Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Uffz. Heinz Born JG 1 Fw 190 A-3 - ebay photo find #300

17 August 1942, around 14:00, Husum. Uffz. Heinz Born of 9./JG 1 has just dismounted from his  Fw 190 A-3 'yellow 11' and celebrates his (presumably) first victory with 'ein Glas Sekt'. His victim was a reconnaissance Spitfire of 1 PRU, piloted by Belgian Andre Cantillion, SW of Jüderoog...note below the Waffenwart  already at work replenishing the onboard armament..

Two different images taken on the same occasion appear on page 178 of the Prien/Rodeike Jagdgeschwader 1 und 11 history (Teil 1)

Born returned his second victory, a B-17 on 15 May, 1943 while in 1/JG 11. His third was another B-17 SE of Nordhorn on 10 February 1944. and his fourth, a B-17 at Diepholz-Sulingen on 6 March 1944. His 5th and final Abschuss was a B-24 at Triberg-Rottweil on 18 March 1944. He was KIA on 4 May, 1944.

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Claes Sundin's Centura Publishing - Luftwaffe Gallery JG 26 now reprinted - JG 26 FW 190

Claes Sundin's books are still available from his own Centura Publishing at sensible prices for such high quality productions - no need to get caught up in bidding wars on ebay !

Some silly prices still being paid for the LuGa 'special album' on JG 26, this one sold for £54 this morning!. Note this issue/volume has been reprinted and is available at 'regular' prices from luftwaffe.be

The latest 'special album' will feature new and unpublished photos and personal accounts from JG 5 and is due at the end of February 2019.

Above; FW 190 A "schwarze 12" of 8./JG 26 Wevelghem 1943. In the cockpit is Ofw. Bernd Stegmann, engine tech (Motorenschlosser)

Ogfr. Norbert Holtz in Wevelghem, late 1943. Die 4./JG 26 welche am 1.10.1943 durch Umbenennung der 8./JG 26 in 4./JG 26 entstanden ist und wurde damit die 4 Staffel der I./JG 26. Diese Staffel lag bis zum 18.10.43 in Grimbergen und ab 18.10.1944 in Florennes somit müßte das Foto eigentlich dort entstanden sein. Ogfr. Norbert Holtz playing on a scooter, liitle is known about him, no victory claims, on 7 June 1943 noch bei der 8./JG 26 mit seiner FW 190 A-4 schwarze 4 WNr.5730 bei Deinze-Nazareth nach Motorschaden abgestürzt und verwundet. Angeblich am 13.8.1944 gefallen.

FW 190 A Bruch der 8./JG 26 in Wevelghem im Winter 1942/43 . Beschriftet mit Bruchlandung in Wevelghem bei Schneesturm. Von links: unbekannt, Willi Lürding, Paul Thuilot und Waldemar Goedecker

FalkeEins - the Luftwaffe blog passes the 4 MILLION page views milestone !

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Clostermann & Demozay - 'modest and exemplary heroes' . Two controversial French aces in the latest issues of 'Avions' and 'Aces' magazines

Above; Probably one of the most famous Tempest photos ever taken!  The date is 27 August 1945,   Pierre Clostermann's last day in the RAF, and he is seen here on his new JF-E NV 724 (note no 'Le Grand Charles' inscription but with the addition of the white cross of Lorraine on the radiator. This aircraft made a wheels-up landing on 10 November 1945 at Fassberg). Photo reproduced here with the kind permission of 'Avions' magazine. See the latest issue 'Avions' (no. 227) for the best and most authoritative recent account of Clostermann's RAF career and more especially his combat record.

Clostermann's NV 724 was the last of his JF*E Tempests. Although barely visible in this washed-out repro note the scoreboard ahead of the cockpit - 23 confirmed and nine probables. Perhaps best known today as the author of one of the finest of all WWII flying memoirs with over 3 million copies sold, "Le Grand Cirque - The Big Show", Pierre Clostermann's record has in recent years been the subject of some considerable controversy and re-evaluation. The doyen of French aviation historians Christian-Jacques Ehrengardt wrote in his 1999 history of French fighter pilots; " the official archives are there to prove it, only 12 victories of Clostermann's can be identified with certainty....in Clostermann's case 'probable victories' would tend to mean 'improbable.."

