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-

September 2022

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.

INFO Eduard