Saturday 30 April 2022

Last bombing raids over London, 'Baby Blitz' 18-19 April 1944 (Obstlt. Karl Kessel Kommodore KG 2)


 ..a few comments on a recent FB group concerning the last raid over London mounted by the Kampfgeschwader of the Luftwaffe. Did Luftwaffe bombers raid London in 1944, when was the last mission flown over London ? 

Luftflotte 3 put up nearly 125 bombers for a mission over London for the last time on the night of 18-19 April, 1944. Junkers Ju 188 and Dornier Do 217 bombers from KG 2 may have reached the target area (Tower Bridge - London Docks) in small numbers ...

Below; Obstlt Karl Kessel, Stab/KG 2, Soesterberg (Holland) - preparing for a mission over the UK during the so-called 'Baby Blitz'.  Official photos probably taken to mark the award of the RK to the Geschwaderkommodore KG 2 in early 1944..

Based on the various ORBs, RAF night fighters had a successful night and some 18 bombers were downed. In No. 25 Sq. " a Ju 188 was shot down by F/Lt Carr. P/O Travers chased a Do 217 to the Dutch coast. The enemy aircraft, with an engine on fire, was losing altitude and is claimed as a 'probable'. P/O Panter unsuccessfully pursued a very agile Ju 188 which eluded him but in return shot down a Me 410 encountered off the Dutch coast.." In No. 85 Sq.  " W/C Miller flying with Norwegian Captain Lovestad headed for an aircraft caught in the searchlights, saw the crosses and shot it down. A gunner fired but the rounds passed under the Mosquito. The bomber came down at Dymchurch on the Kent coast. Two prisoners were taken. Sq/Ldr Burbridge, on his return, spotted a Ju 188 before firing a three second burst. One engine caught fire and the bomber hit the sea..." Elsewhere two 125 Sq. aircraft "were dispatched towards Greater London but no contact was made...." 

( in "Opération ‘Steinbock’ La dernière grande offensive de la Luftwaffe sur l’Angleterre - Janvier-juin 1944" by Bernard Roland in 'Batailles Aériennes')


Above;  targeting London - a Do 217 crew prepares for a mission over England during 1944, Stab-KG.2, Soesterberg (images via DB @ "Luftwaffe Fliegerhorste" on FB). 

Below; Kessel and his crew in front of their Do 217 K

Friday 29 April 2022

new book title - " 16 June 1944 " by Peter Kaššák


"  AUSTRIA: Fifteenth Air Force heavy bombers attack a number of oil depots and refineries in the Vienna area through extremely heavy and determined opposition, including waves of rocket-firing Ju-88s. While covering the bombers during the penetration, target, and withdrawal phases of the mission, pilots of the 1st, 31st, 52nd, 82nd, and 325th Fighter groups down 40 GAF fighters between 0935 hours and noon.
CZECHOSLOVAKIA: Fifteenth Air Force heavy bombers attack oil-industry targets around Bratislava.."

Eric Hammel in 'Air War Europa'.

Books describing a single day's events in the long war in the air have been popular since the classic Ethell/Price "Target Berlin" and perhaps even before that with the Middlebrook-penned "Schweinfurt-Regensburg". This is Peter Kaššák's second book covering one particular day - his previously released "Ordinary Day" related in detail the events of March 2, 1945 one of the last major battles of the air war over Germany. In  his new self-published title, "16 June 1944" the author relates the story of the US 15th AF attack on Vienna's petroleum refineries (Floridsdorf, Kagran, Schwechat) and the supplementary mission mounted on the same occasion against Bratislava'a 'Apollo' fuel refinery. Both raids were notable firsts in the campaign against Axis oil and the recently posted CO of 8.Jagddivision (formerly JaFü Ostmark or Austria) Obst. Gotthard Handrick (J 88, JG 77 etc etc ) could deploy only meagre resources, a handful of Gruppen from JG 302, ZG 1 and ZG 76 assisted by the Hungarian JGr. 101 and the Slovakian 'emergency flight'. Other units from 7.Jagddivision such as I./JG 300 based in southern Germany also participated in the air battles. 