In the subsequent court case (Clostermann sued during the year 2000!) the offending book was pulped and substantial damages awarded. Indeed Clostermann spent the latter years of his life seeking to redress and re-establish the 'official' record, even writing in to Scale Aircraft Modelling back in 1982 to rebutt accusations that he had over-claimed his number of actual aerial victories and that he was now wearing a medal (the D.S.O.) to which he was not entitled. Clostermann responded thusly:

" ..As to my claims, they never changed. They were painted on my Tempest, (see accompanying photo,  NV724, JF.E of 3 Sqn., circa July 1945, showing the twenty-three black crosses representing his accredited confirmed 'kills', and the nine white outline only crosses for 'probables' and 'ground kills') and are substantiated by the following citations and letters. My two DFC citations, by Air Marshal Slessor and AOC 83 Group Sir Harry Broadhurst, are enough for me - "DFC 26/8/44 This officer has displayed outstanding courage and devotion to duty throughout his operational career in the course of which he has destroyed at least 11 enemy aircraft and damaged other military objectives". "Bar 28/5/45 since being awarded the DFC this officer has participated in 70 new operational missions during which he has destroyed a further 12 enemy aircraft. Throughout, Lieutenant Clostermann has displayed outstanding courage and ability, and has proved to be a source of inspiration to all". 23 black crosses and 23 confirmed by my DFC citations. I never personally asked for anything else.... "

Having covered Clostermann's record in detail in previous issues of Avions magazine ( nos 100 and 151, a commemorative issue devoted to Clostermann's life) 'Avions' editor and friend of Clostermann, Christophe Cony examines Clostermann's wartime record in detail over 42 pages in the latest issue of 'Avions' (no. 227)

Cony writes;

" When I first met Clostermann in 2004 we spent a lot of time discussing Spitfires, Tempests and air combat, but he was unable to respond with any certainty to one of my questions about his exact victory tally...

" Understand ", he said to me, " that during the war I just carried out my job as a fighter pilot. I fired on enemy aircraft. But after that I had nothing to do with the attribution of victory confirmations. That's why I can't say with any certainty what my final victory tally might have been. All I know is that the British validated 23 claims for aircraft destroyed as confirmed. That total is all I've ever claimed. And nothing else.."

Cony continues;

"..That's why I believe that 'Cloclo' might have appreciated this latest study in which I have detailed for the first time his complete wartime record and how he earned his victories. I have done so by thoroughly examining all the sources - his two logbooks, including the Tempest logbook, the ORBs of the five squadrons he flew in and the existing combat reports. This article is the result of more than ten years of research. Many surprises, but also many mysteries solved!.."

Modellers should note that Clostermann flew at least four Tempests - only one of them, SN222, carried the inscription 'Le Grand Charles' despite what you can read almost anywhere on the internet. Clostermann's JF-E NV 724 in July 1945 as seen in the photo above is thus a postwar machine with "parade" markings. For a wartime version wearing similar markings, use NV 994, minus the kill markings, the "Grand Charles" inscription, rudder crest and cross of Lorraine. The spinner is black and the upper wing roundels should have the yellow outline (as seen on a period photo). Closterman shot down 2 FW-190 D-9's  on April 20 1945 with this aircraft. For more on this encounter on this blog go here

In their previous Clostermann special (issue 151) Cony refers to 'The Big Show' as a 'roman' - or novel - and no attempt was made to detail his score. In 'Avions' No. 100 Clostermann's score was given as 24 confirmed and nine probables, making Clostermann the leading French ace of WWII. His 'official' score as promulgated by the French Air Force historical service (formerly SHAA, now SHD) is still 33 victories.

Thierry Dekker artwork from 'Avions' No. 151 reproduced here with the permission of editor Michel Ledet and the artist

Above; S/Ldr Jean Demozay (second from the left) leaning against the prop of one of 91 Squadron's Spit Vbs, September 1941, Hawkinge, Kent. (photo credit via Peter Hall of Ashford, Kent. Peter's history of 91 'Nigeria' Sqn in the Osprey Aviation 'Elite' series is still the best English-language reference on Demozay)

If Clostermann was an enigma then French ace Jean Demozay was a riddle wrapped in a mystery!  Editor of 'ACES' magazine Many Souffan has just published part one of a very lengthy bio of France's second ace in the latest issue of 'ACES' (no. 9) having previously published an in-depth review of his career in 'Avions' magazine and a multi-part series in Replic before that.  But there is much new material here. Not only that but 'ACES' magazine is a fine glossy A-4 card-covered publication with spine, each issue has around 100-pages (text in French) with quality production values.

