Jules Verne to Berlin

Roy Grinnell’s dramatic painting of the first raid on Berlin by a Farman bomber, “Jules Verne.” When they ran out of bombs the bombardier threw down his shoes, so the story goes!

Only three of the NC 223.4 variant were built and were initially designated as mail planes and sold to Air France. At the request of Air France inspector general Paul Codos, the NC 223.4 coded F-AJQM took the name “Camille Flammarion.” The second, coded F-ARIN took the name “Jules Verne,” while the third and last, coded F-AROA, was called “Le Verrier.” Commissioned in 1937 by Air France, the aircraft had been designated NC 223.4 since after the French government nationalized its arms industry, including the aviation concerns, in 1936, the Farman Company was a fraction of the aircraft production of SNCAC (National Aerial Vehicle Consortium).

By May 1940, with the changes wrought by another World War, Air France no longer had need of long distance air transports. The trio of 223.4’s, deemed to slow for use by the French Air Force, were transferred to the Aéronavale, forming Escadrille B5, based at Orly. Curiously, the Air France deal selling the planes to the French Navy included their civilian crews. The three aircraft were to be used as long-range reconnaissance and bomber aircraft, although only one, the Jules Verne, would be converted to carry bombs. But the Jules Verne was first pressed into service for maritime patrol, deployed to protect a convoy leaving Bordeaux for Casablanca on April 4, 1940. Soon afterwards it was modified for use as a bomber. The modifications included a bombardier’s station in the nose of the aircraft, additional fuel tanks, a 7.5mm machine gun on the right side of the aircraft, and an application of matt black camouflage on the underside of the fuselage.

The 223.4 ‘s were stationed at the Lenvéoc-Poulmic airfield, which became their operational base during the German offensive starting on May 10, 1940. The first mission took place on the night of May 13-14, in which the “Jules Verne” bombed the railway junctions of Aachen and Maastricht. Other missions followed to bombard Middelburg and other cities.

The idea of an attack over Berlin was a retaliation for operation “Paula”: A German bombing operation against military target aside and in Paris. But bombing Paris as the Germans was way easier than bombing Berlin as the French; German lines were now just a few tens of kilometers from the capital, and while German Bombers were able to benefit from fighter escort, the French bombers couldn’t. However, Corvette Captain Henri Laurent Daillière was not a man to cancel such an operation because of his fear.

The Jules Verne took off in the afternoon of the 7th of June, in order to arrive over Berlin in the middle of the night. It carried not only eight 250kg bombs, but also eighty 10kg incendiary bombs, stored in the fuselage. Going all the way through the North Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic sea, and using the city of Stettin (nowadays Szczecin, Poland) to find its way and turn to the right direction, the Farman managed to reach Berlin. In order to not be detected, it performed a fake landing preparation for Tempelhof airfield, making the Germans believe it was one of their aircraft. Flying at just 350 Km/h and at an altitude of just 100 meters, the Jules Verne finally found its target; it did not perform a terror raid, but an attack against a valid target: The Siemens factory of Berlin’s suburbs.

As the aircraft dropped its payload (a long process; the eighty incendiary bombs had to be hand-dropped by two men), German anti-air artillery started to open fire; but the Jules Verne, after dropping all of its bombs (and the shoe of the bombardier, Corneillet, perhaps as a last “**** you” to Hitler) managed to escape, and safely landed at Orly airfield, near Paris, without having suffered significant damages. It safely landed at Orly airfield, near Paris, on the 8th of June morning, after eleven hour and forty minutes of flight; French newspapers did all relate the events, which ended up being an important propaganda success in the dark hours of June 1940. This was the first bombing of Berlin during the Second World War, months before the British made their first attempts (which would end more tragically) Following this action, Daillière and his crew were condemned to Death by Nazi Germany, and treated of pirates; to this they responded, in the pure tradition of Surcouf or Duguay-Trouin, that they were in fact corsairs.

