JUNKERS

JU 88
Junkers
Ju88
Ron Mackay
I : ) ~ c l
The Crowood Press
First pullished in 20 I by
The rowood Pre s Ltd
Ramsbury, Marlborough
Wilt hire 2HR
© Ron Mackay 200 I
All rights reserved. 0 pan of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photo opy, recording, or any
information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publishers.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
I BN I 6126431 3
Frontispiece: A Ju is photographed on a AAF airfield during 1943, but the Luftwaffe
national marking on the fuselage has already been exchanged for an American star. The
aircraft was reputedly flown by a defecting Rumanian crew and is believed to be the Ju D
variant currently on display at the U AF museum in Dayton. Two 900 I (200gal) tanks are
suspended from the inner-wing pylons.
Designed and edited by Focus Publishing,
The Counyard, 26 London Road, Sevenoaks, Kcnt T 13 I A P
Printcd and bound in Great Britain by Bookcraft, Midsomcr Nonon
Contents
Introduction
1. PROTOTYPES AND CONSTRUCTION
2. INTO ACTION
3. SUMMER OF DISCONTENT
4. THE LO G RETREAT
5. FERNNACHT]AEGER
6. BALKANS INTERLUDE
7. MEDITERRA EA FORTUNES: ORTH AFRICA/ ICILY/ITALY
8. MALTA: THE I LA D THOR
9. BARBARO A
10. CONFRO TATIO OVER THE BAY
11. OPERATIO STEINBOCK
12. NACHT]AGD
13. OPERATION GISELA
14. THE]U 88 IN FOREIGN SERVICE
Appendix:]u 88 Developm nt
Index
7
8
1
26
39
50
59
69
86
100
122
134
13
163
176
186
190
A practice torpedo with its distinctive red-and-white-striped forward section is being prepared for loading
under a Ju 88A-4fTorp, as indicated by the presence of a gondola mounting, which was deleted from the
Ju 8HA-17. The extended bulge on the right side of the nose covers the torpedo control equipment.
The torpedo fin is wooden, and designed to break off upon contact with the water.
6
When Ernst Zindel and his team of
at the Junkers Company
hrought their plans for the Ju 8 to
fruition they could not have nvisaged
dll' d 'gree to which the design's fortunes
would be linked with thatofthe Luftwaffe
III World War Two. Just as the De
Ilavilland Mosquito served the RAF and
(\llnmonwealth Air forces in a
lIlultiplicity of combat roles, so did the
Ju88 provide a parallel service for the
Luftwaffe and its Axis Air Forces partners.
The advent of the 'Multi-role ombat
AIrcraft' into modern military aviation
urcle can justifiably be credited to these
two adversaries.
The aesthetically pleasing lines of the
.lIrcraft depicted in many of this book's
pictures confirm one of the favourite
(and generally accurate) truisms quoted
hyaviator around the world; 'If it looks
goods, it performs good'. Although
requiring a degree of careful handling
during take-off and landing, in the air the
Ju88 displayed the qualities of a very
sound perform r. Whether quartering the
night skies over Europe in search of
Bomber ommand, providing support to
the Wehrmacht units from 1940
onwards, or challenging the mov ments
of the Allied Navies, the Ju88 proved
more than equal to every such duty
Introduction
demanded of it. This overall impression is
confirmed by numerous former members
of the Luftwaffe, both aircrew and ground
personnel, who over the years have
respectively attested to the Junkers
'twin's' performanc on operations and
overall ease of serviceability. The
following names come to mind in this
respect; Walter Heidenreich, (ll/NJG2),
Alois Spitzer, ( tab/NJG5), Helmuth
Bothe, (Ill JG2), Herbert Gleich,
(1I/NJG2). Heinz Roekker, former
taffelkapitaen of 21 JG2, feature
prominently in several chapters of the
book. This i no coincidence, ince he
and his charming wife Hille, originally
introduced me to the II JG2 Association
whose Annual Meetings I have since
regularly attended. Fellow Gruppe
members giving freely of their time,
recollections and photographs are;
Rudolf Tyrassek, (ex- JG 100, and
Gruppe associate member), Artur Duerre,
Heinz Jasieniki, Hans Angersbach, Adolf
Kaiser, Georg Fitch, Hans uetterlin,
Genter Fischback, Erich Kaiser and
Hans Breithaupt.
Other individuals from Germany
assisted me greatly in the completion of
the book, being; Werner Pinn (4 (F) (22),
Martin Weber, Rene Scheer, Dieter
Martin, Peter Heinrich, Herr Wise
7
(Hauptstadtarchiv Stuttgart). From
Britain, former FIS Eric Sanderson (No.
578 qdn.) personally attested to
the lethal efficiency of the J u88;
his Halifax was one of hundreds
dispatched during Bomber Command's
protracted Offensive!
Also proving to be major contributors
from abroad were;
James V Crow and Mark opeland
( A) for Luftwaffe photographs.
Photographs relating to the as ignment
of the Ju to Axis Air Forces came
from Hannu Valtonen (Finni h
Aviation Museum), Kari tenman
(Finland), George Punka (Hungary) and
Dene Bernad (Canada, who sUPI lied
the material relating to the Rumanian
Air Force).
From Britain I must thank the following
institutions and individual; Bruce
Robertson, Jerry Scutts, Chris Gotts,
(whose detailed book on V/KG40 was
particularly informative), Simon Moody
and Gordon Lee (Librarians, RAF
Musum, in respect of technical data).
Imperial War Museum (Luftwaffe loss
statistics) My long-term acquaintance
Colin Francis, is to be thanked for all his
efforts in copying photographs, while
Peter Gaskin gave sound support during
our joint visits to Germany.
CHAPTER 0 E
Prototypes and Construction
21 I engines. During the course of trials
at Rechlin, speed te ts recorded a figure of
ju. t over 515kmph (32 mph). In
addition, the first switchover from the
original Schnellbomber concept occurred
when the cockpit frame height was
increased in order to accommodate a
single machine-gun mounting for
rearward defence.
It was oon after the V-2 prototype new
that the Schnellbomber concept was
comprehensively shelved, a situation that
owes much to the innuence of the
nation' World War I aviator hero, Ernst
Udet. The Luftwaffe' whole ale
involvement with dive-bombing had
originally commenced when det had
witlle sed, and been impressed by, the
te hnique during a visit to the United
States. The purchase of two American
Curtiss Hawk biplanes had led directly to
the creation of the Ju 87, whose
frighteningly preci e attack performance
would cause havoc within Allied rank
during the initial tage, at least, of World
War II. oW this pecific form of bombing
was destined to leave its influence upon
several originally standard bomber designs
Plexiglas front and similar glazing
extending along its lower surface. In
addition, the DB 600 engines on this first
prototype featured radiator air-ducts
underneath, unlike those on the V-2
prototype's engines, where the cooling
sy tem was contained within annular
radiators placed at the front of the
cowlings.
The Ju V-2 took to the air the same
day that its predecessor was damaged (10
April 1937). Compared to the V-I, its
cockpit frame was more heavily framed
and raised in profile, and the fitting under
the lower-right forward fuselage became
the design's distinctiv 'gondola';
otherwise its external appearance
paralleled that of the V-I. However, the
DB 600 engines were later displaced by
Jumo 211 powerplants.
The third prototype commenced night
tests on 13 September, pow red by Jumo
The slim nose outline with Plexiglas area limited to the lower section is a distinctive feature of the
Ju 88V-3 prototype. This along with the low cockpit outline has been carried over from the V-l and
V-2 prototypes, as has the twin-strut undercarrige. The latter fitting would remain in place until the
V-6 prototype appeared.
,urcraft (Werk ummern 4941 and 4942)
powered by DB 600 engines, <Ind an
,ldJitional three (Werk Nummern 4943 to
4945) powered by Jumo 211 engines. The
first-mentioned aircraft were to be
developed along the original unarmed
'\chnellbomber specification, whereas the
remaining three aircraft were to feature
defensive armament in three varied
locations, and were expected to carry a
sizeable external bomb load positioned
hetween the fuselage and engines,
On 21 D c mb I' 1936 the first
prototype (civil registration D-AQE )
lifted off from Dessau in the hands of the
company's chief test pilot, Flugkapitan
Kinderman. The overall aerodynamic
shape of all subsequent Ju s could be
clearly picked out by the cockpit and the
nose: the cockpit frame pre ented a much
lower profile, while the nose-cone was
narrow and qui- haped, with a small
excepting the ai leron that were covered
in fabric. This technical variation owed
much to an earlier visit to the nited
States by Marja von Etzdorf, a prominent
aviator. She had reportedly gained access
to various American aircraft plants; this
included Glenn L. Martin's factory, where
the concept of using stressed-skin metal
would lead to another superb bomber
design, the B-26 Marauder. The distinctly
American connection with the
embryonic Junkers machine was
continued by one of the two-member
design team. This was Alfred Gassner, a
German-born consultant who possessed
much experience in the field of stressed-
skin metal. His companion designer was
W.I:-l. Ewers, and the two wasted little
time in pressing ahead with the project.
The First Prototypes
The first mock-up frame was available for
inspection by the RLM in mid-1936. The
authorities were seemingly pleased with
the layout, and awarded contract for two
The Ju 88V-llifting off the airfield under the power of its Daimler-Benz DB600Aa engines rated at 1200hp.
Circular cowlings cleverly disguise the fact that the engines were in-line and not radial in pattern.
Radiator scoops were deleted from the V-2 onwards. Aircraft's life was short, extending from its initial
flight on 21 December 1936 until early in 1937 when it was destroyed in an accident.
since the Henschel company had no
alternative twin-engine design on which
to concentrate their efforts. Focke- Wulf's
venture into this field of twin-engine
aircraft design was quickly stillborn when
the prototype Fw 57 crashed. However,
even had its loss nor occurred, there hCld
come to light sufficient disparity between
the calculated and actual weights of the
aircraft to seriously question it successful
development and therefore production.
Thi proce s of elimination left the
Luftwaffe with a 'Hob on's Choice'
situation, although Junkers still had two
distinct d igns in the Ju 5 and the Ju
Fortunately, the five Ju 8 prototypes (Ju
88V-I toJu88V-5) ordered would match,
if not exceed, official expectations, while
production and operational use would see
the aircraft advance to international
prominence as one of the best multi-role
aircraft in military service with any air
force during World War II.
A major factor in the Ju 's future
success could be put down to the
wholesale use of tressed metal skin for
the external surfaces of the wing,
On 14 March 1935 the existence of what
became known as 'the Luftwaffe' was
announced. Almost coincidental with
this unveiling of Hitler's embryonic aerial
strike force was a meeting of the
Reichsluftfahrtmini terium (RLM),
chaired by Erhard Milch in his capacity as
General-Luftzeugmeister. This gathering
was held to discuss proposals for a fast
medium bomber (Schnellbomber), to
which the firms of Focke- Wulf, Henschel,
Junkers and Messer chmitt ub equenrly
responded wi th the Fw 57, Hs 127, Ju
and Sf 162 respectively (Junker also
proposed a econd de ign, a twin-finned
model listed as the Ju 5, but this was
fated to be rejected).
The prime el ments of the specification
called for the aircraft to take off within
700m (765yd), followed by a minimum
obstacle clearance of 20m (65ft). Rate of
climb was to be just over 270m (900ft) a
minute, up to a height of 7, OOm
(22,96 ft). A bomb load of between
Okg (1,76 Ib) <Ind I, Okg (2,200Ib)
was envisaged, and defensive armament
was limited to a single 7.92mm machine
gun facing aft. (This latter aspect of
design probabl y renected the RUvl's
confidence that the stipulated maximum
speed of 500kmph (310mph) would be
more than sufficient to evade the
attentions of the current range of biplane
fighters in general military ervice. In the
event, consideration would also be given
to armed variants.)
The Bf 162, although providing a
reasonable performance against the stated
requirements of the RLM pecification,
was deleted from the conte t on the
grounds that Willi Messerschmitt was
ordered to concentrate upon producing a
pure single-engine fighter (the Sf 109) or
the twin-engine Zerswerer (the Bf ItO) -
in fact the Bf 162 owed much of it de ign
characteristics to the latter machine. A
rejection decision was also reached in the
case of the Hs 127, although the reason
for this was much more to do with the
perceived failure of what was offered,
8
9
PROTOTYPES A 'D CO STRUCTION
Whereas the V-4 prototype bore a Plexiglas nose pattern that would become a standard item on the
bomber/reconnaissance Ju 88s, the V-S nose was modified to this smooth shape. This was done as part of
a refinement of the airframe for a subsequent successful world speed record attempt. In addition a
reversion to the low cockpit profile was effected as another aspect of the streamlining process.
The V-7
The penultimate airframe in the original
V-series was the V-7; on this, the ventral
gondola wa, deleted. Access was via the
lower fu,elage, at the same point a, would
have been pro ided by the 'gondola'.
Jumo 21lA 'ngines were aIso filled, with
four-blade V II propellers. [t also
pos'essed a ',olid' nose, similar to the V-l
and V-2. This specific airframe was
subsequently converted internally [0
accommodate four passengers, and was
made available as a high-speed transport.
It was further converted for possihle
Zerstoerer duties by the mounting of
cannon and machine-guns within the
nose se tion.
airframes. Otherwise, th is prototype was
chosen as the mod I for future production
aircraft.
The perceived dive-bomhing function
of the Ju 8 was further recognized by the
testing of dive brakes on the V-6. The
original canopy posse'sed fold-up rear-
section panels for access, with the pilots
clambering up onto the trailing edge of
the left wing by using the spring-laden
hand-grips built into the fuselage.
ub equently, the standard fitting of the
'gondola' provided a more gentle access to
the cockpit, the rear section being hinged
at the top and opening downwards to
provide entry via an on-board ladder.
The overall bare metal finish on the V-6 has been marginally relieved by the addition of black factory
codes and swastika. The national emblem is placed in a white circle and the broad colour
b nd on the fin is red.
The Ju 88V-6 prototype displays the future basic outline of the production Ju 88. The nose frame and
heightened cockpit canopy introduced on the V-4 have been resurrected. For the first time a ventral
gondola has been fitted and the single-strut undercarriage has been introduced. However, the four-bladed
propellers reverted to a three-blade pattern on all subsequent production machines. The radiO mast hrst
lined directly behind the cockpit on the V-4 has been moved forward onto the fixed portion of the canopy.
Rechlin, this was probably reached in a
light-laden state and over a fraction of the
distance flown by the Siebert/Heint:
machine.
The V-6
The final adaptation of the Ju 88 to its
standard format came when the V-6
prototype was constructed. All previous
prototypes had been fitted with a standard
undercarriag unit, where the main
wheels were centred between two struts,
with the whole unit folding back in a
conventional manner into the engine
nacelle. In what was a radical departure
from convention, the latest prototype was
now equipped with a single strut fitting, to
which the wheel wa attached on its
outside surface. Then, instead of folding
traight back into the nacelle, the trut
was designed to rotate outwards so that
the wheel now lay flush inside the nacelle
with the strut beneath. Thi arrangement
provided the added advantage of r ducing
the depth of the rear nacelle, and this in
turn cut down on the drag created by the
original nacelle shape. One non-standard
aspect of the V-6 was the provision of
four-blade VSll propellers, the 'VS'
standing for Verstellbar or 'variable pitch',
which was not retained on production
shape. A radio-aerial mast was also fitted
directly behind the cockpit canopy -
although from the V-6 onwards it wa
repositioned on all aircraft over the
canopy centre-frame. Inside the cockpit a
revised control column with a 'half-
spectacle' hand-grip provided
Zentralsteunmg facility - meaning that the
aircraft could be flown from either side of
the cockpit.
The V-S
The quintessential outline of the Junkers
design was almost complete at this stage,
but a return to the initial V-I fuselag
outline affected the V-S prototype. The
reason for this apparently I' trograde step
lay in the airframe's proposed function,
namely for use in high-speed trials. A
, olid' nose cover replaced the majority of
the Plexiglas panels, and the canopy
frame was lengthened - though these
were the only alterations, other than the
provision of increased engine power
through the fitting of Jumo 2118-1s. Test
pilots Ernst Siebert and Kurt Heintz were
to achieve an average speed of SI6kmph
(32lmph) over 1,000km (620 miles)
while bearing a payload of 2,000kg
(4,400Ib). Although the V-3 had
marginally exceeded this peed at
- an influence that was ineffective, if not
decidedly inhibiting in the case of more
unwieldy machines such as the Do 217
and the He 177 'Greif'.
Since Junkers had brought out the Ju
87, it was arguably logical that Udet, who
by 1937 had succeeded Mileh as
eneralluftzeugmeister, should propose
the adaptation of the J u to th is
additional role. The aircraft was of
sufficiently neat layout, and wa thought
to possess a satisfactory degree of overall
manoeuvrability, to accommodate th
duty without materially affecting its
primary u e as a standard bomber.
However, the need to strengthen the
airframe in order for the Ju 8 to
withstand the heightened tress factor
involved in the dive-bombing role
inevitably ate into the maximum speed
hitherto attained by the design's batch of
prototype ai rcraft.
Another factor lending itself to an
adaptation to dive-bombing was the
linking of the Luftwaffe bombers to the
Wehrmacht and the tactics of Blitzl<rieg
employed by the laner force. The
disruption and destruction of the
opposing armies and air forces in the field
was regarded a having general priority
over strategic bombing. After all, if the
enemy could be beaten on the field of
battle, the way would then be open for the
physical oc upation and ubjugation of
that particul:H adversary's national
territory, without the need to destroy its
internal economic infrastructure - an
infrastructure that furthermore could be
put to full use by the azis.
The V-4
First flown on 2 February 1938, the V-4
prototype duly embodi d the main
features required for the perceived dive-
bombing function. Towards the month
end, the first serious incident in the
overall development programme
occurred. The V-3 prototype was carrying
out an attempt at a record while bearing a
2,000kg (4,400Ib) payload and flying a
distance of 2,000km (1,240 miles).
However, during the attempt the aircraft
was involved in a fatal crash, which killed
both crewmembers.
The most distinctive and permanent
change to the Ju 8's outline was to be
seen on the VA prototype. A
for shortened frame bearing optically flat
Plexiglas panels displaced the narrow nose
10
11
PROTOTYPES AND CONSTRUCTIO
Ju 880
Below: One of the ten pre-production Ju 88s
displays its camouflage scheme, along with
a full range of luftwaffe markings.
I
Above: The Ju 88V-9 seen here, was the production prototype, it was equipped with dive-brakes and an
utomatic pull-out system to accommodate the RlM requirement that the aircraft had to be capable of a
dive-bombing function. In all other respects both prototypes bore no external difference from the V-6 other
than their use of three-bladed propellers.
wing spar and carries the flap-operating
jack. The skin over the bomb-bay is 1.2mm
(0.04 in) thick, and is sriffened by
longitudinal SOx 19mm (2x Xin) 'hat'-
section stringers at 12. 7cm (Sin) pitch, and
'Z'-section frames that are cut away to allow
their passage. At the rear end of the rear
bomb-bay is a third bulkhead with a door
Ju 88T
This was areconnaissance follow-on from the Ju BBO, with most. if not all airframes being converted from the 0-1.
The internal ordnance capacity was restricted to the rear bomb-bay, and based on the series maximum load of 500kg.
Ju 88G
This custom-built night fighter variant usually had the forward bomb-bay covered by the pod in which the four for-
ward-firing MG151 cannon were housed; the rear bomb-bay normally contained asupplementary fuel tank whose
content provided the necessary extended range when 'Zahme Sau' operations against RAF Bomber Command
became the norm from late 1943 onward. However, as the military situation continued to deteriorate, the rear
bomb-bay space was adapted for the carriage of ordnance when the Nachtjagd crews were occasionally diverted
to aground-attack role - for example during the Ardennes offensive when Allied supply columns were blocked.
Ju 88S
The creation of this variant marked abelated return to the 'Schnellbomber' concept - at least in terms of maxi-
mum speed - but its internal ordnance capacity was very small, at 900kg (2,000Ibl positioned within the forward
bomb-bay. However, a Ruestsatz (field modification kitl permitted the fitting of twin ETCl 000 racks upon which a
maximum of 2,000kg (4,400Ibj could be suspended.
This variant was intended for areconnaissance function. The camera equipment occupied at least the forward bomb·bay,
while the under-wing pylons normally bore external fuel tanks containing up to 600 Iitres (132 gall each. The 0 variant
was used for amned reconnaissance, but probably only involved ordnance being carried in the available bomb-bay space.
Ju 88C
The primary function of the C-2, C-4 and C-6 as fighters or 'intruders' did not inhibit their use for dropping ord-
nance, albeit in asupplementary role. The 'Fernnachtjaeger' of I/NJG 2operated their C-2 and C-4 aircraft with a
fuel tank in the forward bomb-bay, but the rear bomb-bay usually held up to 500kg of bombs for dispersal upon
suitable targets. In the case of the C-6a day fighter, both bomb-bays were made available for the carriage of either
supplementary fuel tanks or bombs. None of the CSeries were equipped with external pylons. When 'Schreage
Musik' was introduced on the C-6 during the second half of 1943, the general location of the weapons was over
the bomb·bay section, with the rear bomb·bay accommodating the operating equipment.
Ju 88 Ordnance
Ju 88A
The Ju BB was designed with two bomb-bays. each equipped with four bomb·racks - two extending up in anarrow
'V' pattern from acentreline beam, and two attached to the fuselage sides. The central racks in the forward bomb-
bay each held five 50kg (11 Olb) bombs in avertical stack, making a total of 500kg (1,1 OOibl. The fuselage racks each
held one less 50kg bomb, making atotal load of 400kg (BBOlbl. The rear bomb·bay side racks also held a total of
eight"50kg bombs, but the centre racks were restricted to just one 50kg bomb, making an overall total of 500kg.
This overall figure of 1,400kg (3,000Ibl was reasonable for the 1930s' period of bomber development, but the
advent of ever-larger individual bombs meant that external provision for their carriage on the Junkers design had
to be made. With this in mind, four ETC500/IX pylons were placed under the inner wing areas immediately out·
board of the fuselage. These were capable of lifting a total of 2,000kg (4,500Ibl between the four units. An addi-
tional pair of pylons were located under the outer wings, each lifting one 250kg (5501bl bomb. One further refine-
ment capable of application was the positioning of two ETC racks that between them could accommodate a
maximum load of 1,BOOkg (4,000Ib). (In practice the Ju BB bomber rarely bore much more than 2,200kg (4,B501bl in
all. although official Junkers records indicate amaximum permissible load of 2,400kg (5,300Ib) when operating at
aminimum range of 1,25Bkm (7B2 milesll
The foregoing pattern of ordnance stowage and/or external carriage applied to the A-1, A-4 and A·5 airframes,
upon which the range of Ju BB bomber variants was based, with the exception, in the case of the A-4, of the
pylons located between the fuselage and engines. In this instance the fitting of Schlosslafette 500/1,000 permit·
ted the attachment of 1,BOOkg (4,000Ibl bombs.
portion being detachable. The front
fuselage bulkhead between the cabin and
forward bomb-bay coincides with the front
wing par. It consists of 0.7mm (0.03in)
sheet, stiffened by 10cm (4in)-deep
channel section members with flanged
lightening holes. The bulkhead between
the two bomb-bays coincides with the rear
The following overall de cription covers
all Ju variants. Some things are not
always the same: for example, the internal
fuel capacity varied, being basically greater
for the night-fighter variants than for the
bomber variants, since these normally
carried no ordnance in their bomb-bays.
The V-8
Finally came the V-8: on this, the ventral
gondola was reinstated and the VS I I
propeller units retained. The aircraft was
first flown in the fir t half of October
1938, just as the fateful ebb tide of the
Munich Conference had occurred. The
scent of imminent conflict was hanging
ever heavier in the European air, and so
further experiments with the ]u 88,
particularly in its dive-bombing capacity,
could be seen as pertinent to its early entry
into Luftwaffe service, if not in active
combat - a cenario that wa but scant
months away as the Fuehrer backed his
nation into an irreversible military corner.
Ju 88 CONSTRUCTION
The Fuselage
The fuselage is long and slender, and
presents a square cross-section with
rounded 'corners'. It is an integral unit
from nose to tail, the wing, fin and
t<lilrlanes being detachable at their roots.
The crew are accommodated in the nose-
cabin, and cannot move into the fuselage
beyond the cabin bulkhead. Aft of the
cabin bulkhead are two bomb
compartments, in either one or both of
which a fu I tank may be installed in
place of the bomb rack.
The fuselage has four main longerons
extending from the front of the cabin
to a section midway between the
trailing edge of the mainplane and the
leading edge of the tailplane. The
longerons are 'T' section in shap , with
dimensions of 63x3 x4mm (2Y!xlY!x
X6in); all four run along the 'corners' of
the fu elage. Between the longerons
the cabin-side skin is O. mm (0.0 Sin)
thick, to which are riveted SOx 19mm
(2xXin) 'hat'-section horizontal
members at J 2.7cm (Sin) pit h, and
vertical SOx 13mm (2xY!in) 'Z'- ection
stiffeners at 3 cm (12in) pitch.
The front and top of the cabin are formed
by curved Plexiglas panels mounted on a
framework of steel tubes, with the rear
12
13
PROTOTYPES AND CO ' TRUCTJON PROTOTYPES A D CONSTRUCTION
Second production-line picture reveals details of the forward fuselages with nose and cockpit Plexiglas
frames fitted. Apertures for cockpit windscreen-mounted machine-guns can be seen; also in place on
nearest airframe is the retractable gun-barrel support. Two nearest airframes are allocated to the 0-1
reconnaissance variant. while the other two are A-4 bomber variants.
The Tail
The tailplane is in two parts that are bolted
together on the centreIine of the fuselage;
it is of similar construction to the wing.
There are two spars of corrugated iron
plate, onto whi h are riveted booms
consisting of two angles and a cover plate.
Each half of the tail plane has three ribs
consisting of corrugated plate webs, with
angle-section booms to which the skin is
riveted. There are no other span-wise
members apart from the spars, the upper
skin being riveted to hat-section chord-
wise stringers at 17.8cm (7in) that pass
between the skin and the spar booms.
Forward of the front, and aft of the rear
par are partial rib consisting of plates at
17. cm (7in) pitch, with th ir edges
pressed over and riveted to the skin and
spar webs. The lower skin between the
par consi t of two large panel with
chord-wise hat-section stiffeners, attached
by screws driven into anchor-stiff nuts.
The Wing Attachment
Each wing is attached to the fuselage at
the root by four Junkers ball joints. The
tapering spade-shaped end of the ball joint
is riveted between the 'T and cover plate
of each spar boom. In the centre section,
the spars consist of lOxScm (4x2in) steel
channel booms. The booms carry at their
ends the male portions of the root joints
and double dural plate webs with flanged
lightening holes, thus forming a very
narrow box se tion. The root fittings are
enclosed by dural fairings attached by
screws. Bosse are provided on the upper
surface of the spars, into which lifting rings
can be secured to facilitate the handling of
the wings when they are removed.
The construction of the aileron
resemble that of the flap, and it is
activated through a system of push-pull
dural tubes and bell cranks. This linkage
system also incorporates a horizontal
weight that moves laterally in a horizontal
plane on the end of a lever. Its function
appears to be to mass balance the ai leron
in order to guard against flutter excited by
fore and aft yawing oscillations of the
wing, due to the hinge line being below
the aileron's centre of gravity. The inner
part of the ai leron (left ide onIy) carries a
metal tab that is operated by a sy tem of
torsion tubes and universal joints from the
lateral trim control in the cockpit.
The Aileron
The aileron is mounted on three hinges
attached to forged, light alloy brackets.
The brackets in turn are bolted to the
trailing-edge member opposite the rib
extending from the centre to th outer rib
(rib four to six).
The Flap
The flap is in one piece on each wing and
i of the lotted variety; however,
provision is also made for closing the slot
when the flap is fully retracted, this being
achieved by a hinged curtain. The curtain
is activated by rods that are
interconnected with the flap-operating
mechanism.
The flap is mounted on four hinge, with
th hinges being attached to forged, light
alloy bracket. The inner and outer
brackets are mounted on the ends of the
inside and central ribs within the total of
seven ribs within each wing structure (ribs
one and four). The intermediate pair of ribs
is attached to the trailing-edge member.
The flap structure consists of a single
plate-web spar with flanged lightening
hoi and angle-section booms. The
booms are placed at 25 per cent of the
chord from the leading edge of the flap.
The ribs are placed 20cm ( in) apart.
They consist of plates with their edges
bent over and riveted to the skin.
Push-pull dural tube of 32mm (lY;in)
diameter, and bell cranks from the
hydraulic cylinder, operate the flap. The
cylinder is located on the rear bulkhead of
the forward-fuselage bomb-bay.
the centre and tapering towards the edges.
The second and third ribs - bearing both
the engine and the undercarriage - have
plate webs 1.3mm ( .05in) thick, with
44xl9mm (IXxXin) vertical hat-section
stiffeners at IOcm (4in) pitch, and
extruded IT-section flanges. These two
ribs are extended below the lower wing
surface by further plates and angle cleats,
to form a box-like structure. The engine
bearer are attached at four points to the
forward edges of these deep rib, and
below them i attached the undercarriage.
Ribs four to six are plate webs with angles
riveted on to form flanges between the
spar, and pressed plates with flanged
edges forward of the main spar and behind
the rear spar. The wing-tip is attached by
bolts to rib six.
H' .In.' six rib in the wing: the first
I till' root, the second and third carry
II ' 1 I 1 1 ~ and the undercarriage, and the
IIl1l1g three are in the outer wing,
till' outboard one carrying the wing-
I Iween the ribs the outer skin is
III d to hord-wise stringers at Hcm
III) pitch. The stringers are
1111m (3x I Y;x .04in) hat section,
I 1,\ s hetween the skin and the par
III This arrangement helps to ensure
II I 'ncling tre es are carried by the
r r,lther than by the skin. A second
II III (rom this arrangement i that it
rH's the aerofoil section of the wing.
II hllckles caused by wing flexing will
II I to run chord-wise and will not,
I r (ore, upset the airflow. lowever,
I r' IS a disadvantage arising from this
rr m ~ e m e n t in that the spar cannot be as
I I at any particular section, as it would
II !f were attached directly to the skin.
It Idltion, thi los of spar depth has to
III III some increase in weight.
111st of the lower surface of the wing is
I I I, lip of detachable panels. These are
tllkned by chord-wise, hat-section
rmgers passing over the spar web. The
I Ilwls arc attached by screws at SOCln
m) pitch driven into stiff nuts; the nuts
r \)( the type in which a split fibre sleeve
drawn into a taper as the screw is
II hlened. Between the panels, the lower
Irt,lce is the same construction as the
1I11 'r panels. The two outboard panels
I tween ribs four and ix extend from the
I Ilmg-edge member to the trailing- dge
I Il'l11her across the spars. However, the two
mhoard panels (between ribs one and two,
md three and four) only extend between
till' spars, their front and rear dge being
rewed to the lower spar booms. mailer
I mels extend from the front spar to the
I Illing-edge member, and also from the
r 'ar spar to the trailing-edge member. The
I.,rgcr panels near the wing root have a
thickness of 0.054 per cent, with
76x32x I mm (3x I Y;xO.04in) chord-wise
h,lt-section stiffeners at 12.7cm (Sin)
"!fch. The corresponding upper surface
skin is 0.04in (Imm) thick. The outboard
"anel has a thickness of O. mm (0.035in),
,md the corresponding upper skin has a
d11ckness of 6mm (0.25in).
The root rib i of heavy con truction,
having a 2mm (0.08in) plate web with
vertical hat-section stiffeners and
SOx3 mm (2xIYzin) section flanges. At
the pars it is reinforced by 'I'-shaped
,mgle alloy plates, 13mm (Yzin) thick at
Each spar consists of a web plate with
extruded 'T'-section booms to which
cover plates are riveted. The booms are
reduced in width from the root towards
the tip, and the cover plate are
discontinued at a section 7.6m (25ft) from
the centreline of the aircraft.
The front and rear spar webs are J6mm
and 1.3mm (0.62in and 0.52in) thick
respectively. Both arc stiffened by
83x19xO.8mm (3Y;x3/4x 0.033in) vertical
hat-section members, and are riveted on at
14cm (5l!:in) pitch. Apart from the spars,
there are just two span-wi e members. One
of these is a plate with dished lightening
hole', its edges turned over to form
flange, which runs just aft of the rear spar,
and to which the detachable trailing edge
of the wing is secured by bolts at 2. 5-15cm
(1-6in) pitch. The other member, that
only extends out from the engine nacelle,
is placed between the wing leading edge
and front spar. It consists of 38xl2x32mm
(Jl!:xl!:xlY;in) 'T ections riveted to the
kin and joined by vertical 32x13mm
( 1l!:xl!:in) channel-section struts 23cm
(9in) apart. Forward of thi' member the
leading edge is of double skin construction
and has provision for hot air dc-icing and
barrage balloon cutting.
A production-line of Ju 88 fuselages seen at the main Junkers plant at Dessau. The fuselage pattern is
almost square in shape along its forward length. but then gradually tapers off. Attachment points for the
vertical fin. twin access apertures for the horizontal stabilizer frame and tail-wheel covers are other points
of note. The rear canopy is in position on airframe at top of picture.
trailing edges taper uniformly to a
rounded wing-tip. Two spars form the core
of the wing, which is detachable from the
fu elage at the fuselage/wing juncture.
giving acce s to the rear fuselage. Within
the rear fuselage is the master compass,
parts of the ratio gear and other equipment.
The rear fuselage is of monocoque
construction, with 0.7mm (0.028in) skin
riveted to IZ'-section frames cut away in
order to permit the passage of the hat-
section stringers. The latter mea ure
50xJ9xO.6mm (2xXx .025in) hat section
at an average pitch of 10cm (4in), with
rivet at 7.6cm (3in) pitch. The frames
are 50x25xl.lmm (2xlxO.045in) IZ'
sections at an average spacing of 43cm
(17in), so that a large number of rivets arc
used. The four rearmost frames are much
heavier, consisting of pressed plates with
flanged openings in the middle, and
angles riveted to the skin around the
edges. The rearmost frame carries the
lower hinge of the rudder and the twi n
rear ball connection for the fin. The next
forward frame carries the two forward fin
connection and hinge for the rear
tailplane spar, as well as the tailwheel
suspension strut. The next forward frame
carries the tail wheel retraction jack, and
the foremost of the four frames the
tailplane incidence gear.
The Wing
The wing has a virtually rectangular plan
from its wing root to a section outboard of
the engine nacelle. Here the leading
74 75
PROTOTYPES AND CONSTRUCTIO PROTOTYPES AND CONSTRUCTION
The officially issued picture of the standard Ju 88 main undercarriage shows how the entire unit rotated
through 90 degrees to lie flat within the rear of the engine nacelle. The forward set of door covers are
already beginning to retract. The rear set of doors remained in the closed position other than when the
wheel was retracting or being lowered.
The two halves of the tailplane are
Joined together by eight bolts in steel
fittings riveted between the angles and
cover plates at the inner ends of the spars.
The rear spar on each side carries a
bracket by which the entire tailplane is
hinged to a pair of bearings mounted on
the fuselage frame.
The front spar on each side carries a
bracket. These brackets are linked to a
pair of levers on a transverse steel shaft,
and this shaft is rotated by a hydraulic
jack connected in the circuit of the flap-
operating jack, so that the nose of the
tailplane is moved up and down in step
with the flaps. The change of tail plane
incidence compensates for the downward
pitching movement produced when the
flaps are lowered.
The elevator is metal covered with
plate ribs at 15cm (6in) pitch. The single
spar consists of a plate with flanged edges
riveted to the skin plate 25 per cent of the
chord from the leading edge. It has three
hinges mounted on brackets, which are in
turn attached to the tailplane ribs. Both
elevators are connected by a torque tube
passing through the fuselage, and actuated
by a system of push-pull rods. The rods are
38mm (1 Y2in)-diameter dural tube for the
full length between elevator and cockpit,
other than where the control line passes
through the fuselage bomb-bay, when
double pairs of steel cable are used. The
elevator is provided with a mass-balanced,
metal trim tab. The tab is operated by a
system of shafts and universal joints from
the longitudinal trim control located in
the cockpit.
The fin and rudder are of similar
construction to the tailplane and
elevator. The front and rear spars of the
fin are attached to the two rearmost
fuselage frames by four ball joints, of the
same type as those used in the wing roots.
The roots of the tailplane and fin are
enclosed by dural fairings secured in
place by screws.
The Undercarriage
Each main wheel is mounted at the bottom
of a single oleo pneumatic strut with torsion
links. The upper part of the strut is mounted
in a light alloy sleeve hinged below the ribs in
the engine nacelle. When the wheel is
retracted, the sleeve folds backwards and the
strut is rotated inside so that the wheel is
tumed though 90 degrees to lie flat against
the upper wing skin. The nacelle skin is
attached to a framework of 44mm (lXin)-
diameter dural tubes mounted below the ribs.
Each nacelle has two pairs of doors: the
forward pair is mechanically linked to the
undercarriage, and the rear pair is operated
by a hydraulic jack with a sequence valve, so
that they are closed when the undercarriage
has been fully lowered. Towing hooks are
provided on the undercarriage legs.
76
Each wheel has two brake drums,
each of which contains the standard
type of German brake (that is, a pair of
shoes of which the pri mary is operated
by a hydraul ic jack, and the secondary
is applied by the drag of the drum on
the primary). The brake units on each
undercarriage leg are independent of
the other. They are operated by tilting
Ju 88V-l prototype is photographed during a
, "'up test on the right DB600C engine. The
, moval of the spinner cover on the left engine's
,opeller permits an examination of the very
h.llow hub-base. The deep radiator scoop was a
I eture on the DB600. The undercarriage
doors are detached.
The Ju88V-l prototype bears an overall Light Grey
IInish. Factory Registration letters are applied in
black on the fuselage and wings. while National
Insignia on the fin has a broad band background in
red. Twin bands on the rear fuselage are yellow.
the rudder pedals, since no engine-
Iriven pump is used.
The tailwheel is mounted in a light
.dloy fork, which can castor in a
tl'langular member hinged at its forward
l'dge of the bottom of the fuse lage
frame, and is prung by a ring spring
,trut. The tailwheel can be locked by a
lontrol in the cockpit. The retractable
doors are bulged at their rear end in
"rder to accommodate the wheel's
I"wer surface, which protrudes slightly
helow the line of the lower fuselage.
The Fuel Tanks
The fuel tanks are of the internally
stiffened fibre type, and are provided
with rubberized, self-sealing covers .
They are supported by thin dural straps
against pads attached to the stiffening
members fitted to the tank compartment
upper surfaces.
The wings contain four fuel tanks,
located in between the wing spars. The
two inner tanks are positioned between
the fuselage and engine nacelle, each
having a capacity of 93Agal (4251). The
77
two outer tanks are positioned
immediately outboard of the engine
nacelles, each having a capacity of 91gal
(4151). In addition, two fuselage tanks can
be mounted within the two bomb-bay
compartments, with a total capacity of up
to 380gal (l,5251) Fuel is jettisoned by
releasing C02 contained in bottles into
the tanks; this results in the fuel being
forced along two large diameter pipes
running down the fuselage, to emerge
through a common duct positioned at the
rear end of the lower fuselage.
INTO ACTION
87 is seen sandwiched between two Ju 88A airframes. Extension of ailerons out to the wing-tips
firms both are A-1 to A-3 variants. The right-hand Ju 88 is jacked up off the hangar floor and the rear
PV is detached. Left-hand aircraft bears its original delivery code letters.
A medium-calibre bomb is placed on the mobile loading trolley ready for positioning under a Ju 88A of KG
54 'Death's-head'. The unit was based in France at this point of the 1940 campaign in the West. The large
skull-and-cross-bones emblem gave rise to the Geschwader's title which adorns the fuselage side.
Scapa Flow continued to receive regular
attention from the Luftwaffe, but the
results were extremely poor when set
against the numbers of participating
aircraft, The raid of 16 March exemplified
this stark fact: eighteen Ju 88s were led by
Hptm Pohle's successor, Maj Doench, and
the force duly swooped upon the
battleships Rodney and Renown, as well as
the 'County Class' cruiser Norfolk. In the
event, not one of the 1,000kg (2,200Ib)
bombs found its mark. Although no
aircraft were downed, one ]u 88A-1 was
forced to crash-land in Denmark. A
Min istry-arranged propaganda broadcast
next day featured Doench and two of his
senior pilots: but their glowing accounts
of the action, in which they alleged that
at the least, several warships had been
seen on fire, were at complete variance
with the true situation!
Losses for KG 30 continued in April as
the Germans gathered their strength for a
full-scale assault on Western Europe. One
6/KG 30 crew was lost on 2 April, and
eight days later another two, when the
Geschwader launched its latest attack on
Scapa Flow. Again the attacking force was
comprised of KG 26 with its He 111s, and
KG 30 - ami again, the glowing accounts
of the damage inflicted upon the base
facilities were hardly supported by the
truth, namely that the bulk of the
ordnance ploughed up no more than the
way to its successor. At the same time the
Geschwader's II and 1I1 Gruppen were
created and built up to full strength. The
niggling series of operational losses
continued in this period, two crews going
down in February, and a further two in
March, all but one coming from 2/KG 30.
Illse the sinking of the battleship
(II Oak just three days previously had
r nl the Admiralty to transfer its major
IIllls to Loch Ewe in Western Scotland.
I '>1 ,he four ] u 88s, a measure of success
I attained with the damaging of Iron
I like, which had to be 'beached' -
,11 hough her current state of sea-
lfl hiness was virtually non-existent. On
till down side for the Germans, AA fire
I sufficiently severe to bring down Obit
Illl'mig's bomber, from which just one
IIrman emerged alive; and the aircraft
tI 0 scored an unfortunate 'first' - the first
'" fall on British soil.
I/KG 30's participation in anti-shipping
'I'l'tations appeared to fall away over the
Illtervening months of 1939, but
H'lommenced on 1 ]anuary, though in
IIllfortunate manner. Gladiators of the
IImburgh Fighter Flight in the Shetland
I,lands responded to an 'alert' and ran
II\tO a solitary I/KG 30 crew. Although
the disparity in overall performance
Il" ween the RAF biplanes and their
luftwaffe quarry was obvious, it was the
I.ltter that came off worse, and all on
hoard were lost when the] u 88 fell into
the North Sea.
The Gruppe had started World War II
With a mix of Ju 88A-0 and ]u 88A-1
.mframes, though at the turn of the year
[939-40, the original model was giving
the Ju 88 formation leader and
Gruppenkommandeur, Hauptmann
Helmut Pohle, she was evidently already
alongside a shorel ine berth and therefore
'out of bounds'. However, several warships
were anchored just east of the Forth
Railway Bridge, and these became the
focus of Luftwaffe assault. Hits were
recorded on two warships, the cruiser
Edinburgh and the destroyer Mohawk -
though in return for this, two of the nine
attackers were shot down by Spitfires of
Nos 602 and 603 (Auxiliary) Squadrons.
Hptm Pohle initiated this attack, but he
had the misfortune to lose the rear canopy
section of his aircraft during his dive;
nevertheless, in spite of this disability he
completed his attack. But his decision to
then remain over the area in order to
observe the situation was to cost him dear:
according to Abteilung 5 of the Luftwaffe
General Staff, there was a complete
absence of front-line RAF fighters this far
north, and this resulted in Pohle adopting
a somewhat casual attitude in his orbiting
of the target area. Blissfully unaware of
two Spitfire squadrons located close by at
Turnhouse, he was taken totally by
surprise when one of his crew called out
'Three Spitfires attacking
l
' In the event,
no rerurn fire could be brought to bear
upon the RAF section, since the rear
armament had disappeared within the
framework of the lost canopyl Although
he got away safely out to the mouth of the
Firth, the loss of one engine during the
attacks finally obliged him to 'ditch' near
a trawler, a crash from which he alone
survived. A second crew led by Obit Storp
also succumbed to fighter attacks, though
in this instance, just one of the four
airmen was lost.
Scapa Flow was a key naval base located
in the Orkney Islands to the north of
Scotland, and l/KG 30 was sent on a
mission to maintain the Luftwaffe's anti-
warship pressure against it, albeit in very
modest manner. Just four ]u 88s
participated on this occasion - but
disappointment awaited their crews,
Into Action
CHAPTER TWO
the Luftwaffe bombers based in north-
west Germany were flying search-and-
strike operations out over the North Sea.
The first successful sortie occurred on the
26th when He 111s of l/KG 26,
accompanied by four ]u 88s of l/KG 30,
intercepted elements of the Home Fleet.
One of the] u 88 pilots was Unteroffizier
Karl Francke who had previously flown
aircraft at the Er{Jrobungsstelie (Test
Centre), Rechlin. Among the warships
was the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal,
with whom Francke's fortunes were to be
inextricably bound. On return to
Westerland/Sylt, Francke claimed to have
landed his bombs on the vessel, and in all
likelihood to have inflicted mortal
damage in so doing. The Volkischer
Beobachter propaganda newssheet, ever
alert for morale-boosting 'information',
bore an 1[ October headline: 'Where is
the Ark Royal?' - this followed a radio
broadcast of the vessel's reputed demise,
despite Francke's hesitancy in confirming
its actual sinking.
This was the first of several azi claims
that the Ark Royal had been sunk, before
her ultimate loss to a U-boat in
November 1941. (Later, the unfortunate
airmclll was said to have been berated by
Hermann Goering with the words 'You
owe me one aircraft carrier
l
'.)
Ten days later a much larger force of He
111s and ]u 88s encountered the Royal
Navy; but with no more success than
before. Worse still, three aircraft were
either forced to crash-land in Denmark, or
were lost; in the latter instance it was the
]u 88 with Obit Kohl's crew that failed to
return.
The third recorded anti-naval
operation took l/KG 30 right across the
North Sea to the Firth of Forth and the
important base at Rosyth. The crews had
been strictly briefed to avoid bombing any
warship, however important, should that
vessel be moored other than in estuarial
waters. The pri mary naval target was
reputed to be the battle cruiser Hood, but
although she was reportedly picked out by
For air \varfarc in the West, the previous
rcstrictions hitherto in force rcmain valid. The
fronticr of thc Rcich will be crosscd by aircraft
for purposes of local and combat
reconnaissance, to attack artillery liaison
mld to limircd
cxtent, for long-rangc rcconnaissance on the
orders of Oberbefehlshaber Lufrwaffe. Requests
for long-range reconnaissance on behalf of the
Army arc to be handlcd by direct
between Army and The
may also attack English French warships in
the North Sea, and prosecute 'Trade War' in
accordance with International Prize Law.
The bombardment of Warsaw and other
Polish cities confirmed the Fuehrer's
application of this latest ordinance to his
Anglo/French opponents, although the
30 September date of its public release did
coincide with the virtual collapse of all
Polish resistance.
The Royal Navy was rightly seen as a
serious obstruction to the azi
prosecution of the war at sea.
Consequently, by the end of September
The initial onslaught of the Wehrmacht
and Luftwaffe against Poland on 1
September 1939 was made without the
participation of the ]u 88. Instead,
Erprobungskommando 88, whose
personnel had test-flown the ] unkers
design, were in the process of having their
unit's title changed a second time - from
I/Kampfgeschwader 25 to l/KG 30 This
alteration occurred on 26 September at
lever, up on the north-west coastline of
Germany. Also established around this
date was Lehrgruppe 88, whose brief was
to train crews for future deployment to]u
88-equipped units as these were brought
into being.
At this primary stage of what would
develop into a full-scale world war, all
three major European combatants -
Germany, Great Britain and France -
were at pains to limit active air operations
to military targets only. Hitler's Directive
No.5 stated the following:
78 79
INTO CTION INTO ACTION
windscreen-mounted machine-gun on the Ju 88 was equipped with a support for the barrel. and this
used whenever the weapon was used as a fixed unit. for example during ground attack sorties. The
pport was retractable. so enabling the machine-gun to be used in a flexible defensive role.
very sparse vegetation of one of Britain's
northern islands
l
either was any damage
to warship recorded; but the Luftwaffe
was to mourn the loss of ix bombers
between the two Geschwadern, of which
two were]u from KG 3
Norwegian Interlude
The emphasis of operation now hifted to
supporting the invasion of orway, since
Denmark had been completely overrun
within the space of twenty-four hours. KG
30's operational brief was to interdict the
movements of Royal avy warships
attempting to intercept merchant
shipping and their Kriegsmarine escorts.
Along with He Ills of KG 4 and KG 26,
the forty-seven]u 88 crews on hand dealt
out sizeable punishment, damaging three
cruisers and sinking a destroyer; in
addition the battleship Rodney was struck
by an CIOOO bomb - although this
heavy weapon was still nor powerful
enough to penetrate the warship"
armoured deck. The AA defences of the
British warships were of reasonable
strength, but they were not supportcd by
R F fighter because they were out of
range, and this meant that Luftwaffe
attacks could be delivered without this
additional and potentially lethal
distraction. However, the art of hitting a
highly manoeuvrable vcssel was not easily
perfected, even when this was by means of
a diving attack. On the othcr hand, near
misses could undoubtedly cause water-
pressure damage to the rclatively fragile
hulls of small and medium-size I RN
vessels of the type mentioned.
The clutch of first-line Norwegian
airfields around Oslo, including Oslo-
Fornebo and Stavangar on the extreme
south-west coast, were swiftly 0 cupied
and secured within twenty-four to forty-
eight hours of the German inva ion. The
He III of KG 26 transferred north from
their German base, as did KG 30 with its
]u s - the latter unit having previously
operated from We terland/ ylt - and took
up temporary residence within southern
orway. Within a short period of time,
elements of both Geschwadern were also
flying out of the central orwcgian
airfield at Trondheim as the land
campaign intensified within the
remaining regions of the country.
The orwegian campaign was to prove
an almost unmitigated disaster for the
A Schwarzmann (black-man - an affectionate term for luftwaffe groundcrew due to their overalls colour)
lights up a cigarette for an airman. latter wears the quilted-pattern Mae West over his flight-suit. The
lightweight helmet has the black ear-phones inserted in its apertures. while the oxygen-mask
clip is also visible.
20
Ilglo/French forces, wi th the
Xl'hrmacht proving to be in physical
I llipation of large areas of the country
II !l,re the first Allied troops had even
,>me ashore at several points along
l'llt ral orway. The relativc absence of
dIntive fighter cover when the II ied
UIlIt'- had established themselvcs ashore
I posed them to a sustained series of
Illmhing as'aults in which thc precision
III the]u 7s and KG 3 ']u s played a
I Inicularly vital role. The dive-bombing
tl'lhniquc al 0 lent itself admirably to the
~ !lucking out of key communications'
.Irterie within orway's mountain-
Il'stricted terraih.
The initial Allied landings ro the
!lunh and south of Trondheim naturally
.It tracted the attention of the Luftwaffe
bllmbers. The port of amsos was
rl'ndcred largely inoperative thanks ro a
thurough bombing raid on the 20th.
Further south, a separate Allied Force
put ashore at Aandalsnes was soon under
similar overwhelming pressure from the
same combination of Luftwaffe and
Wehrmacht units. By the end of April
the writing was on the wall for any
prospect of Allied success, and the
belated act of evacuation was complcted
on the 28th. (A 'eC()Ild wave of landings
in the extreme north of orway would
be launched during May, but with even
less chance of success than the initial
venture.) The Royal avy did inflict a
defeat upon the Kriegsmarine around
arvik Fjord, but this action had no
effect upon the final outcome of the
campaign. In effect, the cpitaph of 'Too
little, roo late' was ro prove sadly
relevant to this event, as well as several
more campaigns destincd to be waged
against the Germans up to the mid-
pcriod of World War II.
27
The 1940 Battle for the West
Hitler's original intention to forcc an
invasion of France and the Low Countries
no later than November 1939 was finally
headed off by his generals in favour of a
late spring offensive in 1940. The audacity
of the revised hattie plan, which depcnded
upon major armoured and infantry thrusts
through the seemingly impenetrable
Ardennes Forest, was to payoff
handsomely as the campaign developed.
However, the opening moves by the
Wehrmacht presented the Allied
Command with the long-held expectation
that thc main assault would be directed
through Holland and Belgium, and their
troop werc geographically disposed to
meet this threat.
On the morning of 1 Maya combined
force of around J O]u 7, He Ills and]u
s - the latter type of aircraft coming
from KG 30, along with an element of
IlJ/K 4 - rook off and headed for specific
target in western Holland as well as in
Belgium. The defenders, particularly at
the Dutch airfields selected for attack, put
INTO ACTION INTO ACTION
Ju 88 Armament Details
TSeries
The Ju 88T Series was envisaged as areconnaissance replacement for the Ju 880. The
three intended sub-variants were the T- 1, T-Z and T-3, but only the T-l reached opera-
tional fruition. The removal of the ventral gondola restricted armament to the upper rear
canopy, where either single MG131 or twin MG81 machine-guns could be alternatively
accommodated.
screen. Again, the windscreen weapon was deleted from the S-Z, as was the MG81 Z
when the ventral gondola was removed. The single MG131 in the rear canopy was
retained as the sole basic defensive weapon, and this proved to be the case on the S-Z.
In the latter instance two MG81 scould be fitted into the rear of the bulged bomb-bay
with which the S-Z was equipped.
Armament details for the S-3 are unclear. but it is likely the relatively few air-
craft entering service were fitted in the same limited manner as their S-1 and S-Z
predecessors. IThe S-4 and S-5 variants seem never to have got beyond the
research stage.)
The Ju 88S Series was developed as a high-speed bomber in a (vainl bid to
outstrip the RAF night fighters. The nose canopy is a more streamlined pattern
compared to the standard fitting. while the ventral fairing has been deleted
and gives way to a small fairing accommodating the bombsight. A research
boom extends out from the right wing.
SSeries
The Ju 88S Series was produced with aview to bringing the design's performance at
least approaching that of its fighter adversaries in the Allied air I,orces and therefore
sufficient to evade interception. The S- 1armament layout consisted of asingle MG131
in the rear cockpit, aMG81 Zin the ventral gondola, and afurther MG81 in the wind-
ide shot of the Ju 88R delivered into Allied hands at Dyce in May 1943
clear view of the design's trapezoidal wing plan-form. A single pair of
r cks are retained. The bola gun-mount in the ventral gondola has a
r d-off pattern for the armoured Plexiglas.
nes
Ju 88H-1reconnaissance variant was the first of four Hsub-variants, and was
loped from the Ju 880. The MG81 featured as its main defensive weapon, two
r placed in apod under the forvvard fuselage, with athird acting as arearguard. A
hMG81 placed in the windscreen was optional.
passive role of the H-1was changed for the H-Z, which was intended as a
t (oerer. The weapons' range was the same as for the Ju 88G-l. A'solid' nose con-
dtwo MG151 cannon, and apod under the fuselage held afurther four MG151s.
remaining sub-variants intended for the same respective functions as the H-1and
2were never brought into service for these roles.)
and, on occasion, anose-mounted MG FF cannon. Early machines also bore addi-
I machine-guns on either side of the centre canopy. As with the A-4 and A-5, a
lar early deletion affected the windscreen-mounted weapon. The upper rear canopy
I yed avariation in single- or double-armoured mounts, while the fitting of MG81Z
I ne-guns or asingle MG131machine-gun to the rear of the ventral gondola was
feature on some aircraft.
case of the P-Z, was the variant's intended use against the USAAF B- 17s and B-Z4s; the
ground-attack role was always that intended for the P-3. Finally, the P-4 featured asin-
gle 50mm BK 5cannon.
Defensive weaponry on the PSeries remained basically the same, with twin MG81 s
in the upper rear canopy as well as an MG81Z fitting in the rear of the cannon pod. For-
ward cover was to be provided by the usual single MG81 in the windscreen, but again,
this appears to have been an optional extra.
eJu 88P Series was developed as an
nti-tank weapon. This is a P-2 equipped
with twin BK37 cannon and mounted in a
I rge fairing. The rear of the fairing contains
n MG81Z weapon. The 37mm cannon had
luperior recoil performance compared to
the heavier cannon borne by the P-l and P-
4. The P-3 was similar to the P-2, except for
the provision of protective armour for the
engines. (The P-2, in contrast to the other
lub-variants. was regarded as suitable for
operations against bombers.)
ries
Ju B8P Series was developed in direct response to the Wehrmacht's growing need
ombat the Russian tank menace. The initial tests were conducted using aJu 88A-4,
Ich bore a KWK 39 with amassive 75mm calibre, slung in a pod under the forvvard
.Iage. Blast damage to the aircraft from the weapon's firing, along with aserious
ed loss due to the recoil. resulted in the cannon's replacement on the P-1. The new
apon was of the same calibre, but the PAK40 featured an improved muzzle-brake. A
r duction in individual cannon calibre occurred with the P-Z and P-3, although in both
•es the 37mm BK 37 was provided in pairs. The basic reason for this, at least in the
RSeries
There were two sub-variants within the RSeries, but their offensive armament was the
same as for the Ju 88C-6. The rear cockpit weapon was asingle MG81 or MG1 31, and
this appears to have been the only regular means of defensive firepower.
fighter. The Ju 88-V-7 had provided the original armament platform, but two designated
CSeries prototypes (Z-15 and Z-19) were subsequently produced. These held three MG17
machine-guns, and either an MG FF or MG151/Z0 cannon in the nose. Six production ver-
sions were to have been produced, three each being equipped with either the BMW801
IC-1, C-3 and C-5) or the JumoZ1 1IC-Z, C-4 and C-6) In the event, priority supply of the
BMW801 for the FW 190 led to only the JumoZl 1-equipped variants being developed
and brought into combat service. (A few C-5 models were produced bearing the standard
MG17 nose armament, but with an MG151 cannon in place of the MG FF weapon. In
addition, twin MG17s were borne in apod under the fuselage. None of these aircraft are
believed to have progressed beyond the field of research and evaluation.)
The C-Z entered service during 1940 with an offensive armament arrangement con-
sisting of asingle MG FF cannon (or an MG151 cannon) and three MG17 machine-guns
positioned on the right side of the 'solid' nose. Defence was provided by single MG15s
located in the rear cockpit and the rear of the ventral gondola; the MG1 5normally posi-
tioned in the right side of the windscreen was quickly dispensed with. However, the
night-fighter variant could also be equipped with an additional two MG FF cannon in the
forvvard section of the gondola.
The C-Z's MG FF cannon was replaced by an MG FFM faster-firing weapon on the C-4,
apart from which the overall offensive armament could be extended on the Ju 88CA. A
further pair of MG FF cannon could be installed in the forvvard ventral gondola, but their
insertion meant that the MG1 5in the rear had to be taken out. Defence originally
depended on the same weaponry as for the C-Z, but later on in the C-4's operational
career, the provision of abulged top to the rear canopy allowed for twin gun mountings,
and numbers of C-4s were duly modified.
The C-6's offensive armament capability matched that of its immediate C-4 predeces-
sor, but the provision of the twin MG FFM cannon in the ventral gondola was seen as
applicable to those aircraft assigned to the Nachtjagd. In such cases the rear defensive
weaponry in the gondola was deleted. As regards defensive armament on the C-6, this
was even more varied and/or supplemented. The bulged rear canopy featured circular
armoured mounts for MG81 s; alternatively, asingle such mounting was fitted and
equipped with either an MGS1 or an MG131 13mm machine-gun. The gondola defensive
position was even more varied. Asingle MG151Boia 39), asingle MG810r MG131 (Bola
390 VEl and an MGS1Z (Bola 8ll) comprised the alternative fittings.
Avery significant armament variation appeared for the first time on the Ju 88C-6
night fighter: 'Schraege Musik'. In the case of the Ju 88, single or pairs of either MG FF
or MG1 51 cannon were positioned on the fuselage at apoint varying between the wing
main spar and trailing edge.
GSeries
This series was totally developed with the Nachtjagd role in mind. Also the machine-
gun element for the offensive armament was displaced in favour of cannon-calibre
weapons. Atotal of six MG151 cannon was provided in the Ju 88V-58 prototype, of
which just two were retained in the right side of the nose compartment. The remaining
four were grouped in apod under the fuselage. Asingle MG131 in the rear canopy
formed the aircraft's sole defensive means. Soon after the Ju 88G-1entered operational
service, complaints about the bright muzzle-flash created by the nose-mounted cannon
led to their being deleted, but the reduced firepower was still more than sufficient to
bring down an opponent.
The wholesale fitting of Schreage Musik on night fighters from late 1943 onwards
resulted in the same variation in the weapon's positioning on the fuselage of the Ju 88,
albeit with one further variation on late production models. Whereas the installation
had generally been made along the aircraft's centreline, and laterally where two cannon
were utilized, the late production machines featured atandem arrangement offset to
the right or left.
oSeries
The reconnaissance role of this Ju 88 variant meant that afull complement of defensive
weapons could be retained. Since the Ju 880 was based on the A-4 and A-5 airframe
layout, the weapons fitted assumed the same range of MG15, MG81, MG81Z machine-
A Production Series
The Ju 88A-1continued the armament quota and type of machine-gun weaponry
applied from the V4 onwards. However, there was aserious limitation associated with
the MG15, namely the rate of fire.
The ammunition was contained in 'saddle-tank' containers clipped to the machine-
gun. These had amaximum capacity of seventy-five rounds, and provided afiring time
of amere three seconds. The interval between removing the expended container in
order to fit areplacement could provide an attacking fighter with the ability to land its
fire without response. Conversely, there was no real opportunity to fire aprolonged
burst back at an adversary.
Consequently when the A-4 and A-5 were brought into service, the MG15s were
replaced by the MG81 on the former variant and by the MG131 on the latter. (However,
MG15s were apparently retained for the upper-rear cockpit mountings on the A-5.) The
MG81 weapon had the same 7.9Zmm calibre as the MG1 5, but its ammunition supply
was belt-fed. This in turn eliminated the twin operational disabilities of ammunition
capacity and weight of prolonged fire associated with its MG15 predecessor. Also, one
extra MG81 was added, to bring the total number of weapons up to four. These were
dispersed between the three aforementioned cockpit positions with apair (MG81 'Zwill-
ing' or 'twin') normally located in the rear of the ventral gondola. The MG131 was simi-
larly belt-fed and provided even greater hitting power..
The first cannon-calibre weapon also made its appearance on selected Ju 88A-4s. The
MG FF mounted in the front of the ventral gondola was intended to be used for ground-
strafing or anti-shipping operations. The subsequent A-series bomber variants were not all
equipped with the MG81 or MG131, however, since areversion to the MG15 occurred on
the A-7, A-9 and A-l0.INumbers of aircraft were also equipped with extra MG15s mount-
ed midway along the cockpit sides as arather desperate measure against the increasingly
effective RAF fighters.) One specialist variant (Ju 88A- 13) was envisaged as aheavy
ground-attack aircraft; twin pods hung under the ETC500 carriers were each equipped
with six MG17 machine-guns. The A-14 also featured an MG FF cannon placed in the
lower area of the nose canopy; factory-modified aircraft had the weapon built into the
gondola with ashell-ejection chute directly beneath.
