Friday 31 December 2010

Überlebenschance gleich Null - KG 77 torpedo bomber pilot Bodo Diemer memoir (Helios Verlag)

Bodo Diemer was a Luftwaffe torpedo bomber pilot and flew combat sorties against Allied convoys in the Med, against the D-Day invasion fleet in the Channel and against the Murmansk convoys in the Artic Sea. The torpedo bomber Gruppen of the Luftwaffe sustained some of the heaviest losses of any Luftwaffe units – out of 40 crews he knew personally, only 3, including his own, survived, hence the title of the book which roughly translates to ".. Survival chances - nil..."

Since writing down his wartime experiences at the end of the war while a POW, Bodo Diemer has wrestled with the dilemma of whether or not to put them before a wider audience. Finding a publisher was half the battle. Helios Verlag have a track record of publishing interesting Luftwaffe books and a while ago asked Diemer to prepare his account of his experiences for publication and this nice 322-page volume is now available from their site or your favourite online bookseller. What follows here are my impressions of this worthwhile title and a couple of extracts that I have translated from the German-language text.

Diemer arrived at IV./KG 77 then based in the south of France fresh from training school in early 1944 having enlisted in 1940 and participated in the Norwegian campaign as a driver in an engineering unit. IV./KG77 were flying the Ju 88 A-14 and A-17 torpedo bomber variants and his first Staffelkapitän was Knights's Cross holder Oblt. Johannes Geismann (10./KG77). By that stage of the war his elder brother Arno had already been shot down and killed in a 2./KG 6 Ju 88, falling to an RAF nightfighter over the UK. Elsewhere the family business had been taken over by a 'Nazi' armaments concern. Based as he was in France, Diemer was in regular telephone contact with his family in Germany - both Diemers' parents had voted for Hitler’s NSDAP but did not regard themselves as Nazis and as the intensity of the bombing war builds over the homeland disillusionment and despair increasingly sets in.

Diemer’s accounts of flying the Ju 88 are written in a very straight forward 'Fliegersprache' – aviators language. He describes sorties flown against shipping convoys out over the Atlantic and the Med from the point of view of his crew with plenty of interesting details and insights into the daily life of Luftwaffe bomber crews operating in the late–war period – unreliable, malfunctioning torpedos and equipment, poorly trained crews and out-moded aircraft.

" ..Flying at wave-top height in darkness was the bread-and-butter of the torpedo flyer. Too low and you risked a watery grave, too high and you would be easy prey for the nightfighters...those of our comrades who came to us having passed out from the abbreviated C-Schule programme then in place and who had not been trained for this type of flying were as good as dead already.."

The strain of having to fly the brunt of some hair-raising sorties in the teeth of overwhelming defensive firepower from Allied air and sea power is unremitting.

“ .. .Suddenly the BF shouted ‘..nightfighter on our tail..’ I could already hear the radar return as I threw the kite into a bank to port. “ He’s following us, I think it’s a Beaufighter..” called Walter just as a salvo of tracer flashed past overhead and disappeared into the darkness. With our two ‘eels’ our crate was a lame duck. I pushed the stick forward and nosed down closer to the wave-tops, as low as I dare ..but he was still behind us. Another salvo but as we were in the turn the Beaufighter was unable to draw a bead on us. More tracer flashed past the canopy. Our last chance to get away – jettison the ‘eels’. ‘Torpedo left’ followed by ‘torpedo right’. Luckily for us they went in and straight under – had they bounced we could easily have been brought down by our own torpedoes. Now I was faster, could pull into steeper and tighter curves. I hauled the kite around towards the darker western sky line and dropped right down low to the crests of the waves. There was a heavy swell running – no nightfighter would follow us down here. He would probably assume that we’d turn east towards the ships and we’d give him the slip. We flew on in the darkness. Walter reported in - “ Nothing..”. We’d been lucky. We landed back at Cognac at 07:15. Our comrade Essig had already made it back – he’d come under attack from a nightfighter too and likewise had to save himself by jettisoning his ‘eels’. Ordering a sortie as dawn was breaking with the entire RAF probably in the air and expecting us to sink the Royal Navy with our lame, overladen ‘crows’ was utter madness...”

1945 sees Diemer posted to Norway with KG 26 and the chance to fly the Ju 188.

