Monday, 30 December 2019

Wurmheller Jagdgeschwader 2 - ebay photo find #326

Jagdflieger Lederkombi Pilot Josef Sepp Wurmheller, Frankreich, Feldflugplatz, vermutlich 13. November 1942

Sunday, 22 December 2019

new Luftwaffe book series from UK publisher Mortons

new and forthcoming series from this ambitious UK publisher..."Secret Projects of the Luftwaffe " and "Eagles of the Luftwaffe"

First volume in the "Secret Projects.." series is a new history of the Blohm and Voss BV 155, which according to author Dan Sharp, "..sheds new light on the development of the type based entirely on primary source research. The book has photos of the last surviving example of the type in the world. And it's in remarkably good condition!.."

According to Dan's Twitter feed ..".. NASM's BV 155 V2 at Silver Hill is in deep storage and inaccessible to the public - so the team at NASM sent someone in for me to get pictures. The Me 155 started out being essentially a 109 with new wings/undercarriage but what ended up as the BV 155 shared few components with the 109 series..."

 There has been nothing on the Blohm and Voss BV 155 since the Monogram Close-Up of 1990 by Thomas H Hitchcock (that I'm aware of).

Mortons' Luftwaffe series are here

Tuesday, 17 December 2019

Fritz Galland, reluctant fighter pilot - eldest and least well-known of the four Galland brothers

Above; Fritz Galland, elder brother of Adolf Galland, seen strapping into the cockpit of his G-6 'white 1' as StaKa 2./NAG 11 in Italy during late 1943. See profile artwork of 'white 1' below, published in the long defunct 'Histoire de guerre' magazine (via J-L Roba).

Interview extract with Adolf Galland via Colin Heaton on

Interestingly both interviewer and interviewee got that one wrong - all three of Galland's brothers were combat pilots! However they did at least both note that there were four Galland brothers including Adolf - most authors only seem to account for three ! Fritz Galland - the 'attorney' according to brother Adolf Galland - alongside AG (left) and in the cockpit of his "white 1" (top) was the eldest brother and had - like Wilhelm-  joined the flak arm. It was possibly as a result of his brothers' achievements in fighters that he had then 'chosen' or taken the opportunity very late on to train as a fighter pilot. Fritz Galland's first posting was to JG 3. During the summer of 1942 he flew Bf 109s with 7./JG 5. According to writer Brian Cull it was possibly Fritz Galland who was held responsible for the shooting down of a He 111 of 8./KG 26 near Petsamo, a loss that occurred on 8 September 1942. However sources are few and far between. Exactly what did happen to Fritz Galland? What we do know - from first person accounts - is that he must have been demoted from his rank of Hauptmann. He was subsequently posted to NAG 11 (2 Staffel) in Italy -where presumably he could do less damage- and arrived there as a lowly Feldwebel. He was appointed Staka 2./NAG 11 in October 1943. (note the error in the Stankey/De Zeng data base entry below)

Even here apparently he wasn't particularly highly rated as a pilot -at least one of his pilots says he always tried to avoid flying with him..(personal account via Jean-Louis Roba published in the now-defunct 'Histoire de Guerre' magazine)

Below; an entry from the superb Stankey/De Zeng Luftwaffe officers database resource which can be found here; I wonder if the single victory mentioned is in fact the 'victory' that cost him his fighter pilot career. Note that after the NAG he went to various training Geschwader.

GALLAND, Dr. Fritz. (DOB:21.05.10 in Recklingshausen). 26.05.42 Oblt., 2./JG 3. 13.06.42 Oblt., in 2./JG 3. 01.07.42 promo to Hptm.(d.R./Fl.). 10.08.42 in 7./JG 5. 10.43 appt Staka 2.(H)/Aufkl.Gr. 14 (to 11.43)? c.15.11.43 appt Staka 1./NAGr. 11 (and 01.44). 07.44 Hptm., appt Staka 3./JG 104 (to 02.08.44). 03.08.44 trf to JGr. 10 and then appt Staka in JG 111. 23.09.44 Hptm., appt Staka 1./JG 104(to 28.04.45). Older brother of Adolf Galland. Credited with one victory.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

