Tuesday 27 February 2024

II./JG 26 Fw 190 A-2/3 - Instapic #4


 'Instapic' on the FalkeEins blog is a series promoting and highlighting some of the 'unseen' jewels in the 'German collection' at the ECPA-D. Certain social media platforms enable images to be posted that are visible for no-more than 24 hours. This is what will happen with 'Instapics' on the Luftwaffe blog. To avoid missing out keep checking in ...this is 'Instapic' #4.  

The well known images of "Jochen" Müncheberg in his Fw 190 A-2 (with Kommandeur chevrons) following a sortie over the Channel Front are located in ECPA-D file DAA 2010  (where they are unfortunately incorrectly captioned). Here are a couple of rarely seen (if at all) images from that file and one (bottom) more widely circulated (and published).

 On 19 September 1941 Müncheberg was promoted to Hauptmann and named Kommandeur of II./JG 26 based in Moorsele, Belgium. The ace ended 1941 with a total of sixty-two claims. Between 13 March and 30 April, he added thirteen more successes to his victory scoreboard before going to the Eastern Front.        

Click on the image to view in full-screen mode. 

Friday 23 February 2024

Fw 190 A-6 'Green 13', Walter Oesau, Stab./JG 1 - ebay photo find #366


Manuel Rauh ebay sale, see link at the bottom. Three images of one of Oesau's Fw 190 A-6s. This 'green 13', according to the seller, was seen with JG 1. A good view of the inner gear doors usually deleted on the A-6 and spoked wheel hubs. The key 'identifier' for an A-6 is the 'Abführschacht' cartridge ejector chute in the lower wing for the outer wing MG 151/20 visible in the photo below (p202, Rodeike, 'Jagdflugzeug 190'). Oesau flew an A-5 'green 13' in JG 2 during May 1943 and was appointed Kommodore of JG 1 on 23 November 1943. Note the angled style of the figure '3', similar to the style seen on his FW 190 A-6, "green 13" WNr. 550171. Photos published in "German Fighters in the West" (Stipdonk/Meyer, JaPo 2022) show that particular aircraft with a red fuselage band and the new, ‘winged-1’ emblem of JG 1 on the engine cowling introduced by Oesau in January 1944.


ZG 1 Caudron C.445 with Wespe emblem

On offer here

Saturday 17 February 2024

5./KG 100 Heinkel He 177 A-5 and crew - archive photo scan #14


Via Ulf Balke collection.

Heinkel He 177 A-5/K.IV seen in or around May 1944 in II./KG 100 at Aalborg.  - in other words a He 177 A-5 fitted with Kehl IV equipment for launching stand-off weapons. Click on the image to view large.

Kehl IV allowed missions to be flown with either two Hs 293s (powered) or four Fritz X's (unpowered) in theory. A mix of both stand-off weapons was not possible. The Hs 293 was too large to fit on the wing centre section rack/lower fuselage rack.

II./KG 100 was the last operational He 177 anti-shipping unit. It actually only ever flew one operational mission and that - fortunately for them - did not result in contact with the enemy.

The aircraft appears to be WNr. 550131, 6N+DN of 5.Staffel (so spinners are red up to the section covering the prop blades). 

This aircraft was the first example of the second block of around 240 x He 177 A-5/K.IV Serie aircraft built by Arado, Brandenburg/Neuendorf (ArB) as W.Nr. 550 031 to 550 270. (The first Arado A-5 block was very small; just six as W.Nr. 550 001 to 550 006.) Stkz. is unknown.

This nose shot of another A-5 from II./KG 100 has been published in Balke ('Kampfgeschwader 100 Wiking') but the image there was reversed. Note the addition of the sealing tape to the large servicing panels in the fuselage sides behind the cockpit. 

Self-evidently, these scribble schemes were unique to the individual aircraft. It is, however, definitely another He 177 A-5/K.IV of II./KG 100 from the same period. No other He 177 unit carried this scheme which was essentially a quick and economical way of lightening up the dark factory finish. Because these aircraft were only going to have a reasonable chance of surviving a mission if attacks were performed at dusk and the return leg was flown by night,  the factory finish finish had to be lightened up very considerably. A little later the factory finish was changed over to one where the entire fuselage sides and tail fin were painted in a light colour eg see KG 40 in the summer of 1944.

There are a number of photos of this machine, clearly taken at some sort of special photo op - perhaps an 'Erinnerungsfoto' for the six-man crew in front of their aircraft. See the front cover photo of the Griehl+Dressel: He 177-277-274 (Motorbuch) below. Interestingly this machine appears to be parked up in the long grass - literally put out to grass perhaps...as indicated by the caption in the English-language edition of the Griehl/Dressel book..

Caption compiled with the kind assistance of  Ivon N Moore.

Also on this blog;

Wednesday 14 February 2024

1/Lt Walt Konantz 338th FS, 55th FG - archive photo scan #12


a few notes from 1/Lt Walt Konantz's logbook  (338th FS, 55th FG)

August 12, 1944;

- ground strafing and dive bombing in Nancy-Verdun area. Destroyed 15 ammunition rail cars and a city water tower. Aircraft badly damaged by flying debris from exploding ammo cars but made it back to base [..] knocked off propeller spinner ..

August 13;

-dive-bombing and strafing south of Paris. Hit a railroad station with my two 500 lb bombs and strafed a German staff car.

August 14;

-escort B-17s to Mannheim-Ludwigshaven area. Shot-up two locos on the way out.