 Demozay's story - if you don't know it- is pretty incredible. He had attempted to join the French Air Force pre-war but had been turned down. He thus never joined the l'Armee de l'Air and  never trained as a pilot - apparently he just 'pretended' he had when he was finally sent to the RAF's 'Advanced Air Strike Force' in September 1939 in Reims in northern France as an interpreter - his English was fluent as he had spent a number of his teen years at boarding school in Southsea near Portsmouth where a family friend was a teacher. His first flights were in the liaison Magister used by No. 1 Squadron and it was the British pilots that taught him to fly circuits in their off-duty hours. He claimed he need a bit of refresher training, his pre-war pilot's licence having long since lapsed ( another big 'fib'). He was subsequently one of the first French 'pilots' to reach the UK after the fall of France arriving on 17 June 1940 having piloted a Bristol Bombay twin and a complement of passengers across the Channel. At the time he didn't even possess a (car) drivers licence, let alone any flying qualifications! He then managed to wangle his way into operational training unit 5 OTU which as luck would have it was commanded by his 'old' Squadron CO 'Bull' Halahan, proving the old adage 'its not what you know...'. He started his first 'real' flight training course on 20 June 1940 - but really there is no way he should have been there. His CO in 'E flight' 5 OTU was another former 1 Squadron Hurricane ace, Pilot Officer 'Boy' Mould, the first RAF pilot to shoot down a Luftwaffe aircraft over France on 30 October 1939. Demozay finished his training in October 1940 and joined 1 Sqn at Wittering and flew several sorties before 31 October 1940 - the 'official' Battle of Britain cut-off date. As such he was one of just thirteen French pilots that officially participated in the Battle of Britain and his name is inscribed on the memorial wall at Capel-Le-Fern, between Folkestone and Dover. As for his achievements in combat - well it is a matter of record that he commanded 91 'Nigeria' Squadron at Hawkinge and there is a street named after him in the village..officially he returned some 19 victories although many of his claims were made when flying alone out over the Channel and over France...

This well known image of Jean 'Moses Morlaix' Demozay was taken on 16 November 1941 at Hawkinge. At this time Demozay had around 11 victories and four probables. One month previously he had been awarded the DFC, presented to him by Leigh Mallory Trafford. A few months later he received a bar and a DSO. The Spitfire behind him is the Mk V of his S/L J N Watts Farmer W3175/ DL.W. Under his wings you can see (from L to R) the ribbons of Ordre de la liberation (Green & black) the 7 palms of his Croix de Guerre and his new DFC

An in-depth look at ACES magazine from Heimdal on this blog here

The latest issue no.9 does have some specific Luftwaffe content -a lengthy photo feature on the Luftwaffe's RK award winners for the year 1940 based on Chris Goss' recent Frontline 'Knights of the Battle of Britain' book - and while it has a terrible title, this Goss volume ( and ACES article ) features comprehensive biographical details on Knights Cross holders well illustrated with contemporary photos, a number of which were new to me and is certainly a worthy addition to the library.

Heimdal's site for ACES back issues and more

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Kampfgeschwader 53 "LEGION CONDOR" Oberleutnant Dietrich Kornblum, Staffelkapitän of 4./KG 53 4000.Feindflug - He 111 - Piloten - ebay photo find #299

The bespectacled Oblt. Dietrich Kornblum, Staffelkapitän of 4./KG 53, seen here proudly wearing his Knight's Cross awarded on 9 June 1944. Note the 500 kg bomb (filled with the highly explosive Trialen mixture). The distinctively camouflaged He 111 coded 'KM' may have participated on the Poltava raid less than a fortnight later. Kornblum was posted from II./KG 53 to convert to night fighters. He is credited with one kill (10-11 Nov 44) before he was KIA attacking "a British mine-layer" with 9./NJG 2 on the night of 27-28 Nov 44 flying Ju 88 C-6, Wnr. 620510 code '4R + AT'. Also in the image below right (middle). The auction site Ratisbons have his pilot's licence on offer ... " Hauptmann Dietrich Kornblum was awarded the Knight's Cross serving with II./KG 53. In November 1944 he served with 12./NJG 3 and later with 9./NJG 2. Kornblum and his crew destroyed a British ship and were hit by the explosion of the ship. His Ju 88 sunk on 27./28.11.1944...."