The Jet Night Fighters: Kurt Welter & the Story of the Messerschmitt Me 262 Night Fighters by Andreas Zapf. A look at the Me 262 B twin-seater "nightfighters", Herbert Altner 10./ NJG 11, Jägerblatt 1/1998

One year on from his huge 500+ page German-language history of the German jet night fighters, Andreas Zapf has produced an English adaptation from this volume. While this 113-page monograph, printed via Amazon's 'Print-on-Demand' service, includes a mission-by-mission diary of Mosquito raids to Berlin and the deployment of the Me 262 in these interceptions and combats as per the original German-language tome, this new title focuses more especially on the man and the 'myth' leading the Me 262 jet night fighters of 10./NJG 11 - Kurt Welter.

According to the back-cover blurb, " ..most of the Luftwaffe’s aces are well known and their lives – pre-war, war, and post-war – are usually well documented. Equally well documented are their wartime careers and their claims and confirmed victories. Kurt Welter, recipient of the RK mit Eichenlaub is one of the 'exceptions'  to the rule". Welter's position as commanding officer of “Kommando Welter” and 10./NJG 11 (along with the passage of time and the Internet) have transformed Welter into both 'legend' and myth. The units he commanded were the only ones to take the Messerschmitt Me 262 into nocturnal combat. But that is also where the “urban legend” of Kurt Welter starts - most 'successful jet fighter pilot in history' or 'bare-faced overclaimer'?

As Andreas puts it, 'the truth lies somewhere in between'. This new book provides the first 'fully documented' account of Welter's career, along with the story of the units he commanded. Not that there is much material to document. Welter's unit struggled to maintain operational effectiveness - aircraft were lost in accidents or unserviceable all too frequently and piecemeal deliveries could hardly keep up. But since so little is really known about the man and these jet night fighter units, Andreas does a fine job of bringing all the threads of the story together in one place for an English-language readership.

Welter's career via the wilde Sau, JG 300 to NJG 11 and the Me 262 night fighters is fully discussed. His key witness is 'Jorg' Cypionka, 'Moskito-hunter' of 10./JG 300 and NJG 11. Welter's claims list is dissected over some twelve pages - the first 'claim' for the Me 262 at night (November 27, 1944) as proposed by Jurleit in his 'Strahljäger im Einsatz' is dismissed for lack of evidence- while just about every known photo of Welter and aircraft associated with him is reproduced along with log-book extracts from those who flew with him. Andreas also documents as fully as he can the lives of the handful of pilots assigned to fly the Me 262 in 10./ NJG 11 and provides a solid background of missions and claims based on the the little hard evidence that can be found in the archives.  Also featured is some interesting information on the handful of twin-seaters that were delivered, again based on log-book extracts. Aside from some slightly strange formatting and editing decisions, probably due to the limitations of  'print-on-demand'  (too many italics, including German city names and a mission diary written in the present tense) this is a recommended addition to my Luftwaffe library and can be ordered in softback for the price of a few pints via amazon print-on-demand. Go do it!

 Chat with Andreas Zapf on this blog here

The night of 27-28 March 1945 saw the first sorties of the Me 262 B-1a/U1, the world's first twin-seater jet 'night fighter'. The Me 262 B-1a/U1 was adapted and built in the last months of the war from the Messerschmitt Me 262 two-seater training aircraft by DLH in Berlin-Staaken. The history of the development of the aircraft and its employment by the so-called Kommando Welter against the fast  Mosquitos of Bomber Command - a machine which was all but "invincible" - is briefly described here.

