Friday, 22 March 2019

Forthcoming - The Messerschmitt Me 210/410 story, Jan Forsgren, Fonthill

now available to pre-order from Fonthill is a new book from Jan Forsgren on the type. According to the Fonthill site the book is due in July;

"..In 1938, the Reichsluftfahrtsministerium (German Air Ministry, RLM), issued a requirement for a new twin-engine heavy fighter to replace the Me 110. This type of combat aeroplane was known as Zerstörer (Destroyer). The first prototype flew in September 1939. The Me 210 proved very difficult to fly, having numerous deficiencies. It was said to be deadlier to its crews than the enemy. Nevertheless, the Luftwaffe ordered the Me 210 into production. Operational trials began in late 1941, but it was eventually acknowledged that the aircraft had to be redesigned in order to be accepted into Luftwaffe service. The whole Me 210 debacle proved a huge scandal. A redesigned variant, the Me 410 began to reach Luftwaffe units in mid-1943. Even if the Me 210 and Me 410 were similar in appearance, the latter had to be re-worked to erase the extremely poor reputation garnered by the Me 210. The Me 410 proved a quite successful aeroplane, being used as a heavy fighter and for reconnaissance duties. Its closest Allied equivalent was the British DH 98 Mosquito. More than 1,500 Me 210/410s were built in Germany and Hungary, with only two Me 410s surviving today..."

" Hi Neil ..I've just submitted the last edit before paging to Fonthill for the Me 210/410 book. The release date is provisional, but I hope it will be released later this year - July according to the Fonthill site. At around 270 pages my book will feature a general history of the Me 210/410, as well as the Ar 240, including details on development, combat, variants, units, foreign operators (Hungary and to a much lesser extent Japan), foreign evaluation, production, preservation and much information on individual aircraft..."

Jan Forsgren very graciously granted me a fantastic interview on the publication of his Ju 52 book on this blog here

recent 210/410 images from expired ebay auctions (not in the book!)

Verbandsflug KG 51 Hornisse...

Regia Aeronautica in the Battle of Britain - Operation Cinzano 11 November 1940 ("Avions" issue 227 'Fiat CR. 42 Falco - the Italian legend')

" 11 November 1940 - today we have brought down more enemy aircraft than on any previous day. Among them for the first time were at least eight Italian machines. The PM chuckled with joy when I reported this information to him..."

 John Colville, Churchill's private secretary.

Hoping to participate in the 'invasion' of Britain the Italians dispatched a hastily assembled expeditionary force of some 200 aircraft to the Channel coast. The so-called Corpo Aereo Italiano transferred to Belgium (Ursel) between 27 September and 19 October 1940 and would 'participate' in the tail end of the Battle of Britain; the Cant. Z 1007 of 172 Squadriglia RST (Ricognizione Strategica Terrestre, above) was one of five sent to Belgium, while the Fiat CR.42 Falco fighters of 18 Gruppo seen setting out from Milan for Belgium on 6 October 1940 (below) were part of a contingent of some fifty of the type.  The transfer from Italy was something of a fiasco - as a result of poor weather, lack of fuel or technical faults no fewer than 19 Fiat BR.20 bombers had to make emergency landings while a further four bombers and three Fiat G.50s were posted missing! After stops in Munich and Brussels the Italian detachment finally reached Ursel on 19 October!

While a comparatively strong force on paper  it took a mere handful of familiarisation flights for the realisation to dawn that the Fiat fighters- the CR. 42 in particular - were totally unsuited to 'winter' conditions in north-west Europe. Many of the aircraft had no seat armour nor functioning radio equipment, pitot tube heating was insufficient to prevent them freezing and the Fiat CR. 42 Falco biplane fighters with their open cockpits were hardly suited to missions over the UK in winter.  Among other items the pilots had to procure lifebelts from the Luftwaffe. The Italians were operating from Belgium as the Luftwaffe leadership had refused to allow them to operate from their airfields in northern France, which considerably hampered their radius of action (the endurance of the CR.42 was 775 km and the Fiat G.50 445 km), allowing them barely ten minutes over southern England. In addition, of the 200+ Italian pilots only five had received instrument or blind flying training.