August 15;

-escort B-17s to Venlo and Twente airfields. Flak hit one B-17 and he blew up with his bomb load.

August 25;

-escort B-17s to Politz synthetic oil refinery north-east of Berlin. Saw one B-17 go down in a vertical dive from flak over the target. Time logged 6 hrs 45

August 29;

- strafing in Germany just over the French border. Shot-up three trains, one of which was a long troop train. Train was moving fast when I raked it from the rear to the front and saw soldiers jumping out the windows. When it finally stopped I saw 50-60 people lying in the fields and ditches near the tracks.

September 11;

- escort B-17s to Ruhland. Just before we were due to rendez-vous with our bombers, our squadron of sixteen P-51s was bounced by about 60 Me 109s. They dove through our formation firing all the way. One passed right in front of me. I had been using the relief tube and had my shoulder harness, seat belt and chute leg straps undone. I chased after him at full throttle in a vertical power dive from 24,000 ft. I reached 600 mph on  the airspeed indicator. The Me 109 pulled out at 5,000 ft, ripped his right wing off and spun in and exploded. 

P-51D 44-72296 CL-P "Saturday Night " flown by 1/Lt Walt Konantz. Note heavily greyed out star and bars. Via 'Aces and Wingmen' author Danny Morris. Sadly, Danny passed away last October. Click on the image for full screen view

Saturday 10 February 2024

" Die Laval Affaire " - last flight of the Luftwaffe, July 1945

On 9 April (1945) the Luftwaffe General Italien reported 14 Ju 188 D-2s on the strength of 4.(F) and 6.(F)/122 of which 12 were serviceable, but by 22 April, these two Staffeln listed 11 Ju 188 D-2s on strength all but one of which was serviceable. They continued to conduct intermittent reconnaissance over the Adriatic. On the morning of 2 May, a Ju 188 of 4.(F)/122, apparently devoid of any national markings, flew the head of the Vichy regime, Pierre Laval, out of Bolzano to Barcelona in neutral Spain, effectively marking the end of Ju 188 operations in the theatre.  (Ju 188 Units, Osprey)

On 31 July 1945 -  nearly three months after the cessation of WWII - an 'unmarked'  Junkers Ju 188 unexpectedly appeared above the former Luftwaffe air base in Hörsching- Linz and landed.   The US 79th Fighter Group was occupying the field at the time  - astonished service personnel quickly gathered around the machine (below). And as it turned out, the aircraft had 'explosive' passengers on board: it was the former Vichy Prime Minister Pierre Laval and his wife, who were to be delivered to France from their "exile" in Spain. Laval had twice headed the cabinet of the Vichy government collaborating with the Germans. Not only responsible for the Vichy 'rafles' (round-ups) of French Jews, he had notoriously proclaimed in a speech broadcast on French radio during June 1942 "..Je souhaite la victoire de l'Allemagne, parce que, sans elle, le bolchevisme demain s'installerait partout.." -   I want to see Germany victorious in this war because unless there is a German victory, Bolshevism would become established everywhere tomorrow....

The Ju 188 D-1, WNr.230499, formerly 'F6+DM' of 4.(F)/AufklGr 122 landed in Austria  having flown in unannounced from Barcelona. This was the same machine that had carried Laval to Spain on or around 30 April 1945 displaying the civil registration D-CEDM. Laval was in Spain for three months until his visa expired. De Gaulle wanted him back in France to face trial and the Spanish were quick to give him up. The two pilots who had flown him out to Spain brought him and the Ju 188 into Linz. It was almost certainly one of the last flights of a Luftwaffe aircraft...Laval (along with Petain) was subsequently put on trial, received the death penalty and later executed. De Gaulle commuted the sentence handed out to Petain, his former mentor....

Sunday 4 February 2024

Hptm. Wilhelm Schmitter RK and his II./KG 40 Do 217 E & Me 410 V./KG 2 - Bundesarchiv photo report


Two recent posts have covered Do 217 'pirate' bombing raids and Me 410 intruder ops over England. Here is one pilot who flew both these missions. 

I was reminded (thank you Delmar!) that KG 2 was not the only Do 217 unit sending out lone 'pirate' missions against factory and industrial targets in southern England during early 1943. A closer reading of Chris Goss' Dornier Do 217 titles (Osprey Combat Aircraft No. 139 or the Crecy Classic volume) would have told me as much of course. This image - labelled by the ECPA-D only as ' KG 2 Eindhoven or Soesterberg, March 1943 '  shows the same aircraft that can be seen on p 38 of the Classic title  - ie a KG 40 machine, possibly flown by Oblt. Wilhelm Schmitter of the Stab II./KG 40, seen taxying in at Soesterberg. The pilot at the controls may be Schmitter in his 'F8+BC' with the decorated tailfin.

Below; another  view of a KG 40 Do 217 E taxying in. Note the unit code 'F8+ ??' appears in small letters at the base of the port tail fin. There are no codes on the fuselage. Note white outline Balkenkreuz (the Osprey title shows this as dark grey?)

A Bundesarchiv search turned up several more images (again, thank you Delmar!) - simply and not very helpfully labelled, " Belgien/Nordfrankreich.- Ritterkreuzträger vor Flugzeug Dornier Do 217" This is Schmitter wearing his Ritterkreuz awarded for some 170 bombing missions in front of his overall pale blue-grey 76 Do 217 E-4. Photo dates from early 1943. 

