Sunday 25 September 2022

GFM Rommel an der Kanalküste, Vendeville, January 1944


..some screen grabs from Wochenschau film footage showing Rommel (CO Heeresgruppe B ) and entourage visiting a fighter Gruppe somewhere in northern France  some time ahead of the Allied D-Day landings...

..given that GFM Rommel is accompanied (right) by Kommodore Obstlt. Priller (JG 26) it would not be unreasonable to assume that this must be Abbeville and JG 26 (III./Gruppe flew 109s) some time in the weeks leading up to D-Day. 

This would appear not to be the case. The original PK Berichter caption states 'bei Lille' and is dated January 4, 1944. On this date JG 26 had no Messerschmitt Gruppe in France, III./JG 26 being based at Mönchengladbach under Lw.-Befh. Mitte, while I./JG 3 was based at Denain and Vendeville (Lille). On January 9, 1944 I./JG 3 and III./JG 26 swapped bases with III./JG 26 returning to its Geschwader. Therefore when the photos and the Wochenschau-film were taken on or before January 4 the only Bf 109 Gruppe at Vendeville was I./JG 3. 

 In the picture below a badge on the cowling of the Gustav - the JG 3 Udet badge - appears to have been over-painted. Pilot and ground crew stand to attention as the party walks down the taxiway. The G-6 in the background (left) is 'white 15'  (..of I./JG 3. Note absence of Gruppe Balken aft of the fuselage cross) 

..Rommel's party makes its way into a hangar - where Priller shows Rommel (one of ) his  Fw 190 A-8  'Jutta' - not a 'black 13' as the Kommodore chevron is just visible. Note also the area of the pilot's hand-hold on the windscreen coaming  which appears to have either been damaged or 'cut-out' - or maybe a fault on the film. I have no idea what this is, although  regular blog reader Stephen F. suggested that it might be some sort of improved gun sight....

Also on this blog;

Priller's 'Jutta' - Focke Wulf Fw 190 A-8 'Black 13'

Friday 23 September 2022

Deutsche Kunstflugstaffel - Luftwaffe aerobatic display team July 1939


The Deutsche Kunstflugstaffel - which loosely translates as German aerobatic display team - had originally been established unofficially in I./ LG 2 with a 'Kette' of three Bücker 133 'Jungmeister' biplanes. According to Kommandeur Hptm. Hans Trübenbach: 

"It was initially a distraction. Several of my pilots liked aerobatics and and we started with a formation of three aircraft. I led the Kette and my wingmen were the Oberleutnante Gerhard Homuth and Georg Graner. Our first performance took place in Arlon, Belgium on 10 May 1938.." 

Belgian pilot Emile Witmeur participated in the air show and wrote the following account;

'..There is no airfield at Arlon. For the occasion, some meadows have been marked out (...) a grassy rectangle bordered by red flags marks the landing strip, barely three hundred metres long. It is a short runway. A Belgian fighter plane lands outside the marked out area and noses over. The primitive conditions [do not deter] the Germans in their Jungmeister biplanes. Here they come. They are landing in echelon, wingtip to wingtip. They land in about fifty metres. They have machines with brakes (...) Hans Trübenbach explains things to curious onlookers. He expresses himself quite well in our language. Then the display - lined up wingtip to wingtip, facing the crowd, about fifty metres away, they run up their engines without wheel chocks, standing on their brakes. Opening throttles wide, the fuselages rise up to the horizontal. Brakes are released and the Jungmeister power off towards the crowd, getting airborne in thirty metres, passing directly on their backs in a half roll in tight formation. This has never been seen before. They stay wheels up for most of their performance, flying all the classic figures - inverted. A specially adapted fuel supply is fitted to their aircraft to allow them to fly for long periods on their backs. After a very spectacular 'split', we witness a festival of acrobatics, tight crosses and thrills. Trübenbach finishes his act with a double barrel roll twenty metres above the ground before landing. After that, the rest of the display programme was very tame.." 

 According to Trübenbach the 'Kunstflug-Kette' was expanded to Staffel-size that summer, apparently on the suggestion of the Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe. The second Kette was led by the  Staffelkapitan 3./LG 2 Hptm. Wille. Future aces such  as Erwin Clausen, Herman Staege, Josef Heinzeller and Herbert Ihlefeld also flew in the Kunstflugstaffel.  