 Regia Aeronautica Fiat G. 50 seen in Belgium during the Battle of Britain. 

11 November 1940 was a hard day for the forces of the Regia Aeronautica stationed in Belgium on the North Sea coast. The Italians had planned a raid over the UK under the code name 'Cinzano' - a bombing raid on Harwich  by ten Fiat BR. 20s escorted by 40 Fiat CR.42s and G.50s and a diversionary attack on London by the five Canz Z. 1007 bombers in concert with the Luftwaffe. However everything that could go wrong, did go wrong...the G.50s turned for home unable to locate the bombers, the bombers, late for their rendezvous, arrived unescorted over Harwich and the RAF was able to claim eight Italian machines shot down - in reality three BR 20M bombers and three CR.42 biplanes were lost. Falco coded '95-13' flown by Sergente Pietro Salvadori  put down on the beach at Orford Ness in Suffolk with an over-heating engine as a result of a ruptured oil line - the aircraft today displayed at the RAF Museum, Hendon. The Italians claimed nine Hurricanes shot down in the engagement - the RAF reported three Hurricanes damaged..M.llo Giuseppe Ruzzin was credited with a Hurricane shot down for his fifth victory following his four confirmed in Spain. To compound the mission's lack of success and running short of fuel, no fewer than nineteen Falcos made emergency landings along the Belgian coast with ten of these machines subsequently written off.

The second and final confrontation with RAF fighters for the CAI took place on 23 November - 12 Spitfires of 603 Sqn intercepted 23 Fiat CR.42s on a 'free-hunt' over the south Kent coast in the vicinity of Folkestone. After attempting to chase some Hurricanes the twenty-four Fiat G.50s of 20 Gruppo flying the mission had already turned for home. According to Luigino Caliaro (in 'Avions' 227) the Fiat pilots threw their maneuverable biplanes into the combat with alacrity and claimed five Spitfires shot down in the space of just a few minutes - the Spitfires made claims for nine Fiats. In reality two Fiats were shot down and three made forced landings in Belgium for one Spitfire damaged. With winter setting in the Falcos and Freccias made just one more sortie over southern England (28 November) without encountering the RAF. During December the Fiat CR 42s were recalled from Belgium to be sent to Africa and departed a snow-bound Ursel on 10 January 1941...

Below; Fiat BR.20M 242-3/MM22267 lost on 11 November 1940.

Further reading;

Luigino Caliaro's multi-part series on the Fiat CR. 42 in 'Avions' magazine. The latest issue No. 228 discusses CR.42 operations in the Med, Greece and East Africa
PDF extracts for all Lela Presse publications on their web site 

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Air War Archive- Focke Wulf Fw 190 - The early years - operations in the West compiled by Chris Goss (Frontline, Pen & Sword) New Luftwaffe book review

In late August 1943 PK photographer Engelmann was in Vannes, France to take pictures of Oblt. Josef Wurmheller posing alongside his new Fieseler-manufactured Fw 190 A-6 (WNr. 530314) "Yellow 2". Note the last four numerals of the Werknummer above the swastika on the tail fin and the 78 victory bars on the yellow rudder scoreboard - his 78th was a Spitfire shot down during the evening of 22 August 1943.

