Post-Summer 1934 French Sanity Options

After the crisis on the 6th of February 1934, the French Parliament is favorable to major constitutional and electoral reforms to save the IIIrd Republic. In OTL Gaston Doumergue was chosen as new Président du Conseil (Prime Minister) to implement those reforms, but he wasted the opportunity and submitted those too late.

This thread is based on the POD that Doumergue, or another Président du Conseil immediately submits the electoral reform (new Parliament is to be elected with proportionnal elections at the regional level to reduce it to 400 seats) and dissolves the Parliament once it is accepted. After elections in the summer, the new Parliament now discusses the other constitutional reforms. (Author's note: this was actually suggested by many politicians at the time)

From then on, now that greater political stability has been achieved and reforms are ongoing, what do you guys suggest as sanity options to improve French economics and military (the latter on the technical side, you can assume whatever changes in doctrine suit you), to recover from the economic crisis and start facing the emergent German and Italian threats ?
 
If elections are held in the summer of 1934, presumably that means the next legislative elections will be held in 1938/39?
I know OTL Daladier postponed the legislative elections due to be held in 1940 before the ww2 had even broken out (I believe this was June 1939, I cant remember where I read it), and extended the legislative term until June 1942.
An election in 1938 could well see the Parti Social Francais perform well, unless de la Rocque's rise is butterflied away.
 
The problem is the need to moderate and stretch out the adoption of some of the reforms. The Left needs to chuck out the Communists and find allies in the Center-Right. Stability comes from less extreme changes and compromise. A 48% increase in wages? This resulted in a shock to the system. How can employers increase production, labor force, modernization and other improvements with such a drastic governmental burden. Rather than nationalization of industries, the government should have encouraged efficient businesses to expand and modernize. It should have stopped funding inefficient and outdated businesses. The actions of the Government hurt the economy by depressing growth. Thus, prolonging the effects of the Depression, similar to the New Deal in the USA.
 
If elections are held in the summer of 1934, presumably that means the next legislative elections will be held in 1938/39?
I know OTL Daladier postponed the legislative elections due to be held in 1940 before the ww2 had even broken out (I believe this was June 1939, I cant remember where I read it), and extended the legislative term until June 1942.
An election in 1938 could well see the Parti Social Francais perform well, unless de la Rocque's rise is butterflied away.
The problem is the need to moderate and stretch out the adoption of some of the reforms. The Left needs to chuck out the Communists and find allies in the Center-Right. Stability comes from less extreme changes and compromise. A 48% increase in wages? This resulted in a shock to the system. How can employers increase production, labor force, modernization and other improvements with such a drastic governmental burden.
One of the expected consequences of the new electoral system was that the Cartel des Gauches (pretty much the Front Populaire in a less extreme version) would be broken and that the SFIO (socialist party) would no longer need to ally with the communists (only 400 seats instead of a whopping 900). So the Front Populaire itself may be butterflied away, making France somewhat more moderate, stable and with less nationalizations. The PSF may not prove that popular either if things change in 1934 already.

Rather than nationalization of industries, the government should have encouraged efficient businesses to expand and modernize. It should have stopped funding inefficient and outdated businesses. The actions of the Government hurt the economy by depressing growth. Thus, prolonging the effects of the Depression, similar to the New Deal in the USA.
Agreed, though the government should incentivize mergers in some industries to reduce wastage and inefficiency. A particular area where sanity options would be very useful is that of aircraft engine manufacturers.
The government had a tendency to favor engines in the 500-600hp power range (Deutsch Cup, lightfighter part of the 1934 C1 plan), which led to a high amount of manufacturers focusing on that power range with many designs. Meanwhile, 1000HP+ engines were neglected both by companies and the air ministry, which hindered development of these advanced engines. Qualification tests were also quite lax so aircraft engines tended to be very unreliable as there was no incentive to improve engine life.
Engine life was particularly bad in French engines because manufacturers focused on making them as light as possible, so quite fragile, especially the crankshaft.

However, foreign companies making French engines, in the USSR, Czechoslovakia or Switzerland for example all fixed those issues by making the engines a bit heavier, and this well before French companies. Had the government made the qualification tests higher and emphasized quality control and lower wastage of engines early on, as well as ordered 1000HP+ engines, the Air Force would have had more powerful and reliable engines. More reliable engines would also make aircraft testing easier and quicker, allowing valuable improvements to airframes to be made, and less wastage would make engine production less of a bottleneck.
 
No takers for the Marine Nationale? Given how popular naval sanity options are and the fact that France had a quite outdated navy for the most part in the 30s...
 