A pre-war pilot who flew as a Seeaufklärer before becoming a bomber pilot, Schmitter was awarded the Ritterkreuz in September 1942 and promoted to Hptm. in March 1943 and appointed StaKa of 5./KG 40. Later that month II./KG 40 converted onto the Me 410 and became V./KG 2. Schmitter was shot down over the UK on the night of 8 November 1943 and received a posthumous Eichenlaub and promotion to Major.

Below; Schmitter (left) in front of his Do 217 with his veteran crew, Uffz. Wagner (BO), Fw. Krohn (BM) and Fw. Heinz Gräber (BF) seen far right. Between 14 February 1942 and 16 July 1942 Schmitter flew over 45 bombing raids against England, hitting targets in Southampton, Birmingham, Norwich, Middlesborough, Sunderland and most notably Leamington Spa, when he was injured by return fire. In the period 31 May - 6 June Schmitter hit (my home town of) Canterbury on three night raids - these were part of the Luftwaffe's terror bombing campaign, the so-called 'Baedeker offensive' - short, sharp attacks on towns and cities better known for their cathedrals and other historic buildings than for any military or war industry connection. The damage inflicted and the story of these night attacks still forms part of the official Canterbury city guided tour - it is said that a Luftwaffe pilot deliberately avoided dropping his bombs on the cathedral (today a Unesco world heritage site).

Just over one year later, on the night of 10/11 August 1943  - II./KG 40 having been redesignated V./KG 2 - Schmitter, as Staffelkapitän of  15./KG 2 briefly based in Vendeville and then Epinoy, flew his first sortie over England at the controls of  a Me 410 ('U5+AJ'). This was a so-called 'Störangriff' or 'nuisance' bombing raid aimed at airfields around Cambridge. Schmitter's radioman was his Dornier BF Ofw. Heinz Gräber.( above right). Barely a fortnight later (on the night of 23-24 August) Schmitter's Me 410 was badly shot-up by RAF night fighters somewhere off the coast of East Anglia. The pilot managed to keep the machine (Me 410 A-1, 420214, 'U5+CF') in the air with both engines apparently on fire before the crew eventually had to bail out, coming down in the North Sea some eight miles off the coast of Belgium. After 90 minutes in the water both men were rescued by a Kriegsmarine vessel from Zeebrugge. Gräber had sustained serious injuries (leg amputation) but later received a Ritterkreuz. During the sortie and over the King's Lynn area (40 miles north of Cambridge) Schmitter had shot down a 97 Sqd Lancaster returning from a raid on Berlin. He was credited with his 4th victory.

The full story of Schmitter's career and his subsequent demise (KIA 8 November 1943, shot down by an RAF Mosquito near Eastbourne) is brilliantly told on the aufhimmelzuhause web site here 

Saturday 3 February 2024

new and forthcoming Luftwaffe books - Eastern Front 1945


" For the first time, this book outlines how air power helped win the war on the Eastern Front..[..].. the VVS assembled 7,500 aircraft in three powerful air armies to support the final assault on Berlin, while the worn-down Luftwaffe threw its last and most advanced weapons into the fight..."

"Eastern Front 1945" is the latest title in the Osprey Campaign series and is written by an Eastern Front expert William E. Hiestand. His text essentially leans on the best bits of Duffy and Glanz/House ('When Titans Clashed' ) to detail what was primarily a ground-based campaign for the capture of Berlin. He writes that 'information on the air campaign is limited and scattered among a variety of works' and appears to have compiled his text largely from Bergstrom, Price and a selection of Osprey works. So while there are good passages with neat diagrams of the Mistel attacks on the key bridges over the Oder and Neisse rivers, you get the usual, 'the Bf 109 first fought in the Spanish civil war..' etc etc. What, for example, was the point of discussing the career of the He 177 on p28 in the chapter 'Defender's Capabilities'? I'm pretty sure the He 177 took no part in countering the Soviet offensive against Berlin in 1945. So why bother when you only have 96 pages to work with ? The 'campaign' itself doesn't get underway until page 38! There's no room for Bautzen or Budapest, the author covers only East Prussia, the Baltic and Berlin. 'Berlin- the final offensive' starts on p68. The last part-chapter 'The Battle for the Reichstag' mentions some of the last Luftwaffe (resupply) sorties flown into Berlin and the von Greim and Hanna Reitsch mission to the Bunker gets the usual coverage. In between there's the 'usual' (Bergstrom-inspired?) 'Luftwaffe-regained-air-superiority' in the East during February 1945- there are some stats to indicate that the Luftwaffe flew over one thousand sorties on one day in late January but was soon down to its last fifteen hundred operational aircraft, including a suicide unit of some one hundred aircraft (Sondergruppe A) attached to Fiebig's Luftwaffenkommando Nordost supporting Army Group Vistula. There are some interesting text boxes that feature the Soviet air assault on Konigsberg (a 'fortress'), Khozedub's downing of an Me 262 on 19 February 1945 and Hans Rudel's downing on the Oder front that resulted in his leg injury. Apparently he subsequently "escaped to Argentina after the war " (perhaps better would have been 'escaped the wrath of Stalin by surrendering to the Americans and emigrating to Argentina in 1948'). Unfortunately Hiestand's text was marred by some terrible typos throughout. To pick a sentence at random; " one air group of JG 4 was equipped with the heavily armed Sturmbach version of the Fw 190 " ...what the hell is a 'Sturmbach' ?  At least the word 'Sturmbock' features correctly on p24. And since when has the French wartime leader been called "de Gaul"  ?? The photo selection is not very inspiring to be honest. The unidentified 'Fw 190 squadron' photo on p48 is a well known shot of II./JG 300 machines equipped with the Krebs-geraet rearwards-firing rocket, briefly toted during 1944 in the West..  Bizarrely JG 300 get no mention at all in the text (or captions). The image on p51 depicts Ju 88s parked in the forest along the Autobahn at Brunnthal in Bavaria. The photo of the 'Luftwaffe Bf 109 fighter' on p42 shows a square-winged Emil silhouetted in the sky with yellow cowl dating from the Battle of Britain period while the caption says something about '.. typical cloudy grey skies on the Eastern Front..' So this part of the book is a little disappointing. However the eleven pages given over to the maps, diagrams and tables are well-done and there are six pages of superb Jim Laurier artwork.  But why oh why do Osprey insist on printing it over two pages where most of the image is lost in the tight binding? Haven't they received enough complaints about this practise by now?  Anyway, given that you have to spend your Christmas book token on something in Waterstones, this title is well worth picking up. 