This is the first of two volumes in this photo series by Chris Goss that will be devoted to the 'work-horse' of the Luftwaffe - the Fw 190. The book comprises a 12 page Preface, Introduction and Glossary and 172 pages of well-captioned photographs. Some of these are pilot portraits or group personnel images but the majority cover the aircraft. Subtitled 'The Early Years - Operations in the West' there are seven 'chapter' headings. After 'Training' chapter 2 is entitled 'The Pembrey 190' and comprises some 22 pages of images of Oblt. Faber's JG 2 machine- both inside and out. Rather curiously the author appears to assume that you know all about the circumstances surrounding this aircraft and how and why the pilot put down in south-Wales because there is no text describing the event itself. Some pages have a single image, others feature two photos - some are a little dark and blurry - while the images showing the machine being tested by the RAF over five pages are clear and sharp. Chapter 3 is simply entitled 'Jagdgeschwader 2' and obviously covers all the aces, Wurmheller, Hahn, Schnell, Mayer etc and their machines - or more especially their rudder scoreboards. There are four pages of images of Bruno Stolle Staffelkapitän 8./JG 2 preparing for a sortie in his 'white 24'. Stolle took over from Egon Mayer as Kommandeur III./JG 2 in June 1943 - at the height of what was the 'Focke Wulf summer' over the Channel Front. While the Focke Wulfs of III./JG 2 racked up large numbers of Spitfire 'kills' a new adversary was increasingly appearing in the skies of France - massed formations of heavily defended four-engine bombers that the Jagdflieger would find a much more difficult proposition. One of the 'unidentified' 8./JG 2 pilots on page 54 is Uffz. Friedrich May. May returned his first victory on 10 June 1942 when he claimed a Boston. His 6th was a B-17 on 30 December 1942 during a raid by 1st Bomb Wing B-17s on the U-boat pens at Lorient. He was KIA on 20 October 1943 in the vicinity of Rouen in combat with Spitfires (Fw 190 A-6 470047) as an Ofw. with 3./JG 2. With at least 21 victories on his scoreboard May was awarded a posthumous DKiG. On page 73 there is a nice photo of Fähnrich Heinz Liebick of 9./JG 2 who had his Fw 190 shot-up on the ground on 17 March 1944 at Chartres by marauding P-51s but recovered from his injuries and went on to make two claims on 5 and 11 July 1944. There are a mere 25 pages in Chapter 4 devoted to 'Other Jagdgeschwader in north-west Europe' which is mostly JG 26 and JG 5. This chapter also includes views of the Melsbroeck 'blue 6' over a number of pages from 1944.  Chapter 5 entitled 'Jabo' features around fifty pages devoted to the Jabo Staffeln of JG 2 and JG 26. Content here is heavily weighted towards the Schnellkampfgeschwader and includes the well-known West Malling and Manston machines in detail. These units featured heavily in the Luftwaffe's so-called 'tip and run' campaign against southern England and London during 1942-43. On 20 January 1943 during a massed daylight raid on London Lt. Hermann Hoch flying Fw 190 A-4 WNr. 2409 'black 2 +'  was hit by anti-aircraft fire as he approached the south coast and brought down near Capel. As he crash-landed he hit the top of a hill, somersaulted some 200 yards ploughing through a coppice before coming to rest. Although injured (!) the pilot was able to evacuate the aircraft and set off the demolition charge. Unfortunately the author does not tell us what became of the pilot - but there is not much left of his aircraft ! The last two chapters cover over thirty pages those Fw 190 units performing short-range recce, with good coverage of Nahaufklärungsgruppe 13, while there is a small section on the Fw 190 in the Mediterranean. As the author explains in his Foreword many of these images come from Alfred Price's archive and have been specially scanned for this series. However it does not appear that they have been 'tidied-up' in any way and some are reproduced a little too large and might be a little indistinct as a consequence. But if you are looking to add a good quality and inexpensive Fw 190 title to your library then this is it. Volume 2 should be equally as good. Thanks to Pen and Sword for the review copy. The title is currently available from the Pen and Sword web site with a nice discount. Note also the cover image currently shown there (and above) differs from the actual cover which features Faber's Fw 190 at Pembrey..

Images shown below feature in Chris Goss's latest title in the Air War Archive series;

Above; Fw 190 A-2/3 "gelbe 11" (probably WNr. 2187) of 9./ JG 2 features the stylised eagle wing with an Adlerkopf (eagle's head) on the cowling. Note the small bulge on the gun cowling, a feature of Arado-built Fw 190s. "Yellow 11" was the usual aircraft of Ofw. Fritz Hartmann - the rudder featured at least eight Abschussbalken by the time Hartmann handed the machine over to 8. Staffel later that year where his victory markings were removed. See also the photos on p176 in Erik Mombeek's superlative " In the skies of France " (Vol 3)

Fw 190 A-5 of 2./Nahaufklärungsgruppe 13. This unit was equipped with the Bf 109 G and Fw 190 A, and commanded by Oberleutnant Walter Erhard was sent to Cuers a few weeks before the Allied Landings in Normandy..