The bulk of the text and images recount events as seen by the attackers as some 170 B-17s and nearly 500 B-24s were dispatched over the targets from bases situated along the 'heel' of Italy's boot, while the German and Hungarian defenders response is detailed in the text and then summarised in the last 15-20 pages of this 150-page title. Each Bomb Group's sorties are analysed in their own 'target' chapter with exciting personal accounts, a treatment extended to the escorts with chapters covering the actions of the 1st and 82nd FG P-38s and the P-51s of the 31st, 52nd and 325th FGs. Chapter 12, " Yellow-tailed Mustangs in action" recounts the 52nd FG's only loss during the raid - a P-51 B shot down by a P-38! This was the only escort fighter lost on the Bratislava mission and after 12 days in Budapest prison pilot 2nd Lt. Fred Crawford ended up in Stalag Luft III. The raid on the Bratislava refinery  - situated on the Danube just 33 miles from Vienna -  was flown by around 160 B-24s of the 98th, 450th,  479th and 376th BGs. Although small, the Czech petroleum industry supplied high grade oils and gasoline for the German war effort  and the author's account is probably a first in English.

" ..Suddenly the nose gunner's voice crackled the expected dreaded news - 'German fighters, 12 o' clock high, closing fast...' With adrenalin flowing I was no longer cold. The German planes hit like Thor's hammer, all guns firing. More went through the formation than broke short. I tried to hit them as they roared past but failed. I couldn't swing the heavy machine gun fast enough..Luckily for us they were concentrating on the first section. The first wave of fighters left us. I reloaded, shovelled empty cartridges overboard and prepared for the next attack. Then the slower German machines arrived - Me 410s, Bf 110s and Ju 88s - a second attack wave. ...[..]  out of the cloud layer above us and from the left a single Bf 110 fired rockets on our first was caught in the cross fire and set alight..burning fiercely it rammed into a B-24  and both planes exploded.. the single Bf 110 was followed by a wave of Bf 110s...."

This vivid personal account is 'interrupted' by the author to  be 'dissected' and analysed - the reader even discovers who was flying the single rocket-firing twin out in front. Some of the most vivid accounts from the bomber crews concern the 459th BG - one B-24 released its bombs through closed bomb bay doors setting the big heavy on fire. The text highlights many more notable combat actions and incidents as crews were downed and then either rounded up on the ground or helped to evade by partisans. One downed 460th BG crew got into a firefight with the Germans hunting them but reached the Yugoslav coast just five days after being brought down.
On 16 June 1944 the German and Axis defenders flew at least 200 sorties and in both JG 302 and ZG 76 there was a certain amount of satisfaction at their performance. While ZG 1 made no claims their actions contributed to the break-up of the bomber formations. 'Stories' such as Hammel's "rocket-firing Ju 88s" are assessed and other 'myths' that crop up in the literature are closely examined (black-painted Bf 109s ? - quite possibly, yes). The descriptions of combat are backed up with the usual array of Appendices detailing claims and losses and include a German fighter Gradnetz  grid chart for the zone of operations. A final 'conclusion' details what happened next at the installations hit - the Schwechat refinery was not hit again until September but was regularly raided into 1945, while at Floridsdorf there were more raids in June 1944. The air battle of 16 June 1944 was just the beginning of a series of huge clashes in this central European region while the 'battle for oil' was only just getting underway.

 This is a very worthy and well-done 'print on demand' book from a well-known researcher.  Peter Kaššák has written and produced this book single-handedly and his exhaustive research has resulted in a very readable account. The text is loaded with photos - not just portraits either - and print and paper quality is good. An excellent little title to add to your WW II airwar library! 

Peter Kaššák "16 June 1944" via Click here for more info and orders

Below; jacket illustration of Peter Kassaks' "16 June 1944". Top image shows a formation of 4./ZG 76 Me 410s on June 16.

