Monday, 10 February 2020

Maj. Werner Roell, French-born Stuka ace, Kommandeur I./St.G. 77, JV 44






Many enthusiasts know of Werner Roell through his landmark book "Laurels for Prinz Wittgenstein" about his school friend, Major Heinrich Seyn-Wittgenstein, one of the great Nachtjagd aces. But Roell was a decorated Luftwaffe pilot in his own right, awarded the Ritterkreuz in May 1943 as Kommandeur I./St.G 77. He flew over 400 combat sorties, many at the controls of the Ju 87. He was interviewed only rarely but Belgian writers Philippe Saintes and Jean-Louis Roba spent time with him in early 2008 at his home on Lake Constance (Bodensee). Ahead of a more in-depth eArticle from AWP here are some brief extracts from Roell's biography.



" ..My father Paul Roell was an engineer from Krefeld but loved France. In 1912 he settled in Ailly-sur-Noye (south of Amiens) to work in the local factory. He even organised his wedding there and I was born in Ailly on 8 February 1914. But war broke out soon after and we were interned. My mother and I were exchanged for French civilians while my father was imprisoned at Fort Lautrec in Brest for four years. He was held in harsh captivity, but always maintained his great attachment to France. When he returned to Germany at the end of 1918, he started a trading company and I spent my childhood in Solingen. When I obtained my Abitur ( high school diploma) in 1933, my grandmother, who was originally from East Prussia, offered to let me stay in Königsberg. I was going to discover things that I hadn't known up until that point. I, who lived in a demilitarized Rhineland following the Treaty of Versailles, learned that there was a German navy and army. So I decided to become a sailor. In 1934 I joined the Kriegsmarine and spent several months in Flensburg-Mörvik. I served on ships for a time, but in 1934 I was approached by an officer who told me that the fledgling military air force needed volunteers. I decided to apply for this new service..."

After some gliding practice, Fähnrich Roell entered the Salzwedel school on November 1, 1935. Very quickly, he opted to fly Sturzkampflugzeuge and flew the Hs 123 before mastering the Ju 87 A and then B. As a member of II./St.G. 165, he soon became adept at precision bombing. Still single, he was in principle able to apply for the Legion Condor. In fact his application was declined. He recalled;

 "I applied to go to the other side of the Pyrenees but was not accepted. I was told that the Legion had sufficient personnel and that there was no need for volunteers.."  This is easily explained by the very small number of Ju 87s involved in the civil war! Roell would nevertheless take part in the occupation of Czechoslovakia with his unit. He was one of the first pilots to land in Norway during that campaign. He later flew operations in Yugoslavia and Crete as Staffelkapitän of 4./St. G 77, subsequently flying in Russia.

On the launch of Barbarossa St.G.77 was in almost constant action supporting Guderian's 2. Panzerarmee assaulting Brest-Litovsk, which fell on June 29. The Soviets weathered the initial Blitzkrieg and managed to launch sporadic counter-attacks. Thus, on 7 August, St.G. 77 was called in urgently in the Kanev sector to halt a Soviet assault threatening the German breakthrough towards Uman. The targets did not vary much for Roell and his comrades: tanks, vehicles, fortified positions, flak batteries. From time to time, it became necessary to attack the armoured trains that the Soviets used as artillery support. In September, St.G 77 was deployed to the Crimea in the area of Army Group South. For a while, Roell's 4. Staffel was the only Stuka unit supporting the German troops on the ground in the peninsula. During this period II./St.G. 77 flew sorties against shipping on the Black Sea. On September 21, the Ju 87 Gruppe launched a major operation against a powerful Soviet amphibious force heading towards Grigorevka (west of Odessa). A destroyer, a torpedo boat and a tugboat were sunk within minutes. Two other destroyers are also damaged during this attack. The Ju 87 Bs continued their maritime patrols during the following months. The light cruiser 'Chervona Ukraina' was attacked on 12 November and, badly damaged, was sunk the next day.