More new titles listed in the order of their likely appearance, starting with the new caraktere 'special issue' on JG 77, a new Luftwaffe book from Jans Forsgren on the Me 110 via Fonthill and concluding with two eagerly anticipated books from Mortons and another new Osprey in the Dogfight series (!) from the prolific Robert Forsyth!

Valiant Wings Heinkel He 177 - publishers blurb; " .. Our twentieth title in the Airframe Album series will be an essential reference for any Luftwaffe enthusiast and anyone tackling the Revell kit or other kits in 1/72nd and 1/48th scale. Our biggest Airframe Album to date - 192+ pages!

The Heinkel He 177 Greif contains:

A wealth of historical and walkaround photographs and detail images of the type including data from flight manuals and spare parts catalogues
Period detail images & diagrams during production and service use
Isometric views by Wojciech Sankowski of all prototype, production and test airframes
Concise camouflage and marking notes
Colour profiles and stencil diagram by Richard J. Caruana
Detailed build of the Revell 1/72nd He 177A-5 by Libor Jekl
Lists of all He 177 kits, accessories, decals & masks produced in all scales
Front cover artwork by Arkadiusz Wrobel

From Lela Presse, a French-language history of the Siebel Si 204 in French service and the French derivatives the NC 700, 701 and 702 Martinet aircraft. More than 350 aircraft of this type served in the French air forces until the mid-1960s. The origins of the 'Martinet' resulted from the heavy constraints weighing on the French aeronautical industry at the end of the Second World War: the most effective solution to provide the forces with an essential liaison  and training  type was to continue - with a change of name and some modifications- manufacturing the Siebel 204 D. The Martinet can thus trace its lineage to the German Kl 104, Fh 104 then Si 204. The SI 204 D was in service with the Luftwaffe in 1940 for the training of front line aircrews. In Bourges, during the occupation, the Société Nationale des Constructions Aéronautiques du Center (SNCAC) produced 168 Siebel 204s for the Wehrmacht. With the liberation, production continued under the name NC 700 then NC 701, these models being differentiated by French propellers and engines. A version dedicated to the transport of 8 to 10 passengers  was also built under the designation NC 702, recognizable by its unglazed nose. Under the name Martinet, the NC 700, 701 and 702 joined the units of the Air Force, but also those of the French naval air arm while some Siebel 204s were taken over from German stocks and also assigned to French units. NC 701s flew in the French colonial conflicts in Indochina and then in North Africa, carrying out medi-vac and passenger transport duties. The training of pilots in twin-engine flight and of radio navigators  were also among the important roles carried out by the “Martinet”. This huge 448-page work features some 600 photos and 80 colour profiles.

Thursday 1 February 2024

Messerschmitt Me 410 - long range intruder ops over the UK and attacking bomber formations over the Reich


an overview of Me 410 ops compiled by Jim G

Jan Horn's self-published German-language history of KG 51 features a chapter entitled "The unequal fight in the West" which describes Me 410 long-range bomber and night intruder missions carried out by I. and II./KG 51 between February 1944 and August 1944 in the context of 'Steinbock' ( the 'Baby Blitz'). From other sources it is possible to compile a list of missions flown by the Me 410s of V./KG 2 over the UK prior to this Gruppe becoming II./KG 51.

Below; Me 410 A-1 WNr. 238 "U5+KG" was an early aircraft assigned to 16./KG 2 for Fernnachtjagd (long range night intruder) operations over the UK. While it still has the RLM 76 undersides of a day fighter, this is a great view of the long, tubular flame suppressors attached to the exhaust ports of the engine. This feature was crucial to night operations over England in mid-1943. The Besatzung (crew) of Flugzeugführer (pilot) Fw. Franz Zwissler and Bordfunker (radio operator) Ofw. Leo Raida was shot down by a Mosquito NF of 85 RAF Squadron on the night of 13/14 July 1943 in "U5+KG" (RL 2-III/1191 p. 126).

During the night of 2/3 January 1944 fourteen Me 410s of V./KG 2 based in northern France at Athies dropped bombs on Greater London. RAF Mosquito ace W/C John 'Cats eyes' Cunningham leading 85 Sqd shot one down just over the French coast, the RAF's first victory of 1944 - his radio/nav Cecil Rawnsley has left an account of this victory identifying the target as a Me 410. Also on this night Me 410 'U5+AJ' of 16./KG 2 exploded over Dover, victim of F/O Douglas Bergemann of 488 Sqd. On the night of 4/5 January, fifteen Me 410s were launched. During mid-January V./KG 2 was briefly deployed to Achmer and launched by day against USAAF bombers.