Thursday 7 April 2022

New blog header - Fw 190 JG 1 'yellow 6' by Wojciech Niewęgłowski


Wojciech Niewęgłowski from Kielce, Poland is a talented 3ds Max software designer. 3ds Max is a professional 3D computer graphics program for making 3D animations, models, games and images. A friend of the blog, Wojciech has been kind enough to create a super new header for this page.  A good friend of Piotr Forkasiewicz, Wojciech has produced a number of 3d models for Piotr  who 'textures' and 'layers' them into his amazing paintings. This is particularly the case for Wingleader's 'Battle of Britain combat archive' series where Piotr's paintings utilise some of Wojciech's 3d models, e.g. Bf 109, He 111, Hurricane, Defiant and Hs 126 ...As Wojciech puts it; " ..I am unfortunately not a good illustrator. I am good at modelling. I could never match Piotr's skill in creating the aerial scenes ..."
Well, Piotr's work is fantastic of course and he is a great 3d modeller. Lets not forget some of his collaborators including Wojciech!

 ...and some of Wojciech's 'scenes' utlising his models of course...

Saturday 2 April 2022

Bf 110 G night fighter walkaround at the RAF museum (Hendon, London) - comparison with Ju 88 G


There are still a few interesting Luftwaffe aircraft types on display at the RAF museum in Hendon, north London. This was my first visit to this fantastic museum since the dispersal of the very dark 'Battle of Britain' Hall - which is now Hangar 1 and the main entrance.  Whereas types such as the Bf 109 G, Me 262 and Ju 88 have been sent to the museum's Cosford site, Hendon's Messerschmitt Bf 110 G-4 (Werk Nr. 730301) is still on display and can be seen properly! I love the look of the night fighter and the camouflage scheme. The museum's example was surrendered to the Allies in May 1945 at Grove airfield (Denmark) and is probably the most complete Bf 110 anywhere. This particular machine served with I./NJG 3 (3.Staffel) and is fitted with the Lichtenstein SN-2 radar and FuG 220 antenna array. Note contrary to what can be read elsewhere (!) this machine is not fitted with "Schräge Musik" (the upward firing cannon used to attack bombers from below) The rear armament is the type's defensive MG 81 - however two round appertures in the rear canopy glazing are visible either side of the MG 81  - presumably for the SM weapons. This  former NJG 3 machine is also fitted with a ventral bomb rack - most nightfighters in the last months of the war were tasked with ground-attack sorties. I have posted a neat walk-around video at the bottom of this page.

Helmut Bunje provides an operational comparison of the Bf 110 as nightfighter with the Ju 88 in Boiten's 'Night Air War'. He flew both types and achieved downings in both. He achieved his first victory in his 4./NJG 6 Bf 110 G-4 over a Halifax on March 15, 1944. He was still flying with 4./NJG 6 when the Staffel converted to the Ju 88 G-1 and later the G-6 versions in August 1944. In December 1944 Bunje returned his 5th kill, this time over a Lancaster. On February 23, 1945 he claimed three Lancasters and his final two kills were over Lancasters on March 16, 1945 at 3800 metres and 4300 metres south and then north of Schwäbisch Hall. Post-war Bunje trained as an architect and led a successful practise in Hamburg. He passed away in July 2000.

Because the Bf 110 was used in larger numbers for far longer as a night fighter than the Ju 88 the Bf 110 returned a larger number of night victories than the Ju 88. The Bf 110 was smaller and much lighter than the Ju 88 and presumably more difficult to detect when approaching the bomber stream.  The Bf 110's manoeuvrability in an attack on a cork-screwing Lancaster would also be appreciably better.  The Bf 110 had sufficient range - but carried underwing tanks which were difficult to jettison in flight (or not at all according to some sources). The Ju 88 enjoyed better endurance and while it could carry drop tanks being a much bigger airframe all fuel could be carried internally. Speed, performance and armament were comparable but probably better in the Ju 88. Note the four cannon in the nose of the Bf 110. Lower gun ports for the MG 151 are visible while one barrel of a Mk 108 of the asymetrically aligned upper nose cannon is visible. In the Bf 110 the Schrägbewaffnung (slanting armament) where fitted was enclosed with the crew... 