This operation was more in the nature of psychological warfare than an effort to achieve any meaningful military result (as was the subsequent American raid on Tokyo in April 1942 in the wake of the Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor), for although it was repeated three days later (a raid attacking the Heinkel factories at Rostock), these attacks did not alter the outcome of the Battle of France or the Allied collapse at Dunkirk which concluded on June 4, 1940.

On the 10th of June, the Jules Verne once again went for a mission in Germany; going straight into German territory after a stop at Chartres (where the crew learned the Declaration of War from Italy), the Farman bombed the Heinkel factory of Rostock. It was, this time, rather heavily damaged, but, once again, made it out alive, and kicking.

After Italy declared war on France on June 10, 1940, the Jules Verne three nights later bombed the petrol refineries of Porto Maghera, Italy and released leaflets over Rome. After one final bombing raid on Livorno, Italy, it was called upon for a final leaflet drop. Following these raids, the Jules Verne and its sister aircraft were transferred to North Africa. All three aircraft were subsequently relegated to transport roles, seeing service with both the Vichy regime and the Free French.

Jules Verne was finally destroyed by the French resistance the 29th of November 1943 so it would not be captured by the advancing German forces.


Farman (SNCAC)  NC 223.1, NC 223.3 & NC 223.4

In the great book of aviation history, Farman must surely be the champion of ugliness. Angular lines, blunt noses, square fuselages are Farman trademarks. They were nevertheless good airplanes and some of them – the Goliath and the F.190 – are well known for their accomplishments.

The Farman NC 223 series, the subjects of these three kits, were the successors of the F.220/2200 series of four engined monoplanes. There is some confusion in the numbering of this series. It began with the 1936 merger of Farman and Hanriot to form Societe’ Nationale de Constructions Aeronautiques du Centre (SNCAC) leading to the designations being mixed in use. For example, Azur use NC 223.1 and others use F.2231 for the same plane. The same is true of the other two in this series. They could be easily distinguished from their predecessors by their trapezoidal wing shape and their slender fuselages. They had, relatively, cleaner lines, improved performance and greater range.

There was only one NC 223.1, c/n 01, F-APUZ. It participated to the Istres – Paris – Damascus race of 1937 where it finished 9th, being completely outclassed by the Italian SM.79s, which placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd. After the race the plane was named Chef-Pilot L. Guerrero. It was then used for an outstanding flight to South America; Paris – Istres – Dakar – Natal – Buenos Aires – Santiago. Its military career was short; it crashed while taking off from Dakar on its way to South America where it was supposed to begin military operations.

During the construction of the NC 223.1, Farman was already designing a long range heavy bomber of the Bn5 class, the NC 223.3. The prototype was first powered by radial engines but subsequently vee-12 Hispano-Suiza 12Y29 engines powered the series.

The Battle of France was well on its way when eight of these bombers were finally accepted by the Armee de l’Air. The prototype was captured by the German forces. Some flew away to the colonies and came back later, and one was destroyed at Rabat by Wildcats of VF-9. The military careers of the NC 223.3s was consequently very short. Air France then obtained authorization to use four of them as liaison aircraft between France and French Middle East territories for the Vichy government; they later operated with the Lignes Aeriennes Militaires.

As for the Farman 223.4, it was first designated F.2230 (then NC.2230) and was conceived as a transatlantic postal aircraft using the wings, with the addition of Goodrich-Colombes de-icer boots, and the engines of the 223.3 but with an entirely new fuselage and a new tail. Three aircraft were built and named Camille Flammarion, F-AQJM, Le Verrier, F-AROA and Jules Verne, F-ARIN.

Too late to undertake North Atlantic postal operations, they were modified for use as bombers and taken over by the French Navy. Le Verrier was shot down – by mistake – by Italian fighters over the Mediterranean the 27th of November 1940 claiming the lives of the legendary air mail pilot Henri Guillaumet and his crew. Camille Flammarion made many flights between Marseille – Tunis – Beirut and Marseille – Algiers – Damascus between November 1940 and January 1941 but was then scrapped, due to lack of spare parts after it broke its tailwheel at Beirut. Jules Verne has the distinction of being the first allied aircraft to have bombed Berlin. It was also used in the search for the Graf Spee and the Admiral Scheer.