“ ..that day we reported as ordered to the Technical Officer. We were to fly two modified Ju 188s back to Trondheim and ferry them to III. Gruppe. Both machines were standing outside on the taxyway. I told him that we had never flown the Ju 188 and couldn’t be expected to take the aircraft without at least some classroom instruction. His response – we both wore the EK first class so we must be experienced flyers. There were two Bordfunker ready and waiting to make the trip with us. A pilot who had flown the Ju 188 was on hand to show us the ropes – and quickly before the Mustangs put in an appearance and shot the two machines to pieces. Just great! .. with the Russians in front of Berlin and the Western Allies already fighting around Kassel, here we were standing in our entire worldly possessions and now having to make a 1,500 kilometer trip north in a type that we had never flown before. While we had been flying combat sorties we’d dreamt of being able to give up our old lame Ju 88s for the faster more manoeuvrable Ju 188. Now we were getting our wish. The Ju 188 was a machine of 3,500 hp, almost 700 more horses than my faithful old ‘1H+NH’, and a top speed approaching 530 km/h, almost 100 km/h faster than our old crates... the next morning, half asleep, I climbed up into the unfamiliar cockpit, followed by the BF. Much more spacious, not half as cramped as the Ju 88, although the layout of the instruments and throttles was much the same. Run up the engines quickly and then taxy out. The eastern horizon was already getting lighter – time to get going before the P-51s turned up. Essig followed me and we turned onto the runway. Throttles wide open at the same time and we were airborne tucked in alongside each other just like the good old days. Now we were in our element – low level over the Baltic heading north. The biggest danger now was our own flak, and especially the anti-aircraft defences toted by our warships lying off the coast. An intermediate stop was planned in Aalborg, Denmark before undertaking the long flight over the Skagerrak. The Ju 188 was very pleasant to fly. Much easier on the rudder and the aircraft responded quickly to my inputs on the stick. I could sense the much higher speed – this was turning into a pleasure flight so much so that I waggled my wings at Essig in happiness. He waggled his back in reply...”

89-year old Bodo Diemer veteran Luftwaffe torpedo bomber pilot at his book launch in November 2010

Saturday 25 December 2010

Most visited pages on the Luftwaffe blog during 2010

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-461-0220-07, Russland, Flugzeug Heinkel He 177

A handy guide to the most popular pages on the Luftwaffe blog during 2010. With over 2,000 unique visitors per week, I think that it is fair to say that the majority are modellers looking for info and pictures of the latest kit releases. Which is fine by me. The Airfix new tool 48th Emil and the new tool 72nd scale Bf 110 were built here as quickly as they were anywhere else but unfortunately I've a pile of new kits that I have yet to start including the Zvesda Bf 109F and Eduard Dora!  For info and pics of the new Ta 152 (and the Zvesda Friedrich) I am grateful to my correspondent Manu Pernes since this is one kit I doubt I will attempt unless asked to review it! I am also grateful to master builders such as Rowan Gough for allowing me to post their superlative builds here. I'm looking forward to building the new Revell Arado 196 as soon as possible in the New Year - as are many others from the page stats. This may mean fewer updates during 2011 so that I can build more. I will continue to cover the latest book and reference releases. And as I have a couple of book translations underway currently, there will probably be a little more translation work here, although these types of posts are particularly time consuming to prepare.

1. Airfix Bf110 C in-box first-look review 1/72, kit build and Me 110 reference

first posted on 3 Aug 2010 1,855 page views for the year

2. Flugwerk Fw 190 ditches off Hyères (Toulon)

first posted on 16 Jun 2010 1,552 page views

3. Towards perfection ? the Focke Wulf (Tank) Ta 152 ...

first posted on 27 Apr 2010 730  page views

4. Airfix Bf109 Emil in-box kit review and build (1/48 scale)

first posted on 20 Jun 2010, 634 page views

5. Luftwaffe models at Euromilitaire 2010 - Mistel marvel...

first posted on 18 Sep 2010,  635 page views

6. new Revell Arado Ar 196 in 1/32nd scale

first posted on 16 Nov 2010, 631 page views

7. SG2 Fw190 camouflage and markings - Luftwaffe colours...

first posted on 18 Jul 2010, 519 page views

8. 1/32 Focke Wulf Ta 152 H-1 Zoukei-Mura kit

first posted 30 Oct 2010, 514  page views

9. Hermann Graf and his JGr. Ost Focke Wulf 190s

first posted on 8 Apr 2010, 463  page views

10. Arado 234 Blitz, Bf110 G, Do 335 A, He 111 P, Ju 88 photo set walkarounds to download...

first posted 23 Oct 2010,  377  page views

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-676-7972A-34, Flugzeug Heinkel He 177, Heckkanone

He 177 images via Bundesarchiv/WikiCommons available for re-use on the web

Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor - a selection of images via Wiki commons and Ebay

Images available via Wikicommons/Bundesarchiv cooperation and free for re-use on the web.

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Dania

The Danish airlines Fw 200 airliner OY-DAM Dania at the opening of the Norwegian airport Fornebu  near Oslo

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 "Condor" with nose-mounted radar FuG Hohentweil .