below; Uffz. Paul Ebbinghaus of 3./ Schnellkampfgeschwader 10, shot down and killed by friendly fire near Beauvais on 8 May 1943

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Bf 110 Zerstörergeschwader 76 -ebay photo find #311

Gruppenkommandeur Walter Grabmann of II. Gruppe of the Zerstörergeschwader 76 ("Haifischgruppe") alongside a sharkmouth Bf 110, seen here shortly after his return from captivity (POW on 18 May 1940) on the field at Sovet, near Dinant and Ciney, Belgium, 1940

Tim de Craene's Ebay sales are here

Ju 88 KG 51, KG 30, Ju 87 Stukageschwader 2 - Ebay photo find #310

nice set of KG 51 Ju 88s with (presumably) yellow cowls and yellow rudders.

5 altes orig Foto Negative negativ Front Ostfront Flugzeuge Flieger Junkers Ju 88 Feldflugplatz Flugzeuge über einem Feldflugplatz. Nachlass eines KG 51 Edelweiss Angehöriger.

on offer here 

Why did the Germans not use their Luftwaffe to try to stop the Normandy invasion? Quora opinion piece by Huang Kun

Reading the latest volume of Erik Mombeeck's history of JG 2 covering the period Jan-September 1944. Every sortie - or so it seems- was a massacre for both the 'old hands' and the 'new growth'. Pilots and aircraft shot down almost at will by superior numbers of US fighters. In the months and weeks prior to D-Day the Allied bombing and interdiction campaign over France reached its height ..

  ".. anything and everything that could be bombed was bombed -and systematically; factories, rail hubs, bridges, airfields and infrastructure. Our high command threw everything it could against the bombers without consideration for losses. We were scrambled up to three times per day and losses were such that the number of pilots available shrank alarmingly. A shortage of serviceable fighters was equally as apparent..I was airborne for my third sortie on 11 May - a Hauptmann had been assigned as my wingman. He was not at all enthused at the prospect - it was no doubt his last chance to display courage in the face of the enemy. He was ordered to stick with me whatever happened. We sighted the 'Pulks' south-west of Paris and immediately lined up for a frontal pass  to avoid being caught by the escorts.."

 Lt. Hans Santler,  Staffelkapitän 4./JG 2

Reposted from

Why did the Germans not use their Luftwaffe to try to stop the Normandy invasion?
Quora opinion piece by Huang Kun (edited and additional material N. Page)

By 6 June 1944, the Luftwaffe, to all intents and purposes, had already been rendered ineffective thanks to a new strategy instituted by Lt. Gen. Spaatz, who became the new commander of US Strategic Air Forces in Europe (USSTAF) in Jan 1944. He brought Maj. Gen. Doolittle along with him as the new commander of Eighth Air Force, replacing Maj. Gen. Eaker.

Maj. Gen. Doolittle and Lt. Gen. Spaatz.

Spaatz's goal was to destroy the Luftwaffe as much as possible before D-Day. He and Doolittle would deliberately use the bombers as bait. Once the Luftwaffe's planes were detected, the escorting fighters were instructed to stop chaperoning the bombers and go after the enemy fighters instead. It marked a key change in strategy in Europe's air war. To lure the Jagdwaffe into combat against the bombers, Spaatz and Doolittle targeted German oil supplies, a critical resource in German war machinery. Once the Luftwaffe took the bait, the US fighters would wait for them on top. German air power would be destroyed by attrition.

There was an interesting anecdote which reflected this new strategic direction USSTAF was taking. One day, the new Eighth Air Force commander Doolittle was visiting his subordinate commander, Maj. Gen. Kepner. At the 8th Fighter Command, Doolittle noticed a slogan on the wall. It read: "The first duty of Eighth Air Force fighters is to bring the bombers back alive." Doolittle was not pleased. Kepner said the sign was already there when he got there. Doolittle told him to take it down and that it was wrong. A new sign then went up: "The first duty of Eighth Air Force fighters is to destroy German fighters."