Below; Roell, Staffelkapitän of 4./St. G 77, in front of his Berta with his Bf Ofw. Zehle and 1. Wart Uffz. Karl Becker.



Below; loaded 'Berta' of St.G 77 with 'cockerel' badge under the windscreen





After the fall of Sevastopol in July 1942 Roell was promoted to Hauptmann and appointed Staffelkapitän of the Stabsstaffel of St.G. 77. This Staff comprised various aircraft: some Ju 87 Bs and some Ju 88s, the latter replaced by Bf 110s. The new StaKa would develop the offensive character of this unit, which then concentrated on attacks on railway lines while also flying in night pursuit or escorting Ju 87s. Roell achieved some notable successes, among others sinking a light cruiser in the Black Sea. On 27 August 1942, Roell shot down a Soviet twin-engine bomber that fell to the heavy nose armament of his Bf 110 north of Tuaspe. The Stab moved regularly during the summer. After a brief interlude in Armawir at the end of August, the unit reached Taganrog. On September 29, Roell taxied out for a sortie with Ofw Brendemühl and Ofw Rottke from Belorestschenskaja airfield. Powering down the takeoff strip he was on the point of getting airborne when his landing gear collapsed!  The Bf 110 F-4 slid along the runway to finish up in the long grass on the edge of the aerodrome (below). Fortunately for the crew, the bombs attached to the belly rack did not detonate.
The new Kommodore, Alfons "Ali" Orthofer had less luck. He had the misfortune to be caught in a bombing raid at the same airfield on October 12, 1942 and, fatally injured, died the same evening at the Lazarett in Maikop. At that time, St.G. 77 took part in the destruction of the oil fields and refineries in Grozny, Caucasus (10-12 October). A month later Baku received the attentions of St. G 77.

Below;  Roell's Bf 110 after his takeoff accident on 27 August 1942. The 'death's hand' emblem of the Stabsstaffel is just visible on the nose of the machine..



Roell was appointed Gruppenkommandeur of I./ St. G 77 in February 1943 and awarded the Ritterkreuz three months later in May 1943...

 On 1 December 1943, Major Roell was finally withdrawn from the front to become Inspektionschef of the Luftwaffenkriegschule in Bug am Rügen where he taught his pupils the tactics of dive-bombing. Much later in the war, he was sent to serve on the Staff of the "Plenipotentiary of the Reichsmarshall for Jet aircraft" Generalmajor Josef Kammhuber. It was Kammhuber who in early March 1945 ordered JV 44, the so-called Jagdverband Galland, then based at Munich-Riem, to become operational as quickly as possible. JV 44 was an elite unit flying the Luftwaffe's last hope, the Messerchmitt 262. Roell was tasked with ensuring that communication between Kammhuber's staff and the jet combat units ran smoothly. He explained post-war;

 "...at that time the situation was really critical. I was sent to Munich-Riem to take care of the logistics and to help set up the necessary infrastructure for the Galland jets. Galland had called on my services although I did not know him personally. We were in the thick of it from the outset because Riem airfield was the daily target of enemy bombers. The runway had to be repaired every day ... "

 JV 44 had in its ranks prestigious and experienced officers such as Adolf Galland, Steinhoff, Krupinski, Barkhorn, Heinz Bär, Willi Herget and Günther Lützow. All these RK holders now flew as 'simple' fighter pilots. In a little over a month of fighting, this unit took credit for the destruction of forty-five enemy aircraft. On April 9, 1945, Roell and his friend and former St.G 77 comrade, Maj. Herbert Pabst (former StaKa of 6./St.G 77), were on the road in a Kübelwagen. The airfield at Riem and the surrounding area suddenly became the target of cluster bombs dropped by B-17 bombers;

