Sunday, 9 August 2020

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.