via Manuel Rauh here

Saturday, 8 December 2018

“Mosquitos over Berlin” - a chat with Andreas Zapf; Moskitojagd, Kurt Welter and Me 262 jet night fighters

The history of the two-seater versions of the world's first jet fighter has been somewhat neglected. That has not stopped more than a few 'urban myths' taking root around these machines, especially in their role as 'night-hunters'. However Andreas Zapf has virtually single-handedly corrected this state of affairs with his huge " Mosquitos über Berlin. Nachtjagd mit der Messerschmitt Bf 109 und Me 262 " published earlier this year by VDM. Adapted, built and deployed in virtually the last months of the war from the Messerschmitt Me 262 two-seater training aircraft, the history of this aircraft and its employment by the so-called Kommando Welter against the fast  Mosquitos of Bomber Command - a machine which was all but "invincible" - is described in what will undoubtedly be the last word on the subject - "Mosquitos over Berlin". Andreas recently took time out to sit down with us at the Luftwaffe blog to discuss the book, Kurt Welter, Me 262 night fighters and Moskitojagd !

 “...Late in the summer of 1944, the skies over the Reich were mostly dominated by the Allied air forces. The heavy bombers of the USAAF at day, those of the RAF at night. In addition the fast de Havilland DH.98 ‘Mosquito’ of the Light Night Striking Force roamed the skies over Germany – and with little or no opposition went more or less unchallenged. Besides the ever present Flak, there was not much they had to fear. ‘Not much’, however, is relative. With their fast and agile Messerschmitt Bf 109s, some specialized units such as 10./JG 300 and later II./NJG 11 operated especially against the fast ‘Wooden Wonder’. And starting in December 1944, the first nocturnal missions using the Me 262 jet fighter were added to the threat. Starting out as ‘Kommando Welter’ and being taken into regular operations as 10./NJG 11 later, a handful of skilled pilots flew the single-seater Me262 A and later the Me 262 B-1a/U1 twin-seater to counter the nightly Mosquito attacks. A new book by German author Andreas Zapf book shines a light on the almost untold story of the Nachtjagd with the Me 262. 596 pages, 160 b/w photos, 69 reproduced documents, 24 maps and flight maps are adding to a story reproduced from material hidden in archives around the world, flight logs, written accounts and many hours of personal discussions with those involved. Enjoy the untold story of a unique unit and their nocturnal stalking of the famous ‘Mosquito’...”

Hello Andreas. Congratulations on the publication of your impressive new book ! I've reproduced the jacket blurb above by way of an introduction to our discussion. Firstly, how did you come to research and write the story of “Mosquitos over Berlin”?

Hello Neil – and “thank you very much for the flowers!” – and of course, thank you very much for taking the time to have this little talk about my book and our mutual hobby.

As for choosing the topic, that was pure coincidence – I took over a collection from a fellow researcher some years back who has been writing his books on the German Nachtjagd and other topics a few years back in the 1980s. Contained within the lot was a copy of a Luftwaffe Flugbuch (“flight log”) showing nocturnal flights with Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1. And there have been letters between the original owner of the files and a variety of pilots that flew the Me 262 with “Kommando Welter”.

This sparked my interest and I started to comb the available literature, just to find out that it was an absolute “stepchild”, hardly mentioned at all and where it was, with a variety of “truths” that were not backed by any sources one could fall back to. In other words: I was unable to say if the previous authors worked on fact, fiction, or hearsay. So I set out to improve and update the story – how difficult could it be? One small unit, a few aircraft, only a couple of months towards the end of the war… naïve and foolish, I can tell you…

Being a Bundesluftwaffe officer, a wreck recovery archeologist and airfield series author, I guess your father inspired your interest in WWII Luftwaffe ?

I think, any boy growing up and and developing a love for books sooner or later raids his father’s “library”. I don’t know what other boy are finding – but besides the usual suspects, my hunting grounds were filled with books about air war, the Luftwaffe and all that. Not a few books but plenty of them. I remember having read Werner Girbig’s “Die nicht Zurückgekehrten” and Toliver/Constable’s “Holt Hartmann vom Himmel!” amongst the first ones… it just caught up with me later, I guess. So yes: inspiration certainly came from that side.