VPrototype Series
The initial concept of the Ju 88 as aSchnellbomberanticipated the design utilizing its
speed alone as ameans of striking targets and returning safely. Therefore the V1 and VZ
prototypes bore no armament at all. However, the first indication of the 'Schnell-
bomber's' demise in the minds of the authorities surfaced with the V3 prototype, albeit
in very minimal form; this airframe was equipped with asingle MG1 5machine-gun in its
rear cockpit canopy. Afull seed-change occurred when the Ju 88V4 was completed.
Now the accent was very much on defensive armament, although the overall provision
was to prove no more than adequate. Single MG15s were placed in the right side of the
windscreen IA Stand), rear cockpit IB Stand) and the rear of the ventral gondola IC
Stand) Asimilar armament layout appeared on the two remaining pure bomber proto-
types, V6 and V8. The Ju 88V7 was originally converted into ahigh-speed personnel
transport. However, its 'solid' nose was then adapted to carry two MG FF ZOmm cannon
and two MG17 machine-guns, as afore-runner to the fighter/night fighter CSeries.
CSeries
The next practical Ju 88 series was developed with its use in mind as aday or night
BSeries
The notion of acontinuous-shaped cockpit canopy, as opposed to the Ju 88's 'stepped'
design, had been proposed during the prototype stage, but was not accepted. Around
1940, three airframes IV-Z3, V-Z4 and V-Z5) were built in this manner, and intended for
bomber, reconnaissance and Zerstoerer use respectively. The armament accent for the
V-Z3 and V-Z4 was on paired machine-guns, with the MG81 Zused. These were posi-
tioned in the lower nose, upper rear canopy and the rear of the cockpit underside. As
regards the V-Z5, its nose armament was to have been the same as subsequently
appeared on the Ju 88C - asingle ZOmm cannon lin this instance an MG151) and three
MG17 machine-guns.
The ten pre-production Ju 88B-0 airframes were largely adapted to the reconnais-
sance role, with one exception. This featured single MG131 machine-guns in the nose,
upper rear canopy in acircular armoured mount, and in adorsal turret in the canopy cen-
tre. What was called the Ju 88V-Z7 later became one of the prototypes for the Ju 188.
22 23
Two crewmembers are preparing to climb into their Ju 88A from KG 51 'Edelweiss' in readiness for a sortie
from their airfield in France. The circular mount for the MG15 in the gondola was a feature of the original
A-1 variant. Four single MG15s are located in the cockpit.
up a stour resistance. However, their
efforts were not sufficient to do more than
temporarily hold out against the
combination of bombing and paratroop
assault. Nevertheless the attackers paid a
price for their efforts, and before the day's
battles were over, a number of bombers
had been culled from the Luftwaffe ranks,
including five from KG 30 and four from
!ll/KG 4; one of the latter unit's lost
INTO ACTION
aircraft was being Hown by the
Kommodore, Oberst Fiebig. A further
th ree ai rcraft were lost from the two Ju 88-
equipped Gruppe, over Belgium.
Further to the south, a mass of French
airfields were similarly marked out for
attack. A lthough not all were even
located, let alone bombed, enough
destruction and disruption was caused by
that evening to leave the Germans in a
confident mood, both for the next day's
opening attack and for similar positive
results in the days ahead. Here the
involvement of the Ju 88 within LuftHotte
3 was on a much smaller scale - at least
initially - compared to that employed by
LuftHotte 2, with 1 and !l/KG 51
contributing between them less than a
single Gruppe-strength force to the
offensi ve, even though around seventy Ju
88s were on unit establishment by the
time the assault in the West was
launched. (Conversion to the Ju 88 had
been initiated at the end of March when
Oberst Kammhuber, the newly appointed
Kommodore, joined the Geschwader at
Menningen; but the process was much
more involved, and was therefore lasting
for much longer than had originally been
estimated.)
Within a matter of five days Holland
was effectively knocked out of the war,
while the situation in Belgium was little
better. At this same point in the overall
campaign the German armour was already
beginning to explOit the gap left in the
Allied lines around Sedan, through which
their units were steadily pouring and
expanding out into the French
countryside. Hitler's fear that the
advancing columns might be 'pinched off'
by an Allied counter-attack was to prove
groundless. The single major threat from
Allied armour near Arras was repulsed
within a short time, and the path through
to the French coast assured.
Dunkirk
What has regularly been recorded as the
'Miracle of Dunkirk' in post-war annals
should never have happened. By the end
of the third week in May, the Wehrmacht
was in a position to push its Pamers
through and occupy what was then the
sole seaport in north-east France,
therefore the only one through which the
Anglo/French armies had any prospect of
evacuating their soldiers across the
Channel. Then on the 24th, the first
strand in the 'Miracle' happened: Hitler
ordered the tanks to cease their advance,
Goering swiftly entered the debate
concerning the best way to complete the
Allied rout; he assured Hitler that the
Luftwaffe would blitz his adversaries into
submiss ion.
Several Gruppen had to be switched
away from attacking the enemy's military
I Ill' and communications system so
lllllid participate in the Dunkirk
I 1I1l1l1, KG 51 was part of the overall
I I .I,signed the task, and its He Ills
I I III 88s were soon in action. On the
.h, III/KG 51 made the first
Invader contribution in the morning.
IIl1d-afternoon the crews of I and
( .) I were closing in on the area,
Illg Hown a lengthy course from
hll-ld, Oberfeldwebel Blumhofer was
'lf the pilots, but his first attempt to
III h a vessel was thwarted by its good
I \\',' action. The Ju 88 climbed up
1111, kvelled off, and prepared to make
n lrlll'r hombing run. But at that moment
I III the crew called attention to several
I fIghters that were swooping down,
n I ,Ion these were batteri ng the bomber
II II I heir gunfire.
)ll" engine was knocked out, and the
1I11ll'Y jammed when Blumhofer
linmended a bale-out. Fortunately the
III ok functioning engine kept going after
\\1 attacks ceased, and the crew
I IlIktully reached Brussels and landed.
I \\ 'lrds of fifty sorties were Hown by the
III 'H, on this day; but the next forty-eight
h III' proved frustrating, since bad
'011 her obscured Dunkirk.
Ilying with KG 4 was an airman
I 1ll1ed to become prominent within the
• I' cchelon of the Luftwaffe: Hajo
\I I rmann. On 31 May he took off from
11\1'01 as a member of a large Gruppe
lIllIation. Jammed dive brakes caused
hlln to abort his first attack, and his
'Ilnd attempt was also foiled, at the
IIlIC point as the above-mentioned
I Illmhofcr from lI/KG 51. l:-Ie was able to
1\, lid the first Hurricane attacks by lifting
III' Ju 88 up into the stinking smoke layer
111,11 hung over Dunkirk, but this was only
I hrief respite because the layer was
lIallow. Further fighter attacks landed
1111' on one engine, wh ich poured out
1lI0ke, and this was quickly followed by
IInilar damage to the other engine. In
I'"C of his aircraft's ailing condition,
I krrmann dived down to complete his
Ittack run, but he failed to hit the vessel
III question. ow it was just a question of
INTO ACTION
time as the low-Hying bomber staggered
eastwards, large bits of its frame being
chopped away by the streams of .303
bullets. Then, just as one of the crew
jettisoned the rear canopy, the Ju 88
struck the sea and came to an abrupt halt:
incredibly it remained intact, and none of
the four airmen was more than slightly
injured by either the bullets or the crash'
(Herrmann would survive several more
such incidents before gaining a Luftwaffe
staff appointment, and involvement with
the Wilde Sau form of night fighting
during 1943/44.)
The Battle is Won
Even as the final remnants of the
Anglo/French forces were being
scrambled off the beaches of Dunkirk, the
Germans were turning almost their full
attention upon the remaining French
units to the south. The Wehrmacht, after
encountering stubborn if disorganized
resistance in the initial day or so, was soon
into its stride: the Panzers swept
relentlessly forwards, and by the third
week of June, Paris was occupied.
During this period the Luftwaffe
bomber crews were involved in both
close-support and strategic attacks. The
latter duty included the bombing of
seaports such as Cherbourg, through
which the Anglo/French authorities were
hoping to channel relief forces to shore up
the French army. The Luftwaffe was by
now in possession of airfields in Belgium
and northern France, and so could easily
reach any available target within the
shrinking rump of metropolitan France.
Peter Stahl from 5/KG 30 recalled a
typical sortie on the 15th: the briefing
was carried out at the unit's base at Le
Culot, but a forward airfield at Amiens
was used for the actual operation. The
evening attack involved seven Ju 88s, but
the conditions encountered at Amiens
forced a reduction in bomb load to 1,100
kgs. Warehouses in Cherbourg were the
focus of assault, and the bombs struck
home in the face of heavy A fire. All
seven crews survived to Hy back to Le
Culot. ext day a bridge at Tours was the
briefed target, but this time a larger bomb
load was carried, even though Amiens
was still the take-off airfield for the five
crews involved.
So far the French fighters had been
conspicuous by their absence - but not so
on the 17th when a fourteen-plane
formation headed for the Loire estuary
where the reported sh ipping
concentration was ripe for assault. As the
Ju 88s approached the area they were
challenged by Morane Saulnier 406s, and
a Ju 88 in front of Stahl went down with
one engine smoking. His aircraft was
tipped into a dive as one of the MS 406s
closed in behind. The French pilot stuck
tenaciously to his prey as Stahl broke
away at low level after delivering his
bombs. However, sound evasive action
meant that his tormentor was obliged to
give up the chase after a minute or so. All
fourteen Ju 88s came through safely, but
Unteroffizier Geffgen's aircraft was
thoroughly shot up and he was unable to
release his bombs or lower his
undercarriage on return. He then orted
for what appeared to be a remarkably
foolhardy course of action, namely to
crash-land his Ju 88 with the four 250kg
(5501b) bombs acting as a form of 'skid'
support - and was fortunate to do this
with complete success!
That same evening the news of
France's capitulation came through,
bringing a tremendous sense of joy and
relief among the personnel, as it must
have done to the entire German
military. With Fnmce out of the conflict
and the British driven back across the
Channel, there was every reason to
believe that peace would now return to
the continent of Europe. Sadly that
confident prospect would slowly fade
away in the face of the Bri tish nation's
obdurate resistance to any form of
negotiation with the Hitler regime. The
Luftwaffe in particular would then be in
the firing line as the Fuehrer sought to
impose his will upon his adversaries by
force of arms.
24 25
SUMMER OF DISCONTENT
CHAPTER THREE
SUDlDler of Discontent
Airfield conditions in France during 1940 were often basic. as indicated here by the grass-covered and
,ee-shrouded dispersals for the Ju 88s of 4/KG 76. Camouflage netting is draped over the outer wing
rfeces to conceal the national markings. Two airmen are rolling what appears to be a fuel
, bomb container.
by single, or occasionally two, aircraft.
More experienced crews were selected for
thi duty, and the personnel involved
were given additional payments,
amounting in effect to 'danger money'.
Other than being allocated a target, these
crews were given a free rein as to the time
or ta tics to be employed for each sortie.
Inevitably the perceived kudos to be
gained by taking on this duty had a down
side: namely that if intercepted, the reI'.'
in question would have to seek salvation
on their own. In addition the other crews
would not be left operationally idle, since
small formations would make shallow
'probing' runs to targets in the coastal
region in order to establish the trength
and concentration of the British defences.
(Thi latter duty was hardly Ie s
hazardous, since the crew were likely to
face interception by radar-assisted
fighters.)
During July at lea t four KG 51 crew
found no success in this general test: on
the 13th, Oberleutnant Kaspar and crew
were lost, and four days later
Oberleutnant Rechenberg shared the
same fat, when fighters shot hi bomber
down into th Channel. Before the
month-end, two more crews from [ and
II/KG 51 had gone. The latter crew
the battle, along with the Do 17 crews (at
least as seen from the British viewpoint).
The use of the Ju 88 during these weeks
was limited. [n the case of KG 5 [, its
crews had not long converted from the He
Ill. They were accordingly involved in
practising level bombing and, in
particular, dive-bombing techniques with
their new charges. They also carried out
exercises with Kampfgruppe 100 based at
Vannes in Brittany. By the month-end,
only three operational sorties had been
flown, one of which (29 July) was made
during the night when aircraft factories in
Liverpool and outhampton were truck.
On 30 June, order were issued
regarding the first stage of operations
against Britain. The e took the form of
reconnaissance and 'intruder' sorties. The
former activity is elf-explanatory; the
latter involved taking advantage of poor
or indifferent weather conditions in order
to strike at specific vital industrial plants
or key military bas s such as radar
stations. Operation would be conducted
The Opening Shots
1\lthough the main Luftwaffe attack is
associated' with 'Adlertag' on 13
,\ugust, its airmen had been involved in
combat over the Channel since
lround LO July, when convoys utilizing
Ihat stretch of water became the focu for
Ln the main it was the Ju 87 units
Ihat bore the brunt of this first phase of
1 its Gruppen between Melun (I
l Ifllppe), Orly (Stab and II Gruppe) and
I t.lmpes (III Gruppe). Evreux was home
!.lr Stab and [/KG 54, with lI/KG 54
St Andre D'Leure. Finally
806 took up residence at
antes. Reconnaissance duties by the Ju
of 2/Aufk. Gp. 123 fell within the
I rovince of Luftflotte 3.
To the north, Generaloberst Stumpf's
I uftflotte 5 presided over [ and II/KG 30
III crating out of Aalborg in 0 nmark,
dong with it Geschwader Swbsschwann.
current command to its present level of
technical competence, and he would not
react to any adversary other than in a
mea ured and economical way. The
margin for his Command's, and therefore
Britain's, survival, in the summer months
ahead would prove to be narrow almost to
the point of vanishing. The vainglorious
Hermann Goering was Dowding's
opposite both in military and personal
competence, and his interference in his
subordinates' conduct of the battle would,
in th vent, prove critical and self-
defeating.
Although a number of airfields in
Holland, France and Belgium were
properly established units and ready for
operationalu e within days of the pecific
Gesschwader or Gruppe taking up
re idence, not nearly enough existed in
order to accommodate the entire trength
of Luftflotte 2 and 3 who were tasked with
the main assault. (Luftflotte 5, ba d in
Denmark and orway, was also alerted for
operations against northern England, but
it involvem nt in the battle would be
both brief and bloody.) As a result there
was a delay of weeks while subsidiary
airfields were carved out of the
countryside, mainly for fighter
Geschwader use.
The first large-scale operational use of
the Ju 8 was about to be launched in this
summer of 1940. Within the ranks of
Luftflotte 2 - whose chari matic leader
was Generalfeldmarschall 'miling'
Albert Kesselring, and whose airfields
were spread between Holland, Belgium
and north-east France - was III/KG 4
based at chipol, and II/KG 76 located at
Creil in France. Also included were three
reconnaissance Staffeln: 3 and 5/Aufkl.
Gp 122, operating out of Holland, and
4/Aufk. Gp 123, based in Belgium.
The participation of Ju 8 units in the
campaign was much greater within
Luftflotte 3, whose commander was
Generalfeldmarschal Hugo Sperrle. tab,
I and II/LG I occupied Orleans/Bricy, and
III/L I was at Chateaudun, whil K
strength was even further compromised in
that its aircraft were pread the length of
Britain, with the gr atest concentration
in south-east and southern EngLand, from
where the greatest threat to Britain's
survival was expected to come.
Against this wa array d, by the end of
July, an airborne armada comprising
approximately 2,820 aircraft in operat-
ional service, of which ome 2,600 were
based across the English Channel and
220 in candinavia. There were,
however, certain limitations on this
seemingly daunting figure. For instance,
the Ju 7s were relatively short-ranged,
although external fuel tanks would be on
hand later in th battle. More erious was
the case of the Bf 109, whose range was
even Ie s: for tho e aircraft ba ed around
the Pas de Calai , it wa restricted to a
radius that extend d just beyond London
and the extreme outhern reaches of
England; but those units based further
west in France would barely have enough
endurance to gain their enemy's
coastline, let alon engage in sustained
combat
l
The drop-tanks that would have
created a vital extension of range were
again not on hand until the final stages of
the battle, and proved to be a most
significant omission.
The presence of a comprehensive chain
of radar stations also had to be brought
into the Luftwaffe's battle-plan equation.
In ome circles of the Luftwaffe Higher
Command it was thought that the
destruction of this invisible 'screen' prior
to the main assault was not only
unnecessary, but might conversely work
in their own favour: it wa felt that its
continued, unfettered operation would
surely see the RAF fighters re ponding en
masse to the plots of Luftwaffe incursions,
thereby drawing them into battle and
enabling the Luftwaffe to annihilate
them wholesale'
Unfortunately for the proponents of
this viewpoint, M' tuffy' Dowding
was a thoroughly professional airman and
leader. He had sp nt years building up hi
The air battles over France and the Low
ountries between LO May and the
French Armistice had clearly
demonstrated the strengths of the
Luftwaffe, even though it was clear they
w r facing smaller and som what
disorganized Allied Air Forces. Its combat
tactics for the fighter pilots were vastly
superior to their opponents. The tukas
had prov d th ir worth a extremely
accurate bomb-aiming weapons, while the
level bomber had been operated in strong
formations and directed against key
targets.
What now faced the understandably
exuberant and confident Luftwaffe airmen
was a campaign whose operational
requirements were materially different
from the Blitzkrieg techniques 0 far
employed. In place of operations
previously conducted on a tactical basis,
the crews would now fight a strategic
campaign. The imminent Schlachr urn
England, or 'Battle of Britain', would only
involve the Luftwaffe and RAF Fighter
Command, since the latter force would
have to be destroyed or sufficiently
dispersed in advance of the proposed, amI
hopefully successful, sea-borne invasion of
southern England.
The more optimistic German
assessments of Fighter Command's current
strength pointed to its being defeated
within a matter of a few weeks at most.
Following the Command's heavy losses in
May/June, a front-line strength of 912
fighters was only achieved by the onset of
the initial battle on I July, so the
G rman' assessment was probabl y
justified. Furthermore, that trength was a
towl figure, with approximately 25 to 30
per cent being un erviceable. Added to
th i reduced figure was the fact that
several of the unit were operating either
Blenheim Mk Ls or the Defiant, whose
sole armament was a four-gun turret.
either de ign was really even adequate,
I t alone equal, in performance to the Bf
109, as the coming weeks would tragically
reveal. Moreover the ommand's
26 27
suffered a most unfortunate demise: as the
Ju wa heading in to strike at the
Gloster factory located at Huccelcote, it
collided with a Mile Master making its
approach to No.5 FrS at outh Cerney.
Amazingly only one of the four Germans
was killed, along with the RAF trainee
pilot.
Three days later (the 2 th) 3/KG 51
had ro record the loss of its latest
aircraft - though in this instance its
absence was self-inflicted: briefed to
attack Crewe, the crew simply lost their
bearings and ran out of fuel, leaving
leutnant Ruckdeschel with no option
but to 'belly in' near Bexhill
l
(The
bomber was only slightly damaged and
was brought back to flying condition for
flight evaluation. What was 9K+HL
now became AX919, and was attached
to the RAF's Enemy Aircraft Flight
based initially at Duxford and
subsequently at Collyweston.)
Although only one of the four KG 51
crew could definitely be credited to the
RAF fighters during July, thcre was a
steady series of such losse among the Ju
-equipped units in general. AA fire and
fighters accounted for two eparate
aircraft from ll/lG 1, KG 54 lost two to
os. 6 I quadron (16th) and 609 qdn.
(I th), and a single Ju from 4/KG 76
succumbed to o. 145 quadron off
Worthing (29th). On the 30th, while
conducting a shipping reconnaissance
sortie, leutnant Rabbow was forced to
'ditch' off the English coast when his Ju
88 suffered engine failure; a British trawler
picked up him and his 2 (F) j ZZ crew. In
addition there were around ten incidents
involving Ju 88s when the aircraft in
que tion was crashed on take-off or
return, or was so heavily damaged that it
was 'written off' along with fatalities
among the crew. One senior loss was the
Gruppenkommandeur of Jl/KG 76, Major
Donaubauer, who was killed when his
battle-damaged bomber crashed on return
on the 29th.
The Bristol Blenheim was in some ways
an RAF equivalent of the Ju ,but it
general performance was far inferior,
e pecially in terms of manoeuvrability.
Therefore when a Ju of I/KG 5 I
commenced its attack on a destroyer off
Start Point on 11 July, the pilot should
have managed to evade the sudden
attentions of a trio of No. 236 quad ron
machines. In the event the Luftwaffe crew
lost out and went down with their aircraft.
SUMMER OF DISCO TE T
ot all interceptions ended in favour of
the RAF or ground-based defences.
During August, Leutnant Dr tahl's I/KG
5lcrew were one day as igned the RAE
airfield at Farnborough. The very poor
weather conditions improved sufficiently
during the afternoon for the crew to take
off, then climb through and level off just
above the sol id undercast. A timed run to
the target area culminated in the Ju
breaking the cloud cover to find
Farnborough still a few miles distant - and
a pitfire rec ptiem committee! The
bombs were delivered just as the first
fighter closed in, and several of its
companions made passes as the Ju 88 took
evasive action while heading upwards for
the safety of the clouds; it had sustained
severe damage around the cockpit area,
but with slight injury to one airman only.
Then the starboard engine was lost while
they were still over England, and with fuel
reserves nearly exhausted and no airfield
in sight, tahl finally ended up force-
landing his bomber near Caen. At least
one pitfire wa claimed shot down,
although no such loss was officially
recorded on this day (lJrd).
In the North
In addition to sortie by their
reconnaissance taffeln, the cand-
inavian-based bombers had been
conducting what an10unted to 'intruder'
operations off the northern reaches of
Britain since moving into Dcnmark and
Norway. Shipping convoys were a specific
target, along with the naval bases at Scapa
Flow and Rosyth. However, the extension
of the national radar-chain up into
northern England and cotland made
such sorties hazardous for thc Luftwaffe
crews should they come within its 'web',
because they then risked interception by
the Hurricane or Spitfire units based at
coa tal airfields between Acklington,
Northumberland and Wick, Caithness.
The month of July opened badly for
some of the unit within luftflotte 5: on
the 1st, one crew from l/KG 30 was
fortunate to e cape unscathed after a
combat with 602 qdn. ot so their
bomber, which the three Spitfire pilots
battered so comprehen ively that it was
'written off' Gruppe records after crash-
landing on its return. Two days later a Ju
88 of 8/KG 30 was intercepted off the
Scottish coast near Montrose by a section
28
of o. 603 Squadron; following the
combat, a claim was submitted for the
bomber's destruction, from which there
were no survivors. Then, flying off
Peterhead, a second squadron section
pounced on another 2/KG 3 bomber and
despatched it into the ea, killing
Hauptmann Langsdorf's crew, with all
three fighters suffering non-lethal damage
from the bomber' gunners. On what was a
black day for the Geschwader's III Gruppe,
a third Ju was taken down by o. 6 3
quadron during the evening. On the 7th,
yet another pair of Ju 8s faced the wrath
of the north-based fighters and paid the
price. A 9/KG 4 aircraft in the charge of
Hauptmann Rohloff (Staffelkapitaen) ran
into No. 602 Squadron off May Island in
the Firth ofFord., and all four airmen were
lost along with their bomber. Yet another
I/KG 30 machine was downed in the
same area and its crew was lost when
the Ju 8 fell into the forbidding wa tc'
of the orth ea.
Mining Operations
Mining operations were another regular
Luftwaffe feature by this tage of World
War IJ, and these insidious weapons wcre
deposi ted wholesale around the Bri tish
coastlinc, with emphasis on the main
shipping estuaries such as the Thames,
Humber or Forth. The Germans had
developed two types of mine, magnetic
and acoustic, and they were fused in two
different ways: instant activation upon
the mine's correct delivery into the water,
and delayed fusing based either upon a
time-scale or a specific number of vessels
passing over the location before the
weapon became 'live'. This was a skilled
task that required several important
factors to be brought together if success
wa to be guaranteed. Fir t of all, the drop-
point had to be between a minimum of 5
to m (I6 to 26ft) in depth, or free of
andbanks: otherwise the mine was fused
to automatically self-destruct. (Ironically,
the British were already well aware of the
magnetic mines' function, having defused
one in late 1939 and taken appropriate
de-gaussing measure. However, th re
wcre no current counter-measures for the
acoustic-activated mine.) The approach
to the drop area was briefed to be no more
than around ZZ5kmph (l40mph), with a
descent rate not exceeding 300m
(I ,OOOft) a minute.
SUMMER OF DISCONTENT
The low angle of the shadow cast by the sun has created a dramatic shading effect on this Ju 88A. The
left-hand propeller's blurred image suggests the photographer has caught the blade just at the actual
moment of engine start-up. Side-mounted machine-guns and dulled-down markings are points of note.
Groundcrew are attending to their aircraft servicing duties. with airmen in the foreground refuelling the
main wing tank. The triangle on the filler cap denotes the fuel octane strength (87). The engine cowl flaps
Ire extended. The circular panel in nacelle normally contains engine-monitoring information when
mounted on the other engine. but is blanked off in this reverse outside position.
29
Given these several limitations, it
followed that room for swift manoeuvre in
an emergency would be trictly limited.
The wind conditions and the aircraft'
height at the point of release were other
important factor: too Iowa release could
easily result in the parachute-retarded
weapon over-shooting its mark thank to
the canopy not being able to dcploy in
full; too high, and the weapon could drift
away from the desired location.
On the evening of ZZ July, a 7/KG 4
bomber liftcd off from Zwischenahn
in north-west Gcrmany, At the
controls was Hauptmann Hajo Herrmann
(Staffclkapitaen), and he was followed by
three other crews. Their target was
Plymouth Sound, which, given its long-
range geographic location, seemed a most
surprising choice, considering the
existence of French airfields much closer
to hand. However, the Geschwader was
one of the few un its trai ned in th is
operational function at this time, On
approach to the Sound, Herrmann was
flying at the required speed and descent
rate while letting down to his release
37
On 11 August 1940 Oberleutnant Welte took off as part of a KG 54 force attacking Portland. His Ju 88A-1
coded B3+DC was one of three Geschwader bombers failing to return, being fatally damaged by a
Hurricane of No. 213 Squadron and finally forced into a crash-landing on Portland Bill. Top picture: the air-
brakes are shown in the lowered position, and spinner tips bearing Staffel or Gruppe colours. Lower
photograph: the rear-angle view depicts the diagonal strip applied to KG 54 aircraft. Left aileron has been
virtually torn off.
the back foot. Withdrawal northwards
would hand an important tactical
advantage to the Luftwaffe by placing an
even greater train on the Hurricane and
Spitfire pilots' ability to stay in combat for
any length of time. In fact, thi vital
operational requirement would have
created a reverse scenario to that which
was destined to regularly bear down upon
their Bf I 9 adversaries during the entire
campaign. (That it was not to transpire
could be credited to yet another tactically
flawed assessment of the battle, by no less
a figure than the Fuehrer himself, when
his orders in turn impelled Goering to
direct th Luftwaffe bombers towards
London on 7 eptember).
The day's operations started badly for
the Germans, when KG 2's sortie to
Eastchurch was cancelled because of fog;
but this message was not received by the
crews involved, who were already
airborne, and five of these were destined
to be lost during the course of the attack.
Frustratingly, the poor weather conditions
that led to the early morning cancellation
had dispersed by the afternoon. In the
west, I, 1I and II I/LG 1, and part of KG 54
provided the bombing trength for one
arm of a twin-pronged attack centred on
the airfields of o. 10 Group in the West
Country. A preliminary fighter 'sweep'
was made by Bf 109s, but this failed to
attract away the R F fighters, as it was
meant to; in fact it also provided an
enhanced degree of warning against the
bombers' approach. LG 1 had been tasked
with striking at R F Warmwell as well as
Southampton, and KG 54 with a
diversionary attack upon Portland.
The 'gap' caused by Ventnor's
destruction was ba ically countered by
stations to the west, and these managed to
pick up the atta kers; os. [52, 213 and
23 Squadron were duly 'scrambled' from
Warmwell and Middle Wallop, as was No.
601 quadron from Tangmere.
Most of LG I's aircraft got through to
Southampton, where they caused material
damage to its port and residential areas. Part
of the Geschwader (III/LG I) swung north
of the city towards Middle Wallop, which
was also allotted to the]u 7s of tG 2. In
the event, RAF Andover was incorrectly
selected and bombed by all but one of this
sub-force. Overall Geschwader 10 ses
amounted to two from IJI/LG I, one of
which was downed by fighters. [n addition,
one]u 88 from [ Gruppe crashed on take-off
from Orleans-Bricy, killing its crew.
SUMMER OF DI CONTENT
The briefing on 13 August for Adlerwg
stressed the need to annihilate RAF
Fighter Command in the air as well as on
the ground. Although wholesale attrition
in combat was the hoped-for effect of
sustained Luftwaffe operations, the
destruction of, or serious di ruption to,
Fighter Command's airfields in south-east
England would be of equal importance.
Lo s of its airfields in this area would force
Fighter Command geographi ally onto
Adlertag
IIlllhilc generating equipment, allied to
rill' repai r of the actual tower aerial
tem, that enabled the RAF to sustain
III h a vital delusion.
It was also over Ventnor that KG 5 [
lIflercd arguably its mo t serious loss of
I rsonnel during a day's operations. The
III · ~ 8 ofOber t Fisser was reportedly taken
I'l\\n by a combination of AA fire and
hJ.:IHers, although only he was actually
killed from amongst his crew, following
rill' bomber' crash at Godshill Park on
the Isle of Wight.
return was led by a Leutnant eidel. On
[0 May this pilot had led two other He
11 [ crews from Landsberg to attack
Dijon-Longvic airfield in France.
Thunderstorm conditions over the Black
Fore·t French region caused them to lose
their bearings, with the result that
Freiburg received their bombs that had
been intended for Dijon. Goebbels
attempted to turn this incident against
the Allies, describing it as a 'terror attack'
upon a non-industrial city - the first
emotive shot in the strategic bombing
campaign of World War II.)
In this incident, Leutnant Unrau (3/KG
51) was fortunate to escape the attentions
of three Hurricanes, one of which was
claimed shot down by one of his crew,
Stabsfcldwebcl Winter, during its hectic
pursuit of them out over the Channel.
One of their engines was disabled before
the Hurricanes broke off the action, and
as the ailing bomber approached the
French coast, the remaining ]umo engine
lost [lower and Unrau wa forced to crash-
land right on the coastline. On climbing
out, the crew began a 'hit' count of bullet
strikes that reached almost 200. (The
Leutnant would experience an even more
daunting incident over Ru sia just over
twelve month later.) Equally, the cost to
the RAF was not light, with eleven
fighters lost, and nine pilots killed and
one wounded
As the main KG 51 force swung north
and in through the barrage balloon gap,
Oberst Fisser had split off to the left with
fourteen other bombers. Perched on the
south-ea t side of the Isle of Wight
coastline was Ventnor radar station, and it
wa on this that the]u 88 pilots directed
their undivided attention. The gunners
on sit had just a handful of Bofors 40mm
gun to defend themselves, and did what
they could against what became an
overwhelming attack. The building were
wooden and therefore extremely
vulnerable, and mo t of them were
demolished altogether or rendered
inoperable; but the huge radar towers
themselves proved impervious to the
bomb blast.
[n fact thi was a regular phenomenon,
and undoubtedly played its part in
per uading the enior Luftwaffe
authoritie that such attacks on the radar
chain were a relative failure. But more
damage was caused than they thought,
and it was only by swift plugging of the
transmitting 'gaps' by the substitution of
SUMMER OF DISCO;-.lTENT
30
The entire Geschwader was to provide
approximately 100 aircraft, with an even
larger escort of Bf I lOs from ZG 2 and 76,
and Bf 109s of]G 53 in support. However,
the fact that fewer than 20 per cent of the
fighters would come from the Bf 109 ranks
was to prove significantly compromising,
wh ile the m'erall performance of the
fonner group of aircraft was to be m'ertly
criticised by the day's end.
Once the lengthy proce's of rake-off
and assembly was completed, the massive
aerial armada headed out, with KG 51 led
by the Kommodore, Oberst Dr Fisser. The
apparently meandering course of the
incoming raiders that was initially plotted
by Pol ing finally ended up as a straight,
westward-flowing blip just off the coast in
the region of the [sle of Wight, as
confirmed by Royal bserver Corps
(ROC) personnel.
By this stage several RAF squadron had
been 'scrambled' and were on hand to
challenge the attackers. However, by the
time that challenge was fully launched,
the main element of KG 5 [ had
completed its basic assignment. The naval
facilitie at Portsmouth were the focus for
attack by upwards of eighty]u s, and
their ordnance cau ed serious destruction
both in the dockyard and the surrounding
urban area. AA fire was credited with
bringing down two of the unit - although
thi was a small price to pay for what had
been achieved. But a host of RAF fighters
awaited the bombers as they streamed out
through the gap in the barrage balloon
network, which had earl ier provided
access to the target.
The 'circling' tactics of the Bf 1lOs,
which it had been hoped would draw off
the bulk of the RAF, did not work, while
the belated appearance of ]G 53, as the
bomber tream headed home towards the
south-east, was almost equally ineffectual.
A total of ten crews in all were brought
down on land or into the hannel as a
re ult of AA fire or the fighters that tore
into the rank of KG 51. Obergefreiter
Hansmann and Oberleutnant Graf
(3/KG51) came down around the city,
while Oberleutnant Wildemuth ( /KG
51) crashed in th docks, although three
of his crew survived, a did one of Graf's
crew. ix of the remaining seven MIA
statistics ended up in the Channel waters.
A further three aircraft reached France,
with several airmen wounded, and having
sustained varying d grees of reparable
damage. (One of the rews failing to
Prelude to Adlertag
height of 90m OOOft) when he suddenly
sighted a harrage hal loon ahead of his
course. His desperate attempt to avoid
this ohstruction failed, and his]u made
ine\'itable contact by literally 'squashing'
down onto the massive balloon! A few
seconds later, as the aircraft's weight and
motion caused both it and its 'passenger'
to sag out of the sky, the] u came free -
but was now upside down as well as
virtually 'stalled out'.
Thinking all was lost, Herrmann
jettisoned the rear cockpit after issuing
the bale-out order. But he managed to
manoeuvre the aircraft off its back, alheit
in a steep dive, and so the order was
rescinded, and he decided to at least lay
the mines in their position, even if the
roused defences shot him down in the
process. [n fact not only did he get his
load away, but he also got clear of the AA-
infested naval port, for a long and
draughty return to Soesterburg in
Holland; here, all that was found was
marginal damage to the air brakes and a
bit of paint scraped off the wing surfaces'
The long-awaited full-scale assault upon
southern England by the Luftwaffe had
been granted the impressive title of
Adlertag (Eagle Day). The original
planned date for this decisive srage of the
battle had been set for 13 August, but the
previous day was not wasted in terms of
wholesale Luftwaffe activity. As a
necessary prelude to the main attack, the
British radar stations were made the fo us
of assault.
Up to this point, the expectations of
ultimate success over RAF Fighter
Command still ran high. However, the
range of sorties for that day would end in
a more ober as essment of the situation,
although the reverse suffered could well
be regarded as temporary, if painful. A
priority for attack was given to the radar
chain. Those radar stations in the eastern
zone of the Channel as far as Pevensey
were to be taken care of by the specialist
unit Erprobungsgruppe 210 with its mix of
Bf 109s and Bf 11 Os. Those station
further to the west around Portsmouth
would be dealt with by Luftflotte 3.
At the airfields occupied by KG 51
there were the usual mixed feelings of
enthusiasm and tension amongst the
crews as they were briefed for operations.
SUMMER OF DISCONTENT SUMMER OF DISCONTENT
A Rotte of Ju 88A-1s belonging to KG 30 have had their code letters. national insignia and fuselage under-
surfaces crudely over-sprayed in black. This action had been taken in order for the unit to participate in
the nocturnal blitz campaign over Britain during 1940/41.
fight their way back to Denmark; the
other possibility was (he mistaking of one
ai rfield for (he o(her. Whatever the
reasoning, (he SC 250 and 500 ordnance
were delivered accurately, and a total of
ten Whitleys of No. 102 Squadron were
destroyed, along wi(h numerous buildings.
However, the loss of bombers was not as
cri(ical to (he R F's conduct of the battle
as that of its fighters. The air battle
continued out over (he coast until the
RAF fighters were forced to disengage
because either fuel or ammunition were
ex hausted.
One of the first crews ro succumb
appeared to be Unteroffizier von Lorentz.
His]u 88A-5 came down to the south of
Bridlington, and its crew were all
captured. second IIKG 30 bomber was
logged as shot down nonh of (he (arget,
with a third declared MIA. The
remaining four losses were from the other
two Gruppen, three from III IKG 30.
Feldwebel Bihr's crew all died in the crash
of their 4/KG 30 bomber ncar
HunmanbYi only Feldwebel Henneske
died in (he crash-landing of his aircraft;
while again, there were no survivors in
either Leutnant Reide's crew, or the (hird
Ilil KG 30 team. (It is interes(ing to note
from several post-war li(erary sources that
severely mauled: the final cost was eight
He Ills and around (he same number of
Bf 110s. The possibility that the bombers
might continue down the coastal fringe,
and the presence of convoy Arena off
southern Yorkshire, prompted the
'scrambling' of No. 264 Squadron's
Defiants from Kirron-in-Lindsey. Almost
immediately the radar station at Staxton
Wold recorded a large 'plot' coming in
from the north-east, and Spitfires of o.
616 Squadron, along with Hurricanes of
No. 73 Squadron, were similarly
dispatched. The 'plot' related to KG 30's
]u 88s, numbering around fifty aircrafr.
(Ironically, one of the briefed targets was
Leconfield, home for os. 616 and 73
Squadron. These 'wasps' would not be
available for swatting on the ground, but
would land their 'stings' on the Luf(waffe
crews' )
In the event, KG 30's ordnance would
be directed at the Bomber Command base
of Driffield, directly ro the nonh of
Leconfield. The Ju 88s were already under
steady assault at this stage of the
operation, and may well have decided to
bomb as quickly as possible in order to
This is a head-on view of a KG 30 Ju 88A-1 that has been bombed up with all four wing-racks
bearing what appear to be 250kg (550Ib) ordnance.
I he morning of 15 August dawned with
I <lor existing weather conditions, and
dll'rdore with little indication of the
IIl'mendous air battles due ro rage the
Il'ngth of southern and eastern England as
the day developed. For the first - and, as
II transpired, the last - occasion a twin-
pronged assault would be launched. in
,ddition ro the normal attacks by
I u'-tflotte 2 and 3, there would be a
\'l'able contribution from Luftflotte 5
<ll'erating out of its orwegian and
Ibnish airfields.
The mechanics of KG 30 set about
Il'adying (heir aircraf( in a downpour, bur
" the rain eased, so did their grumbling.
I uftflotte 5's pri mary targets were ro be
urfields in nonh-east England, split
Il·tween KG 26 and KG 30. The former
('eschwader rook off from Stavangar at
,lnlll11d 10:00 hours, and crossed the
<lnh Sea ro a point off (he
"';cottish/English border. From here until
Iheir deparrure some (hirty minutes later
<lver the coast near Sunderland, they and
Iheir Bf 110 escort from ZG 76 were
'Black Thursday'
in order ro carry ou( a head-on approach.
This angle of attack mean( that the
return fire from the]u 88 was reduced to
irs single machine-gun mounted
alongside the pill)(, and an accurately
delivered burst from the Allied aircraf(
was likely to injure or kill (he]u 88 crew
((he 8USAAF were to be severely
punished by (his attack procedure by (he
Fw 190s and Bf 109s during (he summer
of 1943). The disadvantages inherent in
adop(i ng (h is ac(ion were (he shon
period in which ro fire (no more (han (wo
seconds, on average, from an approx-
imate range of 550m (600yd)), coupled
wi(h (he danger of collision if evasive
ac(ion wasn't pretty quick'
Tuck's known skill as a marksman now
srood him in good s(ead. He opened fire
far enough away, correcting his first
burs(s to land a final fusi llade, almos( at
collision dis(ance, directly onro the
cockpi( canopy of (he leader. The effecr
was lethal, and (he Ju 88 dipped sharply
downwards to crash near Barry. The (Wo
surviving bombers chose to ignore the
cover offered by the lower cloud layers,
and so were gradually ovenaken and hi(
by a second frontal assaulr. Once again
(he resul( was le(hal for one of (he
aircraf( - whereupon (he sole remaining
crew belatedly but successfully ducked
into the clouds, though nor before
absorbing some punishmenr.
whose pilots were killed. However, this
sizeable arithmetic advantage would not
be sustained as the battle progressed, and
desperate times lay ahead for Fighter
Command. This parlous condition was
naturally unknown to the tired British
airmen, who must have been buoyed up
by the actions of 13 August, and who
probably considered that the day augured
well for a successful campaign.
Luftwaffe operations were greatly
reduced in scale next day, but several of
the participa(ing units suffered sharp
losses; among these were five He Ills of
1I11KG 27, and three Bf 109s of 1I1]G 52-
Several of KG 51's crews were despatched
on sorties that took them over the Bristol
Channel and Sou(h Wales. Three of these
were plotted by radar around the Cardiff
area, and the controller direc(ed a No. 92
Squadron secrion onto (heir track.
Stanford Tuck was again in charge, and
mer his adversaries head-on some miles
norrh of Cardiff. Wi(h no (ime to ini(ia(e
a direct nose-to-nose attack, he wheeled
his sec(ion around and set off in pursuir.
The rerum fire from the bombers was
observed to be well co-ordinated, and one
Spitfire was struck in irs radiator; (he loss
of glycol forced (he pi lot to peel away and
down.
Tuck (hen decided to pull ahead of the
] u 88s, whose speed was s(eady enough for
him to do so, and get far enough in front
The experience of KG 54 this day was
more painful, with three MIA crews lost
from its main ranks, and a fourth on a
separate solo venture. The main rank
losses happened in the course of an
inconclusive 'feint' attack upon
Portland, and all were brought down by
fighters, at widely dispersed locations:
Hauptmann Strauch of Stab 1I1KG 54
fell way over to the east, near Arundel,
and one of the remaining pair was taken
down by Spitfires of o. 92 Squadron,
whose leader, Flight Lieutenant Bob
Stanford Tuck, remembers the encounter
well. His section was in a separate
location to the bulk of the squadron (off
Portsmouth), when three ]u 88s were
seen heading south, low over the water.
The range was quickly closed by a diving
approach, and Tuck landed lethal strikes
on the bomber to the left, which literally
'tobogganed' along the surface of the
water before stopping. Their momentum
from the dive now spent, the fighters had
a hard task to maintain firing range. As
Tuck later put it:
'The]u 88 was a wonderfully fast kite-
especially when it had unloaded and the
pilot was homeward-bound with a Spitfire
up his backside" Well out over the
Channel, and having landed several
strikes on the lead]u 88, Tuck reluctantly
turned his section for home, leaving the
German crews to regain French soil.
The 'solo' loss had occurred in the early
morning. An 'intruder' sortie to RAE
Farnborough was intercepted by
Hurricanes of Nos. 43 and 60 I Squadron,
and the bullets that ridd led the ] u 88
resulted in a fatal crash for Oberleutnant
Ostermann's crew. Eleven more aircraft
were damaged, of which at least three
belly-landed, so putting them out of
action for at least several days.
Although a measure of destruction or
serious damage had been inflic(ed on
Eastchurch, Manston and Detling in
Kent, only Manston was of direct
importance to Fighter Command. The
overall cost to (he Luftwaffe bomber crews
was inordinately high, when set against
this degree of success - seventeen aircraft
MIA, with a further (wenty-three
damaged, of which four were a 'write-off'.
Fighter casual(ies were of similar numbers
- twelve and twenty-five respectively,
with seven in the 'damaged' category that
were only fi( for salvage. All (his was
achieved at the cost of thirteen RAF
figh(ers destroyed in combat, only three of
32 33
SUMMER OF DISCONTENT
Lull in the Storm
The scale of Luftwaffe activity dropped
away for the ensuing five days. Over this
period a total of twenty-five aircraft across
the operational spectrum of the Luftwaffe
were MlA, with a smaller number
savaged and finally brought down by
pilots from at least four squadrons;
moreover all of these submitted claims for
its final destruction, with the result that a
combined total of four 'kill' was recorded.
o one was left alive at the crash-site at
Ide Hill near Biggin Hill.
The econd Ju 88 to be lost came down
near West Mailing, but only the pilot,
Obelfeldwebel Krebs, was killed.
SUMMER OF DISCONTENT
35
involved. The Ju 88s made a good job of
following in the wake of the low-level
force, but the bombs dropped by the
preceding elements of I and II/KG76
added surprisingly little to the pattern of
destruction, and furthermore created a
smoke cloud that obscured the airfield
and prevented any hope of an accurate
diving assault. The bombs were retained
for possible use on We t Mailing to the
south-east.
Two crews failed to return from thi
sortie; one was that of Oberfeldwebel
Eichhorn, who e aircraft sustained either
an AA or machine-gun burst in one
engine and started to lag behind the
formation. Even the presence of Bf 109s
from I11/JG 51 led by Hauptmann
Trautloft could not prevent its being
Two pictures of a Ju 88A-1 from KG 30 that has come to grief in a shallow ditch. Distant view reveals how
the black over-spray applied for night operations extends well up the rear fuselage sides. The close-up
view displays the shattered cockpit; the likelihood of any of the crew escaping death or serious injury.
given the degree of damage. would appear to be minimal.
Nor did their flight formation help, as
lilt IImHed above: at that point in time,
Ill\.' German formation tended to be 'flat'
111 overall format, instead of being
I.lggered in depth and breadth; hence
there was always a chance of defensive fire
Inking one of their own bombers instead
"f an enemy aircraft. (In early 1943 the
USAAF would take this factor into
.Ilcount in building up a viable defensive
lllrmation pattern. Even then, the more
tkxible formations flown, along with the
provision of power turrets on the Bl 7s
md B24s, would not enable their much
more heavily armed bombers to reach into
(Jermany and return safely without the
lilt imme benefit of fighter escort.)
Coering's vaunted estimation of a few
d"y, in which to smash RAF Fighter
( 'ommand was being thrown back in his
f,lCe during the first few days of Adlerangriff
(Eagle Attack). Furthermore, the overall
po,ition continued to stagnate during the
Ill'xt few days. Selected targets were struck
II'lth varying degrees of severity, but
hghter Command continued to function.
()n 16 August, Tangmere and Ventnor
t(lok a particularly heavy battering from
the Ju 7s of tG 2 - but nine of these
,urcraft were shot down in turn, and this
tllrn of events presaged their imminent
whole ale withdrawal from the battle.
Ilowever, unbeknown to the Germans, a
l ritical factor was working in their favour:
the growing shortage of RAF pilots, since
the losses in combat were exceeding the
Illlmbers of OTU replacements.
A deceptively quiet twenty-four hours
the next day only heralded what became
the most intensive daily operation of the
l'ntire battle - aptly entitled the 'Hardest
Ihy' by a leading British author. No fewer
than fifty RAF and seventy-seven
Lllftwaffe aircraft were lost or damaged.
Sixteen Ju 7s of tGn were decimated
over Ford, Thorney Island and Poling,
,md the result was the end for the 'Stuka'
,!, an element of the bomber force over
England. Ju involvement in the day's
Ilperations was limited to II/KG 76. The
lInit's crews had been briefed to make a
co-ordinated as ault on the ector airfield
.11 Kenley, along with Do 17s of its sister
{Jruppen, and with part of III/KG 76
bombing at minimum height. Problems
with rendezvous assembly led to the low-
level Dorniers going in alone to make a
good strike, which wrecked the vital
operations' building, among others, but at
.1 cost of nearly all the nine aircraft
pilot from os. 32 and 43 quadron had
struck the Ju . These identified crash-
sites were added to by three bombers,
which met a watery fate in the hannel.
Two unidentified crews managed to
'ditch' and were later rescued by the
Seenotdienst. The third crew, led by
Feldwebel Siegmund, did not share uch
fortune and went down with the aircraft.
Once again, the Junkers design had lost
out to the fighters. By now it was patently
clear that all three major Luftwaffe
bombers suffered a serious deficiency in
defensive firepower; furthermore, the styl
of formation flown could also be seen as
adding to the problem. As regards
firepower, although ome units had
adopted a 'fire-control' system whereby
one aircraft co-ordinated the firepower of
others around it onto specific fighters, the
total weight of that fire was never more
than adequate. The operation of single
flexible weapons meant that most gunfire
was scattered and sporadic, e pecially
when given the limited content of the
ammunition containers. This compared
badly to the heavier and more sustained
rate of fire capable of being produced by
the fixed machine-gun batteries of the
RAF fighters, which were also firing along
a single line of ight.
readily with the afor mentioned targets.
The force of sixty bombers was to be
covered by forty Bf IlOs of ZG 2.
The hopes of a trouble-free sortie were
initially blunted, and then dashed, as the
Germans approached th Isle of Wight.
Here the first of five RAF quadrons put
in their initial attacks, and the bomber
crews began to fight for their lives. The
gunners were desperately holding off the
Hurricanes of No. 601 quadron, in
particular, with increasingly vain effect,
although losses largely occurred after
bombing was completed. It was II Gruppe
that absorbed all the los es, three
occurring in swift succession: the Ju 8 of
Oberleutnant Suin de Boutemard crash-
landed at We t Tisted, and the pilot later
joined his crew who had baled out. Then
another Gruppe bomber slammed into the
ground nearby, with nobody surviving;
and a third under Unteroffizier Poggensee
crashed at Twyford, and all the crew were
made POW. nteroffizier Rimek fell
victim to a No. III quadron Hurricane
at Earnley, while Oberleutnant Moller's
crew all died near Southbourne after
34
Another Ju 88A-1 from KG 30 has had the wheel-chocks removed. The pilot is applying full power to the
Jumo 211 engines prior to throttling back and easing the aircraft out and along towards the runway.
I
all but the Lorentz and Bihr-crewed
aircraft w r stated to be Ju C-2, the
'solid nose' fighter version of the Junkers'
design. The presence of these as
Zerswerers with which to protect the
bombers proved to be a failure - although
this was in direct contrast to the KG
26/ZG 76 experience further north on
this day. In this instance more of the
'escort' had been downed than their
charge! Either way, the Luftwaffe had
come out on the losing side.)
To the south, the adverse weather front
had cleared up by late morning, and the
first of the day's assault was launched, in
this case by Ju 7 of IV/LG 1 against
Hawkinge, and tG l against Lympne.
Then there was a time-gap of several
hour before the twin-engine bomber
force was brought into the equation. The
crews of I and II/LG 1 were briefed to
attack Middle Wallop and Worthy Down:
the ector tation at Tangmere, and its
satell ite Westhampnett, north-east of
Portsmouth, have been quoted as the
target choices, but the geograph ic
locations for ll/LG 1's losses tie in more
SUMMER OF DISCONTENT SUMMER OF DISCONTENT
The black shroud of darkness adds to the dramatic effect as this Ju 88A-l or A-5 has its Jumo 211 engines
brought up to full power. Regular nocturnal raids over Britain commenced on 7 September 1940 and lasted
until a final devastating assault upon London on 10/11 May 1941.
damaged in combat incidents. The accent
on 'disturbance' sorties probably suited
the use of the]u 8 in this role, given its
superior performance to the He 11 I and
Do 17; on the other hand, fully one third
of the combat losses involved]u 88 units.
For example, one of the KG 51crews
heading up the Bristol Channel on the
19th attacked Bibury and headed south-
east for France; but Feldwebel Hask could
not outpace the pair of No. 92 Squadron
Spitfires that 'scrambled' in hot pursuit,
and his bomber was finally caught and
despatched off the Sussex coast, along
with its hapless crew. A second
Geschwader machine crashed at Caen
after it had survived fighter attacks. Then
two days later, on the 21st,
reconnaissance operations off the Cornish
coast by K.Gr 806 ran into the Hurricanes
of o. 23 Squadron, and in the ensuing
battle Leutnant von Davidson and
Leutnant zur See Miehr died with their
entire crews.
Further north, KG 30 was still active off
the east coast, albeit at a cost, as it lost
two crews within twenty-four hours: on
the 20th an attempted attack on
Thornaby by a single aircraft ended in its
loss to the CO of No. 302 Squadron, off
Withernsea. And on the following
evening, the engines of another aircraft
over-heated and then caught fire; the
pilot had no option but to make a forced
landing in the sea off Berwick, amI only
two airmen managed to come out of this
alive.
On that same day, KG 54 lost no fewer
than three bombers, all to fighter
interception. One of these, piloted by
Hauptmann Maiwald, had attacked Brize
orton, but Maiwald and his crew were
obliged to abandon their aircraft north of
Selsey Bill, following attacks by o. 17
Squadron. Thus did the village of Earnley
claim its second ]u 88 'trophy' within
seven days, the first having been
Unteroffizier Ri mek's 4/LG 1 bomber, on
the 15th.
The Crisis Deepens
The renewal of the full-scale offensive on
24 August occurred at a stage when RAF
Fighter Command was facing its most
critical state of operational efficiency
during the battle. ot only were the pilot
replacement levels not matching the
losses, but the lack of combat expertise in
itself was a significant factor in the
numbers that were lost, as pilots fell
victim to their immeasurably more
battle-hardened opponents. In addition,
the concentrated attacks on fighter
airfields over the next two weeks would
reap rich rewards for the Luftwaffe. It is
therefore supremely ironic that the night
of 24/25 August also set in motion a
chain of strategic and political events
that would cause the actual battle to
swing back in favour of the defenders.
(The catalyst for this was the accidental
bombing of London by a handful of
Luftwaffe bombers.)
The attacks began around 09:00 hours,
with the first thrust in the south-east
composed of a heavily escorted bomber
force. Around noon, a second force
involving the]u 8 s of ll/KG 76 struck at
Manston, from which the Defiants of No.
264 Squadron were hastily 'scrambling',
having received only belated warning of
the attack. The airfield was again
punished, while the Defiants, who had no
time to form up, were torn apart by the Bf
109 escorts, losing six of their number.
Four] u 88s were brought down, at least
one of them by the turret fighters, and a
fifth staggered back severely damaged,
with one crew member fatally wounded.
A serious loss to both unit and
Luftwaffe was its Gruppenkommandeur
Major Moricke, whose bomber came
down off the coast, as did the other three.
Hornchurch, the horne base for No. 264
as well as several Spitfire squadrons, was
pounded during the afternoon; but of the
forty-six Do 17s directed at North Weald,
less than half got through, and as a result
delivered a fairly ineffectual strike.
Portsmouth suffered a sharp raid by LG 1
in the late afternoon.
The scale of the attacks upon the
airfields directly supporting Fighter
Command intensified on the 26th, when
no fewer than four in the hinterland of
o. 11 Group were selected; the coastal
bases of the group, at Manston, Hawkinge
and Lymnpe, were already operating at
reduced capaci ty, and use of the former
airfield would soon be abandoned by
Fighter Command for the remainder of
the battle. In the event, only Debden
suffered any damage, the Luftwaffe
bombers generally turning back in the
face of sustained fighter attacks. This
temporary rebuff was soon counter-
balanced by determined attacks on Biggin
Hill in particular. This sector station in
36
north-west Kent lay astride the south-east
approach to London, and absorbed several
heavy blows; the culminating (and worst)
example occurred in the evening of 30
August, when Bf 11Os of Epr. Gp. 210
delivered their bombs with great accuracy.
As at Kenley, the Operations Room had
to be transferred into the nearby village.
Hornchurch was savaged by two groups of
raiders next day, as was Biggin Hill;
damage at the former airfield was limited
to its flying surface, but the hits at Biggin
virtually completed the destruction of its
major buildings.
By now, Luftflotte 3 had been assigned
the duty of regularly bombing Britain by
night, and its Bf 109 units transferred into
Luftflotte 2 in order to bolster protection
for the latter organization's bombers.
However, there was a continuing degree
of involvement in the daylight campaign
by its bomber units. Within Luftflotte 2,
the ] u 88s of Ill/KG 54 and II/KG 76
played their part in hammering the RAF
airfields, along with KG 30. The latter
unit, having recovered from its battering
over northern England on 15 August, had
transferred to Chievres, Belgium and
Eindhoven in southern Holland, and by
the beginning of September was a part of
Luftflotte 2's plan of operations.
The first week of S ptember witnessed a
disturbing proportion of the Luftwaffe
bombers and their escorts dominating the
airspace over somh-east England. The
'numbers game' in casualties seemed to be
increasingly attainable, although the RAF
fighters were knocking down a fair total of
their adversaries in the process. In truth,
both sides were physically and mentally
benumbed to the same degree, though of
course neither was aware of either the
individual or the corporate extent of the
problem: pilots falling asleep in their
cockpits or at the mess-room table; pilots
unable to take more than liquid food before
take-off (for example, no less an aviator
than Adolf Galland recollected he could
only force down a glass of milk laced with
a little red wine); basic errors in carrying
out sorties, which affected navigation
accuracy; and ground personnel similarly
exhausted by extended periods of
maintenance work on often badly damaged
aircraft whose quick return to combat
status was vital- all this was normal in the
daily routine. The anonymous Luftwaffe
airman who, on return from a sortie, stated
'Nothing much seems to be going on over
there' by way of explaining its easy-paced
nature, was probably not over-stating the
situation. But as Saturday 7 September
drew ever closer, neither he nor his fellow-
aviators could have known that the seeds
tor the Luftwaffe's ultimate reverse over
Britain, sown in late August, were now
about to bloom.
Operation Loge
The bombing of London on 24 August
had led to the censuring by Goering of the
crews involved. A mere twenty-four hours
later, the first of eighty-one RAF bombers
took off for Berlin, having been briefed to
bomb several key industrial sites within
the city. This was an optimistic prospect
at best, in view of the lack of techn ical
navigational and bombing equipment
currently mounted in the Hampdens,
Whitleys and Wellingtons. A minimal
amount of physical damage was visited
upon the Reichs/wpical and its citizens, but
the psychological impact was out of all
proportion to this. Continued raids over
the next week or so infl icted no more
damage than the first, but the emotive
'die' had been cast in the Fuehrer's mind.
t a speech giv n at the Sportpalast on 4
September he ranted: 'If the British
declare that they will attack our cities on
a grand scale, we will eradicate theirs!' By
'theirs', Hitler had in mind the British
equivalent to Berlin - namely, London.
Sure enough, clearance was immediately
issued for unrestricted attacks on the city,
and the course of the Battle of Britain was
set to the growing advantage of the
Luftwaffe's aerial adversary.
The codename for the initial attack on
London was Loge, the ancient God who
had forged the sword for Siegfried, and
had been chosen by Goering. The eerie
37
absent of enemy 'plots' on the board
during the morning and well into the
afternoon of 7 September must have
grated on the defenders' nerves. Why was
there such an extended delay in mounting
attacks in the face of what was a perfect
autumn day) Across the Channel the
answer was being assembled in the form of
over 600 bombers and a similar number of
escorts. As Goering stood on the cliffs at
Cap Gris Nez and made a bombastic
speech into a recording-van microphone,
the first elements of the aerial armada
coursed out overhead. The first radar
'plots' caused confusion as to the likely
intentions of the attackers. The natural
assumption that the single massive force
would fan out at some stage of its
approach and strike at Keith Park's
airfields was only revised when no such
split occurred as the force advanced
inexorably up the Thames. Consequently,
the eleven squadrons sent up to intercept
it, from airfields as far away as Tangmere
and Middle Wallop, some of whom
establ ished contact as far east as the Isle of
Sheppey, could do little to prevent the
SUMMER OF DISCONTE T
Three of the crew from a Ju 88 straddle the cockpit and upper fuselage following a wheels-up 'landing'
in a field. Metal VOM propellers and unfaired hot air vents at the rear of the engine cowling indicate
the aircraft is an A-lor A-S variant. The retractable support for the windscreen machine-gun is in the
raised position.
A GrOWing Casualty Rate
presence of a strong escort would have
been no guarantee of the bombers'
immunity from sustained assault. [tis
perhaps interesting to consider that
Luftflotte 2's commander, General
Kesselring, had previously prophesied that
RAF Fighter Command was a spent force;
but the reverse suffereu within his own
command on that particular day must
have been a bitter pill to swallow - indeed
the latest of several on this issue.
Back at Laon, the survivors mourned the
loss of thirty-five fellow airmen, only
eight of whom hau survived to become
POW. But this horrendous casualty rate
was not untypical among the Luftwaffe
bomber crews, and could be attributed to
two major shortcomings in aircraft de ign.
First, a well directed burst of fire into the
heavily glazed and therefore very
vulnerable cockpit area on any of the Do
17s, Ju 88s or He II [s was likely to inflict
serious injuries or death upon the closely
packed occupants. econd[y, the relative
lack of clear space between the four
airmen positioned in the Do 17s and Ju
88s could significantly compromise their
evacuation of the cockpit in an
emergency. Sometime a buckled and
jammeu escape hatch, or a wounded or
dead airman laying across the hatch
would be the main problem; otherwise
clothing or parachute harne s might
become snagged on the countless levers,
knobs and other equipment, making it
impossible to escape and parachute out.
Another problem might be thrown up if
the stricken bomber went down in a spin,
because if any of it crew were still on
board, the centrifugal force caused by the
spinning motion would hold them in a
deadly 'embrace' right up until their final
impact with land or water. (The rear
canopy of the Ju 88 could be jettisoned,
but the airmen sti Il had to avoid the
horizontal stabilizers and the vertical fin
Over the next fifty minutes, between six
and eight bombers were brought down from
the beleaguered formation: Oberfeldwebel
Semerau (8/KG 77) and Unteroffizier Kurz
(9/KG 77) came down on the Isle of
Sheppey almost Simultaneously; two more
8/KG 77 crews - Oberleutnants Weber and
Fuchs - had descended into the Thames off
Sheerness by 17:30 hours; and just ten
minutes later, a second 9/KG 77 machine
came down in flames on Pitsea Marshes on
the Essex bank of the river. Local observers
saw this bomber circle at minimum altitude
between Benfleet anu Vange before
smashing into the ground just south of the
main railway line crossing the marshes.
Only the pilot, Feldwebel Wahl, was still on
board upon impact, but of the three other
airmen who baled out, only Feldwebel Graf
survived, Gefreiters Buschbeck and LeskeI'
striking the ground before their parachutes
could properly deploy.
Before the day was out, yet another
aircraft from Staffel was shot down, just
adding to the Gruppe's suffering: again
there were casual tie , Oberfeldwebel
Brendel perishing with two of his crew in
the waters off Southend. And another 7
Staffel aircraft, flown by Feldwebel
Wasche, was also lost during this
encounter: severely damaged by machine-
gun fire, in a desperate attempt to save
himself and his crew, the pilot ordered the
bombs to be jettisoned and the aircraft
ditched. But none survived: although it is
believed they were still alive after putting
the aircraft down in the sea, it is like[y
that all subsequently died of exposure.