On July 7, 1939, the Belgian Aéronautique Militaire organised an air show at Evere (Brussels) to celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary in style. The French and the British, among others, were present, but many in Belgium were counting on the presence of the Deutsche Kunstflugstaffel. In the event this would be the last peace-time international air show meet - it was a show marred by a fatal accident. According to Trübenbach;

"...We opened the show with a tight Staffelkeil formation  at a height of 50 metres right past the Royal Gallery while the middle Kette flew a slow formation roll. Then the Staffel climbed to 1,000 metres and dived in line astern to pull up into a loop near the ground, forming a 'wheel' with the no. 1 joining up behind the No. 9 ...[..]  it was then that Hauptmann Joachim Wille, who was leading the second Kette, split off to do a  spectacular 'special trick'  - eine Sondernummer- which he had planned and practised on his own. He was to do a barrel roll on the landing approach, cut the throttle and touch down directly on the runway. But the wind was quite blustery that day in Evere. Coming in on his approach and on his back at that stage, he was caught in a gust and pushed down between two hangars. In factions of a second he must have tried to 'pull up' instead of  'pushing down' . Wille's No. 7 crashed on its back on the edge of the runway. The pilot died from his injuries at the scene.." 

Despite the crash the show continued. The French aerobatic display were next up while the RAF flew its large (for the time)  and impressive Wellington bombers. Belgian Aé. Mi. pilot 1st Sergeant Denys Rolin, attending the show with his mother, turned to her and remarked how dreadful the accident was. To which his mother replied; " Ce n'est qu'un Boche!", a reaction perhaps to be expected from a Belgian woman who had not forgotten the German invasion and occupation of the Great War. Joachim Wille was to receive  posthumously the  Order of Leopold awarded by the Belgian King (Leopold III) that evening. His body was repatriated in a Ju 52 a few days later. Two months later the German invasion of Poland was launched while the Kunstflugstaffel was officially disbanded 'for the duration of the war'.

Also on this blog;

Saturday 17 September 2022

" The Luftwaffe in Belgium " by Jean-Louis Roba and Peter Taghon, Lela Presse - new Luftwaffe book


Part I of a new two-volume work 'The Luftwaffe in Belgium' authored by Jean-Louis Roba and Peter Taghon is currently at the printers and due on September 30 from Lela Presse. Pre-order from the publisher now, free postage on orders up to publication date. (link below)

From the publisher's blurb;

From September 1939 and throughout the 'Phoney War', the airspace of neutral Belgium was criss-crossed by the aircraft of the combatants taking advantage of the weakness of the Belgian Aéronautique Militaire. German reconnaissance aircraft were able to identify future invasion routes and on May 10, 1940, the Wehrmacht invaded. Up to the end of that month,air combats raged in this major strategic aerial battleground. With the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force trapped in the Dunkirk/La Panne pocket, aerial engagements became less frequent and the Luftwaffe quickly established itself in the country, rebuilding airfields and military installations.

After the armistice with the French, Belgian skies saw little daylight combat, either during the 'Battle of Britain' or the 'Non-Stop Offensive' in 1941, being 'protected' by the distance from RAF fighter bases. At most, shipping and ports became targets for British aircraft. On the other hand, Belgium was (like the Netherlands) on one of the direct routes used by Bomber Command on their night-time raids on the Ruhr factories. Hence the rapid establishment in the country of night fighter units (Nachtjagd) that were to acquire a name for themselves - such as the 'infamous' 'Ghosts of Saint-Trond', feared by RAF crews.

The period 1939-1942 in Belgian skies was one of contrasts - bloody combat during the offensive in the West followed by a relative calm only disturbed by the growing strength of Bomber Command. The few intrusions of the American 'heavies' in 1942 remained relatively insignificant although they heralded a growing threat.

However, 1943, the key year of the Second World War, was marked by increasing incursions into Belgian airspace by US 8th AF 'Viermots'. On April 6, 1943, the population discovered the murderous power of the 'Flying Fortresses' during the bloody bombing of Mortsel. On that occasion, the local weakness of the Tagjagd (day fighters) was exposed. In spite of regular calls for fighters to be based in the vicinity or temporary transfers of parts of the Jagdeschwader, the German fighters (supported by the Flak) could only with difficulty contain the assaults of the USAAF. During the first quarter of 1944, with US escorts capable of overflying the territory of the Reich, the day fighter defences of the Belgian defensive line all but collapsed and the aerial combats in the Belgian skies turned more often than not into bloody reverses for a still present but numerically dominated Tagjagd.

Go to a pdf extract on the publisher's website here

Dora-9 "White 12" 5./JG 301 - IBG 'Mimetall' Dora new Luftwaffe models


 Found and photographed by US forces at Bad Langensalza, this image of 5./JG 301's 'White 12' is an enlargement that I attempted from the rather poor-quality original print lent to me by the late James V. Crow. WNr 500408 was one of 70 machines from Mimetall's second production batch produced in the period December 1944-January 1945. A red II. Gruppe bar is visible over the red/yellow fuselage bands. 'White 12' is one of the markings options in the latest boxings (Mimetall) of the new IBG Dora-9.

Finish (JAPO) is 81/82 uppers (brown/light green), pale 'sky' green undersides except 76 rudder. Underside of wing 81 gear covers and leading edge to about half span, ailerons 76, remainder bare metal or (Crandall) 82/83 uppers, pale 'sky' green undersides, underside of wing 75 gear covers and leading edge to main spar line, ailerons 76, remainder bare metal.  

