Sunday, 9 August 2020

ECPA-D PK Berichter German photo archive - SG 2 Stukas

The ECPA-D claims to be one of the leading photographic archives in the world. It has an unrivalled collection of WWII German images taken by PK-Berichter. I am a little wary of reproducing such images because of the cost although I have been invited to do so - although not necessarily by ECPA-D management. Across the Rhine the Bundesarchiv has made available many thousands of low-res images water-marked that can be reproduced on-line. I'm not sure that this is ECPA-D policy. I have had this discussion with Nicolas Férard, 'documentaliste'at the ECPA-D as per my blog post of March 2019, link below. There have been various attempts to involve 'experts' and other interested parties in indexing the 'German collection'.. According to Nicolas Férard;

 "..many authors have proposed this type of arrangement ... and it is something that following a change of management may well be proposed again, especially as the ECPA-D develops its digital platform. However the institution is not yet inclined to participatory indexation but it could come...I will be doing an internship at the INA (Institut national de l'audiovisuel) in June on this topic. The problem remains and will remain the audiovisual rights to the images.."

 On FB one Christophe Blanluet posts ECPA-D images so is not quite so reluctant, and on the basis that if I get 'billed' he will too, here is a recent post of his for those not on FB.  These shots for Marc Hazard!

Hptm Hendrick Stahl of SG 2

Ju.87-G "Kannonenvogel" taking off from Husi airfield, Rumania, Summer 1944. 10 Pzjägerstaffel/ Schlachtgeschwader 2 "Immelmann".

Below; caption from Georg Morrison.   Note the large "185A" on the fin, this was Ju 87D-5, "SM+ZJ", an ex-Romanian machine. "185A" had been the second "185." A mission photograph shows these to be conventional bombers, no Ju 87G 'gunbirds' are present.

More on the ECPA-D "fonds allemand" (German collection) on this blog here

The Heinkel He 219: An Illustrated History of the Third Reich’s Dedicated Home-Defence Nightfighter - new Luftwaffe books

The Heinkel He 219: An Illustrated History of the Third Reich’s Dedicated Home-Defence Nightfighter
(Air Research Publications - 6 July 2020)
by R Francis Ferguson
236 pages w/ 227 photos, 19 colour images, 47 diagrams and maps, 14 tables
Large format A-4 hardback w/ dustjacket
£ 49.95

from the blurb..

" ..The He 219 was in many respects unique. It was the world’s first series-built aircraft to be fitted as standard with an ejection seat – and not just one seat, but two. It was also unique in that it was designed and built as a dedicated nightfighter for home-defence duties. This came at a time when the prevailing military mind-set was almost exclusively fixed on the offensive role of aircraft. And, because of this mind-set, the He 219 was plagued by uncertainties that affected production and development. The He 219 was also unique for its tricycle undercarriage which came at a time when tail-draggers were common. Sometimes likened to a praying mantis, the very look of the He 219 with its nose-mounted dipoles gave just a small hint of its fearsome reputation in the night air war over continental Europe. In May 1940 RAF Bomber Command took the decision to go over to the strategic night bombing of Germany. The later introduction of four-engined heavies, the Stirling, Halifax and Lancaster, into Bomber Command operations saw an increase in the frequency and intensity of bombing raids. The Heinkel He 219 with its heavy firepower was quickly rushed into frontline service but like so many weapons of the time it came too late, and in insufficient numbers, to change the course of the conflict."

Since the announcement of Ron Ferguson's newest ‘baby’ the amount of searches arriving at this blog for ‘Ron Ferguson He 219 book’ is around 50-100 individual visitors per day..which is good going. I've been blogging 'Ron Ferguson He 219' since each 'edition' has appeared, and being a ‘google’ blog I’m near the top of most search results. This latest work is possibly the most accomplished work ever published by Air Research/Wingleader and at some 160,000 words and around 230 photos one of the most comprehensive. It is the product of a lifetime interest in the subject - and extensive research spanning more than a decade. Ron published his first 'research paper' on the He 219 in 2012 and has not stopped accumulating data and photos. At that time a number of readers suggested that he should have written the definitive history of the type but having attempted a an-depth analysis - with corrections - on all the books published hitherto on the subject Ron knew that there was much more knowledge to be acquired on this unique machine and its introduction into service. The Research Paper was a “… first step in setting right the historical record” - a first step only.