The Gruppe's travails continued on the
return leg of the sortie as far as the south-
east Kent coast. [I' was here that Major
Kle ' Ju 8 was probably shot down - the
last to be [asI' from the unit. Once again
fighters landed lethal strikes, and the Ju
88 crashed and burnt out at Eastry near
Sandwich; K[ess was not one of the two
survivors.
Just why what appeared to be a force of
no more than Gruppe strength was sent
out on its own is not clear; even the
CHAPTER FOUR
The Long Retreat
What is now recognized in the British
( :ommonwealth as 'Battle of Britain Day'
15 September - was fought out in two
h,tinctive phases of the day's air battles.
With all his fighter strength committeu to
\l'arding off the first wave of attackers, it
\1';1' as well for Keith Park that the
IIltcrval before the second wave came in
\1',1, more than sufficient for his
II1Irricanes anu Spitfires to lanu, refuel
II1d rcaI'm, and be ready to take off again.
I hc Ju 88-equipped Geschwadern were
not called upon until the afternoon,
though by the evening, one bomber from
I/KG 51 was declared MIA, and one from
()/KG30 came back so damaged by
m,lChine-gun fire that it crash-landed on
thc Cherbourg peninsula.
The crews of KG 77 had just transferred
\\ Ith their Ju 8s into Laon and Asch,
Bdgium, becoming the late I' unit to join
I lIftflotte 2, and Ii ted as available for
opcrations on the 7th. Unfortunately for
lhcm, their combat baptism over south-
\';1,1' England developed in the roughest
manner possible. (Although it must be
"tid, the Geschwader's record of training
,lCcidents did not augur well, either:
hctween 1 and 6 September, two complete
lfCWS had been killed in crashes, and
three other Ju 88s had crash-landed, with
,It least one aircraft 'written off'.)
Nevertheless, the crews were
dcspatched on the 17th, and they
rcturned without loss; the sortie was only
marred by one aircraft crashing on take-
off, killing Leutnant Zimmer (7 Staffel)
,lI1d two other airmen. Otherwise this
,Ippeared to be an ea y-paced start to
operations: but it was an impression that
\I';lS brutally shattered within twenty-four
hnur. The Tilbury Docks were the
hriefed target for the Ge chwader's next
mission, on the I th, and Major Kless (I II
t,ruppenkommandeur) duly led his crews
out over the Channel and along the
Thames estuary - and right into a massive
,lInbuscade of over 100 RAF figh tel'S,
which included the controversial
1)1Ixford 'Big Wing'.
o. 253 and 303 (Polish) Squadrons
truck to inflict sizeable losses on the
bombers, and four of KG 30's number
went uown. (Contemporary record
reveal that the unit's [asses largely
occurred on the route up to London.)
Oberleutnant Heil force-landed his
tab/KG 0 aircraft near Horsham, and
his crew were captured; and a econd
forced land ing in the region ki Iled the
pilot, Unteroffizier Deibler. A second
Stab Ju 8 from Ill/KG 30 'ditched' off
the coast, killing Major Hackbarth
(Gruppenkommandeur) and h is crew;
and similarly, the crew of Unteroffizi I'
Hettinger from 8/KG 30 were killed
when they were shot down.
RA F 10 e on the 11th exceeded that
of the Luftwaffe, al though the figure
included aircraft lost while attacking
the Channel ports and their concen-
trations of landing barges. A slackening
of activity over the next two days did
not affect the J u 8s of LG [ and KG54,
with the former unit in particular
making 'nuisance' raids off the south
coa I' on both day. On the 13th an
aircraft belonging to Stab I![/LG [
returned so heavily damaged from an
encounter with fighters that it was
'written off'.
restricted operations in this situation on
the 10th/11th; but the few operations
flown on the 12th, for example, cannot be
explained away in this manner.
[n the afternoon of the 9th, twin raids
were mounted, the Ju 88s of KG 30
heading for London in the company of He
III and Do 17 units, while a separate
strike was being launched further west by
KG I. A total of over 200 bombers were
covered by Bf 109s and Bf 110s.
Rendezvous was over Lille, and target
approach was made over ussex-
strangely rather than Kent.
nteroffizier Peter tahl recalled having
to fly a worn-out bomber in place of his
regular aircraft. During the target
approach, AA burst occurred
uncomfortably close - apparently close
enough to di per e the formation after it
had bombed, with individual pilots
seeking to join up within the other
Ge chwader formations!
According to Stahl, it was at this
point of the sortie that Hurricanes of
bombers from lining up to bomb the docks
on the U-bend of the Thames. A total of
twenty-nine Luftwaffe aircraft were M[A
in the course of Operation Loge, of which
only seven were bombers, and a further
twenty-one aircraft were damageu
compared to twenty-two RAF fighters
shot down - an arithmetic equation still
favouring the Luftwaffe.
With the pressure off their airfields, and
Goering's insistence on London being the
primary focus of attack around the clock,
Dowding and AVM Keith Park, in
particular, could maintain a more relaxed
state of overall 'readiness'. Park also felt
confident enough to initiate the practice
of uespatching squadrons in pairs,
although he resisted the concept of larger-
scale formations, exemplified by the
notorious Duxford 'Big Wing' of AVM
Leigh-Mallory's creation. Between and
[4 eptember, the Luftwaffe daylight
operations displayed an uncertain
momentum as well as a varied scale of
activity. Variable weather conditions
38 39
as they tumbled backwards over the
fuselage.)
Following its serious rebuff on the 15th,
the Luftwaffe now alternated b tween
ending in large fighter-bomber
contingents and relatively small bomber
force, according to the weather; although
there were everal days when conditions
would not have justifie I any lack of
activity. But thi policy tended to play
into the hands of Fighter Command, who
would hold back its fighters until it was
reasonably certain from where th main
threat was likely to come, and in what sort
of numbers.
It is disheartening to observe that the
unacceptably high level of losses suffered
by KG 77 on the 18 September sortie was
repeated on the 27th; before then, in
common with other units, it suffered a
'drip-feed' rate of casualties. The crews of
Unteroffiziers Kunz and Etzold were
brought down over London and Bury St
Edmonds the day following the Tilbury
Dock di aster. Five days later, one crew
each from all three Staffeln of II/KG 77
returned with varying degrees of battle
damage; the 6 taffel aircraft was so bad
that it was 'written off'.
APunishing Run to London
London was again the focus of attention
for Luftflotte 2 on the 27th, and this time
round it was the crews of II and III
Gruppen who were tasked with the duty.
Cover was to be provided by a sizeable
force of Bf 109s - a necessary precaution,
especially given the relatively small
number of Ju 88s involved, less than sixty.
The briefed rendezvous point off the
French coast resulted in failure to link up
with the fighters. The Geschwader leader
decided to press on across the Channel in
the hope of making contact with his
e corts, but by the time the Kent coast
near Folke tone was looming up, the ole
'escort' on hand wa the first of several
RAF quadrons.
Increa ingly de perate calls for
a i tance initially went without response
as the RAF attacks were pressed home
upon what was a badly outnumbered
formation. No fewer than four crews were
despatched into the Channel waters
between Lydd and Hastings. Unteroffizier
Hertlein managed to 'ditch' his shot-up Ju
88 off Lydd, but in doing so he and
another cr w member died. From the
THE LONG RETREAT
crews of Oberleutnant Ziel and Leutnant
Pflueger, only one came through
unscathed. A fourth crew led by
Feldwebel oelp also met its end in the
Channel.
Further los es were incurr d as the
bombers headed north-west towards
London: five aircraft were apparently
taken down betwe n the coast and
London, three falling around the
Tonbridge area within a matter of
minutes - nteroffizier Merschen came
down at Horsmonden, Oberleu tnant
Lutze at Penshur t, and Feldwebel
Brautigem at East Grinstead; again
there was a sole survivor from all three
crews. Cudham n ar Biggin Hill was the
end of the road for Oberfeldwebel
Mueller and his cr w, but only one
airman was killed after all baled out.
Finally, Unteroffizier Schumann baled
out his crew near DOI'king, but failed to
save his own life.
The bombing of the target and the
return to Belgium proved less costly -
though thi wa small consolation to the
three crews who fell victim to fighter
attack. First, Hauptmann Zetz che (5/KG
77 taffelkapitaen) was riding in
Obergefreiter Kuhn's bomb r, but the Ju
was brought down over London, killing
the entire crew. Then as the retreating
and decimated formation wa coming
abreast of evenoaks, the Ju 8 of
Oberleutnant eif became another
casualty; as it fell away under fighter
assault, only Feldweb I Zinsmeister was
able to get out in time. Further on, a 3
Staffel bomber flown by Unteroffizier
Ruhlandt was finally shot down: having
been damaged in both ngines by AA fire
over London, the crippled and isolated
machine took repeated puni hment from
the RAF fighters. Eventually near
Faversham all power was lost, but the
pilot at least managed to force-land his
thoroughly shot-up bomber on Graveney
Marsh; from here, all four airmen were
taken prisoner, after an alleged 'shoot-out'
with an army unit sent to effect their
capture'
The final leg back to Laon and Asch
must have been a very s o m ~ re affair for
the remaining forey-three crews, each
Gruppe having uffered the loss of six
aircraft. Had it not been for the belated
arri val of the Bf 109s at ome stage
during the sortie, losses might have
been even higher.
40
September Travails
The eptember travails of KG 77,
horrendous as these had been to date,
were till not quite over as the month
drew to a close. Three eparate bomb r
assault by the Luftflotten developed on
the 3 th, with an afternoon attack
involving KG 77 and KG 30. A single Ju
from the former unit was damaged by a
combination of AA fire and machine-gun
bullets, so the pilot force-landed at
Gatwick; one airman was killed, either in
action or during the landing. One other
KG 77 bomber returned with battle
damage, as did six from KG 30; two of
these had to crash-land, with fatal
consequences for the crews concerned.
Elsewher the Ju 88 of Feldw bel
Paczinski from I/KG 51 was lost in the sea
off Beachy Head, a victim of fighter
attacks.
None of the Geschwadern involved in
the Battle of Britain avoided serious loss
at some tage, but KG 77's experience in
what was a relatively shore period of
operations must have been particularly
demoralizing to it personnel. It was
therefor probably just as well that in
October, daylight bomber operations were
all but totally abandoned in favour of the
pinprick assaults of the 'Jabos' (fighter-
bomb r ).
Diminuendo
RAF Fighter ommand was kept at a
sound state of readiness during October.
The fact that much of the month's
daylight activity by the Luftwaffe related
to th high-altitude intrusions of the
'Jabos' did not allow for any lessening of
defensive cover. The German bombers
were still congregated in force across the
Channel and, it had to be assumed, would
strike when and where necessary at any
time of the day or night. One role for the
bombers other than in the nightly 'Blitz'
was a low-flying 'intruders': the ability of
any radar tation to pick up such aircraft
wa extremely poor, while the ground
defences generally had little or no time in
which to take effective counter-measures.
On 3 October the effectiveness of this
form of attack was brought home to the
De Havilland Company at Hatfield. A
single Ju belonging to Stab LlKG 77
utilized the low cloud and drizzle
persisting over the country to get through
(() its briefed target. The load of four
SC250 bombs macked off the ground and
Into the factory premises, and the
resultant destruction eriously
compromised future production of the
Mosquito, since the bulk of the prepared
material for the design was part of the
overall loss. A small measure of revenge
was exacted within minutes, when
groundfire from guns defending the
aerodrome fatally crippled the solo raider,
forcing Oberleutnant Fiebig into a crash-
landing. All four airmen were lucky to
emerge unscathed from their bomber,
which wa completely burnt out.
KG 77's run of losses continued the
fdlowing day when a I Gruppe crew made
a sortie over and along the east coast of
England, in weather conditions even
worse than those on the 3rd. RAF
Coltishall was now home to No. 257
Squadron, commanded by qn Ldr
Stanford-Tuck; on this day, however, the
pilots had been' tood down' on account
of the weather. But then the Operations
Room at Debden suddenly called around
10:00 hours, with a report of a 'bandit'
whose outward course was taking him
directly over Coltishall. Tuck's initial
reaction wa to make a negative response
to Debden's plea, but he changed his
mind, and instinct swiftly took over.
Hastily starting up his Hurricane, he took
off just as quickly along the water-strewn
runway - and almost immediately was
swallowed by the low-lying clouds.
However, he had barely clipped on his
oxygen mask in order to utilize its
microphon when the aircraft burst into
hi ind ing su nIigh t - and d irecti y bell. ind
and below the Ju 88! Tuck carefully
stalked his prey while switching on his
gunsight and activating the gun-button
on the control column. As he climbed up
to attack, the enemy pilot pointed hi
nose down in a gentle but steady glide.
This action left Tuck with little time to
make effective contact, but his first burst
was right on target and brought a violent
internal reaction from the Ju 's fu elage,
cau ing several ections to become
detached. The dying bomber then keeled
o"er and disappeared from sight. Easing
his Hurricane down through the cloud,
Tuck emerged over the orth ea near
Southwold. His adversary's watery grave
was subsequently confirmed as a few mile
off the coast.
Elsewhere on th is day, a Ju 88 from
6/KG I joined its KG 77 companion in
THE LONG RETREAT
the sea, this time off Folkestone when it
was shot down during a Geschwader
sortie to dive-bomb locations in that area
of Kent. Also brought down was an
aircraft from II/KG 76, which fell victim
to AA fire near London. ot one of the
three crew concerned e caped with his
life.
For the remainder of October there wa
little in the way of standard bomber
operations by day, other than single
'intruder' sorties, along with regular
reconnai sance duties. The solitary
nature of the latter form of duty
constantly laid the crews open to fighter
interception, often with lethal results.
AUFKL.GP (F) 122, for instance,
suffered two losses within five days: first,
berfeldwebel Spank' 1 Staff I aircraft,
believed shot down into the orth Sea
on the 3rd; and on the 8th, a 3 Staffel
aircraft attempted a reconnaissance of
the Midlands, only to be hot down with
the loss of all on board. Furth r north on
the 11 th, Major G ria h's crew, flying
from an airfield in candanavia, was
heading west towards Scotland in a I(F)
121 Ju - but they were never heard
from again, their likely fate being a crash
somewhere over the orth ea. everal
other reconnai sance unit crews suffered
crashes on take-off or landing, which
resulted in a number of d aths.
On 7 October, to prove that the
bombers were still active in numbers by
day, II/KG 51 was allotted the duty of
attacking the Westland factory at Yeovil.
This sortie was duly carried out under the
cover provided by the Bf II Os of II and
[] l/ZG 26, but the bombing results were
only moderate in terms of material
damage (though a hit on a shelter caused
many fatalities among those employees
inside). The Zerswerers did their duty very
well, since only one Ju was lost: the 5
taffel machine flown by Oberleutnant
Hey wa taken down by machine-gun fire.
On the other hand, seven of the escort
failed to return to France after they were
overwhelmed by the o. 10 Group
fighters 'scrambled' to intercept.
November/December 1940
In the nation's view, the 'official' end of
the Battle of Britain has long been stated
as 31 October. In practice, the Luftwaffe
kept up some form of pressure round the
clock well beyond this date, although the
47
bulk of it bombing activity wa centr d
round operations during the hours of
darkne . Even so, a book by a British
author has significantly corrected the
mi impression that the dayl ight aerial
conflict over Britain during the final two
months of 1940 was so limited as to merit
little or no attention.
Solo raids amI reconnaissance sortie by
twin-engined aircraft were undertaken
regularly, with the Ju playing a
prominent part - and inevitably paying a
price in air raft and crews in so doing. For
instance, on 8 November, the 7/KG I
bomber flown by Leurnanr Ungerer
headed in over East Anglia and targeted
RAF Honington. The A gunner's initial
impression that a Blenheim was in the
circuit was rudely corrected when the
aircraft released its bomb-load on a
second approach. Unfortunately for the
four Luftwaffe airmen, the ground
opposition recovered quickly enough to
land lethal hits on their machine, which
then crashed to leave no survivor. Two
reconnai sance aircraft from 5(F) 122 and
3(F) 123 were engaged by fighter but
escaped, although the latter crash-landed
on return, suffering a degree of damage
sufficient to place the airframe in <l
'salvage' category.
ext day it was KG 77 that felt the
brunt of Fighter ommand, when aeries
of individual orties to the London area
was launched. No. 253 Squadron was
vectored onto Leurnant Waeltermann
piloting a 2 Staffel aircraft, but all four
airmen safely evacuated their doomed
charge as it plunged into Kentish soil.
Their good fortune was not matched by
Leutnant Vaupal's crew after their I
Staffel Ju 88 was pounced upon by 0.92
Squadron and ummarily dispatched into
the Channel. (Two further Ju s
belonging to II/KG 51 were lost, along
with several crewmember, when they
were involved in a collision at Orly.)
ot all 10 e were in urred as a result of
actual combat, with Mother ature
occasionally providing a lethal
contribution to operations - as on 1
ovember. Feldwebel Wowereit took off
in an /KG 3 aircraft with a brief to
attack hurch Fenton airfield in
Yorkshire. As the Ju was approaching
the northern coastline of the county, a
thick mist was encountered, into whi h
the pilot ploughed at low level - too low,
in the event, as he found out when he
failed to clear rising ground near Whitby.
THE LONG RETREAT THE LO G RETREAT
Change of ownership. A party of RAF groundcrews are servicing this Ju 88A-5 belonging to the 'RAFWAFFE'
- a group of captured airworthy luftwaffe aircraft flown and demonstrated around Allied air bases in
Britain. Bomber was originally 4V+ GS of III/KG 1 that force-landed at Steeple Morden on 16 February 1941.
The rear sets of undercarriage doors normally remain in the closed position when the wheels are lowered.
The return of the Ju 7 to daylight
operations was made around this point,
with izeable raids recorded ov r the
Thame estuary on the tho and I Ith,
while BR 20s of the Regia Aeronautica,
escorted by CR 42s, made their belated
and somewhat costly first (and sole major)
sortie on the latter date over the sam
region. On the 12th, Luftwaffe records
showed four Ju 8 either destroyed or
'written off' due to combat damage on
return to their French airfields; the I/LG
l Ju 88 flown by Feldwebel Grauheding
constituted the sole 100 per cent loss,
along with its crew. Three out of the five
bomber losses suffered on the 13th wereJu
88s, with two brought down by fighters.
First down was probably Oberfeldwebel
Voelsch, whose Stab[I/KG76 machine
was shot down into the Channel. Then an
8/LG l bomber was intercepted over the
Midlands; it was pursued and, following
heavy damage, Feldwebel Erwin was
induced to crash-land. Finally, a 2/KG30
crew led by Oberfeldwebel Heinlein failed
to return to Brussels.
The Ju reconnaissance units were
certainly taking their share of puni h-
menr, with two lost in five days. A sortie
to photograph the result of the previous
night's raid on Birmingham was
undertaken on the 2 th by Feldwebel
uerath of 3(F) 121. The pi lot succeeded
in getting the necessary pictures, but a he
was heading south-west, two Hurricanes
of No. 79 quadron, 'scrambled' to
inrercept, finally caught up with th ir
quarry. The Luftwaffe was to remain
ignoranr of the raid's effects from this
source, not least because one burst of
machine-gun fire now brought the aircraft
down into the Bristol Channel.
December Operations
The Luftwaffe's daylight aerial activity
over Britain during December proved
even more restricted, thanks to the
deteriorating winter weather. However, a
measure of operations, ranging from
fighter weeps to reconnaissance, was kept
up wherever and whenever possible. The
solo efforts involved in the latter duty
naturally made the crews concerned as to
the particular risk of interception and
destruction. On the 7th Leutnant Tietzen
lifted off from a Brussels airfield in his
4(F) 122 aircraft with a brief to
reconnoitre England's east/central zone.
His Bordfunker was Unteroffizier Werner
Pinn, who recalled the events of what
would prove to be his fourth and final
operation over England:
Our mission this day was two-fold: a) rn bomb
a power station somewhere ncar Grimshy; and
h) [() make a reconmli sance and rake films.
However, it so happened that we were
recognized as soon as we flew in over the
coastline. [A correct assumption, since the Ju
SS's approach over Lincolnshire at low altitude
had nm escaped the arrent ion of the radar
network nor the three pilots from No. 611
Squadron, then aloft and on patrol). We
discovered four Spitfires behind us, and the
gunner (Gefreiter W Schenk) and 1 engaged
them with our MG ISs as soon as we thought
they were within range. I was protected hy a
thick iron plate against which I heard the
enemy hullets making contact. Although we
did think at the time we had shot down one of
the Spitfires, this later turned our rn be
incorrect.
uddenly the pilot shouted 'Starhoard
engine hit, and out of action!' And when the
other engine seemed to he hit, Leutnant
Ttet:en said, 'Get ready rn operate the dinghy
harch, and stand hy to ditch' - at this point we
had turned for home and were out over the
coastline, The sea looked very rough, and I was
responsible for handling the dinghy's inflation
as well as curring the mooring line securing it
[() the aircraft. My board knife proved to be
very hlunt and I feared having great difficulty
in curring the rope once we were down in the
sea. Thankfully, I then heard the pilot saying
he thought it possible to risk a crash on land
since one of the engines had commenced
working again and he could gain enough
altitude to turn back.
The last recollection I had at this point was
when we were coming in over a heach - then
nothing. I regained consciousness lying on a
grass meadow but hearing nothing. I must have
heen thrown clear out of the rear cockpit,
having previously jerrisoned the canopy.
uddenly as I stood up my name was called out
by our navigator Fcldwebel BaeurJe, who was
some 100 yards away. The Ju S's wings were
sharrered, the engine torn out of its mountings,
and our pilot could be seen in the cockpit, his
head slumped over the control column.
Gefreiter chenk was less seriously injured.
Both were removed in an ambulance that
turned up shortly after we crashed.
The first to appear on the scene were
members of a Home Guard unit, who seemed
more scared of us than we of them. They made
a great deal of noise, urrering expressions such
42
as 'Bloody mi' or 'Bloody swine', before
escorting me and BaeurJe to their coastal base.
Here we were separated and not allowed rn
speak rn each other. On the second day of
incarceration I finally felt the urge for the
toilet, which was outside and contained just a
bucket. A four-man guard took me there, hut
when I arrempted a little privacy by closing the
door, the men became very vocal. The door wa"
thrust open and all four trained their rifles on
me, whereupon I immediately forgot the
purpose hehind my squarring on the bucket I
My urge for the rnilct did not finally re-emerge
until I had bcen transferred to the interrogation
centre near London, where I remaincd for scveral
weeks before further transfcr to the London
Cage. It was here that I met the 'Boss' of the cage:
Lt Col Alexander Scotland. He was the so-called
Mastcr Spy in the 1957 film The One (hal Gor
Away, starring Hardy Krucgcr as OberJeutnant
Franz von Werra; hoth Scotland and I were
technical advisers.
Werner's recollection of the combat tics
in neatly with the Operational Record
Book of 0.611 quadron, part of which
is quoted:
Yellow 2 followcd the EfA as it passed him
turning to starboard, and continued firing until
dead astern, lIsing lip all amn1unition. Brown
and grey smoke came from the starboard
engine. and return gunfire from the rnp rear
gun position was experienced. [After two more
mtacks the record states:] I-laving dropped four
HE bombs at 12:37 hours that did nor explode,
the bandit apparently flew out to sea for three
or four miles. then turned back and landed at
about 13:47 hours. The crew of four, two of
them injured, were taken prisoner.
ormally a single multi-engine aircraft
would not come out the winner in any
combat involving one modern fighter, let
alone three. However, this scenario
occurred five days after the Tietzen
incident. Once again the Luftwaffe
aircraft concerned was a reconnaissance
Ju 88, this time belonging to 4(F) 121.
The Staffel was based in Brittany, from
where the aircraft headed north-east on
an approach that took it over Sel ey Bill.
There, a 'reception committee' of six
Spitfires from No. 65 Squadron closed
upon their prey, with each section
attacking in uccession. A sturdy
defensi ve fi re emanated from the Ju 88,
which was still aloft when last seen. In
turn, only one of the three Spitfires
directly involved in the action landed
back, its companions along with their
pilots crashing fatally, having fallen
victim to return fire from their adversary.
(The Ju 88 taggered back to a heavy
crash-landing at Caen).
Night Operations
When Great Britain and Germany
crossed swords on 3 September 1939, each
nation was equipped with a large bomber
force that was intended for strikingly
different role. For Britain, the primary
use of its trio of 'heavy' bombers
(Hampden, Wellington and Whitley) was
envisaged in a trategic manner, which
was attacking the enemy' industrial
capacity in order to minimize or halt the
flow of materials to its armed forces. [n
contrast, the equivalent trio of Luftwaffe
bomber (Do [7, He 111 andJu88) were
regarded as providing aerial support 'in
the field' to the Wehrmacht - in other
words, th crews would function in a
tactical sense.
With the balance of Western European
geography passing so comprehensively to
the Nazis by the middle of 194 , it
became increasingly important that they
changed their bombers' role to one more
similar to that of RAF Bomber Command
- although ironically, the 'tactical'-
oriented Luftwaffe in fact possessed at the
time far better means both to locate and
to bomb accurately what were relatively
long-range targets, namely Britain's
industrial centres. The equivalent
technical support for RAF Bomber
ommand just did not exist in 1940, and
indeed was to be largely absent for most of
the ensuing two years. Gee, H2 , Oboe
and a host of similar developments were
still at the planning stage. avigation was
by map reading, and 'deduced reckoning'
should bad weather preclude the former.
[n addition, the maximum individual
weight of British ordnance, not to
mention its balli tic and explosive
properties, was basically inadequate even
to eriously damage, let alone destroy,
heavy industrial plant or other strategic
locations. Until late 1942 these negative
factors were inevitably destined to have a
seriously adverse effect on a Force whose
specific brief was to penetrate far and
43
accurately into the enemy hinterland, if it
was to discharge its duty at all efficiently'
The Luftwaffe had been carrying out
night raids around the British coast for
a number of months, and in the course
of June this ba ic activity was steadily
extended over the nation's interior,
albeit in the form of individual aircraft
or small formations. The vast bulk of the
bombers were being positioned for the
forthcoming 'Daylight Offensive', and so
nocturnal operations were still very
much a minor matter, with 'disturbance'
of the population no less important than
inflicting any notable damage to
Britain's economy. However, the
Germans were in possession of a
sophisticated device with which to guide
the bombers to specific targets at night.
Reports of such a system had reached the
British authorities via a orwegian-
ba ed source in late 1939, and further
confirmation of the ystem was obtained
during the interrogation of captured
bomber crews. Basically, it was a method
of measuring the distance of an aircraft
from a ground station by transmitting a
modulated radio carrier wave; when
picked up by the aircraft it was amplified
and retransmitted. Thus the ground
tation could determine how far di tant
the aircraft was by means of the time
delay of the retransmitted signal.
Known as 'Knickebein' (crooked leg), it
was to be used for general target marking
by individual bombers through the use of
two intersecting beams whose trans-
miners were geograph ica II y spread
between Denmark and Switzerland.
An even more refined sy tern was 'X-
Geraet': operated by the speciali t target-
marking unit Kampfgruppe 100, it wa so
precise that specific locations could be
bombed- an ability that boded ill for key
indu trial sites such as airframe and
aircraft engine factories. Again the
principle involved inters cting beams, but
with three signals intersecting the primary
beam along which the 'Pathfind r' H
III was flying. Thus, first a cross-beam
('advanced cross signal') warned the crew
of the target approach. Then at the point
where the second cross-beam ('fore cross
signal') was recorded in the bomb 1', th
observer activated a mechanical computer
that calculated the precise bomb-release
point once the final beam ('main cross
signal') was received some 5km ( mile)
short of the desired point.
Mo t of the night raids over England
during June were made by units equipped
with the He III and to a lesser extent the
Do 17. It was not until well into July that
the fi rst Ju forays appeared to take
place, along with the fir t losses. On the
30th, a bomber from 7/KG 4 reportedly
caught fire just after midnight, and the
pilot, nteroffizier Boelkhe, attempted a
crash-landing near Bury St Edmunds. But
his aircraft snagged some trees on the final
approach, and the result was a fatal cra h
and explosion.
The London Blitz
The reassignment of Luftflotte 3 to the
night-bombing role in late August meant
that four Kampfgeschwadern and
Lehrgeschwader I - a total of fourteen
Gruppen in all - were available for the
as ault. What became known as 'the Blitz'
was initiated in full on 7/8 eptember
when London's dockland was pounded for
the second time in a matter of hours. n
this occa ion there was no need to utilize
any form of automatic guidance to find
the target because of the vast fi res
devouring the merchant warehouses,
whos glow could be observed from a
great distance. Approaching from
Holland were the crews of KG 30, among
whose ranks was Hajo Herrmann; he
released his bombs into the West India
Docks, in the first of twenty-one raids that
THE LONG RETREAT
he would make on the city by I October.
(He was setti ng off for another on 22
October, but this ended in near disaster
when, thanks to uncleared debris on the
runway, his Ju burst a tyr on take-off
and was wrecked; in fact it was a miracle
that the two I, OOkg (2,200Ib) bombs did
not go off, which had been released at the
last moment. Herrmann was badly
injured, but later recovered and resumed
operational dutie .)
If London's ordeal over fi fty-seven
consecu ti ve nights was dire in the
xtr me, it certainly was not for her
attackers. The RAF night-fighting ability
was still minimal both in scale and
effectiveness, and although a number of
Luftwaffe crews recalled the heavy flak
barrages that had been put up, the
capital's true defensive ability was
laughably insufficient. At this stage in
World War Il, Britain's range of heavy
AA weapons was arguably as deficient in
quantity and quality as was the overall
night-fighting capacity of the RAE After
several nights of the London 'Blitz', Gen
Pile, who was in command of the gun,
was permitted to unleash a veritable
barrage; but although it noise was
psychologically comforting for the
citi:ens, it was totally useless as a means of
bringing a bomber down, especially since
the barrage was unpredi ted and was fired
into a massive 'cube' of airspace. (The
gun-laying radar on hand provided the
range of, but no bearing on, the 'hostile'
aircraft.)
This advantageous situation for the
Luftwaffe would continue for the
remainder of 1940. The level of
destruction unleashed upon the cities was
to prove painful to the British economy
on occasions, although it never reached
the desperate level of merchant shipping
losses borne across the North Atlantic
that year, and known to the U-boat crews
a 'the Happy Time'. Nevertheless, the
German airmen must have experienced
an element of 'Happy Time' a their raids
continued to be pressed home with
apparent success and minimal losses.
The Advent of Radar
If the Luftwaffe was well in the lead on
the matter of accurately finding targets, as
compared to R F Bomber Command,
they were not when it came to seeking
ways of combating air attacks by night.
44
The first airborne interception (AI) sets
were already available, and mounted in a
number of Blenheims and Beaufighters.
But these first-generation ets proved very
difficult to handle, particularly in the
matter of correctly interpreting the
po ition of an aircraft appearing as a 'blip'
on th creen. Ground reflections added
to the difficulties by blanking off part of
the screen. 'Jimmy' Rawnsley, who later
became John unningham's regular and
very efficient radar operator on o. 604
Squadron, recalled one practice flight in
dayl ight. He attempted to hold the 'bl ip'
on his screen as it skittered back and
forth, always appearing to out-turn
Wransley' aircraft, before finally
disappearing off to one side. When he
asked hi pilot what manoeuvre the
'target' aircraft had pulled off, he was told
it had flown straight and level
l
From then
on, Rawnsley spent his off-duty time
working out a procedure to counteract the
'foibles' of the equipment. For instance,
he learned to anticipate the likely cour e
flown by the 'target' aircraft, by halting
the 'turn' ooner and having his pilot fly a
converging course; prior to this he had
been pointing hi aircraft directly at the
'target'. He thereby gradually built up
both his own confidence and hi tru t in
the radar et.
Already one or two 'kills' had been
achi v d by AI-equipped night-fighters,
but a long, hard road lay ahead before the
night raids could even be blunted. In
addition to the Blenheim and Beaufighter
squadrons were the two Defiant squadrons
Nos. 141 and 264, as well as several
Hurricane units. These single-engine
aircraft had little or (for the Hun'ican )
no ability to carry I sets, and had to be
utilized in a vi ual role (somewhat akin to
the Wilde au Fw 190s and Bf 109s
organized during 1943 to attack RAF
bombers over the flame-lit German citi s
- a creation of Hajo Herrmann).
quadron o. 6 4 was converting from
the Blenheim to th Beaufighter during
the autumn of 1940. However, the Bristol
Blenheim was very much a 'top-gap'
measure, since its performance was
carcely better than any of the Luftwaffe
bomber designs, while its offensive
armament of four machine-gun mounted
in a 'belly pack' was equally inadequate. It
would be 19 ovember before the
squadron gained its first confirmed 'kill' in
whi h radar played a primary role. John
Cunningham took off late that evening
from Middle Wallop, and reaclied th
ea tern limit of his allotted patrol line. On
two separate instances he picked out
'bogeys' that were flying with their
navigation lights witched on, but lost
both in the cloud cover. However, as he
returned to the patrol line, he received
advice from the GCI station regarding a
third 'bogey', and this time a 'blip'
recorded on gt Phillip on's Al set,
heading north. Cunningham followed his
operator's instru tions, and on emerging
from the clouds gained a 'visual' on what
he later reflorted as a 'four-engi ne
aircraft'. nfortunately the Beaufighter's
gun-reflectOr sight was vibrating and
therefore useless, and although the
weapons were fired, it was felt that no
lethal damage had been inflicted when
the 'bogey' finally peeled away and down.
However, this was not the case.
The aircraft unwittingly flying into the
night-fighter ambuscade was in the hands
of nteroffizier Franz Sondermeier
O/KG54), on of over 400 crews briefed
to attack Birmingham. It wa around
0:2 hour on the 20th that the crew
came under Cunningham's attack north
of Chichester, and although when they
broke away there appeared to be no
damage, one engine had in fact been
disabled by the Beaufighter' gunfire. The
fire that ultimately consumed their
aircraft and led to its crashing at East
Wittering developed after the action was
broken off; certainly Cunningham's report
does not make any mention of it being on
fire. When Sondermeier realized the
engine was disabled, he cut the power and
'feathered' the propeller. But in spite of
the bomb-load having been jettison d,
the stricken bomber inexorably lost
height as it headed back to France, until
when but a few thousand metres above
the English countryside, Sondermeier
elected to restart the failed engine; this
caused it to bur t into flames, and they
were obi iged to bale out. ondermei I' and
the two other airmen left alive at this
stage duly baled out, but only the pilot
and one other survived; they were taken
captive, and the unfortunate third airman
peri hed in the cold waters of the Engl ish
Channel.
This incident meant that airborne radar
had at last 'broken its duck', and from this
point onward would evolve intO a steady
and ultimately regular means for
successfully hunting down the nocturnal
Luftwaffe raiders.
THE LONG RETREAT
Luftwaffe Losses Diminish
Just how easy a passage the Luftwaffe
bomher crews had enjoyed using the cloak
of darkness between 7/8 eptember and
19/20 ovember can be judged by the
eptember operational losse , which were
a mere seven bombers. OctOber proved
just as inexpensive, and the experience of
14 October is probably typical: on that
night some seven RAF squadrons
allocated to the night-fighting role sent
up aircraft, but not one of those crews
even reported contact with a 'bogey" And
November to date had had equally
encouraging figure, losses rising to just
ov I' twenty - sti II a very low percentage
of the overall total for night-bombing
sorties.
aturally, the low MIA loss rate was of
academic concern to the crews and
bombers who happened to be a part of this
statistic, which included eight Ju s. The
first ovember night raid cost I/LG
I Feldwebel Pueschel's crew, lost when
their I Staffel air raft suffered AA
damage and ultimately came down on the
south coast. I ext night it was as/KG 76
bomber piloted by Oberfeldwebel
Gruenke, which also suffered fatal AA
damage over London, wh i1e two other II
Gruppe aircraft were 'written off' due to
battle damage on return to Holland. The
next five crews - one each from LG I, KG
I, KG 30, KG 51 and KG 77 - were
simply recorded as MIA since no trace of
them was found, their final resting place
most likely being in the remorseless
waters of the orth Sea.
The Luftwaffe Holds Sway
London's ordeal lasted throughout
eptember and October, and then the
Luftwaffe began to spread its malign
influence in force to other British cities.
On 15 November the indu trial facilities
of Coventry became the target, in a
thoroughly well executed raid that
devastated the city centre along with
several vital factorie . KGr I 0 made full
use of X-Geraet, although the full moon
conditions in fact made it use almost
uperfluous. For the remainder of
ovember, London, Birmingham and
several key seaports such as BristOl,
Liverpool and SouthamptOn were the
target for medium- to large-scale aerial
assault. (Hitler's Directive o. 23 on 6
45
February outlined a regular concentration
on the latter citie , with their vital dock
facilities, but an even more intensive
offensive on these florts might have paid
greater dividends for the Nazi, especially
taken in conjunction with the severe
hipping losses being currently born by
Britain's merchant fleet. However,
although raids over succe sive nights
were conducted on Britain's major
seaports during the 'Blit:' of 1940/41, the
resultant scale of destruction, though
critical in the short term, never reached
an overall crisis point.)
A similar spread of targets was allotted
during December; on the 29th, the City
area of London receiving a tremendous
battering. Bomber losses on these raids
were still recorded as minimal, a very
satisfactory statistic, but there were sti II
losses: for instance, on /9 December,
Leutnant uhre and his /KG 77 crew
were brought down by AA fire - one of its
rare succe ses - and their Ju crashed
with fatal r suit for aircraft and crew.
In mid-December the 'Hampden Patrol'
was launched: this was yet another
desperate attempt hy the British aerial
defensive effort to establi home effective
measures at night, and involved number
of Hampden aircraft patrolling at varied
heights over the target (in thi instance
Birmingham); not surprisingly, nothing
came of the measure. (Equally
unsurprising was the almo t prompt
release of these bombers for resumption in
their primary role as bombers, and the
substitution of similar 'layer' patrols by
single-engine fighters - albeit with little
more succe Sl) Only the expansion of the
radar-equipped Beaufighter force would
bring some form of pressure to bear on the
Luftwaffe as it continued its unequiv-
ocably confident course of operations
over Britain.
January-May 1941
Operations
In the New Year, the Luftwaffe' night-
bombing force was restricted to barely 50
per cent operations during January, and
even fewer luring February. The onset of
winter, together with the vagaries of the
weather systems over Britain and the
occupied countries where the bombers
were based, were the main reasons for this
curtailing of activity; RAF operations
THE LO G RETREAT THE LO G RETREAT
A series of three photographs (this page and overleaf), relating to a captured Ju 88A-l. The first shows
the canopy in place, other than its rear side panels, that could be jettisoned in an emergency. The
additional side-mounted MG15 machine guns have metal restriction frames to prevent their bullets striking
the aircraft. The rear gun-mount displays the original rectangular pattern for the armoured sighting panel;
this was later superseded by kidney-shaped units.
Test-Flying the Ju 88
During World War II, exhaustive tests were carried out on all airworthy Luftwaffe machines falling into British
hands. Most major variants of the Ju 88 formed part of this collection, ranging from an A-1 acquired during 1940,
and culminating with the G-1 example arriving in July 1944. Each was flown by future test pilots of post-war note
who were already entering th;s career on either side of VE Day.
Ju 88A-S Capt Eric 'Winkle' Brown first got his hands on aJu 88A-5 variant during late 1943, this aircraft having
inadvertently landed at Chivenor in 1941. Brown's initial impression upon entering was that acrew of four would
make for extremely cramped personal conditions. More noteworthy, given his small stature, was the very generous
fore-and-aft seat adjustment. This was apositive factor compared to most Allied military aircraft, where in
Brown's view the seat-to-pedal arrangement proved to be almost totally in favour of large pilots! One limitation
relating to the otherwise sound controls layout involved the engine throttles. These were placed too far back and
too low, requiring the pilot to change his hand action from a pull to apush position - not the best of arrangements
during what was acritical phase of any flight!
Engine start-up of the Jum0211 G-l scould be achieved internally using the electrically energized inertia starters, or
through use of astarter trolley, the latter sparing the draining of the Ju 88's batteries. Taxiing was easy thanks to quick-
responding brakes and an unlocked tail-wheel; it was locked prior to take-off, otherwise operation of the hydraulic sys-
tem was impeded. In addition the oil and coolant radiators had to be fully opened during this stage of the sortie.
For take-off the flaps were set one-third open, and the radiator gills closed to asimilar degree. Rudder and
aileron trim-tabs were set at 'zero', and elevator trim-tabs set for amarginal nose-heavy configuration. On opening
up power Brown's experience was that differential throttle movements could easily induce aswing if power was
applied too rapidly. Also, considerable forward pressure had to be applied to the control column in order to lift the
tail up and gain full rudder response in so doing.
Once in flight. both rudder and ailerons proved very responsive throughout the entire range of speed applied to
the Ju 88. The automatic tail incidence control was of material assistance when noticeable elevator movements
were called for; this system was linked to the dive-brakes in amanner that placed the elevators in the 'dive' mode
and retumed them to 'level' when the dive-brakes were opened and shut. Two incidental advantages of the system
lay in the fact that the pilot could avoid having to ensure the propellers did not over-speed during the dive, and did
not have to rely upon muscle power to regain level flight!
Apractice 'landing' with flaps and undercarriage lowered established the stalling speed to be just over 145kmph
(90mphl, the indication coming in the fonm of asharp wing-drop. The resultant approach saw Brown put the wheels
down at around 225kmph (140mphl, and moving the flaps to an interim position. Full flap was applied with the speed
reduced to 190kmph (120mphl. and apronounced nose-up sensation was swiftly countered by the automatic tail-inci-
dence mechanism. Touchdown was at 180kmph (11 Omph), with the throttles having to be instantly retarded as the air-
field boundary was crossed. Premature lowering of the tail was not recommended, since rudder 'block-out' could then
contribute to any swing that might develop before the aircraft had lost speed. (Brown also commented on the emer-
gency procedure for lowering the undercarriage should the engine-activated hydraulic-pump system go 'out'. This
entailed three minutes of feverish hand-pumping that only affected the main wheels, so leading to avery pronounced
nose-up touch-down and landing run, not to say asevere damage effect upon the rear fuselage in the process!)
Ju 88G-l Wg Cdr Roland Beaumont was attached to the Central Fighter Establishment's tactics branch at Tang-
mere following his return from captivity. On 14 July, having read up his notes on the Ju 88G-l, he climbed up rather
apprehensively into the cockpit. His initial impression was of restricted vision thanks to the canopy framing. On the
other hand, the controls and instrument layout largely met with his approval excepting the fuel system, which he
regarded as complex. Engine start,produced apleasant noise level. but this turned to aharsher note as power was
applied. Movement of the controls displayed smooth and immediate response, but Beaumont felt that the nose-up
attitude while taxiing made him feel uncomfortable. Once airborne, however, he quickly adapted to handling what
was one of his first multi-engine experiences, most of his flying having hitherto been in single-engine fighters.
The take-off had proved surprisingly easy. Power had been gently applied to counteract any tendency to swing,
but the machine lifted off before reaching 100 per cent effort, and required no further elevator action other than
that previously applied to lift the tail up. Once the undercarriage was raised, the subsequent climb-rate applied
was comparable to its RAF contemporary the Mosquito. Control response was very good, while, after levelling out
and holding aspeed around 370kmph (230mph), minimal rudder and elevator trimming was required.
Beaumont then put the Ju 88 through aseries of manoeuvres ranging from partial rolls and tight turns and dives,
to climbs and wingovers. None of these actions raised any material control problems, but the dives reaching 300
lAS did produce an enhanced and distracting noise-level.
As Tangmere was looming up aMosquito was seen, which Beaumont dived upon. However the pilot evaded
with atight turn and asteep circling duel ensued. The Ju 88 not only held position, but also initially began to close
the circle. However, the descending nature of the 'dog-fight' impelled Beaumont to ease off, after which the situa-
tion was swiftly reversed. (Given his unfamiliarity with the Ju 88 he had done very well, especially since his oppo-
nent was none other than adoyen of twin-engine and Mosquito flight-control. Sqn Ldr Bob Braham!l
The landing approach was made marginally faster than the pilot's notes indicated until over the runway thresh-
old, and the touch-down proved as smooth and uneventful to Beaumont as any other aspect of the flight.
46
were similarly affected. evertheles,
seven raids c1as ified as 'major', and six as
'heavy', were conducted during january,
and in February, Swan ea suffered the sale
'heavy' concentration over three nights;
although each raid involved no more than
ixty bombers, the damage inflicted
proved severe. In addition the 'blockade'
aspect of the 'BI itz' was being intensified
through the deployment of sea-mines all
around Britain's port approaches and
likely convoy routes.
It was during March that the bulk of
explosives and incendiary loads were
deposited upon Britain's seaports: this
took place in eighteen mass raids, only
two of which were directed at inland
targets. The MIA rate was continuing at
less than I per cent during this first
quarter of 194I, and indeed would not
reach anywhere near critical proportions
before the 'Blitz' was run down during
May. But by then, the RAF night fighters
were beginning to emerge a an ever more
effective force, not only due to the
provision of the Beaufighter and its
American cousin the Douglas Havoc, but
also because of the creation of ground
control interception (GCI) tations,
whose controllers now played a vital part
in intercepting enemy bombers. Other
debilitating factors for the German crews'
efficiency al 0 occurred at this time.
Decoy sites known as' tarfish' were laid
out and fired up in order to simulate a
burning target, and succeeded in drawing
off an appr ciable proportion of enemy
ordnance. Then the jamming of the
specialist Y-Geraet appeared to restrict
the basic effectiveness of this key target-
guidance apparatus.
Into March, and losses caused by the
British night defences were minimal,
although fighter and AA took down two
He 1I Is on 4/5 March, and a 9/KG1 j u 88
fell co AA fire on lOlL 1 March. But two
night later over Liverpool the wheel of
fortune changed, for the first time for
many months, and the Luftwaffe ended up
short of five crews. One of the e wa led
by Feldwebel Guenther Unger, operating
with 9/KG 76. During the Battle of
Britain thi team had been part of the
low-level raid on Kenley conducted on I
August, and had survived when their Do
17 had to 'ditch' in the Channel. As they
headed up towards Liverpool that evening
and were just releasing their bomb load,
their ju 88 was assailed by a Defiant from
No. 307 Squadron, and sustained
damaging gunfire. Unger then recalled
that a glow beneath one engine cowling
inexorably expanded into a full blaze - at
which point all four airmen successfully
baled out. (An ironic a pect of RAF
fighter operations was that four of the five
MIA los es were attributed co Defiant or
Hurricane quadrons, and the fifth co a
Beaufight r crew of o. 604 quadron.)
The next night proved just as expensive
for the Luftwaffe, when it mounted a twin
assault on Liverpool and Clydesid . This
time it was the Beaufighter crews who
brought down five of the six bombers lost
over Britain, while a further two crews
were declared MIA in Luftwaffe records.
This scale of success was not achieved for
the rest of March, in which period only
five more bombers wa downed, all but
one hot down by nigh t figh ters.
evertheless, the tide of the night battle
over Britain was beginning CO turn ever so
slightly but steadily in favour of RAF
Fighter Command, backed by the AA
batteries and the passi ve facil ities of
, tarfish' sites, 'Meacon' and other RCM
measures.
The indifferent weather conditions
during late March, which g nerally
inhibited large-scale Luftwaffe operations,
47
persisted inco early April. How ver, April
Fool's D::lY Jlroved eXJlensive for the small
number of bombers despatched, no fewer
than five going MIA. Included in this
figure were two ju 88 crews, though the
aircraft from 8/KG 1 caused its own
downfall by flying into a cloud-shrouded
hillside in hropshire.
Luftwaffe Attacks Intensify
London suffered in great measure from the
attack - during the nights of 16/17 and
19/20 April it was the target for just
under, and marginally over, 700
individual bomber sorties respectively -
while Britain's seaports absorbed the vast
bulk of the remaining bomb loads. But the
Germans had suffered in their turn, and
by the time London was hammered on the
above latter date, around forty aircraft and
THE LONG RETREAT
THE LONG RETREAT
The entire rear canopy removed. demonstrating the cramped nature of the Ju 88 cockpit. This would be
even more pronounced when its original luftwaffe occupants were wearing full flight suit and parachute
harness equipment! The contoured shape of pilot's head-rest was armoured.
unequivocably helped the attackers and
seriously hampered the defenders.
Although the Ju 8 units were fully
deployed, it was the He Ills that
comprised the ntire MIA figure of ten
aircraft and crews. Nevertheless, this
was considered to be a very successful
attack.
Thus Britain' first major ordeal from
aerial assault was, to all intent and
purposes, at an end, the bomber units of
the Luftwaffe now concentrating their
efforts eastwards in readiness for
Barbaros a. Much damage had been
inf1icted on the industrial infrastructure
of the nation, but now a prolonged
period of freedom from further
depredations was to ensue. By th winter
of 1943/44 and the following summer,
the impact of renewed attacks both by
conventional and rocket-borne ordnance
would prove marginal at most, albeit
painful in terms of the human cost.
The worst set of MI statistics for the
Luftwaffe did not result from the raids
over London on 10/11 May (th original
claims for thirty-three bombers being
scaled down to a post-war confirmed
figure of ten), but three nights before that,
when Hull was the joint focal point for
assault with Liverpool. Both cities were
badly truck, but fully twelve Luftwaffe
crews never landed back at their base in
order to savour thi succe . All but one of
the attackers formed part of the Liverpool
Force.
The final major raid on London was
savage in its intensity, the full moonlight
and the Thames' low water level
combining to give conditions that
General view of the Ju 88A-l's main instrument panel. showing all the principal controls. The main
compass is positioned directly below the right side of the panel. The right rudder pedal with its shaped
foot pattern and retaining strap is visible. The windscreen gun-mount's bulk must have created a lateral
visibility problem for the pilot.
facil ities, along wi th thousa nds of
civilian properties. A deceptively easy
passage for the attackers over the la tter
city ended painfully on the third night.
even of the nine missing bombers fell
to night fighters, and one of the three Ju
comprising this figure was one of the
first A-6 variant encountered. Two
from thi II/KG 54 crew failed to urvive
baling out, though their fellow airmen in
a bomber from 1/ 6 were luckier. The
latter was intercepted by a Beaufighter
of o. 6 quadron, whose pilot
tracked and caught his quarry over
omerset: Fg Off Woodward's gunfire set
an engine on fire, and the Ju was
promptly abandoned by its crew.
Below: A close view of cockpit area around pilot's
seat reveals the distinctive curved pattern to the
flexible hand-grip. as well as the thick stem of the
control column. The throttle controls are seen at
lower left. with artificial horizon dial at top right.
crew. The Ju uff red its worst losses on
the first ma raid on London, ix in all:
KG 77 lost three crews, one to a night
fighter, another to AA, and the third to
unknown cau es; and o. 219 quadron
claimed three, two being attributed to the
CO (Wg Cdr Tom Pike).
The close proximity of London to the
Continent meant that double orties
could be f10wn - though this also doubled
the chances of being shot down. This
sam night Leutnant Sissimato ( /KG 77)
had already delivered one ClOOO bomb
and incendiarie . After being rearmed and
refuelled, the same crew lifted off from
]uvincourt some time after midnight. A
similar weight of explOSives and
incendiary ordnance was dropped over
London, but almost immediately after
bomb-release, the Ju took a strike from
what was probably an AA shell; but all
four airmen managed to get out of their
doomed ma hine safely, before it crashed
in the centre of the city.
The 'Blitz' was building up to a climax,
culminating on I ILl May over London.
But before that point was reached, the
naval and seaports of Plymouth and
Liverpool endured continuous bombing
over three and seven night respectively;
in the course of th is onslaught, the heart
was ripped out of their commercial
he rook off on I / II April in response to
an attack upon Birmingham, had already
recorded double 'kills' on two occasions.
II and Ill/KG 2 had ent seventeen
aircraft out of the overall Luftf10tte force
of nearly 30 ,but returned two short. One
of these was piloted by Feldwebcl John,
and was shot down by Stevens in his No.
151 quad ron Hurricane as he headed
towards its target, and the J u 88A-5
tumbled to earth along with its hapless
crews had been taken from the ranks of
the Luftwaffe. The bulk of 10 e were
suffered I y the units f1ying the He III,
with J u losse maki ng up
approximately 4 per cent of the rotal.
The R F -ingle-engine fighter were
continuing to have some inf1uence on
German ca ualties, with one pilot in
particular adding to his already
outstanding operational record. This was
Fit Lt Richard Stevens, who, by the time
48
49
FERNNACHTJAEGER
CHAPTER FIVE
Fernnachtjaeger
Zone B covered Lincolnshire, and Zone C
covered from the Humber estuary to the
Scottish/English border. The depth of
each zone varied, but the overall regions
to be patrolled encompassed most of the
operational Bomber Command airfields.
Herbert Thomas recalled that the initial
sorties were largely passive in nature, the
intention being to sound out the state of
British air and ground defences. Very little
of note was recorded, though this was
hardly surprising, given borh the non-
existence of any form of RAF night-
fighting force, and the serious deficiency
in anti-aircraft guns and searchlight
batteries.
Even so, there was never any absolute
guarantee of security from attack for the
German raiders, and their first casualty in
fact occurred very soon after the
inception of the Fernnachtjagd. On 18
August, Feldwebel Zenkel of 4/NJG I was
over central England, most likely having
been assigned a Zone B duty. To the west,
the pilot of a Blenheim IF from No. 29
Squadron was on patrol ncar Chester.
During the course of what he and his crew
surely expected would end in a fruitless
exercise of air interception, he enjoyed a
stroke of good fortune when his attention
was drawn to a dim light ahead of him. A
prolonged stalking match then ensued,
that lasted over two hours before the
Blenheim was brought into firing range.
By then the target (identified as an He
III by PIt Off Rhodes) was past Spurn
Head and well out to sea. The Ju 88's crew
may well have relaxed their vigilance,
since Rhodes not only discharged the
ammunition of the guns at his disposal,
Into the Darkness
during an operation. In such
circumstances any deviation from a flight
plan, particularly when flying in poor
weather conditions, could easily lead to
total disaster for aircraft and crew.
The zones to be patrolled involved the
English eastern coastline extending all
the way down to the Thames estuary.
Zone (Raum) A covered East Anglia,
A Ju aac of NJG 2 is photographed following a successful crash-landing on a snow-covered field.
Mangled metal propeller blades indicate this is a C-2 or C-4 Ju aa variant; the basic difference lay in
the armament - in the case of the C-4. two additional cannon were carried in the ventral gondola.
A Ju aac of I/NJG 2 bears the Englandblitz badge denoting its involvement in Nachtjagd operations. Badge
consists of a white eagle directing a red lightning flash at a map of Britain. A thin. white curved line
separates the top and bottom sections of the badge backcloth. which are black and blue respectively.
eastern England - entitled Femnachtjagd-
would pay a steady dividend in terms of
RAF aircraft and crew losses. The
disruption to night operations, whether
involving Bomber Command or Training
Command, would also be a drain on the
RAF's general efficiency.
The basic function of Il/NJG 1 within
what was the First Night Fighter Division
was accordingly switched from home
defence to the 'intruder' role. In addition,
at the beginning of September the unit
found itself re-designated I Gruppe, part
of a new Geschwader structure to become
known as NJG 2. During August a third
Staffel was added, led by an airman who
would make his mark within the
organization: Hauptmann Huelshoff, who
would ultimately rise to a position of
Geschwader command.
It was one thing to talk about taking the
war to the British enemy: it was quite
another to do so, especially given the
almost total lack of radio and radar
equipment currently on hand. avigation
was largely a matter of deduced reckoning,
in conjunction with map reading
whenever the weather conditions were
clear enough to allow it. Flying out of the
advanced operational base at Schipol in
central Holland still meant that sizeable
stretches of the inhospitable North Sea
had to be traver ed in both directions
decision (however questionable) being
that should a combat occur, the already
cramped cockpit area would be even more
obstructed by the inclusion of the packs.
Schultz's overall opinion of the Do 17Z-
10's night-fighting capability was that its
manoeuvrability and climbing ability
were badly deficient for the future task in
hand. In the event, the Do 17Z-10 variant
would tend to prove its worth in combat,
albeit in a more offensive role than that
originally envisaged.
Counter Stroke
The officer appointed to overall
command of the newly created Nachtjagd
was Josef Kammhuber. During the Battle
of France he had been shot down and
captured while serving as Kommodore of
KG 51 'Edelweiss', but within two weeks
of his return from captivity he had taken
up his current post.
Although fully appreciating the
necessity to challenge the RAF bombers
during their nocturnal operations, he
quickly proposed a second, more
'offensive' form of counter measure. Two of
the most vulnerable stages of air
operations were during take-off and
landing. In the former instance, the crew
of a heavily laden bomber were left with
little or no room for evasive action should
their progress be challenged. An even
greater degree of vulnerabil ity was Iiable to
occur upon the crews' return to Britain.
Their physical tiredness, and the
understandable tendency to relax their
vigilance, coupled with rapidly
diminishing fuel supplies, left them even
more exposed and in a very poor position
to handle a sudden aerial assault. The
following statement by Kammhuber neatly
summed up this philosophy: 'When I want
to kill wasps, I don't swat the insects in the
air one at a time. I go to the nest when
they are in!' And sure enough, in the
period extending to October 1941, the
concept of intruder operations over
the nose compartment contained three
7.92mm MG 17 machine-guns and a
single 20mm MG151 cannon.
The designation (Z) KG 30 now
changed to 4/NJG 1, and the unit's new
home was Duesseldorf in the Western
Ruhr where its crews began to learn the
techniques of night fighting - basic as
these were at this point in the conflict. It
was here that 5/ JG I was subsequently
formed during July. Strangely, this latest
Staffel to join NJG I was destined to be
equipped not with the Ju 88 ,but with
the Do I 7Z-1 O. This adaptation of
Dornier's standard bomber was modified
with a 'solid' nose. The mounting was
based on that fitted to the Ju 88C-2, but
contained greater firepower in the form of
four MGI7s and two MG151 cannon.
Feldwebel Herbert Thomas was one of
those arriving at Lohausen airfield on
what he termed a 'special assignment'. He
and his fellow airmen were initially faced
with a total lack of equipment, officers,
groundcrews or vehicles. He further
recalled that this headless 'Foreign Legion'
formed its own regular operational briefing
sessions (EinsatzbesJJrechung) in the 'Zum
Baggerloch' Inn located in the old section
of Duesseldorf' Not only that, but most
'sessions' finished hours after the last tram
to Lohausen had departed, so it was a long,
if somewhat inebriated stroll back to base
for the group of airmen concerned - their
return through the darkened streets being
regarded as additional 'night-fighting'
training! This happy social arrangement
inevitably came to an end as the required
material and personnel establishment was
finally put in place.
Training on the Do 17Z-1O proved to be
a question of trial and error for the crews.
The pilots packed in as much flight-time
as was possible. In Thomas's case, his pilot
Lt Albert 'Ali' Schultz threw his aircraft
into every possible manoeuvre, so much
so that Thomas and the third
crewmember felt they were being tossed
from pillar to post. Parachutes were not
carried, the reasoning behind this
The last remnants of the British
Expeditionary Force had barely been
evacuated off the beaches of Dunkirk, and
the Luftwaffe High Command was already
turning its attention to a properly
equipped and supported night fighter
force with which to counter the
incursions of RAF Bomber Command.
Hermann Goering had been credited with
the fateful statement 'Night fighting? It
will never come to that" in response to
earlier suggestions regarding the
possibility of RAF bombing assaults, and
the need to combat such assaults. Indeed,
at this stage of World War Il, and with a
German victory in Europe looking ever
more certain now that Britain was
excluded from the Continent, the need
for adequate aerial defences by night
appeared virtually pointless. After all,
Bomber Command had apparently just
abandoned its policy of attacks on purely
'military' targets, in addition to which its
overall strength was woefully inadequate
for any sustained and concentrated assault
upon the Third Reich.
Nevertheless, even though the scale of
attacks on Germany during May and
June 1940 had been small, their
psychological effect upon Der Dicke
(Goering having promised that no
enemy aircraft would ever be permitted
to fly over the Reich Territory) was
sufficient for him to insist upon plans to
be put in place for a Nachtjagd force.
Hauptmann Wolfgang Falck was
assigned this somewhat daunting task,
and by high summer had created two
Gruppen within a force known as
Nachtjagdgeschwader (NJG) 1. ll/NJG 1
was initially formed out of two other
Geschwadern, KG 30 and ZG 76. In the
former case, it was the Zerstoerer
element transferred from Denmark. This
Staffel currently operated on the Ju 88;
however, unlike the other two Staffeln
whose crews flew the standard bomber,
(Z) KG 30 was equipped with a solid-
nosed version of the Junkers design,
designated Ju 88C-2. The right side of
50 51
FERN ACHTJAEGER FER N CHTJAEGER
Six groundcrew personnel from I/NJG 2 are seen pushing on the tail of a Ju 88C. The circular base is part
of the compass-swinging platform upon which the aircraft's compass system is being correctly adjusted.
All-black camouflage was a regular feature on the Gruppe aircraft during its intruder operations
over eastern Britain.
Counting the Cost
During the final two months of 1940,
I JG 2' rews submitted claims for just
seven RAF aircraft, although none of
these were recorded by the Air Ministry as
being brought down by the Luftwaffe.
Whatever the truth of the matter, such a
degree of perceived success had been
'incidents'. On the 28th, while crossing
the Lincolnshire oast on return from
Hamburg, Pit Off Green managed to
evade the lethal attentions of Leutnant
Volker; but Pit Off Bufton's crew were not
so fortunate, and they all died when their
bomber came down in the sea.
An airman is attending to the punctured tyre on a I/NJG 2 Ju 88C. V-pattern strip
at base of wheel strut was meant to counteract any tendency for the wheel to
adopt a sideways or 'shearing' action. The two sub-struts are linked to the side
and rear of the main strut.
of nine Whitleys taking off from Linton-
on-Ouse; this wa brought down in flames
by Feldwebel Hahn, and two crew
members were killed. (Hahn claimed a
'Wellington', while Herrmann's two
victims were both described as
'Blenheims'; Hahn's inaccurate aircraft
recognition appeared Ie s ju tified than
that of Herrmann's!)
Even by this date, the material cost to
I JG 2 was a great as its success rate.
During the course of October, one Do
l 7Z-1 0 and one Ju had been 'wri tten
off' on return from operations: both had
crashed during landing, although the
crews survived.
pair of No. 49 Squadron Hampdens
completed the RAF record of October
consequenc s in the long term. nd in
assessing the overall effectiveness of
intruder attacks, the disruption to the
training schedules, as well as the adverse
effect of any such los es upon the moral
of trainee crews, could not be discounted.
