Monday, 4 December 2017

Fw 190 A-6 night fighters of 2./JG 2 -July 1943

" ...The spring of 1943 was extremely difficult for I./JG 2 at its airfield in Triqueville, about twenty km from the Normandy coast. The Gruppe was constantly on high alert and faced powerful daily incursions of allied aircraft. The Gruppe’s losses were so heavy that on 23 April the Stab I., 3 and 11./JG 2 abandoned their all-too exposed airfield at Triqueville, to move to Bernay, near Beaumont-le-Roger, home to the Geschwaderstab...

Remaining alone in Triqueville, 2. Staffel became almost the first line of defence. The Staffel had slightly higher numbers of aircraft compared to other units: fourteen Fw 190s instead of the standard dozen. However, the Staffel’s position in the first line of defence would cost it dearly. Almost as if trying to bolster fighting spirit in the face of dangerous, perhaps even desperate oppponents - the waves of RAF and the USAAF squadrons - 2./JG 2 adopted a new emblem; a fierce eagle’s head. This was not enough to avoid the inevitable: in May and June, the Staffel lost 7 pilots (6 killed and seriously injured) for "only" two victories.

The two leaders and friends (Gebhart and Hannig) were killed in the same battle over Caen on the afternoon of 15 May 1943. They were attacked by a group of forty Spitfires assigned to cover bombers returning from attacking the airfield at Carpiquet. Shortly after calling out a claim for his 98th victory, Staffelführer Hannig's aircraft was hit and the pilot had to bail out. According to the recollection of his friend, Georg-Peter Eder he was machine-gunned while hanging under his parachute. In a kind of tragic synchronicity, the other leader of 2. Staffel, Oblt. Harald Gebhart, was also shot down. He managed to get out of the cockpit, but his chute failed to deploy...

In early July, I./JG 2 again had to withdraw: 11./JG 2 and 3. left Bernay for Conches-en-Ouche where they joined 1. Staffel, who took up residence for several days. 2./JG 2 finally evacuated the untenable airfield at Triqueville and moved to Saint-André-de-l'Eure, not far from Conches and Evreux. The Staffel also received a new Kapitän, the one-legged Oblt. Karl Haberland, returning to the front after a serious injury received with JG 3 on 17 May 1940.

Shortly after their relocation, 2./JG 2 members received an astonishing order; the Staffel was to be re-equipped and trained as a night fighter unit. On July 22, the squadron’s pilots and part of the technical staff were sent to Tours for ‘blind’ flying instruction on the Arado 96, with landings and take-offs going on past midnight. This training ended on August 7 with certification for the Schein III blind flying course.

A member of this training "Kommando", Uffz. Jürgen van Beuningen, wrote to his mother:

"..Dear Mother,

Currently, I am training to fly on instruments without visibility. At first it did not go well because when you are used to flying a fighter, you lose the habit of piloting with your senses. However, with some gray hair inflicted on the instructor and a lot of patience, I finally got there. Flying blind can be compared to an attempt to walk on a narrow plank blindfolded with someone guiding you: "More left, more right, take a step above a hole, go down a bit or over etc." Apart from the fact that, in practice, there is nobody to give such indications. So you have to judge everything based on the indications of your instruments. It is a real achievement when you get there. [...]

In addition, the stress of perhaps having to bail out is ever present - to evacuate the cockpit by day is already scary but it becomes a matter of luck during the night because you cannot know where you will come down [...] "

On 9 August 2./JG 2 took off following an alert at 23:35, probably to intercept a Mosquito of No. 418 Sq. on a mission to Evreux....

Ofw. Josef Bigge recalled the sortie;

"..following completion of our training as night fighters, we returned to our airfield at St. André during the afternoon of 7 August. That same evening, we were airborne to fly our first sorties on instruments in the Focke-Wulf 190. In the meantime our control centre and our aircraft were fitted out with the necessary communications equipment for blind flying. In addition, our planes had been painted in a dark finish. This quickly turned out to be a mistake. After several tests, we had opted for a uniform sky blue on the lower surfaces and a light blue/grey finish on the upper surfaces. Our first night sortie quickly followed on 9 August at 23:35. The mission was directed from our operations centre in the presence of the fighter commander for the area (Jagdfliegerführer Jafü). The radio and navigation communication worked perfectly but, although I was airborne for around an hour and 45 minutes, I could not locate the enemy. I landed at 01:20..."

Before the year was out, 2./JG 2 would claim 19 night victories (11 Halifax bombers, 5 Lancasters, 1 Stirling, 1 B-17 and 1 unidentified four-engined aircraft). Seven of these apparently fell to the guns of Lt. Detlef Grossfuss.

Text reproduced from Luftwaffe Gallery 5 by Erik Mombeek - still available at Erik's article on 2./JG 2 features some excellent clear photos of Grossfuss' 'Black 13' and Bigge's 'Black 2' of the Fw 190 nightfighter Staffel 2./JG 2 and OWL have produced some decals for these machines.

My Fw 190 A-6 model below - from the elderly Airfix kit in 72nd scale, reworked with a few spares from the Eduard and Zvezda kits- shows 'black 14' from 2./JG 2. The overall hell-blau-grau 76 finish is roughly oversprayed over the standard grau scheme and even the exhaust staining  - it extends to the spinner and the cooler fan blades which are also in RLM 76. Balkenkreuze are the simple black outline type. Rudder and lower engine cowl in yellow.

More on 2./JG 2 during the spring of 1943 under the one-legged Oblt. Karl Haberland on this blog at the link below