Thursday 29 September 2011

Arado Ar 96 gunnery training variant

While it often mounted a cowl MG 17 firing through the prop, the famed Luftwaffe Arado Ar 96 trainer typically had no provision for a rear gunner or a lateral or rearward firing MG. However at least three prototypes, the V7, V8 and V9 featured a rear cockpit and canopy modified for gunnery training. Here is a rare view of the Arado Ar 96 V8 D-IXWP (WNr. 2074) with its cut away rear gunner's compartment. Below is the V9 WNr. 2075. It is believed that these variants were built for export and that the V9 may have gone to Bulgaria although its ultimate fate is unknown. (via Michel Ledet and Avions magazine)

Saturday 24 September 2011

more on Gefr. Walter Wagner's "white 11" 5. (Sturm)/ JG 4 Bodenplatte victim - PHOTO EDIT 28 OCTOBER 2011

Lovely model build by 'Brad' on britmodeller of the DML kit (ex-Trimaster). Brad writes " the cowling fought me hard and I couldn't live with the incorrect stance of the landing gear so I cut the retraction struts and added about 1mm of plastic to get the right angle on the main gear. The prop was scavenged from a Tamiya 190A-3 as the prop fitted when repaired was a metal one. Decals came from a variety of sources (now also featured on the new Karaya 'Captured Butcher Birds' decal sheet) and gunze gloss red was used.."

Wagner forced landed this aircraft on 1.1.45 close to St. Trond (home to the 404th FG) during the Bodenplatte raids when Allied airfields across Western Europe were hit in the Luftwaffe's so-called grosser Schlag (big blow). Wagner's Focke Wulf 190 A8-R2 was recovered and repaired to running condition.

The 404th's CO Colonel Leo Moon wrote re this machine;

" the aircraft was painted red by a crew who had overheard me saying that I had always wanted to own a red airplane ..the OO*L code was placed on it because we had created an 'imaginary' fourth Squadron in the Group, and as in the 508th, we used the first initial of the pilot's name as the last of the three code letters. Since I agreed that we should try and get the 190 into flying condition everyone considered it my aircraft and added the 'L' accordingly..when it was ready I taxied it at all speeds up to near takeoff speed but we had no clearance to fly it from the Anti-Aircraft. After taxiing in I found the tires soaked in hydraulic fluid and they were so deteriorated I felt that they were unsafe..we spent considerable time looking for new tires without success. Then we had to move on and left the Fw 190 at St. Trond. I regret that I wasn't able to get that 190 in the air - I had even learnt the 'offs' and 'ons' of the switch labels in German but I don't feel too bad about not flying it. I did get to fly the Bearcat which I believe was more or less a copy of the 190 -although no-one ever admits it..."

Click on the images to expand. Note the yellow fan and prop tips and the red gear legs. The Sturm armour plate on the cockpit sides had been removed for the mission has had the upper cowl MGs.

Below; a rare view of the machine prior to the application of the OO-L codes

and some nice stills from rare film footage of the 404th inspecting Wagner's "white 11" elsewhere on this blog;

Thursday 22 September 2011

colour shot of JG 51 Fw 190

This nice colour photo was offered as a wall poster in the centre pages of the November 2010 issue of the leading German aviation magazine "Flugzeug Classic" and depicts an early JG 51 Fw 190 A-3 'black 2'  with what appears to be a red lower engine cowl. Click on the image to see the full view. Since there is plenty of yellow in the image it would appear to be rather hard to argue that the 'red' cowl was as a result of some sort of colour shift... wouldn't it ?

a/c is Fw 190 A-3,  W.Nr 2278,  2./JG51 "Black 2", St. Peterburg Russia

Recently completed Revell 1:72 scale A-8 as Bretschneider's Sturmbock with the addition of armoured cockpit side panels and faired-in upper cowl MGs

III./ JG 2 Emils on Ebay

A nice selection of III./ JG 2 Emils on Ebay

Thanks to 'ouidijat' for the pointer

latest Luftwaffe/Axis titles, JAPO Me 262s of KG and KG(J) units, JG 4 Vol II off to the printers, Vol V of Stipdonk/Meyer, work on the latest Luftwaffe Gallery...