The fir t recorded assault in the records
of the RAF relate to all three of the
commands mentioned. The first to feel
the brunt of a surprise assault on 24
October wa a Blenheim of o. 17 OT .
which, although struck by fire from
Oberleutnant Herrmann's Ju , managed
to get down safely, even though one fuel
tank had been fired. A Beaufort was next
to attract the attentions of Herrmann
over Norfolk - but once again, the aircraft
got down safely. ot so fortunate was one
The solid nose cover on this Ju 88C from I/NJG 2 has been detached to permit
precise maintenance of the three MG17s and single MG FE The armoured plate
protecting the crew from return fire extends over the entire
forward bulkhead.
equipment, a well as the large area of
North ea over which Bomber Command
could approach and depart the
Continent. (In addition, the non-
exi tence of a bomber stream up to 1942
meant that th Luftwaffe crew could only
home in on single RAF bombers. Even
the introduction of the fir t 'Freya' ground
radar sets would only provide a general
indication of the size and cour e of the
RAF attackers, while such upport
services were primarily directed at the
Luftwaffe' night fighters.)
The third group was tasked with what
was probably the least difficult duty: flying
over to Britain ahead of the returning
bombers with the intention of
'ambushing' their quarry as they came in
to the landing circuit. In 1940 the number
of regul r Bomber ommand airfields in
eastern England was on a cale far below
that of future years. For example, in Raum
B there existed no more than ten airfields
in regular 0 cupation by the Command,
spread a ro a geographic area of at least
10, 0 to 13,OOOsq km (4,000 to 5,00
qual' miles). 0 it can be een that
unle a Luftwaffe crew were fairly close to
an airfield that wa lit up in readine s to
receive it complement of bomber, then
the chan of clo ing on their prey was
omewhat limited, to ay the least. Also,
the RAF poli y of despatching the
bomber piecemeal meant that their
r turn wa imilarly fragmented, so the Ju
88 and Do 17 rews had no chance of
making a tealthy approach and
insinuating themselves into any group of
bomb rs milling around over the airfield.
( uch opportunitie would only arise
during the later period of World War 11 -
and ironi ally by then, the function of
'Fernna htjagd' had already been largely
denied to h Luftwaffe.)
How ver, there w re a number of other
airfield pread in among the Bomber
Command locations. RAF Training
Command oc upied several, as did R F
Fighter and oastal ommand. Training
was a round-the-clock activity, as was that
of oastal ommand, and such airfield
therefore came in for their share of
attention from the Luftwaffe. In the case
of Training ommand, the airfields
concerned were largely operational
training units, with the task of bringing
pilots and/or crews to full operational
status. Thu the 10 s of an airman who had
nearly reached full operational
qualification was bound to have serious
By this stage of operations, the
Luftwaffe radio-monitoring services were
able to provide advance warning of an
impending Bomber Command operation.
One constant 'give-away' that an
operation wa impending lay with the
RAF practice of conducting night-flying
te t during the hour preceding its
launch. The radio op rator would test
their equipment, and the weight of such
radio traffic generally alerted the
Luftwaffe. (A further practical indication
was said to be the use of th following
sentence as part of their test: 'Best bent
wire, best buy")
Whatever the truth in this, the briefing
session for the 1 JG 2-a igned crews
split their numbers into thr e roups. The
fir t group would take off in time to catch
the Hampdens, Whitleys and Wellingtons
as they took off - a daunting ta k for what
was no more than a taffel- trength force,
especially when one con iders that
bombers from all three zones could be
dispatched' The timing of the initial
wave' arrival over Britain wa econd
critical factor in determining the chances
of success. Too early and th existence of
'bogies' on the radar screens could alert
the British; too late, and the bomber
would already be up and on their way.
The second group would try and block
the bombers' route out over the orth
ea - an even more daunting task given
the total absen e of radar search
but then manoeuvred alongside his
opponent so that his gunner could fire the
ingle weapon mounted in the dorsal
turret - all this without any reported
return fire. In spite of the apparently
gentle impact of the Ju into the orth
ea - a reported by Rhodes during his de-
briefing e ion - there were till no
survivors amongst the three hapIe s
German airmen.
The operations flown during the period
up to the end of eptember were not yet
yielding more than a handful of enemy
aircraft shot down (Abschusse) by the
Luftwaffe crews. In fact their own losses
were running parallel to the six RAF
aircraft claimed to have been brought
down, two of these over Britain. On 16
September the 3/NJG 2 crew of Fcldwebcl
Palm did not return to Holland: only the
pilot was recovered, the orth Sea being
the likely resting place for Palm's radio-
operator (Bordfullker) and engineer
(Bordmechaniker) .
Transfer to the airfield that would be
the centre for regular Fernnachtjagd
operations took place during eptember.
The pre-war Dutch airfield at Gilze-Rijen,
ju t to the we t of Til burg, was already
occupied by the Ju s of KG 30 'Adler'.
Its Skm (3 mile)-Iong runways were
backed by fir t-clas hangar, maintenance
and administrative structures, and
provided the ideal platform for continued
operations.
52 53
FERNNACHTJAEGER
FERN ACHTJAEGER
Above left: The second armament prototype for the Ju SSC Series was designated V19. It was fitted with a
second MG151 cannon-calibre weapon that was located in an extension of the ventral gondola and was
covered by a shaped ·pod'.
Above right: Removal of the nose-cone, as shown in the second picture, exposes the ammunition
box mounted on the front of the bulkhead armour plate. Production aircraft did not feature this
additional armament.
Hampden and despatched it into the
ground. A second Hampden was then
quickly picked out - despite previous
radio warnings of 'intruders' in the area, it
still had its navigation light on;
neverthele s Sgt McVie and his crew wer
able to take evasive action even after
their aircraft was struck by the Ju 8's
guns, and later landed safely. Finally a
fellow o. 144 quadron aircraft was
abandon d by its crew, but th is was
because of fuel shortage.
aturally this tally of five destroyed
RAF aircraft could not be confirmed by
the I/NJG 2 crews, since only one of them
- the o. 49 qdn. Hampden - had been
seen to a tually crash. Still, the returning
Gruppe crews were buoyed up by their
actions and the likely effect of these upon
the RAF.
Five nights later, the Do 17s and Ju 88s
quartered the zones. Particular activity
was recorded where Zones A and B
abutted: bombing incidents were r cord d
at three airfields, while two Oxfords flying
out of Fulbeck were shot up. Finally, two
0.44 Hampden landing at Waddington
were attacked. Pit Off Penman (later to be
one of the pilots participating in th low-
level Lancaster attack on Augsburg in
April (942) managed to evade his
assailant, while qn Ldr Smalies landed
his bomber safely - only for another
aircraft to run into it, fortunately after the
crew had got out of it and were well clear!
German successes continued: on 25
February a Wellington of No. 21
Squadron fell to Feldwebel Ziebarth, and
on the following night a BI nheim
crashed and caught fire when landing at
Fulbeck - Oberleutnant Herrmann added
this one to his current total of six claims.
(The pilot of this aircraft was a entral
Flying chool instructor, and his death
was mol' significant a 'victory' to the
Luftwaffe than any aircraft: his skill were
lost to the RAF for ever, wher as an
aircraft can be swiftly replaced by another
off an as embly line.)
On the down side, Herrmann's tenure
of freedom was about to fini h: h and hi
crew took off on I March, and headed
out for Lincoln hire late in the evening.
As they were searching for targets in clear
weather cond itions, their Ju was
unfortunate enough to take a hit on th
right engine that put it out of action. All
attempts to maintain height, including
prompt jettisoning of the bombs, proved
fruitless, and Herrmann had no recourse
adversary's national territory. This was
because, hould a major raid be directed at
locations anywhere within Britain's
hinterland, the presence of the bomber-
stream, however loosely operated by the
Luftwaffe, could act as a diver ionary
'cover' for Hauptmann Huelshoff and hi
fliers. The handful of radar-equipped
Beaufighter squadrons currently available
were more likely to be directed towards
the main attacking force - although
naturally there was no guarantee that the
single register of a Gruppe aircraft on a
GCI radar screen might not lead to its
being intercepted.
At least during January and February
1941, the respective figures for aircraft
claimed shot down by II JG 2, and the
relative Air Ministry records of aircraft
lost or damaged due to intruder activity,
ran almost parallel - eighteen to
seventeen respectiv Iy. Against this
positive record had to be set a steady drip-
feed of MIA crews, as well as operational
crashes: thus on 1 January an unidentified
crew survived an encounter with what
was probably a night fight r, and were
forced to crash-land at Gilze-Rijen; on 9
January, Unteroffizier Kraeher (3 JG 2)
failed to return from a sortie; and then on
5 February ther wa a econd MIA
statistic involving Oberleutnant Haeuser
(21 JG 2). Over and above these,
Oberfahnrich Klarhoefer (41 JG 2)
struck a tree on take-off on 17 February,
resulting in th loss of aircraft and crew,
and there were six further crashes or
force-landings, one of the former on 24
February, in which Feldwebcl Schuster's
crew were killed.
Bomber Command went out in force on
10 February, with a total of 240 aircraft
striking two German and one Dutch
target. But as the crews swung back in
over eastern England they were initially
unaware of the Luftwaffe predators
already in position. Herbert Thomas's
pilot, Leutnant Jung, fastened on to a
Wellington of No. liS Squadron with its
navigation lights on: his accurate burst of
fire shot out the port engine, to leave the
pilot with little option but to crash-land;
fire consumed the bomber, but the crew
e caped. Two Blenheims of No. 21
Squadron fell victim to Oberleutnant
emrau, and although both were
successfully force-landed, the pilot and
observer on one aircraft lost their lives.
Further north, over Zone B, Oberleutnant
Herrmann pounced on a o. 49 Squadron
So far the Fernnachtjagd's direct effect
upon the RAF appear d to b mol'
counter-productive than produ tive.
Between mid-July and the end of 1940,
submitted claims totalled eighteen - but
the cost to 1 JG 2 had been ix aircraft
and crews MIA, with a further six aircraft
and five crews lost over Western Europe.
In addition, five aircraft had been so badly
damaged that they were likely to be
'written off'; and one had exploded during
bombing-up.
The night 'blitz' of British cities was in
full swing, following the concentration
upon London during the pr vious
autumn, and this scenario now worked to
the further advantage of the
F rnnachtjagd, who had hitherto been on
their own when penetrating their
New Year and New Hopes
chlicht O/NJG 2) was the fir t, but the
shocking fact was in relation to the other
crew, who e pilot was the group
commander, Major Heyse. Hauptmann
Huelshoff was promoted into the vacant
Kommandeur slot, with Oberleutnant
Mayer replacing Heulshoff as 31 JG 2
taffelkapitaen. All that can be said
regarding the loss of commander and crew
is that although the AA defensive
trength around the RAF airfields wa
largely at a minimal level, with most
locations dependent upon weapons of no
more than machine-gun cal ibre, there was
no guarantee of an attacking aircraft
escaping unscathed when making its
bombing or strafing run.
On 21 December, Oberleutnant Meyer
lifted off and set course for Lincolnshire.
During the operation, the newly instated
3/NJG 2 taffelkapitaen swooped in upon
RAF Manby, a principal Training
Command station. But he wa picked out
and engaged by gunners firing Vicker and
Lewis machine-guns; also joining in was
an AA battery of the Royal Artillery,
whose weaponry was probably the 40mm
Bofors. As the Ju 8 traversed the airfield
at minimum altitude it was een to be on
fire: the doomed aircraft staggered on for
several miles, then sliced into the ground,
leaving none of its three crew alive. To
complete another bad night for the
Gruppe, Gefreiter Ludescher's Ju
crashed and burst into flames as it crossed
the runway threshold; there were no
survivors. ended swiftly in favour of the German
trio, since the Hampden's armament of no
more than four flexible and one fixed .303
machine guns was very poor in terms of
concentration compared to the fixed-nose
armament of its assailants; jettisoning his
bombs and dropping closer to the ground
by way of evasive action still left Oakley's
crew in a parlous position. But in the
event, his gunner's fire was well directed
enough to stri ke home on one Ju 88,
which burst into flames and plunged into
the sea.
The action was then broken off by the
two remaining Ju s, though the reason
for this is not clear. (Possibly the intruders
were reaching the tage of having barely
enough fuel reserves to get back to
Holland. Alternatively, their attention
may have been drawn by the sight of their
burning colleague's Ju 88 long enough for
their quarry to lip out of sight.) A head
count back at Gilze-Rijen left the Gruppe
short of not one, but two crews. Feldwebel
squadrons equipped with Defiants were
based at Kirton-in-Lindsey in central
Lincolnshire, but becau e they didn't
carryon-board radar sets, they were all but
incapable of tracking down nocturnal
Luftwaffe incur ions.)
However, it was on the 23rd that
disaster really truck home. First, part of
the bomb load on a Ju exploded prior
to take-off, causing two crew fatalities.
The other crews, led by Maj Karl-Heinz
Heyse (Gruppenkommandeur) took off
and headed out towards Britain. Three of
their number reportedly engaged an
outward-bound Hampden of o. 83
quadron, according to the pilot, Sgt
akley. The ensuing combat should have
gained at a fearful cost of six aircraft and
five crews.
November opened badly, with the loss
of Unteroffizier Lang. Eight night later a
2/NJG 2 Do In-Io was attacked by a
Beaufighter: it knocked out one engine,
and Oberfeldwebel chmidt was hard
pressed to bring his charge back safely.
The Beaufighter was by now in service
with os. 25, 29 and 604 quadrons,
based at Debden, Digby and Colti hall
(detachment only) respectively, and the
presence of these night fighter uni t ,
being the first to be equipped with
airborne radar, spelled the end of the
Luftwaffe Intruders' hitherto almost total
immunity from aerial interception. (Two
54
55
A Ju88C from I{NJG2 has made a heavy crash-landing resulting in the right engine becoming detached. The
Englandblitz badge is displayed under the forward cockpit. whose rear section has been jettisoned.
but to ek a crash-landing in north
orfolk. II three crew survived,
although nteroffizier Boettner
(Bordfunker) was seriously injured in the
proce s. Thu did the Fernnachtjagd
deliver it first POWs into British hands.
The extreme vulnerability of aircraft
during take-off was demonstrated on 13
March, when a Manchester of No. 2 7
quadron, based at Waddington, wa
targeted by Feldwebel Hahn: its desperate
attempts to maintain flight were in vain,
and it ended up crashing; in the
subs quent explosion, two of th seven-
man crew amazingly survived, although
one later died in hospital. But within
twenty-four hours this succe s was
immediately counter-balanced by the 10
of Gefreit r Koerner's] u 88, thanks to o.
25 Squadron, whose Beaufighters had
moved further north to Wittering. In this
encounter the squadron's CO, qn Ldr
Widdowson, was already airborn:
recently involved in a fruitless G 1-
a isted chase, he was re-directed onto a
'bandit' approaching from head-on. This
was Koern r' ]u 8 (part of the recently
formed 4 ]G 2), and Widdow on ettled
his night fighter behind it, having got a
visual identification ahead of a 'flash' from
hi radar et. One prolonged bur t from
short rang was enough to cause the
aircraft to disintegrate in mid-air, and send
the hapless Luftwaffe crew to their doom.
Further to the south-ea t over
MiIdenhall, Leutnant Pfeiffer managed to
infi Itrate his ai rcraft amongst the
Wellingtons of No. 149 Squadron as they
circled to land, and aimed his attack at
Sgt Warren's aircraft: it was hit and went
out of control to crash just off the airfield.
This was the final claim submitted for
March; however, there was one further
loss for IjN]G 2 that also involved 4
Staffel, Gefreiter Krueger's crew going
down in the orth ea on the 31st.
The scale of confirmed loss to the
Gruppe was naturally in stark contrast to
the relative lack of confirmed RAF losses,
the latter being de cribed as Abschusse, or
'claim' in English. evertheles ,
Kammhuber obviously regarded the
continued use of his 'Intruders' as relevant
to the overall aim of blunting Bomber
Command's a sault. An intere ting point
in regard to the 'claims' figure lies in their
geographi 10 ation. Out of the figure of
forty-two submitted up to 31 March 1941,
only three relate directly to Zone C, with
a further two Whitleys claimed over the
FERNNACI-ITJAEGER
North Sea; the equivalent RAF record is
even more limiting, with just one
'incident' out of thirty-one recorded over
Yorkshire, namely the los of a Whitley at
Linton-on-Ouse on 24 October. The
availability of airfields in this region was
high enough to merit as much attention
being paid to it as to the others, so there is
no obvious reason for this striking
disparity. Perhap rew assigned to this
zone were tempted to extend what was a
'roving brief' in order to work over the
other two zones. These were nearer to
Holland, and ther fore afforded an
extended operational duration compared
to sorties directed towards the
northernmost zone.
RAF Night Fighter Activity
Increases
The ever-increasing scale of RAF night
fighter activity was likely to prove as
threatening to the Fernnachtjaeger crews
as to their even more vulnerable
contemporaries manning the He III and
] u bombers. The fact that the RAF and
Luftwaffe were both largely operating in
twin-engine aircraft seemed to give the
'Intruders' a measure of protection,
especiall y if these were over eastern
England at the same tim a Bomber
ommand was active. Neverthele s, there
was never any guarantee of immunity
from interception, as Gefreiter Brotz and
his crew discovered on 9/10 pril. Their
Ju 88C-2 took off from Gilze-Rijen at
::lround 21 :00 hours, and one hour later
Brotz was seeking out suitable airfields for
assault; but a patrolling Beaufighter of No.
25 quadron, piloted by gt B nnett, was
directed onto the Ju by hi observer
gt. Curtiss, and the resulting combat
brought down the fighter, a crash that cost
Brotz his life.
During April another crew was lost in
mysterious circumstance, aid to involve
another Luftwaffe aircraft rather than the
RAE Feldwebel Beetz and hi two
companions were all killed in the crash of
their Ju C-4 near Peterborough. Finally
the third fatal Gruppe loss during this
month occurred over Holland just
twenty-four hours later, when none of
Unteroffizier Kedler's crew survived the
crash of the aircraft near their home base.
The remaining Gruppe rews were still
achieving a measure of small but steady
success, with sixteen specific incidents
occurring in the month. Of this total,
nine aircraft could be considered 'write-
off' either through total de truction or
heavy damage.
One R F crew was lucky to avoid
injury or death when hi Beaufighter
came under attack as he wa completing
his landing run - and had the Luftwaffe
crew known who that pilot was, they
would urely hav rued their failure to
knock him out, for it was none other than
Sqn Ldr Guy Gibson. Gibson was
currently operating with No. 29
Squadron, during what was his official
'rest period' from Bomber Command
operations.
A similar scale of 'incidents' affecting
RAF aircraft occurred during May, at a
cost of one MIA Do 17; but June proved
much more expen ive, especially in
relation to successful 'kills', of which there
was just one. The first los of the month
was on the 4th, when poor visibility
probably caused the demi e of Leutnant
Feuerbaum and his crew, when their Ju
cra hed into high ground over north-east
York hire. Ten nights later the Gruppe
mourned three further los es, one of
which was arguably avoidable. The crews
led by nteroffizier Baehner and
Hoffmann were coursing in over Ea t
Anglia when separate interception were
made by No. 25 quadron. Th first
involved qn Ldr Pleasance, who had
already been in the air for some time
when his radar operator gt Bent picked
out a 'blip' at over 3,000m (lO,OOOft) - a
surprisingly high altitude for what turned
out to be an intruder. Despite receiving a
clear warning from Pleasance's initial
burst of fire, Hoffmann still appeared to
have been surprised when the second
burst disabled the port engine: soon after
the engine caught fire, causing all three
airmen to bale out.
Th Beaufighter that slotted into
Pleasance' place in the survei llance soon
homed in on Baehner' Ju , his attack
setting an engine on fire, causing the
machine to fall to its destruction; none of
it' crew urvived the crash and subsequent
fire.
A third Gruppe aircraft flown by
Unteroffizier Alt successfully completed
its sortie and headed homeward. A he
was heading east, an 8/KG 4 crew wa
completing a successful 'ditching' of their
He Ill, and the four survivors were
scrambling into their dinghy. Hopes of
being re ued in response to their
signal were raised when the hape of Alt's
Ju materialized and wept in low
overhead, after which it commenced a
circling action. uddenly to the horror of
the watching airmen in the dinghy, the
aircraft dug a wingtip into the sea and
cartwheeled to its destruction. It wa all
the more ironic that the next day the He
III crew were picked up, while their
would-be 'saviour ',whose prospect of safe
return had been so much greater, were laid
to rest for ever beneath the waves.
Oberfeldw bel Otto Weise, an
experienced pilot, took off in the early
hours of 22 June for a sortie over Raum
The relative absence of AA fire over the
region betokened night fighter activity to
this sea on d crew, and sure enough,
radio-operator Unteroffizier Beul recalled
that they were soon subjected to a burst of
fire from Fg Off Herrick's Beaufighter of
o. 25 quadron. In reaction, the pilot
threw the Ju into a diving turn, though
sadly this was of no avail, ince Herrick'
stream of gunfire finally fired the right
wing-tanks. Although nobody appeared
to hal'e been injured, and the rear canopy
was uccessfully jettisoned, Beul wa the
sole airman to escape \ ith his life.
FERNNACI-ITJAEGER
Three of the June losses had come from
the ranks of 4 JG 2, and another, more
serious one was suffered on the 26/27th -
erious becau e it involved the
taffelkapitaen, Oberleutnant Bohn.
Prowling over the orth ea approache
to the bomber base - by now a regular
feature of Gruppe operations - the crew
picked up an in-bound Whitley. Hits were
landed on the RAF bomber, but a second
attack came up against the full assault of
the rear gunner's four machine-guns. The
cockpit windscreen disintegrated under
the deadly fusillade, and Bohn collapsed
over the control column. Unteroffizier
Lindner forced his way forwards as the
aircraft nosed into a dive and, quickly
confirming that Bohn was dead, took over
the controls to pull out into level flight.
There then ensued a desperate bid to
regain friendly shore: Lindner had no
formal pilot training, yet managed to
direct the stricken Ju towards that
hoped-for objecti ve. AIthough not
returning direct to Holland, the two
survivors did finally manage to cross over
the French coast before baling out along
wi th their dead pilot. The Ju flew on
until it fuel was exhausted, when it
crashed south of the Alp'.
Into the Autumn of 1941
In the course of the remaining months of
summer, and well into the autumn of
1941, the I ]G 2 crews maintained a
steady operational activity. p to the
middle of October the RAF recorded
eighteen losses and two heavy crash-
landings attributable to the Gruppe; two
of the losse could without doubt be
credited to 1/ JG 2, because both
involved mid-air collision with their
attackers! The ost to the Luftwaffe was
not Iight, wi th no fewer than eight crews
MIA, and a ninth lost over Gilze-Rijen.
]uly was the most expensive month, with
four crews lost, one of which - Leurnant
Stradner (9th) - went missing off the
Dutch coast. The other three crew went
down over England within a six-day
period. First, Leutnant Voelker had the
extreme misfortune to run into a
Wellington of o. II OTU, Bassingbourn,
with no survivors among the eleven RAF
and Luftwaffe airmen. Then the Ju
flown by Obergefrei ter Lad iges crashed
south of the Humber on the 24th. Finally,
a strike on the o. 2 IT satellite airfield
to Brize orton led by Leutnant Dr Bisang
took down an Oxford during the early
hours of the 2 th. However, as the Ju
flew its homeward course over East
Angl ia, for some completely unknown
rea on it plunged to earth near olchester.
56 57
FER ACHTJAEGER
An SC50 bomb provides a base for an MG15 machine-gun. The 'gunner' wielding the weopon is believed to
be Ofw. Hans Suetterlin, a Senior Mechanic with the Gruppe, who also flew several Fernnachtjagd sorties.
The ammunition belt draped around his neck is superfluous, since the MG15 was fed off the twin pannier
containers already fitted in position!
CHAPTER SIX
to the Luftwaffe assuming that the carrier
had sailed directly cast. The
reconnaissance aircraft only switched
their focus of search to Malta on the 12th,
by which time the island's AA force had
been redeployed around Grand Harbour,
ready to throw up a form idablc 'box
barrage' of fire. The Luftwaffe's first
attacks were delivered by StG I's Ju 87s
without result, and this situation persisted
up until the 16th, when the Ju 88s of LG
I joined with the Ju 87s to make a
combined force of over sixty bombers. In
the course of the raid Illustrious was to
absorb two more hits, but her armoured
deck undoubtedly saved her. In turn, the
AA, along with the Hurricanes and
Fulmars, left their mark on the German
fliers: the fighters particularly set upon LG
1, although only one crew failed to return
to icily - Oberleutnant Pichler and his
9/LG 1 aircraft were lost. Three further
bombers crash-landed back at their
A Ju 880 has been jacked up under the forward fuselage, and an inflation bag placed under the fractured
right engine mount. The undercarriage leg can be seen in a partially deployed position. The left side of
the rear set of bomb-bay doors is opened out.
of Axis supply vessels plying between Italy
and North Africa.
The Ju 87s of StG I soon made their
presence felt on 10 January, with a strike
against the carrier Illustrious. The vessel
was not sunk, but it was so badly damaged
as to force its withdrawal across the
Atlantic to the United States for major
repairs. However, its initial passage from
where the Swkas had delivered their
ordnance in the Sicilian Straits was to
seek shelter in Malta's Grand Harbour.
Here it lay for more than a week while the
worst effect of the six direct bomb hits
was sufficiently corrected to permit the
vessel's departure for Alexandria.
However, the land-locked position of
Illustrious eemed to be ideal for the
German dive-bombers to finally destroy
their prey with pinpoint bombing
accuracy.
Fortunately for Illustrious, a two-day
pause in aerial assault transpired, thanks
Balkans Interlude
Italy's entry into World War lIon 10 June
1940 exposed Britain and its empire to yet
another battlefront upon which to spread
its tenuously thin military resources.
Within a few months, however, this
severe imbalance was temporarily eased in
two respects. First, the Italian forces met
with stiff resistance during their invasion
of Albania and Greece, and by the year's
end were also being summarily ejected
from Egypt. Secondly, the Italian navy's
undoubted superiori ty regard ing the
quality and quantity of their vessels as
compared to the Royal avy had been
cancelled out in two separate episodes: on
11/l2 November several battle hips were
crippled by air-launched torpedoes inside
the seemingly safe confines of Taranto;
then on 27 ovember, off Cape
Spartivento, an out-gunned R force
succe sfully called the bluff of their
adver aries, forcing them to withdraw
without an engagement. (The appearance
of Ark Ro)·al's wordfish torpedo carrier,
and the recent punishment handed out by
these aircraft to the Italian fleet, probably
influenced its commander's decision!)
Hitler's growing frustration with his
Axis partner's comprehensive failure on
the field of battle finally brought elements
of the Luftwaffe into play before 1940 was
out; the Afrika Korps followed on in force
around February, although it, too, had
begun establishing itself in Tripolitania
during Dec mber. The specialist anti-
shipping units despatched to icily during
December included II and 1I1/LG I with
its Ju 8s based at Catania and GeiaThe
long-range reconnaissance duty was
allotted to I(F) 121 flying the Ju 8 D.
From here, the bombers could challenge
the hitherto mainly unconte ted
movements of the Royal avy as well a
the merchant vessel traver ing the
Mediterranean to Greece, Egypt and the
Island of Malta. Also, they could bring
overwhelming pressure to bear upon that
island's defenders with a view to forcing
their urrender, thus removing a v ry
seriou impediment to the free movement
Gruppe personnel. However, the decision
to cease operation had come from a
much higher level of command, namely
del' groesste Feldhen von alLen Zeiten, Adolf
Hitler (th is sardonic ti tie, wh ich
translated as 'the greatest commander
ever', and wa abbreviated to Grosfaz, wa
an appellation used by senior German
military staff during World War II -
though not in their leader's presence
l
).
He had taken the view that RAF 10 ses,
and particularly its bombers, should occur
over Germany where the population
could gain moral comfort from such
success! More muted opposition to th
concept had be n building up within the
Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, a sign of
which was the unwillingness to expand
the available force and provide aircraft
and crews beyond the single Grupp .
And 0 I/NJG 2 prepared to transfer to
the more pleasant climatic conditions of
the Mediterranean. Fully twenty-two
months were to intervene before the
Fernnachtjaeger principle wa again
invoked, and by that stage of World War
II the tide of aerial success was sweeping
firmly, if sometimes painfully, towards the
Allies, and would remain there until final
overall victory had been achieved.
de cent over Clacton-on- ea, while their
aircraft plunged into the sea.
The final combat loss undoubtedly left
its mark upon the unit. Leutnant Hans
Hahn had flown with the Gruppe since its
inception, and had scored six confirmed
'kills' of ingle or twin-engine bombers.
Several times he had been forced to
return on half power, and his crew had
survived a take-off crash on another
occasion; but his perceived operational
skill finally earned him the Knight's Cross
(Ritterkreuz) during July 1941.
The crew's latest sortie was made on 11
October, and they came in over central
Lincolnshire during the late evening. An
Oxford from o. 12 FT loomed up in
front of the Ju 8, and Hahn opened fire.
Almost immediately ground observers
witnessed two aircraft falling in flames, the
most likely cause for the scenario being a
collision. Whatever transpir d, there was
to be no salvation for eith r the two RAF
fliers or the three Luftwaffe airmen.
Soon after Hahn was reported MIA, it
was announced that the entire
'Fernnachtjaeger' concept was to be
abandoned, and thi by none other than
its originator, General Kammhuber, who
made this declaration to the paraded
The ruppenkommandeur Hauptmann
Huelshoff was alerted to an incursion by
the RAF during the daylight hours of 12
August, and 'scrambled' his crews to
intercept. The attackers were Blenheims
from o. 2 Group, who had approached
at low level all the way to Cologne where
they bombed the major power tation at
Quadrat. Their withdrawal at high level
then left the Ju 8s roaming around in
vain ov r the Dutch coast. As Hulshoff
circled, he sighted a single-engine fighter
that he (not unnaturally) took to be a Bf
109. But the Ju 88 crew had in fact landed
in the company of a top RAF fighter pilot,
Sqn Ldr H. M. Stephen, who promptly
demonstrated h is prowess as a marksman I
Both engines were thoroughly shot up,
and Huelshoff was fortunate to cra h-Iand
without dire injury at an airfield bordering
the coast.
Fortune de erted Leutnant Pfeffer on
the 17th when his crew failed to return,
and on 2 eptember Feldwebel Kleine's
crew were also lost, presumably at sea. By
now the general scale of operations was
appearing to lessen, although the ultimate
cancellation of 'Intruder' attack
altogether - a decision that stunned many
- was still in the future. The penultimate
loss for I/NJG 2 during it
Fernnachtjaeger function was that of
Oberfeldwebel Veil. Veil was a very
experienced Ju 8 pilot who had flown
during the battles of France and Britain,
the Balkans' ampaign, and the first day
of Barbarossa, all with KG 51. Despite
that Geschwad r's heavy losses on 22
June, Veil, whose posting to I/NJG2 came
through two days later, did not a cede to
his Kommodore's request to stay on in
view of the unit' parlous situation, and
duly departed for Holland.
With a sizeable number of sorties
compl ted by 16 eptember, Veil lift doff
that evening and headed due west. But a
medium-altitude flight path over East
Anglia wa not the best manner in which
to avoid detection, and sure enough a
Havoc of o. 5 quad ron, flown by Sqn
Ldr Raphael, picked up the Ju 88' trail. A
prolonged chase ensued, but the RAF
crew gradually closed to point-blank
range. ow the twelve machine-gun
mount d in the American-built air raft
made short work of the quarry, leaving the
thre enemy airmen to make a fortunate
58 59
BALKANS INTERL DE BALKA I 'TERLUDE
A Ju 880-1 is seen with the right engine opened up to full power and just as the pilot has pressed the
starter for the left engine. The absence of spinner cover and rear cowling panels indicates a test-run. An
MG81Z weapon is placed in the ventral gondola hatch, and what appears to be an MG FF cannon
protrudes from the nose.
The invasion of Yugoslavia proceeded
with efficient but brutal pace from it
launch on the 6th to the final Yugo lavian
capitulation on the 17th. The
\Vehrmacht thrust were fully supported
by preced ing J u 7 attacks, and th
Yugoslavian ir Force's mixed colle tion
of modern and ob olete aircraft could
bar Iy carry off a delaying action, far less
turn back the va t numbers of the
Luftwaffe. The capital Belgrade endured a
terrible pounding from both level- and
dive-bombing assault made by upward of
500 aircraft. Arriving as an element of
one of the later raids was KG 51. The
Geschwader crews recorded being the
focus of heavy fighter attack, whi h all
A number of Ju 88A-4 airframes were strengthened with a view to their being
used in a low-level attack and anti-shipping role. A proportion of the same batch
featured a 20mm MG FF cannon positioned within the forward area of the ventral
gondola. The bomb-sight panel was deleted in favour of an ammunition ejection
chute. All the aircraft involved were modified at the factory.
Russia had been set for the second half of
May; as it was, Operation Barbarossa was
held back by four precious weeks.
The luftwaffe support unit for the
Greek invasion were already in place
across the length and breadth of Austria,
Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria.
luftflotte 4 possessed ten bomber
Gruppen, among whose ranks were the Ju
of tab I, II and III/KG 5L based at
Wiener- eustadt and hwechat. The Ju
Ds of 4(F) L21 were at a third Austrian
airfield, Seyring. Fliegerkorps VIII had a
lower concentration of bombers - only
four Gruppen in all - including I/lG,
that was operating its Ju 8 s out of
Krumovo in Bulgaria.
A one-off modification was made to a Ju 88 from KG 51 in 1941. This took the
form of flame-throwing equipment whose twin tubes extended out under the
rudder. Although the tests were reportedly successful, no further action was
taken to modify subsequent aircraft, either within KG 51 or elsewhere within
the ranks of Ju 88-equipped units.
1941. Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria
had pas ed into the azi fold by the end of
February, and Yugoslavia appeared about
to follow uit. In late March the Yugoslav
government igned a pact with Germany,
but almo t immediately afterwards a
popular upri ing overthrew the Regent
Prin e Paul and set the teenage Peter on
the throne, and the pact was repudiated.
Thu Hitler's plan to invade Greece by 1
April in ord I' to secure his south-western
flank from a perceived (if unlikely) British
advance through that country was thrown
into complete jeopardy, and as a I' suit of
thi 'treachery' he ordered an immediate
invasion of Yugoslavia. This action was all
the more urgent since the invasion of
last ighted their quarry approaching the
Sicilian coastline, and the Ju evidently
failed to gain solid ground since it was
declared IlA in German records.
February opened with renewed
bombing carried out primarily by lG L,
even though the He llls of II/KG 26 as
well as the Ju 87s of I/StG 1 and 11/ t 2
were also on hand in Sicily. On the 1st, a
late evening raid by four groups of the Ju
88s hit an airfield. A similarly timed raid
three days later struck at luqa and
Kalafrana, the latter being a flying-boat
base. 0 aircraft were lost from these
sortie, although four suffered moderate to
severe damage, with three crash-landing
at atania on the 4th. For several of the
icilian-based units, including the bulk of
II and 111/ l 1 and l(F) 121, a tran fer to
Tripolitania was imminent. The reason
for th is was the need to provide aerial
suppOrt for Rommel's Afrika Korps as it
launched it counter-offensive against the
British th Army.
The Balkans Erupts
Hitler's diplomatic offensive to bring the
countries omprising the Balkan region
into the Nazi camp seemed to be
advancing during the first few months of
crews of lG l. Six aircraft formed the
aerial 'search party', but their efforts
ended in disaster. One half of the force
was led by leutnant Boehmer, but all
three pilots became lost, and remained so
after darkness had fallen. Unable to find
an ai rfield and believing h is trio of Ju 88s
to be over land, Boehmer ordered a
general baLe-out. All twelve airmen duly
did so, but only one descended onto land
- Oberfeldwebel Lsachsen, pilot of one of
the 8/lG 1 aircraft; the others all came
down in the sea and were drowned.
lG 1's next casualty occurred the very
next day when nteroffizier Ullrich failed
to return from a sortie over Malta in hi 4
taffel aircraft. Malta then saw no large-
cale luftwaffe activity for the remainder
of January, although ingle attack and
reconnai ance orties were flown. One of
the latter resulted in 1(F) 121' first loss:
on the 26th leutnant Fund went out on
reconnaissance, but was then intercepted
by two Hurricanes. One engin was
smoking and return fir from the rear
gunner had ceased when the RAF pilots
airfield thanks to battle damage, and a
fourth had a similar experience at
Pozzallo, just inland from the island's
extreme south- ast coast.
The scale of attack appeared to reach a
crescendo on the J8th and 19th, but the
carrier remained virtually unscathed,
although further non-lethal damage was
sustained. Among the luftwaffe losse
were the 7/lG L aircraft flown by
leutnant Dunkel (1 th), and th /lG L
machines of Hauptmann Durbeck
(Staffelkapitaen) and Oberfeldweb I
chneider (J 9th). The weight of AA fire
had not actually brought down many
bombers, but its debilitating eff; ct upon
the German crew as they attempted to
line up for an accurate attack could not b
discounted in contributing towards the
final alvation of Illustrious. A few nights
later the carrier tole away towards
Alexandria and afety.
When the luftwaffe discovered that
Illustrious had departed, they quickly
d spat hed aircraft to track her down, but
this action was to bring tragedy to the
60 61
BALKANS I TERLUDE
BALKAN INTERLUDE
A rough. stone-strewn surface makes the task of man-handling the bomb trolley towards a waiting
Ju 88A-4 all the more difficult for these airmen. The bomb appears to a 1.000kg (2.200lb) weapon. and
the action is being filmed by the man in line with the ventral gondola. An MG FF cannon is positioned
within the lower nose. The propeller spinners are marked with Staffel colours. but are not sufficient
to identify what unit is involved.
aircraft managed to survive, although
severe damage was sustained by one, with
two others taking lesser punishment.
A reduced level of homhing was
conducted over the capital on the 7th,
small formations attacking during the
morning, and larger groups of aircraft later
in the day. Late in the afternoon
approximately fifty Ju 87s and twin-
engine bombers approached, to he
challenged by IK-Zs and Bf 109s. Claims
for at least several dive-homhen, were
submitted hy those pilots who survived
being 'bounced' and dispersed by Bf 109s
from JG 54. Three Ju 88s of I/KG 51 did
in fact go MIA during the operation, each
Staffel losing one crew (Unteroffizier
Schmitt, Oberfeldwebel Gerritzen and
Leutnant Krueger from I, 2 and 3 Staffe I
respectively). One II/KG 51 crew crash-
landed and 'wrote off' their Ju 88 in
Rumania, as did a second crew from
III/KG 51 at Arad, also in Rumania.
For the remainder of the short and
tragic campaign the Luftwaffe went about
its business with ever-increasing
confidence as the Yugoslav Air Force was
relentlessly whittled down, more than
half of its operational strength alone
having heen lost during the first two days.
One of the few losses suffered on the II th
was Oherleutnant Westen, flying a 6/KG
51 homher. An attack on Mostar airfield
hy this Gruppe ran into a single Hurricane
and Bf 109. The former pilot latched onto
the Ju 88 flown by Feldwebel Guegel, but
was forced to bale out when hit by return
fire. On the 13th, KG 51 carried out an
attack upon lIidza where the Yugoslav
government was suspected to be in
residence.
Finally, on the 15th, as a prelude to
capitulation, the Yugoslav commander-in-
chief despatched a 'cease fire' order to the
Air Force. Two days later the conflict was
brought to its bloody conclusion. ow
Hitler could turn his full attention
towards Greece, whose territorie his
forces had invaded on the same day a
Yugo lavia.
Greek Tragedy
Almost immediately following the Italian
declaration of war against Greece on 2
October 1940, several RAF units arriv d
in the country to assist the defensive
action. Blenh im Mk 1 and Wellington
bombers were transferred from North
Africa and were allocated Athens-Eleusis
and Menidi in south-east Greece;
hasically these were used to bomb
strategic targets in Albania. Blenheim Mk
I F fighters operated from the same region,
and Gladiator were positioned on
makeshift airfields located towards the
Albanian border. Over the winter months
the fighter numbers were bolstered by
Hurricanes, which in the case of o. 80
Squadron, took the place of its Gladiators.
However, while the combined efforts of
the two Allies were enough to hold the
Italians at hay, the likelihood of Gennan
intervention was viewed with
apprehension.
That position was reached on 6 April,
although the RAF based in Greece and
the recently occupied island of Crete to
the south had run up against the Luftwaffe
before that date. Also on rete were FAA
Fulmar of o. 05 quadron. In early
March, Gen Wavell began the proces of
despatching 5 ,000 British and
Commonwealth troops with their upport
equipment to Gr ece. Th large merchant
convoy required for this transfer were
soon identified by the enemy, who sent in
their bombers and torpedo-bombers.
Malta was al 0 being supplied from
Alexandria, and on 21 March a fast
convoy of four merchantmen was
62
attacked by a pair of Ju 88s from LG I.
Unfortunately for the Germans, Fulmar
from the fleet carrier Formidable that had
recently arrived in the eastern
Mediterranean and were part of the
escort, were patrolling overhead, and
swooped down to intercept. The
intention of out-running the
comparatively pedestrian Fulmars might
have worked, but as the aircraft dropped
down to sea level, the line of pursuit
unfortunately then lay well within gun
range of the three AA cruisers also
escorting the convoy. The already
damaged 5 taffel aircraft flown by
Leutnant zur ieden stood little chance
of evading the withering firepower of
more than twenty Sin-calibre weapons,
and crashed into the sea.
Convoy A -21 heading towards
Greece on that same day absorbed several
attacks by Ju 8 s, one of whose bomb set
a tanker on fire, though not with
ultimately fatal results, despite the loss of
part of its cargo. (Two other
merchantmen from A -21 were less
fortunate, as they were sunk by He III of
II/KG 26 the day after.)
The Royal avy warships operating in
the waters around Crete and southern
Greece were subjected to regular air
attack by Jus of LG 1 and lII/KG 30
towards the end of March; the most
intense raid involved more than twenty
aircraft split between the two unit. The e
delivered their bombs around the AA
cruiser oventry and its two destroyer
escort, but cored no hits in the face of a
solid gun barrage. Two Ju 8 s were hit in
this encounter: Oberleutnant Weller's fell
away to finally crash on Crete; and the
other was badly damaged but managed to
stagger back to Catania where the pi lot
brought off a successful crash-landing.
However, much better fortune awaited
the Luftwaffe crews in the weeks ahead as
they strove [Q inflict heavy 10 ses on the
Royal avy during Operation Mercury,
the invasion of Crete.
Hitler Launches His Assault
The presence of such a large contingent of
Briti h troop in Greece gave Hitler every
r a on to launch his assault on Greece in
con ert with the invasion of Yugoslavia.
All too soon the Greeks and their Briti h
partner were being inexorably pushed
back, first from out of the northern
reache of the country, and from the we t
once Yugoslavia had finally capitulated on
17 April. The icily-based Ju 8s played
an indirect part in the campaign by
blocking th reinforcement convoy routes
heading up towards Greece; Gavdhos
Island, lying off the southern edge of
rete, became a regular focal point for the
German bomb rs, with the latest attack
occurring on 21 April. The two crews
from 7/KG 30 badly damaged one
merchantman, which had to be taken in
tow; but on the down side, return fire
from on of the escorts so cri ppled
Leurnant Pich's 7 Staffel bomber that he
was forced into a 'ditching' off Crete, from
which only he and one other emerged
alive, to become POWs. The island itself
was bombed for the first time by other Ju
s from KG 51.
The contribution made by KG 30 to the
Greek campaign on the night of 6/7 April
was crucial. Flying a part of 7 taffel was
Hauptmann Hajo Herrmann, who had
urvived a harrowing experience over
Plymouth in July 1940 when laying ea-
mine, as well as a bad cra h at Gilze-
Rijen the following autumn. The taffel's
target was the vital seaport of Piraeus,
through which the vast bulk of British
supplies were being passed. Just di abling
th port facilities would undoubtedly hav
hinder d the pace of reinforcement, but
in fact the German attack ucceeded on a
scale far beyond any that could have been
anticipated.
The very bad weather conditions made
navigation extremely difficult, but by
21:00 hour all crews had assembled over
Piraeus and commenced their attacks,
dropping a mix of bombs and aerial
mines. Also present were the He 111 of
2/KG 4, which laid sea-mines in the
shipping lanes. As the raid progressed, so
did the rate of hits upon both cargo
vessels and quayside warehouses. One of
the vessels struck was the Clan Line's
Ian Fraser, that still had around 250
tons of her cargo of explosives in the
holds. All attempts to extinguish the fires
raging through her hull proved in vain,
and a desperate request to tow her clear of
the port was refused - the risk of her
hitting a German mine, sinking in the
shipping channel and so blocking off the
port was too high. But all consideration
in fact became academic when, in the
early hours of 7 April, Clan Fraser's load
detonated and a massive fireball engulfed
the tug and lighters clustered round her
hull, and destroyed or damaged the
ve sels moored nearby. But wor e was to
come just a few minutes later, when a
second vessel laden with ammunition
blew up with even more destructive
effect. Between them, the e two took out
a further nine m rchantmen.
Far more serious than the heavy loss of
merchant shipping capacity was the
virtual closure of Piraeus as a viable
landing port for upwards of two weeks.
Even then, its loading and unloading
facil ities were never brought up to more
than a fraction of its normal level of
operation. Herrmann and his fellow
airmen had struck a significant 'nail in the
coffin' regarding Allied prospects for a
successful defence of Greece.
This intrepid airman' Ju 8 had not
escaped unscathed, however: it had lost
an engine to oroundfire, and the
diversionary flight east to Rhodes was
fraught with danger as he pre sed on over
high ground and through sol id cloud
cover. Arriving at Rhode with rapidly
diminishing fuel reserve, he was ordered
to hold his position until the RAF
bombing attack on the airfield was over.
At last final clearance was granted to land
- but even then the crew were lucky to
escape uninjured when the Ju 88 ran off
the end of the runway and almost into a
wrecked Italian bomber'
63
The Allies Lose Ground
Over the ensuing two weeks the
Wehrmacht advanced on two major
front, out of Bulgaria and Macedonia,
with a third force sweeping eastwards
from Albania. The Luftwaffe along with
the Regia Aeronautica provided powerful
support in harrying the Allied troop and
weakening their ability to long withstand
the breakthrough of Panzer and armoured
car units along with their infantry
support. The RAF and the Greek ir
Force were similarly forced onto the back
foot as airfields were either lost to the
enemy or regularly strafed and bombed,
with the loss of more and more aircraft to
add to those shot down in aerial combat.
An air batrle over Athens on the 15th
involved I/LG I and I/KG 51, who were
challenged by a mixed group of o. 0
Squadron Hurricanes, and No. 30
quadron Blenheims Mk 1F. Two separate
attacks w re made by the Jus in the
pace of less than sixty minute. An
indirect success for the bombers was the
sinking of a merchantman; in this
encounter, although Leutnant attler
(2/LGI) claimed that his bombs had left
the vessel in a sinking condition, it was in
fact an unswept sea-mine that brought
about it demise a it was being towed out
into the bay. Two other merchantmen
were seriou ly damaged by bombs. Claim
for at least seven 'kills' proved vastly over-
optimistic, albeit not without total effect,
since at I ast two KG 51 crews made
crash-landings at Krumovo, as did one
crew from I/LG. These were more
fortunate than the crew of Unteroffizier
Stuetz, however, who were declared MI
in their 2/LG l aircraft.
Next day No. 80 Squadron was again
embroiled in combat with another mixed
Ju formation, though th is ti me it
appeared to have better 'confirmed'
success. Pit Off Roald Dahl (of post-war
childrens' book fame) closed on a Ju
and fired, sending it into a steep divc; he
followed it down just as steeply, and
neither Ie scned their angle of de cent
right up until the bomber smacked into
the sea. After this sortie, Leutnant Horst
Beeger of 3/LG I, and Unteroffizier
Uh Iick of 4/KG 51, were missi ng from the
formation on it return to its airfields.
An afternoon sortie over Khalkis
harbour on the 19th was led by the KG 51
Gruppenkommandeur Hauptmann Hahn.
However, his 2 taffel bomber went down
during this arrack, although whether to
BALKANS INTERLUDE BALKANS INTERLUDE
The Ju 88B
When the Junkers Company was submitting their proposals for the Ju 88, two alternative airframe variations
under the titles Ju 858 and Ju 888 were proposed. In contrast to the standard forward fuselage layout of the cock-
pit frame mounted on top. these were intended to feature acontinuously curving canopy along its whole length.
The former alternative never got beyond the drawing board. but the second fared better when Junkers resubmitted
its plans after aperiod of three years.
The overall airframe other than the cockpit area was purely Ju 88A-l, but was powered by 8MW801 MA radial
engines in place of the planned Jum0213 units. since the latter had not yet been developed when the three proto-
types were completed during 1940. These were the Ju 88V-23, V-24 and V-25, which were respectively planned
for abomber. reconnaissance and destroyer role; the latter airframe mounted abattery of three MG17 machine-
guns and one MG151 cannon in the starboard nose area.
Air testing was commenced between July and October 1940. but with ultimately negative prospects for the
anticipated production runs of what would have been the Ju 888-1 (bomber), 8-2 (reconnaissance) and 8-3
(destroyer). The Ju 88-81 had been equipped with the extended Ju 88A-5 wings. but the overall performance
improvement compared to the Ju 88A-l was only marginally superior. This in turn persuaded the Reichsluftfahrt-
ministerium (RLMI to restrict their pre-production order to ten, the airframes bearing the title Ju 888-0.
These were based on the Ju 88A-4 airframe, but with aslightly extended forward fuselage; this feature was
intended to add to the aircraft's stability. Most of the Ju 888-0 aircraft had the dive brakes, outer wing-racks and
bomb-sights deleted, the intention being for these to serve in the 8-2 reconnaissance role. With this in mind, the
rear bomb-bay was equipped with three cameras. while the forward bomb-bay was fitted with an extra fuel tank.
Armed with twin MG81Z weapons in the windscreen, and the top and ventral positions within the cockpit, several
of the 8-0 aircraft saw operational service on the Russian front with Aufklareungsgruppe des Oberbefehlshaber
der Luftwaffe (C-in-C Luftwaffe's Reconnaissance Flight). Some of the remaining aircraft featured in Junkers devel-
opment programmes.
One of the latter was re-designated as the V-27 prototype for what evolved into the Ju 188E-0. As part of the
intended armament layout on the Ju 18B. an additional power-operated turret was positioned on the canopy
directly behind the pilot. In addition. the MG81Z weapons at the rear of the canopy and in the ventral position
were replaced by 13mm MG131 machine-guns.
A Ju 88 is photographed tracking a course across a broad expanse of calm water. with the low-lying sun
casting a brilliant beam of light ahead of its path. The chances of a crew member being discovered and
rescued in the event of a bale-out or 'ditching' in such a vast open stretch were generally poor, so this
would not have been a good place for mechanical problems.
With Greece completely secured, Hitler
had removed (in his eyes at lea t) a major
threat to his southern European flank. But
the existence of British forces on Crete
could not be tolerated. On the other
hand, the Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe
strength in the Mediterranean Theatre
wa about ro be promptly diverted in
order to participate in Operation
Barbarossa. Generalleumant Kurt
Student, heading Xl Fliegerkorps, was
therefore given sanction by Hitler to plan
and execute the invasion of Crete. A
major condition attached to the plan wa
its required initiation by mid-May. The
personnel commitment was around
22,000 troops, of which just under
16, 00 1'1 re tudent's experienced
Fall chirmjaeger, whose use in the 194
campaigns had proved so valuable. The
Fliegerkorps would utilize over 500 Ju 52s
from three Kampfgeschwader (KGzbV I,
2 and 3), as well as Luftlandgeschwader ['s
The Invasion of Crete
The British evacuation plans went
ahead with ultimately sound results,
de pite the constant harassment to
shipping, which sunk a number of v sel.
By 30 April, almost 0 per cent of the
final total of personnel committed to the
Greek campaign had been brought out,
mainly to Crete. The three Ju units
had made their contribution to this final
phase with occasional good effect. For
instance, on the 25th, a Rotte of LG 1 was
scouting off Piraeus when they sighted an
incoming convoy of two vessels under
naval escort. One of these, the Pentland,
took a bomb in her bridge, adversely
affecting her steering, and so she was
turned south, away from the planned
evacuation beach. Some time later a
second attack d stroyed the engine-room,
and the captain ordered 'abandon ship' as
his wallowing charge began to sink.
The next day, Ju 88s of an unidentified
unit added to the tally of losses when they
caught a well laden transport off Maleme.
A near mi s ruptured its hull, causing it to
sink, though happily this happened only
steadily and so permitted a full evacuation
of all on board. On the down side for the
Germans, a Hurricane of o. 33 quadran
patrolling over uda Bay apprehended a Ju
o of 4(F) 121 and summarily
despatched it into the ea; none of
Leurnant Michaelis's crew survived.
Ju bombing po itions around the
canal perimeter, after which Ju 87 dive-
bombed the area, and Ju 52s as well as
DFS 230 gliders dropped or landed
paratroopers who raced to the bridge in
the face of solid opposition - only to see
explosive charges blowout the supports.
not only hinder Allied movements
between the two geographic segments,
but the forces landed there could hinder,
if not prevent altogether, the retreat of
Allied units feeding down towards
Athens. The preliminary phase of this
operation on the 26th involved KG 51's
these two. By this stage of the campaign
the Ju 7 units were close enough to make
almost continuous forays against the
shipping tasked with effecting evacuation.
The other Luftwaffe bomber units kept up
the pres ure on the remnants of Allied-
occupi d Greece, but they also hared the
duty of harrying shipping.
They ometime went after other
targets; for in tance, on the 23rd a Kette
of LGl, having failed to find anything
suitable at sea, went on a diversionary
bombing attack on a road near Athens.
But the bomber of Unteroffizier Alt was
apprehended and pounced on by a
Hurri ane, whose accurate burst of fire
disabled an engine, and the pilot had little
option but to crash-land in an olive grove,
which he did successfully. ( adly, the
victor's aircraft, and many others from
os. 33 and 0 Squadrons, were destroyed
or damaged later that day when their new
airfield at Argos was subjected to a heavy
bombing attack in which Ju s of either
LG [ or KG 51 participated).
Two days prior to this encounter,
Leurnant Pich of 7/KG 3 was one of two Ju
flying yet another maritime
reconnai sance sortie. ighting a convoy off
the southern coa t of Crete, each del ivered
his bomb-load. 0 direct hits were
recorded, but a near miss on one of the
merchantmen sufficiently damaged it
steering for an e cort vessel to take it in tow.
The relative performance of the Ju
against the Blenheim was greatly superior
in all respects: the chances of the latter
being able to close, let alone hold its
position, in ord I' to bring its armament to
bear was normally minimal. But on 25
April, the Blenheims Mk IF of No. 30
Squadron were lucky: carrying out a
shipping patrol off rete, a Ju 88 was seen
approaching directly ahead, amazingly
flying blithely towards its adversaries and
taking no evasive action - and before
Feldwebel Zucker of l/LG [ could do
anything about it, his Ju had taken a
series of well-directed bursts of fire.
Emitting a black smoke trail, it took up a
wobbling course towards the north; it was
claimed to have crashed in the sea, though
the preci e circumstances of it 10 s were
unclear. (Zucker in his report confirmed the
aircraft's 10 , but stated that it had been
brought about by single-engine fighters')
The orinth Canal separates the
Greek mainland from the Peloponnese
Peninsula, and it was decided that the
capture of the bridge over the canal would
urplus equipment failed; but at least the
'ditching' off the coa t left the remaining
three airmen alive.
In the final air battle of several that day,
qn Ldr 'Pat' Pattie, the CO of o.
Squadron and the leading 'ace' in the
Mediterranean, head d up off Eleusis with
fourteen other Hurricanes to intercept a
heavily escorted bomber formation. The
particularly savage series of combats that
ensued rook out several Luftwrlffe to add
to the final day's tally of fourteen bombers
and fighters - but the cost to the RAF was
three dead and three injured pilots. Even
worse was the fact that one of the
fatalities was qn Ldr Pattle: he had gone
to the aid of a fellow-pilot, and was
assai led by two Bf I lOs; oon after, his
blazing Hurricane had plunged into
Eleusi Bay, closely followed by one of the
Bf 110s.
Evacuation
The inevitable decision to evacuate its
force from Greece was taken by the
British as April ran its final course. Crete
lay barely [OOkm (60 miles) off the
Peloponnese peninsula, and 160km ([00
miles) from Athens, and the six
evacuation points were located between
AA or fighters remains unclear. What is
certain i the survival of Hahn, who
subsequently rejoined his unit.
On the 20th, the RAF sustained a
terminal blow in it overall defensive
effort. Menidi airfield was heavily strafed,
and this caused serious destruction to
aircraft and equipment. Other airfields
received similar treatment, and by the
middl of the day the Luftwaffe was
roaming almost at will allover southern
Greece, despite the attentions of the
Hurricanes of Nos. 33 and 80 Squadrons,
who 1'1 I' doing their desperate best to
stem the flood.
hipping at Piraeus in particular
remained a priority target for the
Luftwaffe, and soon after, the Ju 8s of LG
I descended upon the port, while other
ections of the I OO-plus bomber formation
assaulted other targets around Athen.
This late afternoon raid was in progres as
three Hurricanes of No. quadron
joined in, a combat that resulted in the
Gruppe 10 ing nteroffizier Benke's crew,
along with their 1 taffel machine.
Another casualty was Oberfahnrich
Ziegler who lost an engine to repeated
fighter attacks, as well as his navigator
Gefreiter Baumgartner. All efforts to
remain aloft by throwing out armament
64 65
BALKANS INTERL DE BALKA S INTERLUDE
This crash-landed Ju SS appears to have suffered battle damage. judging by the gashes in the engine
nacelle and forward fuselage. The flexible padded head-rest for the radio-operator is clearly shown.
as are the attachment lugs for the rear canopy on the cockpit's central canopy frame.
Above: This bomb with the support/release frame
attached is being offered up to the wing-rack slot
into which the frame will recess. Sway-braces will
then be tightened to prevent lateral movement of
the ordnance in flight. Both weapons are SC250s.
to judge by the stencil on the left side of the bomb
already in position.
fellow warship, the effect W;:JS
devastating. he finally cap ized with
considerable loss of life following a second
Bf 109 a sault, which scored a direct hit.
Lord Mountbatten's Kelly, along with
Kashmir of the 5th De troyer Flotilla, were
the next to succumb in the morning as
they withdrew from shelling Maleme
airfield. Kashmir was all too soon disabled,
and fatally crippled by tG 2's Ju 7s.
Almost at once Kelly was struck in her
engine room, and turned right over as she
manoeuvred at top speed. A fellow
destroyer, Ki/)Ung, was fishing survivors
out when Ju 88s added to the attacks -
fortunately without any success.
In the waters surrounding I' te, the
Royal avy were attempting to intercept
the sea-borne convoys bringing in Axis
reinforcements, and their operations
naturally brought about a strong Luftwaffe
reaction. On the 21st, a force of three
crui ers and four destroyers was picked out
by LG I, and Ajax wa damaged by a ncar
miss. Dive-bombing was a risky enough
experience when all went well with the
action, and this particularly included the
'clean' release of the bombs. During this
sortie Leutnant attler had a 'hang-up'
involving the SC1400 bomb mounted
under one wing. The destabilizing effect
on the Ju 88 caused it to wallow back into
level flight, and this left it wide open to
AA fire, which shredded the fuselage and
one wing. Fortunately the bomb itself
escaped being hit, and the crew thankfully
pulled up and away.
Sattler's nerve was not affected, and he
participated in an evening attack upon
other naval units, although his claim
to have struck a cruiser remained
unconfirmed. ot so lucky wa the
destroyer Juno, part of Force 'C' to the
ea t: Ju 7 landed three strike that broke
the thin hull of the warship in two and
killed more than half her crew.
A Black Period for the Navy
Juno's sinking spelt the beginning of a
black period for the avy - although an
engagement by Force '0' against an Axis
convoy that night which sank more than
ten vessels, gave no indication of this
looming development. The followi ng
morning Force '0' linked up with Force
'C' - but as the link-up was proceeding,
the warships were assailed by Do 17s and
LG 1's J 88s, whose bombs damaged two
cruisers. AA fire in turn accounted for the
2/LG 1 bomber of Leutnant Schweikhardt
and Feldwebel Boecker (3/LG 1),
although the latter came back to 'ditch'
off Greece. The Ju 87s enjoyed better
uccess later on when they sank the
destroyer Greyhound and scored hit on
two cruiser, Fiji and Gloucescer. The latter
pair had earned but a brief reprieve,
becau e oon afterwards a rain of bombs
from the latest force of Ju 7s sent
Gloucescer to the bottom. An hour or so
later, a bomb-laden Bf 109 from LG 2
planted its heavy ordnance alongside Fiji,
splitting open the hull. With the warship
retiring at maximum speed after
completing the rescue of survivors from its
the bulk of its supplies: by the 16th, only
about 15,000 tons was on hand, and this
included just over 10 per cent of the
de patched ammunition tonnage. In
addition, the aircraft establi hment was
being steadily whittled down due to a
combination of losses in combat and
effective strafing attacks. In fact, by the
onset of Operation Merkur, the island's air
defence force would be reduced to nil
l
In the meantime, the ground defences
had been reinforced by the arrival of
sizeable army and Royal Marine
contingents, backed by tanks, and field
and AA guns. Some of the equipment was
of questionable quality, but the inclusion
of the AA guns was to prove particularly
valuable. The ultimate figure of more
than 40,000 troops included a sizeable
proportion of poorly trained Greeks as
well as RN and RAF 'combatants'.
evertheless, the Germans were in for a
tiffer fight than might have been
envisaged, even when granted virtual
control of the island's airspace.
A Hopeless Situation
The du ty airstrips off which the Ju 52s
were operating created the first problem
on 20 May, as this extended the assembly
period. Worse till, the glider carrying
Generalmajor uessmann in charge of the
Group Centre Force shed it wings and
crashed, killing all on board. Then the
gl iders that were briefed for Maleme lost a
number in crashes amongst the rocky
terrain surrounding the airfield; and the
attempt to seize Hill 107, that dominated
the region, led to heavy casualties among
the surviving troops. Other formations
flew low over AA concentrations and
paid dearly in terms of both aircraft and
parachutists. 1n fact, such was the lack of
recorded success at Maleme that the other
two forces destined to apture Retimo and
Heraklion to the east were held back.