 "..We just had time to reach the Daglfing race-track to take cover. The bombs were literally streaming down, the ground was shaking and the air was filled with thick smoke. Once their cargoes were dropped, the enemy formation headed for Munich in a deluge of fire. The response from our Flak had not been long in coming. At that moment a bomber could be seen breaking away from the formation. Suddenly it exploded in mid-air! Aircraft parts fell tumbling and spinning to the ground, glittering like silver flakes in the sun. What a sight! Suddenly I saw a parachute, just one. At the same time, another tragedy was playing out much closer to us. The stud farm had been hit hard by the raid. Young girls recruited to look after the horses were trembling with fear. An SS man walked to one of the stables, pistol in hand. We heard several shots. Damn the unfortunate horses! It must be awful for a rider to shoot his own horse to shorten his suffering. The individual came out of the stable trembling with rage. Meanwhile, the wind had pushed the parachute in our direction. The bomber crewman who had evidently been the only man to get clear landed behind the building. The man was unable to speak and one of his legs was probably broken. The people from the stud farm put him down on the grass. The poor bugger was obviously in a state of shock but the SS man who was still holding the gun in his hand wanted to shoot him out of hand in retaliation. This was something we could not tolerate. Pabst and I intervened directly. The man may well have been wearing another uniform, but he was first and foremost a human being. We came out of our refuge and confronted him before he committed a terrible act. He didn't understand our reaction, but he finally turned on his heels and walked away. I don't know if the enemy airman, who was prostrate, realized any of this, but he smiled weakly when we gave him a cigarette. You could see the pain in his eyes when we lifted him up to carry him in our Kübelwagen. As we drove through Riem airfield, we also picked up one of our soldiers who was seriously injured. We went to the sisters' house in Eglfing-Haar, the only place where first aid could be obtained. The man guarding the main entrance initially refused to let us in: 'No access for military personnel. We are in the service of the Red Cross. Take them somewhere else!'. (...) However, we managed to convince a doctor to take care of the two wounded. For the German soldier, it was too late because he had succumbed to his wounds. We visited our American charge a few days later, but he had already been transferred to the Schwabinger Hospital in Munich.."

Years after the end of the war, Werner Roell, assisted by an American enthusiast, rediscovered the identity of his "charge" - Lt Warren Cormack Perkins, co-pilot of a 388th BG B-17 (serial number 44-6574). Of the nine crew members, five survived, including Perkins.

As Riem airfield was no longer safe, JV 44 moved to Salzburg-Maxglam at the end of April 1945. The unit was then ordered to move to Prague, but was surprised by American forces on May 3. The war ended for Werner Roell. He escaped capture and was even employed by the Americans as an interpreter. For three years, he even ran a hotel for the occupying troops. He learned, however, that he was formally barred from any course of study. As an officer and Ritterkreuzträger, he could only be a 'fierce Nazi' for the new leaders of Germany. Roell therefore chose to leave the country and cross the border clandestinely in the Alps. Intercepted by the Italian police, he remained in a Rome prison for a few weeks before embarking for Argentina. He worked briefly as a waiter in Buenos Aires before being able to enter the United States. Always passionate about aviation, he became the first German to obtain a pilot's license in the land of Uncle Sam after WWII. Werner Roell then bought a small Cessna 140 for $3,000 and ferried it from Roosevelt Airfield to Long Island. It was the beginning of a new odyssey that would take him across the American continent: Mexico, Guatemala, San Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and, finally, Chile, where he became a physical education teacher at the German school in Santiago in 1948. Four years later, having learned of his father's death, he returned to the country to take over as head of the Roell group. After the usual training, he even became a reserve lieutenant-colonel in the Bundeswehr. Married shortly after his return to Germany, he had four children and one of his grandsons also pursued a career as an aviator.

Werner Roell spent his later years in Switzerland, close to the German border and devoted himself to his two great passions: painting and writing.  He passed away on May 10, 2008.

Article based on extracts from "Les As du Junkers Ju 87 Stuka" and with additional material by Jean-Louis Roba.