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-482-2874-03A, Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Condor

Albert Speer (third from left) in front of his personal transport

Bundesarchiv Bild 146-2005-0011, FW 200 "Condor"

 Focke-Wulf Fw 200 C-3 "Condor" (Kennung F8+GH) seen on a Greek airfield. Bundesarchiv via Wikicommons

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-432-0796-07, Flugzeug Focke-Wulf Fw 200 "Condor"

A Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Kondor sinking in the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland, after being shot down by a Lockheed Hudson Mark V of No. 233 Squadron RAF based at Aldergrove, County Antrim, while trying to attack a convoy. This oblique aerial photograph was taken from the victorious Hudson (AM536) and shows the crew of the Kondor swimming for their liferaft which is inflating to the right of the tailplane. Date: 23 July 1941. Public domain via Wikicommons

Focke-Wulf Fw 200 Kondor sinking (July 23 1941)

KG 40 1,000th sortie commemoration via Ebay auction

Walkaround video of a KG 40 Fw 200 Condor captured by the Russians. Click once to view without leaving this page.

Junkers Ju 87 Stuka Kanonenvogel -last edit March 2016

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-728-0323-24A, Flugzeug Junkers Ju 87

Flugzeug Junkers Ju 87 G "Stuka" mit 3,7-cm-Kanonen FlaK 18 ("Kanonenvogel") auf einem Feldflugplatz -  images via Wikicommons (cooperation agreement providing Bundesarchiv images free for re-use on the web)

The Panzerknacker or tank 'cracker' was, if we are to believe the history, dreamt up by Stuka 'ace' Rudel as a means of aiding the hard-pressed German ground troops in their defensive struggles against the Red Army and their T-34 tank fleets. It seems to me that this machine has acquired a certain 'aura' that it simply does not warrant -especially with modellers. 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. Rudel in his first day's flying at the controls of his BK 3.7 mm toting Stuka managed to knock out around ten Russian tanks according to Nauroth's German-language Stukageschwader Immelmann history. (Rudel's own account states twelve). Yet just a few hundred miles east of where Rudel would have been operating during July 1943, Soviet factories were churning out hundreds of tanks weekly - well out of the range of  any Luftwaffe bombers. The Luftwaffe did not possess a decent long-range heavy bomber as we know. All the Luftwaffe could come up with at this stage of the war was a Stuka 'D' model expedient with the flying characteristics of a brick - it was impossible for all but the most experienced pilots to fly well, especially in the turn where the massively laden Stuka bucked and wobbled on the edge of the stall.. 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..

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-655-5976-04, Russland, Sturzkampfbomber Junkers Ju 87 G

Sturzkampfbomber Junkers Ju 87 ("Stuka") mit 3,7 cm Panzerabwehrkanonen unter den Flügeln. Anlassen des Motors des Flugzeugs von Hans-Ulrich Rudel ("Kanonenvogel") mit einer Handkurbel

Stuka mounting 3.7 cm anti-tank cannon under the wings. Turning over the engine of Rudel's aircraft with the hand-crank starter.

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-646-5184-26, Russland, Flugzeug Junkers Ju 87

not a Panzerknacker but a lovely detail view of a Ju 87 on the northern sector of the Estern Front, December 1943 from the same PK photographer Doege

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-726-0224-26A, Russland, Junkers Ju 87

Bundesarchiv/Wikicommons - Luftwaffe types (Ar 196, Ju 87) in the Norwegian campaign

A selection of  Bundesarchiv images taken during the Norwegian campaign available for re-use on the web via Wiki commons

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-399-0006-19, Norwegen, abgeschossene Me 110

Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-6081-11, Seeflugzeug Arado Ar 196

Arado Ar 196

Do 24 in Narvik harbour

Bundesarchiv Bild 101II-MW-5618-02, Narvik, beschädigter Hafen, Flugboot Do 24

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-761-0233-10, Norwegen, Flugzeug Junkers Ju 87

Flughafen Fornebu - Flugzeuge (aircraft) visible on the airfield include Junkers G 38, Junkers Ju 52, Junkers Ju 90, Junkers W 34, Heinkel He 111

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-760-0171-19, Norwegen, Flughafen Fornebu

Erhard Milch visiting a Stuka Staffel in Norway

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-760-0165N-26, Norwegen, Erhard Milch bei Stuka-Staffel

Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-091-0195-29, Norwegen, Junkers Ju 87, Bombenbeladung

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Condor Legion Ju 52 floatplane AS./88