IBG appear to have opted for the JAPO colour scheme (although a starboard photo view shows the gear covers do not appear to be 'dark' and are simply in shadow, so most likely in the 'standard' lower surface colour)

Also on this blog;

IBG Models Fw 190 D-9 'Cottbus production' finished!

II./JG 301 Dora-9s at readiness

Friday 16 September 2022

September 15 'Battle of Britain' day - the German fighter pilots and the 'myth'


Living in the shadow of the 'Battle of Britain' memorial to the 'Few' at Capel-le-Ferne on the white cliffs between Folkestone and Dover with the sound of Merlin engines almost constantly overhead at certain times of the year, I am reminded that 'Battle of Britain Day' (as September 15 is known in the UK)  has come and gone once again. 

According to some, the Luftwaffe was 'ill-prepared' for the fight over England. One fact not often acknowledged here, is the 'mauling' and subsequent losses that the Luftwaffe had sustained over France, so that the Luftwaffe's early forays over England in late July 1940 amounted to no more than an attempt to exert some 'political' pressure on those who might have been prepared to sue for peace in the UK. Göring's losses over France amounted to over 1,000 aircraft and trained crews according to which source you care to read.

(The latest 'official' score for 'la chasse' - the French fighter arm- according to the Service Historique de la Défense or SHD is around 650 Luftwaffe aircraft shot down during the Westfeldzug or 'campaign in the West'. Aircrew losses may have been as high as 3,000 men according to some sources. Infrastructure along the Channel coast had largely been wrecked. Hence the two month 'pause' before setting out to subdue England in earnest).

By mid-September the Luftwaffe could in theory claimed to have won the Battle - at least 'statistically’. However, men and machines were being worn down relentlessly, while the numbers of carefully husbanded RAF fighters were increasing. Losses on the scale being sustained by the Luftwaffe risked jeopardizing the planned assault on the Soviet Union. Hitler was probably already looking to 'shut-down' operations over the UK. But until the British government surrendered – an unlikely scenario- the Luftwaffe continued to lose men and machines to little purpose. As the summer wore on these factors all contributed to mounting cases of what was becoming termed Kanalkrankheit – Channel Sickness – better known now as combat fatigue. As Ulrich Steinhilper noted;

“Although most of us were still not outwardly showing major signs of nerves, by late August arguments were becoming more frequent, tempers frayed quicker…The strain of unrelenting front-line flying was beginning to show.”

And it was during September that the Luftwaffe turned its attentions towards London. This change of tactic played into the hands of the defenders - the RAF was able to concentrate its defensive force around the capital while the Bf 109s' limited endurance was again a factor. On September 7, the first day of raids on London, the Germans overwhelmed the defences. Fighter Command lost 33 aircraft. On the German side, a dozen bombers were lost as well as 15 Bf 109s and 10 Bf 110s. On the 8th, the Luftwaffe could not repeat its previous day's effort and the RAF had a breathing space. On the 9th, orders were given to bomb the capital by day and by night. Two major raids took place in the afternoon, but here the Luftwaffe could no longer saturate the defence - the '1000' bombers of the official history were never more than 400 and on only two dates could the Luftwaffe put more than 300 in the air. On September 9, some 23 RAF fighters were downed by Bf 109s. The Staffelkapitän 4./JG 53 Oblt.Günther Schulze-Blanck who had led the Staffel during August was killed in a dogfight over Hastings. He had returned six victories. His body washed up on a French beach some two weeks later.

There was by now perhaps, a growing realization that the fighter pilots had been assigned an impossible task. Equipping one third of the fighter force with bombs served little purpose. Lt. Jules Meimberg of 4./JG 2;

“..It was not until today that I grasped just how big a city London is. Brussels, Paris, even Berlin are tiny in comparison. What sort of effect could we hope to achieve with a few hundred bombs on a metropolis like this, aside from inflicting a few scratches..?”
On September 11, the fighting was particularly costly with the Luftwaffe claiming 67 fighters, while RAF Fighter Command claimed 89 German aircraft. Actual losses however amounted to 30 RAF fighters and 27 Luftwaffe machines - 11 bombers, 8 Bf 110s and about 8 Bf 109s including the machine flown by a certain Fhr. Hans-Joachim Marseille (1./LG 2) who managed to return to Wissant to crash-land his machine, 75% destroyed.

