Tuesday 30 November 2010

Me 323 Gigant crew album - rare Luftwaffe images on Ebay

Recently offered on Ebay was a beautiful photo album belonging to Austrian Herbert Rennecke, an airman who served with KG z.b.V.323 and Transportgeschwader 5 in Russia during 1943. Just in case you didn't see it on TOCH (thanks Marc!) some of the images from the Ebay auction are reproduced here.  

This fascinating shot is captioned .." nach Russland..."   (to Russia )  and depicts the aircraft coming into Kharkov (Charkow-Woitschenko) on 23 January 1943.

The complete Kennung of the Me323 was probably C8+RA ... The photos were shot at places like: Dnjepropetrowsk-Nord, Kirovoograd , Saporosjie-Ost , Konotop , Charkow-Woitschenko , Dnjepropetrowsk-Sud.

Ebay.de link to Me323-RUSSLAND-1943 photo album

Sunday 28 November 2010

More on Hermann Graf's JGr. Ost Fw 190s



Ebay find - note the overall yellow cowl on what must be Graf's A-4 prior to the application of the red 'tulip' markings on the cowl. A closer view of the JGr. Ost emblem aft of the Balkenkreuz. Members of a certain Russian forum are inclined to think that this picture is a fake -  it sold nonetheless for over 400 euros ..ouch !!

Hans-Joachim "Hajo" Herrmann

I wasn't about to post anything on this blog to mark the death of Hajo Herrmann - you can read the usual platitudes elsewhere on the web. I certainly won't be mourning his passing. However a couple of points are probably worth making and reiterating in the context of this blog given Herrmann's high profile post-war as one of the highest-ranking Luftwaffe 'survivors' and probably one of the most well-known Luftwaffe pilots of the Second World War.

Hans-Joachim ("Hajo") Herrmann, who died on 5 November aged 97, was one of the most 'innovative' air tacticians in the Luftwaffe; he is known above all for the introduction of wilde Sau night-fighting which led to the establishment of Jagdgruppe Herrmann which became JG300, one of the leading homeland air defence fighter wings of the Luftwaffe. While undeniably 'charismatic', he was also undoubtedly what would be described today as a committed Nazi determined to fight to the end whatever the cost. In early 1945 he was the driving force behind the Sonderkommando Elbe, a 'special' unit of fighter pilots tasked with ramming Allied bombers out of the air, drumming up 'volunteers' from among the Luftwaffe's dwindling ranks, deliberately giving the young inexperienced pilots- many from his former fighter wing JG300 - no indication as to the nature of the mission they were to undertake..

Of course there are many who must think that the typical heel-clicking, bemedalled and 'Hitler Gruß'-saluting high ranking Nazi officer as portrayed in films is a Hollywood cliché. Except that in Herrmann's case it would seem that this is apparently what he was and how he conducted himself. Quick to anger, he terrified his subordinates and junior pilots. He was just as quick to come up with schemes that would cost them their lives in defence of the cause. According to an anecdote that author Jean-Yves Lorant did not include in his history of JG300, Bf 109 pilot Lothar Sachs -who lost an eye in combat while flying with JG300- recalled having to report to Herrmann with the Nazi salute on return from a particularly hazardous and nerve-shredding single-engine night fighter sortie  - and then being severely reprimanded for having preferred to stay in the Flugleitung on the airfield at Bonn-Hangelar (chatting with the female auxiliaries working there) rather than going straight to bed. Normal military discipline perhaps or an indication of the man's rigidity and inflexible nature? More damningly perhaps, a friend of mine reported that while visiting a graveyard during the course of a JG300 reunion during the 1980's Herrmann had confided that he felt unable to shed any tears for those killed in the conflict. Echoes of 'those who fell in battle were not worthy' to paraphrase a well-known quote? While Herrmann's memoir 'Bewegtes Leben' is a particularly well-written, almost poetic account of his wartime career, even after the war - and ten years in a Soviet prisoner of war camp - according to the Daily Telegraph's obituary he remained 'unbroken' and " never participated in the collective soul-searching about Germany's role in the conflict ". By that time he was a successful lawyer still defending the cause - he specialised in actions involving neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers, including the British historian David Irving, and was active as a speaker for the far-Right German People's Union (DVU) and the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). Worth noting too that leading German newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung refused to publish a death notice from Herrmann's son Benno as detailed on Benno Herrmann's own website. Monies collected for this purpose were to be returned to contributors.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper published their obituary here

Friday 26 November 2010

Under a bomber's moon - two airmen at war over Germany

During the Second World War the night sky over Europe was one of the most lethal places to wage war. By 1945 almost half of the airmen who flew with Bomber Command and a third of the Luftwaffe night fighter crew pitted against them had been killed. Many German cities became moonscapes of rubble, their inhabitants the first to experience the reality of ‘total war’ – itself a glimpse of the destructive potential of the nuclear age about to explode in the Far East.