Sunday, 9 February 2020

'Edu' Neumann, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 27, Eduard Friedrich




"...Here is my Eduard Bf 109 F4. I didn't fancy the schemes in the boxing I had so raided the spare decal box and made a JG 27 machine as seen in the "Africa" combo boxing, complete with the attractive yellow nose. I could have gone with Marseille's machine, maybe next time! Gunze and Tamiya exterior with Vallejo interior details. There is a fair bit of tonal variation on the wings and fuselage as I lightened/darkened various panels to break up the monotone RLM79 finish. There is some restrained chipping with a silver pencil. Tyres flatted and pitot replaced with hollow tube. Everything hanging down. The spinner is held on with magnets. I found it centres more precisely that way and can be easily removed for transport to shows. Amazingly it even spins. A joy to build notwithstanding the cockpit is pretty busy and a bit of a tight fit here and there, especially the instrument panel. Keep 'em coming Eduard..."

Rick 'gryphon28'




'Edu' Neumann, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 27 returning from a combat sortie, a scene depicted on the cover of a recent issue of ‘Avions’ magazine. Somewhat surprisingly (perhaps) for the Kommandeur I./JG 27 (subsequently Kommodore) most of his ‘kills’ - after a couple in Spain - were returned over southern England during the Battle of Britain. A more or less 'factory fresh' Bf 109 F-4 (note armoured windscreen) would suggest that the photo was taken in September/October 1941.





"Doppelabschuss!" Auf dem Feldflugplatz eines Jagdgeschwaders......more Messerschmitt Bf 109s - ebay photo find #326




Press photo of Oblt. Johannes Steinhoff at the controls of his 10.(N)/JG 26 Dora


"Doppelabschuss!"  Auf dem Feldflugplatz eines Jagdgeschwaders......



Ofw. Max Martin 8./JG 26


  Bf 109 E ‘black 5’ flown by Leutnant Gustav Langanke of 5./JG 27


Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6 Major "Tutti" Müller Stab JG 3 Mai 1944. Left, Dahl



Bf 109 G-2 of I./JG 54 in winter 1942-43.



Bf 109 E-3/N flown by Hptm Herwig Knüppel Kommandeur II./JG 26 Westfeldzug 1940. As an Oberleutnant, Knüppel was one of the first German fighter pilots in Spain (departed Germany on July 31, 1936). Knüppel was killed near Valenciennes on May 19, 1940 in WNr. 1452 while leading II. /JG 26. He had 3 victories to his credit (in addition to his 8 in Spain).




Thursday, 2 January 2020

The 'Luchy' trial - III./ZG 26 pilot murder - May/June 1940




Roadside grave in northern France of Uffz. Wilhelm Ross shot in cold blood after jumping clear of his stricken III./ZG 26 Bf 110 on May 20, 1940.


On May 20, 1940, while flying an escort mission for He 111s on a bombing mission to Beauvais, two Bf 110s of III./ZG 26 were shot down by Sgt Edouard Le Nigen of GC III/3. One of the twin-engine aircraft crashed in Luchy along the Amiens-Beauvais road, the two crew successfully bailing out of their stricken machine. The aviators touched down in a field between the road and the hamlet of Rougemaison. The pilot, Uffz Wilhelm Ross, was then attacked by refugees before being shot in the head by a French soldier or officer, whose unit in retreat was apparently on the road in the same refugee column, possibly intentionally. A sergeant in charge of the 106th artillery regiment held off a baying crowd, which enabled the radio operator/gunner, Gefr Alfred Wetzel, to avoid a similar fate to his pilot.

left; Gefr Alfred Wetzel, a witness at the Luchy trial during September 1940

Wetzel went into captivity and was released after the fall of France. Ross was briefly buried by the roadside for a while. With the end of hostilities on the continent, an investigation was conducted by the German authorities.

Ross was not of course the only German airman murdered by military or civilian personnel on the basis of a foolish and criminal order promulgated by the French military authorities according to which any 'paratrooper' had to be shot. The order in question was 'reviewed' on or around May 20 after several French and British airmen were killed by 'friendly' fire. Despite the repeated occurrence of these gratuitous crimes, the German authorities apparently had little desire to make publicity out of them, possibly to avoid memories of those few snipers of August 1914 whose disordered actions had led to bloody uncontrolled and disproportionate reprisals in Belgium as well as in northern France.