Only a handful of updates so far this month  - and with good reason as I've been incredibly busy helping M. Erik Mombeeck prepare volume II of the Jagdgeschwader 4 history for the printers - we should meet our deadline of 30 September ! This volume covers the period from Market-Garden to the final air battles over Berlin and I hope you'll forgive me if I state that this is probably one of the most riveting late-war Jagdgeschwader histories to yet appear in English - a must for all Jagdwaffe fans. With the dissolution of I./JG 4 during March 1945 and the remustering of pilots as infantry there are even personal accounts of the ground fighting as well as plenty of perilous ground-strafing missions and Mistel and "Kamikaze" escort sorties.
The first volume of Erik Mombeeck's two part history of JG 4 cover the unit’s establishment, deployments and combat actions through to Autumn 1944 and is 'reviewed' with a lengthy text extract on this blog at the following link.

Elsewhere I have also completed my work on Band V of the Stipdonk/Meyer photographic series - some 500 captions into English. However I believe this volume is only appearing in conjunction with the first volume of a new photo series devoted to the Jagdgeschwader so is not exactly imminent. In fact Band V was almost not going to appear at all since VDM declined to pay for the translation of the captions - I stepped in to produce them 'unpaid' to 'unblock' the situation. In addition I have been hard at work on the personal accounts that will feature in the next issue of 'Luftwaffe Gallery' - which will be a 'special' . Now as I've mentioned this translation effort is - for want of a better word - 'unpaid' and very time-comsuming, which makes it difficult to keep up with blog matters....oh and I have a three-page feature on French Desert Storm Jaguars in the current issue of Airfix Model World (personal account by capitaine Alain Mahagne) !

I have managed to read a couple of new books though;

First up the new Pen and Sword title on the "Vichy Air Force at war" by Sutherland and Canwell.
These two authors have produced a huge body of work - some 200 books published - but sheer volume means that quality and quality control don't really get a look-in. Firstly the authors do not appear to have consulted any French-language sources (just one in the bibliography) nor speak French. No serious author would write " the l'Etat..." or even " a single raid did for all of the aircraft of GAO2/551.." There are no personal accounts whatsoever here - it would have been easy enough to source some exciting accounts from Jean Gisclon's "Chasseurs au groupe la Fayette" - Gisclon saw combat over Mers-el-Kebir in 1940 and Casablanca in 1942 with GC 2/5 and wrote about it in detail. Lela Presse in France have produced a range of exciting monographs on the period, including a 400-page history of the Curtiss Hawk in French service, none of which have been consulted. Nor does the Sutherland and Canwell work feature an index or any footnotes whatsoever. Chapter 1 deals adequately enough with the Battle of France but 'historians' and amateurs have generally made such a mess of this period that statements like "The French faced the invasion with 4,360 combat aircraft" need referencing and qualifying. The venerable Potez 25 biplane might have been an extremely potent aircraft in 1925 but it certainly wasn't in 1940 when dropping bombs on Gibraltar (not that the authors even mention this..)
Ehrengardt's two volume 'L'aviation de Vichy au combat' covering fighting in North Africa, Syria, Iraq and Madagascar should at the very least have been consulted. Rather, chapters such as those devoted to operations over Syria are largely based on English-language sources such as Heringtons "Australia in the war of 39-45" - entire page-long quotes in fact. Shores ' Dust Clouds in the Middle East .." must have been used, but doesn't appear in the bibilography. Finally it is worth pointing out that this book is also a pretty slim volume. Chapter 9 - the 'throwaway' last chapter of the book which features potted bios of French pilots who achieved various feats outside of the Vichy Air Force ie Normandie Niemen veterans etc - starts on page 139 and runs to P150. Total page count is 172. Chapter 8 is six-page long 'focus' on those Frenchmen who may or may not have flown with the Luftwaffe including Rene Darbois who flew Bf 109 fighters with JG 4 in Italy - nothing to do with the Vichy air force. As mentioned the photo insert pages are dark and murky. There are some appendices featuring two pages of victory credits and a quick 2-page treatment of the Vichy air Force in Indochina, the subject of new 400-page hardback book from Lela Presse - which just about sums up this rather poor Pen and Sword volume.
Next up is the latest Osprey Duel title entitled " La-7 vs Fw 190" ...Neat idea to get a Russian viewpoint on the two types but be aware that Khazanov is the author responsible for the " Erich Hartmann -352 victories or 80 " revisionist approach to the Eastern Front air war. Usual highly competent computer artwork from Hector & Laurier and yet another re-telling of the development history and chronology of the Fw 190 - including photos of early variants in the factory - which along with the more interesting La-7 chronology takes up some 33 pages of this 80 page work. Some curious translation as expected - first time I've seen the Fw 190 described as a "cavalier's horse" - the phrase in German used to describe the Fw 190 is "Arbeitspferd" or 'workhorse' ! The account of the air war on the Eastern Front itself occupies only some 10 pages before we arrive at May 1945! The authors then write, "  the heavier armed, and armoured, versions of the Fw 190A-6, A-7 and A-8 were used almost exclusively by Defence of the Reich units in the west (although IV./JG 3 used its anti-bomber Fw 190A-8/R8s in strafing attacks on Soviet troops as the latter advanced on Berlin), and are therefore not detailed in this volume.." Of course not, there simply isn't the space! But by late January 1945, when the Soviets arrival at the Oder meant that there were more pressing concerns than shooting down USAF bombers, ALL three of the Sturmgruppen were deployed to the Eastern Front along with the Fw 190s of JG 11..and as a result of works by Mombeeck and Lorant there is now plenty of info out there on the deployment and activities of these late-war Fw 190s on the Eastern Front. The chapter devoted to training and conversion from the Bf 109 to the Fw 190 was frankly not of interest. Photographic content is best described as indifferent. Some personal accounts -previously seen- and also a look at the introduction of the Dora on the Eastern Front including the usual picture of  " a smart, newly built Fw 190D-9 Wk-Nr. 210051 with a straight-topped cockpit cover ". I think that's a reference to the Dora's flat canopy. The 'meat' of this small book - if you can call it that - is the chapter entitled "Combat" (P58-72 but including full page profiles of Kozedub and Nowotny along with the two-page battle scene 'painting'). The bibliography ("Further Reading") again features mostly Osprey titles (from the Aces series) and always strikes me as being particularly pointless in these Osprey works. As it is, lots of text seems to me to have been drawn from these very books by the authors of this volume! As usual difficult to sum up - recommended with reservations, especially if your library is devoid of works on the La-7 or Fw 190.