Back to Mosquitos. I'm intrigued to know just how big a problem they were for the Germans. Did you work out how many raids Mosquitos actually flew against Berlin during the war? I read somewhere that they were overhead on 36 consecutive nights? 

One of the last things I did before wrapping up and getting the book ready for the printers was a trip to Los Angeles to meet one of the nicest guys I have ever had the honor to meet: Jorg Czypionka. Jorg was a flight instructor with FFS A/B 115 in Austria for most of the war, then was posted to 10./JG 300, stayed with it when II./NJG 11 was formed from it, and finally was posted to 10./NJG 11 in March 1945.

When he read the manuscript, his comment was “ ..so much on the Mosquitos and in comparison it almost looks like we didn’t even fly anymore!” . That hurt a little because I knew they did everything to do their job in a world that was rapidly falling apart around them – so I went and did the math – and amended a chapter in my book, so let me quote myself:

“..Taking March 1945 as an example, we can review the entire set of morning and evening reports of the Luftwaffeführungsstab Ic which lists the missions flown against Mosquito bombers attacking Berlin. They are listing 33 missions with Me 262, spread out across 13 nights. An additional 8 flights with the Ta 154 ‘Moskito’ – also hunting for the fast twin bomber – are documented. Plus seven aircraft of an unidentifiable unit. All in all, a total of 48 missions.

The Light Night Striking Force in return has reached full strength and weather denied flying only on two occasions. Without looking at the early returns, dropouts for other reasons, etc. the Mosquitos mounted some 2,280 missions to Germany. The Luftwaffe pilots were hopelessly outnumbered.

From September 1944 to May 1945, 180 missions against Mosquitos to Berlin are documented, around 60 of them for the jets. During that time frame, the Light Night Striking Force mounted more than 11,000 combat missions to Germany.”

I think, these numbers give anyone of us an idea of the odds during those final months of the war. And yes, the more squadrons the Light Night Striking Force assembled, and the more Mosquitos were readily available, the more flights they managed to pull of – and indeed, the prime target became Berlin. It was rarely the only target during the nightly missions – but it was regularly on the target list and yes, 36 consecutive nights sounds about right.

I'm sure many think that the Me 262s deployed as night fighters were bomber killers as they were by day. This isn't the case though is it? Did the Kommando regularly fly by day as well? I know Becker has one recce Lightning Abschuss? 

Initially, the Me 262 of “Kommando Welter” and more importantly the later 10./NJG11 were primarily tasked to intercept and shoot down the Mosquitos bound for Berlin. And only those. Jorg Czypionka told me that on more than one occasion, when the raids were targeting other cities, even close by, they were not given permission to engage. It was Berlin only. Different story during daytime though – here, the otherwise “useless” jets were indeed tasked to intercept Mosquitos and F-5Es on recce missions. Becker got one that is confirmed and I think, I can pin another F-5E on Fritz Reichenbach. But all in all, not on more than maybe 5 – 10 days.

Because the jets were so fast even hunting Mosquitos was fraught with difficulty wasn't it ? - high-closing speeds, no way of slowing down to accurately aim and fire?

Yes, the Me 262 was fast, sometimes too fast. Combined with the relatively low speed of the Mk108 rounds, this gave the pilots not more than one or two seconds to actually aim and fire. Karl-Heinz Becker misjudged and had to fly through the debris of ‘his’ F-5E, subsequently belly landing his bird. Lt. Herbert Altner tried to reduce thrust too quickly on his first flight with the Me 262 B-1a/U1 and experienced a flameout with subsequent loss of the twin seater. It was not an easy attack, especially not at night. You need to remember: despite the Me 262 B-1a/U1 being “the symbol” for Welter’s night fighting activities, only one pilot ever flew her in combat. The others were flying barely modified Me 262 A single-seaters… no speed brakes, a somewhat fragile engine control, darkness all around… today, we would call any pilot flying under these conditions a “reckless flyer”.

How did Welter manage to persuade the powers-that-be that he warranted his own 'Kommando'? Because of his success in 10./JG 300? He was after all still relatively unknown and a junior officer wasn't he ? We hear so much about Hitler wanting the 262 as a bomber and yet here he is apparently authorising the type to fly at night as a fighter? And can you explain what 'Objektjagd' was - the 'Objekt' being Berlin I assume?