Below; a view of the cockpit/canopy section showing the DF loop antenna and the radio mast. The latter was normally of wood but on this exhibit is a post-war replacement. The DF direction finder is centrally positioned while the mast is offset to port. Antenna extended to the rear tail fin(s) from the mast.  To the right of the MG 81 Zwilling (7.92 mm twin-barelled defensive weapon) a rounded aperture for one of two slanted cannon is visible. Note the Wellenmuster camouflage finish extends over the canopy framing. There are no handgrip panels/stencils in this view of the starboard side of the aircraft. Crew access was always via the port side. The large trailing edge slotted flap extends in a single piece out to the aileron. The red triangular 'Rotring' oil stencil is visible at the oil tank cover aft of the engine. The access panel for the starboard wing fuel tank is indicated by the yellow stencil..  

The Bf 110 was cheaper to build.  The Ju 88 was fitted out with a more modern radar suite -with Naxos and Flensburg- especially for evading Mosquitos and the Ju 88 crew had a decisive advantage with the additional crew member to carry out radar/radio tasks; 

Bunje; "in all important aspects the Ju88 - especially the Ju88 G-6 - was clearly superior to the the Bf 110 G-4.. particularly at altitude."

Bunje goes on to note that the endurance of the Bf 110 G was frequently below operational requirements and that the type was often  " too slow to catch and infiltrate the bomber stream..."  Interestingly he states that   "..jettisoning of the external tanks before combat could be a risky enterprise.." -  while a trigger release mechanism is visible aft of the tank, most sources state that the Bf 110's wing-mounted drop tanks could not be jettisoned in flight. 

Note the 'draggy' exhaust flame dampers that curve up over the wing, except for the starboard inner which vents below the wing to avoid exhaust gases being ingested in the supercharger intake mounted on the upper cowling. Note the VDM prop blades (minus the VDM emblem) have now been correctly repainted in the 'classic' RLM 70 black-green. Note the cooling scoops on either side of the nacelle. Directly below the supercharger intake is a 'window' for a prop pitch control and engine performance instruments. The supercharger intake for the port engine is situated in the port wing leading edge outboard of the engine. A 300 litre drop tank (79 gallons) was carried under each wing.

In general terms performance figures for the Ju88 G-1 were of course higher than those of the Bf 110 G-4. Aders quotes 335 mph at 6000 m (without flame dampers) and goes on to say that this was 31 mph faster than the Bf 110 G-4 since the larger internal fuel capacity avoided the need for the external tanks required by the Bf 110. The Ju88 G-1 used BMW 801 G/H engines 

 Bf 110 G-4 technical data follows;  in the night figher configuration, the flame dampers and ventral racks, in addition to the SN-2 antenna array, impose a considerable drag.

Engines 2 × Daimler-Benz DB 605 B-1 inverted-Vee, rated at 1475 hp each (and displayed alongside the airframe at Hendon)

Length 42 ft 9.75 inch including antenna
Height 13 ft 8.5 inch with the tail up
Empty: 9,920 lbs.

Loaded: 15,430 lbs
Wing Span 53 ft 3.25 inch
Wing Area 413.33 sq ft
Service ceiling 26245 ft
Maximum speed 342 mph at 22900 ft
Cruising speed 317 mph at 19685 ft
Initial climb rate 2,170 ft per min
Range 560 miles typical, 808 miles max
Armament could include the 7.92 mm MG 81z twin-barrel rearward-firing gun in the rear cockpit
but was primarily cannon;

* 2 × 30 mm MK 108  (nose fixed)
* 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 (nose fixed)
* 2 × 20 mm MG 151/20 or MG FF fixed obliquely forward- and upward-firing in the rear fuselage in stead of the guns in the rear cockpit.