On September 15, the weather cleared and the Luftwaffe prepared for their “Final Blow” against England. This was to be the test of strength for Göring’s Luftwaffe and Dowding’s refreshed and reinforced Fighter Command. During the day’s prolonged and bitter fighting the Luftwaffe would lose 6% of their committed forces - 57 aircraft - their highest percentage loss rate during the entire Battle. Fighter Command’s losses were half of those on the German side, i.e. the rates of the Adlertag of 13 August. For the OKW, it now appeared that in major offensives, the RAF was always able to pull out the stops. Many more weeks would be required to destroy the RAF, a realisation that led to another review of tactics - attacks on airfields and factories with bomb-carrying Me 109 Jabos became more frequent. This 'Jabo' offensive - while far from decisive - was a much more effective use of the Luftwaffe fighters than the hated bomber escort duties. On October 5, for example, waves of Messerschmitt 109s (possibly as many as one hundred fighters), of which around thirty were toting ordnance, headed for Southampton and London. Fighter Command was no longer to be directed exclusively against German bombers - the Spitfires and Hurricanes were free to engage the Messerschmitts. But for the RAF, it did not necessarily have to 'win' the battle - simply not 'lose' it.. Ulrich Steinhilper, on the other hand, shot down over England at the end of October, was mentally and physically at the end of his tether.

“There is no doubt in my mind,” he says, “that the RAF broke the back and the spirit of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain.”.

And on the basis that you don't always know that something is there unless you are reminded of it occasionally here is a piece on this blog published by the UK's 'Guardian' newspaper back in the year 2000 which discusses the German view of the 'Battle of Britain'..

Wednesday 14 September 2022

"Panzerblitz" missions - III./ SG 4, Lt. Irmfried Zipser III./SG 1

As a Schlachtflugzeug the Fw 190 brought an increased level of firepower to the Eastern Front, especially the F-8 version which appeared during the spring of 1944. Erprobungskommando 26 under specialist anti-tank pilot Maj. Hubert Eggers had been established at Udetfeld (near Gleiwitz in Upper Silesia) to test suitable armament and quickly set about adapting the German Army's successful  'Panzerschreck' for airborne carriage and launch. Similar to the US 'bazooka' the 'Panzer Granate 4322' was a larger 88 mm calibre hollow-charge anti-tank rocket. Testing with rockets mounted on underwing ETC carriers started in August 1944 and trials against tanks during September took place at distances from 100 metres, the weapon being launched in salvos of six. The rockets were regarded as a big improvement in comparison to the Mk 103-equipped Hs 129 or the Ju 87 Kanonenvogel  with Flak 18. Fw 190 F-8s of 5./ SG 77 under Oblt. Stephan Schmitt were among the first to deploy 'Panzerschreck' in action being fitted out at Udetfeld in late September 1944 and flying their first missions from Sarospatak in Hungary in early October. Attacking Soviet tanks close to the Hungarian–Rumanian border on October 7, the Staffelkapitän was hit by anti-aircraft fire and killed. He was subsequently awarded the Knight’s Cross posthumously on 29 October. Other units understood to have taken delivery of the rocket in late 1944 included III./SG 3 at Frauenberg in Latvia, II./SG 2 and 8./SG 1, with further elements of SG 10 following in 1945. Around 90 Fw 190s had been equipped to launch Panzerschreck by December 1944. 

 'Panzerblitz' was not a development of the 'Panzerschreck' but a slightly more 'sophisticated' second anti-tank unguided rocket developed from the R4M Orkan air-to-air rocket used by the Messerschmitt Me 262. It was fitted with either an 80 mm (3.1 in)-diameter standard warhead, in Panzerblitz I, or a 210 mm (8.3 in)-diameter hollow charge warhead, in the Panzerblitz II. Special launch or discharge rails were designed for Panzerblitz by Curt Heber of Osterode, the firm also constructing launch racks for the R4M air to air rocket ; the Einzelschussgerät Panzerblitz (EG Pb) were 'single shot' rails which could be combined together in a launch ‘system’, the Abschussschienegerät Pb (AG Pb) of six or eight rails bolted together. Capable of 410 m/s, the higher velocity of the 'Panzerblitz'  enabled tanks to be destroyed at greater ranges of up to 200 m distance with rockets being fired in salvo or in pairs. The only limitation was a maximum speed of 490 km/h, not to be exceeded during missile firing. Up to February 1945 the Luftwaffe received 115 Fw 190 F-8/Pb 1 machines. The Fw190 F-8/Pb2 - Panzerblitz 2 (Pb 2) unit differed in the replacement of the M8 warhead by a hollow-charge warhead able to penetrate up to 180 mm armour. Also developed was the new missile system Panzerblitz 3 (Pb 3) with a 210 mm hollow-charge warhead, but it was not operational by the end of the war.

III./SG 4 was one of the first Gruppen to deploy 'Panzerblitz' in action,  certainly in the West, flying their first operational sorties with the missiles during December 1944, having trained at Udetfeld during November. Extracts from the III./ SG 4 KTB;

".. in Udetfeld Beginn des Schiessens mit Panzerblitz auf Beutepanzer auf den Luftschiessplatz.."

