Friday, 22 February 2019

RAF B-17s attack the 'Admiral Scheer', 8 September 1941 - JG 5, Lt Alfred Jakobi, Bf 109 T


"..On 8th September 1941 German fighters easily shot down two of the four Fortress Is of No. 90 Sqn RAF dispatched to bomb the German pocket battleship Admiral Scheer docked in Oslo, Norway. By September 1941 the British had lost, in combat and accidents, nearly half of their 20 B-17s. Somewhat disappointed, they relegated the remaining aircraft to Coastal Command for long-range patrols..."

The B-17 Flying Fortress was offered to the RAF early in 1941 and the first combat missions were flown during the summer of 1941. One of the first large-scale raids flown over the Continent was 'Operation Sunrise', a daylight raid mounted on 24 July 1941 against the German battle cruisers Prinz Eugen, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau holed up in the port of Brest in which three B-17s took part. The RAF's first B-17s were some twenty examples of the thirty eight B-17 Cs produced in the spring and early summer of 1941, designated Fortress I in RAF service. Forty RAF aircrew were trained at McChord Field, near Tacoma, Washington, from January-April 1941, before the aircraft was issued to No. 90 Squadron at Kinloss in Scotland. By 12 September 90 Squadron had carried out 22 raids, involving 39 Fortress sorties. Of those 18 had been aborted, two had bombed secondary targets and nineteen had bombed their primary targets. Only two 1,100 lb bombs were recorded as hitting their target. In that period two aircraft were shot down and two more crashed on landing after being badly damaged. One of their least successful raids was the attempt to find and bomb the heavy cruiser 'Admiral Scheer' anchored off Oslo, Norway on the morning of 8 September 1941.

The 90 Squadron machine WP-D/AN 525 "D-DOG" shot down on 8 September 1941 may well have been the first Fortress to come down in Europe

Crew: F/O David A A Romans (RAF)- P/O Frank Gordon Hart (RAF)- Sgt. John Brown (RAF)- Sgt. Peter Barnard Corbett (RAF)- Sgt. Robert Henry Beattie(RAF)- Sgt. Walter George Honey(RAF)- Sgt. Henry Merrill (RCAF). Their aircraft was downed by Jakobi and Steinicke of 13./JG 77 flying Bf 109 T-2 fighters although the congratulatory telegram from HQ see below) mentions Uffz. Karl-Heinz Woite (2./JG 77) as one of the successful pilots. Note the finish - the DG/DE/PRU blue scheme.







 In all eight of the twenty aircraft were lost in two months and the Fortress was withdrawn from operations over Europe. The performance of the Fortress confirmed the RAF in its belief that no daylight bomber could operate safely against the German air defences. The Army Air Force pointed out that the RAF was using the aircraft above its designed operating height and was badly overloaded, reducing its performance. The high altitude caused some of the guns to freeze up. The Americans also pointed out that the RAF were operating the Fortress in tiny groups, sacrificing the perceived benefits of mutual defence. The RAF experience did prove that the B-17 could not fly high enough to avoid the German fighters – the Bf 109 E and Bf 109 F could both intercept the Fortress at 32,000 ft. The Flying Fortress remaining in RAF service in limited numbers throughout the war. The most important user of the aircraft was Coastal Command. No. 220 squadron took over the Fortress Is of No. 90 Squadron..

An account of  'Operation Sunrise', appears on this blog here.

Monday, 18 February 2019

latest 'Aces' title from Robert Forsyth Junkers Ju 88 Aces, 'Air War Archive' Ju 88 photo volumes Chris Goss