Early in the Me 262 programme the need for a twin-seat derivative had been identified for training and familiarisation purposes - the new tricycle-undercarriage jet fighter configuration led directly to the trainer Schulflugzeug development, the Me 262 B offshoot. Blohm and Voss was the company brought in to work on the conversion. All Me 262 Bs were 'rebuilds' of single-seat or intended single-seat airframes. Contrary to what can still be read in articles on the type, there was no new-build Me 262 B production. However it was not a question of simply fitting a radar and operator into a two-seater. All 'night-fighter' two-seater Me 262s featured a number of 'structural' enhancements, most notably in an attempt to improve the comparatively poor endurance of the type. In the end twin drop tanks were the 'ad-hoc' solution to the endurance issue - these were presumably jettisoned before contact with the enemy.

In comparison to its daylight operational role as bomber destroyer, the concept of the Me 262 as a 'night fighter' was developed rather late on - at the end of summer 1944. However the type of mission to be flown by the Me 262 at night was from the outset clearly identified  - the interception of the fast De Havilland Mosquito bomber, pathfinder and reconnaissance aircraft. Ranging across the Reich at will and with relative impunity by late 1944 in large numbers, Pathfinder and Light Night Striking Force Mosquitos were a far more 'important' target than four-engine bombers. LNSF Mosquitos raided Berlin some 170 times, at one period on 36 consecutive nights. Oblt. Fritz Krause, Staffelkapitän in the experimental 1./NJGr10 at Berlin-Werneuchen commanded by Hauptmann Friedrich Karl Müller whose main task was Moskito 'hunting' recalled;

"... We had to meet the two quite different uses of the Mosquito. Firstly, there was the nightly raid to bomb Berlin and secondly their use as pathfinders at high altitude in the Ruhr. Night after night, thirty to forty Mosquitoes flew to Berlin and dropped bombs and the psychological stress on the Berliners was considerable. Flak and searchlights were moved to Berlin without having any considerable or lasting effect. The Mosquitoes flew at altitudes above 30,000 ft and after crossing the Elbe lost height to fly over Berlin at the highest possible speed to avoid the concentrated flak. The direction of the flights across Berlin was different with each operation."

The 28 December 1944 issue of "Flight" reported;

"  ..Maintaining the offensive against Berlin is one of the main tasks of the LNSF of Mosquitos and it is now common for fifty to sixty Mosquitos to attack Berlin by night. They are so serious a menace that Berlin is now defended by special anti-Mosquito guns which fire predicted flak to twice the height four-engine bombers fly. The Germans have also deployed jet-propelled aircraft but with indifferent success.."

 And there were a number of practical reasons for the concentration on the Mosquitos. Probably one of the most significant was the fact that the cruising speed of a Lancaster bomber was only marginally above the stalling speed of an Me 262. The Me 262 Jumo jet engines were of course still just as difficult to manage as they were in the day 'fighter' Me 262 A. And at this stage of the war Ju 88G-6 night fighters and the He 219 were entering service in numbers and enjoyed a higher speed advantage over the bombers than earlier 'conventional' night-fighters..

The notion that the 262 was a  night-time four-engine bomber killer is still widely shared.  Brand new and evocative Airfix box-top artwork (below) depicts a Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a and a burning Halifax over a heavily bombed city. The Halifax is clearly portrayed as the latest victim of a prowling ‘Red 12’ from the Luftwaffe’s 10./Nachtjagdgeschwader 11.  The November 2018 issue of  AMW magazine includes the following;

" in the closing stages of WWII the Me 262 was pressed into service as a stop-gap night fighter, a small number of twin seat airframes joining the single-seaters in the battle against Allied bombers.

This is simply not the case

While Welter himself may have attempted one or two night-time four-engine bomber interceptions by his own account, not one Kdo Welter or 10./NJG 11 Me 262 pilot recorded so much as a single encounter with an RAF heavy bomber that is verifiable (see Zapf, page 41 for discussion of the 'events' of the night of January 13/14, 1945). Ultimately, this was not their mission!  (Note that the Airfix box-top artwork for their new-tool Me 262 twin seater is very similar to the artwork produced by Hobbyboss et al...)