Just time to mention here the latest JAPO 'Luftwaffe over Czech territory' title devoted to the Me 262 jets of KG and KG(J) units ahead of a more comprehensive review. A much heftier work of some 180 pages (A-4 softback) than previous titles in this series and featuring as co-author the talents of David E. Brown, the leading researcher on Luftwaffe camouflage and markings, this work should prove absolutely indispensable for late-war Luftwaffe and Me 262 enthusiasts. Needless to say I have been poring over it daily since it arrived and am very much enjoying what is a fine work. Among other subjects, it features a 20-page colour 'walkaround' section, a detailed history of IX Fliegerkorps jet deployment and combat operations over Bohemia, with a day-by-day reconstruction of events from mid-April 1945 to war's end over 55 pages, along with detailed features on all eleven identified KG and KG(J) jets with sumptuous artworks and a decal sheet covering the featured aircraft for scale modellers. Superb!

Tuesday 6 September 2011

The German aces speak - Colin Heaton (forthcoming from Zenith Press)

Due in November from Zenith Press

Walter Krupinski: 197 victories; Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves; German Cross in Gold; Wound Badge in Gold
Adolf Galland: 104 victories; Knight’s Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds; Spanish Cross in Gold with Diamonds; German Cross in Gold
Eduard Neumann: 13 victories; Iron Cross Second and First Class; Spanish Cross; German Cross in Gold
Wolfgang Falck: 8 victories; Knight’s Cross

These four prominent and influential Luftwaffe fighter pilots reminisce candidly about their service in World War II in The German Aces Speak. Although all were decorated by the Third Reich for their exemplary performance, this is not to say they followed the Nazi Party without question—indeed, none of them were card-carrying National Socialists. Between their duty to serve their country in war and the erratic and immoral leadership of Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring, these men elected to follow their own code of honor in combat. Although true to their oaths as German warriors, in the end they felt they and their countrymen had been betrayed by Hitler and the Nazis.

Colin Heaton personally interviewed these air combat leaders, aces all, gathering their unique perspective on World War II and the Nazi leadership. From thrilling air battles to battles on the ground with their own commanders, these stories bring the past to life in the aces’ own words.