However, publication of the Research Paper brought forth new photos, documents and information. This ultimately developed into this new work, which gives the reader a comprehensive and highly detailed study of the Heinkel He 219.

Subtitled an 'Illustrated history' the new work seems to me to be as complete a technical and operational history as anyone is likely to produce - especially with regard to the amount of photos, the most complete archive published thus far. One thing that struck me reading Ron's 'Introduction' - the amount of contributors to this project constitutes practically the entire air warfare/Luftwaffe enthusiast research fraternity including Beale, Coates, Nielinger, Creek, Boiten. Luminaries such as Lutz and Crow have between them contributed a large percentage of all known images of the type, while two gentlemen in particular contributed enormously to the new book: Dr Volker Koos and Thomas H Hitchcock. The latter, a Massachusetts-based researcher and author, is well known to Luftwaffe enthusiasts and researchers through his many publications of the 1970-90s. Dr Volker Koos is a Rostock-based researcher and Heinkel expert, who has written many books on Heinkel including 'Ernst Heinkel - vom Doppeldecker zum Strahltriebwerk', and 'Ernst Heinkel Flugzeugwerke 1933-1945'. Both provided many pages of material and photo-images - all of which formed a solid foundation for the new book..

The 'heart' of the book, especially perhaps if you have the three previous monographs in your library is the 'new' chapter, pages 101-180, which covers combat and service history. Entitled the " He 219 in service May 43-May 45" this includes BF and FF accounts (Bordfunker = radio operator, FF= Flugzeugfuehrer or pilot). The term 'densely written' comes to mind, reflecting the amount of detail and description employed. The author does not gloss over the problems experienced on the type as with any new machine entering front-line service - after a combat debut in early June 1943 that resulted in five claims for Lancasters shot down I./NJG 1 still had only three serviceable machines on strength by late December 1943. On page 109 the author looks at the work of the 'Heinkel Technical field Service Unit' at Venlo and considers the many (many, many..) problems affecting He 219 serviceability. The type's difficulties were 'political' as well. Throughout Junkers were pushing hard to have the type replaced with their multi-role Ju 388. As late as June 1944 Heinkel is having to stress that his machine is some 30 km/h faster - on the same engines -than the Ju 388 and is the only dedicated Mosquito-hunter (Moskito-Jagd) in the Luftwaffe's inventory. In January  1944 Kommandeur I./NJG 1 Manfred Meurer had been killed at the controls of a He 219 - the second CO to lose his life in the machine. Serviceability does not seem to have improved greatly during the whole of 1944. Ron has also done much additional work on the Commonwealth Mosquito and bomber pilots that encountered the He 219 in action and has included their reports. In total some 150 Allied machines were claimed by He 219 pilots ( but only ten Mosquitos), over 100 He 219s were lost of a production run of some 270 machines and the ejection seats were used on as many as 25 occasions! Indeed the 'new' chapter on German ejection seat development has far more detail than previously published (with accounts from the Erprobungsspringer or 'test  jumper' or parachutist). Chapter 3 (pages 58-93) assesses the 38 Versuchs or test/trial aircraft. The highest V number was V41. (not 76 as reported elsewhere). The chapter on 'Design, Development and Production' features some ten pages of detail period photographs. Pages 202- 216 are devoted to coverage of the British and US He 219s with just a single page devoted to the Smithsonian restoration which was largely covered in the Kagero monograph. Over pages 224-236 there are some 465 detailed 'End notes'..

Ron writes;

"..the new book has really taken off. The first 300 copies sold out within 3-4 days. I haven't actually seen a copy yet, so I'm still looking forward to seeing the finished product. It's like waiting for Santa Claus! The Research Paper was about 60,000 words. This latest work is about 160,000 words, so it's a major step-up. The Research Paper is still quite useful, but this latest work goes to a whole new level and corrects the 2-3 errors/misunderstandings in the Research Paper. I greatly enjoyed researching and writing the new book. More than seven years in the making..."