The experimental Me 262 'night hunting' unit 'Kommando Welter' was formed at Rechlin-Larz on 2nd November 1944. Initially only single seat Me 262 As were available and so equipped. It can thus be assumed that a majority of the 'night fighter' Me 262 sorties and resulting 'kills' were conducted with single seat aircraft flying without radar.

Indeed Welter himself, and various other pilots who joined the unit through November and December, flew 'Wilde Sau' type missions. Welter claimed his first victory - somewhat doubtfully- on November 27, according to Jurleit. 'Kommando Welter' was redesignated 10./NJG 11 on 25th January 1945 with a typical Staffel-strength establishment of 12 Me 262s. As discussed above and highlighted in the new book by author Andreas Zapf, evidence of sorties flown and 'victories' claimed is both fragmentary and highly contradictory. Suffice to say most books and websites dealing uncritically with Luftwaffe aces attribute quite arbitrarily a large number of Mosquito downings to Welter..

While the Me 262 As were strictly focused on Mosquito targets this is not to say that Welter had not attempted to down bombers in his single-seater Me 262 - he apparently had on at least two occasions - and only narrowly avoided crashing into them. He quickly came to the conclusion - and the OKL agreed - that Me 262s were marginal as "night-fighters" and were to be deployed as so-called 'golden bullets', turned over exclusively to anti-Mosquito duties, additionally deployed to combat high-flying US PR types by day.

To be clear, orders from above limited the 'night fighter' Me 262 to specifically engage Mosquitos at night, and PR aircraft during the day under VFR conditions (as in the case of K-H Becker's F-5 Lightning Aufklärerjagd Abschuss). The majority of the 'night fighter' Me 262 kills were conducted with single seat aircraft flying without radar. Two seat aircraft with radar surely presented quite different interception opportunities to exploit. The Me 262 night fighter pilots were briefed explicitly not to engage heavy bombers.

Given equipment limitations and the difficulties that the GCI controllers were having with the speed disparity, even between Mosquitos and the Me 262, the chances of running a successful interception between a heavy bomber and a jet were next to zero. Even against Mosquitos Kommando Welter pilots had to plan their attack very carefully since the jets were considerably quicker. K-H Becker described the problem;

"..I had caught a Mosquito illuminated in the search lights at about 8,500m, in a good position for an attack. However, because I had not managed to manoeuvre my Me 262 into the proper position, the rapid closing speed forced me to break off before I could finish my attack..."

He illustrates here the preferred Me 262 target - an aircraft already illuminated by searchlights. The 'Wilde Sau' also enjoyed a running commentary from fighter controllers on the ground, similar to their daytime colleagues.

The twin-seater Me 262 B-1a/U1 with FuG 218, as first delivered to 10./ NJG 11 on 22 March 1945 was ultimately the final development of the Me 262 night fighter to see action for a handful of examples (see the account of Altner in Smith and Creek 2003; p. 464 and Williams 2006; p. 187). However the specialised twin-seaters deployed on operator-guided and radar-assisted interception of Mosquitoes required experienced pilots and radar operators of which hardly any were assigned to 10./ NJG 11. The first two seat, radar equipped, night fighters were conversions undertaken by the Deutsche Lufthansa workshops at Berlin-Staaken. Herbert Altner collected the first on 22nd March (".. our first red 8" ) but it was destroyed by bombing at a stop over at Lübeck and never made it to the unit. According to his own recollections Altner repeated this operation on two more occasions, ferrying three two-seaters in total  (Jurleit, page 89) which saw service with 10./NJG 11 flying a handful of sorties;

  " ... I could manage the over-loaded machine quite well - but with two crew, heavy weapons, radar and Hirschgeweihantenne (antler radar aerials) there was a huge difference in handling compared to the single-seater....das war doch ein gewaltiger Unterschied zum Einsitzer.."

However according to 10./NJG 11 pilot Jorg Czypionka only two of the 12 ME 262s seen in the 'flight-line' photos of 10./NJG 11 published hitherto were in fact fitted out with radar - the rest were used in a role similar to Wilde Sau, flown VFR. Cypionka returned just a single victory in the 262 in a single seat machine.