Along with the first variants of the Stuka to fly combat sorties, this for me is the one of the rarest Luftwaffe types to see service during the Spanish Civil War. A single photo of a Nationalist Ju 52 3m (W) was published in the book As de Picas or "Ace of Spades" by Galland Books devoted to the seaplane Staffel AS./88 of the Condor Legion.  Translated and republished by Schiffer books it is a slim volume of only 186 pages retailing for well over £35, but probably one of the few books worth buying for a single photo. There are many unknowns about this aircraft. For starters it is not certain if there was one, two or more Ju-52 floatplanes in service with the Aufklärungsstaffel See/88 (AS./88 or the Maritime Reconnaissance Squadron), of the Condor Legion in Spain. There are several photos showing partial views of possible candidates which contradict each other. Much remains to be investigated. This particular aircraft - red '527' - complete with Totenkopf emblem on the nose, was used by the AS./88 for liaison and transport duties. During a flight from Cadiz to Pollensa on 21 March 1938 it came under attack from two Republican Fiat CR. 32 fighters, one of which was shot down by the Ju 52's gunner.  Republican Coastal Defence reported ;

" 15:10 two fighters were airborne to intercept an enemy seaplane spotted eight miles from the coast, north-east of Cabo Palos. The fighters engaged the seaplane but the rebel aircraft managed to shoot down one of our aircraft which came down in the sea thirty five kilometres from the coast, exploding on impact  .."

1/32 Zoukei Mura Focke Wulf Ta 152 (2)

First built-up example I've seen of this kit, courtesy Dave/Sandy. Very impressive work and a lovely atmospheric diorama shot ! First posted on   and reposted here with Dave's kind permission.

Dave's full build review (5,000 words and over 100 images) is available on Geoff Coughlin's Scale Modelling Now subscription site.

Elsewhere James Kelly has been wrestling with this kit and looks to have highlighted a possible "problem" with the nose area and in particular the flattened section of the cooling louvre on top of the cowl. Or at least on the NASM example this area (ringed) is flatter while the cowl cover is more tapered from the windscreen than it appears in the kit.

That said David Francis has made a superlative job of his build in the current (January 2011) issue of SAMI. Cleverly perhaps though he has chosen to finish his model minus the upper engine cowl cover. 

NASM copyright image of the Garber Ta 152 nose

More of what's in the box and a partial build of the internal components, cockpit and engine

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Me 163 Komet - Fw. Siegfried Schubert's two 'kill' sortie 24 August 1944

Raketen-Jagdflugzeug (rocket fighter)Messerschmitt Me 163 A-V4 "Komet" (Kennung KE+SW) auf Flugfeld (Bundesarchiv/WikiCommons)

The Me 163 Komet was perhaps the most unique aircraft design of the Second World War. Developed from Alexander Lippisch's engine-less and tail-less glider design, a rocket-powered aircraft evolved into the distinctive swept-wing 'point interceptor' design that was as dangerous to its pilot as it was to American bombers. The clip below from the Dogfights 'Secret Weapons' programme recreates 1./JG400 rocket pilot Feldwebel Siegfried Schubert's two 'kill' sortie of 24 August 1944, following which General der Jagdflieger Adolf Galland issued a memorandum declaring the Me 163 fully operational. Noted authorities Barrett Tillman and Colin Heaton analyse Schubert's sortie and discuss the evolution of the radical Komet design. Well worth viewing. Click once to watch here.

1./JG400 was established during March 1944. The highly volatile fuel mix and temperamental engines, combined with orders forbidding operational sorties put a brake on introduction of the type into 'service' until a move to Brandis in July 1944. Within weeks of the unit's arrival at Brandis 1./JG 400 was to be involved in six major combats against USAAF bomber fleets, the first taking place on 28 July 1944. The Komets were usually deployed singly or in pairs. Komets attacked  at greater speeds than P-51s and P-47s could dive in an attempt to intercept them. A typical Me 163 tactic was to zoom climb through the bomber formations at 9,000 m (30,000 ft), level out at an altitude of 10,700–12,000 m (35,100–39,000 ft), then dive through the formation again. This approach afforded the pilot two brief chances to fire a few rounds from his cannon before gliding back to his airfield.

As the cockpit was unpressurized, the operational ceiling was limited by what the pilot could endure for several minutes while breathing oxygen from a mask, without losing consciousness. Pilots underwent altitude-chamber training to harden them against the rigors of operating in the thin air of the stratosphere without a pressure suit. Special low-fibre diets were prepared for pilots, as wind in the gastrointestinal tract would expand rapidly during ascent.

JG 400's mission was to provide additional protection for the Leuna synthetic fuel works which were raided particularly heavily and frequently as the USAAF moved away from city area bombing to targeting fuel production in mid-1944. A further Staffel was stationed at Stargard near Stettin to protect the large synthetic plant at Politz. Further defensive units of rocket fighters were planned for Berlin, the Ruhr and the German Bight.

The first actions involving the Me 163 occurred at the end of July, when two USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress were attacked without confirmed kills. Combat operations continued throug to early 1945. During this time, there were nine confirmed kills with 14 Me 163s lost. Feldwebel Siegfried Schubert was the most successful pilot, with three bombers to his credit.