Driftless

Donor
Have the AdA desist their search for multi-role combat aircraft and look for models that fit the independent specialised tasks.
My understanding is that for much of the interwar years, the air force was largely yoked to the army's vision of tactical support. If that was true, is there enough time (before the historic war) to give the air force leadership more control over its doctrine and budget?
 
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Driftless

Donor
No takers for the Marine Nationale? Given how popular naval sanity options are and the fact that France had a quite outdated navy for the most part in the 30s...
If the political situation has stabilized some and the economy is slowly on the mend from worldwide depression, would the MN be able to build the Joffre's (maybe even a bit larger and more potent)? You'd need suitable planes to fly off them too. In the mid-30's, France has a world-wide empire, so those carriers would be useful.
 
My understanding is that for much of the interwar years, the air force was largely yoked to the army's vision of tactical support. If that was true, is there enough time (before the historic war) to give the air force leadership more control over its doctrine and budget?
What for? An independent air force which develops its own doctrine is not necessarily better or worse then an army one. The independent Luftwaffe dominated in the French Campaign...while the also independent RAF was utterly humiliated. Later, the army air force of the americans ruled the skies.
 

Driftless

Donor
What for? An independent air force which develops its own doctrine is not necessarily better or worse then an army one. The independent Luftwaffe dominated in the French Campaign...while the also independent RAF was utterly humiliated. Later, the army air force of the americans ruled the skies.
That heavy hand of the Army chiefs pushed for reconnaissance and CAS over other capabilities. Apart from those functions, there seemed to be a diminished sense of autonomy and vision for the future. IMO, that contributed to the preference for multipurpose planes - the proverbial jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none. The Bloch MB.174 was the exception.

The Luftwaffe did dominate in May 1940, in part from inconsistent availability of French fighters and lack of RAF fighters. Where either air force was present in sufficient local number, they did OK. Not great, but OK.

The USAAC was part of the Army, but they pretty much ran their own show from a doctrinal and aircraft selection standpoint.

Give Armée de l'Air a structure something like the RAF or USAAC with enough time, and they likely have a better showing in 1940
 
My understanding is that for much of the interwar years, the air force was largely yoked to the army's vision of tactical support. If that was true, is there enough time (before the historic war) to give the air force leadership more control over its doctrine and budget?
If anything the independent air force wasn't willing to properly cooperate with the army, as shown by the mess that was recon aircraft procurement. The BCR program that led to the Potez 63 series seems to have been based on 1918 aircraft divisions which featured versatile aircrafts. The program was a mess indeed because of some of the requirements, but some of the Potez variants that came out of it would have been adequate if modified a bit (the Potez 631 fighter mainly needed to lose the superfluous 3rd crew member and to have internal armament, though maybe the external armament was a measure meant to standardize the Potez 63 airframes).

I reckon that a greater focus on the Breguet 690 series (which was delayed by other a year because no engine was provided for the prototype) for fighter-bomber role and the Romano 110 (below) for the recon role (it's layout was perfectly suited for it) would have solved the problem.
1592582142604.png

If the political situation has stabilized some and the economy is slowly on the mend from worldwide depression, would the MN be able to build the Joffre's (maybe even a bit larger and more potent)? You'd need suitable planes to fly off them too. In the mid-30's, France has a world-wide empire, so those carriers would be useful.
It seems that France first wanted to replace the Béarn carrier with two converted cruisers, the Duquesne and the Tourville (these were deemed too weakly armoured). They would have displaced 12,000 tons and carried 6 twin 127mm turrets and 4 37mm guns for AA defense, but they could only carry 12-14 aircrafts each.

The first Joffre was laid down in late 1938. I don't know when studies for proper carriers started, if it was some time after 1935 maybe work could have been accelerated by not even thinking about conversions, but given that Joffre was only 28% completed by June 1940 I think that construction would have had to start too early. Ironically the conversions might have been preferable in hindsight as they would have at least given some extra experience in carrier design, and would have given France 2 extra carriers by 1939, no matter how bad they were.
 

Driftless

Donor
I'm plucking my information on Armée de l'Air out of (distant) memory from reading "The Rise and Fall of the French Air Force - Greg Baugher" and the "Forgotten Air Force - Anthony Cain". But that's probably four years back, so my interpretation may be wifty.
 