Much of Europe and North Africa had fallen to Hitler’s armies by late 1941, but his Luftwaffe had met its match during the Battle of Britain in summer 1940, when it failed to gain mastery of the air so those armies could cross the Channel and occupy Britain’s island fortress. As the fortunes of war turned with agonising slowness in Britain’s favour from 1942 onwards, the only way it could strike back at the German enemy was to attack its cities by night. Not until 1944 were the British, American and Commonwealth troops ready to pit their armies against the mighty Wehrmacht on the European mainland. Until then, Bomber Command by night and the US air force by day maintained the ‘second front’ in the skies overhead, drawing some two million German personnel to defend the western approaches to the Third Reich and easing the pressure on the desperate Red Army in the east.

The deadliest element in this Luftwaffe aerial minefield of flak, searchlights and aircraft was the Nachtjagd, the night fighter force. They exacted a staggering toll in Bomber Command lives and aircraft as both sides struggled to overwhelm the other not just with weaponry, but also with the tools of electronic stealth and deception. Under a Bomber’s Moon is the story of a navigator-bomb aimer Colwyn Jones, who crossed the oceans from New Zealand to fight for the Empire, and a young German night fighter pilot, Otto Fries, sent up each night to hunt him. Their stories are told largely in their own words, through the beautifully written diary and letters of the New Zealander – a journalist before the war – and the former Luftwaffe pilot, who in his nineties reflects on this intense period of his youth – and on the scars it has left even to this day. 

web site of author Stephen Harris


Thursday 18 November 2010

Junkers Ju 88 and Ju 188 in French service (1)

                It is perhaps not generally realised that the Junkers Ju 88 medium twin bomber - along with its successor the 188 - saw some limited service post war with the French naval air arm  and the types were in fact still flying well into the 1950s. Following the Armistice in June 1940 the Vichy French authorities had very quickly opened negotiations with their new German masters in an attempt to preserve employment and some of their manufacturing base in France. On the table was an offer to produce spares for German aircraft manufacturers and establish overhaul and repair facilities for aircraft operating from French territory. This offer was quickly taken up and led to the establishment of so-called Frontbetriebreparatur or FBR plants - advanced overhaul facilities. Junkers set up their FBR at Villacoublay south of Paris. With Ju 88s operating from no fewer than thirty eight aerodromes throughout France at the height of the Battle of Britain the French quickly gained a certain amount of expertise on the type. As the Germans were expelled from French territory during 1944, determined efforts got underway to re-establish the French aviation industry. As would be the case with other Allied nations, great interest was shown in all manner of weapons systems and aircraft produced by the aircraft manufacturers of the Third Reich. There was another motive for what was to follow - the parlous state of French industry and a total lack of foreign currency naturally led the French to want to seek to exploit the huge quantities of war materiel - spares, parts, tools and jigs - left behind by the retreating Germans.

 Seen at Villacoublay in 1947 at the Aérosudest works this is Junkers Ju 88 No. 74. Aérosudest started refurbishment of the Ju 88 for the Armée de l'Air in 1944. A number of the type were also 'constructed' from spares..

From late 1945 the French Navy - La Marine- set up various departments charged with ‘recovering’ war material seized by the German occupiers and also with ‘repatriating’ German aeronautical technology, principally airframes and engines captured by the Allies as they occupied Germany. A key effort here was made to entice the ‘brains’ behind German aviation developments to set up in France. So with the agreement of their British and American Allies Junkers 52s were ferried from Sylt via Felixstowe, while Fieseler 156 and Messerschmitt 108 aircraft were flown back to France (through Dutch airspace) from Leck to Les Mureaux. With British permission Bramo engines (for French Dornier 24s) were shipped from Germany to Bordeaux, while more stocks of said engines were sought out in Yugoslavia ! In Bordeaux, stocks of Focke Achgelis Fa 330 autogyros destined for Kriegsmarine submarines were located. Studies were conducted into the practical arrangements for installing German MG 131 and MG 151 machine guns and cannon into French SBD-5 Dauntless aircraft and a French Wellington was even equipped with a Berlin radar set.