P51s belonging to 8th Fighter Command

Hence, the US fighters were no longer constrained to holding close formation with bombers. Instead, they would fly ahead, look for German fighters, and attack them where they found them. By the end of January, the fighter escorts had spread out into formations 25 miles wide with a squadron out front, sweeping the route for enemy aircraft. Soon entire groups of fighters were ranging 50 miles ahead to catch the German planes on the ground or as they were forming up to attack the bombers.

Low level strafing of enemy airdromes by fighters from the 8th Fighter Command accounted for a multitude of Luftwaffe machines.

The bombing of German synthetic oil plants also compelled the Luftwaffe to stay closer to home in a defensive mode and, as such, required them to come up and fight the P-38s and P-51s, which themselves were tough opponents.

In this view 3 combat boxes are falling into trail to bomb the target. You can see one Combat box in the distance and another closer. The picture was taken from the 3rd combat box of a combat “Wing”.

 Thunderbolt dispatching a ME-110.

In Feb 1944, USSTAF launched a series of concentrated attacks during the "Big Week" of February, which dealt the Luftwaffe a serious blow from which it never fully recovered. The Luftwaffe in western Europe wrote off 34 percent of its fighter strength in January, another 56 percent in February, after Spaatz and Doolittle came onboard.

New Luftwaffe pilots had only rudimentary training and were being told by the older pilots, "..Your job is to protect me.." It was a matter of survival. In early 1944 Galland reported;

"..The ratio in which we fight today is 1 to 7. The standard of the Americans is extraordinarily high. The day fighters have lost more than 1000 aircraft during the last four months, among them our best officers. These gaps cannot be filled. Things have gone so far that the danger of a collapse of our arm exists..." (Overy Richard. Why the Allies Won p.124)

Even though production of Bf-109 and Fw-190 fighters continued and even increased, production was dispersed and eventually driven underground. As the RAF continued to destroy city centres (and therefore rail hubs and junctions) bottlenecks and delays built up. With the bombing of German oil supplies, many of the newly manufactured German fighters would sit idle for lack of fuel. Nor could the Germans replace the losses of their veteran pilots.  There were so many Bf 109s shot down on one sortie flown on 31 July 1944 against 15th AF B-24s and P-51s in defence of the Ploesti oilfields (22 JG 53 and JG 77 Bf 109s) that it was said - with a certain gallows humour - on the next sortie the JaFü should organise a bus and dispatch it to the same grid square as the fighters to retrieve all those that had been forced to bail out. (Geschichte des Jagdgeschwaders 77, Jochen Prien p.2110).

As the war dragged on, new German pilots  went into combat with barely 50 hours of flying time. By early 1945 veterans on occasion bailed out of airworthy fighters rather than join the unequal combat - during the first half of 1944 pilots were still facing a possible courts martial for landing accidents and similar (see Lorant's JG 300 history for more on this). American fighters strafed and shot up everything that moved - even enemy pilots hanging under parachutes and crash-landed Bf 109s;

 " Für die 'Alten' war dies nicht neu; nur die 'Neuen' waren entsetzt '

according to Erich Sommavilla in Geschichte des Jagdgeschwaders 77  (' ..this was nothing new for the old hands, but the new pilots were enraged..' Jochen Prien p.2110).

The losses sustained by the Luftwaffe in the spring of 1944 were of critical importance. Within a few months, the Allies had seized air superiority from the Germans and held it for the rest of the war.

Attrition of Luftwaffe aces in the West and the Reich prior to D-Day - from McFarland and Newton 'To Command the Sky - the battle for air superiority over Germany 1942-44 '

On D-Day, the Allied invasion force was strung out for miles along the Normandy coast, presenting the greatest target for German planes. But the Luftwaffe was unable to mount opposition of any significance. The Luftwaffe in France could only launch 80-90 fighter sorties on the first day of the Normandy invasion and another 175 that night with no significant effect. The Allies had absolute air supremacy on D-Day. As Allied forces moved inland, air bases would be established and the perimeter of the war in the west would be rolled back towards Germany.