Allied fighter pilots had soon noted the short duration of the powered flight -when the engine cut out the unpowered Komet was vulnerable. However, the Komet was extremely manoeuvrable and could pull out of a turn much later than any Allied fighter. Another Allied tactic was to attack the fields the Komets operated from and they were strafed after the Me 163s landed. Establishing a defensive perimeter with anti-aircraft guns ensured that Allied fighters avoided these bases. At the end of 1944, 91 aircraft had been delivered to JG 400 but a continuous lack of fuel had kept most of them grounded. It was clear that the original plan for a huge network of Me 163 bases was never going to happen. Up to that point, JG 400 had lost merely six aircraft due to the enemy actions. Nine were lost to other causes, remarkably low for such a revolutionary and technically advanced aircraft.

Monday 20 December 2010

long lost Bf109 K-4 "white 16" JG53 Reichenbach photo - pops up again (and again) on Ebay !

This very nice image is currently available on Ebay and the seller has it listed as "..a 3x5 original photo taken by my uncle. On the back of the photo he states: a Messerschmitt 109 that had been forced down in the woods. Taken April, 1945 near Aschaffenberg, Germany..". However - unlike some of the gems that do crop up on Ebay, this aircraft - if not always quite the same photo(s) - has been seen again and again ...and again. And not just on Ebay.

- P. 55 in Messerschmitt Bf 109 K, JaPo, Janda / Poruba. Also a colour profile on P93. Captioned as 'White' 16 from 9./JG 53. Found in Lechfeld

- page 177 of "Messerschmitt Bf109 F, G & K Series" by Prien & Rodeike along with a caption that claims it is:  "The remains of "White 16", a Bf109K-4 of 9./JG 53 as it looked at a forward airfield in Southern Germany after the wars end. Note the broad band with the Gruppe bar behind it. Clearly visible are the large mainwheels and broad propeller blades (copyright: Petrick) "

- on the web @ Go to section Me109 version K4, page 1/4, " white 16 Staffel 9, Gruppe III JG53 in Reichenbach in April 1945"

- P103 'Bf109 Late Versions Camouflage & markings' by MMP; profile artwork by Krzysztof W Wotowski. Attributed to 9./JG53, location Reichenbach.

- P1087, JG 53 history (Prien). Also two further photos which clearly show the III Gruppe bar.

- P148 ‘Captured Me109s’ by Jackiewicz and Wawrzynski

- P81  Kagero Monographs #29 Bf109G/K vol.III by Janowicz, two nice clear images credited to Crow. No GIs in the pictures.

As I mentioned not only does 'white 16' appear in lots of different books and on the web, it also pops up regularly on Ebay - it was last discussed in detail in 2007 on TOCH after another Ebay appearance. According to Richard Lutz contributing at the time, Jim Crow  "got these from a GI Photographer on 4x5 negs. Captioned as from Bf 109K-4 white 16, I./ JG 53 at Lechfeld, Jun 45 ". 

" original photo taken by my uncle .." ..very possibly given the number of GIs who posed for souvenir photos with 'white 16'. Or until next time perhaps.

Thanks to Chris and Goran at the Luftwaffe Experten board for assistance with the bibliographic references.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Lt.Lothar Kabbe II./JG 2

Very rare image from the collection of Robert Eggert (via Ledet) of a youthful (nineteen years old) Lt. Lothar Kabbe seen on his return from a successful combat sortie during 1944. Note the armourers seen counting the remaining rounds. Eggert himself is on the far left of the image supervising.

According to Eggert, erster Wart with II./JG 2, this picture was taken possibly prior to or even during the period of the Normandy invasion. In the latter case this is likely to have been at Creil near Paris. Kabbe was Staffelführer with 8./JG 2 during this period and went on to claim a P-47 on 4 July at low altitude over Le Neubourg on a day that saw heavy fighting in the area Evreux-Beaumont-le-Roger-Bernay and some seven II./JG 2 pilots shot down and killed. Kabbe himself had enjoyed some success during the first few months of 1944 when II./JG 2 found itself in the front-line against the huge USAAF bombing raids over Germany, claiming a B-17 on 8 February, a P-47 on 22 February, another B-17 on 25 February and a B-24 during the Berin raid on 6 March 1944.

06.03.44 Ltn. Lothar Kabbe 6./JG 2 B-24 £ EQ-9: 5.000 m. [S. Cloppenburg] 14.58 Film C. 2025/I Anerk: Nr. -

II./JG 2 was withdrawn from operations for rest and refit during May 1944 after some fifty pilot losses during this period but was sent to France on 13 June flying into a satellite field some twenty kilometres east of Creil. Pilots were billeted in the surrounding villages and ordered to avoid contact with the locals for fear of attacks by members of the Resistance. First sorties over Normandy were flown on 17 June 1944. In the space of the next two months a further twenty five II./JG 2 pilots lost their lives before the Gruppe was withdrawn from France. Kabbe achieved further victories including a P-38 over Aachen on 12 October 1944 and survived the war - he was shot down by anti-aircraft fire at the controls of Bf 109 G-14 'Blue 13' during the Bodenplatte operation on New Years Day 1945. ( Manhro's seminal work on the 'Bodenplatte' operation states that Kabbe managed to return to Nidda several days later. Other sources indicate that he was taken captive). Postwar he settled in Cologne and built up his own construction company.

