Wednesday 20 March 2019

Air War Archive- Focke Wulf Fw 190 - The early years - operations in the West compiled by Chris Goss (Frontline, Pen & Sword) New Luftwaffe book review

In late August 1943 PK photographer Engelmann was in Vannes, France to take pictures of Oblt. Josef Wurmheller posing alongside his new Fieseler-manufactured Fw 190 A-6 (WNr. 530314) "Yellow 2". Note the last four numerals of the Werknummer above the swastika on the tail fin and the 78 victory bars on the yellow rudder scoreboard - his 78th was a Spitfire shot down during the evening of 22 August 1943.

This is the first of two volumes in this photo series by Chris Goss that will be devoted to the 'work-horse' of the Luftwaffe - the Fw 190. The book comprises a 12 page Preface, Introduction and Glossary and 172 pages of well-captioned photographs. Some of these are pilot portraits or group personnel images but the majority cover the aircraft. Subtitled 'The Early Years - Operations in the West' there are seven 'chapter' headings. After 'Training' chapter 2 is entitled 'The Pembrey 190' and comprises some 22 pages of images of Oblt. Faber's JG 2 machine- both inside and out. The circumstances surrounding this aircraft and how and why the pilot put down in south-Wales are described in an introductory text describing the event itself. Some pages have a single image, others feature two photos - some are a little dark and blurry - while the images showing the machine being tested by the RAF over five pages are clear and sharp. Chapter 3 is simply entitled 'Jagdgeschwader 2' and obviously covers all the aces, Wurmheller, Hahn, Schnell, Mayer etc and their machines - or more especially their rudder scoreboards. There are four pages of images of Bruno Stolle Staffelkapitän 8./JG 2 preparing for a sortie in his 'white 24'. Stolle took over from Egon Mayer as Kommandeur III./JG 2 in June 1943 - at the height of what was the 'Focke Wulf summer' over the Channel Front. While the Focke Wulfs of III./JG 2 racked up large numbers of Spitfire 'kills' a new adversary was increasingly appearing in the skies of France - massed formations of heavily defended four-engine bombers that the Jagdflieger would find a much more difficult proposition. One of the 'unidentified' 8./JG 2 pilots on page 54 is Uffz. Friedrich May. May returned his first victory on 10 June 1942 when he claimed a Boston. His 6th was a B-17 on 30 December 1942 during a raid by 1st Bomb Wing B-17s on the U-boat pens at Lorient. He was KIA on 20 October 1943 in the vicinity of Rouen in combat with Spitfires (Fw 190 A-6 470047) as an Ofw. with 3./JG 2. With at least 21 victories on his scoreboard May was awarded a posthumous DKiG. On page 73 there is a nice photo of Fähnrich Heinz Liebick of 9./JG 2 who had his Fw 190 shot-up on the ground on 17 March 1944 at Chartres by marauding P-51s but recovered from his injuries and went on to make two claims on 5 and 11 July 1944. There are a mere 25 pages in Chapter 4 devoted to 'Other Jagdgeschwader in north-west Europe' which is mostly JG 26 and JG 5. This chapter also includes views of the Melsbroeck 'blue 6' (sic) over a number of pages from 1944.  Chapter 5 entitled 'Jabo' features around fifty pages devoted to the Jabo Staffeln of JG 2 and JG 26. Content here is heavily weighted towards the Schnellkampfgeschwader and includes the well-known West Malling and Manston machines in detail. These units featured heavily in the Luftwaffe's so-called 'tip and run' campaign against southern England and London during 1942-43. On 20 January 1943 during a massed daylight raid on London Lt. Hermann Hoch flying Fw 190 A-4 WNr. 2409 'black 2 +'  was hit by anti-aircraft fire as he approached the south coast and brought down near Capel. As he crash-landed he hit the top of a hill, somersaulted some 200 yards ploughing through a coppice before coming to rest. Although injured (!) the pilot was able to evacuate the aircraft and set off the demolition charge. Unfortunately the author does not tell us what became of the pilot - but there is not much left of his aircraft ! The last two chapters cover over thirty pages those Fw 190 units performing short-range recce, with good coverage of Nahaufklärungsgruppe 13, while there is a small section on the Fw 190 in the Mediterranean. As the author explains in his Foreword many of these images come from Alfred Price's archive and have been specially scanned for this series. However it does not appear that they have been 'tidied-up' in any way and some are reproduced a little too large and might be a little indistinct as a consequence. But if you are looking to add a good quality and inexpensive Fw 190 title to your library then this is it. Volume 2 should be equally as good. Thanks to Pen and Sword for the review copy. The title is currently available from the Pen and Sword web site with a nice discount. Note also the cover image currently shown there (and above) differs from the actual cover which features Faber's Fw 190 at Pembrey..

Images shown below feature in Chris Goss's latest title in the Air War Archive series;

Above; Fw 190 A-2/3 "gelbe 11" (probably WNr. 2187) of 9./ JG 2 features the stylised eagle wing with an Adlerkopf (eagle's head) on the cowling. Note the small bulge on the gun cowling, a feature of Arado-built Fw 190s. "Yellow 11" was the usual aircraft of Ofw. Fritz Hartmann - the rudder featured at least eight Abschussbalken by the time Hartmann handed the machine over to 8. Staffel later that year where his victory markings were removed. See also the photos on p176 in Erik Mombeek's superlative " In the skies of France " (Vol 3)

Fw 190 A-5 of 2./Nahaufklärungsgruppe 13. This unit was equipped with the Bf 109 G and Fw 190 A, and commanded by Oberleutnant Walter Erhard was sent to Cuers a few weeks before the Allied Landings in Normandy..

below; Uffz. Paul Ebbinghaus of 3./ Schnellkampfgeschwader 10, shot down and killed by friendly fire near Beauvais on 8 May 1943