Hardly any Luftwaffe aircraft appeared over the beaches on D-Day

As a side note, it was said that when Spaatz and Doolittle proposed their new strategy to demolish the Luftwaffe before D-Day, British Air Chief Marshal Leigh-Mallory, the Allied air chief for Overlord, disagreed vigorously. He wanted to hold back the fighters for training and to use them in a "big air battle" he anticipated would happen on D-Day. He didn't want Spaatz and Doolittle to waste the Allied precious fighters away in some dogfights faraway in Germany.

In the end, the Allied supreme commander, US Gen. Eisenhower, settled the priorities with consideration for British sensitivities. Spaatz got most, but not all, of what he wanted. However, it was enough for Spaatz and Doolittle to implement their air strategy and do their job. The great air battle over the beaches predicted by Leigh-Mallory did not happen on D-Day, of course, because the Luftwaffe had been pretty much decimated by then. Leigh-Mallory was thinking defensively, while Spaatz and Doolittle were thinking that the best defense was to have a good offense.

Years after the war, Doolittle commented, "It is generally conceded that the air war against Germany was won during the phase of our operations between the beginning of February 1944 and D-Day." Had Eisenhower backed Leigh-Mallory and denied Spaatz and Doolittle instead, the outcome of D-Day might have been a little different with the Luftwaffe probably pretty much alive on that day.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

latest volume in JG 2 history from Erik Mombeeck - the death of Egon Mayer 2 March 1944. New Luftwaffe books

Published at the same time as his JG 5 Luftwaffe Gallery is volume 5 of Erik Mombeeck's day-by-day chronicle of JG 2: "Dans le Ciel de France - Histoire de la JG 2 "Richthofen". This latest volume covers in detail the history of the "Richthofen" from 1 January 1944 until its definitive withdrawal from French territory in late August. This period was marked by heavy, bitter and deadly combat as the Allies softened up the defenders ahead of the landings in Normandy. Heavily outnumbered, the tenacity of the Luftwaffe pilots was no longer sufficient to defend the skies of occupied France. Losses on both sides were considerable - none more so than in JG 2. In the space of just a few months the Geschwader lost two Kommodoren and two Kommandeure, who together had posted combined victory claims around the 400 mark. The chapter covering JG 2's defensive battles on the D-Day landing front reveals that the "Richthofen" were particularly active there from 6 June 1944. 200 pages, 184 photos, most of them previously unpublished.

With Vol 5 this series is now 1000 pages long. And virtually all there is in English on this unit is an Osprey! Apart from Vol I of this series, the only volume already published in English.

2 March 1944 was a particularly 'black day' for the Geschwader - airborne with his Geschwaderstab from Cormeilles, north-east of Lisieux, Normandy, Kommodore Mayer - the 'ace of aces' in the West - was vectored over the Ardennes against a USAAF daylight raid aimed at Frankfurt am Main. Having suffered the recent loss of his long-time wingmen Gruppenadjutant Hptm. Fritz Edelmann (KIA 30 January) and Ofw. Rudolf Alf (hospitalised 21 January), Mayer's 'new' Schwarm was far less experienced. All four Fw 190s missed the rendezvous with II. Gruppe airborne from Creil, north of Paris and III. Gruppe who had overnighted at St. Trond in Belgium. Continuing north-eastwards Mayer appears to have subsequently lost the other three Fw 190s of his Schwarm and, as an 'isolated Fw 190', he was easily picked off by 365th FG P-47 Thunderbolts near Montmédy (1st victory for Maj. Robert L. Goffey). He was the third Kommodore of the Richthofener to be shot down and killed after Wick and Balthasar. His award of the 'Swords' was announced on the day of his death. Egon Mayer had filed claims for some 102 enemy aircraft, all in the West,  including 26 four-engine bombers, 51 Spitfires and 12 P-47 fighters. Mayer's funeral was held at Beaumont with great pomp and ceremony. In his guard of honour were Huppertz and Wurmheller - both would soon know a similar fate. Mayer is buried in the war cemetery of St. Desiré de Lisieux.


" My copy of the Luftwaffe Gallery JG 5 book has just arrived and it is as you would expect from Erik - full of interesting photos, informative narrative and quality colour profiles. The LuGa series is up there along with the Luftwaffe in Focus series as being a must have..."

 " Hucks216 " on the "12 o'clock high" forum