"Heinkel He 219: An Illustrated History of the Third Reich’s Dedicated Home-Defence Nightfighter" is distributed exclusively by Wing Leader.
Sample pages at their website here


telegram from Kammhuber 'General der Nachtjagd' to Heinkel relating the successful combat debut  ( ".. erstmalig zum Scharfeinsatz..") of the He 219 on the night of 11-12 June 1943 by Maj. Werner Steib, Kommandeur of I./NJG 1 and reporting the loss of the machine ( He 219 V9) after a heavy (crash) landing. Kammhuber urges Heinkel to speed up the rate of deliveries of the type that has just proved its worth in combat with the enemy by all means possible..

Above; post-war at Freeman field, He 219 A-0 WNr. 210903 - the figure '15' on the prop blades refers to the aircraft's loading position on HMS Reaper for the journey to the US.

And just a quick mention that Chandos has a publication on the He 219 slated for "early 2021". According to Rich Carrick's statement on this  project, his will be the "ultimate reference on the type", always assuming it even appears next year.  ".. I cannot wait to give you more details but for now the authors are busy working on the book!"

Ron Ferguson's title on the other hand is now published, it's a 'Limited Edition' so if you have any interest at all in the subject I'd respectfully suggest getting one while you can. the author is donating his royalties to The Smith Family, a charitable institution in Australia that provides for disadvantaged children.

Monday, 3 August 2020

"To defeat the Few " Dildy/Crickmore (Osprey, 2020 ) - a hefty compilation of 'old' news

To mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, Osprey has just published a voluminous book of some 400 pages on the 'Few'. The work of Doug Dildy (veteran F-15 pilot) and Paul Crickmore (SR-71 specialist), it is a curious mixture of texts. There is evidence of some decent research but also plenty of remarks that seem to come straight out of the 1960s or even earlier. The 'scene-setting' two pages on AH's life and political career are hardly necessary for anyone vaguely informed about WWII. A similar length assessment of the Me 109 as 'short-range front-line interceptor' and the contradictions inherent in the strategic bomber escort role is rather more interesting and on point. In the chapter on the Phoney War, the authors reduce the French Air Force to 'an unequal assortment ranging from the obsolete MS 406 to the modern H-75'. To 'make up for this deficiency', the RAF deployed the optimistically named 'Advanced Air Striking Force' to the Continent.  However, it is questionable whether the Gladiator, Battle and Blenheim were better than the 'old French cuckoo clocks'. The authors add that 'no squadron of modern Spitfires could be diverted to France', and there is thus no discussion of the refusal of the British authorities to commit a fighter reserved for the defence of Great Britain alone. During the campaign in the West anything between 650 and 1,000 Luftwaffe aircraft were lost. Losses on the opening day of the invasion –May 10 – exceeded the biggest daily loss during the fighting over England later that summer. Included in the total losses were around 165 Bf 109s shot down and a further 50 or so lost in accidents. Messerschmitt Regensburg was only producing around 25 new Bf 109s per month during this period. Even today some French authors maintain that the French ‘contribution’ to victory in the Battle of Britain was decisive. Dildy and Crickmore do not.

Inconsistencies and contradictions in their text are readily apparent - much like the German 'strategy' (or lack of it) for the assault on England itself.  For a start there was no clear German plan to destroy the RAF - aside from enticing the RAF up to fight, where they would 'naturally' be shot down. Post-war the always overly optimistic Kesselring wrote in his memoirs; "Our difficulty was not to bring down enemy fighters - in Galland, Molders, Oesau, Balthasar etc., we had real aces, while the huge figures of aircraft shot down are further proof - but to get the enemy to fight." Essentially, the German plan was dependent on the British committing large numbers of fighters to large air battles, allowing themselves to be bounced and shot down by the Luftwaffe's aces in their Bf 109s. Unsurprisingly, the RAF did not oblige. And the change in Luftwaffe strategy - large bomber formations requiring close escort - made fighter vs. fighter combat less likely and negated the major advantage -speed- held by the Me 109.