However, thanks to a combination of
almost desperate bravery on the part of
the German - including pilots literally
crash-landing their Ju 52s on the airfield-
and misunderstanding on the defenders'
part regarding the feasibility of holding
Hill 107, Maleme's fate was basically
sealed by the 22nd. The likelihood of the
defenders being able to throw the
Germans back into the sea was fast
disappearing, and on the 27th General
Wavell informed London that the
situation was hopele s.
OF 230 gliders. VIII Fliegerkorps, now
based in southern Greece, would provide
the neces ary numbers of bombers,
fighters and reconnaissance aircraft.
The original 17 May start for Operation
Merkur (Mercury) was fated to be further
delayed by three days. Ever since the end
of April, the i land' defender had come
under ever-increasing assault from level-
and dive-bombers as well as strafing
fighters, with the two major airfields at
Maleme and Heraklion given full
attention. uda Bay, with its concen-
trations of shipping, was regularly the
focus of attack. A heavy raid ewer the
latter on the 3rd by a combined forc from
LG I and KG 51 met opposition from
Hurricanes and a single Sea Gladiator as
well as AA fire. I/KG 51 was to mourn the
loss of two more crews, those of Feldwebel
Fander! and Leutnant Ortner, whos Ju
88s crashed on the island and into the sea
re pectively. And on the next day,
another Gruppe aircraft was 'written off'
on return to Krumovo, following the
latest sortie to Suda Bay.
Approaching from the west towards
Alexandria on II May was the convoy
Tiger. Its merchantmen bore in their holds
a very precious cargo of 295 tanks and 53
Hurricanes intended for North Africa.
Although one merchantman had already
been lost, the convoy was now well past
the Sicilian trait and covered by
Fonnidnble and the attendant cruisers of
the 1st Battle quadron. Air attacks had
com in at int rvals, but the FAA crews
had knocked down several torpedo-
bombers and damaged two reconnaissance
Ju 88 flying out of Catania. ow,
however, as the vessels made their final
approach to Egypt, they came under the
scrutiny of Luftwaffe units based in the
eastern Mediterranean. On the 11th the
crews of II and lII/LG 1 were reportedly
involved in what would be the final air
assault for Tiger. Two Fulmars of 0.806
quadron were launched to intercept the
incoming bombers, and duly closed with
their adver aries: Lt Henley damaged one
Ju ,whi1e Lt parke shot down
Oberfeldwebel Engel's 7 taffel bomber -
only to immediately fall away and crash
almost alongside his quarry. (On the
convoy's safe arrival, the unloading of the
Hurricanes was followed by ten of their
number being despatched north to Crete.)
Back on Crete, the supply situation was
growing ever more critical. For example,
Luftwaffe bombing had denied the British
66 67
The original rear gun-mount on the Ju 88 consisted either of a single rotating unit, or twin apertures in the
Plexiglas. The introduction of the bulged rear canopy was accompanied by the mounting of twin rotating
gun-mounts. These examples are reputedly on Ju 88A-4, and the weapons are MG81J 7.92mm machine-
guns with VE gun-sights positioned on top.
bodies as the aircraft and equipment. All
in all, and for these reasons, the descrt was
very low on the Iist of g ograph ic
priorities for both Allied and .xi
personnel alike
l
The Luftwaffe had already been in
action before first contact was made
between the opposing ground forces and
Rommel's 'reconnaissance force' launched
at the end of March. TheJu D ofl(F)
121 had been put to use in their
reconnaissance role, but the unit's fir t
casualty was at the hands of the Regia
Aeronautica. CR 42s presumably mistook
the bomber for a Blenheim, and hot it
down over Tripoli! LG 1 wa similarly in
action - and apparently in even more
trouble. Between IS and 2 February no
fewer than three crews featured in RAF or
ground defences' 'claim' figures.
darkness. The sand and dirt thrown up by
the wind scraped the paint off surfaces
and, more seriously, infiltrated the
intricate parts of the aircraft and support
equipment. 'Soft' itcm , for example tyres,
had to be cover d to prevent heat
deterioration. Fuel evaporation was
another serious, not to say lethal, factor to
be considered in the storing and filling of
aircraft tanks, or the transporting of
containers. Flies and suchlike made life
miserable, for the groundcrews in
particular as they strove to maintain their
charges. Accommodation generally
consisted of tent, and per onal hygiene
was difficult to ustain unless the airfield
in question wa close to the
Mediterranean. The catering was basic in
its range of products, and ubject to the
same unavoidable 'infiltration' of foreign
Two airmen are enjoying the welcome shade from the unremitting North African heat provided by their
Ju 880-3. One of the two camera ports can be seen directly behind the rear bomb-bay, this position being
found on the 0-1 and 0-5 sub-variants as well. The FuBI2 aerial has been deleted. The stencil on the ETC
wing rack indicates the maximum load it can safely bear, in this instance l,OOOkg (2,200lb).
CHAPTER SEVE
Mediterranean Fortunes:
North Africa/Sicily/Italy
From June 1940 until the beginning of
1941 the conflict in the wastes of orth
Africa was conducted between the armed
forces of the British Commonwealth and
Mussolini's Fascists. As in Albania and
Greece, so the progress of II Duce's troops
first became bogged down, and then
suffered what was a humiliating and
comprehensive defeat at the hands of a
body of troops, inferior in terms of
numbers and equipment, but not in
fighting endeavour.
Adolf Hitler' atti tude towards the
importance of securing orth Africa for
the Axis powers has often been recorded
a one of lukewarm enthusia m at be t.
From 194 onwards, the removal of the
Bolshevik threat from the East probably
occupied his mind to the virtual exclusion
of all other operational theatres.
However, by the end of 194 he had
order d the creation of a German force
with which to bolster his sagging Italian
ally's military effort: the Afrika Korps,
whi h with its charismatic leader Erwin
I ommel, was in a position to commence
operations by March 1941.
Luftwaffe commitment to the orth
African campaign was initiatcd during
December and January. lOG 27,
operating Bf 109Es and Ju 7s from Il/StG
2, arrived direct from northern Europe by
the middle of March. Th y were
complemented by units currently based
on icily, that were ordered to transfer
part or all of their strength to Tripolitania
during February. The latter activity
affected LG 1, with it II and III Gruppen,
and the Ju Ds of l(F) 121 as well as
III/ZG 26 (Bf I lOs) and l/StG 1 (Ju 7s).
Although the geographic condition on
icily had been no more than moderate,
they were greatly superior to the dust-
driven environment of the so-called
'desert', with its searing daytime
temperatures that plummeted to almost
body-chilling intensity with the onset of
There were several 'specialist' cruisers
in the Mediterranean. These mounted
four twin-gun turret, and were ta ked
with providing AA protection. Two of
the e, Coventry and Calcutta, were
despatched from Alexandria on I June.
They were to provide cover for the
returning Force 'D' that had been carrying
out its final evacuation duty at phakia
on the island's outh coast, with a reduced
strength of one cruiser and four destroyers.
Beaufighter escorts ran across a trio of LG
I's Jus and landed strikes, forcing them
to jettison their bombs. One bomber had
an engine catch fire, but its attacker ran
out of ammunition, and the Luftwaffe
crew limped back north to finally divert
into Rhodes.
Before the rendezvous had been
e f ~ cted, the AA cruisers' radar-operators
picked up a 'blip' that later materialized
into just two Ju s. Each bomber picked
out a cruiser, then dived into the barrage
provided by ixteen fast-firing weapon.
On stick of bombs smacked into the
water right along ide ovenrry, but left
her intact. But the second enemy pilot,
who had similarly flown unscathed
through the bursting pattern of AA shell ,
planted two of hi bombs into Calcutta,
and within a matter of minutes the
war hip had gone under. This was the last
fatal casualty borne by the Navy during
the Crete campaign.
Although the Ju 7 had proved to be
the prime 'executioner' for the Royal
avy, the Ju had certainly played its
part in harassing the fleet over the course
of the pasr few weeks. Arguably the most
serious naval casualty, although not
actually sunk, was the fleet carrier
Formidable. On the 25th she had taken
four direct hits from the dive-bombers,
and like Illustrious, the scale of damage
was severe enough to meri t her
withdrawal and de patch to the Unitcd
tatc for major repairs. The loss of the
avy's sole mobile 'airfield' in the eastern
Meditcrrancan for many months was a
victory in it elf for the German.
completed without any interference, but as
the warship was steaming away towards the
eastern end of the i land before altering
course to the south, her steering-gear went
'out', having previously suffered from bomb
concussion. The fault could not be rectified,
and the decision was taken to sink her, after
transferring her crew and troop-load. This
was not the last casualty borne by Force 'B':
the destroyer Hereward t(x)k a hit amidships,
whereupon her captain headed back for
Crete; but as she was approaching the
shoreline the persistent Ju 7 attack
de patched her once and for all.
The current toll of two cruisers and four
destroyers was not the end of the naval
casualty list. The advantage of the thin and
non-armour plated hulls that enabled
destroyers and light cruisers to travel at su h
high speeds, was clearly countered by the
relative inability of such structures to
with tand the concu sion of near misse , let
alone direct hits. This factor was again
demonstrated on the 29th, at the height of
the Crete evacuation operation. Imperial
had already uffered damage from a Ju 7
near mis as she was approaching Heraklion.
An over-night loading of troops was
68 69
MEDITERRANEAN FORTUNES: ORTH AFRICA/SICILYIITALY MEDITERRANEAN FORTUNES: ORTH AFRICA/SICILYIITALY
Opposite page, above: An ordnance mixture ranging
from the SC50 to the SC500 is casually scattered
alongside a Ju 88A of 7{lG 1. Several of the SC50s
appear to have their fins fitted with 'screamer'
whistles. A pair of what seem to be incendiary
containers lie to the immediate right of the group
of SC50s.
Opposite page, below: The tropicalized version of
the Ju 88A-4 was given the title of Ju 88A-11, but
with no external difference to indicate its status
other than a desert camouflage scheme - in this
case sand brown IRlM79) and blue IRlM78).
Spinner colours are believed to be yellow and
black-green (RlM71). The aircraft's pristine finish
would soon deteriorate under the effects of the sun
and the abrasive desert surface.
bombers. Each side's airfields, and other
concentration points such as supply
dumps, were more open to accurate
attack, as was any shipping convoy. The
Ju 88 with its greater endurance was
utilized as much for sorties as far as the
Desert Campaign (April to
November 1941)
In the air, the RAF and Axis Air Forces
played their part in respectively
supporting or repulsing the armoured
column thrusts. The principal Luftwaffe
bomber in orth Africa was the Ju 7,
but also on hand were a number of Ju 8 s
from LG I; however, the overall figure of
around seventy bombers did not allow
for too much concentrated bombing
effort, at least in terms of the battlefield
it elf. The mobile nature of the
campaign meant that it was difficult to
knock out individual tanks or vehicles
on the move, even given the excellent
pinpoint accuracy as ociated with either
of the Junker' design. Groups of
laagered armour or soft-skin vehicles
made for more vulnerable targets, but
these were normally on hand only
during the hours of darkness, and
therefore generally out of reach of the
The generally primitive nature of airfields in North Africa is exemplified by this shot of rows of fuel drums. These are fully exposed to destruction in the
event of an attack, as compared to the much safer storage provided by underground tanks on European airfields. This is Derna with a NJG 2 Ju 88C-2
or C-4 standing in the background.
The sparring of the Axis and RAF
units gradually culminated in Rommel's
first large-scale thrust on 31 March.
With some 120 Mk III and Mk IV tanks
on hand, backed by eighty Italian Army
tanks, he quickly pushed tWO armoured
columns towards the port of Benghazi
and Mechili further inland. The over-
extended British lines left its forces with
little option but to retreat, in what was
the first stage in a prolonged withdrawal
to where they had started out in
December. Thi became known to the
troops and to the historians as the 'First
Benghazi take', and the Germans were
in the lead! By mid-May, with the lines
stabilized around the ollum/Bardia
region on the borders of Cyrenaica and
Egypt, the Briti h attempted a counter-
attack, but this was repul ed within a
mere twenty-four hours of its inception.
A second counter-offensive in June had
little better success, and it lasted no
more than four days.
70 77
MEDITERRANEAN FORT NES: NORTH AFRICA/SICILYIITALY MEDITERRANEAN FORT NES: NORTH AFRICA/SICILYIITALY
The Griffin badge on this aircraft's nose identifies it as belonging to lG 1. The crew is fortunate that the
'runaway' propeller did not impact with the fuselage when it finally became detached from its shaft.
Airman in right background wears the summer-issue white cap cover known as the 'Hermann Meyer'.
Desert Campaign-
Axis Climax of Triumph
On 24 May, a composite unit entitled
'Gefechtsband igel' - after its CO - was
formed. It comprised Ill/ZG 26's Bf lias,
tG 3's Ju 87s, and elements of LG 1 with
its Ju 88s. Within twenty-four hours it
was in full-scale action a Rommel
opened the latest de ert offensive against
the th Army lines between El Gazala
and Bir Hacheim. [n this short period,
Luftwaffe 10 se began to mount,
including at least four Ju s, two of
which were recorded against LG I.
Rommel' plan of attack entailed a two-
fold action. While the Italian Army made
an all-out feint thrust towards the
northern end of the front line, the 'Desert
Fox' despatched his Panzer and support
infantry south in an ultimately uccessful
bid to out-flank the th Army. However,
this breakthrough would not occur for
Ruethers, managed to force-land afely
near Burg-el-Arab. When later
challenged by a police patrol sent to
capture them, the Germans opened fire;
but they ultimately came off the worst,
since the enemy's superior firepower killed
one of their number.
February and 21 May, 1(F) 121 and 1(F)
123 lost three crews each, two of which
fell on the same day (21 May). On this
latter occasion the crew of a Ju from
I(F) 121, flown by Oberleutnant
Confirmation that this aircraft is a night fighter version of the Ju 88 lies in the 'toasting-fork' aerial array
and the protruding gun barrels outlined against the sky. The radar equipment is believed to be FuG 202
'lichtenstein BC',
then on 9 February a single Ju 88 had the
misfortune to run into a flight of
Hurricanes, whose combined fire brought
down the bomber in a crash-landing near
Gazala. The next loss occurred on 28
February, perpetrated by two FAA
Martlets; and two further convoy attack
ended in disaster for the crews concerned.
On both the 5 and 11 March a Gruppe
bomber was shot down, although three
airmen from the first bomber did bale out.
Raids on the ile Delta appeared to be
made by bombers operating singly or in
small numbers, but an exception to this
rule occurred on the night of 2 /29 April,
when about twenty-five He I 11 and Ju
s approached Alexandria. The
Beaufighter of No. a quadron went
into action, and were credited with at
least two of the He Ills. The single LG 1
bomber that came over Port aid three
night later was equally unfortunate to be
hunted down and despatched by the night
fighters. Occasionally, however, the odds
favoured the bomber crews, as on 21
April: a o. 73 quadron pilot closed on
an LG I aircraft, but return fire disabled
hi engine and obliged him to make a
forced landing.
The solitary flights made by
reconnaissance aircraft were particularly
vulnerable to assault. Between 22
A 3/NJG 2 night fighter is seen in flight as it tracks over the featureless terrain of North Africa. The vertical
fin bears an impressive tally of twelve 'kill' markings at the base.
The stabilization of the front lines in
this region was then maintained for
almost four months, until uch time as
Rommel had again built up his strength.
[n this period the depletion in RAF
numbers of strike aircraft operating out of
Malta, when linked to the withdrawal
westwards of the Navy's 'Force K' flotilla
of light cruisers and submarines, naturally
worked to the Axi advantage. The bulk
of supply vessels now crossed almost
unhindered between Italy, Greece and
orth Africa.
The war in the air over orth Africa
continued unabated, even in the
stalemate conditions during early 1942.
The Bf 109s tended to hand out more
punishment than they received, but the
Luftwaffe bombers often faced the reverse
situation. LG l's Ju 88s were spreading
their influence acro s the breadth of
orth Africa, but had to pay an inevitable
price in aircraft and crew in the proces .
For instance, on 25 January two crews
failed to return from a convoy attack;
Desert Campaign (November
1941-May 1942)
Operation Bacdeaxe was initiated by the
British and Commonwealth forces during
ovember 1941, and this time round the
'Benghazi Stakes' worked in the Allied
favour; this was because Rommel's supply
Iines were tending to be over-stretched,
and he wa geographically driven back this
far. Ironically this reverse worked in favour
of the Afrika Korps since its upply line
were hortened, while it was the th Army
that now experienced its opponent's
previous failing in this logistical re pect l
By the following January, the ground
campaign, that had become static, was
again exploited by the 'Desert Fox' whose
units pushed th 8th Army back a far as
Gazala, just west of Tobruk.
ile Delta, as in direct upport of the
Afrika Korps in the field.
One sp cific target that received
regular attention was the port of Tobruk.
The docks, warehous s and town
buildings were considered a top priority,
especially given the port's thr atening
position behind Rommel's front lines.
The AA defences of Tobruk were of
sufficient trength to creat serious
problems for the Luftwaffe, whether by
day or even at night. On 29 August, for
example, a Ju attached to tab/StG 3
fell victim to the ground gunner as it
traversed the darkened region. The
Luftwaffe bomber crews were to become
well acquaint d with this military 'thorn'
in Rommel's flanks, right up to its relief
by the advancing 8th Army units in
ovember 1941.
72 73
ORTI-I AFRICA/SICILYIITALY MEDITERRA EAN FORTUNES: NORTH AFRICA/SICILYIITALY
leutnant Wulfbauer (centrel. Unteroffizier Hainke (right) and Unteroffizier Sanftleben are posed around the
wreckage of an aircraft somewhere in North Africa. The crew were part of I/NJG 2 during the unit's
operational spell over 1941/42.
nearly two weeks. The Free French
defenders of the fort at Bir Hacheim,
forming the extreme southern point of the
front line, held stolidly to their positions
in the face of relentless level- and dive-
bombing assault by both Ju 7s and Ju
s. Finally, on 11 June, the fort was
evacuated and the th Army began to fall
back eastward. The peed of their retreat
was greatly increased following the
wholesale los of Bri tish armour duri ng the
Battle of 'Knightsbridge' on 12/l3 June.
uch was the pace of the Afrika Korps
advance that its units were abreast of
Tobruk within one week - and the
successful defence of the port, that had
extended over many months in 1941, was
not to be repeated this time. The Afrika
Korps Panzer thrust was directed at th
south-cast perimeter defences - a very
fortunate move since the bulk of the
minefields in this area had been lifted
followi ng the port's relief in late 1941. In
addition, the forward artillery positions
took the brunt of a barrage of attacks
primarily delivered by LG I's Ju s, but
backed by Ju 7s. The Axi ground unit
moved inexorably forwards just behind
this rolling aerial barrage, so
demonstrating the tactical value of the
Luftwaffe used in this manner. And so the
South African occupants were forced into
a total surrender on 21 June, less than
forty-eight hours since the offensive was
launched. Bad as the loss of Tobruk it elf
was, even worse was the fact that
enormous supply resources had been left
intact by the speed of its fall, and so
available for Axis use.
The battle in the air was being waged as
fi rc Iy as on the ground. Full escort was
being afforded the Luftwaffe bomber, and
the RAF fighter - mainly Hurricanes and
PAO Tomahawks, with the first leavening
of Spitfire V - were hard pressed to make
inroad against them. When they did, it
was largely against the Ju 87s, whose low
peed and poor defensive armament made
them so much more vulnerable than the
Ju 8 , few of which appear to have been
lost to attacks while under fighter escort.
A typical example of the Ju 8's relative
invulnerability when granted fighter
cover occurred on 13 June. Twelve
bombers with the same number of Bf 109
were de patched to attack concentrations
around EI Adam. Fully twenty fighters
took off to intercept them, but were
'bounced' as they closed on th Luftwaffe
formation. The numerical inferiority of
the IIJG 27 pilots proved to be illusory,
because they downed, or caused to crash-
land, no fewer than five of their
opponents - and all without losing a
singl bomber'
Occasional losses of Ju 88s did occur,
such as on 14 June when a single LG 1
bomber failed to return, and a further two
Geschwader machines were recorded as
MIA or shot down within Axis lines by
the month-end; five more Ju 88s from
various units also fell in this period.
The Axis Advance is Blunted
On 26 June a critical d bate occurred
within the Axi High Command as to the
merits of consolidating the ground
offen ive and continuing the advance.
Rommel' original intention had been to
advance only as far as the Libyan border
with Egypt, there to remain until Malta
was knocked out as a military base;
however, with Tob'uk secure in his hands,
he abandoned this plan. Now he could
concentrate upon pushing all the way
74
through Egypt itself, and so win a
comprehensive victory with which to end
the North African campaign. The ready
availability of fuel and other basic
supplies, both at Tobruk and a week later
at Fort Capuzzo when that was taken
(l,400 tons offuel and over 5,000 tons of
other suppl ies) undoubtedly played a part
in Romm I's decision.
Albert Kess Iring raised objections to
the latter proposal on the grounds that
his Luftwaffe force was reaching
the point of exhaustion, and its
effectiven ss in ground support
operations was accordingly being badly
blunted. However, he was to lose the
argument not only to Rommel and hi
Italian contemporarie, but more
importantly to Hitler.
Whether Kesselring's viewpoint wa
correct remains open to debate. As the
lines of communication and supply
stretched ever further for the Afrika
Korps, so the British benefited
accordingly as theirs shrunk. An even
more insidious omission on the part of the
Axis command was their continuing
failure to subdue the threat posed by
Malta and its naval and air offensive by
blocking the shipping supply lane to and
from orth Africa. This was in tark
contrast to the British position, whose
ever-increasing supply sources - especially
from the nited tates - wa free from
any such interdiction by the Luftwaffe,
even though they were having to traver e
much greater distances by sea.
In the event, Rommel's offensive finally
became stalled by the middle of July,
although the conflict raged fiercely for the
bulk of this period. The British success
came about thanks to sound strategic
positioning of his troops by Gen
Auchinleck (pulling back from the Mersa
Matruh region to El Alamein, where the
Mediterranean to the north and the
Quattara Depression to the south forced
the Afrika Korps into a 'bottleneck'
situation), coupled to a determined
defensive effort that brought the Axis
force to a punishing halt. The weak
strength of the Luftwaffe compared to the
ever-burgeoning power of the RAF played
an equally significant part in the battle.
The El Alamein front was then destined
to remain relatively static up to the final
week of October.
The Luftwaffe gallantly continued to
strike at the th Army in the field as well
as its supply bases in the ile Delta.
Establ i hed airfields around idi Barrani
and basically equipped landing grounds
(LG ) further forward as far as Fuka and EI
Daba were being utilized by the Ju 88s of
LG 1 and KG 54, along with Ju 87 and Bf
109 units. Clashes between RAF and
Luftwaffe formations were a regular
feature at this time. For instance, on 5 July
No. 213 Squadron clashed with four Ju
88s and four Bf 110s over the battlefield.
The Bf 110, unlike it Bf 109
contemporary, was hard-pressed to defend
it elf, let alone any bombers in its charge
- and sure enough, when the dust settled
on the encounter, two Bf 11 Os and a single
Ju 8 were MIA. This same day LG 1 lost
three crew, two of which went down over
uez. (The third may well have been the
loss recorded in the fore-going battle,
since the identity of the Ju 88 unit
involved is not confirmed.)
Since the major citie of Egypt were now
even clos I' to the Luftwaffe twin-engine
bomber bases, raids against military targets
in the Suez Delta were regularly sent out,
albeit at a steady but mounting cost. On 3
July, five Ju 88s were claimed shot down
during night operations by pilots from o.
87 quadron, while a sixth crew failed to
return from imilar operations two nights
later. ext day LG 1 was again on the
wrong end of the ca ualty list. Its first los
was recorded over LG 21, while sortie to
the uez region left ll/LG 1 short of two
more crews.
In the British camp, 0.601 quadron
was now on hand with its Spitfires - but
even this superb thoroughbred could not
guarantee success aga inst escorted
bombers or the tactics of the seasoned Bf
109 pilots. On 6 July, four RAF pilots
sighted five Ju 88s, though apparently
only three of the five had Bf 109 cover;
this omission was dearly paid for, because
the remaining pair were 'bounced' by
their opponents and shot down.
Life on the landing grounds was
becoming increasingly harsh for the
personnel of the Luftwaffe. ot only were
they in constant danger of being bombed by
RAF medium bombers such as the Bo ton,
or strafed by fighters, but to this hazard was
added shelling from British light armour
units, as these made swift-ranging thrusts.
By mid-July these were generally capable of
avoiding counter attacks by the German
armour, which by then wa reduced to
around thirty serviceable heavy tanks. On
19 July, LG 21 absorbed a combined
bombing raid by Bostons and strafing by P-
40s that left upwards of ten aircraft,
including four Ju 88s, with material degrees
of damage. ext day LG 17 and LG 18
received similar treatment.
As already observed, the solitary nature of
reconnaissance operations left its crews
much more open to lethal interception. On
23 July an aircraft from 1 (F) 121 came
down over El Alamein; the following day it
was a crew from 2 (F) 123, hot down over a
convoy by a 0.272 quadron Beaufighter.
During August there was little
reduction in air operations, despite the
temporary stalemate existing on the
ground. Here, Rommel's force had to
build up the necessary stockpile of fuel,
ammunition and support supplies before it
would be in a po ition to attack again.
This was no easy matter, especially when
gi ven the con ti nued depreda tions
inflicted upon his primarily sea-borne
upply source by Malta-based RAF, FAA
and naval units. The Luftwaffe was
similarly affected in this I' spect, but also
its strength had be n seriously eroded,
particularly in fighters (some 100 aircraft
placed in 'category E', and a quarter more
75
damaged). This meant that bomber
a sault were far Ie s effective due to lack
of escorts, a failing that was certainly
apparent during the fir t part of August, at
lea t. Another factor in it reduced
effectiveness was the withdrawal back to
Europe of the speciali t unit 1 JG 2,
though the effect of this can only have
been minor - the handful of crews
involved had continued to operate under
what were ba ically Helle achtjagd
cond itions, and this would have
cO!1,promised their ability to seriously
blunt the nocturnal RAF bomber attacks
along the North African coast. (IfNJG 2
would return to the Mediterranean in the
following February, operating from
Castel vetrano in Sicily and Aquino in
southern Italy until July. Then it would
return to Europe for deployment within
the ranks of the achtjagd.)
Battle Crescendo
On 31 August, with his Panzer strength
brought back up to a solid level, Rommel
made what would be his final bid to break
through to the ile Delta. The chosen
point of assault was the ridge at Alam al
HaIfa, but once again the Briti h response
was not only solid, but unremitting in terms
of anti-tank weaponry as well as bombing
attacks, with both forms of counter-assault
being continued throughout the ensuing
night. (ULTRA warnings regarding the
immin nt attack had resulted in the RAF
bombers stepping up their efforts several
days before the Panzers and infantry even
began to advance.) Luftwaffe bombing
support during the 31st appeared to have
be n wholly provided by Ju 87s, but the
following day the Ju 8 crews joined in.
However, the intended weight of bombing
assault upon the 8th Army was largely
dissipated through effective RAF fighter
attacks, that cau ed many bombers to
jettison their bomb loads. Another factor
that led to the Afrika Korps' failure was the
ability of the RAF bomber to deliver their
own conc ntrated attack with relative
impunity - even though the fighter
attrition rate continued to favour the Axis
force. Indeed by 2 September, the
emphasis within the Luftwaffe fighter
element was almost wholly upon
countering the RAF bombers, which
obviously meant they were diverted away
from acting as escort for the Ju 87s and
Ju 88s.
MEDITERRANEAN FORTUNES: NORTH AFRICA/SICILY/ITALY MEDITERRANEAN FORTU ES: NORTH AFR ICA/ SICI LY /ITALY
76
carcely were the bulk of the personnel
settled into their new airfielc.I, when three
Rotten from 2 JG 2 were ordered on 2 I
ovember to fly south to Berka just
outside Benghazi. Hauptmann Harmstorf
was in charge of the detachment, whose
brief was to carry out reconnaissance
flight over the desert - and within forty-
eight hours Harmstorf had become the
first to experience action when hi Ju
-4 received A hits and he wa
forced to crash-land. That same day
(23rd) L utnant Voigt's aircraft was
slightly damaged by a burst from a
Hurricane, and one airman was wounded.
fter this encounter there were no further
los es prior to the crews' transfer back to
atania on hristmas Eve.
Geographically the average Luftwaffe
unit was constantly moving arounc.I, and
this was clearly demonstratec.I during the
early weeks of J942. On 4 January, tab
and I JG 2 transferred to Athens, from
where it made onvoy escort sortie. Both
2 and 3 JG 2 moved to Bengha:i; their
function was to block the th rmy
supply columns moving equipment to and
from the front lines. Meanwhile 4 JG 2
held post in Catania, ready to attack a
Malta-bound convoy heading in from
Gibraltar. The Athens detachment was
back at Catania by the 16th, and was at
once assigned to convoy-escort duties
along with 4 JG 2, whose crews had also
been assisting in maintaining the pressure
upon Malta' Then on 25 February, 2/NJG
2 was despatched north to Holland, where
it became part of ll/ JG 2.
The Gruppe's night-fighter operations
over Sicily on occasion added to the
casualty list. On 17 February, a formation
of Wellingrons staging through Malta was
scattered by bad weather cond itions.
Oberleutnant Jung intercepted and shot
down one of the wayward bombers, and
Leutnant Keudell, flying a 5/ JG 2
machine, was thought to have had a
similar success against a second 'Wimpy',
whose crew were later rescued from the
water- near the south-ea t tip of icily.
Keudell, however, never returned to
confirm his Ab chuss (kill), and the exact
reason for his disappearance was never
confirmed.
In the course of the next two month
operations claimed a further five crews.
Oberleutnant chultz' aircraft suffered a
fatal crash as it landed at Catania on
March, and the same happened to
Into Action
77
incident, one or two experiencec.I
problems, including Oberleuwant
emrau, the 3 JG 2 taffelkapitaen: he
was forced to crash-land near Bastogne
thank to engine problem, and the degree
of damage was more than sufficient to
warrant the ai rcraft bei ng 'wri tten off',
although nobody on board was injured.
ix days later a second taffel aircraft,
having been delayed for almost a week at
Munich, was attempting an emergency
landing at an airfield ncar Naples.
Unteroffizier Kurt Wacker (Bordfunker)
recalled how his pilot Feldwebel
Lueddeke was unable to get the Ju 88C-2
down properly on what was a very short
runway, and landed alongside on the
grass, which wa very wet. The aircraft
then failed to decelerate in time before
the right undercarriage macked into an
oil container and broke away. The
lowered wingtip directed the aircraft in a
curve and into a stone wall that shattered
the left undercarriage. The aircraft was
totally wrecked, though once again the
crew walked away uninjured. (Each
aircraft was carrying a groundcrew
member, in this case Feldwebel Gaertner.
Because no seat was available he had been
kneeling on the 20mm cannon breech,
and fortunately had raised himself into a
crouching attitude just before the final
impact occurred, because this tore the
cannon mount completely awayl)
IjNJG 2 - Mediterranean
Interlude
Around the time that Operation Battleaxe
was launched, the first elements of 1/ JG
2 were being transferred from their
Fernnachtjaeger operations over England
to Catania on the island of Sicily. From
here, as well as from Crete and orth
Africa, and in sharp contrast to th ir
previous ;lctivity, the Gruppe crew were
to arry out a largely defensive function.
The RAF and FAA assaults upon the Axis
supply convoys merited the Luftwaffe's
full attention, and l/NJG 2 was destined
to playa regular part in this vital duty. In
addition its previou nocturnal function
was not to be totally ignored, in that night
fighter operations against RAF bomber
was a part of the overall brief. Finally,
bombing operations against Malta were to
form a third strand of operational activity.
Catania airfield was shared with LG I as
well as several Ju 52 and Ju 7 units.
Ithough the majori ty of cr ws
transferred from Gilze-Rijen without
herman tank providec.I 'Monty' with
armour much more able to take on the
Panzers on nearly equal terms, while his
medium anc.I heavy artillery trength was
well ahea I of his adversary Rommel.
A crew fully resplendent in solar topees and lightweight tropical uniforms as they pose in front of their Ju
88C-2 or C-4 from I/NJG 2. The off-set nature of the main armament and bulged rear canopy are points of
particular note.
involvement. These raids were now very
hazardous, whether conducted by night or
day, since the RAF fighter capability wa
more than suffi ient to hand out
punishment. So it was that KG 77 suffered
successive daily losses between 6 an I
eptember, five crew going MIA ither
over airo or uez. A 2 (F) 123 Ju
went down over Port aid on the 9th, and
one from I (F) 121 on the 26th. ecurity
from attack did not exist anywhere, as
in tancec.I on the 14th when a No. 252
Squadron Beaufighter escorting a convoy
claim d aJu and a 'Ju 7' (two aircraft
from LG 1 were declared lost on this day).
The Geschwader added to the long-range
casualty list on the 29th, with one crew
lost somewhere over the ile Delta.
By 22 October the RAF enjoyed a 2:1
advantage in fighters. Although the
bomber figures were much closer to ea h
other, the RAF/USAAF possessed over
sixty four-engine bombers, along with over
250 'mediums'; this contrasted noticeably
with the Axis figure of around 25 , of
which nearly a third were the short-range
Ju 7. Also, the build-up of S Grant and
inexorably mounting. lirler's attention
was wholly bound up with the Ostfront,
which left the four wakened German
and eight Italian divisions to face a
numerically superior th Army. An
equally dangerou disparity in strength
existed between the Luftwaffe and their
R F adversarie, who now enjoyed
support from the AAF. Worse till was
the severe loss of supplies, in particular
fuel, arising from the sinking of numerous
merchant vessels. For his part, the
recently appointed commanding general,
Bernard Montgom ry, would bide his
time until he regarded his logistical
advantage in human and material terms
was of a sufficient order to launch a
decisive offensive.
That date was to be delayed until the
end of October. In the meantime, each
side probed away on the ground and in
the air. In the Luftwaffe's case, its
operation continued to involve a good
number of reconnai ance and bombing
ortie into the ile Delta. The e were
carried out by the He Ills and Ju s,
with LG I and KG 77 prominent in their
Groundcrew belonging to an unidentified Ju 88 Geschwader are photographed carrying a load of SC50 bombs over to a bomber. This photograph is
believed to have been taken somewhere within the Mediterranean theatre of operations.
Count-Down to Defeat
So it was that by the fourth day of the
battle, the Afrika Korps assault had run
out of st am, after which the survivor
were forced to fall back in order to ;lvoid
complete annihilation. During this four-
day pell of inten ive operation, at least
seven J u were among the overall loss
figure, although everal were in
locations away from Alam al Haifa. LG
I had one crew fail to return from a
sortie to lexandria, wh i1e a second
went down over the battlefield during a
raid on the 1st, as did a III/KG 77 crew.
Next day two KG 77 bombers wer th
latest Ju 88 casualties in the batrle, an
aircraft from I ( ) 121 became the latest
reconnais ance machine to disappear
over the Nile Delta, and l/KG 54
suffered one loss near Benghazi.
From this point in the desert campaign,
the oc.Ids against the Afrika Korp
sustaining its position, let alone bringing
about a c.Iecisive conclusion, were
MEDITERRANEAN FORTUNES: NORTH AFRICAI SICI LY IITALY MEDITERRANEAN FORTUNES: NORTH AFRICA/SICILYIITALY
One of the several Mediterranean locations for I/NJG 2 was Kastelli on the island of Crete. A Ju 88C-2 or C-
4 from 3 Staffel is photographed shortly after it had overshot the runway. The presence of a grove of wine-
bushes has helped to bring the aircraft to a safe halt without the undercarriage collapsing.
Unteroffizier Teuber nine days later at
Berka. Then on 26 March, the Ju 8C-2
of Leutnant Mueller was lost shortly after
take-off from Catania. Another casualty
was Oberfcldwebel Vogel during a raid on
Malta; he and his crew were assumed to
have fallen to an RAF night fighter, and
the aircraft must have been shot down
over the sea since all four airmen were
subsequently buried on the island of
Sardinia. Finally Leutnant Voigt, who had
assumed the Gruppe Adjutant post
following the loss of Oberleutnant
Schultz, was himself lost along with his
crew on 21 April.
On a more positive note, the first Ju
88C-6 arrived on 19 April, and more soon
followed. This fighter variant was fitted
with Jumo 211J engines, providing a
power output of 1400hp as opposed to the
1200hp output capability of the earlier
211 Serie engines fi tted on the Ju 8 C- 2
and C-4. Just as important was the
notable increase in offen ive firepower.
Where just one 20mm cannon had been
mounted in the nose along with the three
MG1? machine-guns, now two further
MG FF cannon were placed in the
forward section of the ventral gondola.
Up to the end of August, the crews of
l/NJG 2 continued to escort their own
convoys as well as carry out
reconnaissance sorties against British
convoys. The monotony of can tantly
circling over the vessel in their charge,
often for four to five hours at a time, was
occasionally broken when RAF and FAA
torpedo or low-level bombers attempted
to attack. During this period, claims for
'ki lis' ran into double figures.
On 21 April, a detachment from 2/NJG 2
was sent to North Africa: five crews under
Hauptmann Harmstorf were despatched to
Derna and Benghazi, there to operate as
night fighters. The port of Benghazi was of
prime value to the Afrika Korps, and was
therefore naturally accorded priority target
status by the RAE The first bomber
to be claimed was a Wellington by
Oberfeldwebel Sommer on 29 April. Five
nights later it was Harmstorf's turn, and he
remembers the encounter clearly:
On the night of 4/5 May I flew a sortie in the
Benghazi area. At 01:5 hours my Funker
Unteroffi:ier Krogull called out: 'Ueber UIlS,
Viennor" ('Four-engine bomber above us"). I
immediately raised my Ju 88's nose, and upon
closing the range, recognized the machine as a
Liberator. I approached from slightly below and
from the left, opening fire from around 220m
(200yd). My fire struck his left wing and the
78
rear fuselage, and I saw ammunition exploding,
which temporarily set the fuselage on fire. The
pilot immediately dived down, and it took me
some ten minutes to catch lip and again get
within range. Just before opening nre the
Liberator manoeuvred so sharply that I ended
up underneath. Then my windscreen was
suddenly smeared by fluid issuing from the
enemy aircraft, so much so that I could only
keep track of it by the bright engine exhaust
flames. While regaining a level firing pmition,
more fluid further obscured the windscreen, but
I still managed to set the Liberator's right wing
on fire with my second burst. The bomber now
fell way and exploded upon impact; I could sec
the blaze for some distance as we flew away
from the crash-si teo
Interlude at Kastelli
Kastelli on Crete became the temporary
home for a Staffel-strength detachment
on 18 May - and on that very day while
returning from a convoy escort, two
aircraft collided in mid-air, but both
landed safely. .
The primary task for the crews based at
Kastelli was to block the th Army supply
routes, but attacks on military base were
also part of the agenda. Soon aft r their
arrival in Crete, an unusual episode was
experienced by Leutnant Riedelberger:
late on the evening of 25 May while
striking at Gambut airfield, his aircraft
absorbed AA hits, as a result of which he
was forced to crash-land west of Bardia.
All three airmen emerged with injuries
and were promptly made POWs. Their
guards were four oldiers from an Indian
Army unit - but soon after, prisoners and
guard changed positions! Presumably the
Indians were so disillusioned with their
'colonial' status that they were quite ready
to submit to the Germans' blandishments
and swop sides! At any rate,
Riedelberger' crew soon returned to take
up their operational career. ( adly,
Riedelberger was killed later in the war.)
Leutnant Heinz Roekker was a relative
newcomer to I/NJG 2, having arrived
from the Nachtjagdschule at lngolstadt
on 6 May. His advanced flying training
had been completed on the Bf 110, so a
quick conversion course to get to know
the Ju 88 proved necessary. On 20 May he
flew his first convoy-escort sortie, and five
days later joined the Kastelli detachment.
On 28 ] une he and one other
crewmember flew as passengers to Catania
to pick up a brand new]u 8C-6, whose
bomb-bay was then packed with mail and
cases of beer. Three new]u C-6s were
being collected on this occasion, the
other two being flown by Oberfeldwebel
Rieger and Oberleutnnt Heinz-Horst
Hissbach (the latter pilot would become a
night fighter Expene like Heinz, and what
is more, a Gruppenkommandeur). The
trio of aircraft headed east into a cloudless
kyat around 900m (3,OOOft). Heinz
recorded their experiences as follows:
Around 17:00 hours I suddenly spotted some
fifteen aircraft low down on the sea; they were
in formation and passed from right to left, and
I took them for a bunch of Ju 52s. Hissbach did
not react, and we held our course for Crete.
Not two minutes later another two aircraft
approached from the right, and were
immediately recognized as RAF by their wing
roundels. Hissbach immediately hanked in
their direction, whereupon both jettisoned
their torpedoes, split up and hugged the sea
surface in an attetnrt to evade - an
impossibility thanks to our superior speed. The
type of aircraft could not be identified.
My initial burst of fire was delivered well
behind the target and therefore splattered into
the water. My night fighter gunnery training
had been made against fixed ground targets, so
I had no experience of deflection shooting. In
pulling up to position myself for a renewed
attack I exposed the Ju 8 's belly to the nrc of
my opponent's twin-gun turret, whose bullets
struck both wings. I noted how the skin surface
around the impact points was pushed outwards,
and knew the RAF crew was not going to
surrender without a nght'
I accordingly approached more cautiously,
but despite getting well into range, my burst of
fire still fell behind. I realized on making my
third approach that I would have to get in
much closer before bringing my weapons to
bear. However, when reaching this point and
pressing the firing buttons, I found that only
one MG 17 was still functioning. The
malfunction was probably the result of return
nre immobilizing the weapons' electrical
circuits. Georg Frieben now attempted in vain
to activate the cannon mechanislll, as did
Carlos Nugent. I was so frustrated with this
setback and the likelihood of losing my target
that I took the risk of challenging the still
intact enemy turret with my single MG 17'
I again swooped in from above and opened
nrc almost from ramming distance, but with no
discernible effect. But suddenly I noted one
wing on the RAF aircraft impacting with the
surface, causing it first to rise up, before it
subsided back down into a perfect 'ditching'.
Although we were delighted, we reali:ed that
what was our first 'kill' had been achieved
without direct effect from our weapons. We
circled the aircraft as three of the crew
clambered aboard their dinghy.
However, the events surrounding my first
success were nor over. I noted that the fuel
gauges were reading 'Nil', and thought that the
bullet strikes had punctured the wing tanks or
the fuel lines. I tremhled with shock as I
visualized our joining the RAF crew, as we
would now be forced into making a 'ditching'.
Then almost immediately it came to me that I
had been so involved with the combat I had
forgotten to switch on the cross-feed pumps
that extracted fuel from the reserve tanks into
the main tanks. The fuel gauges reacted
positively to this belated action, and my pulse
rate settled down. I told my Bordfunker to
contact our Air-Sea Rescue ervice, giving our
position in order rhm they could locate the
dinghy; but I never subsequently learned
whether the RAF airmen were actually picked
up.
After circling several time in a farewell
gesture, I set course for Kastelli. However, I had
forgotten the exact compass cour e as a result
of the prolonged combat, though had the
feeling we should take up an easterly direction.
After a full hour there was still no sign of land
and I ordered my Bordfunker to get a bearing
on Kastelli. The result was a south-cast
indication, which I suspected was incorrect and
which if taken up would lead us over Turkey. So
I maintained my original course, and at last
land appeared; but its geographic layout did not
79
correspond with the snow-decked Ida
mountains on Crete. Again I thought I was on
the approach to Turkey, but with my fuel
almost exhausted I was going to have to find an
airfieid regardless. An airfield duly appeared,
on the boundary of which was large city - it was
Kalamaki outside Athens. The bearing advice
had been correct, and I had therefore steered
too far to the north!
We landed at 19:45 hours, but as we touched
down the right engine 'ran away'. I could not
risk an overshoO( so I switched off. Frantic
braking finally brought the Ju 88 to a halt just
a few metres short of a sheer cI iff that backed
onto the end of the runway. A count of the
hullet hits reached twenty-five, one of which
had affected the fuel lines to the right engine
and prevented its heing switched off. Two
others had struck the left wing tank, hut its
crude ruhher 'coat' had swollen up and
prevented any fuel loss.
We contacted Kastelli and proudly
announced our ~ L 1 C C C S S I hut the reaction was
not what we expected. We were asked if the
mail and cases of beer were still intact!
Furthermore, could we get under way as soon as
possible since everyhody was brooding over the
non-arrival of these precious commodities! The
request could not he fulfilled at that very
moment hccau::>c our aircraft W<-I:, hcing taken
into the hangar for repair, but the following
morning we decided to take off despite the
lIamaged fuel tank; replacement could take
days, besides which we had more than enough
fuel from the remaining ranks to reach Crete.
On arrival there, the unloading of the 'goods'
held much more interest than listening to our
account of the 'kill'. We later confirmed our
victim had heen one of two Beauforrs returning
from an unsuccessful attack upon Messina
harhour. either Rieger nor Hisshach
succeeded in shooting down the other Beaufort
hecause their guns had jammed. Unbeknown
to me at the time was the fact that my first 'kill'
would be the only one recorded during the
hours of daylight.
Nachtjagd over North Africa
As June ended, a detachment comprising
crew from I and 3/NJG 2 moved south to
Benghazi and Derna. From these airfields
the crews were to conduct Helle achcjagd
operations above the Afrika Korps supply
routes in order to combat RAF bomber
attacks. Between the 25th and the end of
the month no fewer than six aircraft were
claimed, of which two fell to Leutnant
Roekker during the same sortie. However,
: NORTH AFRICA/SICILYIITALY MEDITERRANEAN FORTUNES: NORTH AFRICAI SICILY IITALY
81
A Ju 88C-2 or C-4 is seen with the right undercarriage leg jacked up and the wheel detached. A white MTD
band breaks up the otherwise unrelieved black camouflage scheme. while the R4 code letters have been
dulled down. The rear undercarriage doors are hanging down; normally they are closed. except when the
wheels are being retracted or lowered.
On the evening of 23 October a
blistering gun barrage as well as
concentrated bombing of Rommel's
front line at EI Alamein heralded the
start of Montgomery's counter
offensive. The ensuing battle involved
no swift thrust and rout of the enemy,
but rather an attrition struggle in which
the British were far better placed (in
theory) to emerge on top. In fact it was
at lea t nine days before the 'De ert
Fox' was forced into a retreat, by which
tage the th Army tank strength had
been badly whittled down, and
casualties among the infantry were
equally severe. [n pite of this, the Axi
forces were started on the road to
ultimate defeat in orth Africa.
The 'End of the Beginning'
For two long, wearying, and all too often
frustrating years, the British armed forces
in orth Africa had waited for the time
Desert Triumph and Tragedy
(November 1942-May 1943)
and causing shock and confusion. The fire
cam from an th Army unit of armoured
cars, and the effect wa catastrophic, for
the Gruppe's aircraft, at least: by the tim
the British had finished their assault, all
but two of the Ju 8s were ei ther destroyed
or so badly damaged as to be totally unfit
for operations.
It was therefore no coincidence, given
this cale of loss, when on 4 August both
flying crews and groundcrew were
transported to Tobruk and loaded into a
massive BV222 flying boat, and then
flown to Sicily. There the men remained
until early eptember when a further
transfer took place, this time to
Melsbroek in Belgium. Here the Gruppe
had its aircraft establishment
repleni hed with new Ju 8 C-6s, and
new personnel were signed up. The FBK
was disbanded, and its staff
allocated between the three Staffeln.
Himmelbett operations were flown until
the beginning of ovember; and on 25
October three crews flew as part of an
attack on Ipswich, their brief being to
examine the feasibility of resuming
regular Fernnachtjagd operations. We
now know that nothing concrete arose
out of their observations.
Oberfe[dwebel Koe ter took down a
Maryland on th 20th, and Hauptmann
Harmstorf increased his score with a
Wellington on the 22nd. But also on the
22nd, Feldweb I Rakau with his crew
and a senior mechanic took off from
Montecorvino just outside aples, but
crashed fatally east of the airfield. And
another major loss occurred within
twenty-four hours on another sortie:
Harmstorf came in to attack yet another
Wellington, but return fire from the
bomber inflicted a fatal head wound
upon the pilot, and also wounded
Unteroffizier Schiffbaenker. Remarkably,
the latter managed to bring the aircraft
back to a safe landing at El Quasaba,
despite his injurie and the serious
damage to the airframe.
A curious mix offortune and misfortune
attended the Gruppe during the final
week in July. ingle 'kill' wer registered
by Oberfeldweb I Koester (24th),
Oberleutnant Hissbach (26th),
Oberfeldwebel ommer (27th), Leutnant
Roekker (28th) and Feldwebel iewert
(3 [st); the first and last of the e involved
Bostons, the other three were
Wellingtons. But on the 3 [ t disaster
truck: the personnel were taking things
easy and recovering from operations,
when shells began to fall upon the airfield,
taking everyone completely by surprise
failure forced the pilot into an emergency
'ditching' south of their destination.
Fortunately the See- otdienst (Air-Sea
Rescue ervice) was able to quickly locate
their dinghy and pull all three airmen out
safely. Then on the 20th this crew were
providing cover for a group of Ju 52s
heading into North Africa. They were
subsequently reported M[A, and may well
have been the victims of another
Beaufighter, whose pilot made a claim for
a Ju 8 while engaging such a formation.
Hauptmanns Semrau (3 JG 2) and
Harmstorf (2/NJG 2) continued to run up
their scores on 6 July, taking down two
and one Wellingtons respectiv Iy. [n
contrast, Leutnant Roekker suffered yet
another 'incident' four days later. Having
completed an escort duty for Ju 52s, he
came in to land at Tobruk; but as he did
so, his undercarriage col laps d, causing
moderate to severe damage, although no
injurie were suffered. More fortunate
even to survive was Feldwebel Koe ter
(2 JG 2): on the 21st his Ju 8 took a
battering during an affray with a
Wellington over EI Alamein, and then on
landing the night fighter crashed and was
totally de troyed - but all three airmen
survived the whole experience, albeit
having uffered injuries.
The tally of 'kill' and losses swung
both way on the 20th and 22n 1. First,
miles distant, but the crew's fate remained
unknown to LIS. We came away from our [fUSty
Ju with a heavy hean - we felt the same
di tress as a soldier who was obliged to leave a
wounded comrade behind. The soldiers
transported us to where their supply transport
unit was located, and here we were is ued with
blankets and directed to slit trenches; these
afforded protection from bomb splinters should
the enemy attack in the dawn light, only an
hour or so away.
On (lwakening. we were anxious to make
contact with Derna. We threw our parachute
packs into the back of an empty lorry that
transported us to Tobruk. Next day we were
swimming in the sea when Carlos suddenly let
out a yell and thrashed around wildly - he had
been bitten by a Hai, shark, and afterwards
you could see where its teeth had been
embedded in his inner thigh! Later on we
filled a captured rucksack with tins of food
from the British supplies found after the
capture of Tobruk. Contact was then made
with our unit, which had already placed us on
the MIA list. Later the same day we were
driven back to Derna where we were greeted
cheerfully by our comrades.
As June drew to its close, one last success
and another loss were recorded. On the
29th, Hauptmann Semrau brought down
what he reported to be a Halifax. But the
same night tabsfeldwebel Zappi was over
Mersa Matruh when his Ju 8C-6 was
struck by AA fire. Feldwebel Fuss was
badly wounded and baled out, but died of
his injuries; Zappi managed to land his
aircraft safely on return.
July opened positively, with double
'kills' recorded on two nights in
succession. Hauptmann Semrau scored
again, as did Feldwebel Heyne, each
pilot bringing down a Wellington (5th).
Leutnant Wiedow went one better on
the following night when he added two
Wellingtons to the unit's tally. However,
Leutnant Wolfbauer's crew came out the
10 er on this same night when engaging
another 'Wimpy' near EI Daba, none of
the three airman surviving their
aircraft's loss. Wiedow then became the
late t fatality just twenty-four hours
later; in his crew's case they were over
the battlefront when a Beaufighter shot
them down.
The extremes of combat flying took its
toll on Leutnant Wenning' crew within a
mere ten days of arriving in Crete. First,
they were transi ti ng between orth
Africa and Crete when sudden engine
alongside to the right. ow there came a noise
echoing through the cockpit that I knew well
from my first 'kill': we had received hits from
the nose turret of the Wellington whose crew
were bravely fighting on. Their pilot managed
to pull off a belly-landing.
Both I and my Bordfunker Carlos ugent
had received slight wounds from splinters, so I
began to pull up to a safer altitude - but I
suddenly noted the coolant and oil gauges for
the right engine were at the 'Danger' mark. I
immediately switched off and 'feathered' the
propeller. We were still no higher than 200m
l700ftl when Carlos suddenly shouted: 'The left
engine is burning" - I had been concentrating
so much on attending to the right engine that
I had nOt checked the instruments. I could see
red flames issuing from the engine cowling.
There was little or no chance of my baling
out safely through the entry hatch at this
altitude, while an exit over the fuselage ran the
risk of impacting with the vertical fin. I
therefore decided on a belly-landing in the
desert. Unfortunately a ground mist had built
up since we had taken off, so we had to depend
upon 'flier's luck' thar we would be able find a
suitable crash-site. I lowered the flaps and gave
our descent my fullest concentration.
My good night vision enabled me to pick out
the desert surface and make what was my first
belly-landing, though I held of( as long as
possible in order to reduce the speed of impact,
and with it the danger of the aircraft bursting
into flames. The aircraft first touched down on
its tail, and there was a heavy blow as we slid
along for some 50m 160ydl before stopping in
total silence, enveloped in a dust cloud.
The cockpit had already been jettisoned,
and we hurriedly evacuated our positions to
collect together behind the tail. The fire in the
left engine was extingubhed, probably through
being smothered in sand, and the gondola had
heen ripped away and lay some 50m behind us;
we were grateful that the ground had been
relmively flat where we had landed.
Examination of the engine cowlings confirmed
two hits in each, with a further hit in the
cockpit. We were initially pu:zled at how just
three hits had resulted in our having to force-
land, but reflected that the same bullets had
certainly knocked out the radiator system for
borh engines.
Several soldiers approached pointing
machine-guns at us as we were hauling our
parachute packs out of the cockpit; they were
clearly under the impression that we were from
an RAF bomber and were to be held. We quickly
announced our German status, and relared both
our good and bad luck arising from the sonie.
The Wellington had come down several
80
Our soldiers were pressing on towards EI
Alamein, and the important supply route on
the Via Balboa was being constantly disrupted
by the RAF. On the 25th we took off from
Derna on a 'Helle achtjagd' sortie; the moon
was full, and vbibility perfect. We looked for
the flares with which the bombers marked out
their target, because then we could pick up the
homhers. It was a matter of luck to be flying at
the same altitude as our prey; however, we had
discovered that they came over at between 400
and 900m 11,500 and 3,OOOfti - too high for
light flak, while most of the heavy 88mm guns
were heing used for the ground offensive, which
was more important.
At 23:45 hours while flying near Mersa
Matruh, I picked out the outline of a
Wellington. I switched on the weapons and
Revi gunsight, and opened up the engines in
order to retClin visual contact. However. lover,
estimated the bomber's speed, and clmed so f<1st
thm I was only able to fire a short burst, striking
the fin and fuselage. I must have surprised the
rear gunner because no return fire W(lS
ohserved, hut I was hard pressed to avoid a
collision. Thankfully I managed to pass close
under the burning Wellington, and as I made a
complete orbit I saw it fall through a thin cloud
layer ,md burst into flames on the ground.
Less than twenty minutes Imer I picked out ,1
second Wellington flying at a similar height,
and this time I judged my closing rate hetter,
my gunfire setting the left engine on fire. Ag<1in
there was no return fire as the pilot dived away
and finally made a belly-landing. As we turned
away and headed back we could sec thar the
Wellington had G\ught fire all over, the flames
clearly outlining the aircraft's skeletal
framework. We landed at 02: lO hours.
My next encounter with a Wellington
proved to be an expensi,·e experience. On the
28th, after taking of( at 21:40 hours, I caught
one just before midnight, flying at around
600m 12,OOOfti in the vicinity of Mer,a Matruh.
When in firing rdnge I pressed the firing button
- but only one cannon and one machine-gun
responded. \YJe could see srrikes, hur no fire as
the bomher dived away in a vain attempt to
out-run our Ju 8 ; our higher speed and the
perfect dsibility guaranteed that he wouldn't
succeed in this. There was no return fire as we
flew along at minimum altitude - so low that
for example I could pick out details such as
laagers full of transports. I finally set the left
engine on fire, but suddenly the bomber slowed
up so quickly that I was unable to maintain my
position behind and was forced to pass
there was a cost to be paid for these
succe se , as Heinz relate:
MEDITERRANEAN FORTUNES: NORTH AFRICA/S!CILYIITALY MEDITERRA EAN FORTUNES: NORTH AFRICA/SICILYIITALY
Heraldic shield with three birds in flight adorns the nose of a Ju 88A-4 of LG 1. The bomber bears an
ordnance mix, with an SC250 on the left outside rack, and what appears to be an SC500 under the right
wing, whose fin displays its bracing bars. The machine-gun in the windscreen with its circular gunsight
appears to be an MG81.
when they would begin to turn the Axis
tide of success on a permanent basis. The
victory at El Alamein still left the Afrika
Korps with some chance of retrieving the
situation by stabilizing their lines as their
adversaries began to out-run their supply
sources. But on 8 November, this
possibility was severely dented by the
Anglo-American invasion of Morocco
and 1geria. Now Rommel would be faced
with dividing his strength in order to
contain not one, but two powerful forces.
Recognition of the mounting crisis in
the Med iterranean affected both the
Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe. In the
latter instance, Gruppen were pulled off
other battlefronts and despatched either to
Tunisia, in the case of fighter and ground-
attack units, or Sicily for bomber units.
The crews of 11/KG 30, for example, had
anticipated a comfortable winter's
quartering at their bases of Petsamo and
Kemi, and had prepared their
accommodation accordingly. But all
prospects of relaxation were shattered on
12 ovember when the transfer orders
came in, and within one week they had
exchanged the snow and ice of Finland for
the heat and dust of Comiso. From here,
the personnel anticipated a far harder
battle with the British as compared to the
conflict th y had suffered in the North,
while the climatic conditions were also
harder to bear. The harsh facts of combat
in this theatre were passed over by the
surviving crews from lll/KG 30, whose
place was now taken by 11 Gruppe.
Peter Stahl, by now a senior pilot, also
recalled the bitterness of his fellow crews
from lll/KG 30, who felt that they had
been asked to take on far too wide a range
of targets in the face of ever-mounting and
effective aerial opposition. (In fact this was
a scenario that would never alter, but
would become even more extended as time
went by.) Stahl's diary notes confirm this
continuing trend: between 20 November
and 21 March he recorded sorties
involving bombing, armed reconnaissance,
air-sea rescue and convoy escort. The
constant switch of duties was just bearable;
much less bearable was the geographic
spread of the targets that ranged across the
breadth of Algeria, Tunisia and Libya, and
Malta, too. There was also a general feeling
among the crews that the results accruing
from the attacks were far exceeded by the
casualties sustained.
In late December, Kommandeur Major
Stoffregen of !l/KG 30 was killed, and his
loss badly affected the Gruppe's morale.
On return from Christmas leave, he and
Stahl had taken off on a local flight to
view Mount Etna. On return to Comiso,
82
both pilots decided to test their ski II by
making single-engine landings. Stahl was
first down, but as he and the others
wmched their CO's Ju 88, inexplicably it
was seen to turn into the 'dead' starboard
engine, and fall away behind a small hill.
When the rescuers arrived on the scene
they found Stoffregen still strapped in his
seat, but this had been thrown some
distance from the main wreckage.
Fighting the Odds
One specific sortie displayed in full the
many difficulties facing the bomber crews
as Allied air superiority retained and
intensified its hold. The crews were
briefed to attack an air depot believed to
be at Biskra. The target lay several
hundred miles from Comiso, and its inland
location made it none too easy to find,
especially a the attack was timed to
coincide with the onset of darkness. The
outward course was to be flown at low
level, and was routed out over the western
coastline of Sicily - a move to evade the
attentions of any prowling Allied fighters.
The formation held together well, and
indeed reached its goal as the sun was
sinking below the horizon. However, Stahl
and his fellow pilots found the positive
identification of suitable concentrations of
buildings or equipment difficult. Having
bombed with uncertain effect, the crews
faced a protracted flight back to Comiso,
where all but one of their number finally
touched down, having safely run the
gauntlet of enemy night fighters.
As the 8th Army applied pressure in
March along the Mareth Line, it came
under regular bomber assault. The
Luftwaffe bomber units were now diverted
into Tunisian airfields such as Sfax and
Gabes from where they would load up with
fuel and ordnance. These duties were
often attended to by the crews themselves,
thanks to the general air of confusion, not
to say casualties, being borne by the
airfield per onnel thanks to Allied
bombing. On 15 March, while flyirig out
of Comiso, Peter Stahl had just completed
an evening sortie when he received a radio
message to land at Sfax. Next morning his
Ju 88 was one of eighteen forming up and
heading south to bomb targets behind the
Mareth Line. Also present was a formation
of Me 21Os, whose function was to ground-
strafe and so draw some of the AA
defences away from the bombers, and a
unit of Italian Macchi 202 fighters.
The attackers landed their ordnance
among the vehicle laagers with sound
effect, then departed north-westwards in
haste in order to escape the attentions of
the RAF fighters. Then as the formation
was flying its way between Tunisia and
Sicily, a flight of ten Spitfires was spotted
close overhead and flying across the front
of the bombers. Luckily, no attack was
initiated, indicating that the RAF pilots
had not been so observant'
ow that air superiority was in Allied
hands, the presence of nearby Malta
spelled even more danger for the
Luftwaffe bombers, particularly during
the hours of darkness. Just as the
Fernnachtjaeger had proved their worth
over England in 1940-41, so the RAF
night fighters operating out of Malta
were a mortal threat as they quartered
the skies over Sicily. Any prolonged
circling by returning aircraft over the
brightly lit airfield circuits left them
wide open to deadly ambush. It was with
this menace in mind that a counter-plan
was created.
An integral part of the plan involved
the co-operation of the flak and
searchlight batteries, with their
commanders linked up to the airfield
controllers by a common radio system.
Normal procedure, whereby the
returning aircraft arrived over the
airfield and awaited their turn to land
out of the circuit, was abandoned, and
instead they were required to radio in
and state their position. The controller
would then attempt to assemble them
into a single line at intervals of several
minutes, at a distance of about 100km
(60 miles) from the airfield. Several
miles from the runway threshold was a
line of lights, and as each Ju 88 over-flew
this, it would lower its flaps and
undercarriage.
