This Week’s Hints to help you along:
So do you know what this aircraft is?
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Sure looks a lot like a Morane-Saulnier 405/406.
Gotta agree looks a lot like the Morane-Saulier !
The aircraft is a C.A.O 200. I thought it might be French or Russian given the hints. Alas, I did not identify it but a friend of mine did. He sent the following report:
The C.A.O. 200 was a progressive development of the Nieuport NI-161. Only one prototype was built, but was modified as a result of trails. The final version included supplementary vertical stabilizers on the photo that I found (in Bill Green’s “Warplanes of the Second World War” series) “Fighters, Volume 1” (Hanover House, 1960). It was exhibited at the 1938 Salon D’Aeronautique and flew for the first time on January 31, 1939. The photo you sent is of the plane in its original prototype configuration.
Twelve aircraft were ordered, but only the prototype was completed. During the invasion of France in 1940, the aircraft was assigned to GC (Group de Combat) 1/145 “Warsawa”, composed of Polish AF Pilots who had escaped Poland, probably via Rumania, and moved to France to continue fighting. The GC 1/145 was equipped with Caudron 714 C.1s.
GC 1/145’s combat career was brief (like the rest of France), shooting down 12 Germans while losing 8 (or 12) of its own. The Sole Non-Polish pilot was the Squadron Commander of GC 1/145, who was M. Demazieres, also the Chief Pilot of SNCAO. After the capitulation, the C.A.O 200 was moved to Germany for testing, and was scrapped in Germany some time later.
Stephen has the aircraft correctly identified, though he incorrectly identifies the pilot as “Monsieur Demazieres”, an oft-repeated error.
The rest of the story is this:
The pilot who flew the plane was actually named Major Lionel de Marmier. He was a French ace from World War I who ended the war with 6 confirmed and 3 unconfirmed kills — during the same conflict, he lost his father (in the trenches) and two brothers (in the air war). After the war, he became a test pilot for both Nieuport and Potez as well as an airline pilot. He was also a race car driver, even driving at Le Mans in the famous 24 hour race.
In the early 1930s, he flew with Aeropostale before become chief test pilot at Air France. When the Spanish Civil War broke out, he volunteered to fly for the Spanish Republicans against the German Condor Legion. In 1939, he was asked to rejoin the French Air Force as a transport pilot, but rejected that role and instead assumed the position as a fighter pilot, being given the rank of Major; simultaneously, he took on the role of chief test pilot for SNCAO — among the planes he tested was the sole C.A.O. 200 fighter plane pictured here.
With the German invasion of France in 1940, he was assigned to fly with 1/145 as the liaison officer with its Polish pilots — not its squadron commander — helping to coordinate the operations of men who had fled after the Nazi and Soviet invasion of Poland. When the Luftwaffe launched a raid to bomb the SNCAO factory, Major de Marmier took off in the C.A.O. 200 and shot down an He 111 bomber, helping to defend the factory — this kills is unconfirmed and is disputed, but it appears clear that Lionel de Marmier did use the plane in combat at this time. France’s capitulation against the overwhelming might of the German attack followed soon thereafter.
While the C.A.O. 200 was taken by the Luftwaffe for testing and evaluation in Germany, de Marmier and the bulk of the Polish pilots of 1/145 made it out of the country. Many of the Poles were soon involved with the RAF and would go on to set a high standard in the Battle of Britain and afterwards, proving to be deadly and very committed pilots. As for de Marmier, he was soon advanced to the rank of Lt. Colonel and took to flying with the Free French Forces in North Africa, organizing Groupe de Bombardement n°1 “Lorraine” and later setting up a military transport squadron.
After the liberation of Paris, he marched with General de Gaulle down the Champs-Élysées, having been told he would soon be elevated to the rank of Brigadier General. He then served as de Gaulle’s personal pilot for a flight to Moscow to sign the Pacte Franco-Russe (French-Russian Pact) between Stalin and de Gaulle. He returned to North Africa and then, while flying back to France from Algeria on board a Lockheed Lodestar, he suffered a midair collision with another plane and was killed over the Mediterranean. After his death, de Gaulle confirmed his elevation to Brigadier General through formal action, a final salute to a great man and patriot of France.
His body was never found and remains missing to this day.
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