Oblt. Rudolf Abrahamczik (centre), Staka of 4./KG 51 in February 1944, stands in front of Me 410 A-1 "U5+FE" as a flat tyre is changed. The Me 410 is still in the livery of 14./KG 2 and as late as 15 March 1944 he would be flying "U5+AE" to his next assignment as Staffelkapitän of 12./KG 51. Note that the Me 410s of V./KG 2 now had black undersides.

At the same time as V./KG 2 was entering the intruder role, Hptm. Klaus Häberlen's I./KG 51 was converting to the Zerstörer mission at Lechfeld and Memmingen. "Fahrwerkschaden infolge Bedienungsfehler" (undercarriage damage due to pilot error) (RL 2-III/1191 p. 21) could result in severe damage and a court of inquiry. Eberhard Winkel's Bordfunker, Arnold Schwachenwald, on p. 87 of Wolfgang Derich's English edition of Kampfgeschwader 'Edelweis' bemoaned the fact that as a result of pilot error, "many a pilot came to spent a week inside the 'glasshouse' [the guardroom at Fl. Pl Lechfeld]. Note the larger white nose cap on the black propeller hub seen on other aircraft of KG 51 at this time. (Horn, p. 123) This is a standard Me 410 A-1 with a bomb-bay and exhaust flame suppressors.

Below; this Me 410 A-1/U-2 matches Schwachenwald's description (p. 85) of I./KG 51's aircraft equipped with four W.Gr. 21 mortar launchers used to try and penetrate the effective 1000 m of defensive fire of American daylight bomber formations. According to Schwachenwald, on their first operation on 6 September 1943, I./KG 51 blew an American bomber out of the sky but Winkel's aircraft had one of its engines shot out and barely made it back to base. I can find no record of either incident but Harald Haverstadt was wounded and his Bordfunker killed that same day. (RL 2-III/1193 p.86 and p.118) Note that this version of the Me 410 has two longer barrels of additional guns mounted in a ventral container mounted in the bomb-bay.

Me 410 A of II./ZG 26 (note the heel of the 'wooden shoe' on the port engine) shows to good advantage the installation of two W.Gr. 21 mortar launchers under each wing, with their upward tilt calculated for firing outside the 1000 m range

Ground crew load a 21 cm. mortar into its launcher. Note that the mortar has no stabilizing fins visible. As far as is known, there were no official claims made by I./KG 51 in the West in 1943 before they moved to France in December for night bombing operations. As a result, Häberlen was sacked by Peltz and Göring on 11 October 1943 in an acrimonious meeting at Fels am Wagram.

Sixteen V./KG 2 Me 410s were despatched to bomb London docks on the night of 3/4 February alongside some 237 'standard' Luftwaffe bombers, and fourteen more Me 410s bombed Kent during the early morning of 6 February 1944. It was on this date that V./KG 2 was re-designated II./KG 51 and 5./KG 51 under Puttfarken was designated the Fernnachtjagdstaffel tasked with hunting RAF bombers over the UK. Sixteen Me 410s were despatched against London on the night of 12/13 February. Rawnsley describes how he and Cunningham made a visual interception but were unable to catch the Me 410 and get to within firing range in their Mosquito. Rawnsley describes another Me 410 interception on the night of 21/22 February (Cunningham's last) but despite chasing the 410 all the way back to France they could not catch it. I./KG 51 launched their first Me 410s against England on the night of 22/23 February. Ofw. Adolf Schwachenwald of 1.Staffel has left a small account of bombing London;

"..On February 20, I flew with my pilot, Hptm Eberhard Winkel, as an advance party for our Staffel, 1./KG 51. We landed at St André. As the weather improved, we were invited to take part in an operation over England as part of the other Staffel (Note: probably the recent II./KG 51, ex V./KG 2). We volunteered for the operation on the night of the 22nd/23rd. It was an attack on London. The aircraft took off at two minute intervals, the runway lighting quickly switched on for take-off before we were plunged back into the dark. We zigzagged along at set altitudes. An aircraft dropping flare bombs was hovering ten thousand meters above us. Everything went like clockwork. As soon as we crossed the Channel, we were greeted by the powerful fire of flak ships. Then came the searchlights which, like fingers, sought us out in the sky. Coastal batteries joined in, sometimes exploding shells at our height. It took nerves of steel to stay on course and keep moving towards our objective. We arrived in London a few minutes early, passed over the city then turned to drop our bombs while our 'Obermann' dropped his flares. Fires broke out. In a swooping flight (reaching six to seven hundred km/h), we crossed the English Channel to reach the French coast. We were again greeted by gunfire from ships. About a hundred metres from us, a slower German bomber was engaged by night fighters and came down in flames in the Channel. We picked up our comrade's last message: 'Ju 88... Code... SOS. we're going down in flames' (Note: a KG 6 or 54 aircraft). A few minutes later, we were flying over land and, by radio, were guided to our airfield. We landed and took a breather after an adventurous 118-minute flight. We thought that anyone who survived such a flight over England must have been incredibly lucky, and had God on his side.."