Messerschmitt Me 261

Ebay auction for a private photo of an unusual Messerschmitt type - a prototype of the planned long-range recce twin Me 261 photographed at Lechfeld in June 1945. Another very good find by the Luftwaffe Experten board

Ebay auction

Bundesarchiv photo of the same aircraft, Me 261 V-2 available for re-use via Wiki commons
Fernaufklärer Messerschmitt Me M 261 V2 (BJ+CQ); probably seen at Lechfeld, 1945

Saturday 18 December 2010

I./JG300 pilot document collection Horst Voelkert

Currently on offer here from Historical Media if you have a spare $1,800 -  " Jagdgeschwader 300 Document Group belonging to Luftwaffe JAGDFLIEGER Pilot Horst Voelkert - SIX KILLS - TOP!!.."

 I./JG300 pilot document collection

well aside from the fact that three of those 'kills' were unconfirmed, I was intrigued by his award document for the Verwundetenabzeichen in Schwarz or "wound badge in black", dated 31 July 1944 and signed by Hptm. and Gruppenkommandeur I./JG 300 Gerd Stamp. According to the JG300 unit history Voelkert joined I./JG300 on 28 June 1944 -only one month prior to receiving the award- and was assigned to 1. Staffel, going on to claim his first P-51 on 17 July 1944. On 21 July 1944 the 8th and 15th Air Forces targeted industrial targets in south-western Germany and I./JG300 may have lost some sixteen Bf 109s in the teeth of overwhelming numbers of American fighters. Then on two consecutive days towards the end of the month - 26 and 27 July 1944-  Voelkert was credited with the Herausschuss ( or the 'separation') of a 15th Air Force B-24 Viermot over Hungary. The award document (below) refers to the sustaining of a 'single' wound on 27 July 1944, presumably suffered during the firing pass on the second of Voelkert's B-24 bombers - or possibly as a result of a subsequent crash landing following damage sustained during this attack. There are no details of any description specified in the loss listings so this is presumably new information.

Two views of Uffz. Horst Voelkert during the summer of 1944 posing on and alongside  Gruppenkommandeur Gerd Stamp's Bf 109 G-6 with its Kommodore-style markings, the bar aft of the fuselage Balkenkreuz almost entirely over-painted by JG 300's red Reichsverteidigung fuselage band. Stamp reported that such 'behaviour' - that is, the pilots climbing all over the CO's aircraft -could only have occurred when he himself was away from the airfield. Note the area of white material around Voelkert's left wrist - a bandage possibly?

Friday 17 December 2010

more Schlangenschwarm 3./JGr.10 Fw 190s ! Fw 190 A-8 with snake marking

I wonder how many modellers have built Fw 190 models in the garish Schlangenschwarm colours of 3./JGr.10?  These are great schemes - very 'pseudo-glamorous' - if you're into that sort of thing. I even saw one poster on the 'Flypast' forum asking if they were 'authentic'! It occurred to me though that we haven't been well served by our favourite publishers and decal sheet manufacturers with regard to these machines - with the result that my latest model appears to have more errors and omissions than you can count. Of course if you have built a 'Snake' Schwarm 190 then you've probably used EagleCals decal sheet 35 or the Kagero Fw 190 (Vol I) decals - that's right, the ones with the red Staffel numbers!   When Flugzeug Classic magazine published Alexander Steenbeek's article back in 2005/6 (?) Peter Rodeike (IIRC) built a similar looking model that accompanied the feature (see below).  I contacted author Steenbeek with queries about this unit and their aircraft after his feature appeared, but he declined to answer any questions, stating that the pictures had been "reserved" by another publisher.