 " ...the Kommandeur stated that training has suffered from persistent bad weather and ever-increasing technical damage to the launcher racks.  Target hit accuracy is completely unsatisfactory least two more full flying days of additional training are necessary ....In Udetfeld Schlechtwetter, Unterricht über Angriffstaktik, Panzererkennungsdienst...

III./ SG 4's first operational sortie with eight Panzerblitz-toting Fw 190s ('Beladung Panzerblitz') took place on December 7, 1944...Mission order - attack on road columns in the sector Zabern -Strasbourg -Schledtstatt....both the Kette led by the Kommandeur (south of Strasburg) and the Schwarm led by Oblt. Eissele  (south-west of Hagenau) were met with such intense anti-aircraft fire, that the attacks, carried out at low-level because of the weather, were not effective....six trucks and two anti-aircraft batteries were knocked out.  One total loss due to anti-aircraft fire, two a/c returned to manufacturer, two a/c require three-day and two further a/c one-day interventions in the repair shop. Obfhr. Rüttgers failed to return..

Twelve machines of the Gruppe also took part in the Luftwaffe’s  Bodenplatte New Year’s Day attacks - at least five Fw 190s launched their missiles to report 'successful' sorties.  9. Staffel pilot Fw. Rudolf Fye was shot down by USAAF P‑47s and his Fw 190 F‑8 crashed near to the road that ran between Asch and Mechelen, Allied air and technical intelligence recovering a number of 'live' Panzerblitz rockets.

 In the period 21 January–20 February 1945, the Fw 190 F‑8s and F‑9s of III./SG 4 accounted for the destruction of 23 Allied tanks and inflicted serious damage to 11 more, as well as causing the destruction of two armoured vehicles. This tally was achieved over  the course of 115 sorties flown in 16 operational missions in which the Panzerblitz was deployed.

In the East Lt. Irmfried Zipser's III./ SG 1 gave up their Ju 87 Stukas during May 1944 and converted on to the Fw 190 F;

"Since we Stuka pilots had no idea about flying fighters, we also received a short course of fighter instruction, during which we were at least taught how to get out of trouble if necessary..." 

Within two months  Zipser's Gruppe was back at the front and had flown their first combat sorties in the Fw 190 from Radzyn. Less than four weeks later, the Red Army launched its major summer offensive, completely destroying the German Heeresgruppe Mitte.

 "At first we were deployed in the central section, in the Warsaw area, then we moved north to Insterburg, and finally to Courland and on the Memel. Everywhere it was burning like a torch." 

Zipser's Leistungsbuch (performance book) bears witness to the devastating effect of the attacks mounted by the rocket-equipped Fw 190s and to the heavy fighting in which III./SG 1 was involved and gives daily details. Numerous "dive" ('Sturz') and 'Schrägangriffe' "slanting or oblique" attacks, often followed by ‘Schießanflüge’, or “firing approaches" or strafing passes against "deployments, troop concentrations, columns, vehicles of all kinds, artillery and flak positions, convoys and tanks". With often disastrous consequences: "Very good hits! - High enemy losses! - Flak or Ari positions very well covered! Numerous vehicles destroyed! Tanks set on fire, then exploded! Direct hits in ammunition transports! 'Volltreffer in Munitionstransporter! Heavy fires observed!" Zipser remembered;

" ..the 'Panzerblitz' missile was much more effective than the 'Panzerschreck' and with it we achieved considerable success. We carried twelve of them under the wings, six on each side. The firing sequence was programmed in advance in the control box. They could not be fired individually, at least three at a time, but most of the time all twelve were salvoed simultaneously. Such a salvo was then one hundred percent deadly. Even for the most heavily armoured tanks. The first 'Panzerblitz' missions were a shock to the Russians – ‘die ersten Panzerblitz- Einsätze wirkten auf die Russen wie ein Schock’. But within a few days they came to terms with it. We shot up an unbelievable number of tanks, but for what? I hit one tank. And maybe another. But 100 others were behind it, that was our reality. The mass of attackers can't even be imagined. The Russians didn't care about camouflage either any more. They marched and crushed us with their mass. Especially since our losses could no longer be made good, while the Russians had a seemingly inexhaustible arsenal. I saw masses of tanks, rows upon rows, and when those at the front had been shot-up the next in the line would move forward and just drove over the ones that were left behind. I can still see these images in my mind's eye today. Just the battles at the Oderbruch near Berlin claimed tens of thousands of lives in a single day! Just imagine it! Mountains of corpses! In the Oderbruch, too, numerous pontoon bridges were destroyed by "Panzerblitz". Just as quickly as the Germans destroyed them, the Red Army soldiers rebuilt them again.."  

Force-landed F-8 displaying a III.Gruppe vertical bar aft of the fuselage cross. The Panzerblitz installation underneath the port wing is visible.