Well, that’s a bunch of questions there. First of all, let’s clarify “Objekt”. Yes, the “Objekt” was the to-be-protected target, for the Me 262s mostly Berlin. In other words: rather than hunting free, the night fighters were bound to the Objekt where they used the searchlights to guide them to their prey.

The question about how Welter got to his “Kommando” is an interesting one. Honestly, I never found an answer. There are different stories told, some of them range from “possible” to “bullshit”. Unfortunately, the war may have erased all documented evidence and time certainly has obscured the memories of those that talked about it in the recent years.

The only thing that I know is that Welter got his Knight’s Cross in October 1944 – and documents from Rechlin show the first preparations of their Me 262s (which Welter initially was allowed to use for his trials) around End of October/early November 1944. And on December 12, 1944, Hermann Göring authorizes the trials formally, initially with 3 Me 262 (Welter) and 3 Arado Ar 234 (Bonow). But the first ideas of using the Me 262 (and also the Arado Ar 234) as night fighters dates back to a time before Welter got the Knight’s Cross.

So all I can say is that it looks like he got the “Kommando” the formal way – not, as some are suggesting, by pulling off a stunt flight then then being summoned to Göring. And he may have gotten it because he was in the right place at the right time. After all, he was a successful and skilled night fighter, he got a high decoration and he was eager to improve his success rate.

In your reading and research did you get a better idea of Kurt Welter, the person and the pilot - he was presumably the gifted night fighter that some say but perhaps a little obsessive and 'difficult'? I read in Peter Cronauer's article in Flugzeug Classic (2014) that Welter avoided flying from around mid-March 1945 and drank a lot. And of course filed many unfounded claims?

One of the predicate rules of me writing is “in dubio pro reo” – “if in doubt, for the accused”. Of course, when you deal with Kurt Welter, the first thing you come across is the classification as blunt liar and as an over-claimer. But I think, the story is not that straight forward. But let’s start with the beginning of your question: yes, I learnt a great deal about Kurt Welter and I am happy to say that it was enough to dedicate an entire chapter of 25 pages to his biography.

He certainly was a gifted night fighter and someone described him as a man with “cat’s eyes”. My friend Jorg claims his landing skills were about average but in the air, he was a gifted fighter and skilled marksman. Those that knew him in their letters (and Jorg in person) describe him as “demanding” and maybe a “womanizer” but I have not heard a bad word about him from all that I got from Karl-Heinz Becker, Herbert Altner, and Jorg Czypionka.

He also was what we would call ‘quick-tempered’ today. On the other hand, it seems he also was an ‘organizer’, a man that could get things done. I never met him, obviously, but what I am seeing is a man that – like so many others – went through a war, aged before his time and most certainly suffered the consequences from a world falling apart around him.

Did he drink? I would guess so – but many of them did and as one of the night fighter pilots told me: ‘We never knew if we had another day to live so hell, yes, we drank as if there was no tomorrow.’ – and some of them certainly drowned their fear and despair. But for all I know, he was not the alcoholic that some describe him today.

Did Welter avoid flying? Another good question – again, those that knew him said he always was the first to fly and if there was only one aircraft available, it would have been his. I know he was grounded for some time in February. I know he never flew the twin seater in combat. But did he duck out and put the others in harms way? I did not find a single piece of evidence for that. He was certainly flying in March – when the unit lost their home base, Burg near Magdeburg, after the USAAF raid on 10 April 1945, they supposedly were able to save most of the aircraft and bring them to Lübeck – but there are also intercepted messages about low combat readiness. In general, not too many flights were flown from Lübeck, as it seems – and maybe Welter was busy on the organizing side rather than the combat side.

Which brings us to the last topic and my apologies for the lengthy answer: his claims. First and foremost, I have deliberately denied my book a “scoreboard”. There is too little evidence to create one. But if you search the Internet, you will find more than once place that lists the claims attributed to Welter.

The most interesting question is: where did those claims come from? For Karl-Heinz Becker, we have the Abschussmeldungen. Also a single one for Herbert Altner. But I have yet to see anything for the others, including Welter. I know that Hans Ring and Emil Nonnenmacher compiled their list of Luftwaffe claims and I know that all the dates for Welter are contained in a shortened list of their research which I have a copy of. BUT: no sources given. And what distinguishes these entries in their list from all others: they only got a date but never a time.