Despite having published at least three volumes on Junkers Ju 88 Kampfgeschwader in their 'Combat Units' series, Osprey editor Tony Holmes decided we needed at least one Ju 88 volume in the 'Aces' series. However on the evidence of this volume I would say to him that we probably need a few more of these as well. This is an excellent volume on the Junkers Ju 88, presenting an overview of the aircraft and the men who flew it in each of the roles it undertook; bomber, intruder, night-fighter, long-range day fighter and reconnaissance. Many of the more 'famous' Ju 88 pilots are covered such as Baumbach, Helbig, Herrmann and Heinz Rökker along with some of the lesser known. The profiles are some of the best I have seen in an Osprey book and the content highly readable and informative. However, it is not strictly an "aces" volume as it does not specifically look at those who claimed 5 or more kills whilst flying the Ju 88. If you are thinking of buying it because of the title, you may perhaps be disappointed. That being said, if you have any interest in the type and the exploits of its crews then buy it - it is a taster or as Robert himself referred to it " a toe-dipper". To cover all noteworthy Ju 88 "ace crews", in all the roles in which the aircraft undertook, would take several similar sized volumes. For example, Hermann Hogeback is only mentioned in a couple of photo captions and he would certainly qualify as the Ju 88 bomber "aces of aces" (with 500+ operational sorties and being one of only three Ju 88 pilots to receive the Knights Cross with Swords). Erwin Fischer is the only reconnaissance pilot to receive the Knights Cross with Oak Leaves (as far as I am aware) and he is not even mentioned in the text...

Hptm. Erwin Fischer (right of the sign) with Glas Sekt on the occasion of the 3000th Feindflug  (presumably) of Aufklärungsgruppe 121. Note the white swan emblem of the unit, Ju 88 D coded 7A + NH






Above; Ju 88 A-4 WNr. 142338 coded 'F1+GS' flown by the Gruppenkommandeur III./KG 76 Hptm. Heinrich Schweickhardt. The coat of arms of the city of Heidelberg recalls Schweickhardt's birth place. He was flying this aircraft when he went missing during a transfer flight on 9 January 1943.

Hptm. Heinrich Schweickhardt (1914-1943) awarded the RK as Staffelkapitän 8./Kampfgeschwader 76, (Ritterkreuz 04.02.1942, Eichenlaub (138) 30.10.1942)

Appointed Kommandeur III./KG 76 in March 1942 Schweickhardt and his crew went missing during a flight from Catania to Athen-Tatoi on 9 January 1943 after a radio message from about noon saying he was having engine trouble. This was after combat about 100 km west of Zakynthos or Zante. The aircraft was a Ju 88 A-4 WNr. 142338 coded 'F1+GS'. Posthumously promoted to
Major, credited with around 400 missions.



Below; Junkers Ju 88 A-6 1./(F)123 (4U+SH) after a recon mission flown by Ofw. Bach, Perugia Italy. Chased by Allied fighters the pilot flew so low over the sea that the propellers struck the water and shattered. Fortunately the wooden propellers broke evenly which allowed the engines to keep running and Bach made it back to his base in Perugia at a some what reduced speed..


Two views of I./KG 77 machines. Note the white winter finish applied even to the prop blades in the lower picture




below; torpedo-carrying Ju 88 of I./KG 26 taking off from Bardufoss in March 1945 to attack a Murmansk convoy. Note the Schiffssuchradar - shipping search radar FuG 200 Hohentwiel. To the right of picture Oberst Ernst Kühl is seen saluting the departing aircraft. 

Chris Goss has a different caption in his Frontline " Junkers Ju 88 - the twilight years"  which reads as follows;   A Ju 88 of I./KG 26 taxying out at Bardufoss to attack an Allied convoy, RA 64, on 20 February 1945. In the crew is Oberst Ernst Kühl who had recently been given command of a Fliegerdivision based in Narvik. He was holder of the Ritterkreuz mit Eichenlaub and had flown 315 combat missions, most of them with KG 55.



Below; interesting cockpit views and a rare portrait of Werner Baumbach at Munich Riem during 1942..






Junkers Ju 88s of KG 26 being readied for sorties out over the Med from Sicily. Note the twin under-slung torpedoes in the first image below, each weighing approx 750 kg, of which 200 kg was explosive. To launch the weapons the Ju 88 pilot had to maintain a speed of 180 km/h at an altitude of forty metres. In theory the torpedo could be dropped up to two kilometres from the target but in practise a more realistic range was barely 800 metres. However at distances such as these the Ju 88  pilots were very much aware they would likely find themselves in a maelstrom of defensive fire.




