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Thread: A question for our French experts...

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    Default A question for our French experts...

    The RAF have a pretty comprehensive set of combat reports at the National Archives.

    So, did the French Air Force have the same with an equivalent archive? I'm referring in particular to actions during the Battle of France in 1940.

    I guess things were perhaps so hectic that records were lost or indeed not kept in the first place?

    I'd be interested in knowing, one way or the other...

    Regards

    Simon

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    You should ask about SHAA. They have a lot of files concerning 1940, both original and recreated during later years. I have not seen any combat report, but rather a detailed diary entry describing a day of operations. Please note, I have been interested in a single combat, so it is quite possible there are different sets for different units.

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    Default Shaa?

    Thanks for the reply Franek. Forgive my ignorance but who or what is SHAA?

    Regards

    Simon

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    Default French archives

    Quote Originally Posted by wwrsimon View Post
    Thanks for the reply Franek. Forgive my ignorance but who or what is SHAA?
    Hi Simon

    SHAA is (or more accurately was) the Service Historique de l'Armée de l'Air based at Vincennes in the eastern suburbs of Paris and fulfilling the same function as our MOD Air Historical Branch. Email address was archives AT shaa.claranet.fr

    It's still at Vincennes, but has had a name change: to SHD-DAA (Service Historique de la Défense - Département de l'armée de l'Air ) so I don't know if above email still works.

    HTH
    Niall

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    Quote Originally Posted by NiallC View Post
    Hi Simon

    SHAA is (or more accurately was) the Service Historique de l'Armée de l'Air based at Vincennes in the eastern suburbs of Paris and fulfilling the same function as our MOD Air Historical Branch. Email address was archives AT shaa.claranet.fr

    It's still at Vincennes, but has had a name change: to SHD-DAA (Service Historique de la Défense - Département de l'armée de l'Air ) so I don't know if above email still works.

    HTH
    Niall
    Thanks Niall!

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    I'm not a French expert, but I'm still French, so I will jump in.

    I have never searched combat reports from the 1939-1940 area, but I have found in SHAA combat reports dating from 1944 (then in RAF format).

    The available French books, especially Mr Gillet's books, contain parts of French reports so they should be there.

    As for the change from SHAA to SHD-DAA, I'm afraid that one of the effects will be that it will be more difficult to found someone with a good Armée de l'Air knowledge to answer your queries. One of the effects known to me is that you can no more go to the SHAA, check the inventory and ask for the file the same day. All archive are now stored somewhere else, and you have to order them for the precise day you have manage to have reserved a place in the lecture room. Before the change, there was a room by arm (Terre, Air, Marine, Gendarmerie) and while the first was always full (mainly of people doing genealographical research), I have always found a place in the other. Now there is only one, and going there is requiring far more planning.

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    By the way I searched for 15 minutes the website of SHD and found no e-mail, only phone numbers.

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    Hello,

    I was waiting for another Frenchman to step in first...

    Exactly as Laurent, I'm French. Ask me anything about the R.A.F. and Kew, and I can probably help you... I'm no expert in the Armée de l'air, I know the subject, but not in depth.

    I've checked files at SHD(Air) / previously SHAA, but not specifically combat reports from 1939-40 period. They indeed hold combat reports for the Free French units, which are duplicates of what can be found in the AIR 50 series at Kew.

    Their website is not user-friendly, and one orders documents in advance, one's never sure that the order has been received and will be treated. Last March, they gathered together the different reading rooms into a single one, and advance booking and reservation of files (3 days in advance is recommended, 8 days in advance for the Gendarmerie files) is the rule. You can't step in and ask for a document like you would do in Kew, if you have a couple of hours to spare, and you're in the area. The only thing you might be able to do is go to the library to read books.

    Problem is that there was no online catalogue. So it's really hard to order files in advance if you haven't research the references during your previous visits, in the old paper files / catalogue. it seems that they are now building up an online catalogue, but so far I've not finished my own list of references to check, so I've never tried this new online catalogue.

    The website site main entrance is http://www.servicehistorique.sga.defense.gouv.fr/

    The online catalogue seems to cover only the libraries : http://www.servicehistorique.sga.defense.gouv.fr/contenu/results.html?base=ead&base=dc&base=tei&champ1=full text&op1=AND&search_type=simple&query1=shd-type%3A|Instrument+de+recherche+(biblioth&#232 ;ques)|

    The FAQ is here : http://www.servicehistorique.sga.defense.gouv.fr/-FAQ-.html

    I'm afraid you can't e-mail them directly, as Laurent suggests. You have to write them by postal mail : http://www.servicehistorique.sga.defense.gouv.fr/Contacter-le-SHD-a-Vincennes.html

    Or send a message through their moderating board.

    Good luck !

    Joss
    Last edited by jossleclercq; 1st September 2010 at 15:56.

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    Default Thanks!

    Thank you all one more for your replies.

    Sounds like it's a more complicated prospect than Kew. I've just downloaded a few RAF combat reports directly via their website, and although it's not completely idiot-proof (I'm the proof of that, believe me!), at least it's fairly obvious, and of course it's in English. My French is okay, but obviously not as good as the English of Laurent and Joss!!

    I think I'll compose a letter in both English and French, send it off to them and see what happens...

    One more thing. During my online searching, I came across the website of BARAA (Bureau Archives et Réserve de l'Armée de l'Air):

    http://lannuaire.service-public.fr/services_nationaux/administration-centrale-ou-ministere_166760.html

    Can our French colleagues possibly tell me their function?

    Thanks again

    Simon

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    Hello Simon,

    SHD is indeed much less practical than Kew. One of their best point is that it's the terminus station of Paris subway line 1. You just get out of the tube, walk one hundred meters and you enter the genuine middle age castle that hosts the SHD.

    BARAA is an archive service more or less equivalent to the RAF Personnel Management Agency. So it deals with the service records of airmen, but with restrictions of access. I'm not familiar with it. They were based at Dijon air base, in Burgundy.

    Joss

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