The vulnerability of the bomber to an
assault from behind over these few
kilometres was now to be countered by
the flak batteries along with the
searchlights, both of which were
positioned on either side of the line of
lights. Upon the pilot announcing his
position over the lights to the controller,
the order would be issued for the
searchlights to sweep the air behind the
bomber. This would either pick out any
lurking intruder, or blind its pilot as he
sought to clo e in for an attack. (Of
course, any enterprising pilot choosing to
approach his prey from ahead or by diving
steeply onto the bomber would be difficult
to counter.) In the event, the procedure
worked well for KG 30, at least, with just
two recorded losses during the period of
use. On the other hand, the need for this
elaborate system to be deployed
demonstrated just how much the
pendulum of air superiority had swung
away from the Luftwaffe.
The extremes of fortune in
operational flying were demonstrated by
the experiences of two KG 30 crews led
by Willi Hachenburg and Sepp
Guggenmoos at this time. Hachenburg
had been with the Gruppe as far back as
1941. On this occasion he took off on
night sortie, only to be reported
'missing'. Some hours later, reports
arrived of a number of one-man
dinghies off Gela. An air search duly
picked these out, but only three of the
four airmen concerned were alive, the
exception being Hachenburg. The
manner of his death was particularly
cruel, since he had survived the
ditching and was attempting to climb
into his dinghy; but he had caught one
foot in a loop of the dinghy line, and
was unable to disentangle himself
because of his heavy, restricting flying
clothing, and had drowned.
Sepp Guggenmoos was returning at
minimum altitude from a night sortie to
Algiers when a massive shudder shot
through the Ju 88. The engine note rose
to a howl, and airspeed dropped away
drastically, leaving the pilot with no
option but to stagger on towards Sicily.
Any attempt to gain altitude for a bale-
out appeared of the question - and even
if he had managed it, it would only have
landed the crew in the wastes of the
Mediterranean, from where their rescue
would have been most unlikely. The
ensuing sixty minutes passed tortuously
slowly. On reaching the Sicilian coast
the pilot had to risk climbing the aircraft
in order to clear the hills found in the
region; somehow he prevented it from
stalling out, and Comiso was finally
reached.
Upon climbing out and examining their
aircraft, a collective shudder must have
run through the four airmen at what they
saw: all six VSll wooden propeller blades
had sh d at least one third of their length!
(The cause of the damage was later
ascribed to the aircraft making contact
with one of the low-lying islands off the
Tunisian coastline.)
83
By late April, the remnants of the
Afrika Korps were facing surrender or
evacuation. The supply situation was so
critical thanks to the past wholesale
slaughter of the Ju 52 and Me 323
transports, that some Ju 88s were pressed
into service - in this instance bearing fuel
in the 900 litre (200 gal) external tanks!
The return flights to Sicily were regularly
made with up to seven 'supernumerary'
crew in the form of soldiers crammed into
the cockpit.
The Long Mediterranean
Retreat
Sicilian Interlude
The Allied Air Forces were regularly
extending their offensive capability to
Sicily for a long time before the actual
invasion of the island in July. The limited
number of airfields, coupled to the
proximity of RAF and USAAF bases in
Malta and Tunisia, guaranteed that the
Luftwaffe personnel would feel the weight
of the aerial assault.
The experience of I/NJG2 was to be
typical. The Gruppe had re-equipped
with Ju 88C-6 aircraft carrying FuG202
radar in late 1942, and had arrived at
Castel vetrano to operate in a
Himmelbett capacity; 11/NJG 2 had been
similarly assigned to Comiso. During
April and May, Castelvetrano was the
focus for three concentrated bombing
raids, of which the worst in terms of
human and logistical casualties occurred
on 23 April. A member of the
groundcrew staff recalled how the
personnel had stood on the airfield
watching whilst a triple formation, each
comprising fourteen bombers, thundered
in their direction. For whatever reason,
the airmen did not appear to appreciate
that their location was the target - at
least, not until they saw the strings of
bombs cascading down, and then they
were positively thunderstruck! The
eyewitness, having frantically sought
shelter, felt his eardrums would burst
under the sheer noise of explosions,
while choking dust clouds obscured
everything from sight.
Once the attack was over he got to his
feet - but again had to seek cover when a
nearby bullet-riddled fuel bowser suddenly
blew up. However, instinct brought him
MEDITERRANEAN FORTU E : NORTH AFRICA/SICILY/ITALY MEDITERRANEAN FORTU E ORTH AFRICA/SICILY/ITALY
to his feet, and he went to seek out any
wounded personnel with a view to
attending to them until more qualified
medical staff were on hand. Other
personnel were attempting to extingui h
the fires affecting numerous aircraft,
including two Me 323 Gigant transport
laden with postal mail and equipment for
delivery to Tunisian-based staff. The task
ultimately proved hopeles , but before the
giant aircraft were left to burn away, much
of the load wa got out, though in the face
of fierce heat.
The cost to the Gruppe was no fewer
than twenty-five aircraft de troyed or
damaged, four men kill d, and eight
wounded. ne of the latter was Gefreiter
Artur Duerr, who had been manning an
airfield defence post using machine-gun
calibre weapons - ost nsibly for us
against low-flying aircraft
l
During the
action he had received quite severe burns
to his right arm. The young doctor at the
10 al hospital to which Artur was taken
told him that nothing mar could be don
other than to change his bandage, and he
was duly returned to Castelvetrano. The
following day he was seen by the Gruppe's
chief do tor, Otto Moehlenbeck, who
pre cribed a literal form of 'sun-ray'
tr atm nr: Artur was told to expose his
wound to the sun's rays for ten minute
each day. But with no visible
improvement to his wound over the
ensuing even days, he was sent north for
a four weeks' rest and recuperation period.
The Gruppe's subsequent experience
of atta k occurred on two successive
days, namely 21 and 22 May. Seven
mol' aircraft were 'written off' during
the fir t assault. Two days later came
the order for the unit to transfer to
Aquino in outhern Italy, where it was
joined by its sister, II Gruppe. However,
little or no operational flying was
carried out between arrival and transfer
back to Germany for incorporation into
the achtjagd.
Italian Incursion
By the beginning of September with the
Axis force cleared out of icily, the th
Army began to cross the Messina traits
into the extreme southern reaches of
Italy. Further up the coast the U Fifth
rmy made a seaborne landing at Salerno
- although this was to prove a close-run
matt 1', at least for the initial few days,
since the Wehrmacht defences rallied
Gefreiter Artur Duerre was all of twenty years old
when this picture was taken in 1943. At the time he
was serving as a Waffenwart (armourer) on the
ground staff of I/NJG 2 in Sicily. His uniform is the
standard issue for personnel serving in the
Mediterranean theatre of operations. He suffered
wounds to his right arm when Castelvetrano was
attacked on 23 April 1943, but survived the
experience. He later served with II/NJG 2 until
the end of the war.
84
quickly; in fact at one point the
Am rican troops were in imminent
danger of being forced into an
ignominious and costly withdrawal. [n
the air, fighter cover was provided
primarily by the Fleet Air Arm's eafires,
ince the land-based airfields in icily
were almost out of range. Until the
ground situation had been stabilized and
advanced, the Luftwaffe could make its
presence felt, and it did succ ed in
landing some painful blows upon the
personnel and equipment within the
shallow, extended beachhead.
The [talian terrain provided natural
defensive cover for most of it length,
and over the ensu ing twen ty mon ths
the Allied annie would have to work
hard to wear down and throw back the
tenacious Wehrmacht troop. The
protracted and costly battle of Mon te
Cassino had been preceded by the
equally costly traversing of the rivers
Rapido and Liri. Even when the Allied
armies had finally secured Rome in
June 1944, the troops faced further
strenuous opposition a they pushed
into northern Italy. Further formidable
water barri I' in the form of the rivers
Sangro and Po had to be crossed, and it
was only in the final month of World
\Var II that the remaining areas of Italy
were occupied. [n thi time the
Luftwaffe had done what it could to
sustain the campaign in the air, but as
was the case on a II the Ax is
battlefronts, its strength in personnel
and aircraft was relentlessly whittled
down, and finally away.
Opposite page, above: A Ju 88A-4 of 3/KGr 806
squats on a dispersal at Catania, Sicily. Codes
are M7+DL, with the letter 'D' in yellow
superimposed on white theatre band.
Propeller spinner-tips are also yellow, the
colour denoting the unit's 3rd Staffel.
Opposite page, below: A Ju 88C-6 of I/NJG 2 is
seen in Sicily during the Gruppe's deployment to
Castelvetrano. from where it made 'Himmelbett'
sorties up to its transfer to Italy in May. Aircraft
were sprayed in this distinctive 'Wellenmuster'
camouflage that extended to the propeller
spinners. One of the two airmen is Georg Frieben
who served with Heinz Roekker until early 1944;
he was the sole survivor from another crew
when his Ju 88 exploded after combat with a B-
17 on 30 January.
85
CHAPTER EIGHT
Hard Times Ahead
shipping aircraft, a they were vulnerable
to being picked off as they departed for,
or arrived ba k from, a ortie. mall
forces of Luftwaffe bombers did mount
raids or reconnaissance sorties however,
and sometimes found the A was as
intense a ever. For example, two 5/LG 1
crews were fortunate to limp back to
Catania after reportedly suffering heavy
shell damage.
The fortune of aerial combat caught up
with o. 2 1 Squadron on the nnd,
when the]u featured indirectly in the
action. First, four pilots were 'scrambled'
to intercept a reported formation of Ju
8s, but only one was actually picked up,
and this managed to evade successfully. In
the afternoon, however, a second
formation with a Bf 109 escort
approached Grand Harbour. But the eight
Hurricanes that were 'scrambled' to
int rcept never got to the bombers:
instead they were apparently caught in a
classic Bf 109 'bounce' that accounted for
five aircraft and their pilots.
The Luftwaffe bombers were conspic-
uously inactive during the ensuing
summer and early autumn, although the
Regia eronautica's regular incursions
over Malta partially compensated for their
absence. However, in this period th
British took full advantage of the overall
lull in sustained operations both over and
on the approaches to Malta. The ever-
needed food and material suppl ies came in
the holds of three merchant convoys. The
offensi ve capabil ity was not forgotten
either, sin e the Navy's Force 'K' flotilla of
cruisers and destroyers took up station
alongside the resident lath Submarine
Flotilla. Rommel's convoy routes were
then hammered by both the avy
warships and wordfish biplane and the
RAF' anti- hipping Blenheims and
Beauforts, resulting in over one third of
merchant tonnage failing to reach orth
Africa. Thi included the total
annihilation of a even-vessel convoy by
Force 'K', while personnel losses of some
5,000 were suffered when a submarine
torp doed and sank two huge Italian
transports. The knock-on effect of thi
massive deficiency occurred in November,
when the British land offensive pushed
the Afrika Korps back to its March start-
line - the econd 'Benghazi Stakes' put
Although the Luftwaffe was regularly
over Malta during March, the nature of
its assault was larg ly confined to fighter
sweeps. These rais d a particular threat
to the RAF and FAA bombers, along
with other reconnaissance and anti-
A Rotte of Ju 88As from LG 1 fly a tight formation over the Mediterranean. Lower surfaces, national
markings and white fuselage band have all been over-sprayed with black on the 2 Staffel aircraft
in the foreground. Black over-spray on the other aircraft extends well up the fuselage sides.
A Ju 88S displays its distinctive Wellenmuster (wave-pattern) camouflage scheme on the upper surfaces.
An MG FF 20mm cannon protrudes from the forward section of the ventral gondola. The photograph was
taken somewhere in the Mediterranean during 1943. The propeller spinners bear the color ring for one of
the Geschwader sub-units.
fiercely burning aircraft sagg d away and
down to it final destruction just off th
coastline. Thi was one of five Luftwaffe
losses this day - so for once the RAF had
come out on top, since only two
Hurricanes were lost.
A recent arrival in icily was 1 ]G 3,
whose Bf 110 functioned in the 1'01 of
night fight I' . With the Wellington and
Blenheim raids on Sicilian targ ts proving
a constant irritation, not to say threat, to
the Luftwaffe's airfields, it was none too
soon for such a specialist unit to be
deploy d in order to combat these
incur ion. However, the crews' duty was
not seemingly confined to ju t
challenging the incoming bomber: in an
echo of the Fernnachtjagd operations
over Britain, the Bf 110s also flew a
watching brief over Malta, presumably in
the hope of catching the RAF bomber
either on take-off or on landing. Thi duty
in turn meant that the crew or crews
concerned were laid open to counter
interception by RAF pilots acting as night
fighters - as on 17 February, when PIt Off
Hamilton from o. 261 quadron clo ed
in on a twin-engine aircraft that he
claimed as shot down (a Bf 110 from
IjN]G 3 was listed as lost over the island,
so Hamilton' claim was apparently
substantiated).
Two day later Luqa absorbed a heavy
attack from a formation of at least sixty
bombers, including ten]u 88s - and what
the night fighters were unlikely to
achieve, given their current lack of
airborne radar sets, was partially achieved
on this occasion at least. No fewer than
five Wellingtons of No. 148 Squadron
were totally destroyed by the
concentrated bomb patterns, at a cost of
three]u 7s of II/StG 1.
It was over two week before the next
raid of consequence occurred. A similar-
sized force of bombers and escorts was sent
out, and the e included crew of LG 1
within its ranks. Eight Hurricanes of o.
261 quad ron made contact with the
main formation over the i land's outh-
east region, and in the ensuing combat
gt Rob rtson latched on to the ] u
flown by Leutnant Krause (4/LG 1). The
battery of eight .303 machine-gun
riddled the bomber's right wing and
engine, which th n caught fire; oon the
Johannes Geismann proved to be a leading
exponent of anti-shipping operations during his
time with LG 1 in the Mediterranean. He is posing
by the rudder of his Ju 88. on whose surface is
applied the outline of ten of his victims.
fighter strength of Malta was of variable
strength and quality, the AA batteries
generally managed to put up consistently
heavy barrages. It was natural that the gun
concentrations would be placed to cover
the likely main targets for the Luftwaffe,
namely Grand Harbour and the major
airfields. All of the e major targets
excepting one (Takali airfield) were
located in the eastern end of the island,
and were no more than five or six
kilometres (three or four mile) from one
another. The con equence for the
Luftwaffe was that the bombing of one
pecific target could not guarantee that
they would not be challenged by AA fire
from the surrounding region as they
sought to head back to their base.
Malta: The Island Thorn
The island of Malta is located les than
160km (loa miles) south of icily and
about 320km (200 miles) east of northern
Tuni ia. Almost directly south lies the
port of Tripoli, a vital link in the
continuing and swift supply route to
Rommel's troops. The retention of Malta
as a forward base from which to disrupt
the Axis merchant shipping routes, a
well as attacking the Italian ports from
which supplies were despatched, was of
prime importance to the Allied cause.
Conversely, the reduction and
ubjugation of Malta merited top priority
in the eye of the Axi High ommand.
In early February, the arrival in icily of
7/]G 26 heralded hard time for the
island's aerial defenders over the ensuing
four month. The battle-hardened
Luftwaffe airmen were to hand out many
more times the puni hment to their
adversaries than they bore in that period.
All too often they were able to 'bounce'
the slow-climbing Hurricanes rising to
challenge an incoming raid; in addition
the Hurricanes on hand were mostly Mk I
variants, and operationally 'drained'. The
irony of the taffel's success lies in the fact
that the bomber force on Sicily with
which it could explOit this favourable
situation was in the process of being
dispersed to orth Africa, or was involved
in the expanding Balkans campaign.
Among the bomber units operating out
of Sicily was LG 1, and on 12 February
four of its] u s were challenged by four
Hurricane - only for Bf 109s to descend
upon the four Hurricanes, shooting down
two. (The fact that the Hurricane had
been teadily overtaking their quarry
sugge ts the]u 8 were acting as a decoy
- but if thi was the case, it proved a
dangerou game for the one crew who e
aircraft was thoroughly shot up by the sole
RAF pilot to get within range, and who e
fire killed an airman.)
Three days later Leutnant Gretz, flying
a 7 taffel aircraft, failed to return from a
raid over Malta, and two other bombers
came home heavily scarred. Although the
86
87
The Wellenmuster(wave-pattern) camouflage seen on this Ju 88A was a feature on units charged with
anti-shipping duties. National markings and the Mediterranean colour-band on the rear fuselage
have been dulled down or blanked out altogether.
the campaign back in the th Army'
favour, albeit on a temporary basi.
The alarm bells regarding the possible
demise of the frika Korps, and with it a
withdrawal from orth Africa, at last rang
lear. General Albert Kesselring was
recalled from the Russian front and
appointed in overall command, with
General Bruno Loerzer and FI i gerkorp II.
This time round the bomber force was to
comprise a majority of Gruppen operming
the Ju (lfKG 54, two from KG 77, and
Kampfgruppen 6 6 and 06). Also on
hand would be one night-fighter Gruppe,
IjNJG 2, that had recently been operating
over Britain in the 'Fernnachtjagd' ral
with its Ju 88C-2 and -4 variants. A
single Ju 87 Gruppe, element of III/ZG 26
with their Bf LlOs and the Bf 109Fs of JG
53, along with IIIJG 3, made up the
r mainder of the Korps. Hard time were
ahead over the winter of 1941/42 for those
on Malta, and this especially applied to
the Hurricane pilot who would now face
the up-rated Bf 1 9F model, that was way
ahead of its British opponent in terms of
overall pelformance.
The Ju 88s of IjNJG 2 were employed as
much in the intruder function as in its
primary night-fighting duty. 0 it was that
Leutnant Haa claimed a Blenheim flying
MALTA: THE ISLAND THORN
outh of Malta on 12 December; o. I
Squadron also recorded two 10 ses at this
time. The following night a second
Gruppe crew, led by L utnant Laufs,
claimed a Wellington. Day and night
attacks were delivered on the 19th, the
first directed at an arriving convoy when
one Ju 88 was brought down. I JG 2 was
pr S nt in the e on role, and did record
losing Leutnant Braun. The night attack
by a single aircraft destroyed a pair of o.
40 quadron Wellingtons ready to take off
for an operation.
The first sizeable Luftwaffe bombing
raid since its return to Sicily occurred the
next day. During the series of combats
between No. 249 quadron and the l/]G
53-esconed bombers, four ]u 8 s were
claimed damaged for the certain loss of
one Hurrican ; in addition a number of
other RAF machine were destroyed on
the ground. Battle wa being joined in
steady and ultimately full measure, and
the going would not get any easier for the
foreseeable futur . The AA defences
pitched in as ever, their latest probable
victim being a 2 ]G 2 aircraft; Feldwebel
Ziebarth and crew were declared MIA.
The final ten days of 1941 saw the aerial
pressure maintained, with activities on
hristmas Eve tending to favour the RAE
Only one interception occurred out of
four 'alerts', but the]u s concerned were
heavily punished de pite the involv ment
of thei r escon Bf 109s. The II/KG 77
bombers attacking Grand Harbour lost
Leutnant Tack (5/KG 77) whose Ju 88
was brought down ast of Malta. A s cond
4/KG 77 aircraft flown by Feldwebel Bude
was heavily damaged by AA fire as well as
machine-gun bullets; it was la teen with
smoking engines. In fact it r ached
mania, only to crash during the landing
approach. A third Ju from 2/K.Gr 06
and flown by Unteroffizier Lessner also
failed to return to its Catania base. The
cost to No. 126 quadron was a single
Hurricane whose pi lot was lost.
Christmas Day passed peacefully, but
then 'normal service' was resumed. A
morning raid on the 27th by tabU/KG
77 cost the compact formation
Hauptmann tahle, who was flying in a 4
taffel aircraft. A Hurricane closed to
minimum range and blasted one engine,
wh reupon tahle headed down towards a
cloud layer in a desperate but vain evasive
manoeuvre. The damaged engine now
caught fire, and the Ju 88 fell into the sea,
killing all on board. In a separate
incident, a K.Gr 806 aircraft survived AA
damage that wounded two of Unteroffizier
Krause's crew. That same evening an
unidentified ]u was reponed to have
fallen to the gunfire of a 1435 Flight
fighter. It wa picked out by searchlight
A Ju 88C-2 or C-4 has recently performed the dreaded Kopfstand, probably as a result of overshooting on
take-off or landing. The crew are fortunate the aircraft did not flip over onto its back. All markings other
than the aircraft/Staffelletters have been heavily overpainted. This incident occurred on 22 December
1941.
88
batteries at Valletta and provided a sharp
target for the RAF pilot whose bullet
brought the flaming bomber down off the
coa t.
On the 29th, the ebb and flow of the air
battle proved costly for the RAF: in the
morning combat, two Hurricanes
collided, killing one pilor. Then during
the afternoon, Sgt Fonh from No. 185
quadron went missing. A ubsequent
action saw the fatal loss of two pilots from
o. 249 Squadron, though the balance
was panially redre ed next day when Wg
Cdr atchell led os. 126 and 249
quadrons again t a small K.Gr 06
formation. atchell fired on one bomber
when still well out of range, but
apparently landed hits on one engine,
since it exuded a olid smoke trail. Two
pilot from o. 126 quadron had a
confirmed 'kill' near Luqa: they chased
the 3/K.Gr 06 bomber of Oberleutnant
Lust down to ground level, at which point
the Luftwaffe crew baled out of their
doomed machine.
And so ended the aerial bloodletting
over Malta for 1941. The RAF was to
claim 199 'destroyed', seventy-eight
'probables' and seventy-nine 'damaged'
enemy aircraft over the twelve months.
This was to compare with po t-war Axis
records that listed eighty-one Luftwaffe
and seventy Regia eronautica
confirmed losses.
89
Malta 1942: the Crisis Mounts
As midnight came and went and the first
day of 1942 dawned, a marauding Ju 88
made a series of unopposed strafing runs
over Takali: this was a solitary raid, and
was an augury of what the island would
have to contend with for most of the
year. The war in the Mediterranean was
to boil over as the British and German
arm ies strove for complete mastery of
tl at theatre, and the retention of Malta
was even more of a prerequisite to
ultimate Allied victory; equally its loss
by inva ion or subjugation, thereby
preventing its use as an effective base for
blocking the Axis supply routes acro
what the Italian had dubbed Mare
ostrum (Our ea), would deal a fatal
llow to those intentions of victory.
The Luftwaffe bombers now maintained
a steady degree of pressure upon Malta,
MALTA: THE ISLAND THORN
Although I/NJG 2 was largely equipped with the Ju 88C Series during its time in the Mediterranean theatre
of operations, the unit also possessed Ju 88A-4s with which bombing sorties were conducted. This
particular bomber was involved in a crash-landing at Catania when being flown by Oberleutnant Jakob,
who subsequently rose to the rank of Hauptmann and command of 3/NJG 2 before his death in 1944. The
rear view of the incident (top photograph) shows ground personnel collected around the open dinghy
hatch. The completely intact cockpit canopy in side view (lower photograph) confirms that the crew was
able to get out through the gondola hatch. Attack on Palermo
In an echo of the Clan Fraser di aster at
Piraeus on 7/8 April 1941, an attack upon
the port facilitie at Palermo by o. 37
quadron Wellingtons produced a similar
result. In thi instance an ineffective
smokescr en permitted the bomb aimers a
clear run at the target. The freighter
Cuma, laden with ammunition, was hit
and set on fire, and a second freighter
b mbed and sunk at her berth. Although
tranded Breconshire was taken out by a
Single Ju 8 during the last concerted
Luftwaffe raid in the evening; she rolled
over next morning as her ammunition
cont nt started to explode.
Just over LO per cent of the L6,00 tons
of ammunition carried by Pampas and
Talabol wa extracted, while a 100 per
cent loss was borne in respect of the
Breconshire. ub equent cargo salvage on
the Grand Harbour freighters led to the
further extraction of 3,000 tons, but the
final figure would still represent less than
one quarter of the total cargo content
carried by all three vessels.
This very serious reduction in available
supplies inevitably led to a steady decl ine
in the effectiveness of the attack on Axi
convoy, and the knock-on ffect from
this was a relatively uninterrupted build-
up in Rommel's supply chain; thi in turn
enabled his Afrika Korps to again go on
the offensive. For the Allies the year had
begun reasonably well, with a steady
though reducing rate of attrition
occurring among the enemy merchant
fleet. Also the continuing benefit of
'ULTRA' intercepts enabled Malta's
reconnais ance aircraft to seek out
convoy more effectively, and brought
about some successful raids by the
dimini hed force of RAF and FAA trike
aircraft: for example, on 23 January a four-
vessel convoy was picked up, shadowed
and then attacked by Beauforrs and
Albacores. Also the large liner Victoria
that was carrying a sizeable number of
troop along with their equipment, was
torpedoed and sunk; and several other
merchantmen were despatched to the
bottom of the Mediterranean during
January and February. However, the
indiff rent to bad winter weather
cond itions hindered anti -sh ipping
operations in general, and was a material
factor in the safe arrival of the bulk of
Axis supplie .
Bf 109s of lO/]G took a hand, and their
bomb handed out the fir t of several
pun ish ing blows to Breconshire.
evertheless, she got within sight of
Malta next day, and de pi te further
attack by both Ju and bomb-carrying
Bf 109s, was taken under tow and brought
into Marsaxlokk Bay, although she
couldn't discharge there because there
were no dock fa ilitie .
The remaining trio of merchantmen
was also within striking distance of the
island as daylight broke on the 23rd, but
then Ju 88s appeared and launched a
concerted attack, which struck and sank
Clan Campbell. The two surviving
merchantmen finally berthed in Grand
Harbour, and unloading commenced,
without Luftwaffe interference to begin
with. But this fortunate situation was not
to last long, although attack on the 25th
failed to record any hits on Pampas or
Talabot. Incredibly, loading was then
halted overnight, and it had only been
resumed for a few hours the next day
when ship and harbour came under
serious bomb attack by fifty Ju 7s and Ju
s. Within two hours one freighter had
been sunk outright, and the other had
been truck, and was scuttled to prevent
her cargo of ammunition exploding and
devastating the dock. Finally the
Unteroffizier Horst Mielke (left) stands with other airmen in front of a Ju 88C during l/NJG 2's final
operational spell in the Mediterranean. Following the Gruppe's return to Germany in July 1943, and
while landing off a sortie at Nagold on 16 March 1944, Mielke's Ju 88C-6 was badly shot up by an
RAF intruder. The wounds inflicted on the pilot led to his death in hospital the following day.
But the combined Hurricane cover and
escort AA fire played it part in nullifying
the effect of the as ault; in addition
several bombers were damaged, and the
l/KueFIGp 606 aircraft flown by
Unteroffizier Nicolay failed to return.
The convoy of two merchantmen ent
during mid-February was similarly
bombed by Ju , and one freighter was
abandoned after the ammunition in her
hold tarted to explode. Th other was
crippled by a near miss and had to b
taken in tow. When a further formation of
Ju 8 s appeared overhead, it seemed
in vitable that the almost static v ssel
would be struck. However, the AA fire
from the Force 'B' warships thankfully
proved more than sufficient to thwart the
bombers' efforts to deliver their ordnance.
By contrast, the main March convoy
fared badly, although initially fortune
appeared to be on its side: things looked
bad when the Italian battleship Littorio,
accompanied by two heavy cruisers,
intercepted the convoy, but the aggressive
counter-attacks launched by the escorting
cruisers were sufficient to persuade their
overwhelmingly heavier-armed opponent
to turn about and steam back to port! It
took the Luftwaffe to bring about a
downturn in the situation, although the
first Ju attacks had failed; but then the
added steadily to the tally, taking out
Leutnant Muller's l/KueFIGp 606 bomber
on the following day, and Oberleutnant
Biemer's ( taffelkapitaen) 5/KG 77 Ju
on the 1 tho
The intruder activities of I JG 2
proved very costly on the succe ive nights
of the 1 thth and 19th: first, Leutnant
chleif (4 JG 2) talked a Wellington
back to Malta and then prepared to attack,
but his weapon failed at the vital
moment. He then stalked another
Wellington approaching Luqa, but ran
straight into the aitfield's AA units, and
their combined fire brought down his low-
flying aircraft, the crash fatal for all on
board. A similar stalking exercise on the
following night by Leutnant Haas, again
on a Wellington landing at Luqa,
culminated in the same manner, and wa
also fatal for aircraft and crew.
The 'night intruder' function was
adopted by 1435 Flight during January
following the assessment by its CO that
his Hurricanes had a better chance of
catching the Ju 8s over their own
airfields than over Malta. With the aid of
drop-tank discarded by aircraft
transiting through to orth Africa, /L
We tmacott's pilot set to their duty with
a will. Wellingtons were already carrying
out this function as well as making
standard bombing sorties, but the greater
speed and manoeuvrability of the
Hurricane proved better for such
op rations. It hough the general effect of
operations was more debilitating than
lethal to the Luftwaffe, occasional success
came the Flight's way: for instance, on
27/2 January two aircraft were brought
down, one of which was the 5/KG 77
bomber of Oberleutnent Dronke; he was
unlucky nough to be caught just after
take-off, and he and another airman were
killed in the crash.
Anti-Shipping Operations
The initial few weeks of 1942 wer
generally favourable as regards the receipt
of suppli ,although there were gap. Of
the six merchantmen and one R
auxiliary vessel (HMS Breconshire)
despatched in January, one was bombed
and abandoned after diverting towards
Benghazi. The approach of the main
January convoy from Alexandria naturally
invited sol id Luftwaffe reaction, which
cam in a large formation and included
the specialist anti-shipping KueFIGp 606.
escorted trio of Ju from KGr 806
heading north after bombing.
Oberleutnant chnez's bomber was
a sailed by two pilots in quick succession,
their attacks causing it to catch fire: he
ordered his crew to abandon the burning
2 Staffel aircraft, and all four airmen
floated down to captivity. The AA guns
even if the number of attackers in each
ortie often proved relatively small. On
hand to oppose them were around eighty
Hurricane, whose inferior performance
against the Bf 109F was on occasions
equalized by favourable tactical
circum tances. Thus on 3 January, Nos.
126 and 249 Squadrons 'bounced' an
90 91
the returning crews reported a great
conflagration, th full effect of their
attack was not real ized for more than
twenty-four hours. The fire on the uma
steadily gained hold, until finally she blew
up. The violent nature of the detonation
fatally damaged another freighter, heavily
damaged four more, and caused variable
degrees of damage to a further twenty-
nine vessels, as well as causing much
disruption to port facilitie .
Defence: the Spitfire
Since the beginning of the Mediterranean
campaign the fighter defence of Malta
had been largely in the hands of the
Hurricane, but by early 1942 the Hawker
d sign's general performance was
dangerously inferior to the Axis fighters,
especially the Bf 109f. In addition, it was
doubtful whether even the latest Mk II B
and IIC variants would be able to
challenge the] u 88 on even terms, other
than when dived upon. For many months
it had been hoped that the Air Mini try
would respond to the island authorities'
reque t for pitfires, but these
expectation had not been fulfilled. But at
long last this frustrating situation was to
be rectified. The avy's aircraft carrier
had regularly ferried new batches of
fighters to a position between Gibraltar
and Malta, from where the R F pilots
had taken off and headed east for their
n w posting. On 7 March a surprisingly
small contingent of fifteen Spitfires lifted
off the d ck of Eagle, all of which got
through safely to Malta. Four Mk 1F
Beaufighters, fitted with AI radar, also
arrived on this day.
Airfield Assaults Increase
The joint arrival of day- and night-
defence reinforcements, however
marginal in numbers, wa probably none
too oon, ince the island's airfield were
now the regular focu of the Luftwaffe
bombing assaults. Indeed, by the end of
March the weight of ammunition
expended on Hal Far, Luqa and Tabli wa
just over 1,3 tons, as opposed to roughly
a third of this figure for February. Other
prime targets, such as the dock, also
suffered an increased weight of bomb, but
nothing like as expanded an increase.
April's figures would prove even worse.
The 16th was a particularly good
example of the increased tempo of airfield
MALTA: THE ISLA D THORN
assault. From around :00 to 19:00 there
were no fewer than fifteen attacks by the
Ju Gruppen, of which eleven affected
either Luqa, afi or Takali. 0 attacking
formation was larger than six in number,
but the constant state of alert demanded
by these regular incursions placed
tremendous phy ical and mental strain
upon the defensive SCI' en. The very open
nature of the airfield, coupled to the
current lack of ound dispersal revetments,
meant that aircraft were terribly exposed
to either destruction or damage.
A concentrated attack on Luqa on the
17th reduced the island strike force by
four Wellingtons and caused damage to
several more aircraft, while ground
equipment was also seriously affect d.
On the 21st there was a second delivery
by carrier of nine pi tfi res, and seven
more eight days later; and on the 27th,
ten Hurricanes arrived from North Africa,
an addition that was naturally very
welcome. On the other hand, the total
loss of at least six of the pitfires, and a
similar attrition rate amongst the
Hurricanes by the end of the month, left
the overall fighter strength peri lously
stretched, e pecially when a proportion of
the surviving aircraft were out of action as
a result of combat damage or because of
technical faults.
Malta's AA Defence
The Luftwaffe was slowly but in xorably
winning the numbers game in terms of
victories against losses, but its crews were
ever aware that the Malta defences were
well able to hand out regular punishment.
Indeed, many veteran German airmen
considered that Malta's AA fire was the
equal of London, Leningrad or Murmansk
in particular, all well tocked with this
form of defence. Leutnant Gerhard Stamp
of 2/LG 1 had first-hand experience of its
intensity in the course of a sortie on 22
March: after completing his dive and
releasing the ordnance, hi]u was
truck by AA fire around the engine
nacelle, causing the undercarriage doors
to fall down. Even as he emerged from the
gun barrage, tamp wa engaged by
Hurricanes, whose concerted fire added
further damage. After Rf 109s had finally
dispersed the RAF fighters, Stamp headed
for Catania. But on lining up for landing,
he discovered that he couldn't I t down
the undercarriage because it was jammed
by a damaged hydraulic pipe, and the
92
manually operated emergency pump failed
to rectify the position. Stamp overshot on
the initial approach, but put hi Ju
down on its belly second time round. The
skiddina bomber struck a bump and
lurched into the air a a solid wall loomed
up - though fortunately its forward
momentum ran out just yards from what
might have been a fatal impact!
On this same day Leutnant Jancik of
3/KG 77 failed to return. A Iso, two crews
from 3/KGr 806 ran into Beaufighters of
o. 272 Squadron, whose brief was to
cover the incoming convoy from
Alexandria. The Ju 88s were already
under attack from Spitfires, one of which
de patched Leutnant Damaske. Then two
of th Beau fighters latched on to
Feldwebel Augustin, and a well directed
burst of fire into one wing resulted in a
massive explosion. one of the eight
G rman airmen survived the encounter.
The Cruellest Month: April
1942
A dispatch by Churchill to Pre id nt
Roosevelt on 1 April voiced concern
about both the massive build-up of the
Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica on
icily, and the parlous state of the Malta
fighter strength: this was estimated at no
more than thirty serviceable aircraft, with
the British only able to feed in relatively
small reinforcement formations. H also
emphasized th limitations of the lifts on
even the R fleet carriers due to
their fixed-wing configuration, which
prevent d the internal storage of th RAF
fighters. Churchill then requested that
U S Wast) be made available for the
ferrying role, to which request Roosevelt
promptly and positively responded.
Nos. 6 1 and 603 Squadrons were
assigned to be transferred, and after
loading in cotland, Wasp headed down
through the Bay of Biscay and into the
Mediterranean. In the early hours of 2
April, the fir t pitfire, piloted by ub-Lt
'J umbo' Gracie, took off and acted as
overall leader for No.6 1 quadron; Sub-
Lt Douglas-Hamilton carried out the same
function for No.6 3 Squadron. II but
one of the pilots got through safely, in
spite of the presence of Bf 109s. The
subs quent Luftwaffe bombing response
was severe, given that the German
monitoring ervices were aware of the
new RA F arri va Is. More damage was
inflicted upon the airfield, and by
nightfall three pitfires were either
destroyed or badly damaged in the
bombing. In addition, one of the new
arrivals wa abandoned in the air, and one
ended up on it belly after making a forced
landing. Added to this, a pair of o. 126
quad ron fighters was shot down.
The poor previous serviceabil ity of the
Wast) pitfires left bar Iy half the total
force available for operations the next
day, while two more aircraft were lost in
combat. By the end of the month both
the pitfire trength and the Hurricane
numbers had been conSiderably whittled
down.
ttrition among the ranks of the
Luftwaffe was never absent, but was
occurring at a very tolerable rat - for the
survivors at least I On the 25th one Ju 88
each from 3/KG 06 and 5/LG I crashed
on landing, and next day Hauptmann
chmidt of 3/KG 54 was forced to 'ditch'
off Malta. With fighter numbers so badly
depleted, a morning raid on the 27th was
largely opposed by the AA batteries
surrounding the target, Luqa airfield. For
the 10 of one Wellington, the Ju
formation left two of their numb I'
behind: nteroffizier Linke's crew died
when their 4/KG 77 bomber went into
the sea, and no survivors emerged from
the wreck of Leutnant Witt's 4/LG 1
<Ii rcraft.
Malta's reputation as a flak 'hot-spot'
appeared as justified as ever. On the other
hand, the degree of punishment handed
out to the island's military, naval and
merchant marine facilities by the German
bombers had reached a crescendo during
pri\. Whereas the three major airfields
had been struck by marginally over 1,300
tons of ordnance in March, the equivalent
figure for April was to be nearly 2,400
tons. Similarly, Grand Harbour absorbed
over 3,000 tons as compared to March'
total of ju t over 3 . In all, the
Luftwaffe's ordnance exp nditure for
April had increased over three-fold
compared to March, and would never
again be exceeded before the island's
ultimate relief from its tate of siege in
early 1943.
During April, reconnaissance aircraft
recorded the first sign of a po sible
invasion force being created. Strips of
levelled ground alongside several icil ian
railway stations were interpreted as being
in preparation for the del ivery and
MALTA: THE ISLAND THOR
a sembly of gliders. With Malta's air
defences regarded as being at a weak
enough level to permit an air-mounted
invasion, it .eemed to major per onalitie
in the German High Command that the
offensive codenamed Operation Herkules
should be launched as soon a possible.
But once again, Hitler's ob es ion with
Ru sia, along with his upport for
Rommel's forthcoming desert offensive,
became major factor in delaying the
sanction for Herkules to proceed, at least
until later in the summer. ( onversely,
the 'ULTRA' intercepts stating the
withdrawal of part of Fliegerkorps II for
operations in Ru sia strengthened
London's view that an invasion was less,
rather than more Ii kel y, at least in the
immediate future.)
Summer Climax
The exhausted military and civilian
population of Malta were only too aware
of their perilous condition, which seemed
to be ever-deepening, with growing food
shortages creating a real fear of starvation
should further suppl ies not be on hand
within a month or two. Even the latest
despatch of pitfires to the embattled
island hardly dispelled the fears of uch a
terminal scenario. Wasp was again the
main replenishing source, but this time
she was accompanied by the
recommissioned carrier Eagle. Not only
were the numbers involved greater (sixty-
four), but far better provision for each
fighter's security, and a quick turn-around
for operations on the ground, had been
pre-planned.
On 9 May another early morning take-
off was safely negotiated by all but two of
the force. On arrival at Malta, each pilot
followed the sign carried behind a
de patch rider on which was painted the
aircraft' allotted fuselage code. Once he
had switched off, a Malta-based pilot
would take his place. Then the five-man
servicing team allotted to each dispel' al
would remove the long-range tanks and
prepare the aircraft for operations with
the ammunition and fuel cans on hand.
All this was to be accompli hed within an
estimated ten to fifteen minutes.
Once again Bf 1 9s were over the
island, but their pilots achieved no
success, although one or two Spitfires
among the first bat h were harried during
landing approach. Turning these Spitfires
93
around took much longer than had been
e timated, and they were duly 'scrambl d'
in order to challenge an incoming group
of 109Fs. By mid-day, however, the
majority of \Xlasp's fighters were either
landed or turned round ready for action.
(I n the event just two of the sixty-two
pitfires went missing during their tran it
flight). During the ensuing series of raids,
five pitfires were lost, along with four
pilot, and several were damaged either in
the air or on the ground. Attacks on Hal
Far put the airfield out of action for some
time, while Takali remained largely
unaffected, although it was struck at least
twice.
ext day a series of heated air battles
developed, at the conclusion of wh ich the
RAF claims were fourteen, eight and
eighteen. Luftwaffe records revealed an
equivalent statistic of ten, nil and one.
For the R F, the revitalized aerial
defences had struck hard, but more
important in the long run was the fact
that the number of operationally available
fighter was never to drop towards, let
alon reach, the crisis levels of the past
few months. For the Luftwaffe, of the
eight bomber MIA, half were Ju s,
their 'executioners' appearing to be o.
126 quadron, whose pilots entered
claims for four 'kills'! In fact A fire was
credited with bringing down the I/KG 54
bomber flown by Leutnant Warkalla, but
a second Staffel aircraft was 'ditched' by
Unteroffizier Hero, who ironically lived
up to his surname, since he was the sole
fatal casualty' Two other Ju 8s were also
MIA along with their crews: the 2/K.Gr
806 bomber flown by Leutnant
S hweinsteiger, and the 3 taffel machine
flown by Leutnant Kissl ing.
For the remainder of May, Luftwaffe
activity over Malta varied in strength, but
was generally on a much reduced scale
compared to 10 May. Of caUl' e an
element of the bomber force wa either
already transferred to Russia or in the
proce of doing so. Neverthele , the
reduction cannot be totally explained by
thi strategic consideration, especially
since the Regia Aeronautica was still on
hand. One of the Luftwaffe units still in
op ration was I/KGr 06, whose latest
losses over Malta were incurred on the
14th. First, the taffelkapitaen of I/KG
77, Hauptmann Braun, was taken down
on th day's first sortie. Then a second,
heavily escorted trio of the Gruppe's
bombers was intercepted: several Spitfires
in turn latch d on to Feldweb I
chwerdt's bomber, which caught fire and
crashed into the centre of Takali. Finally,
in the late afternoon yet another trio of
Gruppe Ju 8 s, with an equally strong
escort, was attacked and Unteroffizier
Prokesch was lost; hi 3 Staffel bomber
lost a wing to a burst of fire, and piralled
down to a fiery crash in the sea, leaving
just one airman to parachute clear.
n the 18th, seventeen Spitfires flew
off Eagle, and proved to be a very welcome
addition to Malta's defensive force. This
day also witnessed the tran fer of I/KG 54
to rete, leaving KueFIGp 606 and KGr
806 to continue the Luftwaffe's bombing
offensive over Malta. (Sicily's fighter
strength was imilarly depleted by the
despatch of all but II/JG 53 to either
Rus ia or North Africa.)
The need to intercept Axis convoys was
by now paramount, especially since during
April and the beginning of May, the vast
bulk of supplies had got through to
Rommel. But the avy's latest venture to
block the convoy route coming out of
Taranto for Benghazi ended in disaster for
three of the four destroyers that set forth
from Alexandria on 10 May. The Ju 88s of
I/LG 1 based on Crete, and II/LG I
operating out of Eleusis in Greece, were
alerted to the British force' presence next
day. Hauptmann Helbig, Gruppen-
kommandeur of I/LG 1 and a battle-tested
veteran, led his unit south, but then swung
outh-west before turning north-east in a
bid to surprise the warship gunners. His
tactic worked until the warships were
almost underneath the bombers, but then
the wakes of each vessel boiled as they
began to zigzag. When they opened fire,
their relatively light and dispersed AA fire
did not prevent the bomber crews pressing
home their attack; but amonst the latter,
the two near misses and the single hit that
fatally crippled Lively were not noted by
the fru trated airmen as they headed back
to rete. Helbig also led a second sortie in
the evening, following an equally
frustrating attack by II/LG 1. This time
round there were only half the bombers on
hand, a compared to the first sortie.
Diving out of the setting sun, three of
the seven crews achieved at lea t eight
hits on Kipling and Jackal. The former
warship plit in two and quickly went
under; Jackal lingered on until th
following morning, when an attempt to
take her in tow failed and she finally slid,
burning, under the waves.
Malta's Battle Sustained
Between June and mid-August, the
combination of scaled-down enemy
as ault and the continued deliv ry in
particular of Spitfires with which to
maintain a credible aerial defence of
Malta, certainly ustained the morale of
all in Malta. However, the level of food
supplies was such that early
replenishment was deemed necessary,
otherwise starvation would begin to take
effect by the end of the summer. The
avy's fast mine-layer Welshman had been
making run over the past few months,
but what it could cram aboard was of
minimal quantity, even though it was very
welcome.
The Admiralty therefore as embled
convoy from Gibraltar and Alexandria
consisting of six and nine freighters
respectively, both of which sailed for
Malta on the 12th, each with heavy naval
escort. The Gibraltar convoy wa picked
up within twenty-four hour by at least
two Ju 8 s, one of wh ich was judged to be
a 'shadower'; this aircraft was picked out
by Sea Hurricanes from Eagle and
damaged. (AJu88Dof I(F) 122 based in
Libya did crash-land in Algeria, and the
pilot Hauptmann Buesen later died of his
wounds.) Italian submarines and surface
warships added their weight to the aerial
attacks of the Regia Aeronautica, which
deployed a mix of units flying BR 20, Ju
87s, M 79, M 4s and Z 1007s. One
freighter was torpedoed and sunk on the
14th, and a second on the next day, with
two others so badly damaged that they
were deliberately sunk in order for the
available naval escort to concentrate on
getting the two surviving freighter
through safely. The punishment handed
out on the 15th to these freighters had
come from I/KG 54, but the final sinking
of the two crippled vessels was achieved
not by the avy, but by KueHGr 606' Ju
s. It wa another desperate forty-eight
hours, filled with continuous action,
before the remnants of convoy Harj)oan
steamed into Grand Harbour.
The attackers had not escaped lightly,
and between twenty and twenty-five
aircraft had been shot down. KueF1Gr
606 mourned the loss of four crews in
two separate actions. On the 14th nine
crews attacked the carrier Argus, but ran
into the ea Hurricane cover: Leutnants
Koopman and Penske from 3 taffel
were declared MIA along with their
94
crews. Then a dusk attack on the 16th
without benefit of fighter escort proved
equally costly when a third 3 taffel
crew, led by nteroffizier Kaufmann and
Oberleutnant Kehrer from 2 taffel,
failed to return to icily: their bombers
were een by the intercepting Spitfires of
No. 249 quadron to be on fire, and
settling down toward the ea.
Whereas the Gibraltar convoy had
achieved a partial success, its companion
convoy was to suffer a total reverse, with
none of the freighters getting through.
Although los e were suffered, the
ultimate cause of the failure lay in the
appearance of the Italian fleet, against
which the cruiser force - as the largest
avy class of warship - was seriously
deficient. Even before thi development
on the 15th the convoy had fallen hort of
three freighters. The first had been
ordered back to port on the 13th when it
became clear that she could not maintain
the required 13-knot rate of progress.
Soon after a econd freighter had begun to
lag, and its captain wa ordered to divert
to the nearest Allied port, Tobruk. In the
event the vessel was caught by a
combined Ju 87 and Ju 88 formation,
whose bombs blew her apart. Then a
series of evening attacks next day by the
available Ju 8s of I/LG 1 and l/KG 54 out
of Crete took care of a third freighter, and
damaged one more of the precious cargo
vessels. ext morning, reports of the
battle hips Linaria and Vittorio Veneto,
accompanied by three cruisers and a
de troyer screen, all bearing down on the
convoy persuad d Admiral Vian to
reluctantly order a reverse course back to
Alexandria.
The aerial cost to the Luftwaffe over
the entire three-day span of the action
was slight, but sabotage parties
despatched to various airfields in North
Africa and Crete had better fortune.
Almo t a complete taffel of Ju 8s
from l/LG 1 was destroyed or severely
damaged at Heraklion. In addition, one
Gruppe crew was forced to 'ditch', and
although seen to get into their dinghy,
the four airmen were not in it when it
was finally recovered. Malta's ultimate
urvival would continue to be balanced
on a knife-edge unti! August at
lea t, when the most comprehensive
collection of war hips would accom-
pany the largest concentration of
freighters over the Gibraltar route to
the island.
On 22 June, four Beaufighters equipped
with Al Mk IV radar sets arrived on
Malta. Before the month was out, eight
Axis aircraft had been excised from it Air
Force ranks, half of them Ju 8 s. Th
night following the nightfighters' arrival
there was an attack on Luqa, in which the
2/KGr 06 crew of nteroffizier Wolen ki
was brought down; but the 29th wa to
prove more costly. A ortie in the early
morning darkness to bomb Hal Far ended
in a bloody repulse for the seven Ju 88-
strong force. The ame RAF crew shot
down two of the e within minute: fir t
down was Leutnant chrader (3/KueFIGr
606), who offered no resistance to the
massive firepower offered up by the No.
89 Squadron 'Beau'. Then the 2/KueFIGr
606 bomber flown by Unteroffizier
Tegelmann wa imilarly despatched,
although the rear gunner did land hits on
hi opponent before his aircraft took him
and his fellow-airmen to a wat ry grave.
As darkness again enfolded the island, yet
another KueFIGr 606 machine from its
taffel flew into the 'spider's web' of a
Beaufighter's radar equipment and paid
the lethal price: there were no survivors
from Feldwebel Pohler's rew.
July 1942
At the end of June Fl iegerkorps 11 was
again reinforced in it bomber trength by
the Ju 8 s of II and Ill/KG 77, wh ich now
took on the a sault on Malta in the
company of KGr 06 and KueFIGr 606, as
well as the Regia Aeronautica. By the
month-end, all three of the Luftwaffe
units would have felt the 'sting' of the
island's air defence. In addition, the
arrival of a replacement AOC (air officer
commanding) would lead to a
fundamental change in the RAF's
interception tactics.
Throughout July the handful of radar-
equipped Beaufighters continued to build
on the solid results they had achieved
since their arrival. Thus on the 1st they
took off to intercept a small group of
incoming 'hostiles', and this time it was
an /KG 77 aircraft that caught the full
bla t of a Beaufighter's cannon and
mach ine-gun batteries: Leutnan t
Volkmann's Ju 88 rupted in flames, and
there were no survivors. Within forty-
eight hours a econd KG 77 crew was lost,
when Unteroffizier Martin crashed into
the sea in his 4 taffel bomber; and almost
The 'look of death'. Willi Sanftleben's face clearly
shows the effect of combat stress in this shot,
taken a few days prior to his crew's final sortie.
All three airmen were killed on the night of 5 July
1942 following an air battle with a Wellington over
EI Daba. They now lie buried in a military cemetery
at EI Alamein.
immediately after this, the same
Beaufighter shot down Leutnant Kasimir
(2/KueFIGr 606), who e Ju 8 cra hed in
flames on the island. Hauptmann Behlau
(6/KG 77) fell victim to Malta's deadly
nightfighters (5th), while I/KGr 806 lost
Unteroffizier Mellein (7th),
Late on the 20th, two taffel crews
(again KG 77) fell to the AA guns
covering Luqa; Feldwebel Rutcghmann of
I/KueFIGr 606 was also MIA, as was
Feldwebel Vollstedt, whose 3 taffel
bomber had been finally hot down off
Gela following a protracted tail-chase by a
Beaufighter seventy-two hour previously.
On the 19th it was lIKG 54's turn to feel
the lethal impact of the 'Beau': Leutnant
Sack was the unlucky one from the Kette
ofJu8 s that cros ed over Malta on a late
evening raid, his I taffel aircraft
despatched in flames into the sea.
An aircraft on its own was vastly more
vulnerable to interception at night, a
happened to a Ju 80 of 2(F) 123; but
although the solitary raider wa shot
down, its gunner succeeded in severely
95
damaging their assailant before they hit
the sea. That same day (22nd) the RAF
night fighters also shot down Leutnant
krdla and his crew, of 3/KueF1Gr 606.
If the night raids during July were very
costly for the Axis air forces, then the day
sorties were proving equally so. Among
the Ju unit it was KG 77 that felt the
main impact: on the 6th, only one of a
trio of II Gruppe crews got back to it
Sicilian base, Leutnant Boger (5/KG 77)
and an unidentified crew from 4 taffel
being the victims of pitfires. Two days
later another crew wa lost: Hauptmann
Behr (7/KG77 Staffelkapitaen) of III/KG
77; and the following day it was Leutnant
Kleimeier (4/KG 77). And the
horrendous scale of loss showed no sign of
abating on the 10th, when two 5 taffel
crews fell: only one of Unteroffizier Merz's
team survived, though nteroffizier
Schierz and his whole crew was picked up
off the Sicilian coast.
July ended a viciously for the
Geschwader as it had begun. On the 27th
the force of fi ve Jus experienced the
full ffect of the revised tactics recently
introduced by the new Malta AOC, AVM
Keith Park. This doyen of aerial d fensive
skills had arrived in mid-July, and had
almo t immediately placed hi tamp on
operations. The previous practice of
gaining height to the south before taking
up an interception course an
understandable practice, given the often
restricted number of fighter available in
the pa t - was changed to a direct
interception heading. In addition, several
squadrons were now to 'scramble' at the
same time, in what could be regarded as a
loose version of the 'big wing' principle,
the difference being that one quadron
each was as igned to tackling the enemy's
high escort, close escort, and the bombers
themse Ives. Interception like th is also
meant that the bombers would be hit
before they had bombed. The head-on
assault delivered by o. 126 Squadron on
the 27th took out no fewer than three of
the bombers from the close-knit
formation; all belonged to 7 Staffel, and
from the twelve airmen led by
Oberleutnant Zimmer, Leutnant Bohnet
and Feldwebel Heuer, only four urvived
their soaking in the waters north of Malta.
An even more compact formation
composed of three Gescl wader crews
sent out the next day met a similar fate.
This time the Ju 8 of Leutnant Mar-
zahl (6/KG 77) and Unteroffizier
MALTA: TilE ISLAND THORN MALTA: THE ISLA D THORN
This is a Ju 88D-1 that bears the codes for 2 IF1123. The camouflage scheme is a simple split between
desert sand and light blue. with the latter colour lifted up to a mid-point along the rear fuselage. This unit
flew long-range reconnaissance sorties in the Mediterranean, and had the internal fuel capacity
supplemented by external tanks. This aircraft has a 6001 (132gall tank under the wing.
There are two visible features that confirm this as a Ju 88A-4/Torp: the first is the bulged fairing on the
right fuselage that houses the torpedo control equipment. The second - apart from the torpedo itself - is
the much greater depth of the PVC support rack compared to the twin ETC racks fitted to the standard Ju 88
bomber and reconnaissance variants.
ext morning, with all fourteen
freighters still intact, the tempo of assault
was maintained. Once again the FA
fighters put in a sterling performance,
especially ince their overall numbers had
been further reduced by combat loss and
deck accidents. One of the Luftwaffe units
involved this day was LG I with its I and
11 Gruppen. A morning attack hy the
Geschwader ran into opposition from
several sections of FAA Hurricanes,
whose pilots claimed a number of 'kills'.
On' loss at least was confirmed during the
action: Feldwebel Bastian's I/LG I
bomber definitely crashed, since the sole
survivor was picked up by a naval vessel.
A second Ju 88 was picked off hy Lt
'Dickie' Cork as it limped south in a vain
attempt to reach Tunisia. In fact Luftwaffe
records Iist no fewer than seven LG I
losses; the other five were Feldwebel Vogt
and Hauptmann Lueben (l/LG I), with
ll/LG I losing Oberleutnants Gerlach and
Deidlauf, as well as Leurnant Hammann,
whose crew crashed fatally on ardinia.
Once again the scale of human loss was
dreadful, with fewer than twenty of the
thirty-two airmen surviving.
Toward evening the air attacks took
serious effect when Indomicable was struck
by two heavy bombs delivered by Ju 7s of
II tG 3. With these, the carrier lost it
flight-deck facility; but since the main
naval force had been due to turn back to
Gibraltar, its loss was really irrelevant to
the convoy's further progress
l
Much more serious as dusk appeared
was the intervention of bombers, and
Italian submarine and torpedo boats,
which hegan to score against hoth the
freighters and their escorts. One torpedo
struck Ohio and started a fire that was
providentially extinguished by a wave-
swell - the first in a list of incidents
de tined to test ve sel and crew to their
limits over the following two days. No
FAA or RAF fighter were on hand, so
the bombers had only AA fire to contend
with. t least two freighter were fatally
crippled and abandoned, and a third blew
up. The sole aircraft loss was a 3/KG 06
Ju flown by Leutnant Tronicke, though
all the crew were picked up.
ext day proved unfortunate for four
more of the surviving freighters: by
nightfall only seven were still afloat, with
three well detached from the main group.
That number was further reduced by two
on the 13th, and really Ohio should have
been another since she received further
Ills and Jus had no success, and at
some cost: A fire took out the I/KGr
8 6 aircraft flown by Leutnant Ritter, the
fire-stricken Ju 88 ploughing into the
Mediterranean.
2(F) IZZ flown by Unteroffizier Hronek,
brought down by three Hurricanes from
o. 88 Squadron, which descended
from above the high-flying aircraft. A
major attack jointly carried out by He
similar massive scale, including two fleet
carriers, Formidable and VicwTiolls as well
a Eagle. In addition, Furious would
accompany the force close enough to
Malta for the current batch of thirty-eight
Spitfires to be de patched. Two
battleship, seven cruisers and numerou
destroyer were also on haml. Malta itself
would provide an offensive element to
combat enemy naval incursions, in that
additional Beauforts and Beaufighter
were transferred in from Britain. The Axis
aerial response was likely to be solid, ince
around 600 aircraft were available. These
units could strike west from their airfields
on Sicily and Pantelleria, or south from
Sardinia. The ensuing air and sea battle
was to be more hotly contested than had
ever previously been the case over the two
year Mediterranean campaign.
In the event the battle commenced
badly for the British on the 10th, with
the loss to U-73 of Eagle and nearly 25
per cent of the FAA fighter 'screen'. The
Axi air attacks were valiantly challenged
by the FAA crew in their Hurricane,
Fulmar and Martlets, and they managed
to blunt the effect of both the torpedo
and level bomber a saults, as well as
knocking down several aircraft. One of
these was the reconnai sance Ju from
to emphasize this improved ituation, a
further thirty out of thirty-two Spitfires
arrived on the 21st, having flown off
Eagle. However, it perhap worth
mentioning here that the somewhat
restricted diet available to the pilots did
no more than maintain their basic
physical state at a time when peak
condition was nece sary, especially given
the high demands of air combat at any
stage, let alone in the en,battled
circumstances to be found over Malta. Bur
soon this condition would be alleviated,
and the island's defensive and offensive
capabi Iity gi ven a significant boost,
thanks to Operation Pedeswl!
August 1942
Operation Pedescal was the grand title
accorded the latest attempt to run a
convoy to Malta. On this occasion no
fewer than fourteen freighters, including
the oil tanker Ohio, were brought together
at Gibraltar. The naval escort \Va on a
Rottenbecher (4/KG 77) were shot down
in flames, along with all eight airmen.
In the German camp, the Bf 109 e corts
and their Italian contemporaries could,
and did on occasion, hand out the
punishment, with two day (7th and th)
in particular tanding out. The first raid
on the 7th ended with the Bf 109s and Mc
2 2s effectively cutting off the bulk of the
pitfires' attempts to strike at the
bombers; three R F pilots were brought
down (one to friendly AA fire l ), but all
survived. The next foray proved almost as
costly, two Spitfires being shot down, and
two having to crash-land. p to now it
had been just the aircraft that were lost,
but on the third and last raid, the pilots of
both downed 'Spits' were killed. nd on
the following day, four Spitfire and three
pilot losses were recorded. In rerurn, the
Axis units had lost two bomhers and two
fighters over the ame period of forty-
eight hours.
At least the scale of loss in aircraft was
nothing like as critical as had been
experienced up to recent times. nd a if
96 97
MALTA: THE ISLAND THORN MALTA: THE ISLAND THORN
A Schwarm of Ju 88A torpedo-bombers display a variation in standard and Wellenmuster camouflage
schemes. Both variants saw regular service on active operations with several units, including KG 26 and
KG 77. Both Geschwadern operated either in the Mediteranean or in the waters of northern Europe.
punishment - including being struck
amidships by a crashing Ju 87 1 With her
hull even lower than normal in the water,
and requiring steerage guidance from her
escorts, the tanker made a tortuous and
meandering course to her destination.
Her entry into Grand Harbour on the
15th was witnessed by thousands whose
spirits were surely already buoyed up by
the sight of four other freigh ters
unloading. (Incredibly, the Axis air forces
made little or no effort to impede the
vessels dischargi ng.)
Axis Diminuendo
With the arrival of the Pedestal freighters,
Malta's ability not only to fight on, but
also to begin going on the offensive once
again, was assured for the foreseeable
future. By contrast, Rommel's situation
was heading towards a critical phase
which, unbeknown to him and his Afrika
Korps veterans, would never be reversed.
The concentration upon his supply routes
was now stepped up, not only by the
additional Wellington, Beaufort and
Beaufighter numbers flown in, but also by
the Navy's submarines, whose return to
Malta was being effected. Even as Pedestal
was being completed, the first of several
large Axis freighters was torpedoed by one
of the Navy's submarine flotilla, with a
second taken out by Beauforts two days
later (l7th). By the month-end, no fewer
than six more freighters or tankers had
been either sunk, or in one case beached
and later salvaged. The loss of thousands
of tons of fuel carried as cargo in some of
these vessels was of primary concern to
Rommel, whose ability to mount another
offensive that had a chance of succeeding,
following his reversal at EI Alemein in
July, was thereby placed in jeopardy. (The
Battle of Alam el HaIfa would take place
in late August, but its likely success was
already compromised by the afore-
mentioned material losses).
Fighters over Sicily
Offensive operations out of Malta had
naturally been stepped up as August
neared its end, and an additional and
novel aspect was introduced, namely
fighter 'swe ps' over Sicily. These were
now mounted with a view to pressurizing
the enemy airmen at each 'end' of th ir
sorties - in fact a form of daylight
Fernnachtjagd. This policy paid off
handsomely on at least one occasion: for
instance on the 27th, three Spitfire
squadrons headed out to strike at four
airfields. At Comiso, the Ju 88s of !I and
Ill/KG 77 were lifting off and assembling
into formation when they were attacked
by o. 185 Squadron. None of the
German bombers were more than a few
hundred feet up, and they were flying at
moderate speed to accommodate their
laden operational weight; they were
therefore totally vulnerable to the RAF
pilots' onslaught. In quick succession, no
fewer than three aircraft from 4/KG 77
were brought down; no survivors emerged
98
from the crews of Oberleutnant Koeh I
and Unteroffizier Diestler, but Feldwebel
Mayr's crew were more fortunate. Also
fortunate was the 5/KG 77 crew led by
Unteroffizier Emanuel, emerging with no
serious injury from their Ju 88; and so was
an anonymous 8/KG 77 crew, whose pilot
crash-landed his shot-up charge on the
airfield
September 1942.. The Tide Turns
During September, the pressure was
maintained upon the Axis shipping lanes,
and in figurative terms, the tide was
running against the enemy, as evidenced
on the 2nd when an Albacore torpedo-
biplane delivered its 'tin fish' into a
freighter laden with tanks and transports;
this resulted in its beaching. Later that
day, RAF aircraft and a submarine sank
two more freighters bearing fuel and other
suppl ies. Th is posi ti ve trend continued at
regular intervals throughout the
remainder of the month. The net result
was to leave Rommel unable to take
further offensive action against the 8th
Army; in addition, the precarious
logistical state of his forces made it more
than likely that they would be unable to
retain their positions in the event of a
counter offensive.