French interest in these aircraft and equipment was not just for the purposes of scientific and military research. It was also partly motivated by a lack of foreign currency – in the immediate post-war period British and American war materiel was simply too expensive for the French. Re-using German equipment was cost-effective and usually of reasonable quality. These were the reasons that led to the decision to use the Jumo 213 to power the SO-8000, since the British Griffon was too expensive to be imported. The S.N.C.A.S.O. ejection seat came directly from Heinkel. Six years after the war the French escadrille 58.S found themselves having to replace the dilapidated life-jackets used on-board the French Navy’s first helicopters - the unit had been equipped with old German stocks!

One key area of interest for the French were the areas of ‘hi-tech’ research being pursued by the Germans in the field of armaments and weapons – specifically torpedoes and what today would be termed ‘missiles’ – the Fx-1400, FK and Hs-293. The French naval air arm set up a specialist group to study these – GANES run by Lt. Decaix which became a specialist unit in its own right, the CEPA. The Ju88 was to play an important role post-war in French Navy weapons testing. I'll look at this in more detail in a future post.

JG 51 and JG 52 in Barbarossa - Air Miniatures series from Kagero

The latest volumes in the 'Air Miniatures' unit history series from Kagero devoted to JG 51 and JG 52 are currently available through distributor Casemate Publishing (click on banner link above) and I suggest you purchase them before they sell out. These newer titles are printed in the much larger A-4 size compared to previous titles in this series and although still with dual text, contain plenty of well-written, previously unpublished personal accounts newly translated from hard-to find German sources.

Both titles cover the period from the beginning of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 to roughly April 1942 in a combat diary format. II./JG 51 Gruppenkommandeur Hptm. Josef Fözö describes the opening day of the campaign in an extract from his 1943 account " Freie Jagd von Madrid bis Moskau; ein Fliegerleben mit Mölders ";

" We have barely been out of our cockpits. Five times we have been up today on the first day of the campaign in the East. Each time we return with our eyes almost glued shut with sweat and dust, our lips parched and out our throats thick and sticky with thirst. Mölders seems to be everywhere one looks. He went up with one of the Gruppen but was soon back on the ground in his command post. He exchanges information with the minimum of words, only quick-fire questions and answers. He has already devised another attack; " ..fly a sweep behind the lines - take Hannes with you !" He meant Kolbow, the best Staffelkapitän in my Gruppe. Mölders instructions during his short briefing were ; " ..if you don't see anything in the air, check out the ground there are two airfields around the town...". We quickly took to the air. The landscape rolled below. Where were those Ratas, where are the damned bumblebees? Looks like the lads from the Red Air Force don't know there is a war on..here we go! ..banking down towards the first of the two airfields.. I count forty Russian machines..no, 45. The show is on. Spurts of dirt kicked up by our slugs cross the airfield..dust billows up...every single machine down there gets plastered..!"

Both Geschwader (not forgetting the plural of 'Geschwader' is 'Geschwader' !) were flying Bf 109Fs and their ace pilots were to return huge scores. But after the initial shock and awe the Russians fought back with a bravery that astounded their German counterparts. As aces of the calibre of Staffelkapitän 12./JG51 Oblt. Heinz Bär were to discover, even Ratas and Sturmoviks could be dangerous opponents - Bär was forced to bale out behind Russian lines on 31 August 1941 and the book opens with an account of this combat and the German pilot’s subsequent trek back to safety. The book has many more personal stories from the pilots portraying the tension, the exhilaration and very often the fear under which they flew. 

In addition to some riveting first-hand reports, each title features an excellent action print on the cover by Arkadiusz Wrodel, a fold-out centre spread with three profile artworks and another two superbly rendered side-views on the back over. The machines featured in the artwork appear on the very nice decal sheets included in each title in three scales and in many instances there is a reference photo normally only seen in those hard-to-find (and very expensive) German-language sources to back up the artist's interpretation. In the JG 52 book the machines illustrated are Uffz. Alfred Grislawski's F-4, W.Nr.7034, coded “Yellow 9” of 9./JG 52 (25 October 1941), Rudolf Resch, the Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 52 ( an F-2, W.Nr. 12848, coded “Yellow 1”), Fw. Josef Zwernemann of 7./JG 52 (an F-4, coded “White 8”), Geschwaderkommodore Maj. Hans Trubenbach's F-4 W.Nr. 7087 (“Black Double Chevron”, 15 July 194) and Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 52, Oblt. Johannes Steinhoff (F-4, W.Nr. 13744, coded “Black Double Chevron”).

