Monday, 25 October 2021

Me 163 Rocket Interceptor (Crecy reissue) and Pen and Sword's 'Air Battle for Moscow' - new Luftwaffe books


"Me 163 Rocket Interceptor" is a revised and updated combined edition of the two original Classic volumes on the Me 163 from the same authors which have long been out of print. It will be of particular interest to those those (like me) who don't have the original two volumes. (Vol I was always impossible to get at a sensible price)

The book is a hardcover with dust jacket and has 406 numbered pages (plus 10 unnumbered pages before chapter 1), not 464 pages as the Crecy website Me 163 Rocket Interceptor states.  (thanks to 'Daggerr')

From the publisher's blurb;

"This meticulously researched history of the Luftwaffe’s innovative yet daunting rocket-powered interceptor draws on rare archival and private sources, along with recollections of many former pilots who flew this radical aircraft. It provides the most thorough record available of the design, development and operational history of a remarkable aircraft.

The origins and development of early rocket-powered and tailless aircraft are traced from the late 19th century to the interwar years, as well as the test programme at Peenemünde and ensuing missions flown by Erprobungskommando 16. Following a study of Me 163 production, the authors then present a detailed diary of point-defence combat operations conducted against the Allied air forces over north-west Europe in 1944-45 using the Me 163 by Jagdgeschwader 400.

There is a study of late-war training by the Ergänzungsstaffel/JG 400 and IV./EJG 2, and for the first time, the story of the little-known Italian involvement with the German rocket fighter. The reader is also offered a detailed overview of Me 163-based design projects and planned swept-wing and ultra-high speed development, as well as the story of Allied, Japanese, French and Soviet post war testing

The Luftwaffe blog caught up with project manager/editor Robert Forsyth for a brief comment on the re-release;

Hello Robert, can you comment on the Me 163 reissue through Crecy for the 'Luftwaffe blog' please?;

Hi, yes I was involved with it, in as much as I was project manager/editor and we put the book together, but I have had no involvement with content per se, other than editing

 Being a 'revised' edition can you provide some insight into what this 'revision' amounted to and what was the thinking behind releasing just a single volume?

Well, the original 2002/03 editions have been sold out for years and fetch high prices on-line, and Crecy have had quite a few enquiries about possible reprints, so they decided to do a new single, bind-up volume. The revisions involve a few minor corrections here and there, some small additions, some new operational and post-war photographs, and revised and new line drawings. It was a whole new book and layout in terms of production. Bear in mind the initiative was with Crecy, rather than the authors, so they were just given the option to relook at it which, of course, they took up.

And  finally, Robert, how is that 'Climax Blues Band' book of yours doing ? I've just been reading that they were great friends with Black Sabbath.

Yes, all being from the Midlands, two of the band were good mates with Ozzie back in the 1970s. There is a story about him giving them lift and the car crashing into the wall of a pub after a night out, or something like that. The book sold out in six months, which was wonderful as I didn’t know what to expect and it was all sold off Facebook and personal contact, and I am ‘trying’ to get onto the second volume, but aeroplanes keep getting in the way! (in a nice way!)

Also on this blog 

Also new;

# 98 in the Batailles Aeriennes series from Lela Presse
 The Regia Aeronautica on the Channel front - "Le Corpo Aereo Italiano" by Cynrik de Decker

from the publisher's blurb;

" unknown and unique episode of the famous Battle of Britain. Mussolini, unwilling to remain in the shadow of a triumphant Führer, sent a large contingent of his Regia Aeronautica to Belgium hoping to participate in the invasion of England. But, dogged by misfortune, the Italians failed to shine in the predominantly gray skies of northern Europe. And with good reason - their aircraft were mostly obsolete and poorly equipped and their crews unprepared for the harsh climatic conditions. It didn't take much more to turn the adventure into a bitter failure! Italian 'propaganda' was of course able to glorify the actions of  Italian aviators, but the results obtained were almost nil since no British aircraft fell victim to the Duce's fighters! On the contrary, Italian losses were heavy. This 'sabre-rattling' simply highlighted the shortcomings of the Regia Aeronautica, which was largely unsuited to a modern conflict. This does not detract from the quality and courage of the Italian airmen who lived and died during this episode.." 