October Offensive
October commenced with Feldmarschall
Kesselring sanctioning an intensive air
offensive against Malta in the hope of
inhibiting attacks against the Axis
convoys. KG 54 and KG 77 were now at
full three Gruppe strength, although the
additional sub-unit in each case was a
retitled former Sicilian-based unit; thus
KGI' 806 became Ill/KG 54, and KueFIGr
606 changed to I/KG 77. With Il/LG I on
hand, as well as the He Ills of !I/KGr 100
and the bomber units of the Regia
Aeronautica, the enemy possessed a
sizeable bombing force. However, it was
opposed by a well established fighter and
ground defensive system, in addition to
which the raids launched rarely amounted
to more than a handful of heavily escorted
bombers.
The latest offensive was not fully
launched until the 11 th, when five
separate raids came in, all but the last
consisting of less than ten bombers. The
latter attack was made by thirty aircraft of
KG 54 and KG 77: it occurred at dusk,
and was made without any escort at all.
The intercepting Spitfires duly shot down
five from the formation, all from KG 54.
The Stab and all three Staffeln of I
Gruppe contributed one crew each:
Leutnant Scheller, Oberleutnant
Palliardi, Unteroffizier Schmitt and
Leutnant Wittenberg respectively.
Schmitt actually brought his Ju 88 back,
but crash-landed at Catania; he was the
sole crew survivor. Then a 9/KG 54 pair of
bombers collided over Comiso; one of
these, piloted by Feldwebel Ohrt, crashed,
killing the entire crew. This raid was the
last in which so many bombers were
despatched, so it was little wonder that
the overall attempt to carry out
Kesselring's requirements fell far short of
his aim.
Next day a similar number of raids were
launched, with only the first involving
double figures of bombers, and one
involving only fighters. With less than
forty individual bomber sorties recorded, it
must have been very chastened
Geschwadern personnel who counted the
cost at the day's end - no fewer than seven
crews MIA, and four of these crash-landed
on their return
l
!II/KG 54 had four crews
knocked off its strength, including the Ju
88 of Leutnant Menny in whose 8 Staffel
machine was Major Stein (Gruppen-
kommandeur); two other crews crash-
landed. I and II/KG 77 shared the
Geschwader losses, with two and one MIA
crews respectively, while two aircraft from
III Gruppe crash-landed, one being a total
'write-off'. The results of these last forty-
eight hours must have disheartened even
the most fervent believer in a positive
outcome accruing from the offensive
l
By the th iI'd day of the offensi ve,
Kesselring was convinced of its basic
failure, but the multi-raid pattern was still
maintained over the ensuing few days,
albeit at a continuing painful cost in
aircraft and personnel. The loss of aircraft
was a serious enough matter, but arguably
more costly was the loss of experienced
airmen, as exemplified on the 17th. The
first raid this day involved seven Ju 88s of
KG 77, whose approach was challenged
from directly ahead by o. 126 Squadron.
The ever-present danger of collision
inherent in this attack method was now
tragically demonstrated by FIt Lt Jones,
whose Spitfire impacted with Major
Paepcke's bomber, killing both pilots
instantly. (Paepcke was the 11 Gruppe
Kommandeur, and his aircraft's loss was
just one of three suffered during the
sortie.)
The second raid around mid-day was
initiated by II/LG I, and unlike the
preceding raid, it did get through to the
target, Takali. Of the eight bombers, only
99
six regained their airfield at Catania. The
Stab II aircraft flown by the
Gruppenkommandeur Major Kollewe was
shot down off Valletta, with the pilot one
of two fatalities. Leutnant Fritscher's Ju 88
staggered back to within sight of Sicily
with an engine on fire, but then fell into
the sea, leaving no survivors. Both
Kommandeure were holders of the
Knight's Cross and therefore experienced
airmen, and it was the loss of the combat
expertise of such airmen that would be
felt by the Luftwaffe in the months and
years ahead.
On 23 October, General Montgomery
launched his protracted and costly, but
ultimately successful offensive, which was
to drive his adversary's troops out of Egypt
by November. In the weeks surrounding
either side of the battle's inception, the
torpedo and strike aircraft on Malta
continued to harry the Axis bid to run
supplies through to North Africa. A
particular success was the snaring of the
large tanker Pros/Jer/Jina off Tobruk on the
27 tho In a swi ft change of fortune the
vessel nearly survived what was the final
torpedo launched at her: the missile was
seen to hit the hull and run alongside for
a second; but it then detonated, turning
its target into an inferno. (Three aircraft
were lost during the actual strike, and
tragically a Beaufort and a Bisley collided
on the way home).
At the end of October, Malta received
its latest infusion of air defensive strength
when twenty-nine Spitfires were ferried
out and launched off Furious. Within ten
days of their arrival the spirits of the
island fortress and its personnel were
raised even higher with the news of
Operation Torch, the Anglo-American
invasion of north-west Africa. No longer
was it a stark choice of survival or
subjugation, rather a question of when the
siege was likely to be permanently lifted.
The George Cross island had played a key
role in first sustaining the battle against
the Axis powers, before permanently
regaining the strategic initiative.
And so Mussolini's vaunted dream of
'Our Sea' (Mare Nostrum) had finally
turned to ashes, and in so doing had added
to his and his Axis partner's list of military
failures in World War II.
BARBA ROSSA
The mottled cloud pattern of a Russian summer sky in 1942 forms a fine backcloth for Ju 88s of KG 3 'Blitz'.
The bomber in the foreground bears the Geschwader emblem under the cockpit. Refuelling hoses are in
position. Note the extra machine-gun protruding out of the lower nose panel.
From early May and well into June 1941,
the Luftwaffe began to transfer the bulk of
it units based in France and the Low
Countries, g nerally to airfields in eastern
Germany or Poland. Hitler was planning
for the invasion of the Soviet nion, but
the average German airman had no
indi ation of what was in store for him,
and so felt no particular apprehension.
Several units were relocated in the far
north of orway during this period, in
particular from KG 30. At the time, Peter
Stahl was with 6/KG 3 based at ilze-
Rijen in Holland, and by this tage of the
war was a very experienced pilot. The day
following what had been a particularly
devastating attack on London, his Gruppe
was ordered north to Aalborg; but toward
the end of the month hi taf{elwa again
tran ferred to tavangar. Weather
conditions on 23 May were poor, but this
did not prevent a 'higher authority' in the
Luftwaffe chain of command from
insisting on the Gruppe taking off;
however, it was undoubtedly the we::lther
that caused three aircraft to crash, with
serious injury to one of the crews.
From this strategic Norwegian airfield
the crews were briefed to disrupt Bri tish
shipping traffic in the North ea, and
the region stretching from the north of
cotland to the Faroe Islands was to
feature prominently in the ruppe's
sorties. At this stage in the year crews
had the advantage of the fullest mea ure
of daylight, but weather conditions were
far from perfect: low cloud and rain were
re orded as the norm, ami resulted in
such poor vi ibility that the chances of a
crew flying blindly into a cliff or hill a
they sk irted the cotti h coastl ine were
quite high.
On 3 June, tahl and two other crews
were sent out to pick up a convoy that had
been reported in the area; they were
completing the final leg of a 'box search'
on an east rly course from Cape Wrath
out through the Pentland Firth when they
located the convoy. The late ev ning
twilight and low cloud base now worked
CHAPTER NINE
Barbarossa
in the Luftwaffe airmen's favour as they
pulled up, and fanned out into a loose V-
formation. Each wooped upon a
merchantman, with tahl's target the last
in the left-hanu column. A few scattered
AA shots were directed at the Ju 88s
when they were finally spotted, but this
defensive fire was too late, and all three
bombers sped homewards unscathed.
Stahl's victim however, according to his
observer, had absorbed one of the four
released bombs amiuships, and was
emitting a huge black pall of smoke.
Three days later, five crews were
despatcheu to attack a large convoy in
Loch Ewe. On this occasion, tahl
eparated from hi companions on the
approach to the target. s the others
dived in the face of the AA defences, he
noted one particular ve sel moored on it
own, and delivered his boml s on this one,
again with success, at least according to
the crew.
On 5 June Stahl completed a courier
flight to and from Oslo-Fornebo, where he
picked up four packages of documents. His
non-commissioned officer status was
mocked by a staff officer, who queried why
someone of suitable rank had not taken
his place. During his time in Oslo, Stahl
sneaked a look at the typewritten list of
contents - all of which referred to Russia'
This totally mystified him, given his
knowledge of the current oviet- azi
Pact, which in his eyes was not under any
visible strain. Stahl's attitude on this topic
was probably typical of most German
service personnel.
A Deceptive Beginning
On 22 June, Operation Barbarossa erupted
violently, with three armies striking along
the entire western Russian border. A total
of 145 Wehrmacht divisions were
available on a 3,000km (2,000 mile) front
extending from the North Cape of
Norway to the Carpathian mountains.
Added to th is figure were a further forty
700
divisions provided by Finland and
Rumania. Army Group orth was tasked
with striking north-east towards
Leningrad, Army Group Centre was
allocated Moscow as its ultimate goal,
while the grain-rich Ukraine and the oil-
fields of the Caucasus were the focal
points for Army Group South. The
Russian divisional strength was stated to
be 246, but the quality of these units'
soldiers and equipment was confidently
regarded as inferior to the invading forces.
Four Luftflotten - Nos. 1,2,4 and 5 -
provided aerial offen ive support. The
former Luftflotte posses 'ed two full
Ge chwadern operating the Ju (KG 76
and KG 77) along with I and Ill/KG I.
Luftflotte 2 contained the Jus from I
and Ill/KG 3 within its ranks, while the
full complement of KG 51 as well as I and
II/KG 54 came under Luftflotte 4. The
smallest CUlT nt bomber element of the Ju
participating in the attack was 5/KG
3 operating under Luftflotte 5. In
addition there were six Fernaufklaerer
Staffeln spread between the Luftflotten -
I(F)/I20,3 and 4 (F)/I21 and 1,4 and 5
(F)/I22 - and Kustenfliegergruppe 806
unuer the command of Fliegerfuehrer
B::lltic.
Out of an overall inventory of 4, 82
aircraft, the Luftwaffe was deploying a
fraction under 2,000 for this gigantic
undertaking, of which marginally over 60
per cent were operational. It is perhaps
worthy of mention here that German
involvement in what had evolved into a
multi-front ituation was already creating
the ground for a fatal over-stretching of
the nation' logistical capacity to take a
positive part in the conflict. However,
this ultimately terminal scenario was
three years away in time, and a worlu
away in the minds of the l azi hierarchy as
th ir ground and air force stormed into
Russian-occupied territory as well as its
hinterlanu. Within less than three weeks
the unit of Army Group North were
more than halfway towards Leningrad,
and Army Group Centre had destroyed
elements of four Russian armies in a huge
'pocket' at Minsk. Although the progress
of rmy Group South was nothing like as
effective either in terms of territory
conquered or casualties inflicted, its
Panzers and infantry were pushing the
Russians steadily back towards Kiev.
For the Luftwaffe, the first day of
Barbarossa proved extremely fruitful. Its
bomber an I ground-attack crew were
amazed to discover their adversary's
aircraft regularly lined up in almost
parade-ground fash ion, so presenti ng
themselves for mass de truction either
through bombing or strafing attack. The
Bf I 9s experienced equal success, and
where the Polikarpov 1-16 'Ratas' or 1-153
'Chaikas' did manage to get into the air,
they proved no match for their combat-
hardened assailant. It was the ame sorry
story for the crews of the Russian bomber
who managed to 'scramble' from airfields
that hau escaped the Luftwaffe front-line
assaults and were still operational, or were
positioned further back in Soviet territory.
Thus the lumbering Tupolev SB-2 twin-
engine and Sukhoi U-2 single-engine
attack aircraft were shot out of the sky in
sizeable numbers as they attempted to
bring a belated degree of pressure against
the Germans. (The enormous scale of
Luftwaffe success was acknowledged by
post-war Soviet historians, who stated
that even by noon on 22 June around
1,200 aircraft were lost, of which roughly
one-third had been destroyed in the air,
with the remainder wiped out on the
ground.)
The experience of KG 30 crews in their
Ju s wa typical, although perhaps more
costly compared to other Ge chwadern.
For the previous thre weeks they had
been based at Le:any and Krosno in
Poland. Then in the afternoon of 21 June
the aircraft were bombed up for what was
officiall y descri bed as another 'practice'
run for the groundcr ws. But in the
late evening the aircrews were placed on
'alert', and at midnight given a
briefing when the full facts of the
707
impending offensive were revealed. The
Ge chwader' proportion of operational
aircraft - 91 out of 1 5 - was way above
the average; but it would need to be, in
the face of what would occur on 22 June.
The roar of massed gunfire shattered the
still, clear morning air: fifteen mil utes
later the Geschwader took off. A total of
six Russian airfields in a complex around
the city of Lvov (then in Poland but now
part of Russia) were struck, with claims for
more than 100 machines destroyed during
the course of eighty individual sorties. But
despite the overwhelming degree of air
superiority, izeable losses were never-
theless incurred. Though undoubtedly
stunned by the initial appearance of the
Luftwaffe, the airfield ground defences
soon responded with a pirited, if
somewhat disorganized degree of fire, and
the Rus ian fighter that manage I to
evade the Bf 109s also put up a gallant
defence. But well over half of the fifteen
German aircraft that were lost in this
action were almost certainly blown up by
their own bombs.
The 0-2 fragmentation bomb was
introduced during this offensive. The e
2kg (4.5Ib) anti-personnel weapon were
mounted in containers that were fuzed to
BARBA ROSSA BARBARO A
A pair of SC1000 bombs with their distinctive Kopfrillgs and circular fin supports provide a back support for
this slumbering airman. He is part of KG 1 'Hindenburg', and his unit is based on a snow-strewn
airfield in Russia.
This precise line-up of Ju 88s belongs to KG 77, to judge by the 3Z codes on the aircraft second from the
left. The photograph was probably taken very early on in the Russian campaign, and indicates the initially
complete degree of air superiority then enjoyed by the luftwaffe - a situation that would not,
however, last for ever.
On the central Front, 1 and II/KG 3 in
particular were operating a twin Form of
assault. The bulk of its equipment was
compri ed of Ju 8 A bombers, which at
this initial stage of the campaign were
mainly involved in ground-support
operations that permitted the Wehrmacht
to penetrate or by-pass strong-points or
other obstructions. A Iso on the
Geschwader's inventory was a number of
Ju 88C models. The armament borne by
this 'solid nose' variant of the Junkers
design now proved ideal For attack upon
transport in general, and the Russian rail
system in particular.
The bombers of KG 3 Further again
proved to be of vital use during the First
Few days of the campaign. Bre t-Litov k,
lying ju t inside the Russian border, was a
Fortre s town whose position athwart the
main route to Moscow deemed it early
capture es entiaI. It massive citadel walls
proved impervious to mo t of the tandard
ordnance dropped on the structure. On 2
June, sev n of KG 3's aircraFt were loaded
with large, high-explosive bombs
(probably th PCI4 0 - armour-piercing
bombs de igned For use against shipping or
FortiFications) and headed out For the
citadel. The bombs were delivered with
The Central Front
air attacks were still launched against the
Fonres; and elsewhere, Rostov and
Taganrog on the River Donets w re
pounded by II and IV Gruppe operating
out of Zaporo hye and Bobruysk (wher
the latter unit was to remain until Augu t
1943). III/KG 51 was at ikolayev, From
where it crews would operate until the
end of March, when it would withdraw to
Odessa For reFresher training. I/K 51
continued to fly From Tiraspol, but
preceded 111/ KG 5 I in being withdrawn
For reFresher training during January.
By March 1942 the winter was
reluctantly surrendering to the rain and
mud of spring. These conditions now
imposed a diFferent set of problems on the
LuFtwaFFe, principally in respect of the
crews who experienced diFFiculty in
taxiing, taking oFF and landing in the Fa e
of the waterlogged surfaces. Groundcrews
also had to take extra care to ensure that
vital machinery was kept clean - a none-
too-easy task considering the liberal
plattering of muddy water staining and
polluting the airframe in general.
to as ist the Wehrmacht in the bid to
stabilize its Front lines. In the case of
Army Group South, th capture of the
Fortress of Sevastopol, the sole remaining
vital element of the rimea as yet intact,
was postponed until the spring. However,
irritability and even spasms of weeping as
the ense of constant isolation in the
middle of nowhere became over-
whelming.
In spite of all these hard hips, the
airmen of KG 51 typically did their best
Luftwaffe 'Flexibility'
o sooner had III/KG 51 arrived at Balti
than II/KG 51 was in turn ordered back to
Wiener- eu tadt For reFresher training,
on 8 September. However, it would be the
beginning of December beFore the Gruppe
appeared back in Russia.
The Full onset of the Russian winter
brought hoth the Wehrmacht and the
LuFtwaFFe virtually to a halt. For the
LuFtwaFFe, the physical hardships
imposed upon all personnel - but
particularly the groundcrew - were
dreadFul. Proper winter clothing was
oFten lacking, but even when it was
available, the mechanic were hard
pre sd to carry out work on precision
parts of the aircraFt since the numbing
temperature adversely aFFecte I their
hands. Heater equipment For the engines
proved barely adequate in order to get
them going For the sortie start-up and
take-oFF point; accommodation was also
barely adequate in the Face of the
weather condition of blizzard, ice and
snow. Furthermore, a more subtle Form of
pressure applied to the personnel's Frame
of mind: a mood of melancholy regularly
afflicted the men, maniFesting itselF in
even to the point of using their aircraft as
a ram as a Final de perate method of
assault. Leutnant nrau of Ill/KG 51 was
making a convoy sortie in the Black Sea
on 15 August when Four Fighters engaged
hi Ju . One of the attackers closed in,
only For return Fire to Force the pilot to
bale out. However, he had barely got out
when the Fighter rammed the bomber'
tail, shearing off the starboard elevator
completely, and twisting the other
elevator 20 degrees upward, as well as
twisti ng the rudder. Th is sent the Ju 88
into a climb For nearly 30 minutes, until at
around 3,000m (10,000Ft) Unrau
managed to level off by reducing power.
He held course For the Rumanian coast, at
which stage a Further distortion of the tail
surFace occurred. Convinced of an
imminent break-up of the tail se tion,
which would possibly trap the crew as a
result of centriFugal Force during the
aircraFt's inevitable Fall to earth, the order
was given to jettison both the rear canopy
and the entrance hatch - and jump' All
Four airmen got out saFely and parachuted
to a Friendly reception From Rumanian
soldier and civilians who were on ham!.
'Last Resort' Tactics
by the majority of krainians at this
period - and persuade the civilian to
conceal him within his house. Here the
airman remained until 5 July when the
area was Finally overrun by a Wehrmacht
armoured-car unit.
For the First halF of July KG 51 took part
in the advance upon the krainian
capital Kiev and the trategic River
Dnieper; this involved a variety of c1ose-
upport operations again t road and river
bridges, rail junctions and airFields
extending north-east of Kiev and south-
east From that city to herkassy on the
Dnieper. In true LuFtwaFfe tradition the
three operational Gruppen (l V Gruppe
was based in Wiener- eustadt, where it
perFormed a trai ni ng and reFresher role)
were to be Found on diFFerent airfields - in
II/KG 51 's case, this was well south of its
Fellow units. While Ill/KG 51 and
I/KG51 occupied Lutsk and Vladimar
directly west of Kiev, II/KG 51 operated
out of Balti in Rumania, some 240km
(15 miles) south ofthe Russian city. On
15 July, I/KG 51 was ordered to transFer to
Zilistea in south-cast Rumania. Three
days later, Ill/KG 51 was de patched back
to Wiener- eu tadt For reFresher training,
a process that was duly completed on 29
August when the unit returned to the
Ostfront to share Balti with the II Gruppe
crew.
During III/KG 51 's absence the other
two Gruppen had played a material part in
the Forcing of the Dnieper at Barislav. A
Further advance into the Crimea and the
Caucasus was dependent upon the
bridging of what was a major waterway,
some 130m (800yd) wide at this point.
Amazingly, Wehrmacht sappers succeeded
in constructing a pontoon bridge in the
Face of Fierce ground resistance that
inflicted heavy casualties. The presence of
constant air and artillery support was vital
in ensuring the sappers' effort were not
still-bound. Thus was the Foundation laid
For the Wehrmacht to 'trike into the
southern reaches of Russia, with the huge
and vital oilField in that region a prime
target For 'eizure and ·upply.
Although the Soviet Air Force's
equipment was at the time a mixture of
obsolete and mediocre aircraFt designs,
there was no doubting the courage and
even Fanaticism of many Russian airmen,
Evasion
blow apart in mid-air, and the bombs were
in turn Fuzed to explode just above the
ground or on impact; the lethal range of
the bombs' explosive content wa around
12m (4 Ft). The danger to theJu8 crews
would occur in the event of containers
jamming in the pecial rack mounted
within the bomb-bays, because the
slighte t of jolt would then be sufficient
to detonate the bomb or bombs, with
inevitable consequences For the aircraFt in
question, and most likely its crew.
By the end of the month the SD-2 had
been totally removed From operations,
by whi h time the number of KG 51
air raFt available had been reduced by
almost two-thirds. Even more serious
than the loss of aircraft was the loss of a
number of experienced crews over this
nine-day pcriod.
The majority of airmen who survived the
hooting down of their aircraFt inevitably
Fell into Russian hands, but there were
some exceptions to this shadowy Fate. For
example, during an attack on Tarnopol
airfield an /KG 5\ Ju had just
completed its bombing run when it wa
'bounced' by Four 'Ratas'. Leutnant
Bretschneider brought his charge in For a
Forced landing, and aFter all Four airmen
clambered out, the aircraFt was blown up
by selF-destruct charges. Later that day the
crew was surrounded by a Russian pol ice
detachment, and all but the pilot stood up
in surrender. The response was a burst of
Fire that killed one of them, whereupon
O b e r ~ Idwebel Scheurich and the other
survivor attempted to run clear; but only
Scheurich managed to evade capture aFter
Feigning dead and crawling into bushes
lining a small stream.
It took cheurich six days to Fi nd
relative aFety. During the First Four days
he couldn't Find any Form of Food, and was
Finally Forced to cat clover flowers or their
leave. On the FiFth day he stumbled
acro, a woman in the Fields who gave
him bread and water. On the day aFter this
he had reached a physical and mental
nadir and was all but ready to surrender,
but had th Fortune to run across a
krainian who ama:ingly turned out to
have erved in the Austrian army during
World War II Scheurich was able to play
upon the man's antipathy towards the
Soviet authorities - an antipathy shared
702 703
BARB ROSSA BARB ROS A
Snapped from beneath another Ju 88 is a fellow Junkers bomber belonging to 6/KG 3 'Blitz'. This particular
Geschwader received its first Ju 88A-5s just as Operation Barbarossa was launched on 22 June 1941; all
three of its Gruppen served on the Eastern Front right up to 1945. lorenz blind-landing aerials are
seen on the aircraft in the foreground.
Russian authorities had no time in which
to eith l' destroy or organize the safe
removal of industrial plant.
In addition, elf-innicted logisti al
problems were now well to the fore. The
huge geographic scale of advance had
placed an inordinate strain upon the
German supply facilitie, which were
simply not equal to the task. The ever-
increasing distance from Germany to the
main railway points and their associated
supply dumps was just one debilitating
factor. dded to this was the need to
move the infantry that would support the
Panzer units, but for which the available
motorized transport strength was totally
unequal - especially since it was required
to transport materials as well. (It is now
recognized that the Wehrmacht's
transport system rei ied as much, if not
more, on horse-drawn equipment.) The
need to supply fuel and ammunition to
the Panzer and arti lIery f,)I"Ces almost
completely exhausted the supply-dump
capacity, thus preventing a build-up of
stocks for future ::Idvances, let alone major
operations. For these reasons the
Wehrmacht was largely forced into a
tatic po ition during most of ugust - a
loss of time which it could ill afford, with
the rains and mud of autumn looming
over the horizon.
Just as the Allies discovered following
D- Day, the faster the rate of advance, the
greater is the need for re-supply of fuel,
ammunition, food and other vital
705
'scorched earth' was largely ensuring that
little or nothing of value would fall into
the invaders' hands. huge range of
facilities from crop to electric power
stations and barrage-dams were burned or
blown up - though there were exceptions
to this, a classic example being the
capture of the city of r I in October; this
was achieved so swiftly that the trams
were still running, and the citizens were
waving to what they assumed were their
own tank as the Panzers trundled
through the street' In thi in tance the
Below: This burnt-out aircraft is only recognizable
as a Ju 88 from the unscathed rear fuselage. Metal
VDM propellers were a standard feature on A-1 and
A-5 variants. although these were also applied to
early production Ju 88A-4s, pending supply of the
wooden VS-11 units. The photo was taken in
northern Russia, probably during the middle of 1941.
Above: This anonymous airman's smile is probably
concealing great relief as he stands within the
sizeable hole shot out of the stabilizer. The damage
to the KG 54 Ju 88A was caused by an AA shell
during a sortie flown in July 1941.
Two factors were increasingly to intrude
upon the German prospect of wift victory
in the Easr. Fi rst, the Soviet pol icy of
Diminishing Returns
extend to the defence of it capital.
large number of earchlight batteries
added to the barrage put up by equall y
numerous AA batterie, and made
conditions extra difficult for the attackers.
The resultant bomb concentration was in
fact indifferent to weak, but the total of
just over 100 tons of high explosives and
just over half that weight of incemliari s
was unlikely to achieve a major effect
within uch a huge metropolitan region.
The following two nights witnessed raids
by a similar strength force, after which
numbers fell quickly away; by the end of
1941 over 80 per cent of the seventy-six
completed raids involved derisory
number of bomber - generally they did
not exceed ten' This di sipation of
Luftwaffe trength accordingly achieved
little or nothing of strategic value.
704
Moscow was not only regarded as worthy
of as ault by Hitler on the ground that it
was the capital city of Bolshevi m: it was
also a major industri::d, communi ations
and military centre. By mid-July Goering'
apparent la k of reaction to his Fuehrer's
avowed intention of razing the city to the
ground brought scorn upon Der Dicke's
head. Hi reaction was to order attacks to
commence at once, despite the fact that
his twin-engine bomber force was already
in danger of being over- tretdled by its
current duties. On 22 July 'Pathfinders' of
Kampfgruppe 100 and Ill/KG 26 in their
He Ills preceded a motley force of just
over 12 bombers, in luding elements of
KG 3 and K 54.
But whatever the poor overall state of
the Red Army, its deficiencies did not
Moscow
sufficient ::Iccuracy to breach the walls, so
ensuring the subsequent entry and
occupation of the structure by ground
forces. The drive to the Ru sian capital
now resumed its course via Minsk and
molensk.
The huge encirclement battles around
Bialystok and Minsk were completed by
9 July, to be swiftly followed by a second
such action around Smolensk. But at
the end of July an estimated 400,00
soldiers were POWs, there were
countless numbers of dead, and some
4,500 armoured vehicles and 1,900 guns
were destroyed - and worse was sti II to
come in October. The Luftwaffe
bombers played their part in all of the e
Blitzhieg manoeuvres wh ile ti II
managing a degree of strategic bombing
on oviet facilities, especially in and
around Moscow.
BARBA ROSSA BARBA ROSSA
Below: One of the interim 'Mister variations involved the combination of a Bf 109F, and
either a Ju 88A-4 or later a Ju 88C-G. This photograph depicts the latter combination,
with both aircraft bearing factory codes. This was given the title 'Mistell', and numbers
of these were used by KG 101 in late June 1944 against shipping acting in support of the
Normandy landings.
Above: Among the hundreds of intact Luftwaffe aircraft found
by the advancing Allied armies were a number of 'Mister
combinations. In this instance, a Ju 88G-10 bears a
FW 190A-8. The photograph was taken at Stassfurt, following
occupation by the US Army.
Left: The elongated fuselage
of a Ju 88G-10 is well
depicted as it sits on Stassfurt
airfield, along with its FW
190A-8 'controller' machine.
This particular combination
was one of several Ju
88/fighter variations used for
training purposes prior to the
trainee pilot being cleared to
fly 'Mister combat sorties.
The overall weights of these barely exceeded that of afully laden Ju BB, which was to
prove adeceptively easy introduction for the trainee pilot sitting atop the Ju BB. In addi-
tion, the instructor could countermand any uncertainty on his part, while he also had the
responsibility for landings. It would be afar more daunting duty for the trainee pilot
when he was left alone at the controls. For astart, his cockpit was crammed almost to
overflowing with both his own aircraft's instrumentation and that required for control of
the Ju BB. In the latter's case its rudder and elevators were linked up via servomotors
and atwo-axis automatic flight control facility, but the ailerons were fixed in position.
At the point of release a 'flick' switch fired the struts' explosive charges after the arm-
ing switch had activated the explosive content. The operational Ju BBs had their nose
canopies removed and replaced by aspike-shaped hollow-charge warhead capable of
penetrating up to Bm (26ft) of steel or 20m (65ft) of ferro-concrete. Four large cap-nuts
secured the charge to the cockpit bulkhead.
The problem of handling this extremely heavy combination at take-off - some 50per
cent above aJu BB's normal all-up weight - was exacerbated by the controlling pilot
having his vision badly impaired during the initial part of the take-off run. Not only that.
but the sluggish reaction of the Ju BB's rudder tended to increase the risk of the pilot
being unable to control any swing that might develop during take-off. Then his fighter's
position several yards above the Ju BB meant that its engine was producing an addition-
al turning motion that all too easily added to the Ju BB's natural tendency to swing to
port. Finally there was ever arisk of the JuBB's tyres proving vulnerable to bursting
under the pressures imposed upon them, while any cancellation of the sortie once in the
air required the JuBB's release - there was no doubt that the undercarriage would never
withstand the strain on touch-down!
The Luftwaffe had not given up on the power-station plan of attack, even by early
1945 when the distance to be flown was likely to involve anything up to twelve hours'
flight duration. In the event, aUSAAF bomber strike against Rechlin, where the main
'Mister strike-force was based, destroyed most of the aircraft, and Operation
Eisenhammerwas dealt its deathblow. The need to fly practice sorties also left the
trainee pilots wide open to marauding BUSAAF fighters, as proved the case on 4Febru-
ary. Then, the P-51 sof the 55FG ambushed several of the combinations and dealt with
them accordingly.
The few attacks launched against the Oder bridges were made by KG 200. The over-
whelming degree of Soviet air superiority dictated that the Mistel combinations flew at
minimum altitude as long as possible before climbing to the attack altitude. On approach
to the target the pilot assumed adive angle of 30 degrees. Then, using his Revi gun-
sight. he attempted to release his 'bomb' at the briefed height of some 900m (3,000ft)
while attaining an airspeed of around 650kmph (400mph). This was fine in theory, but
not so sound should the target enjoy AA support, as in the case of the Oder bridges. The
first sortie on 31 March, for example, involved six Mistel units, of which only three actu-
ally completed their attacks. None was lost, but the results proved disappointing, with
one near miss and two unrecorded strikes. Of the others, one Ju BB was accidentally
released after take-off, one was jettisoned when its undercarriage failed to retract, and
one suffered progressive engine failure, once more forcing its release I Subsequent sor-
ties up to 30 April proved to be equally inconclusive.
Beethoven/Mister
During World War II the main 'flying-bomb' weapon used by the Germans was the Vol.
However, the Luftwaffe also brought Into service asecond such missile that involved a
standard aircraft as opposed to the remote control function of the 'Doodlebug'. Whereas
the V-l was envisaged as aform of general assault upon built-up regions, what was
given the title 'Beethoven/Mister was brought into being for attacks on specific targets,
first of all the Royal Naval base at Scapa Flow, and then on power stations around
Moscow and Gorky. However, in practice the Russian bridgeheads on the River Oder in
March/April 1945 proved the main practical focus for assault. apart from ahandful of
sorties against Allied vessels in the Channel during late June 1944.
Ironically the concept owed its creation to the pre-war Short/Mayo 'Mercury/Maia'
flying boat combination, but with much more lethal intention behind its function. The
standard Luftwaffe bombers did not have the necessary combination of range and bomb-
carrying capacity to bring truly heavy calibre bombs to bear effectively upon their adver-
saries' capital ships that were using Scapa Flow.
And so the proposal was raised that an unmanned bomber laden with explosives be
combined with asmaller, piloted aircraft positioned on top. The pilot would have suffi-
cient joint control to fly the combination to the target area from where he would release
his charge and (hopefully) direct the latter onto asuitable target with positive results.
The ultimate suitable combination was arrived at via aseries of test flights involving
ever-increasing aircraft sizes and power. First came aDFS 230A glider supporting a
Klemm KI 35a sports aircraft, but towed off the ground by aJu 52. The next two stages
involved the same gilder type, but with first aStosser 56 and then aBf 109 used as the
power source; the latter unit proved capable of taking off and landing unaided. It was
then that the Ju BB became an integral part of the experiment. The aircraft were Aor G
model airframes, and were all 'time-expired' in terms of regular operational service, but
were more than capable of performing what was aform of 'Kamikaze' swan-song. The
controlling aircraft were either Bf 109Fs or FW 190As.
The support frame for the fighter comprised three struts. Two were mounted above the
Ju BB's main spar to link up under the fighter's forvvard fuselage; the third was placed at
apoint directly below the fighter's rear fuselage. This latter fitting was equipped with a
'buckle' joint at the top, the intention being for the strut's explosive release charge to be
detonated asplit second ahead of the main strut charges. In this way the resultant
downward motion of the tail would help the fighter to climb clear of the Ju BB.
The penultimate development stage involved both aircraft being manned, and the fol-
lowing series of combinations came into existence:
Ju BBA-4/Bf 109F-4 (Mistel Sl trainer)
Ju BBG-l/FW 190A-IMistel S2 trainer)
Ju BBA-4 or G-l O/FW 190A-6, A-B Mistel S3A trainer)
Ju BBH-4/FW190A/F (Mistel 53B)
Ju BBG-1 0or H-4/FW 190A-B or F-B (Mistel S3C trainer)
All of these were paralleled by fully armed equivalents for active operations, along
with the Mistel 3B, which consisted of either aJu BBG-l 0or H-4 controlled by an FW
190A6 or A-B.
(Note: The quoted variations in both the Ju 88 and the FW 790 details are drawn from
several sources.)
106 107
gaining height in the process of making a
series of continuous tight turns. When up
to around 900m (3,OOOft), and having
reached the limit of his engines'
'emergency boost' facility, he put his
bomber into a steep dive and thankfully
ped away from hi pursuers.
Although the basic operational plan of
attack was for the formation to split up
and each crew select its own target, there
were occasions when the chance of heing
'bombed' out of the sky arose. tahl was
flying behind Leutnant toffregen, the
Staffelkapitaen, during yet another sortie
to Warlamovo. Each bomber was carrying
250 and 500kg (550 and 1,100Ib)
fragmentation bombs, and as tahl
pushed over into his dive and
concentrated on his bombsight, he wa
distracted by a shout from his crew.
Directly above and extremely close was
another Ju 88
1
Stahl now steepened his
dive in a bid to out-distance the other
bomber, any lateral evasive action being
likely to lead to a collision with one of the
still close-packed formation. Then to hi
horror, the following bomber's load was
released, and the four highly volatile
projectiles inexorably closed in, their
ballistic course now the same as tahl's Ju
. They seemed to be within touching
distance, and passed at a painfully low
rate, though tahl was just able to pull his
aircraft out in time.
Once again his luck held, and he was
granted the necessary time and vertical
space to release his bombs and pullout
into level flight, albeit just above the
airfield surface. He flew through the
pattern of bomb-burst and barely avoided
several airfield buildings before taking up
a westerly course, with the usual group of
Soviet fighters snapping vainly at his
bomber's heels. On return to Banak he
discovered the 'offender' to be his
taffelkapitaen, the latter having simply
not noticed Stahl's Ju 8 during his dive
l
A Close Shave
Attacks on the Murmanbahn
Attacks on the Murmanbahn were
conducted at a much more leisurely pace.
It was impossible to provide defensive
groundfire for every bridge or similar key
point along the sector within KG 30's
range, and should a goods train be
unfortunate enough to be picked our by
the point of attack, when each crew
picked out a target.
The Russian Response in the Air
The Rus ian re ponse in the air wa
r gular but somewhat disorganized. On
approach to the airfields at Warlamovo
and iwa, and while flying a steady course
in order to set up the conditions for a good
dive-bombing approach and strike, a group
of 'Ratas' or 'Chaikas' - numbering
anything up to fifty - was normally picked
out as they orbited upwards, but still at a
lower altitude to the Ju 88s. As the Ju 88s
pitched over into their dives, further
numbers of Russian fighter would begin
their take-off. When the bombs had been
del ivered, it was a case of 'every man for
himself' as the orbiting fighters swooped
down in the hope of picking off a straggler
or cripple, or at least closing the gap
between themselves and an accelerating Ju
88. In general, once the Ju 8 had closed
its dive brakes and the throttles were
op ned up, the a sailant or a sailants were
soon outstripped and out of range.
On one sortie Stahl made the mistake
of carrying out a second strafing run. His
assumption that the fighters would be too
pre-occupied with his fellow attackers
almost proved fatal becau e he was
suddenly 'bounced' by up to ten 'Rata '.
He managed to pull round and up to his
attackers altitude, to begin a hectic few
minutes evading their gunfire and steadily
The Ju BBO reconnaissance version had little or no discernible external changes from the Ju 88A. The unit
codes on this trio of what are stated to be Ju 880-1s cannot be clearly discerned. although the near-side
machine belongs to 2 Staffe!. and is bearing a bomb load on the right wing racks.
BARBAROSSA
unhindered supplies heading north
through Persia.
The Ju 7s and Ju s would playa
prominent part in the overall campaign by
bombing the harbour facilities in
Murmansk, and the sizeable number of
airfields located there. A further focus of
attack would be the Murmanba/m, as the
rail link itself was to become known. Air
operations for KG 30, in particular, would
involve the laying of sea-mine in the Kola
Bucht, the bay forming the main approach
for hipping into and out of Murmansk.
Peter tal·d's logbook in the period 22
June to 15 August recorded mining
operations for the first two days. Then the
emphasis shifted to attacks on airfields and
the rail link, as well as several extended
reconnaissance sortie a far as Jan Mayen
Island. The pre ence of twenty-four hour'
d<lylight at this tage of the year permitted
a greater scale of operations than normal,
and full advantage was accordingly taken
of this natural 'phenomenon'.
For the bomber crews, the exi tence of
heavy and sustained flak barrage over
Murmansk wa a very unpleasant
awakening, given the official line that the
Russians were poorly organized and
equipped as regards all aspects of their
military function. On 24 June, Stahl's Ju
8 was the sole aircraft to return intact
from Murman k. In his opinion, they were
always likely to uffer uch a degree of
damage from the AA defences because
the taffel flew tight formation right up to
The Axis Ground Offensive
The ground offensive in thi region was
assigned to the 20th Gebirgs-Armee
under the command of Gen Dietl. In
concert with Finnish forces, it was to
advance towards, and capture, the town
and seaport of Murmansk. From
Murmansk, a rail link ran south that
extended over 1,5 Okm (900 miles) into
Russia, along which supplies from Russia's
allies could be despatched. onsequently,
the seizure of the port would
automatically close off thi vital supply
source. lowever, the port of Archangel,
ituated well to the east of Murmansk, was
ice free during the summer months.
Therefore, on the one hand the seizure of
Murmansk would have seriously hindered
the flow of impending lend-lease supplies;
on the other, the availability of Archangel
even on a limited seasonal basis would
have worked in the Rus ians favour,
especially when backed by totally
the North ea'. The airfield lay
marginally below the country's northern
extremity, North Cape, and was situated
on a marshy spit of land within a fjord.
The crews remained here until 21 June,
when they transferred to Kirkenes, south-
east of Banak and adjacent to the border
with Finland. Already po itioned there
were the Ju 8 Os of I (F) 120, the Bf 11 Os
of I(Z) JG77, the Bf 109s of I/JG 77 and
the Ju 87Bs of II tG 5.
Northern Fortunes
The Luftwaffe forces of Luftflotte 5
assigned to Barbamssa found themselves
literally 'on top of the world', with their
airfields located in northern Norway and
within northern and central Finland. KG
30 initially provided its 6 Staffel for this
duty, and twelve crews duly transferred,
initially to Banak on 12 June for 'armed
reconnai sance and shipping attacks in
BARBAROSSA
would be turned out. The Scurmovik was
to prove a particularly deadly thorn in the
side of the Wehrmacht, and its sturdy
structure would render the design
extremely difficult for the Luftwaffe
fighters to shoot down.
Thi improving situation was to be in
stark contrast to the Luftwaffe. By I
ovember it had suffered a monthly
av rage of 30 per cent in terms of aircraft
lost or damaged, as compared to its
average monthly trength (2,462), with
over 1,0 ai rcraft MIA up to the end of
eptember alone. Far from its inventory
being fully replenished, the scale of
replacement was to remain well below the
required level. This situation was further
exacerbated in late 1941 when ome units
were withdrawn to bolster the orth
frican theatre of operations.
What is believed to be a Ju B80 belonging to 5/Aufk Gp 124 - judging by the barely discernible codes
G2+FM following a crash-landing somewhere in Finland.
commodities with which to effectively
continue such an advance. In the Allies'
case, this was to lead to a relapse in the
bid to end World War II before 1944 was
out. The ituation in Russia during the
summer of 1941 was even more critical,
since the Russian supply lines were
becoming shorter in dire t inverse ratio to
those of the Wehrmacht. In addition, the
transfer of much heavy plant to beyond
the Ural mountains was to rob the
Luftwaffe of the opportunity to inflict
severe damage on the oviet industrial
infra tructure. ontrast thi to north-west
Europe in 1944/45 when the Allied
bomber forces were able to continue
hammering German industry and the
lines of communication and supply into
the ground, thereby nullifying any
advantage that shortening supply lines
might have brought to the German forces.
The Luftwaffe would soon suffer the
reverse effect of its inability to disrupt, let
alone decimate the Russian industrial
capacity. By the end of the year, the
numbers of Lagg-3 and Yak-l fighters
produced between July and December
would be 2,14\ and 1,019 (as compar d to
322 and 335 respectively in the first ix
months). A similar increase would affect
11-2 Scurmovik ground-attack aircraft
production (1,293 as compared to 249),
while more than 1,800 other bombers
708 709
the Ju s, it was in deep trouble. Keeping
on the move ri ked running into any bomb
craters made ahead of it by an accurate
strike on the track; but to halt was likely to
prove even more fatal, because stationary,
it provided an equally inviting and even
easier target. During one reconnai'sance
sortie, toffregen, tahl and a third crew
picked up a train heading south. Only
tahl managed to unload directly onto the
track, but this was sufficiently close to the
oncoming train for its locomotive to crash
into the cratered surface, scattering the
wagons in the proce s. The Ju 8 s th 'n
strafed the wreckage, including several oil-
tank units, which caught fire.
The weather conditions, however,
especially during the winter months,
prevented the bombers maintaining a
continuous pattern of disruption.
Furthermore the actual act of bombing
did not always guarantee an accurate
strike, even when dive-bombing, with its
theoretical advantage over standard level-
bombing methods. And then the Russians
became increasingly adept at effecting
swift repairs to the damaged sections of
track, so that it" time out of commi 'sion
did not critically compromise thl:
continued flow of lend-lease supplies.
General Winter Strikes
The original movement order for 6/KG 30
when it had completed conversion to the
Ju 88 -4 was to Kemi in northern
Finland. The crews were in transit and
weather-bound in Heiligenbeil, cast
Prussia, when they were redirected to
Orscha wherl: they would replace
one of KG 54's operationally exhausted
Gruppen. On 5 December the massive
Russian counter-offensive had driven
deep into Army Group Centre, and all
available Luftwaffe units were rushed into
position in order to support the hard-
pressed Wehrmacht a it attempted to
srabili:e its front lines.
The severe Rus 'ian winter now wrought
ha\'oc with the finely tuned German
aircraft, as well as making working
conditions horrendous for the' chwart:e
1aenner' tasked with maintaining the Ju
s. Engine start-up was one of the
notable problem', with the starter-motors
exhausting the capacity of the aircraft
batteries following just one effort. The
technical officer on Stahl's unit solved the
problem in a novel manner, which would
BARBA ROSSA
have seen him facing a court-martial had
the 'method' come to the attention of the
Luftwaffe authorities. The compressed-air
containers fitted to the engines had their
contents replaced by acetylene gas from
welding cylinders, and the resultant
highly charged force injected into the
engine cylinders had the desired effect
upon start-up! Another problem was that
the aircraft oil tended to thicken up in the
ub-zero temperatures, but this situation
was also alleviated, by the introduction of
a benzine clement into the oil tanks,
sufficient to run the engines up to normal
temperature but without drastically
thinning out the tanks' content.
The pace of refuelling the aircraft was
also adversely affe ted: thus what normally
took a matter of minutes could now last up
to one hour. Aircraft tyres were another
constant source of trouble, the extreme
temperature all too often inducing their
deflation because it caused their surface'
to become porous. Hot-air blowers were
used to heat up the engines overnight, but
even so, there was no guarantee that both
engine would start up simultaneously,
although regular run-up starts might be
made preceding the actual sortie.
The Jus struck at troop and convoy
concentrations, as well as rail junctions
and 'upply depots. A typical sortie rook
place on 29 December when the railway
station at Torschok ncar Kalinen was
dive-bombed and strafed. The day before,
a reconnaissance run to the same source
had exposed the multitude of Russian
convoy routes heading west, and their
numbers and content had left Stahl and
h is colleagues wonderi ng how this
militarily 'inferior' adversary (at least in
the eyes of the Nazi hierarchy) could
respond so effectively.
The pace of operations was extended to
a 'round-the-clock' status, given that the
situation for the Wehrmacht continued to
be critical. The strain on the Luftwaffe was
also unremitting, not only as regard the
crew, but also their aircraft, a fact that
tahl discovered on 2 January, He had
completed an attack upon a railway station
between Tula and Orel and was on the
return course to Orscha when his attention
was drawn to the right engine's oil-pre 'ure
gauge, which now read zero. He hastily
switched off power and 'feathered' the
stricken engine's propeller. Flying at
around 600m (2,000ft), and still a long way
behind Russian lines, tahl elected to
jettison the fuel in the fuselage tank and
710
al a cast off the external bomb racks. This
action was sufficient to halt the inexorable
los of altitude caused by having to exist on
half-power, to which was added the 'drag'
created by the now ab ent racks. For more
than eighty minute the crew's nerves were
stretched to the limit as the crippled Ju
staggered through the clear atmosphere.
Fortune was on their side, however, a not
only did the single engine keep its charge
aloft, but the front line was finally reached
without any ground or air opposition being
encountered.
As Stahl circled Orscha, having
previousl y ca lied up for the emergency
services to be on hand, he decided upon a
standard landing approach as opposed to a
crash-landing. This seemed to him to be the
safer option, since the Ju 88 was a handful at
the best of ti mes, and more so when set
down on half power. Stahl's choice was
dictated by what he had seen happen to a
crew from another Geschwader (KG 76)
that had carried out a forced landing. Their
aircraft had over-shot the runway and then
careered into a large bank of 'now; the
weight of snow had crushed the cockpit
canopy, and only one of the four
crewmember had survived the incident.
tahl had very nearly completed his
careful landing approach when disaster
threatened from quite another quarter: a
Ju 52 trundled out to the runway end and
prepared to take off' Fortunately a last
desperate recourse to touching down
alongside the runway, and hoping the Ju
8 would not go over on its back in the
process, was avoided when the Ju 52 pilot
opened his throttles and began his take-
off run. Even so, it was a close-run thing,
with the much greater landing speed of
the bomber compared to the 'Tante Ju's'
pace of acceleration nearly resulting in a
collision. In addition to this, Stahl's
vision was badly compromised by the
snow- 'pray thrown up by the preceding
transport. Fortunately he was able to hold
hi aircraft in a steady line long enough to
avoid swerving off the runway, and for the
spray to subside and so re tore his line of
vision. (His subsequent criticism of the Ju
52 pilot" action wa probably better
directed at the airfield control staff, who
had been alerted to the emergency and
should have ceased all aircraft movements
until the Ju 8 was on the ground!) This
was the first of two seriml incid nts
involving the tahl crew; the second
occurred in August 1942 and placed them
in even greater peri I.
BARBA ROSSA
777
Above: A winter-camouflaged Ju 88A believed to
belong to KG 76 has been equipped with an MG FF
20mm cannon; the weapon had been located on the
right lower nose compartment. and the Plexiglas
panel is seemingly absent. but is in fact concave in
shape. The optical panel in the gondola has been
blanked over, but the bomb racks are retained.
suggesting the aircraft is to operate in a ground-
strafing role from its Russian airfield.
Left: The Ju 88P Series was intended to serve in an
anti-tank role. with three of the four sub-variants
possessing differing calibre weapons. (The P-2 and
P-3 were both equipped with twin 37mm cannon.)
This picture shows a Ju 88P-l bearing the heaviest
calibre weapon filted - a 75mm PAK 40 cannon. The
cannon has been installed on the left side of its
ventral gondola, and has an improved muzzle brake.
BARBAROSSA BARBA ROSSA
June during the prolonged siege of
Sevastopol: a huge floating raft packed with
AA gun was proving a eriou hindrance
to Fliegerkorps Vllt, so two pilot
Hauptmann Fuhrhop (II/KG 51) and
Oberleutnant Hinrichs - went out to deal
with this menace. Hinrichs was urro ed to
The nose of this C-6 fighter has had a white frame structure with a light blue background applied over the
area; this was a tactic adopted by 4/KG 76 on the Ostfront. the intention being to lure Soviet fighters into
making attacks upon what they were expected to regard as a Ju BB bomber variant. The resultant
firepower from the luftwaffe fighter was in turn expected to prove the undoing of its attackers!
A good example of the crews' devotion
was displayed during the Wehrmacht
assaults around Kharkov. On 29/30 May
alone the unit rut in 294 sorties in order to
help su tain the resistance of the infantry
surrounded at Ternovaya. A second
example of this devotion occurred on 25
The single action fated to dominate the
(Jerman military function on the Eastern
Front from the summer of 1942 until the
following spring involved a city whose
title said it all: Stalingrad. The need to
capture talingrad was not only a matter
of military necessity, but also a political
issue. Hitler could not resist the
temptation to land a psychological blow
upon his arch enemy Stalin by seizing the
city bearing thar dictator's name. But the
diversion of a large element of Army
Group outh from its original brief to
drive into the Caucasus in order to satisfy
the Fuehrer's obsession, was to rebound
upon him and his men by the end of 1942.
The Wehrmacht' 1942 plan of
operations centred on the capture of the
oilfields in the Caucasus. Allied to this
was the severing of the southern lend-
lease surply route via Persia through the
capture of Stalingrad on the Volga.
However, the talingrad element of the
overall operation was regarded as very
much a secondary factor in the Higher
Command's thinking.
KG 51 's brief was to support the drive
on, and seizure of, evastopol, as well as
the extreme eastern portion of the
Crimea that had been re-taken by the
Russians during their December counter
offensive. On hand at this time for a short
detachment was a speciali t leader in
bomber tactics, Werner Baumbach, who
had come in from KG 30: he was to
advise on anti-shipping technique.
During his brief spell of detachment
between 14 and 24 March he participated
in several sorties, and must have been
impressed both by the determined AA
opposition encountered, as well as the
determination of the KG 51 crews to
press home their attacks.
The Fatal Strike: Stalingrad
especially after their armies opened up a
160km (I OO-mile) gap between Army
Groups orth and Centre during
February - as to the recuperative powers
of the German military. The sole po itive
aspect of this first winter campaign had
heen the succes ful supply by air of the
Demjansk and Kholm 'pockets' in which
thousands of trapped German soldier
remained besieged until May. The
repercussions of this supply function
would unwittingly contribute to the
Stalingrad disaster, however.
could garner enough operational 'wisdom'
to survive the conditions. It was also a
grim truth that the Luftwaffe was fighting
almost a much 'on the back foot' as the
Wehrmacht, ince the scale of their
orties wa barely sufficient to do more
than lightly dam the surging enemy
columns.
It wou Id be April or May before the
Eastern Front would finally be stabilized.
This was a scenario that owed as much to
incompetence and over-optimism on the
part of talin and his military senior staff
although only a direct hit or very near
miss would guarantee a re ult in such
in tances. All too often, however, the
replacement crews arriving on the Eastern
Front were either not sufficiently trained
to be pitched into this aerial 'meat
grinder', or were 10 t in a tion before they
This is a Ju BBA-5 from KG 30. late production A-5 airframes were provided with bulged rear canopy
frames. The MG FF cannon in the lower nose was drum-fed, and this weapon's drum can be seen
above the cannon. The A-5's ultimate powerplants were either the Jum0211G-l or 211H-l.
Holding the Line
This Ju BB fighter variant bears an overall light camouflage spray along with a coloured band on the rear
fuselage and similar colour effect under the wing-tips. Exhaust shrouds, coupled with the absence of radar
aerials, suggests the aircraft is serving on the Eastern Front. The angle of the photograph makes it difficult
to differentiate between a C-6 and G-6 variant; the rudder pattern for the suggested variants was
rounded or square respectively.
Over the winter of 1941/42 the Luftwaffe
bombers were to be largely engaged in
slowing down the on-coming Rus ian
forces, which by now had the scent of
victory in their nostrils. In January, KG
30 lent it specific effort to the region
around Rzhev, where the German soldiers
were threatened with a huge encircle-
ment action. The aircraft utilized a mix of
ordnance, ranging up from 50kg to 500 or
1,000kg (llOlb, to 1,100 or 2,200Ib). The
former was used for attacks on personnel
or soft-skinn d targets such as vehicles
or wooden structures, the latter for
stronger structures such as bridges or for
armoured un its.
As their Ju 88s headed out to block the
enemy's formations and lines of
communication, the regular sight of the
exhausted Wehrmacht personnel
stumbling westward past abandoned
vehicles purred the airmen on to greater
effort. The more experienced crew were
generally able to carry out a Freie jagd
('free hunt') form of sortie, which reaped
a positive reward. The olid columns of
Ru sian soldiery and transport made
comparatively easy targets, and 'Iaagers' of
armoured vehicles were another pri me
source for assault with the heavier bombs,
112 773
BARBAROSSA BARBAROSSA
This Ju 88 is part of a 4/KG 51 formation that has just attacked a Russian airfield. The small bursts of smoke
confirm that the ordnance delivered is of the S02 anti-personnel type. The pilot of the Ju 88 was
Feldwebel Robert Ciuraj, who survived through World War II. Ciuraj
Ju 88A of an unidentified unit displays a slogan translating as ·Cloud-hunter'. Picture angle picks out the
bulged pattern of the rear canopy frame. The pristine condition of the aircraft suggests a recent delivery
to the unit. The photograph was taken in Russia around 1942/43.
A dispersal on what appears to be an established airfield has a large camouflage netting acting as cover
for a Ju 88A-1 or A-5 of l/KG 54. The fuselage band and lower wing-tip surfaces are yellow,
as required for operations on the Eastern Front.
774
act as a decoy for his taffelkapicaen by
going in first to distract the gunners, but in
fact his effort made his uperior's run
unnece sary because his bomb-load created
a chain reaction amongst the ammunition
content that resulted in the raft literally
blowing itself apart - all Fuhrhop could do
was circle the area'
Army Group outh under General Von
Bock wa concentrati ng its effort upon
the investment of the Caucasus when the
order came for General Von Paulus and
his 6th Army to swing eastwards towards
the Don. KG 51 had been solidly
supporting Von Bock's forces since early
July, with all three main Gruppen flying
out of talino until 5 ugust when I and
III/KG 51 transferred fi rst to Kerch, then
to Tatinskaya located around the
confluence of the Donetz and Don later
in the month. By then the Geschwader
was paying full attention to bombing
talingrad as well as attacking oviet
forces vainly attempting to resist their
opponent's bridging of the River Donetz
and ubsequent closing in upon the city.
Panzer Army 4 then received pecific
Ge chwader support as its unit formed
the southern part of a pincer movement
to eize talingrad during late Augu t.
It was during thi phase of air operations
that the late t act of gallantry - uicidal,
in some eyes - was executed by
Oberleurnant Poppenburg (III/KG 51).
Major Von Bibra's Ju was fatally
damaged and it pilot elected to crash-
land at Chir. But before the oviet
soldiers could capture the crew, all three
airmen had been picked up from under
their noses by Poppenburg, who landed on
the summer-baked soil of the steppes.
Having delivered his supplementary
'crew' back to Tatinskaya, the hardy
Poppenburg then took to the air for his
next sortie I
The pace of operations, although
inflicting surprisingly few ca ualties,
inevitably left its phy ical mark upon the
crews; by late September/early October
both Gruppen at Tatinskaya were recalled
to the rimea for 'rest and recuperation'
after flying anything up to five individual
crew sorties each day. \l/KG 51 similarly
pulled back and linked up with IV/KG 51
at the latter's long-tetm airfield, Bobyrusk
- part of Luftflotte 1 - in the northern
sector of the Ostfront.
This Gruppe's fortunes suffered a
logi tical setback following its return to
operations at Armavir. On 4 ovember a
chance bomb-strike blew up the ordnance
dump, and set off a chain rea tion of
destruction among the many bombed-up
aircraft in the vicinity. The latter
included nearly all of the Gruppe's Ju s,
and this forced a withdrawal to Bagarovo
on the Kerch peninsula for re-equipping.
[/KG 51 had returned to Tatinskaya in
time to face the onset of another fierce
winter. The unforgiving weather
conditions of snow, ice and temperatures
reaching -30 degrees played havoc with
the groundcrew, in particular, as they
attempted to maintain their aircraft;
frostbite and poorly heated living
accommodation added to their woes.
Nocturnal raids by Soviet aircraft proved
a further threat.
Soviet Counter Attack
The almost inevitable oviet counter
attack was launched in late November,
and soon placed Von Paulus and his
oldier in mortal danger of being
surrounded should they not pull back.
This danger hardened into fact following
Hitler's blanket r fu al to permit this
logical course of action to be undertaken.
Adding to the Fuehrer's determination
was Goering's promise to successfully
repeat the supply by air of talingrad, as
already demonstrated over Demyansk the
previous winter. In the event history did
not repeat itself, and an entire German
army's fate was duly sealed, as was its
775
nation's fate over the ensuing two years.
I and Ill/KG 51 operated out of Rostov
until early February, and ustained heavy
casual tie while doing o. Included among
the losses was the recently appointed
Geschwaderkommodore, Major Konrady.
One of the cardinal rule after making a
bombing run was then to clear the target.
The major, having delivered hi load on
an AA-defended rail junction, forgot this
vital principle as he circled overhead, and
he and his crew paid a fatal price for this
lapse when AA shells set his Ju 88 on fi rei
then it plunged to earth.
Stalingrad is Retaken
Despite all their efforts, the Luftwaffe
bombers could not even stall the Soviet
offensive, let alone prevent its advance.
Stal ingrad was retaken by the end of
January, and the Wehrmacht was being
pressed back all along the outhern Front.
Rostov was evacuated soon after, and all
three Gruppen transferred to Zaporoshye.
While the Geschwader was ba cd here, a
oviet armoured spearhead advanced
close to Kirovograd and very close to
Zaporoshye. nfortunately for its tank
crews, they now came up against a
concerted series of attacks by KG 51 that
destroyed the force. (Hauptmann
Haeberlen, I Gruppenkommandeur, had
initiated this action without reque ting
authorization from his superiors).
Twice wi th ina matter of weeks,
Leutnant Gerushke had been involved in
'pick-up' incidents. The first time round
he had landed in the Rostov region to
take on board the downed crew of
Leutnant Bayer. Then the roles were
reversed when Gerushke became a
casualty himself: all four airmen
scrambled lear of their ctash-landed Ju
, but then Leutnant Winkel, circling
overhead, observed that his companions
were heading traight for a Soviet
encampment. He unhe itatingly put his
bomber down in the snow, whose surface
fortunately did not give way. While his
gunner held off approaching oviet
personnel, the four airmen climbed in,
either through the cockpit hatch or into
the opened bomb-bay. Hatch and doors
were then quickly closed, and the aircraft
took off safely through a hail of bullets.
Fortune had favoured the brave again.
With so many different call being
made upon the Luftwaffe bomb I' , it was
inevitable that each Geschwader's
BARBA ROSSA BARB ROSSA
The left-hand Jumo 211J engine on a Ju 880 is being hand-cranked in a bright but bitterly cold Russian
atmosphere. The black outline of a camera port can just be discerned between the two airmen. The FuBI 2
aerial has been repositioned further back on the rear fuselage. The aircraft is believed
to belong to 5 (F) 122.
This unusual arrangement placed under a Ju 88A-4 comprises a rectangular frame attached to the inner
wing racks. Four rocket tubes with circular ammunition drums are mounted on the frame. The weapons
were tested with a view to a production run for use against Soviet armoured vehicles. The tests
proved a failure. however.
failures, with the undercarriage often
failing to stand up to punishment, but
pare parts for the DB603 engines
continued to remain in short supply. The
provision of airborne radar wa al 0 very
belated, with' -2' not readily available
until well after its appearance within the
Reichsverteidigung units.
Given all these restrictions, it was to
the crews' credit that between January
J943 and ovember 1944 more than 500
'kills' I"ere registered, with thirty crew
being credited with nine or more
successes. Th is was all the more
remarkable since the overall strength of
the achtjagd in the East was never more
than a moderate one comprising some six
Staffeln up to mid-1944, when around
double this number of Staffeln appeared
to be on hand.
The location of the various Gruppen
was even more fluid than in the West.
This was due to the units having to
operate at the behest of the Wehrmacht,
who assigned them to whatever sector of
the front - north, centre or south -
appeared to be under the greatest Soviet
threat. By August, two of the
Schwaerme had been amalgamated and
linked with 12/ZG I to form 4/ JG 200,
operating under Luftflotte 6 ( rmy
Group Centre). The third chwarm
became I/NJG 200, operating under
Luftflotte I (Army Group North). The
other ZG I Staffel (10) was renamed
5/ JG 200, and placed under Luftflotte
4 (Army Group South). Both 10/ JG 5
and 12/ JG 5, which were recent
arrival on the Ostfront, now became
part of 5/ JG 200 or were retitled
1/NJG 200. Finally, records at thi point
show 2/NJG 100 and 8/ JG 200 as
being also on ham!. (It appears that NJG
100 was the sole beneficiary from the
Eisenbahn radar facilities, since its crews
operated under Himmelbett operational
conditions; JG 200 operated the more
ba ic Helle achtjagd system of visual
sighting.) The element of JG 1 aand
JG 2 a would for the remainder of
their ervice on the 0 tfront provide the
ba ic Nachtjagd service in the theatre
up to the end of 1944.
