Thursday 23 February 2012

Luftwaffe modelling - new Airfix Bf109 E-4 Emil 1:72 is here ! - edit 06 June

 As good as last year's 48th scale Emil from Airfix was, this new tool in 1:72nd scale is probably even better - the details are rendered with a certain finesse, the landing gear is not so stalky for a start and the 'engine' and the separate flaps deployed are very well done.  Likely to become the 'reference' in 1:72 scale.  Only one Battle of Britain decal option  (Franz von Werra - ' The one who got away' ) and no Trop/Jabo parts in this boxing. Aside from that, the molding is every bit as good as the Tamiya Emil in this scale -the only real issues I had with mine were the fit of the wing halves, a niggle easily solved if you remove the locating pins. There are no issues with dihedral at all, or any other of the supposed 'problems' you might have read about, as posted by supposed competition winners on certain forums - of course like any new kit, there are a few minor niggles, easily solved. Who cares if the instrument panel decal is too large for the panel part - just cut out some of the individual dials and apply - no need to whine about it! The option to pose the flaps deployed and the canopy open is very well done. A shame though that there are not more options in this box - no doubt the E-3, E-1 sub-types will appear in subsequent boxings. More comment and a bit of a build log over on my modelling blog pages..

A quick look at a couple of my finished models built from this kit if arriving from google directly onto this page - Aeromaster decals..

A page of Emil photos

Sunday 12 February 2012

Heinkel He 111 of Kampfgeschwader 26 RK crew

Michael Meyer's Ebay sales - new link

He 111 H of 4./KG 26 photographed  during August 1940 in Stavanger-Sola. From the left Schops, Mathias Holler BF, - , Observer Fw Lange, pilot Lt. Herbert Kuntz. Flugzeugführer Kuntz was awarded the RK on 14.3.1943

(Above, below) He 111 H 1H + KN of 5./KG 26 photographed on 26 December 1940 at Amiens in night Blitz finish (Nachttarnung)

Below, Herbert Kuntz's Beobachter (observer) Gerhard Lange takes the control column during a long over sea flight between north Africa and Sicily during early 1941. Herbert Kuntz sitting on the cockpit hatch and, bottom, loading an SC 1800.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

A history of Jagdgeschwader 53 'Pik As' part 2 Batailles Aériennes 59

Part two of Jean-Louis Roba's planned four-part series on JG 53 is just published by Lela Presse in their Batailles aériennes series of quarterly monographs. This is a very nice 108-page A-4 format softback with over 200 nicely reproduced photos (including 10-15 colour images) and twenty of Thierry Dekker's superlative artworks - all for less than the price of an Osprey. Recommended, even if you don't read French.

Covering the period March 1941 to December 1942 Roba describes and analyses the performance of a Jagdgeschwader that some saw as an ace 'nursery'. Roba in his usual trenchant, even provocative, style begs to differ. During early 1941 the entire Geschwader converted onto the latest variant of the Bf 109, the Friedrich, and returned to northern France to counter the RAF's attempts to 'lean into Europe'. Early April saw Fw. Josef Wurmheller (5./JG 53) claim a Spitfire and a Blenheim in his first combat sorties since coming down in the Channel during November 1940. On 26 April Lt. Wolfgang Tonne (3./JG 53) became an ace, downing a Spitfire south of Boulogne-sur-Mer (the RAF reported this as a 242 Sq. Hurricane). The combats over the Channel up to June 1941 were very much an interlude for JG 53 prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union which nonetheless resulted in the loss of six pilots killed in action. With the launch of Barbarossa I./JG 53 began its run of colossal victory scores - through June, July and August 1941, over 200 for the Stab and I./JG 53, " a figure which is patently inflated ".  The Kommodore von Maltzahn picked up his Oakleaves in July taking his score from 16 to 49 in a six week period although he was nonetheless forced to make three crash landings during the same period. Oblt Hans-Joachim Heinecke went from 0 to 16 and was appointed Staffelkapitän of I./JG 53. It was a similar story for II./JG 53 (minus its 6. Staffel)  Despite the early loss of Kommandeur Bretnuetz, over fourteen weeks and for the loss of six pilots the Gruppe returned some 194 victories " a largely exaggerated figure for just two Staffeln ". The exploits of III./JG 53 over this fourteen week period to the end of September are also detailed. Operating over Heeresgruppe Mitte, this latter organisation seems to have largely abdicated its authority to 'adjudicate' in the claims confirmation process. By the end of the first summer in the East, III./JG 53 had submitted claims for some 373 victories! While its defenders claim Wilcke's Gruppe - established by Mölders - was a nursery for Draufgänger, as evidenced by the three Ritterkreuze awarded in this short space of time, " it is nonetheless a fact that many of these pilots' victory claims were no more than flights of fancy and that they were encouraged to file these claims by a benevolent hierarchy and propaganda media looking for new heroes ".  These 373 claims were made for the loss 31 Friedrich either seriously damaged or destroyed and just three pilots killed, including Ritterkreuz holder Lt. Erich Schmidt, ( RK awarded 23 July for 31 victories) who was downed by Soviet anti-aircraft fire near Dubno.