Irmfried Zipser told his story to Peter Cronauer in Flugzeug Classic (2016). A good source for more on German air-to-ground weapons is Robert Forsyth's "Luftwaffe Special Weapons" published by Osprey. 

 Also on this blog; 

Sunday 11 September 2022

Fhj.-Fw Gerhard Querengässer, 8./JG 2

Another 'unknown' ace of JG 2 was Gerhard Querengässer who perhaps typified the 'Nachwuchs' of young pilots facing the Allied onslaught in the West leading up to D-Day. He was born 28 September 1921 in Weissen, a small locality near the town of Rudolstadt in Thuringia and his 80th birthday was marked by Jägerblatt in their issue of 5/2001. Having interrupted higher education to enlist in 1940 he arrived in late 1942 at Beaumont-le-roger via the Ergänzungsgruppe in Mont-de-Marsan. He flew as wingman to Eder, then later to Stratmann and Kabbe when 12. Staffel was re-designated 8.Staffel.

His first victory was a B-17 (e.V.) on 30 July, 1943. His second was a P-51 claimed in the Guingamp/Alencon area on 11 July, 1944.

Querengässer twice sustained injuries during 1944. On 23 April 1944 his Gustav collided with the G-6 flown by Oberfähnrich  Gert Pudnowski over Creil (north of Paris) as II. Gruppe was scrambled. With his wing torn off in the collision Querengässer was able to bail out with head injuries while his East Prussian comrade Pudnowski was killed. On 26 June over the Normandy Invasionsfront Querengässer was brought down by German anti-aircraft fire in the vicinity of  Goussainville/Chantilly but pulled off a  gear-up Notlandung. Just a month later he claimed his third victory shooting down an Auster spotter on 26 July in the vicinity of Caen.

 His 4th was a P-47 at Monschau on 17 December, 1944. A 5th, a P-38 west of Wetzlar on 25 December, 1944.

With five victories to his credit, Fahnenjunker Feldwebel Querengässer was very much an 'old hare' by the time of the 1945 New Year's Day Bodenplatte raids on Allied airfields. Leading a Schwarm of 8./JG 2 from Nidda in an attack against St. Trond in eastern Belgium Querengässer flew firing passes against P-47s of the 404th FG  being refuelled on the southern side of the airfield but was forced to break off after being chased by Mustangs, escaping at low level.

Fhj.-Fw Gerd Querengässer of III./JG 2 with comrades seen (left) on the wing of his G-6 ‘Kanonenboot’ in late 1944. Pilot seated right is Uffz. Reinhold.

Querengässer survived the war and returned to Rudolstadt 'behind the curtain' in the new post-war DDR.

also on this blog;

Sunday 4 September 2022

Correspondence from JG 54 Fw 190 pilot Karl Bytomski (dated 26 March 1998) and the death of Otto Kittel


" ....I completed my pilot training in Châteauroux, France during the summer of 1943. But following a crash I was hospitalised for a year. I was making a turn in the circuit when I hit two telephone masts running along a road. My aircraft went straight down, chopping through seven trees along the way. Both my wings were torn off and my engine ended up some eighty metres away. I was catapulted out of the cockpit still strapped to my seat and hit the ground in a field. I suffered many fractures. Two Frenchmen carried me to a farm. I woke up with a farm girl lifting my head and giving me sips of brandy.

My first sortie in JG 54 took place on  July 30, 1944. On August 7, I shot down my first Il-2 (near Jakobstadt-Nirzi). On October 27, I shot down a second Il-2 near Skrunda. On October 30, it was a Pe-2. On 17 November, I finished off a Jak 9 near Windau.

In the East we lived in tents. Food supplies were always adequate and our aircraft were excellent. The only disaster for us was the meagre supply of fuel. It meant that we could not support our ground troops sufficiently and only took off to counter the opposing bombers. And that was usually with only one Rotte. From sunrise to sunset, one Rotte was on alert, its two pilots being relieved every two hours. During an alert, we had to be in the air within sixty seconds.

On  February 16, 1945, we took off in Schwarm formation to conduct a free hunt over the Dschukste sector. In bad weather we started a low-level fight with twenty-three Il-2s escorted by fighters. My Rottenführer was Oblt Kittel. Shortly before the fight, Kittel's aircraft went off at an angle of 30 to 35 degrees and hit the ground. I suspect he must have been hit fatally by flak.

During my short flying career I made seven belly landings and bailed out twice. On one occasion, during a landing, my aircraft caught fire due to a broken fuel line. I was travelling at 160 km/h and chose to jump. It was a mad decision - more of a reflex action: jump or burn. As luck would have it, I was lucky to escape with a simple leg injury.

