a French aviation magazine this past fall, which certainly had to be the basis for the forthcoming book.
The book met most of my expectations, exceeding some and falling short in others. It’s 232 pages cover French military flying boats and civilian types pressed into military service during the Second World War, not float planes such as the significant Gourdou-Leseurre 832, Latecoere 290 and 298 (for more on the latter types in English see Gerard Bousquet’s very nice “French Wings Latecoere 290 and 298”) or American or British types flown by the French such as the Catalina and Sunderland flying boats. The book includes an introduction explaining the different types of flying boats and contrasting the French with German types, summarizes dispositions and losses before covering the individual types by manufacture and numerical sequence: Bruget Short Calcutta, Bruget 521 Bizerte, Bruget 530 Saigon, Bruget 730 Cherbourg, Bruget 790 Nautlus, Bruget 792, CAMS 37, CAMS 55, CAMS 110, Latecoere 301, Latecoere302, Latecoere 521, Latecoere522, Latecoere 523, Latecoere 611, Liore & Oliver LeO H-242, Liore & Oliver LeO H246, Liore & Oliver LeO H-470, Liore 70, Liore 102, Liore 130, Liore 501, Minnie-Cassin M.C 10/M.R.20, Poetz 452/453, Potez-/CAMS 141, Potez-SNCAN 180, Schreck FBA 17, Schreck FBA 293/294, SNCAC/NC420 and SNCAO/CAO 30 & 300. Paper/wind tunnel model designs such as Breguet 792 and Potez-SCAN 180 are included as well as civil boats pressed into war time service. In general, each aircraft type includes information about the requirement for the aircraft, development, operational history with some highlights of service (I wish there had been a little more here, but since the book covers so many types ranging from single aircraft to series with over 100 airplanes it is a lot of ground to cover) ending with dimensions and performance specifications, all supported with generally crisp black and white photos, three view drawings and in most cases color profiles. Some of the missions are astonishing flying from France to Djibouti and then on to Madagascar and back during the Vichy period. The three view drawings give the reader a very good impression of the aircraft’s appearance and are more along the lines of William Green’s “Warplanes of the Third Reich” as opposed to the great scale drawings in a Windsock data file or War Paint book. Some of the drawings are much more detailed than others. The color profiles are very lively, typically arranged vertically on the page depicting the aircraft in various liveries, such as Air France, 1939-1940 French Naval, Vichy period or Luftwaffe markings. There is mention of Luftwaffe use as well as black and white photos and some substantial profile coverage especially for the Liore & Oliver LeO H-246 (four separate profiles of the German aircraft as well as four of French and Vichy French aircraft) as well as black and white photos of flying boats pressed into German service such as the single engined Lorie 130. Sadly, there is no bibliography.
This treasure is well written and smoothly translated. I only found one reference in a footnote to the other volumes (this book combines all three.) The photos, drawings and profiles complement the text and provide a solid overview of the types used by the French during the Second World War and in English! It is well bound and a good value for the flying boat enthusiast.