On 22 December 1942 Ju-88s from III.Gruppe KG 26 torpedoed and damaged the British troopship Cameronia. Strikes were made all along the African coast. Allied air attacks cost the unit four aircraft on 8 February 1943 when the unit's base at Cagliari-Elmas, Sardinia was bombed. In July 1943 the unit also contested "Operation_Husky", the Allied invasion of Sicily. On 12 August the unit struck at Allied shipping in the western Mediterranean losing 10 machines for little result.

Below; Kommandeur I./LG 1 Hptm. Joachim Helbig seen in Catania, Sicily during 1941. He was awarded the Eichenlaub during January 1942 after some 200 sorties..



Deployed early on in the Mediterranean, LG 1 would soon prove to be one of the most formidable and feared opponents of the Royal Navy. Under the orders of Kommandeur Helbig, the "Helbig flyers" of I./LG 1 as they were dubbed were responsible for sending many Allied ships to the bottom. Notable actions included the sinking of three large transport vessels Clan Campbell, Clan Chattan and Rowallan Castle from the convoy MW 9, during attacks on 13–14 February 1941. On 22 May 1941 during the Battle for Crete, LG 1 Ju 88 pilot Gerd Brenner finished off the RN cruiser HMS Fiji with heavy loss of life. III./LG 1 also damaged the Australian destroyer Waterhen on 9 July 1941, sinking it on 11 July. The Geschwader supported the Afrika Korps effectively in Libya and Egypt until 1942. Bombing raids were made on the Suez Canal, Cairo during this time. On 11/12 May 1942 I.(K)/LG 1 again led by Helbig were responsible for sinking HMS Kipling, HMS Jackal and HMS Lively in the Gulf of Sollum. Helbig below on the right..



Below; Iro Ilk Staffelkapitän of 1./LG 1 during 1943 and bomber ace at the controls of his Ju 88. Both Ilk and his close friend in LG 1 Gerd Stamp were awarded the Knight's Cross with I./LG 1 for audacious attacks on British shipping in the Med, before going on to fly single engine night fighters with the wilde Sau. Ilk was shot down and killed by Spitfires as Gruppenkommandeur III./JG 300 on 25 September 1944. Post-war Stamp achieved high rank in NATO and married Ilk's widow.


Having carried out intruder attacks over Britain with some success for almost a year, the Ju 88 Cs of I./ NJG 2 were transferred to the Mediterranean and the western desert of North Africa in late 1941.  Ju 88 C-4 " R4+EL" (3./ NJG 2) came to grief during the transfer flight to Sicily and made an emergency landing near Naples. Crash landed by Flugzeugführer Fw Robert Lüddecke (front) on 22 November 1941 at Capodichino-Naples. Lüddecke had returned three night victories - Nachtluftsiege - at the time of the incident.


Below; seen far left Ritterkreuzträger Hptm. Hermann Hogeback, Kommandeur III./LG 1 on the occasion of a commemoration of the 5000th sortie flown by the Gruppe, Stalino, September 1942.

Three bomber aces of KG 6 with around 1,000 sorties between them, Hptm. Rudolf Puchinger, Staka 8./KG 6, Kommodore Walter Storp and Kommandeur III./KG 6 Hermann Hogeback.



Partial view of a formation of V./KG 40 Ju 88 C-6 heavy fighters seen over south-western France during early 1943. Nearest to the camera is Ju 88 C-6 "F8+RY" with Oblt. Kurt Necesany at the controls, while behind this aircraft is "F8+NY"


Diving Eagle of KG 30 seen on Herrmann's Ju 88 A-4. Early in World War II, Herrmann flew bombing missions in the invasion of Poland and the Norwegian campaign. By 1940 he was Staffelkapitän 7./KG 4 re-designated 7./KG 30 at the end of the Battle of Britain. In February 1941 his Gruppe was transferred to Sicily, from where it attacked Malta then fought in the Battle of Greece. In one attack Herrmann sank the ammunition ship Clan Fraser in the port of Piraeus. The explosion sank 11 ships and made the Greek port unusable for many months. He was appointed Kommandeur III./KG 30 and flew missions against Russia. He was a controversial figure in 'right-wing' circles post-war.