You can also use the morning reports of the Luftwaffe-Führungsstab Ic which at least list the claims – but never attribute a claim to a specific pilot. So from my perspective – and that is what I did – we can trace the claims and numbers but except Becker and Altner, we have a truly hard time to put names to most of the other claims.

Then you need to imagine the situation: dark, clouds, no radar, an excess of speed – you fire at your opponent and the Mosquito corkscrews (which was their evasive maneuver) – what does the pilot think and report? It happened to Karl-Heinz Becker and I was able to get in touch with the son of his “victim”. The 30 mm rounds almost severed the tail of the Mosquito…almost. The bird limped home and Becker claimed a kill. It was not on purpose.

Other way round: Welter in his famous letter says he brought down a Mosquito by ramming it. We all went “..bullshit, that’s a clear fake!”. Yet, for one of his early claims while with JG 300 a Mosquito crew files a combat report for exactly the same place Welter claimed and almost exactly the same time: they reported that a Bf 109 (Welter was flying Bf 109 with 10./JG 300 at that time) rammed them and took off parts of their wing so they lost control temporarily before being able to fly home…

All in all: there is evidence for “over-optimistic” reporting – but I doubt that Welter bluntly lied. And I am not even sure that all the reported “claims” are actually claimed by him…

In Manfred Jurleit's book Kurt Lamm talks about a dispute and a falling-out that he had with Welter. How did his pilots regard Welter himself?

As I said: “in dubio pro reo” but Kurt Lamm’s account in Jurleit’s book and in one or two letters that I have copies of is not in line with any evidence I was ever able to find. I don’t want to judge a man that I don’t know and who cannot defend himself anymore – so let me kindly say: I think, Kurt Lamm’s account on Welter might be more “shining a light on Kurt Lamm” than “giving an honest account of Welter”.

As I said earlier: his other pilots – especially Karl-Heinz Becker and Kurt Altner who may have known him best amongst those that we have accounts from never had a bad word to say about the man. Yes, 'womanizer', yes, “quick-tempered”, yes, “demanding.” – but I never heard “coward”, “drunk”, or “liar”.

What was the significance of the 27-28 March 1945 Berlin raid? 

That night is – from a personal and non-personal point of view – maybe the single most interesting night to look at when looking at the history of Me 262 night fighting.

From a distance, it is a night at the end of March 1945 which was the most successful and busiest month for Welter and his pilots. Especially in the second half of the month, the conditions improved and they regularly were able to deploy multiple machines night after night. It is a glimpse at the “what if” scenario – if they had more men and machines available, if they had not lost their base early April 1945, if…nobody here wants that “if” but it also shows that the night fighting activities could have been scaled up and what it could have looked like. Then, of course, the date marks the first operational nocturnal flight of the Me 262 B-1a/U1 – the first-ever combat mission of the radar-equipped Me 262. Everyone else was flying on Mosquitos caught in the beams of the search light – but Lt. Herbert Altner and his radio operator, Uffz. Reinhard Lommatzsch, were able to roam free… until their engine flamed out, costing the unit “Rote 12” and Reinhard Lommatzsch his life.

Finally, it is the night that my good friend Jorg Czypionka shot down “his” Mosquito – a fact that he regrets to this day because it cost the life of the Mosquito’s pilot. I did a separate article (which I intend to translate to English and publish as an eBook like the JG 3 article of mine currently available on amazon) – it’s a perfect night to shine the limelight on men of both sides, the fate of those that perished and those that survived and had to live with the burden of the survivor.