Whether it was the unwieldy and 'interim' Me 262 B1a/U1 with its handling difficulties and lack of Schräge Musik  oblique guns  or the Me 262 A,  the 'night fighters' still had the same simple throttle management issues encountered on the 'day fighter' Me 262 to contend with. Piston-engine fighter pilots could cut the throttle and advance it at will and were well used to jamming the throttle back and forth to tighten turns and adjust closure speed. Two Me 262 night-time losses are testament to the missing ingredient of simple throttle management! Welter destroyed the first "red 4" by slamming the throttles forward and on the night of 27-28 March 1945 at the controls of  'red 11' Lt. Herbert Altner -directed by radio operator Reinhard Lommatzsch onto a single Mosquito- throttled back the engines causing both to flame-out. Altner recalled, " Beide Öfen nahmen übel..both 'ovens' took this badly and unable to restart them our speed dropped off and the nose began to fall away...there was nothing for it but to get out as fast as possible.." (Jurleit, page 90)

The machine went into a nose dive. Unable to restart at least one engine again, Altner gave the order to jump. After jettisoning the canopy, Altner stood on his seat and jumped clear and landed safely with his parachute. Radio operator Reinhard Lommatzsch had less luck, colliding with the tail unit and fell to the ground without deploying his parachute.

Attempting to 'manoeuvre' into a firing position Altner had reacted as he had been trained in piston- engined fighters, i.e., he chopped the throttles, causing an immediate flame-out. Both of these night-fighting Me 262s were lost for no other reason than the pilots disobeyed the basic instruction ; 'set the throttles and then do not touch them". The Jumos were simply too 'touchy' for anything else.

The night of 27-28 March 1945 is an important one in the story of the Me 262 B on a number of counts. Some 80 Mosquitos headed for Berlin and six Messerschmitt Me 262s were scrambled to intercept them. These were the first sorties of the Messerschmitt Me 262 B-1a/U1.

Four of the Mosquitos were lost - two over the Netherlands, two more west of Berlin where they fell victim to two of the Me 262s. Lt. Jorg Cypionka and Fw. Karl-Heinz Becker were the successful pilots.

 Altner with radar operator Fw. Hans Fryba went on to shoot down a Mosquito of 305 Squadron (flown by Sqn.Ldr. Hanbury) on the night of 3-4 April 1945. The two claimed on 19/20 April cannot be matched with any British losses. Post-war Altner claimed to have been the first Luftwaffe pilot to have flown the two seat version on night fighting operations ..

"..On 6 May I flew with my mechanic Karl Braun in good old 'Red 12' from the motorway near Reinfeld to Schleswig-Jagel where the Luftwaffe's last two Me 262 B-1a/U1s were surrendered to the RAF. That was the end of the war for me and I had done my duty. I remember with pride that I had flown the world's first operational jet aircraft, and to have been the first Luftwaffe pilot to have flown the two seater version on night-fighting operations...."

Below; biography of Herbert Altner on the occasion of his 80th birthday as published in Jägerblatt 1/1998. Surprisingly enough there isn't/wasn't a single decent bio or image of Altner ( "Mister 262") on the internet. Altner was born 2 March 1918 in Nauenhof near Leipzig, entered the Luftwaffe as radio operator in April 1937 but dreamt of becoming a pilot. He was accepted for flying training in June 1939. He trained as a night-fighter pilot and joined 5./NJG 3 in November 1941, returning his first victory during the night of 18/19 August 1942 on his 36th combat sortie. (Halifax W1226 of No. 35 Sqn). On the night of 19 July 1944 he and his 8./NJG 5 crew accounted for five Lancasters in 33 minutes.

For a build of the Trumpeter 32nd scale Me 262 B and an in-depth discussion on colours see the SAAF forum

Se also Michael Ullman's article on hyperscale; a discussion on exactly what were the colours 81/82/83?

More on the establishment of  Kommando Welter on this blog has a comprehensive walkaround of the SAAF Saxonwold Museum Me 262 B-1a/U1