Thursday, 29 December 2011

Hans Ulrich Rudel Fw 190 sequence - Schlachtflieger Ju 87 G BK 37

While searching for 'Schlachtflieger' on, I came across the following two images, claimed to be originals, depicting Hans Ulrich Rudel at the controls of a Fw 190 and offered for sale by seller mistelstein. The first shot below was new to me, the second has been seen widely on the net although this one seems to be a decent reprint. For anyone not aware of other images in this 'sequence' it is not immediately obvious that the pilot seen taxiing out in 'chevron bar' is Rudel.

A look at a couple of the other images from the same series allows a positive ID. The 'sequence' is from the ECPA-D archive in Paris and was apparently photographed in Rumania during the summer of 1944. Rudel as Kommodore of SG 2 is shown getting ready for a sortie. Note the aircraft features a yellow theatre Rumpfband.
I have a couple of prints from the sequence including another view of Rudel strapping into his chute (above). AFAIK only one other image from the same sequence has been published, most notably in Chris Ehrengardt's 'pilotes de Stuka' article ( which appeared in CJE's own Aerojournal, issue 4) . Note the mechanic on the wing (left, below) is the same figure lying on the wing in the first photo above.

Rudel's preferred mount was of course the Ju 87 Kanonenvogel fitted with the BK 37. Nice image from a war-time Hungarian publication.

Quoted in Tony Williams, 'Flying Guns – World War 2';

"..The BK 3.7 was not a particularly impressive gun. It was a modified version of the FlaK 18 AA gun, was big, heavy and slow-firing (in comparison with the NS-37) and the ammunition clip could only contain a maximum of twelve rounds (six and eight-round clips also being used). However, it was quite powerful and the tungsten-cored Hartkern munition could be extremely effective, penetrating 140 mm / 100 m / 90°, although this reduced sharply to 70 mm at 60°..."

Indeed the Kanonenvogel bore witness to the appalling penury and deficiencies of Luftwaffe resources on the Eastern Front. Here was a machine conceived for taking out tanks individually - one by one if you will.  The central weapon of war on the Eastern Front was the tank - the Soviets had lost the armoured battles of 1941 with 11-ton T-26 and 14-ton BT light tanks. These were replaced en masse with  a new generation of heavy tanks during 1942 and 1943. Both the T-34 and 45-ton KV heavy tanks toted 76mm guns - even two years later 76mm was the biggest American and British tank gun. Soviet factories started churning out thousands of them monthly - well out of the range of any Luftwaffe bombers - 15,700 T-34s in 1943 alone (quoted in Evan Mawdsley, 'Thunder in the East'). By the time the Germans could field a tank to match the T-34 the Soviets had a huge numerical , if not qualitative, advantage.  The up-gunned T-34-85 featured an 85mm gun and over 18,000 of these were produced during 1945. At the time of course Rudel's efforts and those of his comrades were feted in the Nazi propaganda media. Today they are still 'celebrated' in just about every account you might care to read devoted to combat flying on the Eastern Front. In reality Rudel's 'achievements' were but a drop in the ocean, a mere pinprick in the overall scheme of battle on the Eastern Front..