An excerpt from the Falck interview by Colin Heaton on this blog

Colin Heaton's website is HeatonLewis Books

Bf 109 Emils of Träger-Jasta 186 & JG77

Currently at 350 euros with five days left is this very nice album featuring Bf 109s of Träger-Jasta 186 and JG 77 taken at Nordholz during the winter of  1939-40.  From the seller's blurb; this album contains 72 images with a further 11 loose and 13 more not depicted of the Arbeitsdienst or 'work service' detail.  These are rare images of the aircraft slated to embark as the fighter complement on board the carrier Graf Zeppelin  in the so-called Träger-Jagdstaffel 186. Exceptionally sharp images of Me 109s with JG 77. All pages of the album feature text, guaranteed original.

The album also features a rare close-up of the Graf von Zeppelin's coat of arms as applied prominently on the bow of the carrier and on the aircraft of the Trägergruppe II./186 (T). The carrier's air complement initially consisted of a single dive bomber Staffel, 4.(St.)/186 (T), and two fighter Staffeln, 5.(J) and 6.(J)/186 (T).

Hartmann's JG 52 Bf 109s - Erich Hartmann's last Bf 109 G-10 - Edit February 2019

A 'new' view of Hartmann's last Erla-built Bf 109 G-10.  These are photos of the actual images seen in an album and are thus slightly 'murky'. I've enlarged them as far as I can without losing the 'quality'. The second image is 'well known' and was taken directly after the sortie resulting in Hartmann's 350th 'claim'. Not that he would have filed this or any of the preceding fifty or so claims anyway. Enthusiasts still maintain he achieved '352 confirmed victories'  - which is nonsense, given that we know for a fact that he only officially filed some 280! Note the camouflage tunic worn in the air over the front to facilitate evasion should the pilot come down behind enemy lines. The second image is new to me and shows a little more of the aircraft and confirms that it had the black "tulip" on the nose.

The last known Hartmann machine we have any evidence for is the well-known photo of him, supposedly taken in mid-April '45, standing by his Erla-built Bf 109 G-10 machine below. Note the rectangular plate ahead of the cockpit. This photo was apparently taken on the occasion of his 350th Abschuß. A more recently discovered image (below) shows a little more than the red heart and part of the Gruppenkommandeur's Doppel-winkel-  this G-10 apparently features the tulip marking.  This variant was also the "hottest" Bf 109 then available, so no surprise Hartmann flew one and that it was in fact most likely to have been Hartmann's last aircraft..

Did Hartmann fly a K-4 as some suggest...? Playing devils advocate here - there is photographic evidence ( see JG 52 in Deutsche Brod from Japo) indicating that the Stab JG 52 had Bf 109 K-4s with tulip designs & that as Hartmann's I./JG 52 shared a field with them the chances are he might well have flown one. According to Michael Ullmann then "there are strong grounds to indicate that Hartmann's last machine was a Bf 109 K-4". However the only 'fact' Ullmann cites in support is rather nebulous; high ranking & highly decorated pilots invariably received the latest equipment in an effort to maintain an advantage over their adversaries- rather over-looking the fact that the K-4 was proposed as an up-dated fighter-bomber variant. No matter either that the chaotic conditions in German manufacturing in early 1945 meant that machines were leaving 'factories' with little or no quality control being exercised - there is an account in the JG 300 history from a Bf 109 pilot ferrying K-4's minus instruments, oxygen etc etc. Ullmann 'suggests' Hartmann flew a K-4 (with tulip) in the last WNr batch 334xxx/335xxx which would have been finished in 75/83 with an 82/83 tail unit....


 I've had this discussion with both Barbas and Lorant who both interviewed Hartmann and studied his surviving log book; the last of Hartmann's machines we actually know anything about was a Bf 109 G-10. Incidentally the highest score seen/photographed on any of Hartmann's (known) rudders was 121 - the idea that his rudder displayed 352 victory markings simply beggars belief!..Would the ground crew on the last day of the war have taken the time to paint the 352nd Balken on the rudder  and then set fire to the machine! Pure fiction. But this was picked up by every subsequent book and decal maker as fact, a myth still pedalled on the net today..