When I reflect back I can only say that I was very lucky in my life. In fact, I should never have been a fighter pilot at all. My reaction times were pretty slow and I had difficulties with orientation and my sense of direction. In flying school, I was only passed out with a grade 5. I was known in the unit for rarely being able to locate the airfield. Luckily, whenever I was late back, signal flares would be fired off which would guide me back home......"   

Karl Bytomski

Karl Bytomski's Rottenführer Otto Kittel (at head of table) and the men of his Staffel enjoy the traditional, classic 'Kaffee und Kuchen' in the field..

correspondence from Karl Bytomski courtesy J-L Roba/Philippe Saintes. The superb photo-laden two-volume history of JG 54 authored by Philippe is still available from the Lela Presse website in their 'unit history' series. PDF extracts can be downloaded. 

also on this blog;

Last flight of the Luftwaffe -  JG 54's evacuation from Courland here

Saturday 3 September 2022

Mission to Valetta, April 12, 1942 - 4./LG 1


Extracted from the book: Die Geschichte des Lehrgeschwaders 1 (vol I) by Peter Taghon. A French edition is also published by Lela Presse and both volumes are still available from their web site at a very affordable price, see link below.

(The following account has been prepared from the original German-language edition and, probably for reasons of space, does not appear in the French edition. Translation by FalkeEins. Note this is NOT the translation that was posted on a certain FB page - that had one or two 'problems'!).

Mission to Valetta, April 12, 1942 - 4./LG 1

In accordance with II. Fliegerkorps orders, II./LG 1 were to attack at 10:30 and 16:00 those remaining harbour facilities - 19, 33 and 34 -  that had not been destroyed in the port area of Malta's capital. That morning several II.Gruppe crews also bombed Ta Kali and Luqa airfields, accounting for several Hurricanes and also a few Wellingtons destroyed. During the raid on Valetta, 4. Staffel lost Ofw. Waldemar Kremin’s  Ju 88 A-4, 'L1 + GM', which was hit by flak and crashed. The crew remains missing. Only the body of the BO (observer), Uffz. Karl-Schleiermacher, was recovered. Uffz. Walter Malzahn recalled;

"..We were flying in Kette formation. Oblt. Sy was leading and flying just off to our right was Ofw. Kremin. Approaching Valetta harbour the welcome we received was extremely unpleasant. There was no longer any blocking fire or fire directed by sighting or listening devices. This was targeted and very accurate. It really was a devilish surprise.

An accurate drop of our ordnance in the teeth of this level of defensive fire would be practically impossible. There were shells bursting right in front of us, close around the cockpit. Even above the roar of the engines you could hear the sharp, hard crash of shells exploding. It stank of sulphur.

I had my hand on the cabin roof escape hatch and would've jumped if I'd heard any clattering of shell splinters. But there were none. Even today I don't know why we weren't hit. Perhaps the shells had not been constructed to fragment or shatter?"

"Oblt. Sy flew the usual defensive manoeuvres so as not to give the heavy flak an easy target to aim at. I was both shocked and amazed to see that Ofw. Kremin stubbornly held his course straight and level. This lasted a matter of seconds - then he took a direct hit. His Ju was thrown up on to its port wing tip and appeared to veer in a kind of knife-edge slice towards our tail. I screamed at Sy to take evasive action so that Kremin's stricken Ju didn't take us down with him.. The manoeuvre was successful, but it was a very close call.

Kremin's Ju slid close by our tailplane and went straight down, a thick plume of black smoke like a comet in its wake. I was able to follow the trail almost to the point of impact. It was a spine-chilling scenario.  A thought flashed through my mind -  " that is how it will end for you too!"

" Despite this downing there was no let up from the anti-aircraft fire. I yelled: "Flakwaltzer!" Sy reacted immediately and let his Ju dance, almost aerobatically.  The main thing was the teamwork with Oblt. Sy had saved our lives. Once again we made it home without a scratch...."

 At 17:00 the Gruppe launched another raid on Malta. When the formation found itself over the target at 18:00, the Fliegerkorps changed the orders: the remaining targets 19, 28, 29 and 32 were to be bombed. And so it was that the crew of Oblt.-Erwin Sy attacked a food storage depot in Valetta. Oblt. Eilert Rogge's crew bombed a gas storage tank. The mission ended at around 18:40..

More on Peter Taghon's superlative two-volume history of Lehrgeschwader 1 including pdf extracts from both volumes at the French publisher's web site here

A selection of Ju 88s in the Med from the searchable database, (ECPA-D on-line photo archive) where these images are already on-line, in low-res and can be down-loaded for 'personal' use which means effectively they are 'public domain'. Reproduction here would probably be considered as 'educational' and fulfill 'fair-use' criteria. 

II./LG 1 Ju 88s in Greece (Crete)

Below; at Kastelli airfield, a Junkers Ju-88 D of Aufklärungsgruppe 123  has had its fuel tank removed for maintenance and/or repair.