"..Herrmann was one of the most deadly Luftwaffe pilots of the Second World War and one of its most innovative air tacticians; a committed Nazi determined to fight to the end, he even formed a special unit of fighter pilots whose task was to ram Allied bombers out of the air..."

 ..from his obituary published by the British 'Daily Telegraph' in 2010. Read it in full here

The above is intended to serve as an introduction to the two Ju 88 photo volumes compiled by Chris Goss in Frontline's 'Air War Archive' series..while Volume one focused on the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain, Volume two, "the Twilight years- Biscay to the Fall of Germany" covers the activities of Ju 88 Gruppen in Russia and the Mediterranean and looks at reconnaissance and torpedo operations. Heavy fighters also receive a chapter  - 'Battle over the Bay' covers the little-known ZG 1 - and there is a small section at the end on the Misteln..


Sunday, 17 February 2019

KG 1 Heinkel He 177 - ebay photo find #303




KG 1 Hindenburg Heinkel He 177 GREIF mit Piloten vor dem Start





New! - 'Wingleader' magazine printed edition launch issue -Dornier Do 17 Kauz feature






The launch issue 'limited edition' of Wingleader magazine arrived. Excellent value for money with its 96 A-4 landscape pages, thick glossy paper and lots of interesting features and photos - photo reproduction is first class with many pages featuring a single large image. Just in case the editors read this I would just say that the 10-page features covering the Wingnut Wings Lancaster and the artwork of Nick Trudgian don't really appeal personally.

Did anyone notice though that the latest issue of Key Publishing's Flypast magazine has the 'same' article, the same photos, even the same personal accounts as the Wingleader cover feature - the Dornier Do 17 Kauz as night-time intruder over the UK. It's not exactly the same article of course. Wingleader's piece is written by Boiten, the Flypast feature was penned by the prolific Chris Goss. And the Flypast feature has a large swastika on every page just to reinforce that they have a Luftwaffe piece in their magazine - subtle they are not!

I do hope that running their 'Kauz' feature at the same time as the Wingleader magazine wasn't done deliberately by Key -  perhaps in a (pretty pathetic) attempt to scupper their 'new' rival . Speaking personally I find it a little disappointing that Key Publishing nowadays own just about every UK aviation magazine, especially after what happened to 'Aircraft' ('Classic Aircraft') and, of course, well before that, 'Air Enthusiast', the seminal Green/Swanborough quarterly that I devoured avidly as a teenager! So for that reason alone the new 'Wingleader' magazine is very welcome..

I spoke to Stephen Bridgewater, editor of 'Jets' a few years ago when I expressed 'concerns' on the 'Flypast Forum' concerning the future of all these various magazines under the same Key 'roof'. He responded;

 " ..Key purchased us last September. Personally I think it's a great thing. It was like going home for me as I worked on their 'Today's Pilot from 2000 to 2007. They're the market leaders and have the money to invest in the magazines, that other publishers do not. There's no cross over between Jets and other titles. I've only seen good progress so far..."

 Interesting points; far from condemning certain titles to oblivion, Key was actually rescuing them.

Of course as it turned out Stephen Bridgewater was talking a load of nonsense - the title 'Jets' was quickly wound down by Key and 'amalgamated' into 'Aviation News' ....



Wingleader intend to publish digitally and for free - issue 2 is already available via their web site. A printed compendium is planned to appear every three months or so.

https://www.wingleadermagazine.co.uk/

Friday, 8 February 2019

" Mersu " - Messerschmitt Bf 109G Suomen ilmavoimissa - Finnish Bf 109s/ Bf 109s of JG 302 in Finland -Einsatzkommando Helsinki


"Mersu" - the spoken term in Finnish usually for Mercedes-Benz. In the case of the aircraft, "Mersu" is short for Messerschmitt and is the title of Kari Stenmann's book devoted to the type in Finnish service. Sadly only available in Finnish, Stenmann's opus is subtitled " Messerschmitt Bf 109 G in the Finnish Air Force" and that sums up nicely what this book is all about! Larger than A4-format, 400 pages, 479 b/w- and 6 original colour photos, 24 colour plates by Karolina Holda and Thierry Dekker, 32 line drawings in 1:72 and 1:48 scales. Hstory of each machine, kills and losses.. Note that the last flight of the type in Finnish service was 1954.  See below for a short three-part video review courtesy of JJ.


