Text: Michal Krechowski
Illustration: Vincenzo Auletta
For a free France
In June 1942, the RAF introduced the Spitfire Mk.IX. In October 1942 the French No. 340
commanded by Cdt. Bernard Dupérier obtained them as well. Dupérier chose BS392
aircraft as his personal mount, thus bearing
the code letters GW-S as his previous Mk.V
Spitfire BM324, his new Mk.IX showed also
the Donald Duck motif , accompanied by the
necessary squadron commander's flag, and
below the windshield the Cross of Lorraine,
emblem of the Free French squadrons . Cdt.
Dupérier flew the new Spitfire BS392 only
briefly , from October 25 to November 9,
1942, he made six operational sorties with
it. However, he shot down two Fw 190s in its
cockpit on November 2, 1942, during Operation Rodeo 107. With his previous three kills it
made Dupérier an ace.
The Spitfire BS392 was subsequently used
by various units and its fate was sealed
on September 9, 1944, when a member of
No. 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron, Sgt. Vojtech Škreka-Badouin, overshot the entire
runway on landing and crashed. BS392 had
to be written off.
Bernard Dupérier was born in Paris on June
13, 1907. He studied engineering at the École technique aéronautique et Construction
automobile. After graduation, he enlisted in
the air force in 1927 and obtained his military
pilot's license on May 25, 1928. In November
1928, he was commissioned a sergeant and
was assigned to the 37th Aviation Regiment
in Morocco, where he flew against Arab di-
ssidents. He left the service in July 1930 and
went into the Reserve. He continued his studies and became an aeronautical and automotive engineer.
At the end of August 1939, he was mobilized as a Reserve Lieutenant of the
4e Escadrille/32e Escadre de Bombardment
and in December 1940 he was sent to the USA
as a representative of the Vichy Air Force. He
joined the Free French Air Force (FAFL) on
January 15, 1941, in New York and on arrival
in England was promoted to the rank of Captain on March 8, 1941. He was originally assigned to FAFL Headquarters but was transferred to No. 55 Operational Training Unit on
April 8, 1941 and moved to No. 242 Squadron
RAF on May 27, 1941. He achieved his first victory on July 6, 1941, by shooting down a Bf 109.
He was subsequently transferred to No. 615
Squadron, then on October 30, 1941, he joined
No. 340 Squadron as commander of B Flight,
named “Versailles”. In May 1942 he was given
command of the entire No. 340 Squadron,
which he led until November 1942. In early
December he was again transferred to FAFL
In May 1943 Dupérier was assigned as supernumerary commander to No. 341 Squadron (Alsace) at Biggin Hill Base. After the
death of Squadron Leader Rene Mouchotte,
he assumed command of the squadron on
August 30. He destroyed two more Fw 190s
in aerial combat and was appointed commander of Biggin Hill Wing on September 25.
He thus became one of the few Frenchmen
to be appointed to the rank of RAF Wing Commander. On December 1, 1943, he became
commander of the newly established French
No. 145 Wing, which he commanded until
February 1944. In February 1944 he was assigned to the administrative section of the
headquarters, then in May he was assigned
to the staff of General König, commander of
the French forces in England.
Bernard Dupérier (it was in fact a war moniker, his real name was Léon Sternberg de
Armella) flew a total of 337 operational hours
and completed 211 missions. He achieved seven aerial victories, one probable victory and
also four aircraft damaged. He also destroyed or damaged 20 ships.
He became a Reserve Colonel in 1946 and
went on to serve as a corporate director
in the United States and France. He was
still active in the airline industry, becoming
a consultant with Boeing and a director of
Air France. In 1958 he entered politics and
founded the association “Appel au général de
Gaulle”, which played a major role in the General’s return to power. Dupérier was elected MP for the sixth constituency of Paris in
the 1962 parliamentary elections. He wrote
two books about his wartime experiences.
The best known is La Vielle Equipe. Léon
Sternberg de Armella aka Bernard Dupérier
died on June 8, 1995 in Paris. He was buried
in Barbas, Meurthe-et-Moselle.