Winkel flew another sortie over London on the night of  24/25 March 1944 taking off shortly before midnight in his Me 410 '9K+CL'. After completing his attack, he was on his way back to France when he heard over the radio about the sudden onset of bad weather, shrouding his departure airfield in fog. Winkel flew over the Netherlands before spotting an airfield through the fog. He fired off a signal flare and quickly put down, narrowly avoiding high-voltage power lines. He was at München-Gladbach, an airfield with a runway far too short for a 410. He had to 'stand on his brakes' to avoid a catastrophic runway excursion. Firefighters and paramedics were already on the scene. Winkel was to learn that, just a few minutes earlier, a comrade's machine had been shot down on the airfield by an RAF night fighter.

Wednesday 31 January 2024

" Masters of the Air " new Spielberg/Hanks drama currently on Apple TV


review by Daniel Brown

“..'Masters of the Air' (based on the book of the same name by Donald L. Miller) brings the World War II air war over Europe to life courtesy of the same team that created “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific”, notably Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg. The series centers on the 100th Bomb Squadron of the Eighth Air Force based in England, rightfully nicknamed “The Bloody Hundredth” for the frightful casualties they endured.

The air war is usually interpreted by civilians as clean and pristine compared to the mud and blood on the ground but in fact, the Eighth alone suffered more combat deaths than the entire Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater. Flying in tight formations in the worst weather imaginable, enduring -50 temperatures in unpressurized aircraft and fighting off waves of German fighters, the crews of the B-17s were sitting ducks. Many who weren’t killed fell to mental breakdowns.

“Band of Brothers” is one hard act to follow but this is your basic buddy movie with an ensemble cast; the only actor I recognized is Austin Butler (“Elvis”). I’ve only seen two episodes and they have yet to gel as characters I care about. The dialogue isn’t quite up to the superb standards of its mighty predecessors but the graphics are excellent and the attention to detail noteworthy. The portrayal of the combat missions are terrifying enough and the plot lines will branch out as the series progresses.

For any aviation aficionado, the real heroes are the B-17 Flying Fortresses, the actual metal birds not the CGI editions. In all, this is a worthy addition to the Hanks/Spielberg team’s effort to commentate the Greatest Generation before they pass off into memory. That alone is reason to watch 'Masters of the Air'....”

review by Richard Hill

"..Was really hoping for a factually accurate representation of Air Combat in WW2, but what I was presented with (and in fairness I'm only 2 episodes in, so it might improve) is revisionist [pro-American, anti-English] nonsense that spends more time portraying squadrons, for want of a better word, "fannying around" than actually flying.

It spends precisely zero time building the main characters up during training like Band of Brothers. As a result, I just have zero emotional investment in any of them. Also, and sadly, the writers have fallen into the trap of creating the main characters like a lot of modern characters are. That is, they've been written to be overly cool, confident, super accomplished, "Mary Sue's" that can do no wrong and win at everything they do. Examples of this is fighting with the British in the pub where the American pilots (who are known as and, until this point, portrayed as, being overly confident and brash), immediately switch personalites with the British (who are known as and, until this point portrayed as, more reserved), and utterly humiliate a British pilot by dancing all round him, making him fall over. The result is that, really, the main characters are just thoroughly unlikeable and boring that you have absolutely no emotional investment in. The absolute opposite of Dick Winters et al from the peerless Band of Brothers.

But really, a lot of it was really down to the overconfidence of the US leadership. They refused to learn lessons identified by the RAF and Luftwaffe that bombing during the day was counterproductive. Sure, you may be able to hit the target more on the first run, but by the end of it, you had so few bombers and crew left you couldn't reliably hit anything. This was proved correct when, on 22nd October 1943, the 8th Army stopped bombing it's unescorted daylight raids because they realised it was unsustainable. During this time, the USAAF, working with RAF Bomber Command, tried switching to night bombing, but found that the B-17s simply weren't capable and the crews not skilled enough to bomb with any amount of relevant precision. The ONLY reason day bombing could continue was due to the P51, which could escort bombers all the way to the target and back again.

Not only this, but the much vaunted (and boasted about in the show), Norden Bombsight, was nowhere near as accurate as it is believed. Under test conditions, it was great. Under combat conditions where aircraft had to zig zag to evade being hit by flak and flying over poor European weather conditions, meant that it was barely more accurate than night bombing anyway! Meaning many of those deaths were a waste.

Sadly, what we've got here is a total misrepresentation of actual history, portrayed by a bunch of unlikeable characters simultaneously embodying the worst stereotypes of American soldiers and "modern" character development by writers that seem to have completely lost the ability to create a likeable character. The best I can say is that the visuals are good..."

review by Jeff

" As a former Air Force pilot and present day airline pilot, I am very impressed by this show so far. It takes a subject that isn’t easy for the public to understand and gives them a sense of the realities of aerial warfare. During that timeframe, aviation was fraught with dangers and terror. Outside of the Combat, just flying aircraft was dangerous. That still exists today. I remember that training missions in the U.S. were often more dangerous than wartime missions. Only discipline, knowledge of the aircraft and teamwork brings you home. The scene where all the crews from all the aircraft from the bomb group were reading the exact same checklist to start and takeoff exactly the same way is what aviation is about. Discipline in addition to skill. Then you add the unknown and terror of WWII aerial combat with flak batteries and fighter planes, especially prior to fighter escorts like the P51 Mustang and you get a sense of the terror that existed every day. And the difference in the type of war experience. The partying and comradeship and drinking in pubs in England portrays a play hard, because tomorrow may never come situation. It’s a completely different type of war then the 101st Airborne or First Marines experienced, but it was brutal and terrifying in its own way. My only complaint so far is still with CGI aircraft. It’s a technology for movies that’s improving, but still needs some work..."