-No deflation policy by Laval of 1935, this worsened the crisis in France with no benefit whatsoever
-Get rid of the double incorporation voted in 1928 (basically every regiment incorporated fresh conscripts every 6 months which made the division unable to do anything)
-Add civilians to the 2nd bureau, the military had no good industrial understanding and the intelligence agency vastly overestimated Germany's strength
-Try to cooperate more with the British, you need the Roll Royce Merlin engine, and their Radar + sonar for your navy
 
-No deflation policy by Laval of 1935, this worsened the crisis in France with no benefit whatsoever
-Get rid of the double incorporation voted in 1928 (basically every regiment incorporated fresh conscripts every 6 months which made the division unable to do anything)
-Add civilians to the 2nd bureau, the military had no good industrial understanding and the intelligence agency vastly overestimated Germany's strength
-Try to cooperate more with the British, you need the Roll Royce Merlin engine, and their Radar + sonar for your navy
It's funny because the first 3 things were talked about a magazine which explained some causes of the 1940 defeat, so I fully agree with you here. Luckily Laval wouldn't have been able to push that policy in this timeline although devaluating the Franc was sadly a quite unpopular idea before 1936 (Paul Reynaud supported it in 1933-34 already but was isolated).
 
One sanity policy trumps all: get out of the gold standard as soon as USA is out. Despite any debate on its merits, it was obvious that the remaining countries couldnt have built a strong gold trade bloc.

Thus, the french economy will have recovered by early 1936 and it can invest OTL 1938 level of money to its defence industry.
 
France had many problems throughout its military forces and its industry as noted in previous posts. The Breguet 690 series could have used a larger, open bomb bay in its light bomber variants. The use of the Renault and Gnome-Rhone radials made sense, but were under powered for fighter variants. Maybe a 900 hp Hispano-Suiza engine could help if the added weight and power don't ruin the balance. Same for the Potez 63 series. The H-S 12Y needed the improvements mentioned earlier found in the 12z, Klimov and Saurer developments. The G-R 14R took too long to develop and started late. The new bombers entering service were sufficient for their purpose. The AdA should have remained part of the Army or better leaders should have been encouraged/coerced to stay.

The Navy should have used some of its funds to replace the 'experimental' Bearn by adding two or more WNT allowed carriers in the 20's. Rebuilding the heavy cruisers would not result in an efficient warship. By looking at the RN for inspiration, the MN could clearly see cruiser conversions, even battlecruisers, were inefficient. They should have studied Hermes and Hosho. From this starting point, a larger,20K+ ton, design could be initiated in the late 20's. Do not do anything, except added AAA, oil fuel conversion and increased gun elevation to the older Battleships and cruisers.

The Army had a realistic doctrine crippled by poor communications and strategic vision in superannuated leadership. Brant provided several excellent designs and led the development of discarding sabot rounds. Renault had too much influence in tank designs aided by poor specifications from the army. The failure to appreciate two man turrets and wide scale use of radios limited armour effectiveness. The worries about military coups within the left and moderate leadership hindered improvement in training and retention of lower rank officers and veteran NCO's. The short reservist term length exacerbated French Army training.

As noted above, government economic policy weakened industry's ability to grow. The enforced consolidation of the aircraft industry further undercut rearmament at a critical time. Long delays in development combined with a poor economy undercut all military programs.The basic economy was fragmented, inefficient, and slow to update machinery and accept new technology.
 
If anything the independent air force wasn't willing to properly cooperate with the army, as shown by the mess that was recon aircraft procurement. The BCR program that led to the Potez 63 series seems to have been based on 1918 aircraft divisions which featured versatile aircrafts. The program was a mess indeed because of some of the requirements, but some of the Potez variants that came out of it would have been adequate if modified a bit (the Potez 631 fighter mainly needed to lose the superfluous 3rd crew member and to have internal armament, though maybe the external armament was a measure meant to standardize the Potez 63 airframes).

I reckon that a greater focus on the Breguet 690 series (which was delayed by other a year because no engine was provided for the prototype) for fighter-bomber role and the Romano 110 (below) for the recon role (it's layout was perfectly suited for it) would have solved the problem.
View attachment 558386

It seems that France first wanted to replace the Béarn carrier with two converted cruisers, the Duquesne and the Tourville (these were deemed too weakly armoured). They would have displaced 12,000 tons and carried 6 twin 127mm turrets and 4 37mm guns for AA defense, but they could only carry 12-14 aircrafts each.

The first Joffre was laid down in late 1938. I don't know when studies for proper carriers started, if it was some time after 1935 maybe work could have been accelerated by not even thinking about conversions, but given that Joffre was only 28% completed by June 1940 I think that construction would have had to start too early. Ironically the conversions might have been preferable in hindsight as they would have at least given some extra experience in carrier design, and would have given France 2 extra carriers by 1939, no matter how bad they were.
Given the British, Americans, and Japanese are all building brand new fleet carriers in this period, it seems strange that France could not have done so at the time. How much international exchange was there on ideas? Given that Britain and France were close in this period, did French designers and engineers get to see aboard the Ark Royal, or see the plans for the later classes?
 
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