Tuesday 10 April 2012

Hptm. Hansgeorg Bätscher I./KG 100 - bombing Moscow

He 111 H 6N + AB of the Stab I./KG 100 photographed on the occasion of the 500th Feindflug (combat sortie) flown by the Gruppenkommandeur Hptm. Hansgeorg Bätscher on 30 July 1943 in Stalino or Kirowograd. Bätscher was awarded the RK on 21 December 1942 and the Oakleaves on 24.3.1944.

Bätscher (above, second from the left) was a veteran of the night bombing assault launched against Moscow during the summer of 1941 on Hitler's express directive (No. 33) " in retaliation for Soviet attacks against Budapest and Helsinki..". New bomber units - KG 4, KG 28 and KGr. 100 - had arrived from the West to strengthen the attack force. The first Luftwaffe raid against the political and military centre of the Soviet Union was flown on the night of 21/22 July 1941 by 195 bombers. Moscow was heavily defended by anti-aircraft batteries and ringed by belts of searchlights, " doch dann wurde Moskau zu einem feuerspeienden Vulkan " (Balke p 86) - an ordeal for the crews that compared with operating over London at the height of the Blitz. According to Bätscher "the night raids against Moscow were some of the most demanding sorties that I ever flew on the Eastern Front. The anti-aircraft fire was extremely intense and very accurate.." (Bergstrom, Barbarossa).
 Ofw.Broich a crew member with 3./KG 2 described his first night over Moscow (Balke in Der Luftkreig in Europa, page 334 ) ;

"Nachtangriff auf die Stadt Moskau, bombing altitude 3,000 metres. Those were our orders. Our Do 17s  had not been blacked up for night operations, and we were not particularly happy about that. There was a perceptible feeling of unease among the crew since this was so different from our normal missions. Our flight to the target seemed very long, no doubt because we were chasing the dawn, the first glimmers of which could be seen in the sky. As we approached Moscow we could see that the attack was already underway up ahead of us. As we dropped the first of our bombs over our designated target zone a searchlight caught us. Almost instantly up to thirty more latched onto us while the first flak shells exploded close by. We jettisoned the rest of our bombs and began our running battle with the flak..our pilot Uffz. Heimann tried everything to get loose - wild turns, changes of height, throttling back the engine, while flight engineer Hans started to throw newspapers and leaflets overboard - as was the practise over England- but all to no avail. Peter got us out of there by throwing the machine into a steep dive and we plunged headlong towards a less heavily defended sector of the city .."

At a cost of seven bombers, just over one hundred tons of high explosives and incendiaries were dropped. Subsequent raids were flown with ever diminishing numbers of aircraft and the Luftwaffe's 'offensive' against Moscow rapidly petered out as Soviet defences continued to strengthen and difficulties grew elsewhere on the front..

Bätscher flew more bomber sorties than any other Kampfflieger in the Luftwaffe, some 650 and finished the war at the controls of the Arado Ar 234.

Below; two views of a I./KG 100 He 111 undergoing an engine change, Kirowograd Sept./October 1943