Erich Schmidt III./JG 53, RK 23 July 1941. Note, above forty seven Abschussbalken, his final tally.

Profile courtesy of artist Thierry Dekker for this blog. Click on the image for a larger view.
Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-2 (WNr. 6702) assigned to Ofw. Hermann Neuhoff, 7./JG 53, Lepel, early July 1941. Neuhoff was shot down over Malta on 10 April 1942 by a "Hurricane" and taken captive.  He was awarded the RK on the same day for his 40 victories. Neuhoff was most probably shot down by a JG 53 Bf 109.

There followed a period of rest in Holland and conversion onto the F-4 variant, that nonetheless saw the loss of the Kommandeur I./JG 53 Franz von Werra. He was replaced by Zerstörer ace Hptm Herbert Kaminski who was awarded the RK on 6 August 1941. Late 1941 and early 1942 saw JG 53 active in a new theatre of operations - deployed to Sicily. The Mediterranean meant the time of 'easy' victories was over  - the hazards of the Med - long over-sea flights, RAF Spitfires and Hurricanes and the British exploitation of Ultra all saw to that. Some 45 victory claims were filed for combats over Malta during the first two months in the Med - for some 25 actual RAF losses. During the spring of 1942 operations over Malta continued relentlessly. A Jabo Staffel was established under Oblt. Werner Langemann. JG 53 filed over 100 victory claims for this period for 25 pilots lost - the successful pilots, Oblt. Helmut Belser (8./JG 53), Zellot, von Maltzahn, Rollwage had all run up scores in the Soviet Union - few if any 'new' aces appeared.  A claim of note was 6./JG 53 Ofw. Rudolf Ehrenberger's 20th on 31 March - for a Hampden over Luqa. In some listings this has even been registered as a Mosquito ! Roba suggests that it was a Hudson flying in from Gibraltar. On 14 April von Maltzahn was credited with a P-40, another extremely rare type over Malta.

I./JG 53 returned to Russia for the offensives of 1942 and received its first Bf 109 G-2 fighters later that summer. " From the outset the huge victory list accumulated by I./JG 53 simply staggers - 913 victory claims in a 19-week period for only 15 pilots lost at an average of 7 victories/day. "  One of these losses was Kommandeur Kaminski, shot down and wounded on 24 July 1942. (On his return from convalescence during late 1943 Kaminski was appointed CO of Zerstörer Gruppe II./ZG 76) Oblt. Tonne opened this second campaign in the East with 19 victories and finished it with 101 ! A youthful Uffz. Wilhelm Crinius had yet to open his score on his arrival in the unit in February 1942 - on 22 September he had 'achieved' his 100th! By now 'Stalin's Falcons' had learnt the lessons of 1941. Moreover, new, more modern types had made their appearance in addition to Allied equipment supplied under Lend-Lease. " The pilots exaggerated claims were probably not the result of deliberate falsification, but it was self-evident that there was no rigour in the claims validation process whatsoever ". One is tempted to add  - as is so often claimed for the Jagdwaffe !  The author argues that these huge victory totals should be divided by two, three, four or even five to arrive at claims approaching the reality of Soviet losses. I./JG 53 went back to Sicily prior to Stalingrad, while of those JG 53 aces who had run up such huge scores in just a short three-month period, very few would see the end of the war - Uffz. Franz Hagedorn (25 or 37 vics), Uffz. Helmut Peissert (38) and Ritterkreuz holder Walter Zellot (86) would all perish soon afterwards in Russia.