Below;  a rare view of 'red 9'  - but even under high magnification a figure '9' is extremely hard to discern! There may however be a '306' painted in white on the nose (last three digits of the WNr.) According to 10./NJG 11 pilot Jorg Czypionka only two of the 12 ME 262s seen in the 'flight-line' photos of 10./NJG 11 published hitherto were in fact fitted out with radar - the rest were used in a role similar to Wilde Sau, flown VFR. Cypionka himself returned just a single victory in the 262, in a single seat machine. Again according to Cypionka the two 'antler equipped' Me 262 B-1a airframes were 'oddballs'. According to one source the radar was not effective enough to warrant its installation on more aircraft. Cypionka never flew the twin-seater and he certainly – at least today – has no comments on the radar. Lt. Altner – who was the only pilot to ever fly her in combat, as far as we know – made a very successful attack on a No.85 Sqn. Mosquito Night Hunter and was able to pick-up and engage multiple times so the radar apparently worked well enough. As Andreas Zapf puts it, it was “too little, too late, too few men and machines”. While 'pressed into service' as 'night fighters' the B-1a/U1 were essentially nothing more than a 'proof-of-concept' and their limited sorties amounted to operational test flights. The German term is Behelfsnachtjäger or 'interim night fighter'. A planned B-2a/U1 was to be a different kettle of fish - a "grown up" night-fighter that could easily be inserted into general service, replacing several different types of traditional night fighters. As far as we know, the airframe of a single Me 262 B-2 (the real night fighter) might have been completed but it surely never left the assembly line, maybe falling victim to one of the many Allied bombing raids.

Is there an English translation of 'Mosquitos over Berlin' coming do you think? Your own English is so good you could probably do it yourself. How did you get to master English so well anyway?

When I published the book through VDM, I sat down with Heinz Nickel and discussed the language – we agreed on German being the first shot. However, we both know that a good portion about the book is also about the fate of the airmen of the Light Night Striking Force. And I have been in touch with some of the families who all were very interested and eager to explore what their fathers or grandfathers were up against.

Personally, I want an English version – and sooner than later, because I know about the interest in the rest of the world. We are working on it but we need to find a publisher that we can liaise with. The ball is in VDM’s field so to say – but I know, they are after it and I hope, we can see development in spring next year.

In fact, I have also discussed doing the translation myself and then publish an English version through VDM. The problem is marketing and distribution, especially distribution: if you ship a book of 2.5kg from Germany to any buyer outside Europe, the postage is excessive. Which in return would reduce the sales because barely anyone would be able to pay almost the same for postage than for the book itself. Which makes it financially unattractive to any publisher without international distribution channels.

You also need to consider: an eBook is unfortunately not an option – I tried that in English and with amazon’s self-publishing platform with my much shorter story on JG 3’s adventures on the Eastern Front in 1941 and that worked well. But the Mosquito book is far more complex in layout and won’t work as eBook…so back to the drawing board with finding a suitable publisher.

My English – well, that is a story for itself, but I can safely assume my old English teacher would be somewhat amazed. It has to do with the way foreign languages were taught in school at the time I still went there (back in the 1980s and early 1990s): text, grammar, full stop. Mostly not even talking the language throughout the lesson. When I started my professional career though, I was placed in a multi-national project team with an American project leader… they made sure my language skills improved rather quickly. And I hade the great chance to spend 5 months in the Bay Area and California in 1996, working with our consultants in their office. That did the job but some people claim you can still hear a trace of a Californian accent…

What projects do you intend to work on next? 

Nachtjagd somewhat is a burnt topic now – my friend Theo Boiten is just releasing his updated series of Nachtjagd-Books and it is just great. Jean-Yves Lorant and Richard Goyat did a wonderful job on JG 300 and the Mosquito hunters of 10. Staffel. I still have a lot of Mosquito material but for the moment, I am caught up with something else.

Initially, I wanted to work on my own grandfather’s story  - he was with a heavy artillery unit, first in the West, then later at the Siege of Leningrad. In preparation, I looked at the operations around Maastricht and Eben-Emael on 10 May 1940 – which included a lot of Stuka activities. At this point, I am gathering data but it might well be that I switch from one of the fasted aircraft of World War II to one of the slowest. And it might well be the Stukas that are going to receive my attention over the next few years!

Thanks Andreas,  there's a link to your site below with more on the book and ordering information. All the best for the book and your future projects!


Ostfront Junkers Ju 52 Feldflugplatz Nachschub - #ebay photo find #298

Ostfront Junkers Ju 52 Feldflugplatz Nachschub  - some 'atmospheric' views of  a Ju 52 resupply operation somewhere in the East.

on offer here

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Focke Wulf FW 190 "mein erster Bruch, Jagdgeschwader Mölders", Wartung am Motor - ebay photo find #297

via Oliver Rogge - scenes from Værløse airbase, Denmark Me 109 12./JG 5 according to the seller

Below; two from the Harder family album

More on this blog;
Bundesarchiv photo report Gruppenkommandeur I./JG 53 https://falkeeins.blogspot.com/2015/09/bundesarchiv-photo-report-series.html