Friday 27 July 2012

Dans le ciel de France - Jagdgeschwader 2 Vol III 1942 - first look at the new volume due this summer from Erik Mombeeck !

Cover illustration - Fw. Martin Reichherzer of 7./JG 2 seated on a JG 2 Bf 109 “Friedrich”

While it may have taken more than 60 years for the first installment of a detailed history of the second fighter wing of the Luftwaffe to appear with the publication of volume I of 'Dans le ciel de France' ('In the skies of France') back in 2009, Erik Mombeeck is already preparing to launch volume 3 of his French-language chronicle of Jagdgeschwader 2 due this summer. Conducting operations principally over France and the Channel, JG 2 was destined to become one of the most celebrated of German fighter units, accorded extensive coverage by the propaganda services of the Reich. Awarded the honour title "Richthofen" as early as 1935, JG 2 spearheaded the campaign in the West and the assault against England in the Battle of Britain. The unit remained in France when the majority of German fighter units were dispatched eastwards for the invasion of Russia during the spring of 1941. Tasked with defending the airspace of Brittany, Normandy and much of Picardy along the French Channel coastline, JG 2 constituted a bulwark against the incursions of the RAF and the USAF through to the summer of 1944.
This new volume covers the year 1942 with JG 2 continuing  to counter RAF raids over the continent, while for the first time the pilots of the leading Kanal Geschwader would come up against the first examples of what would ultimately become the nemesis of the Jagdwaffe - the long-range P-51 Mustang escort fighter and the B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. This new volume also covers in depth JG 2's conversion on to the first variants of the famed Focke Wulf 190 fighter, the break-out of the German battleships (Donnerkeil) and 
the huge air battle over Dieppe on 19 August 1942 which saw the Geschwader claiming almost 60 Allied aircraft shot down in one day of bitter fighting. And l
ater in the year elements of the Geschwader - including Jules Meimberg's special high altitude Bf 109 Gustav Staffel 11./ JG 2 - would be dispatched to Tunisia following the Anglo-American landings in north-west Africa. An exclusive text extract follows..

       " A murderous summer"

Having completed their conversion training, 2./ JG 2 flew out of Le Bourget on  1 June with ten Fw 190s and headed back to Triqueville. However on their return to Normandy an unpleasant surprise awaited them - their quarters had been taken over by their 6. Staffel comrades under Oblt. Erich Rudorffer. In the event the cohabitation of the two Staffeln on the airfield would be short-lived. Elsewhere Bruno Stolle's 8.Staffel, who had also spent the last two weeks of May at Le Bourget alongside 2. Staffel, now departed St. Brieuc for Morlaix and the coasts of Brittany. The intensity of the fighting along the Channel and the transfer of a number of JG 2 veterans to Geschwader engaged in fighting on the Eastern Front saw the Richthofen receive a number of reinforcements during the month of June. One of the most notable departures to the East was Fw. Otto Pohl, the 5./JG 2 pilot who had registered the Geschwader's 1,000th combat success on 17 April 1942 (his victim on that day an early production RAF Lancaster sent out as part of the low-level raiding force on the MAN diesel engine works at Augsburg, deep in Bavaria). Another transfer was Wolfgang Wehrhagen of 4./JG 2. Both pilots went to JG 77 while a third, Kurt Rose, was posted to JG 51 - of these three pilots only Otto Pohl survived the war. Several JG 77 pilots were posted back to the Kanal Front with JG 2 - among them Lt. Bruno Siekmann who had achieved ten victories in a year of fighting in the East with II./ JG 77 and Lt. Hermann Staege, an aerobatics champion of the pre-war Kunstflugstaffel, incorporated into I./LG 2 during 1939-40, a Gruppe that had been re-designated I./ JG 77. He had been credited with sixteen victories at the time of his transfer to the West. As most of these Eastern Front veterans were Bf 109 pilots they too underwent the Fw 190 conversion course before joining JG 2.

On 21 July 1942 Hptm. Helmut-Felix Bolz, Kommandeur of II./JG 2 shot down an unknown aircraft type that he initially identified as a 'Tomahawk'. A short while later he visited the crash site at Caudebec-en-Caux between Rouen and Le Havre and was able to inspect at first hand what he later learnt was a 'Mustang' (more usually 'P-51' in  American parlance). The Mustang's pilot F/Lt Veal Rowland of No. 239 Squadron had been taken captive.

Vol III of 'Dans le Ciel de France - 1942' (French-language text only) will be available later this summer. This title, along with Luftwaffe Gallery 3, can be pre-ordered at Erik Mombeeck's site