Whereas various 'directives' set out at the start of the Battle sought to cut Britain off from the rest of the world through attacks on shipping and ports, the UK's southern ports were soon excluded from target lists as they would be required for invasion. In Chapter IV (p.85), the authors cite the impossibility of a German landing on English coasts because of the power of the Royal Navy, which a Luftwaffe (barely six years old) could not hope to destroy or even neutralize for lack of resources. At least one commander - JG 51's Theo Osterkamp- calculated that in order to protect the invasion beaches he would need two complete Geschwader (almost 150 aircraft) over the beach head at all times. The total amount of aircraft required for such an operation was more than the Luftwaffe started the Battle with, implying zero net losses.   At a meeting convened by Goering at the Hague on August 1, the different Luftwaffe commands put forward their various and disparate plans. Bungay has described the results of this meeting as 'a confusion of banalities' - there was no 'unified' planning process and all sorts of targets - the ports, the merchant navy, infrastructure, factories - were determined and then dropped or modified.

 Once again in a text on the Battle there is no discussion of the role ‘ULTRA’ played in the ‘early warning system’. ULTRA intelligence was used in the form of briefs to relevant commands. Such 'briefs' must have come into their own  in early September with the major Luftwaffe strike operations which evidently required a certain amount of pre-planning coordination and thus communications and which ultimately played right into the hands of the British. While never identified as ULTRA as such - it was 'a reliable source' or some similar wording- it did provide tactically useful intelligence on impending raids and significantly did reveal German intentions. The 'Battle of Britain Then and Now' includes some examples of these briefs. Nor do the authors discuss in any depth the German's lack of knowledge of the Chain Home defence  - not only could CH detect an incoming raid but it could also vector an interception. With their limited resources the Luftwaffe should have been used, to quote Sebastien Cox, " first, to destroy the Chain Home radar towers, a simple task because only nine, all flimsy and highly conspicuous, guarded the coast between Southampton and Dover. The blinded RAF fighter airfields should then have been overwhelmed by round-the-clock bombing..."
. This was indeed attempted to a certain degree - on August 18, Ju 87s attacked RADAR and airfield targets and 15 were lost. That brought Ju 87 losses to 59 lost and 33 damaged. The RADAR station (Poling) attacked was severely damaged and the Chain Home RADAR was out of action until the end of August, but the Chain Home Low system was not and with this redundancy built into the system Luftwaffe losses would reach unmanageable proportions in putting it out of commission.

The authors conclusion is classic 'Mason' -  'by preventing the invasion, the 'Few' enabled Britain to continue the struggle'. Sound the trumpets, bang the drums!  In short, a dense - and often confusing - work, which sometimes gives the impression of any number of texts from the '60s, an era when there was no publicly available information about ULTRA, but where radar was the 'revolutionary invention that saved freedom'. There is little or anything 'new' here. The book is ultimately a hefty compilation of 'old' news into which the authors have thrown just about everything that might seem relevant in order to make an impression.

Sunday, 2 August 2020

"Avions" issue No. 70 - Kurt Hammel JG 5/JG 77

sold this week   - £51 for issue 70 of 'Avions'  - which must be some kind of record...perhaps the buyer/winning bidder really wanted that feature article on 19-victory JG5/JG 77 ace Kurt Hammel...

Saturday, 18 July 2020

Stuka Denkmal im Maßstab 1:1 - life-size Stuka sculpture at the Capel Battle of Britain memorial (Kent, England)

..Just a mile or two distant from the museum featured in the previous blog post, the UK's ‘national’ Battle of Britain Memorial site in Capel-le-Ferne - on the cliff-top between Dover and Folkestone, the wartime 'Hellfire Corner' - re-opened to visitors yesterday following the Covid crisis. Currently on display for the summer season is a stunning 'new' exhibit glittering brilliantly in the sunshine - a full-sized stainless steel sculpture of a crash-landed Ju 87 B Stuka ..

To quote Flugzeug Classic magazine  in the July 2020 issue, " ..Selten zuvor hat eine Skulptur aus Deutschland im Vereinigten Königreich für mehr Aufregung gesorgt als die der abgestürzten Junkers Ju 87 B von »Mister HEX«   or in other words, ' rarely before has a sculpture 'made in Germany' caused more excitement in the United Kingdom than the crashed Junkers Ju 87 B of "Mister HEX"..