Another rarely seen machine flown by Hartmann, Bf 109 G-6 W.Nr. 44. ... "Gelbe 2", 9./JG 52, Csòr, Autumn 1944 (??). Note the yellow V marking under the wing as used by Luftflotte 4 - ordered on September 21, 1944, so the photo dates from after that. The camouflage looks more like a WNF aircraft and the aircraft has a retrofitted Erla canopy as proven by the frame and antenna mast on the rear bulkhead.

Still from film footage showing a later G-6 "yellow 1" with no rudder scoreboard

Rare view of Hartmann following a sortie in an unidentified Bf 109 G-6 "Gelbe 1", 9./JG 52, Uman (?), Spring 1944.

Two nice and rarely seen views of Hartmann's 7./JG 52 G-6 "White 1" seen in late 1944 in Hungary

Lastly, a link to some superlative artwork from Anders Hjortsberg based on these latest photo discoveries

Below; neat view of Hartmann's 9./JG 52 G-6 "Yellow 1" with the small '2' indicating -maybe -that this was a replacement machine. It may also simply be a reference to his first 'white 2' - in the style of Barkhorn's figure '5' inside his Kommandeur chevrons. Filmed on or around about the time of his 300th victory. More film stills of this machine on this blog here

Review of 'Captured Eagles' - Roger S Gaemperle's Vintage Eagle Publishing

My copy of 'Captured Eagles' arrived! What an exciting publication this is! Quite stunning. We've all seen plenty of photographs of German types taken by Allied servicemen as they moved ever deeper into Germany during the last months of the war, but quite simply this new collection is superlative - with the promise of more to come. What distinguishes this book from similar titles is the range, extent and quality of the new images, all but three of which are previously unpublished anywhere. In addition the majority of the images in this Volume 1 are beautifully clear and reproduction is of the highest quality. Similar in feel to " LO+ST ", 'Captured Eagles' easily surpasses that volume in terms of quality of image reproduction, image size, page format and layout and of course in terms of the extensive supplementary details presented in the lengthy English-language captions.

Between its glossy card covers 'Captured Eagles' features more than 85 previously unpublished photos of captured German aircraft taken by US, British or Australian soldiers during 1944/45 over some 72 large A4 format pages with just three images previously seen. Eight original colour profile artworks were created for this volume by Simon Schatz ( known for his work for Classic Publications among others; 'Dornier Do 335' ´He 162 Spatz´ etc). Without wishing to give too much away, various aircraft types are featured such as Bf 109 G/K, Fw 190 A/D, Ju 88 A/G/T, Ju 188, Me 410, Me 262, He 162, Ju 290, He 111, He 219, and more. These are presented in chapters according to mission/type, ie 'reconnaissance', 'destroyer', 'jets', 'mistel' etc. And while there are one or two 'wrecks' most of the aircraft featured here are 'complete' examples. Illustrations of anciliary equipment (control columns, service hatches) and depictions of emblem badges are sprinkled throughout the text. Also featured are log-book extracts and even a personal account or two..

Each photo and caption are numbered to facilitate reading and subsequent further discussion on the author's website (address below) Highlights include a previously unknown Fw 190 D-13 and the first photographic proof that the Ju 88 G-7 actually entered production at the end of the war! One of my particular favourites is a lovely new image of the 7./JG301 Dora 'Yellow 15' which is soooo clear and its caption so detailed that it makes all previous published captions redundant at a stroke! But just about every photo here gets the treatment  - well researched, described in detail -some captions five or six paragraphs long- and superbly presented on a single page. No photos across the binding here.

For the modelling fraternity decal sheets for both 1/48 and 1/32 are also available separately in a twelve-page booklet that features four very attractive aircraft illustrated in full colour (1x Bf 109 G-10, 2x Fw 190 A-8, 1x He 162 A). Stencils are provided as dry transfer decals (printed by Hobbydecals) and markings as wet transfer decals (printed by Cartograf). The quality of these exciting sets is further assured by the contributions of  noted researcher David E. Brown and the profile artist Simon Schatz.

By profession an engineer and currently active as a consultant in the power generation business, Roger Gaemperle has created one of the most professional Luftwaffe photo-album books I have ever seen and he thoroughly deserves to be supported in his exciting new venture. A second book is already in the planning stages with rare photos of a Ju 388 prototype, a JG 300 Bf 109 G-10 with Reichsverteidigung bands and much more. In fact it is no exaggeration to state that you miss this one at your peril!

Much more at the Vintage Eagle Publishing web site