Of course it turned out that the codes worn by 3./JGr.10 machines were black with a thin red outline, as revealed in a recent Luftwaffe im Focus article. Eagle Editions even added a small chapter to their Fw 190 Dora tome (Vol II), reproducing some of those original Flugzeug Classic article photos!  Of course on-going research and new photo discoveries are always liable to modify our knowledge  - but information of the unit's codes first surfaced way back in the late 1990's when the diary/flightlog of Uffz. Günther Pape was first retrieved from the wreck of his crashed aircraft. Is it now too much to expect that EagleCals reissue sheet 35 -still on sale- with the correct markings? I put my old sheet on Ebay a while ago, but still had the same decals ('red 8')  to use from the Kagero monograph on the Fw 190 (Vol I)- Kagero in this instance appearing to have simply 'copied' the Eagle Editions decal sheet. It would of course be fairly straight forward to mask and paint 'black 11'  but that is not the point. Even if Kagero's decal sheet is a free 'extra' with the book, an EagleCals decal sheet costs the best part of 10 quid in the UK.  At least the 'snake' marking will be useful I guess, although I've read reviews that suggest that this isn't always the case  in the larger scales. Incidentally the LiF piece had a nice image of a presumably only partially painted 'yellow' snake - a much better subject to model perhaps than another EagleCals subject, a JG300 machine supposedly decorated with a snake (not to mention some aristic license) and featuring blue/white/blue fuselage bands. However it wasn't until I was taking a picture of my Revell 1/72nd scale model using the Kagero book as a backdrop that I realised that both Kagero and EagleCals were also suggesting that red/black 8 should have its outer wing MGs deleted. I have no idea why  -  the only known photo of red/black 8 doesn't show any evidence of the removal of the outer wing weapons and was taken at the wrong angle to reveal whether or not this would have been the case. The outer wing breech covers are still there, but they presumably were part of the wing structure.  Ordinarily the MG 151s could not be removed without exceptional authorisation as the Sturmgruppen pilots discovered during November 1944 when many of them requested to do so. Perhaps they may well have been removed by an operational 'test' unit although as mentioned elsewhere, the underwing rocket launchers, if not the 'Crab device, were hardly innovations by September 1944. To be fair there is at least one picture of a 3./JGr.10 machine clearly showing the outer wing MGs removed - no Staffel number visible - although the machine in question was equipped with the rearward-firing Krebs rocket launcher.  Also reproduced in both publications mentioned above was a photo of  the young pilot  Uffz. Günther Pape, in front of his Fw 190 'black 6'. The photo clearly shows no ETC 501 carrier under the fuselage - possibly removed for the installation of a rocket launcher? However the published LiF and EE profile artworks (Sundin/Tullis) depict this machine with a standard belly tank. One thing is certain - the rocket-equipped Fw 190s of 3./JGr.10 achieved little or nothing in combat and tactically a belly tank full of fuel would have been far more useful for their pilots. And while these gaudy paint jobs look great on a book cover and probably sell hundreds of decal sheets - accurate or not - spare a thought for their pilots. They were not flamboyant dare-devil aces but young kids barely able to fly their aircraft in loose formation -let alone combat. I find myself wondering whether these garish schemes had a more sinister purpose - designed to 'encourage' or incite fledgling pilots to sacrifice themselves against the bomber fleets. Ultimately they were little more than cannon fodder....

More Schlangenschwarm Fw 190s here

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Eastern Front Jabo - Bf 109 Emil of Schlachtgeschwader 1

 Rowan Gough recently posted his latest stunning Bf 109 model on Britmodeller. Built from the Tamiya kit and beautifully airbrushed and mottled, Rowan selected a subject from the 48th Bf109s Sky decal sheet,  basing his model on a photo that was first published in 'Stukas-Jagdbomber-Schlachtflieger' by Aders/Held. In their caption Aders states that the aircraft is a Bf109 E-7 from 11. (Schlacht)/LG 2 in 1941. Rowan had a few queries with regard to the book caption, the machine and its colours and as usual the members of britmodeller were quick to supply some answers ..

Dave Wadman posited that the photo was likely taken on the Eastern Front sometime between June 1941 and mid to late 1942 and the aircraft was probably on the strength of Schlachtgeschwader 1 (Sch.G.1) and was thus not a machine from LG 2. In particular the fuselage markings identify it as belonging to Sch.G.1, which consistently used the black Schlacht triangle and coloured letter on its Bf 109Es. The red letter 'E' on the yellow fuselage band indicates a machine of 2. Staffel.

As far as the colours and markings are concerned, 02/71 became the standard factory finish for 109Es with the introduction of the E-4 in May 1940 and the aircraft was thus most likely to have been finished in these colours with the fuselage mottle in varying densities of any combination of 70, 71 or 02. The lower wingtip surfaces were most likely yellow but not the upper surfaces. The spinner cap was either white or yellow.  The variant was most probably an E-7 as 2. Staffel had considerably more E-7s on strength between December 1941 and late 1943 than it did E-4/Bs. However in theory the Bf 109 in the Aders/Held photo could be anything from an E-1 to an E-7 - the later canopy and spinner cap is no indication of sub-type as they could easily be retro-fitted to earlier models. It is not possible to determine from the image if the aircraft is fitted with wing cannon (which would definitely rule out its being an E-1). However, as the Geschwader strength returns for the period list only a few -3s with the balance made up of -4s and -7s, the odds are against it being an E-1. Note the shield beneath the cockpit, which probably features the infantry assault badge,  frequently worn by the Hs 123s, Bf 109Es and Hs 129s of the Schlachtgeschwader on the Eastern Front. The aircraft has the large belly bomb rack for four SC50 bombs.