Below;  nose-mounted cannon  - lower oval ports for the Mauser MG 151 and detachable servicing panel. Note the apertures just aft of the lower radar antenna supports. These are the ejection chute openings for the 30mm spent shell cases. The starboard aperture is protected by a small sheet metal guard to prevent shell casings being ingested in the starboard engine - see first photo above for a better view. There was no requirement for this guard for the port engine. The installation of the upper 30 mm cannon was staggered, with the starboard muzzle protruding. Each 30 mm cannon was supplied with 120-135 rounds. They were charged and triggered by compressed air - note the access opening for the Preßluft bottle unit to the right of the lower MGs. The central opening provided air for the cockpit heater. According to some sources (Mackay) this intake fed cooling air into the nose cannon bay in the G-version .. 

Note the lower antennae of the SN-2 air intercept radar with FuG 220 'Hirschgeweih' (Stag antlers) array have been removed. The antennae and extension mounting rods are rounded in profile. 

Ju88 G-1

Engines 2 × BMW 801 D-2 radials of 1,700 hp each
Length (excluding radar) 47 ft 8.5 in, (including SN-2 aerials) 54 ft 1.5 in
Height 15 ft 11 in
Wing Span 65 ft 7.5 in
Wing Area 586.63sq ft
Weights: Empty Equipped 20,020 lb
Maximum Take-off 32,385 lb
Maximum speed 356 mph at 27,890 ft (8,500 m) with SN-2 but no upward-firing guns, 342 mph at same altitude with 'Schräge Musik' installation
Service ceiling 29,000 ft
Normal range 1,553 mls

Armament: Four fixed forward-firing 20mm MG 151 cannon in ventral tray with 200 rounds each and one flexible 13 mm MG 131 machine-gun at rear of cockpit. Optional 'Schräge Musik' installation in upper fuselage with two 20 mm MG151 cannon firing obliquely forward.

Below; former NJG 3 Bf 110 G-4 now sits opposite the Lancaster in Hangar 5 of the RAF Museum's Hendon site, Colindale, north London. 

George Hopp;

" ..The Bf 110 was just too small to carry all the electronics needed for a night fighter to safely exist in the skies over late-war Germany. Gotha had a merry dance in trying to pack into the nose of the Bf 110 the plumbing for the FuG 202, the FuG 220, and for the MK 108s. The crews actually breathed a sigh of relief when it was decided not to install the FuG 350 in the a/c because there was simply not enough room for it -- although 5 prototypes of the installation were installed. And, with the commencement of the Tame Sow type of night fighting in which fighters might have to roam over much of the Reich territories during RAF raids, it became obvious that the endurance of the Bf 110 was insufficient..."

Ultimately it is probably a little pointless to compare the Ju 88 G-6 and the Bf 110 G-4 - there would be no comparison. Although NJG 1 flew the Bf 110 G-4 until the end of the war so presumably favoured this type. The RLM made its own decision on the comparable quality of the two types. In the late summer of 1944, Bf 110 production was curtailed and in November 1944, the Bf 110 'programme' was terminated. This was largely the result of continuing problems with the DB 605 E -planned to replace the DB605 B in the Bf 110 - and the  superiority of the Ju 88.

BMW radial-powered Ju 88 G-1. 

Above;  Bf 110 G-4 '2Z+GB' of 2./NJG 6 flown by Kommodore Oblt. Martin 'Tino' Becker. Based at Neubiberg - from a sequence of photos taken on 18 July 1944. Note flash suppressors on the upper nose cannon.

Below - Bf 110 G-4 with an unusual 'reverse' mottle finish; the Farbton 76 appears haphazardly sprayed over the 74/75. In the second image note the non-standard nose cannon. 

Me 110 G-4 Nachtjäger mit der neusten Lichtenstein Radaranlage SN - 2 mit FUG 220 (Hirschgeweih).