The JG 51 book covers Obstlt. Werner Molders' F-2, Lt. Hans Strelow's F-2, of 5./JG 51 (coded “Black 10” in winter camouflage), Fw. Werner Bielefeld's F-2 of 7./JG 51 (“White 11” as seen on 11 July 1941), Staffelkapitän Oblt. Erich Hohagen's F-2 “White 1” of 4./JG 51 and another Staffelkapitän, Oblt. Heinrich Krafft's F-4 of 3./JG 51, W.Nr. 7221, “Yellow 7” as photographed in February 1942 - all in all two superb decal sets.

With all the superb Bf 109F kits released this year you might well need some inspiration with colour schemes and decals - with these two volumes you will have plenty of choice. Even if you're not about to break open the Zvezda or Trumpeter kits then there is still plenty of material here for a damn good read !

Thanks to Casemate UK for the samples.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

new Junkers Ju 88 decals from AIMS (John MciIlmurray)

Over at his AIMS website John MciIlmurray has new decal sheets available including a particularly attractive set for the Ju 88 C-6. One subject in particular caught my eye with it's fighter markings!

This machine was the regular mount of the Kommodore of Zerstörergeschwader 1 from early 1944. Unfortunately it is not known with certainty whether this was pre-war regular and Spanish Civil war veteran Oberstleutnant Lothar von Janson or ZG1's last Kommodore, Erich von Selle.

Born 1908 in Kiel, Lothar von Janson was formerly Kommandeur of I./JG 53 in 1939/40.  In November 1943 at the age of 36 he was appointed Kommodore of ZG 1 in Lorient/France, hence the rather unusual 'fighter' style 'chevron bar' markings on his Ju 88 as depicted in the photographs that served as reference during the preparation of this decal sheet. Von Janson was KIA on 10.03.44 over the the Bay of Biscay, probably at the controls of Ju 88C-6 WNr.750965.

His full career courtesy of C.Goss on TOCH;
born 10 Jul 08, entered service 1 Apr 28, JG 132 1 Aug 34 to 31 Mar 35, St Kap Fl Gr Schwerin to 11 Mar 36, St Kap I/165 to 31 Jul 36, RLM to 15 Nov 38, Gr Kdr I/JG 133 (I/JG 53) to 28 Jun 40, RLM to 14 Oct 40, Kriegsakadamie to 31 Jan 41, Stab Luftflotte Kdo 1 to 30 Apr 42, Stab 2 Flg Div to 4 Nov 43 then Gesch Komm ZG 1.

The other possible candidate for this machine according to AIMS is Erich von Selle , a Battle of Britain ace with seven victories. This was Selle's first Ju 88 unit having previously served with JG 27 and JG 54 among others. ZG 1 was disbanded following its disastrous performance against the Normandy invasion fleet - many of its pilots went on to fly single-engine fighters in the Reichsverteidigung

Tuesday 16 November 2010

new Revell Arado Ar 196 in 1/32nd scale (latest edit January 2017) - Arado Ar 196 Walkaround

LATEST PAGE EDIT Janaury 2017- One of the kits of the year 2010 and by now the most popular and most 'looked-for' subject on the Luftwaffe blog is the new 1/32 scale Arado 196 from Revell. On this page you will find links to the first test shot build via the IPMS Germany site and also links to some reference material including cockpit photo shots posted elsewhere on this blog. First up on this page is a view of Andreas' build at panzer-bau.de

More of this fantastic build from Andy at http://www.panzer-bau.de/

Arado Ar 196 reference

According to a very accomplished modeller of my acquaintance the kit's 'Achilles Heel' is the canopy which is supplied as a 'flat-pack' of glazing panels which have to be assembled  - read Peter Buckingham's assessment of this feature and how to cope with it in his column on the Relish Models website here

Above; one of three embarked Arado 196 A-3 seaplanes of 3./BFlGr 196 on the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. This is 'T3+HL' - note as here that the wings could be removed for stowage.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Luftwaffe models at Scale Model World 2010 Telford

A selection of great pics from Bryn Robinson (Forestfan on britmodeller.com). More from Telford including video reports on my modelling blog