Somewhat unusually the 'Luchy case' resulted in a 'show trial' that would attract media attention.

As the responsible French soldier had not been identified, a local farmer Alfred Mullot who lived in Rougemaison was charged with the crime. Mullot had seen the German aircraft coming down and had been quickly on the scene with his shotgun. He had been denounced by another local as the murderer. The 'witness', an agricultural worker, apparently wanted to 'settle a score' following a humdrum village dispute. Mullot was arrested on August 2, 1940 and imprisoned for a time in Ghent.



Brought back to Beauvais, he was put on trial in a very theatrical manner on September 12 in the village square of Luchy itself. Photos taken at this "trial" were widely published in the press. Although Bordfunker Wetzel, a witness at the 'hearing', stated that he did not recognise Mullot, the farmer was nonetheless sentenced to death. However, his sentence was soon commuted to five years in prison. After a year and a half in the Reich, he was sent back to Luchy (where he died in 1980). Mullot's release demonstrated that, in the end, no one had seriously considered him to be the killer and that the 'Luchy trial' was something of a farce.



(Farmer Mullot accused of murdering III./ ZG 26 pilot Uffz. Wilhelm Ross on May 20, 1940 at his 'trial' - the newspaper caption read " I was only following the orders of the Prefecture"...)


However, his release raised a number of questions. Why did the German authorities expend so much unnecessary energy on this 'show' trial when a simple examination of Ross' remains would have revealed that he was killed by a bullet fired by a soldier and not by Alfred Mullot's shotgun? Why even use such publicity to condemn an innocent man (even if, according to how events could have played out, Mullot might well have acted in the manner of a 'franc-tireur'). After all, far less coverage was given to the four civilians sentenced to death and executed after the murder of a KG 54 crew at Vimy on 18 May 1940. Was the Luchy trial the 'unfortunate' initiative of a local German official... the answer to this and other questions will probably never be known.







Extracted with permission from Jean-Louis Roba's new history of III./ZG 26 published by Lela Presse. Free shipping on this title up to 10 January 2020. Go to the Lela Presse website for pdf extracts and ordering info.

Best wishes and Happy New Year/ Meilleurs Voeux to all friends and contributors at Lela Presse!

Herbert Kutscha IV./JG 3 - Bundesarchiv photo finds #5






Oblt. Herbert Kutscha (left) earned his Knights Cross with II./ZG 1 in the East (see link below). He briefly led IV./JG 3 in the air during early 1944, 83-victory ace and IV. Gruppe Kommandeur Franz Beyer having been shot down and killed on 11 February 1944 (a successor not immediately appointed). IV./JG 3 operated in concert with the Sturmstaffel from Salzwedel during February-April 1944. Kutscha would be shot down by P-47s near Venlo on 23 February 1944 and was out of action for several months.





Monday, 30 December 2019

Wurmheller Jagdgeschwader 2 - ebay photo find #326



Jagdflieger Lederkombi Pilot Josef Sepp Wurmheller, Frankreich, Feldflugplatz, vermutlich 13. November 1942

Sunday, 22 December 2019

new Luftwaffe book series from UK publisher Mortons



new and forthcoming series from this ambitious UK publisher..."Secret Projects of the Luftwaffe " and "Eagles of the Luftwaffe"

First volume in the "Secret Projects.." series is a new history of the Blohm and Voss BV 155, which according to author Dan Sharp, "..sheds new light on the development of the type based entirely on primary source research. The book has photos of the last surviving example of the type in the world. And it's in remarkably good condition!.."

According to Dan's Twitter feed ..".. NASM's BV 155 V2 at Silver Hill is in deep storage and inaccessible to the public - so the team at NASM sent someone in for me to get pictures. The Me 155 started out being essentially a 109 with new wings/undercarriage but what ended up as the BV 155 shared few components with the 109 series..."

 There has been nothing on the Blohm and Voss BV 155 since the Monogram Close-Up of 1990 by Thomas H Hitchcock (that I'm aware of).



Mortons' Luftwaffe series are here