2./Sch.G.1 was briefly formed from 5./LG 2 in December 1941 but was redesignated again as 5./LG 2 in January 1942! At this same time, a new 2./Sch.G.1 came into being but, as with 3.Staffel, official documentation on this formation is sketchy. This new 2.Staffel remained in service until October 1943 when it became 5./SG 77.

Two images of a crash-landed LG 2 Schlacht 109 came up on eBay recently below (thanks Chris!) - note the rather rare 'bear-wielding-axe' emblem of 5.(Schlacht)/LG 2 on the cowling plus the Schlacht triangle. The 'bear' is actually depicted on the emblem chopping up an umbrella (presumably Chamberlain's?), a throw-back to LG 2's Jabo Battle of Britain campaign...

More Eastern Front Jabos on this blog here

Monday 13 December 2010

unknown Sturmjäger pilot IV.(Sturm)/JG3

Another photographic gem (and low-res copy) from the collection of French researcher, author, archivist Jean-Yves Lorant. Lovely view of an unfortunately unidentified Sturm pilot of IV./JG3 seen at cockpit readiness in December 1944 or January 1945 at Gütersloh. This Sturmbock is still fitted with the armoured canopy glass known as Scheuklappen or 'blinkers' and may be a  machine from Oskar Bösch's 14. Staffel although any other indications/guesses would be most welcome. Feldwebel Josef Brandt of 13./JG3 is another candidate but the only photo of this pilot published hitherto in Jochen Prien's Chronik is too over-exposed and indistinct to allow a positive identification.

Sunday 12 December 2010

latest Kagero 'Topcolors' - Messerschmitt Bf 109 F

Kagero's latest title is a 'Topcolors' devoted to the 'Messerschmitt Bf 109 F'. Thanks to kamilS on aeroscale. Kagero titles are distributed in the UK by Casemate

This book comes with two big decal sheets with individual markings in 1:72, 1:48 and 1:32 for 16 various Bf 109 Fs, each depicted on beautifully drawn 4-view colour profiles and thoroughly described in the booklet included with the decals. The selection contains the following aircraft:

Bf 109 F-2; 'White 1', flown by Oblt. Kurt Sochatzy, Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 3, France, May-June 1941,

Bf 109 F-4; W.Nr. 8334, 'White 1', flown by Oblt. Wolfdieter Huy, Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 77, Jassy, 5 July 1941,

Bf 109 F-2; 'White 9', flown by Oblt. Hans Phillip, Staffelkapitän of 4./JG 54, Mal. Owsischtschi, 10 August 1941,

Bf 109 F-4/Z; W.Nr. 7308, 'Black 1', flown by Oblt. Günther Rall, Staffelkapitän of 8./JG 52, Stschastliwaja, 30 August 1941,

Bf 109 F-2; W.Nr. 8165, 'Black chevron 4', flown by Uffz. Fritz Geissler of Stab I./JG 52, Katwijk, September 1941,

Bf 109 F-2; W.Nr. 9588, 'Yellow 3', flown by Hptm. Franz Eckerle, Staffelkapitän of 6./JG 54, Staraja Russa, October 1941,

Bf 109 F-4; W.Nr. 7194, 'Yellow 6', flown by Uffz. Karl Willius of 3./JG 26, St. Omer, Autumn 1941,

Bf 109 F-2; 'Black 8', flown by Fw. Herbert Brönnle of 2./JG 54, Krasnogvardeisk, 16 March 1942,

Bf 109 F-2; 'Black chevron', flown by Hptm. Hans Phillip, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 54, Krasnogvardeisk, 22 March 1942,

Bf 109 F-4/Z; W.Nr. 7391, 'Black 5', flown by Fw. Gerhard Köppen of 8./JG 52, Kharkov, Spring 1942,

Bf 109 F-4; 'White 1', flown by Oblt. Werner Pichon-Kalau vom Hofe, Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 54, Utti, 23 or 24 June 1942,

Bf 109 F-4; 'Black 5', flown by Oblt. Anton Hackl, Staffelkapitän of 5./JG 77, Kastornoje, 26 July 1942,

Bf 109 F-4/Z; W.Nr. 10132, flown by Hptm. Horst Carganico, Gruppenkommandeur of II./JG 5, Petsamo, July-August 1942,

Bf 109 F-2; flown by Obfw. Franz-Josef Beerenbrock of Stab IV./JG 51, Dugino, 1 August 1942,

Bf 109 F-2; W.Nr. 6661, ‘Black 12’, flown by Obfw. Heinz Klöpper of 11./JG 51, Dugino, late August 1942,

Bf 109 F-4; flown by Hptm. Franz Hahn, Gruppenkommandeur of I./JG 4, Mizil, Autumn 1942.