“Air sports” in captivity: A recreational activity supported by the Vichy Regime (1942-1944)

Research papers
By Doriane Gomet

English

This study focuses on the development of aeromodelling activities by French officers held prisoner in Germany during WWII. Oflags IID-IIB, IVD, VIA, VID, XB and XVIIA have provided the necessary data for the study. The sources used were drawn from the French National Archives, the Bureau of Former Victims of Contemporary Conflicts, the French Department of Army History and the World Alliance of YMCAs in Geneva. Thirty-seven testimonials published in the post-war period were also used.
Our paper shows that aeromodelling enjoyed great success in Oflags as from the end of 1942: model aircraft were built, events organized (longest non-stop flight and distance competitions) and theoretical training provided. Such keenness and enthusiasm were at the convergence of two sets of dissociated forces: the profound need of French officers to engage in new, meaningful recreational activities after two years of captivity and the political agenda of the Commissariat général à l’Éducation générale et aux Sports (General Commission for Physical Education and Sport) in view of its involvement in Vichy’s policy regarding French prisoners of war.

Keywords

  • aeromodelling
  • captivity
  • prisoners of war
  • Commissariat général à l’Éducation générale et aux Sports
  • propaganda
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