 Ten-page pdf extract on the Lela Presse website here

also new;

" Air Battle for Moscow 1941-1942" by Degtev and Zubov provides, according to the publisher Pen and Sword, the first detailed description of one of the most vital but least well-known air battles of WWII. Preceded by extensive recce overflights the battle for Moscow - Operation Clara Zetkin - was launched on 22 July 1941. The book has comprehensive coverage of all air actions over Moscow up until April 1942 with further volumes apparently planned. In fact the Luftwaffe's 'campaign' against Moscow was far from the sustained offensive such a term implies - raids flown against the Soviet capital by more than 100 Luftwaffe aircraft occurred on just three dates, while all other sorties were flown by small groups or just single bombers. Even the torpedo bombers of I./KG 28 operating on the southern sector carried out periodic attacks on Moscow.  However, the Luftwaffe had suffered serious losses during 'Barbarossa' and was now significantly weaker than at the start of the offensive. While, by December 1941, the strategic position of the Germans " looked stable and encouraging" - presumably from Berlin -  this was  in reality the Germans' first crisis, and it was taking place in the East - even as Rommel was retreating and the Americans were entering the war. On December 2, 1941 German troops advancing along the Minsk highway reached the area of  Golitsyno and Aprelveka, 18 km from Vnukovo and 30 kms from Moscow. Three days later the German assault on Moscow had all but fizzled out and the text focuses on the Soviet counter-offensive, especially the 'Christmas slaughter of the Luftwaffe'.. In the days just prior to Christmas 1941 from 17 to 23 December it was cloudy and snowing in the Moscow area. Russian fighters limited themselves to short flights lasting 40-50 minutes at low level but VIII Fliegerkorps suffered it heaviest losses since the beginning of the campaign. In addition, on 20 December while transferring from Gorstkova airfield to Dugino seven Ju 87s of III./StG 2 crashed in a snowstorm killing six crew. But the failure of the 'Typhoon' offensive against the Soviet capital did not apparently cause serious alarm. The authors highlight that Soviet pilots almost invariably reported large amounts of enemy military equipment destroyed - statistics are quoted monthly, while individual losses and claims are detailed in the text. By way of example, of the 8,262 sorties flown by the 6th IAK PVO during November 1941, 4,600 were cover sorties sorties for Soviet troops, 1500 were ground attack and 2,000 air defence - 190 aircraft were claimed downed, 660 trucks and 156 tanks were destroyed. Actual German aircraft losses in the Moscow area amounted to just 30 machines. The authors detail the lack of any accurate assessment of the results of Soviet air attacks on German ground forces and also comprehensively explain the difficulties encountered by both sides in mounting operations in the severe cold, concluding that "Russian aircraft were even less ready for winter ..[ than the Germans ..]".  In the first five months of the German offensive the death toll from bombing raids amounted to barely 1,400, a tally commensurate with the derisory numbers of aircraft that the Germans were able to deploy - the German 'vultures' rarely numbered over 100. These forces were of course, far from the 'thousands' cited in 'official' reports  - "Stalin's propaganda lives on in Russia" Bad weather and the small numbers of German aircraft committed meant that damage in the city - according to an NKVD report - was relativly light.  Appendices detail losses sustained by participating Kampgeschwader and the long-range recce units, while the main text features personal accounts from the 'standard' German-language unit histories - KG 53, KG 100, KG 4 and KG 26 - and detailed accounts of claims and losses. While the Soviet authors quote extensively from both Russian and German sources, just occasionally the text lapses - rather strikingly - into what I imagine to be typical WWII Red propaganda language; 

" the young Wolfram von Richthofen was an ardent fanatic ready to faithfully serve any regime that would give him an opportunity to realize his only passion in life - to fight and destroy. The coming to power of the Nazis gave Richthofen unlimited opportunities for the implementation of his characteristic bloodthirsty inclinations.. "  

Fortunately for readability,  similar descriptions of the 'fascist vultures' are rare.  Overall then an interesting and detailed account.