review by Chris Anderson

"..So far the first two episodes are I would say, drawn from Harry Crosby's memoir 'On a wing and a prayer' rather than Masters of the air which if you’ve read will know it is an overview of the whole 8th airforce campaign with reference to the 100th BG’s characters part in it. What has impressed me the most though is the attention to detail in the small things which ordinarily would go unnoticed. I live nearby to the old Thorpe Abbotts airfield and have walked in the area many times. I tried with aid of old photographs to imagine the locations of buildings, runways and hard stands which have unfortunately long gone. It’s quite clear though that the production team have really done their research, most likely with aid of the museum at the old airfield control tower and the 100th bomb group association. The airfield in the show is not just visually accurate, it’s actually dimensionally accurate! it’s amazing to see such continuity in a show or film these days. One error I would point out though is there is a scene in episode 2 where they are watching an air raid from a shelter at the accommodation site. Butlers character says “Norwich is getting it tonight” unfortunately although Norwich was bombed extensively during April to May 1942 there were no raids of the magnitude shown in July, August 1943. I know my comments are geeky but from a local to the area I appreciate the detail..."

A visit to Thorpe Abbotts on my model blog;

Visiting the ghost airfields of Norfolk and Suffolk

Hptm. Helmut Fuhrhop Gkr. I./KG 6 - archive photo scan (9)


Seen here in Soesterberg during March 1943, Hptm. Helmut Fuhrhop - hand on rudder gust lock - helps push his Ju 88 out of its hangar. The Gruppenkommandeur of I./KG 6 was shot down and killed during February 1944. 

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Ofw. Heinz Humburg JG 26/ JG 7

Several images from an expired ebay auction from the estate of ex-III./JG 26 pilot Ofw. Heinz Humburg. Note the Spanish Cross with swords on his tunic, lower left. Humburg did not fly as a pilot in  Spain contrary to what is implied elsewhere. This biography attempts to correct further inaccurate accounts online.

Humburg was born in October 1915 and trained as a sheet metal worker after leaving school. He joined the Luftwaffe in 1936 but was not accepted for pilot training. He went to Spain and flew his first combat sorties during 1937 as a Bordmechaniker. On his return from Spain he was accepted for pilot training which he concluded at Jagdschule Werneuchen following the outbreak of  WW II. He arrived at JG 26 on 18 May 1940 from Erg.Jgr.Merseburg according to the JG 26 pilot listing (RL 10 /265). He was posted to 9. Staffel of JG 26 Schlageter and according to the 'Kracker archive' he downed a Spitfire, east of Dover on 15 August, 1940.  This is probably not correct  - he was awarded an EK II during September 1940 and then according to the same source (RL 10/265)  was sent back to flight school for further training and did not rejoin the Geschwader until 1 September 1943. This followed a spell with Luftdienstkdo. 2 / III. at Venlo, an airfield which was undergoing major expansion during late 1940-early 1941 as home to the premier Nachtjagd Gruppe I./NJG 1. According to his obituary in Jägerblatt issue 3/90 he was "..subsequently shot down three times and on three occasions was forced to bail out of his 'Gustav'.."

Again, according to Kracker, Humburg was WIA on 16 December, 1943 when he ran out of fuel and crashed in "White 1" at Hoya Weser, injuring himself. According to the JG 26 pilot listing in RL 10/265, he was hospitalised in early January 1944 following illness. Assigned to the Frontfliegersammelgruppe Quedlinburg -  which is where all pilots suitable for front-line service (often after hospital stays) were 'collected' (but not necessarily in the 'physical' sense') and then re-assigned to the respective front-line units - he was sent back to III./JG 26 in mid-February 1944. He made some 77 Feindflüge (combat sorties), earning the Frontflugspange in Silber (awarded 28 September 1944) and returned four 'confirmed' victories in JG 26; two P-47s, a P-51 (27 September at Arnhem) and a B-17 between August and September, 1944. Additional claims according to Perry include a P-47 at Yerville on 7 June, 1944 and a P-47 at Rugles on 17 July, 1944 (Perry Claims). His 7th, an "e/a" in February, 1945, no date given.

In November 1944 he was trained on the Me 262 at Lechfeld and was posted to III./EJG 2 and then JG 7 in March 1945. He died on 5 May 1990.

Also on this blog; 

Wednesday 24 January 2024

one week left at the 'Naval and Military Press' winter sale


Lawrence Paterson's 'Eagles over the Sea 43-45', volume 2 of the author's history of Luftwaffe maritime operations, is now on deep discount in the Naval and Military Press winter sale -73% off. Only one week to go. Normal price is £30, now only £7.99.

Naval and Military Press winter sale is here
Volume I of 'Eagles over the Sea' (1939-42) was reviewed on this blog here

Saturday 13 January 2024

Scanning negatives - archive photo scan series


Having a while ago - on the advice of a friend - acquired a (cheap) second-hand Epson V330 scanner and scanned my first images for the 'archive photo series', I was recently invited over to the Continent for the weekend to scan some negatives. Folders and folders of them... 