'Mister.Hex' is from Munich  and has entitled this work 'Down-two-Earth'. The Junkers Ju 87 - with its 14 meter wingspan - has been given a place within the grounds of the UK's 'National Memorial to the Few' to highlight a new spirit of reconciliation being promoted by the charity that maintains the site. The 'Stuka' stands alongside the replica Mk1 Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft that are major attractions at the memorial’s clifftop home.

Secretary of the Memorial Trust, Group Captain Patrick Tootal, whose father Flt Lt Jack Tootal RAFVR was lost while flying Halifax bombers with Bomber Command, said:

“In early 2019, on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, trustees re examined the charity’s role and decided it should also address and record the role of the Luftwaffe in the Battle in order to provide a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the events of 1940.

“As we approach the end of an era with the passing of the Second World War veterans we must look to the future and remember the human cost of war to all nations in a spirit of reconciliation.”

Als Höhepunkt soll die Ju 87 während der Battle-of-Britain Militärparade am 12. Juli 2020 im Sonnenlicht über den weißen Klippen am Ärmelkanal glänzen. It was planned that the Stuka would be a highlight of this year's memorial parade at the Memorial site but due to Covid the event was cancelled.

 'Mister.Hex' has described his motivation in making the giant sculpture;

“The whole project can be separated into three layers of reasons why I did this sculpture. These layers are about private family history, German art history and British military history added up one by one over the years.”

The sculptor's father served in the Luftwaffe in WWII and spent three years training to be a Stuka pilot but ultimately only flew sorties as rear gunner. He regularly bestowed scale model Stukas on his son. Apparently the 'Stuka' combines 'evilness' and 'sexiness' in equal measure and is the only single object he has ever really loved. Hmmm...

The memorial receives no official funding, relying almost entirely on visitor donations. A small entry fee is charged for the exhibition center while the site itself is free to enter. Running costs amount to some £250,000 per annum.

As the airfield at Headcorn is only around 15 mins away (as the crow flies) the site is regularly over-flown by Aero Legend's Spitfires and other aircraft so if visiting you may be lucky enough to experience the thrill of an impromptu flypast. But take care, warning signs around the memorial indicate that the grounds are also home to the UK's only venomous snake, the Adder..

Friday, 17 July 2020

Heinkel He 111 H-16 Kent Battle of Britain museum Hawkinge

Photos via Dale Howlett,  East Kent Scale Modellers

Using the Twitter 'embed' function here's a couple of updates showing the progress on the Kent Battle of Britain museum's He 111 H-16. A 'Casa' in long-term storage at the Duxford IWM before being moved to the Hawkinge Battle of Britain museum overnight on March 14-15, 2020, the volunteers down at Hawkinge have uncovered the Heinkel constructor's plate during over-haul and repainting, indicating that this machine was manufactured during 1943 and possibly saw Luftwaffe service prior to being moved on to Spain and being re-engined. First video shows the control surfaces being operated - elevator, rudder and ailerons - while in the second tweet a view of the bomb aimer's window, opened for the first time in some 50-odd years.

Thursday, 16 July 2020

" ..and now England!" 17 July 1940 edition of the Wiener Illustrierte

Port installations at Rouen, France seen ablaze on the front cover of the 17 July 1940 issue of the Wiener Illustrierte. Inside the magazine a photo report on the damage wrought by Ju 87 Stukas to the oil storage facilities at Le Havre. The 'photo report' comment refers to  " the hurried defensive measures.." [that]  betray the anxieties of the war-mongers on the other side of the Channel - the digging of slit trenches, the construction of road blocks of wooden beams, the blocking of roads with old lorries and similar laughable defenses ..[..] .. which might have stopped the hordes of Genghis Khan but will serve no purpose in the face of the onslaught of the Ju 87 Stukabomber, the effects of which can be seen in these pictures from the fighting in France.."

"Anno", the digital newspaper and reading room service of the Austrian National Library for on-line newspaper and magazine issues is here