Wednesday 27 May 2020

Churchill and Chamberlain on Knullenkopfstaffel Dornier Do 17 P

In 2016 German publisher Flechsig produced one of the best and absorbing Luftwaffe books of recent years- " Die Knullenkopfstaffel -Fernaufklärung mit der 1. Staffel/Aufklärungsgruppe 123 ", a history of long-range recce Staffel 1.(F)/123. The Staffel 'mascot' or Knullenkopf  - a bullet-headed airman holding a telescope to his eye - translates literally as 'knucklehead', an 'insult' originally used by the CO to motivate his airmen according to one account! Authored by Austrian Harry Rabeder, the book covers the activities of the long-range Luftwaffe reconnaissance squadron in some 336 well-illustrated landscape format pages (English-language edition also available). The history of this Staffel goes back to the start of WWII when the unit flew the Dornier Do 17 P before switching to the Bf 110 and Ju 88 and then to the Bf 109. This unit should be of particular interest to both British and French readers as 1.(F)/123 was based in France for long periods and made numerous flights over the UK. The book featured some interesting appendices including the list of known losses as well as a listing of Knight's Cross recipients who flew with the Staffel and more than demonstrated that less 'glamorous' can be just as interesting..

Author Rabeder includes in his book two unfortunately rather small-ish photos of one of the most fascinating over-size emblems I’ve seen on a Luftwaffe machine - the so-called ‘Churchill- Chamberlain’ emblem depicting the-then British PM (early 1940) and the First Lord of the Admiralty (Churchill) under attack from all sides on their small island. In a recent article published in ‘Avions’ magazine ( issue #225 'Luftwaffe special') covering the activities over France of the various Fernaufklärungsstaffeln -including 1.(F)/123- during the Phoney War, article author Pierre Brouez published three different images of the emblem as displayed on the Dornier Do 17 P coded "4U+FH" flown by Lt. Hans Mühlbauer (Beobachter) and crew.

 Mühlbauer's machine with its 'over-size' nose emblem and, below, a general view of some of the aircraft operated by the Staffel. Note the two Do 17 P  twins have the 'Knullenkopf' badge displayed on the engine cowl.

Photos shown here courtesy of M. Pierre Brouez.

"Avions" magazine at the Lela Presse website

More on the Knullenkopfstaffel book on Harry Rabeder's site here