Having  spoken to some scanner 'pros' about settings, we arrived in Bruges on the Friday afternoon and departed on the Monday evening. Over the weekend we managed to scan some 200 negative 'strips' - some with up to six images per strip - as well as numerous print photos. Most scanners can scan negatives if  the negative is adequately 'back-lit' - there's at least one decent video on youtube with some good tips. The Epson V330 and newer models feature a 'reflective light unit' in the lid. However the unit in my machine did not appear to be working, nor was the Epson software working with a new Dell laptop. Fortunately I'd brought my old Dell laptop with me (Windows 7) and this seemed to work although the scanner still didn't seem to be functioning correctly.  We soldiered on. The negative strips were organised into 'albums' according to who had originally provided them - and represented lots of time and effort travelling around Germany and Austria visiting the veterans. However the scans were coming out with all sorts of zig-zag 'effects', primarily in the 'highlighted' areas. Increasing resolution and 'slowing' down the speed of the scanning head seemed to work in reducing this effect....but obviously increases the scan time.

A few basic pointers; avoid fingerprints on negatives! Emulsion up, emulsion down seemed to make no difference to the quality of the scan. Select at least 600 dpi or higher, depending on the size of the final scan. 24-bit color at 200% also seemed to work well, although 48-bit color will give more pixels to work with, albeit each scan will take several minutes longer. Getting decent results from scanning a negative of course depends on the quality of the negative. To get the full value of the photo you will need some manipulation software since the scanned image needs to be 'enhanced'. The enhancement process is 50% of the work. "Photopad" image editor is a cheap and useful piece of software if you don't have anything else available. The 'Autocorrect' function does all the hard work too..


Wednesday 10 January 2024

Airfix 2024 range reveal - Wolfdieter Huy archive photo scan #13


Scintillating Tooby box-art (aside from the windscreen perhaps?) from the Airfix 2024 range 'reveal' yesterday, a 72nd Bf 109 Friedrich 'Starter set' in the markings of Wolf dieter Huy (III./JG 77).  Huy was the long-time Staffelkapitän of the Jabo Staffel in III./JG 77, well-known for the dark green finish of their aircraft and their rudder 'scoreboards'. After Crete they moved to the southern sector of the Eastern Front for the launch of Barbarossa. Note this is a 'simplified' kit replicated by Airfix in a 'simplified' scheme - just four paints - for the 'Starter Set'. 

A photo scan of one of Huy's early Friedrichs with a very unusual and very small Staffel number. The yellow band is presumably aft of the Balkenkreuz. Image below this depicts Huy's 'white 1' on the day of his RK award (July 1941) with Blumenstrauß alongside rudder decoration. Note 'white 6' with yellow band behind the fuselage cross in the background. Click to view large..

Tuesday 9 January 2024

KG 2 Dornier Do 217 E 'white dove' walkaround - Bundesarchiv photo find, archive photo scan #11


Here's a good example of the potential difficulties of determining the origins of, or claiming ownership or 'copyright' on, Luftwaffe photos. Images of this particular subject - the Do 217 Es used for daylight raids over England - can be found in numerous albums and collections. There are no doubt many many similar photo 'themes' that feature in archives and private collections.

 Finished in an overall RLM 76 scheme, KG 2 flew a (presumably) small number of Do 217 Es on low-level daylight so-called 'pirate' raids over the UK during 1942. Photos appear in a number of locations/collections; obviously you can find a series in the Bundesarchiv, but there's a similar album at the ECPA-D. A selection of them feature in a large private photo album collected to illustrate a published two volume history of KG 2 and from where I scanned them a few weeks ago! And no doubt in other photo albums too. Some of these images have been published, others not. Needless to say, some of these  - or similar- also appear in, among others, the Classic (Bomber colours) and Do 217 volumes by Chris Goss, especially the Osprey Combat units and the recent Classic Pubs book on the type.

Im Westen.- Auf einem Flugplatz. Wartung, Betanken (?) eines Flugzeug Dornier Do 217 mit weißem / hellgrauem Tarnanstrich

As usual Bundesarchiv photos may be used on a non-commercial basis under a Wiki Commons license.  

The next four images were scanned from a private album by this blogger. The first two have not been 'enhanced' and the fact that they appear on a negative strip is evident. 

Several views of Oblt. Ernst Schneiderbauer's 3./KG 2 Do 217 E-4 (WNr. 5441) and his crew..the aircraft is coded 'U5+BL' and camouflaged for low-level daylight 'pinpoint' attacks, so -called Pirateneinsätze....

Note the inscription under the cockpit reads 'Sturmvogel'. In the first image below the 'U5' code is just visible on the rear fuselage, although the Hakenkreuz is not...

Previously with I./KG 40, Schneiderbauer was downed on March 12, 1943 during a night raid on Newcastle and taken captive along with his crew. Bailing out he landed safely and subsequently had an encounter with Lady Beatrice Scrope ('.. fur coat over her long underwear..') as related by Chris Goss in his Classic Do 217 tome (p78).

A close-up of the name 'Sturmvogel' painted under the cockpit of this specially camouflaged Do 217 E-4 used on daylight nuisance raids by - among others - the crew of Oblt. Sengschmitt. According to Balke the second name was 'die weisse Taube' ('the white dove'). Perhaps this was just a 'generic' name as such. Although in his history of KG 2 ('Luftkreig in Europa',Vol I) the caption for pics 19 and 20 states, " Two of the Do 217 E-4s deployed on 'pirate' raids against the UK..."

Above; a crew member seen alongside the tail of 'U5+BL'

The next two images are from an ECPA-D file, DAA 2559, and were taken by this blogger on my phone. They are simply photos of photos, again from an actual album. Captioned as " a Do 217 arrives at an airfield of KG 2, Eindhoven or Soesterberg.." The photographer is listed as 'unknown' and there is no date on these either..