battle of kursk 1943

Soldiers of the Panzer Grenadier Division “Grossdeutschland” in an armored fighting vehicle during a lull in combat, summer 1943, Battle of Kursk, Operation “Citadel”

Lt. Robert Roger Marchi standing on his Yakovlev Yak-3 of the Free French “Normandie-Niemen” 1st Squadron. GCIII Normandie (Groupe de Chasse) No.III
East Prussia, March 1945

Robert Marchi
Born July 26, 1919 in Chalon-sur-Saone (Saône et Loire)
Died in a plane crash July 17, 1946 (aged 27)
6 confirmed victories
7 victories in collaboration
1 enemy aircraft damaged
2 enemy aircraft damaged in collaboration.

“Normandie-Niemen” served on the Eastern Front of the European Theatre of World War II with the 1st Air Army. The group is notable for being one of only two air combat units from an Allied western European country to participate on the Eastern Front during the war, the other being the British No. 151 Wing RAF and the only one to fight together with the Soviets until the end of the war in Europe.

GC 3 ‘Normandie’ played an active role during the Battle of Kursk in the summer of 1943, now flying their first Yak -9s. Commandant Tulasne himself claimed a Bf 110 on 15th July and a Fw 190 on 16th July before being shot down and killed the following day on his second sortie escorting IL 2s over the Znamenskaia sector. His successor was Pierre Pouyade who enjoyed the soubriquet 'Le Loup des Steppes’ - 'the wolf of the Steppes’. Losses were to grow during the hard fighting on the central Russian front during 1943 with Pouyade obliged to leave for North Africa on a recruiting mission during October 1943. A second wave of Normandie volunteers arrived in Russia during January 1944, one of whom was Roger Sauvage. His post-war memoir “Un du Normandie-Niémen” is a classic of the genre.

During 1944 Stalin was to honour the Normandie by adding 'Niemen’ to their title in recognition for the help they rendered the Soviet Army in crossing this river. One of the first Allied fighter units to operate from occupied German territory, the 'Normandie-Niemen’ clashed with JG51 Mölders in the huge air battles over Konigsberg in March 1945. By the war’s end and over 5,000 sorties flown, the Group had achieved some 273 confirmed victories and another 36 probables before their triumphal return to Le Bourget, Paris on 20 June 1945. Forty-two of the squadron’s pilots were killed and 30 reached ace status.

(Colourised by Richard James Molloy from the UK)