Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Clostermann's Tempest JF*E NV 724 - Academy 72nd scale Tempest

Academy Tempest finished in the markings of Clostermann's NV 724, the last of his JF*E Tempests - just the yellow prop tips and a matt varnish coat to add. Note the scoreboard ahead of the cockpit, 23 confirmed and nine probables. Perhaps best known today as the author of one of the finest of all WWII flying memoirs with over 3 million copies sold, "Le Grand Cirque - The Big Show", Pierre Clostermann's record has in recent years been the subject of some considerable controversy and re-evaluation. The doyen of French aviation historians Christian-Jacques Ehrengardt wrote in his 1999 history of French fighter pilots; " the official archives are there to prove it, only 12 victories of Clostermann's can be identified with Clostermann's case 'probable victories' would tend to mean 'improbable..'

I believe I am correct in writing that in the subsequent court case (Clostermann sued during the year 2000!) the offending book (see image below) was pulped and substantial damages awarded. Indeed Clostermann spent the latter years of his life seeking to redress and re-establish the 'official' record, even writing in to Scale Aircraft Modelling as early as 1982 to rebutt accusations that he had overclaimed his number of actual aerial victories and that he was now wearing a medal (the D.S.O.) to which he was not entitled. Clostermann responded thusly:

" ..As to my claims, they never changed. They were painted on my Tempest, (see accompanying photo), (The photograph that Pierre sent with his letter, with him in the cockpit of 'Le Grand CharIes'~, NV724, JF.E of 3 Sqn., circa July 1945, showing the twenty-three black crosses representing his accredited confirmed 'kills', and the nine white outline only crosses for 'probables' and 'ground kills') and are substantiated by the following citations and letters. My two DFC citations, by Air Marshal Slessor and AOC 83 Group Sir Harry Broadhurst, are enough for me - "DFC 26/8/44 This officer has displayed outstanding courage and devotion to duty throughout his operational career in the course of which he has destroyed at least 11 enemy aircraft and damaged other military objectives". "Bar 28/5/45 since being awarded the DFC this officer has participated in 70 new operational missions during which he has destroyed a further 12 enemy aircraft. Throughout, Lieutenant Clostermann has displayed outstanding courage and ability, and has proved to be a source of inspiration to all". 23 black crosses and 23 confirmed by my DFC citations. I never personally asked for anything else.... "

Aside from the fact that the aircraft referred to is SN 222 and NOT his last JF*E, NV 724, 'Avions' magazine in their Clostermann special (issue 151) - the best recent and most detailed account of Clostermann's career - do not even attempt a compilation of Clostermann's score. Indeed, author Christophe Cony, a friend of Clostermann's, refers to 'The Big Show' as a 'roman' - or novel. In 'Avions' No. 100 Clostermann's score was given as 24 confirmed  and nine probables, making Clostermann the leading French ace of WWII. His 'official' score as promulgated by the French Air Force historical service (formerly SHAA, now SHD) is still 33 victories.

Thierry Dekker artwork from 'Avions' No. 151 reproduced here with the permission of editor Michel Ledet and the artist

No comments:

Post a Comment