Profile courtesy of artist Thierry Dekker for this blog. Click on the image for a larger view
Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-4 of 10.(Jabo)/JG 53, Gela, Sicily April 1942. The men of the Jabo Staffel referred to themselves as the "Bomben-Export Langemann u Co. GmbH"

JG 53 Friedrichs at Comiso, Sicily during 1942,  courtesy of Michael Meyer and a recent Ebay auction  - these are not images taken from this installment of Roba's JG 53 history.
Michael Meyer's Ebay auctions can be found here
For more on JG 53 on Sicily on this blog, again courtesy of Michael Meyer, go here

Friday 3 February 2012

demise of the Luftwaffe blog ?, Lt. Karl-Heinz Kempf, JG 26 at Villacoublay June 1944

Thank you for all the kind comments received during the blog’s recent hiatus. I pulled the plug a bit too rapidly perhaps. The ‘end’ of the blog resulted in a bit of fevered speculation on at least one forum - funny how people immediately jump to the worst possible conclusions. As you can see I decided in the end to ‘restore’ this blog, partly to demonstrate to some that Google have not shut this site down for any particular issues, especially of copyright, far from it. Anyway, I'll live with it for a few days and see how I feel. I’m afraid the ‘Luftwaffe blog’ had/has become too much like hard work to be honest. I recognise that there is no way I can really continue to keep doing up-dates of reasonable 'quality' with my 'schedule'; having finished translations of Erik Mombeeck’s JG 4 Vol II and JG 2 Vol II (not yet published) I need a break but I’m still mid-way through a number of other planned publications for various German, Belgian and French authors and with invitations to contribute to two new series on the table currently! One friend recently asserted that I am “the victim of my own expertise”. You are too kind David!

There are obvious problems with regularly up-dating a blog like this. You create something half-decent and it begins to consume all your time and people expect more. Visitor numbers were/are quite impressive, I think, for a private blog, with upwards of 1,200 page views per day. The other (paper) projects demand increasing amounts of attention too. It is always nice to be asked to contribute and difficult to say no, even when it’s Kagero and the half-baked Polish/English text is all but incomprehensible. (Luckily they have upped the quality in leaps and bounds and in Thomasz Szlagor they have a very competent English/Polish writer and researcher). My feeling right now is that this blog will not be updated quite so frequently. Then when time permits I hope to be in a better position to consider again providing more regular updates. Creativity - and energy - ebbs and flows, and right now I'm in an ebb phase with the blog. And besides there are other Luftwaffe blogs and sites out there - see my links and support my friends!

 I am fortunate to have a number of expert friends and fellow enthusiasts to provide material. Chief among these is French researcher/author Jean-Yves Lorant, author of the two volume history of JG 300 (Eagle Editions) and of a ground-breaking study of the Focke Wulf 190 back in 1981 published by Docavia in France (co-author Jean-Bernard Frappé). This was Jean-Yves’ first work, written in the late 1970’s when he was still a teenager. Nowadays he manages the French armed forces photo archive at the Service Historique de la Défense (over 6 million items) from a huge office (big enough to display a genuine Fw 190 propeller) in the opulent surroundings of the château de Vincennes, Paris. A visit there was the highlight of a trip to Paris a few years ago. Jean-Yves was in touch following my recent posting of III./JG 26 Gustavs taxying out and lining up for take-off in front of the ‘Guynemeyer’ hangar at Villacoublay during June 1944. This image was just one of a much longer sequence which featured 9. and 2. Staffel ace Lt. Karl-Heinz Kempf, which Jean-Yves very kindly offered for publication here.

As there is very little information about Kempf on the Net or in books and even fewer images, I am not going to reproduce Jean-Yves' high-res TIFF files here for the usual reasons, but have decided to post some low-res photocopies. Kempf was a former Green Heart Geschwader pilot with some 60 victories over the course of approx 400 sorties by the time of the Normandy Invasion. The pictures show Kempf clambering over a Gustav at Villacoublay during June 1944, possibly ‘white 9’.

He was a rare holder of the Ritterkreuz in JG 26, awarded in Russia during 1942. Kempf survived the hard air combats over the Normandy Invasionsraum and filed a number of additional claims. He was shot down and killed on 3 September 1944 at the controls of a Fw 190 A-8 ‘Black 9’, caught by 55th FG P-51s while taking off with 2. Staffel from Grimbergen, Belgium. (details in Mr Caldwell's "JG 26 War Diary") This flight had been planned as a relatively straight forward ferry flight back to Germany. Kempf’s death was over-shadowed that same day by that of another leading former JG 54 ace and the 170+ victory ace and Kommandeur of II./JG 26, Hptm. Emil Lang.