I./LG 1 Ju 88 probably on Crete - click to view full screen

Friday 2 September 2022

Ju 88 A-4s of KG 3 on the Eastern Front


Mechanics of Kampfgeschwader 3 Blitz, standing on the Junkers Ju-88 A-4 coded 5K+GP, salute the crew of a bomber flying over the airfield. This particular 6./KG 3 (WNr. 8518) Ju 88 was shot down on 9 July 1942 in the Shisdra sector. The crew escaped unscathed except for the pilot Fw. Horst Pilz who was killed. Note the gust locks in place on the elevator and rudder.

Thursday 1 September 2022

Two RK holders of 3.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 122 - Hermann Hemmer, Ludwig Wagenfeld


3.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 122 was a Ju 88-equipped recce Staffel based in Holland (Eindhoven and then Schipol) from mid-to-late 1940 and tasked with missions over England. 

The Staffel remained in the West following the launch of Barbarossa attached to IX Fliegerkorps (Luftflotte 3) for continuing operations over England. Elements of the Staffel were temporarily based in Creil north of Paris.

The Staffel recorded its 1,000 Feindflug in March 1942 - the banner states, "Welcome home from the 1000th combat mission!". The crew of Ofw Geuter (FF), Oblt Salecker (BO), Uffz Gärtner (BF) and Uffz Banz (BS) paraded in front of the Staffel on March 31, 1942. Over 900 of the 1000 sorties had been carried out over British territory..

Typical 3(F)./122 sorties for the period of March 1942 included;

08 Mar 1942 – 'F6+CL' possibly gave weather reports for 05E 1469 (55 Km NE of Cromer) at 08:00 and landed back at Schiphol at 09:15.

'F6+KL' flew from Schiphol to 45km NE of Margate, then to the Humber area and then as far north as Whitby. Sighted convoy FN 49 25 miles E by S of Spurn Point at 08:58 and probably also convoy FS 44 to the N of this point. Landed back at Schiphol at 10:54. In its second sortie of the day 'F6+CL' again operated from Schiphol to the Whitby- Clacton area. No shipping was sighted and the Ju 88 returned to Schiphol at 16:36.

09 Mar 1942 – one Ju 88 overflew Folkstone, Dover, Deal and Ramsgate along the south and east Kent Channel coast area between 07:55 and 08:00. No shipping was sighted. 'F6+AL' was sent to the Skegness – Whitby area and reported convoy FS45 between Whitby and Scarborough at 09:40, landing back at Schiphol at 11:46. 'F6+EL' operated from Lowestoft as far north as the Withernsea (East Yorks) area, no shipping was sighted. The operation was probably broken off here on account of the weather conditions and a shortage of fuel. The aircraft landed back at Schiphol to refuel at 10:53 taking off again at 11:38 to resume its sortie.

10 Mar 1942 - 'F6+GL' was dispatched to the Whitby-Skegness area. During the outward flight the crew reported 2 MTBs in 05E 2460 (75km NE of Cromer) at 09:05. No shipping was sighted in the Whitby area, although the crew reported a convoy off Skegness at 09:30. Aircraft returned at 11:33. 'F6+CL' was sent to the area from the Thames Estuary to as far north as Cromer on the east Norfolk Coast. The aircraft returned on reciprocal course. No shipping was sighted in the Thames. Reported two British aircraft off Cromer at 10:00 and two MTBs off Orfordness at 10:15 hrs. 

On May 24, 1942, 3. Staffel pilot Hermann Hemmer crash-landed 'F6+CL' at Schipol (80% damage)  - possibly this wreck which appears in Hemmer's album.

On March 7, 1943, 3(F)./122 at Schipol reported the following strength:- 8 Ju 88 D-1, 4 Ju 88 D-5 and a single Fw 58 C-2. In early 1944 the Staffel moved to Soesterburg and took a number of Ju 188s on strength. The Staffel had celebrated their 2,000th sortie during June 1943 in Schipol (below). The 'official' 2000th Feindflug took place on June 15, 1943 with the celebration held the following day. The crew involved were:- Ofw.Von Zabiensky, Obfw.l Tonne, Fw Knörtz and Oblt Salecker (who had flown on the 1,000th FF too), all seen here below to the right of the port engine.

Above; the two Knight's Cross holders of the Staffel with Blumenstrauß leading the parade following the 2000th sortie. On the left with RK, Lt. Hermann Hemmer (RK in September 1942). Alongside him is Oblt Ludwig Wagenfeld. Wagenfeld was awarded the Ritterkreuz on March 24, 1943 for service while StaKa 3.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 122. Hemmer  (seen below, right) departed 3(F)./122 for ZG 1 later during 1943 and was posted to the Stab JG 4 on the establishment of this unit's III. Gruppe (summer 1944). Both survived the war.

Andy Mitchell's Luftwaffe Data website for Aufkl. Gr. 122 diary entries can be consulted here