The Finnish Air Force received its first Bf 109s in 1943. A total of 162 aircraft of this type were to be purchased and the first aircraft landed in Finland on 13 March 1943. In total, 159 aircraft were taken into service, as two G-6s and one G-8 were destroyed en route to Finland. Forty-eight of these were G-2s, 109 were G-6s and two were G-8s. The Bf 109 is still the aircraft type that has served in the largest numbers in the Finnish Air Force. The aircraft carried the designation MT and a 3-digit identification number. With the arrival of the 109s, the Finns could match the latest Soviet fighters. The last of the purchased aircraft arrived in Finland on 20 August 1944, just before the armistice with the Soviet Union.

Below; colour image from the book  - HLeLv 31 Mersuja at Utin in 1953




Above; Kapteeni Veikko Karu, Mannerheim-ristin ritari. Immola 1943.01.15

Below; two shots of SSgt Erik Edward Lyly, an ace in the Continuation War. He flew in the LeLv 24 and LeLv 34 (HLeLv 34), the two most successful fighter squadrons of the Finnish Air Force, often flying as a wingman for the most proficient Finnish ace Air Sergeant Master Ilmari Juutilainen. He achieved a total of 8 air victories during the wars.


SSgt. Erik Lyly with his Bf 109 G 2 at Utti AFB, summer 1943. A good view of the Flettner tab on this tall-tailed Gustav. For more on the tall-tailed Bf 109 with adjustable trim tabs and the handling difficulties inherent to the type go here  Contending with Torque





Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. 164 950 "MT 449" 2./HLeLv 24, 1Lt Olavi Puro, Lappeeranta, before 28 June 1944. Source: SA-Kuva 155496.

Below; Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. 164 920 "NY+AJ " "MT 439" Kapt. Hans Wind, 3/HLeLv 24, Lappeenranta, 19 June 1944. Source: SA-Kuva 155482.


Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. 411 902 "MT 417" HLeLv 34, Maj. Eino Luukkanen, Immola, 15 June 1944.



Below; Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. 411 902 "MT 417" HLeLv 34, Maj. Eino Luukkanen, Immola, 15 June 1944.


Photo reproduction courtesy Finnish war-time archive SA-KUVA  (creative commons licence)
Click on the video header title to go to the video on youtube or watch here with a single click - three 30 second clips looking at Kari Stenman's "Mersu" - the Bf 109 in Finnish service





Much more on Finnish Bf 109s and Finnish aces in this highly recommended book with English text via Claes Sundin's Centura Publishing here


Below; Bf 109 G-6/R6 W.Nr unknown "Rote 26", 2./JG 302, Helsinki-Malmi, 28 February 1944. Note black lower surfaces on the starboard wing and the flame-damping exhaust covers.  This night fighter detachment of JG 302 was based in Helsinki during early 1944.



 ..Elements of wilde Sau night fighter Gruppe I./JG 302 were based at Malmi/Helsinki during the period 13 February 1944 to 15 May 1944, as Einsatzkommando Helsinki (Jafü Ostland). Some Einsatzkommando Helsinki machines displayed a yellow 'Eastern Front' fuselage band, see below.

Takeoffs and landings at night on dimly lit airfields in a single-engine fighter for a sixty-minute sortie on instruments in often atrocious weather conditions required considerable feats of airmanship and accidents were a frequent occurrence. This I./ JG 302 Bf 109 G-6 has come to grief on landing during the unit's Helsinki deployment....




Above; Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. unknown "Rote 29", 2./JG 302, Helsinki-Malmi, Finland, March 1944.