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Thread: Why Attack Distilleries in France in 1941?

  1. #1
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    Default Why Attack Distilleries in France in 1941?

    Hi all

    41 Squadron attacked several distilleries in late 1941, as a part of planned offensive actions.

    These included facilities at:

    • St. Pol-sur-Ternoise, 08 Nov 41
    • Yvetot, 18 Nov 41 (abandoned)
    • Airel, La Meaffe and Saint-Lô, 19 Nov 41 (abandoned)
    • Fontaine-le-Dun, 21 Nov 41
    • Le Buc, 09 Dec 41

    These were formal actions, rather than targets of opportunity, but available documentation does not reveal the reason these targets were chosen. And I dare say that 41 Sqn was not the only unit sent to attack small, low-key distilleries in this manner, but why choose them as a target of interest at all?

    While many of us would generally think of beer or schnapps when we hear 'distillery', perhaps the clue is in the way the targets are named ("Alcohol distillery"). Was it the alcohol (as a potential fuel) that they were after? Of course, dampening the spirits (if you'll excuse the pun) of the troops by taking away alcoholic beverages ('demoralising the enemy') would probably not be outside the realms of possibility, either, but probably less likely, I think.

    Can anyone suggest with some confidence as to why distilleries were consciously targeted, please?

    Thanks
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Default

    Hi Steve,

    The Biggin Hill Wing 1941: From Defence to Attack, Peter Caygill

    Look at the Chapter Fourteen (Stalemate), the fourth page.

    https://books.google.cz/books?id=yH2...illery&f=false

    Regards

    Mojmir

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    Thanks Mojmir - so the fuel assumption looks to be correct.

    Many thanks
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Steve,

    Here is the pertinent text:

    Although a distillery might, at first, seem to be an odd choice of target, a study carried out earlier in the year had come to the conclusion that distilleries could be used to aid the German war effort. During the early Autumn the French and Belgian sugar beet and alcohol industries were in full operation, a situation that actually began in early October, as the sugar beet crop was collected, and lasted for around five months. In other areas of France alcohol was being produced from grape residues during the production of wine and from apples following the manufacture of cider. As the alcohol produced could be mixed with motor spirit to supplement fuel supplies there was an obvious benefit for the Germans, especially as France was the largest producer of pure alcohol in the world, the latest figures available showing a total of around 46 million gallons or 160,000 tons.

    As the above figures related to the normal situation in peacetime, there was a good chance that they could now be substantially higher assuming that the production of alcohol had become the primary requirement rather than merely a by-product of the sugar, wine and cider industries. as there were numerous distilleries in northern France not far from the Channel coast there was thus the opportunity for attack by cannon-armed fighters and fighter-bombers.

    As the distilleries were virtually identical in layout they were easily seen from the air and were particularly vulnerable to cannon fire, especially the distillation plants which consisted of large copper units and a mass of pipes, valves and other apparatus. There was also a good chance that this area of the plant could be set on fire. As distilleries tended to be relatively isolated and had not been hit before there was a good chance that flak (if any) would be light, but this situation would obviously not last if this type of target was to be attacked on a regular basis.

    See:
    The Biggin Hill Wing - 1941 From Defence to Attack.
    Caygill,Peter
    Barnsley:Pen & Sword Aviation,2008.
    pp.140-1.

    Col.
    Last edited by COL BRUGGY; 19th January 2020 at 10:59.

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    Many thanks, Col; very kind of you.

    Regards
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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    Hello

    I can confirm these attacks on "sucreries" (sugar factories) or "sucreries-distilleries" (sugar factories - distilleries) in French Police / Gendarmerie records.

    I concur that the beets being harvested about October, this was the right season to attack such targets.

    The target of 8th November 1941 near St Pol-sur-Ternoise was in the village of Ramecourt, belonging to the Société Coopérative Agricole of Ramecourt. Damages were important to the distillery and silo. One woman and two men were killed in that raid, 7 were wounded, one severely. It was expected a period of 2 to 3 months to resume production on that site.


    I can add on 7th November the "sucrerie-distillerie" of Beauchamps, near Amiens, much more to the South (at the limit of radius of escort fighters for 1941). 3 men were killed, 15 severely wounded. Production expected to resume 15 days later.

    Many industrial targets in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais were attacked especially in 1941 as part of the "Circus" operations, including coal mines area, chemical plants, power stations. There were within range of Fighter Command's machines, used to escort the Blenheims. There were less attacks in the following years.

    Joss

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    Thanks for this additional information, Joss.

    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

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