The relative inability to track down the
oviet bombers, as compared to the
detailed sy tem in operation further west,
led the Luftwaffe to introduce a novel
variation in the form of rail-mounted
radar equipment. In this manner radar
surveillance could be provided to
On the Ostfront there were to be no large
'bomber treams', 'Intruder' escorts or
electronic interference. On the other
hand, the incursions made by the oviet
fliers were arguably more difficult to
counter. Its crews flew in a solo pattern
reminiscent of RAF Bomber Command's
effort in the beginning, but even more
strung out and in equally smaller numbers.
Moreover, unlike the RAF, the Soviet
crews generally operated at no more than
medium altitude. In the case of the PO-2
biplane this was at no more than a few
hundred feet, since its pilots engaged in
'disturbance' attacks; in addition thi
design's low flying speed made it a
particularly difficult aircraft to intercept,
given the relatively high minimum speed
of the Luftwaffe night fighters.
The multi-engine bomber force proved
to be a mixture of DB-3s, ILAs, B-25 and
TB-7s, with the latter proving a peedyand
well armed adversary, although the other
types could also take care of themselves.
To the Bf 110 and the Ju 8 was initially
added the Do 217 a a third 'plank' in the
Nachtjagd force. However, the les
favourable airfield conditions encount-
ered in the East tended to affect the Do
217 in a particularly adverse manner. Not
only did it suffer a variety of technical
The Ostfront by Night
The involvement of the achtjagd in
Ru sia does not appear to have gathered
much momentum until 1942. A the tide
of battle began its slow but inexorable
flow again t the Wehrmacht, so the
oviet Air Force began to add its weight
to nocturnal bombing sortie against both
the front lines and their rear echelons.
The operational conditions faci ng the
achtjagd crews were to prove materially
different from those existing in the West.
of eastern-occupied Europe and the
climactic assault upon the azi capital
city, Berlin.
The Luftwaffe bomber and ground-
assault Gruppen would do their utmost to
stem the tide of Soviet advance, but they
would be so outnumbered and bereft of
equipment, fuel and combat-experienced
personnel, that such effort would be in
vain. From 1943 onwards any strategic
value the bombers could have brought to
the campaign was cancelled out as the
necessary targets fell out of range. In
effe t, the Ostfront then witnessed the
Luftwaffe reverting to its original
conceived function as a tactical air force.
The almost constant fluidity of the
front lines saw the Luftwaffe being moved
around to as ist in 'gap-plugging'
exercises. KG 51 moved back into the
outhern ector in mid-August, where its
efforts did little more than temporarily
tave off the inexorable oviet advance.
However, both remaining Gruppen were
soon on the move again, but this time
away from the Ostfront. Ill/KG 51 was
despatched ba k to Germany for
conversion to the Me 410, wh i1e II/KG 51
went to Salonika in Greece. From here,
the crews took part in throwing the
British out of Kos and Leros in the
Dade anese Islands, as well as attacking
shipping between Crete and yprus.
Then the Gruppe returned to Russia in
ovember, where after ground-support
operations at Cherkassy and hitomir on
the Central Front, it too transferred back
to Germany for conversion to the Me 410.
Fatal Ebb Tides for the
Luftwaffe
The experiences gained by the crews of
KG 51 during their service on the
Ostfront were to prove typical of all units
based there. At lea t six or seven other
Ge chwadern were to serve in part or in
total in the theatre between June 1941
and the end of World War II. However,
from the late spring of 1943, the German
forces were 0 be almost constantly placed
upon the defensive, with the exception of
the occasional assault, all of which were
limited in both time-span and scope.
During 1943 the Soviets managed not
only to fight off the one major German
attack launched in July - namely the
concerted effort to 'pinch off' the Kursk
salient - but so shattered the Panzer
strength of the Wehrmacht that the
re ultant series of counter attacks forced a
steady retreat all along the entire front
line. By April 1944 only elements of the
Crimea region and a narrow trip of
oviet territory in the central zone
extending up to the Baltic remained in
German hands. A mere two months later
Russia was totally liberated, and it force
were once again on the march, thrusting
into Poland and Rumania. By the year-
end, having stabilized their front lines
with the maximum of difficulty, th
Germans awaited what would be the final
drives to liberate the remaining part
first to Bagerovo and then to Germany,
never to return to the Ostfront.
The reduced- trength Geschwader
struck at railway tation and supply
dumps around Kursk as part of the
'softening-up' pha e of Operation Citadel.
Two mass raids - involving around 100
bombers a sembled from several
Geschwadern, among them KG 51 -
struck at two key production plant during
June. However, the temporary disruption
to the tank factory at Gorki and the
chemical works at Yaroslav had no
material effect upon overall Soviet
production in either field of activity. The
severe limitations upon what was being
primarily used as a tactical bomber force
had once again been brought to the fore.
The battle of Kursk having been
effectively lost by mid-July, KG 51 was
transferred north to an airfield at
Seshchinskaya. Here the crews faced a
more insidious menace in the form of
the Partisan movement, whose members
managed to place barometric fuzes on
the Ju external fuel tanks, using
magnetic atta hments. everal crews
were lost when their aircraft
disintegrated during diving attacks
or landing approach, and only the
chance search of a Russian woman's
basket revealed the source of hitherto
mystery los es.
Gruppen would be fairly well spread out
in their deployment. Hence by late
February, III/KG 51 found itself operating
out of Bagerovo in upport of those
oldiers operating in the aucasus and
threatened with being cut off by the likely
sei:ure of Rostov. Attacks were launched
on artillery concentrations and railway
facilities, in which instance the heavy
armament of llI/KG 51 's Ju 8 C-6 fighters
proved particularly destructive. ( tab and
l/KG 51 were also in position on this
airfield, tab immediately and I/KG 51
several weeks later.)
By March, the Wehrmacht had
stabilized its front lines, although the
Soviet salient around Kursk presented a
specific danger for further penetrations.
Hitler not only refused ~ o permit his
forces to withdraw in order to straighten
out the 'bulge', but he also decided to
attempt a pincer movement against the
salient in July. The re ult of this counter
thru t was the greatest ever tank action,
during which the Wehrmacht lost a
massive proportion of its armour, a
situation that proved irreversible.
In the interim period the Luftwaffe
bomber did their utmost to strike at both
tactical and sometimes trategic targets. II
and III/KG 51 were fully involved in
operations, as was l/KG 51 up to mid-
pril, at which time it wa tran ferred
116 117
BARBAROSSA BARBAROSSA
The collapse of the left undercarriage leg while the aircraft was still in motion has inevitably resulted in
the wooden VS-11 propeller splintering upon contact with the ground. The release cable for the dinghy
hatch can be seen tracing back along the top of the fuselage. The airmen in the cockpit are probably
simulating their exit, since the fortuitous presence of a cameraman during the actual emergency
would have been unlikely!
A non-standard variation in 'flight rations' is being fed up into this Ju 88 by an officer with the assistance
of an NCO. The Bola 81 MGZ shows the cartridge ejection chute; directly above the chute is the arm for the
pneumatic cylinder, which prevented the hatch from slamming down against the hinges as it was opened.
experienced by the convoy, which duly
commenced the following day and lasted
until the 10th. Fully twenty-four of the
thirty-five merchantmen were sunk, of
which eight fell directly to Luftwaffe
assault, and seven more were 'shared' with
U-boats. KG 30 was fully involved in the
operation, and one of the first casualties
was the freighter Peter Kerr, fatally crippled
by the bombs of Leutnant Clausener. Hajo
Herrmann recalled that during one sortie a
fellow pilot scored a direct hit on a vessel,
whose load of ammunition or similar
volatile content caused it to disintegrate in
a massive explosion.
Convoy PQ 18
If the fate of PQ 17 was felt to be a portent
for future German success, then the very
next convoy, PQ 18, dispelled this
prospect, despite the percentage of loss
that would be borne by the thirty-nine
vessels that comprised it. The convoy set
sail in mid-September with a strong naval
escort that included Avenger, one of the
very first escort carriers to enter service.
On board were eighteen Hurricanes Mk
lIB, and three Swordfish. The presence of
the fighters certainly restricted the
'shadowing' floatplane's ability to monitOr
the convoy's course, but not enough to
permit total concealment. By the 13th the
sunk; however, a large proportion of PQ
14 was forced to turn back to Iceland
thanks to damage suffered from
encounters with large ice floes, so
reducing the total tonnage getting
through to the Soviets.
Convoy PQ 17
The facts concerning the disastrous PQ 17
convoy are tOo well documented to bear
examination here. Sufficient to say that
the dispersal of the vessels was the
consequence of a decision made not by
the naval escort senior staff, but by
Dudley Pound at the Admiralty in
London, and this opened the way for
wholesale slaughter.
The convoy's integrity had existed until
4 July. Up to this point two aerial attacks
had been made by torpedo-bearing He
115s of I/KueFIGR 406, which had lost
one crew for a single sinking. On the 4th,
KG 30 joined in the assault, but none of
its bombs struck home. Its crews had gone
in ahead of an attack by the torpedo-
specialist crews of I/KG 26, who took out
a second merchantman and damaged one
more. Two He Ills were shot down,
although one crew was picked up by an
escort vessel.
The 'scatter' order issued later on the 4th
set the scene for the disastrous attacks
The reasons behind the German failure
to immediately counter this logistical
threat to their final victory in the east are
none too clear. Certainly there were
sufficient airfields in northern Norway
and Finland for anti-shipping units to
operate against the first eleven convoys,
but it wasn't until early 1942 that a
concentration of units was belatedly
established. These ranged from FW 200
Kondors (Trondheim) and Bv 138s and
He 115s (Stavangar), to He Ills and Ju
88s (Banak). The reconnaissance and
surveillance functions of the Kondors and
the floatplanes was supplement by 1 (F)
22 and 1 (F) 124, whose Ju 88s were
dispersed between Banak, Bardufoss and
Kirkenes. Now there was little or no
chance of the lumbering convoys slipping
through undetected.
Convoys PQ 12, PQ 13 and PQ 14
The Banak-based Ju 88s belonged to KG
30 that had already been involved in
attacking Murmansk and other strategic
and tactical targets in northern Russia,
either from their current base or from
Kirkenes just to the east. On 5 March the
Geschwader crews were alerted to take off
against convoy PQ 12 following a report
by a reconnaissance aircraft. However,
continuing bad weather then intervened
to prevent any attempt at an aerial
assault. Towards the end of the month
however, PQ l3 was not so fortunate, and
lost five merchantmen in all. Naval units
sank three, but the remaining pair fell to a
single Ju 88 flown by Hauptmann
Herrmann (III/KG 30).
This enterprising airman had suggested
an armament supplement to the single
forward-firing 7.92mm machine gun
mounted in the right windscreen. He
regarded this weapon as totally
inadequate to handle the return fire from
the numerous (as he saw it) weapons
mounted on the type of merchantman he
was about to attack. Consequently two
more guns were fitted with which to keep
the Allied gunners' heads down during
the diving approach. (Herrmann appears
to have made a rather inaccurate
assessment regarding the number of guns
on the average merchantman: in fact most
bore nothing at all, while a single gun
positioned on the stern was the norm for
the remaining minority.)
The ensuing three PQ convoys enjoyed
variable success, eleven vessels being
Arctic Convoy Life-Line
to a safe, if heavy crash-landing, for which
all three Ju 88 airmen must have been
heartily grateful'
From the very beginning of the German
assault on Russia, Churchill had decreed
that Britain should make every possible
effort to despatch regular supplies of
aircraft and arms, in particular to the
Soviet government - all this in spite of
the already huge burden placed upon his
own nation's industrial and military
capability. A system of merchant convoys
was established bearing the titles PQ (out-
bound) and QP (homebound), the first of
which sailed in August. The protracted
route took the vessels from their assembly
point in Iceland north-east ·into the
Atlantic and past the North Cape of
Norway before altering course east
through the Barents Sea. Finally a second
course alteration was made south-east in
the direction either of Murmansk or (in
the summer months) for Archangel: the
latter port, unlike Murmansk, was
continually ice free.
was adopted. The third time around, the
feeling was that the aircraft in his sights
was Soviet, and so Kaiser opened fire. One
engine was seen to catch fire as the 'DB-3'
lurched away and down, but was not seen
to actually crash. One more mark was
added to the Gruppe's Abschuesstafel or
ornamental 'victOry stick'.
Some time later, the Kaiser crew were
standing on a railway platform, about to
go on leave. As they waited they fell into
conversation with s veral other airmen,
in the course of which it came to the fore
that their companions had suffered the
indignity of being fired upon.
Furthermore, the incident had occurred
on the same night and over the
approximate location where the 'DB-3'
had been attacked. What now stunned
(if not also deeply embarrassed) the Ju 88
crew was the fact that the aircraft in
question was a Ju 52 transport' How
this tri-motOr, fixed-undercarriage design
could have been confused with a
twin-engine aircraft bearing a retract-
able undercarriage wou ld ever
remain a mystery.
In fact, the Ju 52 had not suffered
terminal damage, and was brought down
Identifying Aircraft Correctly
The problem of correct aircraft
identification was one that was never
totally solved by any of the major
combatants in World War It. There was an
art in carrying out this duty, while there
were varying levels of enthusiasm - not to
say interest - in learning the subject to a
satisfactory degree. All tOo often the result
of errors was the loss of a friendly aircraft
along with injury or death among its crew.
A classic example of this invol ved the Ju
88C crew led by Leutnant Adolf Kaiser.
H is radar-operator Feldwebel Heinz
Jasieniki picked up a 'trace' on his screen,
and soon the night fighter was closing in
ready to engage the 'bogey'. However, the
visual sight of the target caused a degree of
uncertainty, whereupon Kaiser eased his Ju
88 in behind the other machine. He and
the third crewmember thought they had
identified a DB-3, but were not absolutely
sure. In the meantime their over-taking
speed was such that the pilot was forced to
overshoot. A quick circuit and a second
run-in on the target still left the two
airmen unsure and so the same procedure
whatever sector of the Ostfront was
deemed to be under the greatest pressure.
This degree of mobility naturally affected
the Nachtjagd units whose crews would
accompany the 'radar trains', ready to
operate under the ground personnel's
directions. Though the cond itions for
guided operations by what became known
as the Eisenbahn Geschwadern (Railway
Units) were far from perfect, the extra
support provided by the ground-control
staff was sti II welcome, as it supplemented
the on-board SN-2 sets coming into
regular use around this time.
In a major miscalculation by the
Wehrmacht High Command, the bulk of
Luftwaffe strength was transferred south
into the Ukraine, there to await the
anticipated 1944 summer offensive by the
Soviets. Instead, on 22 June Army Group
Centre was overwhelmed and send reeling
back almost into Prussia before stabilizing
its lines during August. However, I and
3/ JG 100 were still on hand in this
central region, and their crews went to
work on the enemy, although without any
real prospect of doing anything other than
inflicting marginal casualties. One
successful pilot was Oberleurnant
Puetzkuhl, who took down twelve aircraft
in just three sorties.
778 119
BARBAROSSA BARBA ROSSA
A Ju 88A-4 is casting up a minor snowstorm as it trundles its way along a perimeter track. The lower
sections of the engine cowlings and the outer wing-tip appear to be lighter in colour as compared to the
remainder of the undersides. This is reminiscent of the yellow markings carried by the luftwaffe
aircraft operating on the Russian front.
A handful of Ju 88A airframes were adapted to carry two cannon-calibre weapons in a revised gondola;
this was deeper and positioned further forward than the standard fitting. The provision of three MG FF
cannon, as seen here on this KG 30 bomber, provided a solid base for ground-strafing or
anti-shipping operations.
30 \Va considered by Stahl to be a
wasted effort as compared to bombing
thc port facilitics. Therc was no recorded
loss or even damage to any of the
shipping sailing into and out of the port,
while two more KG 30 crews failed to
return from the mine-laying sorties flown
on the 19th. In fact the encounter with
PQ 18 was the last occasion that a full-
scale battle would occur. For the
remainder of 1942 the onset of the
autumn and winter, with ever-longer
periods of darkness and recurring adver e
weather condition, would put paid to
aerial attacks. Indeed, for the remainder
of World War II, the Rus ian convoys
would gain their de tination and return
to Britain with ever-diminishing los e .
This would be regardless of any influence
brought to bear upon the scene by the
Luftwaffe, whether indulging in bombing
or torpedo assaults.
doubt is the cold courage, particularly of
the torpedo aircraft crcws, in facing dcath
or injury. To the threat posed by fighter
and AA firc was addcd immersion in the
frcezing waters of the Barents and White
Sea where, hould they survive the loss of
their aircraft, life cxpcctancy wa a mcre
two or three minutes!
The stark arithmetic during the PQ 1
action was the 10 of seventeen valuable
torpedo-bomber crcws, and much
damage to the urviving aircraft; in
return, ten out of the thirty-nine
merchantmen had been unk.
The subsequcnt laying of mines in the
Kola Bay approach to Archangel by KG
eighteen ]u 88s had returned. The date of
this action is rccorded as thc 18th, but all
cOlllcmporary records indicate that by
this darc the convoy was frce of attack.
The final mas attack on the aftcrnoon of
the 14th, in which the He Ills precedcd
the]u s, suits Stahl's account, other
than thc final reference to the numbers of
straggling vessels. Any survivors from the
previous day's action would urely have
been Icft far behind, while thc torpedoe
dropped scored no hits on the 14th l
Whcthcr ·rahl wrote up his diary later
and thercfore became confu ed bctween
the several actions in completing the
record is open to question. What is not in
pursuit of PQ 18 could be sustained, Banak
being too far out of range by then. The
formation of eighteen ]u s was directed
towards the convoy using the tone signal
transmitted by a 'shadower'. KG 3 's
attack \Vas to be immediately preceded by
its torpedo-bearing force, though
Hauptmann toffregen, who was leading
the]u s, was concerned that the de ired
rendezvous-point for both forces to attack
together would not be reached on time.
However, as the convoy came into sight,
Stahl saw the shapes of the He Ills
appearing like flying fish skimming the sea
surface; then there was an explosion
against the side of a freighter as a torpedo
struck home. Stahl's own careful diving
run against a vessel saw his bombs impact
in the water right by its hull; however, its
forward motion was not affected.
On return to Petsamo he reported that,
as one of the last to depart the scene, he
had obsen·ed a number of vessels swinging
out of line or lying stationary - although
he also recorded in his diary that the
claims made by his fellow-pilots were far
too optimistic. evertheless, at lea t all
for attention were destined to fail,
although he was near-missed by KG 3
on the 14th. Only one more freighter was
sunk (by a -boat), while KG 26 found
the combination of fighters and AA fire
too great, retiring to orway minus five of
the twenty- two crews originally involved.
(Two of the MIA aircraft were brought
down at minimum range by Avenger's
gunner after launching their torpedoes at
the carrier.)
The Personal Experiences of
Leutnant Peter Stahl
Leutnant Peter Stahl (VII/KG 30) had
been absent on a training course during
operations against PQ 16 and 17, but was
back on combat status by mid-September.
He recalled that II/KG 30 and III/KG 30
had been ordered to transfer eastwards
from Banak to Petsamo, from where
force wa in the vicinity of Bear Island,
almost directly in line with North Cape
and the airfield of Lufdlotte 5. By the
afternoon, the]u s of KG 30 were
circling around the convoy, and finally
launched an attack through the broken
cloud cover. Whether intended as a
diversion to draw off the Hurricanes or
not, rhe resulr was succcssful, as rhe
fighter pilot pursued their adversaries to
the sourh. 0 air cover was thereforc
available when a combined I and 11/ KG 26
closcd in to launch their mass of torpedoes
against the convoy's right-hand column.
No fewer than eight vessels were sunk,
bringing the overall total so far lost to ten.
On the other hand, later attacks by He 115s
from either KueFIGR 406 or 906 and KG
26's He II Js failed to score a single hit, and
lost seven of their number in the process.
The presence of Avenger was already
known, but all attempts to single her out
120 121
CHAPTER TEN
Confrontation Over the Bay
disadvantage of poor manoeuvrability. The
Wellington, by comparison, seemed better
able to hold its own, this being instanced
during September by at least five crews
who emerged relatively unscathed from
their combats with the Ju 88s.
In October, the MIA figure was reduced
to five anti-submarine aircraft, though
four came from Whitley units. Even worse
than aircraft losses was the loss of their
crews: the trackless wastes of the Atlantic,
together with the relative absence of air-
sea rescue facilities, inevitably led to most
of the airmen concerned being lost
without trace.
One of the Coastal Command aircraft
lost during October was a Beaufighter of
No. 235 Squadron. The unit's appearance
over the bay had commenced during July,
and its introduction was by way of
redressing the aerial imbalance caused by
its Ju 88 contemporary. Although not
quite as manoeuvrable as the Junk rs
design, the 'Beau's' formidable firepower
of four 20mm cannon and six machine-
guns usually resulted in heavy damage to
the adversary, or its total destruction
should the pilot's aim be on target. The
first V/KG 40 aircraft to face this situation
was being flown on 8 Sept mber by
Leutnant Graf von Hoensbroech.
CONFRONTATION OVER THE BAY
A Ju 88C-6 from KG 40 bears that unit's distinctive 'world in a ring' artwork on the nose, The officer
third from the left is Oberleutnant Hissbach, one of two experienced airmen detached from other
combat units to instruct the still inexperienced crews of this Geschwader. Hissbach later returned
to his regular unit. I/NJG 2. and flew regular combat until late April 1945 when sadly he was killed
during a ground-strafing sortie,
design: in addition to nose and tail
turrets, there were two flexible gun
positions on the mid-fuselage, replaced
on late Mk II variants onwards by a
twin-gun turret. Provided the
Sunderlands were either operating at
minimum altitude or, in the event of
being attacked, were able to get down
to sea level before fire was opened,
there was a good prospect of the crew
in question being able to ward off their
attackers. Such fortune deserted the
No. 461 Squadron aircraft flown by Fg
Off Hosband on 1 September - and
moreover, one of the two pilots sharing
its demise was none other than
Hauptmann Hissbach, his companion
being the 14/KG40 Staffelkapitaen,
Hauptmann Reicke.
Autumn Encounters
In September there was a steady loss-rate
in Coastal Command aircraft over the Bay
of Biscay, with ten crews recorded as going
MIA; in addition, several combats with
pairs of Ju 88s were reported by returning
crews. Exactly half the aircraft falling into
this unfortunate category were Whitleys,
which possessed the I ast defensive
resistance, as well as arguably the
their aircraft was blasted from behind; it
caught fire and then fell into the sea.
Perhaps emboldened by this quick result,
Stoeffler focused his attention on the
second Wellington; but its crew sighted
their assailant and turned away out into
the Atlantic. Closing in with all weapons
firing, the pilot and his observer were
either killed or badly wounded when a
fusillade of bullets shattered the cockpit.
The radio-operator managed by desperate
efforts to regain temporary control of the
stricken Ju 88, but he was ultimately
forced into a 'ditching' off the north coast
of Spain, from which he alone emerged
alive. Although it was reported that fire
had taken hold of the RAF aircraft, in fact
it survived the ordeal and got through to
its final destination.
The arrival soon afterwards of two
veteran pilots as instructors was of
enormous benefit to the crews forming the
fledgling Gruppe. Both were former 2 JG
2 personnel, one being Hauptmann
Hissbach who would return to NJG 2;
sadly he was lost during a ground-attack
sortie just weeks before the war's
conclusion. Both of these airmen had
participated in the Fernnachtjagd
operations conducted over England by
I JG 2 until the autumn of 1941. The
briefings by Hissbach and his battle-tested
contemporary Feldwebel Giessuebel soon
began to pay a solid dividend from late
August onwards. The latter pilot started
the ball rolling on the 20th when his and
another crew so damaged a Hampden that
it finally came down in the north of Spain.
Another somewhat unusual adversary
was also intercepted this day. With the
Atlantic battle still very much in the
balance, ACM Harris had been persuaded
to detach the Lancasters of o. 61
Squadron to St Eval, from where the
crews were to undertake anti-submarine
duties, and the bomber flown by P/O
Madsen was shot up by a V/KG 40 Ju 88;
it, too, crashed in northern Spain.
However, this victory was earned at the
bitter cost of Oberleutnant Runge, whose
entire crew were killed when their fighter
crashed in the sea. (This crew had
previously shared the Hampden 'kill' with
Feldwebel Giesseubel.)
During World War II the Sunderland
flying-boat earned the respected title
of 'Flying Porcupine' (Fliegende
Stachelschwein) from the Luftwaffe.
This was due to the perceived heavy
firepower provision of the Short
Gruppe's C-6 variant was a formidable
opponent for the Coastal Command
crews flying in their twin- and four-engine
aircraft. The nose armament of three
7.92mm MG17 machine-guns and a
single 20mm MG-FF cannon (the latter
subsequently displaced on some aircraft by
an MG151/20mm cannon-calibre
variation) would be more than sufficient
to bring down any aircraft. In addition th
deSign's maximum speed of just over
480kmph (300mph), coupled with a
range exceeding 2,900km 0,800 miles),
ensured that no part of the Bay of Biscay
was free from interception for the RAF or
their American ally when its aircraft were
subsequently added to the offensive.
The current range of RAF twin-engine
aircraft types, although appreciably slower
and arguably much less manoeuvrable
than the Ju 88, still possessed the ability
to strike back. Both the Whitley and the
Wellington were equipped with
hydraulic-operated rear turrets. In the
Whitley's case it carried four machine-
guns in this position; early Wellington
variants mounted two machine-guns, but
the Mk III onwards had this number
doubled with the introduction of the
FN20 turret. (The Vickers design
possessed a second power turret in the
nose, whereas the Whitley's nose
armament was limited to a single flexible
gun.) But in order to avoid running into
its prey's basic firepower, the Ju 88 pilots
could, however, approach from a beam
position, and in this case the sole
weaponry that could be brought to bear
was the single machine-gun carried on
either flank of the Wellington, whilst the
Whitley was totally defenceless from this
angle. On the other hand, an' attack from
the rear, unless executed swiftly and
accurately, was liable to invite trouble, as
Leutnant Stoeffler discovered at great
personal cost on 20 JuIy.
Two Wellingtons were in transit to the
Middle East when they were intercepted
in quick succession. The first crew had
little chance to take evasive action before
The return of the Ju 88 to the' Battle over
the Bay' occurred around June 1942, with
the first recorded sortie at the end of the
month being an escort duty for two U-
boats. Some three months later, the third
Staffel of what had, in the interim period,
evolved into V/KG 40, was formed. The
Firepower in 1942
searchlight mounted und r one wing of
the Wellingtons of o. 172 Squadron,
which was illuminated when the aircraft
was within close radar range of a surface
'contact'. Although the damage to, or
destruction of, German warships accruing
from these interceptions was small, their
greater effect was to prevent the U-boats
from surface running, thereby nullifying
the benefit of this practice in respect of
their engines.
The presence of the RAF aircraft over
the bay naturally invited retaliatory
action from the Luftwaffe. Although JG 2
was based with its Bf 109s in north-west
France, the short-range nature of the
Messerschmitt fighter, coupled with the
Geschwader's need to challenge
incursions by the RAF's 'non-stop
offensive' activities during the bulk of
1941, left the Coastal Command aircraft
relatively free from hostile attention. The
provision for longer-range aircraft other
than Arado 196 or He 115 float-planes
was partially satisfied in the summer of
1941 when a number of Ju 88s were first
introduced into I/Kuestenfliegergruppe
106 - though even their ranks were soon
thinned out in favour of deployment in
North Africa and Russia. By early 1942,
the on Iy Ju 88s on hand formed part of
3(F) 123, and the Arado 196 crews,
although able to take on most Coastal
Command multi-engine aircraft with a
reasonable chance of emerging the victor,
found their single-engine aircraft
completely out-classed when the
formidable Beaufighter began to operate
over the bay.
During the summer of 1940 the
Kriegsmarine began the process of
occupying French naval bases along the
country's Atlantic coastline. These bases
were prepared for operations by the
German's fleet of U-boats. Prior to the
collapse of France, these vessels had been
forced to gain the reaches of the Atlantic
across the North Sea, whose waters were
patrolled by the Royal Navy. Not only did
this present a mortal danger, there was
also the fact that it took several days
longer, plus the relative expenditure of
fuel, before the British merchant convoys
bringing in goods for the war effort could
be effectively challenged. After mid-1940,
operations from Brest, Lorient and
Bordeaux provided extended cruising
range, while also avoiding the threat
previously posed by the Royal Navy.
For the Allies, by the end of the year
the loss of merchant tonnage was proving
extremely severe and likely to continue,
at least until a sufficiently large and
efficient pool of escort vessels, backed by
a similar expansion of RAF Coastal
Command, could be effected. II' was the
latter branch of Britain's military forces
that was soon tasked with blocking the U-
boats' routes out of and back into their
bases. From its airfields along south-west
England the Wellingtons, Whitleys and
Hudsons then available during 1940/41,
operating under o. 19 Group, carried
OLit regular patrolling of the Bay of Biscay
around thp. clock. However, the general
lack of reliable radar devices meant that
pinpointing any vessel, even during
daylight hours, was more due to good
fortune than to any technical reason. The
cloak of darkness provided even greater
security from detection for the U-boats,
and, of even greater importance, enabled
them to remain on the surface until clear
of the Bay, which meant they could save
engine battery energy.
This degree of nocturnal immunity
remained unchallenged until the summer
of 1942, when S/L Leigh's brainchild was
brought into service. This was a powerful
722 723
Two airmen are seen polishing the cockpit canopy of a Ju 886/U. The radar aerial array with angled-out
antennae is part of the anti-shipping device FuG 200 Hohentweil. The aperture for a windscreen-mounted
gun is blanked off. Note the clip of what are probably flare cartridges set alongside the side
of the nose compartment.
Ironically it was the crash of the Hudson
just despatched by him that drew the
attention of two Beaufighters: diverting to
the scene, they promptly engaged with,
and brough t down the Ju before
circling the Hudson crew' dinghy. Three
more crew out of the five 10 t on
operations during eptember/October
were all likely victims of the Beaufighters.
Ithough the twin-engine fighters of
V/KG 40 could range well out over the
bay in comparison to their single-engine
contemporaries, the latter were ever on
hand to tackle any opponent whose
briefed route took it anywhere ncar to the
French coast. The 8th Staffel of JG 2
were currently equipped with the Fw 190,
and Kurt Tank's magnificent fighter was
more than capable of taking out any
Allied aircraft it might encounter. The
primary task of the Staffel was originally
envisaged as escort for the vulnerable
Arado 196 float-planes. However its CO,
Oberleurnant Stolle, extended the Fw
190's function to cover sweeps over the
bay in addition to its close-escort duty.
This wa achieved by fitting long-range
fuel tanks, which greatly increased
overall flight endurance. As a result, no
Coastal Command aircraft was free from
po sible interception even around the
coastline of south-west England, since
the Fw 190 pilots were capable of ranging
th is far. Stolle opened the taffel'
account on 1 August when he spotted
what he described as a Wellington on the
horizon, and which he despatched from
behind.
Casualties
Despite the enhanced range of the Fw
190, it was the Ju 8 s of V/KG 40 that
would cause the vast bulk of Allied
aircraft casualties, and before the end of
1942, upwards of ten more pilots or crews
had ta ted th bitter seeds of defeat. This
included everal aircraft transiting to
Gibraltar and on to orth Africa as part
of Operation Torch, the Anglo/American
invasion of Morocco and Algeria; a single
A-20, P-38 and P-39 made up the total.
An interesting diversion to V/KG 4 '
normal duties occurred on 30 December,
when the SAAF completed a mission
to bomb the U-boat pens at Lorient.
Three out of the forty bombers gaining
sortie 'credit' by dropping their bombs
failed to return to base. The Gruppe was
reportedly involved in countering the
CONFRONTATION OVER THE BAY
American thrust, although no definite
claim for any of the three MIA bombers
was granted.
Hauptmann Hissbach was continuing to
make his presence felt during this time. He
took out a Wellington on I ovember,
and was one of three pilots claiming a
Whitley from o. 10 Operational
Training nit at the month-end. Losses
for V/KG 40 during the same two-month
spell of 1942 comprised a mixture of
combat and operational crashes, along
with several incident in which aircraft
received varying degrees of damage.
November started badly, with the crews
of Leurnants Berger and Flothmann lost
on the 1st. But a more significant loss
occurred two days later: Hauptmann
Korthals had assumed the Gruppen-
kommandeur post on 1 July, and on this
occasion was making a non-combat flight
when his Ju 88 went out of control at
Lorient; the ause was subsequently traced
to a jammed ai leron.
Several aircraft suffered degrees of non-
fatal damage during ovember, but
Leurnant Heinburg and crew lost their
lives when engine problems caused the
aircraft to crash. In addition
Oberfeldwebel Knapp's crew were all
wounded and their aircraft crash-landed
at Lorient on the 29th.
December was free of incident until the
23rd, when Leurnant Baumann's Ju 8 hit
a bank at the runway-end while in the
process of taking off. Baumann's 15 Staffel
crew were seriously injured, one member
later dying in hopital. On the same day,
three aircraft crashed at separate
locations, with two machines 'written
off'. Finally on the 30th, one member of
Leutnant Serke's crew was killed when
their Ju 88 suffered engine failure and
crashed at Bordeaux/Merignac. The
Gruppe also suffered rhe loss of its latest
Gruppenkommandeur on the 3 th:
Hauptmann Dargel, who was well out
over the south-west sector of the bay
when he and Oberfeldwebel Heuer
encountered P-39s heading towards
Gibraltar. The result of the combat wa a
draw, with one loss borne by either side.
Heuer brought down one of the P-39s, but
one or more of the American pilots
exacted revenge by either shooting Dargel
down, or causing so much damage that
the Ju 88 cra hed somewhere on its
homeward route.
In its first full spell of combat V/KG 40
had proved its value, with a positive
balance of 'kills' against losses. During
1943, as the 'Battle of the Atlantic'
welled to it final climax, the Gruppe
crew were to wirness a similar, crucial
intensification in its personal battle with
Coastal Command and it American
contemporary.
Europe 1943
s 1943 opened, the Allied cause in
Europe was beginning to look more
positive, at least on land and in the air.
The combined effect of Gen
Montgomery's 8th Army driving west
towards Tuni ia, and the Anglo/American
thrusts through Algeria, were beginning
to bear the fruits that would see the Axis
armies expelled from North frica by
May. In the air, both RAF Bomber
ommand and the US AF were
building up to a joint offensive that would
batter the azi hinterland 'round the
clock', almost up to VE Day.
In stark contrast, no such po itive
outlook was evident at sea, across the
broad stretches of the orth Atlantic. In
the only campaign that Churchill
afterward said was of daily concern to
him matters were again progres ing badly
for the Allie, and appeared to be heading
towards a terminal succe s for the U-boat
fleet. Merchant vessel sinkings were
reaching the figure of 6 0,000 tons each
month - and this was the break-even
point with the tonnage being produced:
any more, and the Allied shipyards would
fail to build more tonnage of vessels than
that being sunk. Loss of the t1antic
supply routes would almost certainly place
Britain in an impossible position as
regards continuing the war to any positive
effect, and it would cost the United tates
and the remaining Allied ations a vital
geographic springboard from which to
launch an invasion into occupied Europe.
Early Encounters: January,
February and March
The squadrons of the U avy were now
entering the combat equation over the
bay. The B24Ds of the 480 Anti-
ubmarine Group (ASG) began to fly
sorti s, and all too soon recorded a los.
The Bf 109 of 8/JG 2 continued to cut
into the Allied fliers' ranks, and the unit's
latest 'kill' on the 6th January was again
effected by its Staffelkapitaen: none of
Cap Lolley's ten-man crew survived this
attack by toile. In contrast, little contact
with Allied aircraft wa made by V/KG 40
until January was well advanced, and then
with very negative results. On the 29th,
Beaufighters from o. 24 quadron were
skimming over the sea when one pilot
happened to glance back, and sighted two
'I ogeys'. These materialized as Ju s, who
now found themselves out-numbered two
to one. One aircraft had both engine
fired during succe sive attacks and was
brought down, while the other al 0
sustained hits on one engine and
disintegrated upon striking the waves. All
six of Oberfeldwebel Kriedel and
Unteroffizier Paschoff's crews be ame
victims of the crashes; and even if they
had survived the impact, they would
certainly have died of exposure.
A similar encounter between these
units next day restored the balance
somewhat, although on this occasion, four
crews out of the eight participating went
down. A 'bounce' by the Beaufighter on
a 14/KG 40 Schwann took down Ofw.
Heuer' aircraft; but then one of the
attackers collided with the Ju flown by
the taffelkapitaen, Hauptmann Reicke;
and during the ensuing melee, a second
Beaufighter wa then shot down.
The experience of 29 January now
persuaded V/KG 40 to operate in
minimum chwarm trength - although
CONFRONTATION OVER THE BAY
this measure was still no guarantee of
avoiding loss, as was in tanced on 9
February. Once again there were equal
numbers of four, and the debriefing report
was as follow. The Beaufighters sighted
their adversarie up-sun, off to the left,
but as the RAF pilot climbed to attack,
the Ju s began to form a circle. The
lead Beaufighter managed to avoid the
fire of one opponent, then manoeuvred
into a favourable position behind a
second, which was quickly despatched
into the sea. A second Ju 88 was
interrupted in its assault upon one
Beaufighter and had a fuel tank set on
fire, after which it too went into the sea.
A third Ju 88 lost out in a head-on attack
when the Beaufighter's combined cannon
and machine-gun bursts sheared one of its
engines from it mount; the pilot
managed a gentle landing among the
waves, but sadly even then the survivors
would have been doomed, given the
remote position and absence of any
rescue service. (In fact only the aircraft
flown by Oberleurnant Isslinger and
Oberfeldwebel Dettmer failed to return,
pointing up yet again how, in the
confusion of an aerial combat,
unsub tantiated claims for 'kill' could
very easily be made.)
The primary function of the KG 4
crews was to intercept anti- ubmarine
ai rcraft, but so far 1943 had proved
extremely sparse in this respect. The
downing of a Whitley on 1 March
promi cd better luck, but it was almost
two weeks later before a Fortre s and a
Liberator (a Ferry Command aircraft)
were brought down, followed on the 24th
l y a Halifax. In between these incident
came the first bitter experience with an
opponent that became even more
redoubtable than the Beaufighter - the
Mosquito.
For the All ies, o. 264 quad ron had
already been based in south-west England
for several months with a view to adding
its potent weight to the conflict over the
bay. By March, the type of patrol being
flown was coded 'Instep', and involved
small formations tasked with dire tly
taking out the fighter threat to the oastal
Command's anti-submarine aircraft; this
compared to the squadron-strength
'Ranger' patrols whose function was to
entice enemy fighters into the air. The
patrol sent out on the 22nd was an
'Instep', and on this occa ion two Ju
6s flown by Leutnant Th ies and
nteroffizier teurich were unlucky
enough to be pounced on by a trio of
Mosquitoe ; all ix airmen were added to
the Gruppe MI list. ext day a Liberator
picked a combat with a Ju flown by
Leutnant pel, and shot it down: it was
seen to strike the water and disappear.
As ever, there were some losses that
were not directly attributable to combat.
On the 24th, the Staffelkapitan of 13/KG
40 crashed off the north Spanish coast,
and although it was reported that all three
airmen of Hauptmann Esch's crew had
clambered aboard their dinghy, the next
brought the sad information that their
bodies had been discovered on that
neutral country's shorel ine.
Into Spring and Summer
The theoretically inferior performance of
some of the oa tal Command de igns as
compared to the Ju did not always
result in the destruction in combat of the
RAF aircraft concerned, even when it
crew was faced by superior numbers. A an
example of this, on 2 pril a Halifax of
o. 5 quadron encountered no fewer
than seven Ju 8s. The depth charges
were jettisoned and the pilot climbed for
the available cloud cover, but before he
could effectively reach it, a succession of
individual attacks were launched from
several angles, but the Halifax turned into
124
725
the overall percentage of loss as compared
to the total aircraft and crew
establishment. Four crews went down
during May, either in combat or, in the
case of Leutnant Weide's crew on the 9th,
as a result of a fatal take-off crash. A
simi lar number of crews were brought
down during June, all but one of which
was declared MIA or confirmed killed.
The lucky exception was after an incident
on the 19th, when a o. 151 Squadron
fighter shot down Leutnant Gudermann;
all three airmen were later rescued by a
Spanish fishing boat after floating
aimlessly in their dinghy for almost two
days.
During the next three months the
casualty tally rose to twelve crews overall,
with four going down to the guns of US
Navy Catalinas or Liberators - although
some of these did not return to enjoy
their success, since they, too, were lost in
the same encounter. Even the venerable
Whitley could land a 'sting' on its
assailant, as happened on 12 July: in this
episode, Unteroffizier Frasek engaged an
aircraft of No. to OTU and shot it down.
Unfortunately his Ju 88 was fatally
damaged during the engagement, and the
CONFRONTATIO OVER THE BAY
127
The Ju 88s of I/KG 77 were regularly involved with torpedo-bomber operations. Leutnant Laubis is seen at
the controls of his Ju 88A-17 during start-up procedure. The aircraft bears two torpedoes on the PVC racks;
the increased depth of the racks as compared to the standard mounting can be seen under
the left side wing. Laubis
(Sadly, two of this reduced number also
died from a combination of injury and
exposure while the warship was steaming
for home.)
A second incident of note - though a
less tragic one - occurred on 18
September. This time round the potential
victims were a Halifax towing a Horsa
glider to North Africa, and the bomber's
crew later reported that a total of twelve
Ju 88s descended upon them. Whatever
the actual number of Luftwaffe aircraft
involved, it was inevitable that Halifax
and Horsa could not survive very long as
an entity, and so the crew of the Horsa
decided to cast off, even if this meant
facing the strong possibility of not
surviving the 'ditching', and if they did,
then of not being rescued. It was therefore
all the more amazing that not only were
the three ai rmen aboard the glider
subsequently rescued - but the Hal ifax
crew then succeeded in escaping their
assailants and getting through to
Gibraltar
l
Over the same period of ever-
intensifying action, V/KG40 was
experiencing its own scale of loss. This
was not appreciably smaller in terms of
BOAC. First, two Wellingtons were taken
down in quick succession during the early
morning. Then a Halifax failed to return
in the evening, following a report that it
was under attack. The fourth loss was a
DC-3 flying back to Britain, one of whose
passengers was the actor Lesley Howard;
none of the sixteen crew and passengers
survived the incident.
Before July was out, a further fifteen
RAF crews had gone down before the
guns of VIKG 40; amongst these, three
were flying in what was, by this stage of
World War II, the seriously antiquated
Whitley. The retirement of the
Armstrong \X!hitworth design from
Bomber Command had occurred months
before, and its retention within Coastal
Command when more modern
contemporaries were available in numbers,
can be regarded as a tragic anachronism.
Autumn: the Battle of the Bay
Reaches its Climax
The Battle of the Bay boiled up to its 1943
climax during August and September,
when the loss-factor for the Allied air
forces was twenty-seven aircraft and the
majority of their crews. One combat of
particular note occurred on 2 September,
when a Liberator of No. 224 Squadron
was caught by Ju 88s. While the pilots
attempted to weave their path to safety,
the gunners put up a desperate return fire,
which, according to the survivors,
brough t down at least one of the
attackers. With fuel tanks punctured and
on fire, the Liberator was successfully
'ditched', and the seven airmen still alive
scrambled into one dinghy. Ahead of
them lay an odyssey of suffering that was
to extend over eight days, as related by Fit
Sgt Foss (second pilot). The first evening
a U-boat ran across their path, but its
crew made no response to the pleas for
water and rations from the airmen. Over
the ensuing seven days, sightings of RAF
aircraft proved initially fruitless when
these did nor respond to frantic signals,
although better success was had when a
Sunderland found the dinghy on the fifth
day and dropped some basic provisions.
Even so, two of the three officers in the
crew, one of whom had been badly
wounded, succumbed soon after. Finally
the sloop HMS Wildgoose, that had been
directed towards the dinghy's location,
closed on the saturated survivors and
plucked them out of their watery torment.
CONFRONTATION OVER THE BAY
726
All five aircraft seen in this picture have been sprayed with the modified colour scheme. The light grey
overall colour on the top surfaces and fuselage sides is broken up by medium green bands on the wings
and stabilizer. The fuselage is similarly intersected by a combination of medium green mottle
and stripes. Gutermann
A Schwarm of Ju 88C-6s belonging to V/KG40 are lining up for take-off on 19 September 1943. All but one of
the aircraft bear the standard 'splinter' camouflage pattern. The exception seen in the foreground bears the
modified colour scheme for use over the sea, with the intention of making the aircraft difficult to spot,
especially when flying at minimum altitude. Gmelin
each assault, and the gunners in turn
claimed several hits in the process. The
combat eventually tailed off as the
Halifax slid into the thin cloud layer and
headed for its base. (It is worth noting
that a succession of similar official RAF
combat reports were filed during 1943,
which cited a figure of between five and
eight enemy aircraft being encountered.
Of course, the later generation aircraft
such as the Halifax, Liberator and Fortress
did possess an uprated degree of defensive
armament, but even so, the seeming
ability of the Luftwaffe fighter formations
to divide that overall firepower by
simultaneous assaults does not appear to
have been indulged in to any degree,
otherwise some or all of these combats
would have proved fatal for the RAF
aircraft concerned.)
A steady toll of RAF aircraft now
occurred, with eight recorded loss s up to
the beginning of June. The victor in at
least three cases was Oberfeldwebel
Giessuebel, one of the 'expert' combat
fliers posted to VIKG 40 the previous
summer to pass on his experience, and
since promoted to his present rank. The
first day of June proved to be a black day
for the RAF and its civilian counterpart
CONFRONTATION OVER TilE BAY COl FRONTATION OVER TH E BAY
An LT F5b torpedo is being offered up to the PVC wing-rack on a Ju 88A-4fTorp. Sway-braces vary in shape
to those fitted for other forms of ordnance or for fuel tanks. The rack is also deeper in pattern compared to
the standard ETC fitting, and just one rack is positioned under each wing.
Autumn Escort Duty
Duri ng October, the un it designation
was changed to IjZG 1, and the crews
were allocated an extra duty: protecting
the KG 4 FW 200 attacks against
Allied convoy traver ing the bay to and
from Gibraltar, as well as the
reconnaissance sorties by Ju 290s of
2jFernaufklaerungsgruppe 5.
Encounters with the RAF twin-
engine fighters, although not so
frequent as the year drew to a close, still
occurred. On 2 ovember, one crew
led by Ober! utnant Shuster, 3j2G1
taffelkapitaen, was lost in a sharp
combat with their oppo ite numbers;
worse still was the failure of the
surviving crews to protect the FW 200
and Ju 290 aircraft placed in their
charge on this occasion. Next day's
con olation in the fact that they had
taken one of their adversaries with them:
Leutnant Gmelin was brought down by
return fire, and forced down into the ea
where his crew spent an uncomfortable
few hours before being rescued by an
aircraft from I Seenotstaffel.
This U aircraft was the first of three
to l e lost during August, the other two
bing B-24s of the 479A G, out of a
total of eighteen Allied aircraft. The
cost to VjKG 40 was just five aircraft
and crews, and two of the latter were
rescued.
eptember commenced badly for the
Allied fliers, with four aircraft, all
Liberators, going down within the first
forty-eight hours, followed by a fifth on
the 8th. On the other hand, their crews in
turn had probably brought down both Ju
s lost during the same period, while a
further four German crew were 10 t
during the month, the majority to the
ubiquitous Mosquito. However, for the
Allies, the overall casualty rate - in term
of aircraft, at least - soared to over double
during the month.
On the 23rd the 8USAAF attacked
even targets in France, five of which were
airfields. Three Groups belonging to the
3rd Bomb Divi ion were briefed for
KerlinjB<lstard airfield, and fifty-three of
the sixty-three attacking B-17 put their
loads down quarely on the target. 0
fewer than eight Ju s belonging to
VjKG 40 were either totally destroyed, or
were so badly damaged that they were
'written off'.
The continued involvement of the
Whitley resulted in very mixed fortunes
for one particular crew. On 14 June a o.
1 OT aircr8ft intercepted two U-boats.
After a prolonged period of waiting for
other aircraft to rally to the location, but
in vain, Sgt Benson finally decided to
initiate a solo attack. In the course of the
action his aircraft was damaged, but its
depth charge were delivered with
precision and sank one of the -boat,
564. adly, as the crippled Whitley
staggered back to England it had the
misfortune to be caught by several Ju s
led by Leutnant Maerder, and none of the
Allied crew emerged alive from the brief
combat.
Despite the decline in surface actions
with U-boats, the level of Coastal
ommand activity did not follow suit.
lthough th level of attacks on both
the Atlantic and Gibraltar convoy route
had fallen away drastically, there was no
guarantee that thi positive situation
would continue. The battle of the
Atlantic - which, after the war,
Churchill stated was the only campaign
that constantly worried him throughout
out the conflict - was of crucial
importance not only in winning the war,
but even of sustaining its successful
prosecution. The -boat menace was
ever present right up to the onset of
victory, and oastal Command wa
de tined to playa pivotal part, along
with the Royal and United States Navies
(a well as the nited tates Naval
aviators), in ensuring its final and
irremediable defeat.
It was all the more ironic, given the
compulsory decline in U-boat operations,
that VjKG 40 was to enjoy it greate t
scale of succe ov I' its aerial adversaries
during August. One of its first 'kills'
involved the recently operational
Catalinas of the Navy's VP-63 unit.
On the 1st, Lt Tanner's crew was caught
squarely by an overwhelming number of
Ju 88s. Bereft of cloud cover, Tanner
dropped to minimum altitude, but his
desperate bid to evade the initial
sequence of assaults ended abruptly when
the aircraft was set on fire and the
controls hot out. A fortuitous angle
almost dead into wind allowed the pilot
to make a heavy landing on the water;
however, only they and a gunner emerged
alive, to be picked up from a dinghy next
day by an R warship. Had they known
it, the survivors might have felt some
standard -boat, were spotted by a
Ltherator, whose signals brought a further
six aircraft on the scene. Although one of
the two Halifaxes involved was crippled
111 the initial exchange of fire and forced
to retire, a second Halifax made repeated
runs from medium altitude. During one of
the runs, the single anti-submarine bomb
released fatally crippled one U-boat. The
reduced firepower provided by the
remaining two U-boat failed to deter the
other RAF crew, one of whom was led by
Fit Lt Marrow flying in a o. 461
Squadron underland. Closing up behind
two faster-flying Liberators, the forward
armament of the 'Flying Porcupine' left a
tra iI of devastation among the
Kriegsmarine gunners before a 'stick' of
depth charges was laid across their vessel.
The resultant train of explosions snapped
the U-boat in two. The surviving -boat
dived, but was all too soon the target for a
Royal Navy group of warships called to
the scene by one of the RAF aircraft, and
a lethal cannonade of depth harges duly
settled its fate.
The trio of U-boats lost in this action
represented an eighth of all such losses
suffered during the three months in
which the 'fight on the surface' order
was applied. A score amounting to half
this number in hot-down Ilied aircraft
proved to be an extremely poor return
for the Krieg marine. By coincidence,
the victim of Fit Lt Marrow' attack was
none other than -461!
However, a Ithough emergi ng
victorious from this encounter, Fit Lt
Marrows and his crew were to
experience a similar fate on 16
September, when several Ju 88s singled
out their aircraft for attack. The danlage
suffered during the a tion led to
Marrows being forced to bring his charge
down on the water, though happily all
ten airmen weI' uninjured, and what i
more, were also picked up within
twenty-four hours.
During this period of major
onfrontation between the U-boats and the
RAF, VjKG 40 was still fully engaged in
patrolling the entire region. However, up to
the first week in August, the number of
Allied aircraft intercepted and shot down
while conducting 'box search' operations
reached only the moderate figure of eleven,
and Doenitz then cancelled hi 'surface
group' tactic. A further two aircraft
transiting the bay, and a Beaufighter, were
added to the overall 'kill' total.
option: his crews were to traverse the bay
on the surface in 'daylight and in groups'
Furthermore, instead of diving upon
heing attacked, their crews were
expected to rely on their AA anTlament
in order to fend off or shoot down the
Allied aircraft concerned.
The Allied reaction to the new -boat
tactic was to create two rectangular patrol
areas that were al igned northj outh at a
longitude roughly in line with, and
extending down to, the north-west coast of
pain. The Coastal Command aircraft
were despatched every day in three groups
of seven, and each group flew 'box
searches' within the overall zones, on a
course parallel with the others. Any
aircraft sighting a U-boat or -boats would
transmit the location, upon which signal
the other aircraft could 'home in' to it.
A classic example of the limitation of
Doenitz' latest operational policy change
was recorded as late as 3 July. Two 'milch
cow' supply U-boats, along with a third
revised poli y ordered by Admiral Doenitz
in late April was expected to compromise,
or even negate, the ability of the Coastal
Command aircraft to surpri e the -boats
at night while they were on the surface
recharging their batteries within the
region of the bay. (The Germans had not
yet produced an effective antidote to the
centimetric SV Mk III equipment by
that time in full-scale usc by Coastal
Command.)
The new order required the U-boats to
surface long enough during daylight
hours to fulfil this nece sary function.
Needles' to say, such a policy was
disastrous, and within a very short period
a number of vessel had been caught and
either damaged or sunk. On the strength
of this failure, Doenitz issued yet another
entire crew ended up in British captivity,
presumably as a result of 'ditching' and
subsequently being picked up by an
Allied vessel.
The U-Boat Offensive Suffers a
Recession
The air war over the Bay of Biscay was to
boil up to a climax during August and
September, but the -boat offensive that
had acted as the catalyst for the aerial
confrontation was about to suffer a
rece sion from which it would never
recover. everal 'wolfpack' sorties against
Atlantic convoy during May had ended
in serious defeat, with the loss of many of
the -boats involved. As regard
operations around the Bay of Biscay, a
128 129
CONFRONTATIO OVER TilE BAY CONFRONTATION OVER THE BAY
-H
Aerial Tactics 1942/43
search mis ion on 1 December For a
crew brought down on 30 November
proved to be a microcosm of the. eesmv
development of aerial tactics deployed
over the Bay during [942/43. First, a
group of ju s was despatched to locate
the downed crew, in th process of which
they intercepted and damaged a
Sunderland. The Formation was
sub equently 'bounced' by Mosquitoes,
and three of its number were lost,
although they did manage to shoot down
one of the attackers. When the action was
over, a single ju 88 was ordered to circle
the dinghy that contained the one
crewmember who had managed to get out
alive From their Fighter. But with Fuel
running short, the 'shadowing' aircraft
Below: A working party of RAF regiment airmen are
in the process of removing the shattered remains of
a Ju 88 rear fuselage. The wreck is lying alongside
a French advanced landing-ground airstrip, under
construction following the D-Day landings. The
aircraft was reportedly shot down over the
area by AA fire
when brought to bear accurately. On
thi occa ion the loss of three bombers,
either in action or to other causes,
proved an extremely poor return For the
single merchant-man damaged by ju t
the one recorded stri ke.
escort sortie proved no better when a
group of He 177s of [[/KG 40 headed
out For yet another convoy attack. The
bombers were each bearing two
examples of the H 293 glider bombs,
weapons that were deadly in their eFFect
Above: Unusual national markings borne by this Ju 88A and its fellow aircraft in the background is that of
the French Air Force. Numbers of captured intact luftwaffe aircraft such as the Ju 88 were put to use, for
example as jet engine test-beds. This photograph was taken at le Bourget on 17 May 1945
1944: the Path to Disaster
1/ZG 1's independent existence was
destined to last ur to the beginning of
August 1944, and in that time the odds
against individual and corJlorate survival
The cost to combatants on both sides during the 'Bloody Biscay' years was
high. On 31 July 1944 the Mosquitoes of No. 248 Squadron intercepted a
Ju 88H-1 from 3/123 flown by Feldwebel Paul Gruner. The extended
fuselage of the H-1 variant, which was specifically designed for
ultra long-range reconnaissance work over the Atlantic, can be
picked out, even though the picture quality is not totally clear. Scott
would Fall almost to vanishing point. The
year began in torrid Form as early as
5 january, when its airfield at
Bordeaux/Merignac was attacked by B-175
of the 8USAAF. In a hasty 'scramble', all
the crews managed to g t into the air
beFore the bombing assault commenced -
though one crew did engage a straggler,
which was Finally seen to crash-land. just
a single loss was incurred during the
remainder of january: this was Feldwebel
Puetz of the embryonic 7/ZG I although
hi Mosquito victor was Forced to 'ditch'
on the way home; the two RAF fl iers were
picked up everal days later, unlike the
LuFtwaFFe crew that was posted MI
A second 7/ZG 1 crew had an almost
parallel experience to Puet: on 1 February,
during a short detachment to upport
bomber orerations in the western
Mediterranean. Leutnant Baumann was
Forced to 'ditch' after his ju 88 received
mortal damage handed out by a No. 39
quad ron BeauFighter, but his rerurn Fire
Gruner's attempt at evasion proved unsuccessful, as the subsequent picture
confirms. A tall column of black smoke marks the final crash site, from which
none of the crew of three emerged alive. The incident occurred close to
Penmarche Point on the French coast. However, most losses occurred far out
to sea, over the open and desolate expanse of the Bay of Biscay, where it was
unlikely that any surviving crew would have been rescued. Blanchard
strength Force then encountered eight
BeauFighters. Acting upon the principle
that 'the best Form of deFence is attack',
Horstmann engaged his opJlonents: he
brought down one, and Leutnant Gmelin
took out a second. But then superior
numbers began to tell, and one of the less
experienced crews Fell; and soon
aFterwards the veteran Formation leader
was shot down and killed.
Horstmann's death was a body blow to
the GrupJle; he had served within its
ranks since the beginning of [943, with
seven recorded 'kills' to his credit in this
period, and wa well regarded by all
throughout the unit.
had to head back to base, having noted
the dinghy's position. Two Fellow ju 88s
sent out as relieF reached the dinghy, only
to Find a Force of numerically superior
BeauFighters circling above it. AFter an
inconclusive combat the ju 88s were
recalled, with instructions to carry out a
separate search For survivors From several
LuFtwaffe aircraft, victims of a previous
assault by Typhoon acting as e cort For a
shipping-strike Force of Mosquitoes.
Among the number of survivors later
picked up by a heavily e corted Do 24
flying boat was the single Tyrhoon pilot
who had Failed to return to England aFter
being hot down.
Tw Ive days later came yet another
costly encounter with the RAF long-range
Fighters, in this case BeauFighters From o.
143 Squadron. A six-aircraFt Formation led
by Oberleutnant Horstmann was reduced
to Four when one ju 88 was ordered to
escort a Fellow crew whose Fighter had
suFFered engine Failure. This Schwarm-
730 731
CONFRONTATION OVER THE BAY
CONFRONTATION OVER TilE BAY
On 15 April 1944 the personnel of V/KG 40 held a celebration for the l,OOOth operational sortie flown by the
unit. The wreath-enveloped board bears the inscription 'Congratulations on the 1000th sortie'. A number of
the airmen are sporting non-standard headgear in the form of bowler hats. Gutermann
This heavily mottle-camouflaged Ju 88A-17 is not in trouble. The solid black smoke-trails exude from
rocket pods, the right one of which can just be discerned under the wing. The aircraft belongs to 3/KG 77,
based in southern France during May 1944, and is being flown by leutnant Ulrich laubis. Laubis
One of the losses on the 9 June
involved one more veteran Gruppe
member, Leutnant Gme!in, who had rung
up five 'kills' since his first in August
1943. Although the principal threat to
the Luftwaffe remained the overwhelming
Allied fighter force, AA fire had also been
carving a path through the bombers'
ranks. Following the latest raid on
positions around the Orne estuary,
Gmelin made several strafing runs.
During the last run the Leutnant was
severely wounded, and lost control of the
Ju 88 before he could complete his crash-
landing attempt within friendly lines.
Dragged out of the twisted wreckage by
h is crew, he lingered on for some th irty
minutes, but then quietly expired.
During late 1943, one of two specialist
sub-units had been formed to combat the
nocturnal mine-laying operations of RAF
Bomber Command. Flying the Ju 88C-6
and Ju 88R-2, equipped with Lichtenstein
BC, 9 (Nacht}/ZG 1, as it finally became
named, was switched to operations over
Normandy.
Finally, on 28 June, a Mosquito of the
Fighter Interception Unit was patrolling
in the Orleans region when a 'contact'
was made. This was identified as a Ju 88-
that of Unteroffizier Migge - and it was
swiftly despatched in flames. In fact it
spelt more than the demise of a Gruppe
machine: it signalled the demise of I/ZG
1, and between this night and early
August, operations were curtailed and the
personnel posted to other units.
The Demise of I/ZG 1
When 6 June duly dawned, so did
disaster for the unfortunate airmen, a
day when the utter confusion that
prevailed within the German High
Command - not to speak of their
mindlessness - at last caught up with its
hapless soldiers and airmen. In the case
of I/ZG 1, its crews (ound their aircraft
loaded with bombs for dropping within
the All ied bridgehead - a dangerous
enough task by night, but basically
su icidal duri ng the day. By the onset of
dusk, three crews from each Gruppe had
been deleted from their respective ranks,
with the majority of the airmen killed.
The carnage continued over the next
four days, wi th fi ve crews shot down
between the 7th and 10th.
a convoy ended with four more crews
going missing, including the 7/ZG I
Staffelkapitaen, Oberleutnant Reuter.
In the weeks leading up to 6 June, the
Gruppe was regularly employed both in
further Mediterranean operations and
'scouting' missions up towards the English
Channel. The latter sorties were launched
in order to observe any Allied shipping
concentrations that might indicate the
approach of an invasion task force.
SJ)errbrecher flak ship wh i1e the 'Tsetse'
aircraft were focusing on the U-boclt.
The Ju 88 crews were flying in
staggered-height groups of four or two,
and the No. lSI Squadron Mosquitoes
took up position as top cover. The
resultant air battle quickly dissolved into
a shapeless melee. Two Mosquitoes, one
being the leader, crashed during the initial
strafing run; one more was lost during the
action when it 'ditched'; and a fourth
staggered back to a crash-landing. In the
afternoon search for the 'ditched' crew by
o. 151 Squadron, one crew was lost and
a second had to crash-land after a fresh
engagement with I/ZG 1. However, any
rejoicing on the part of the Germans at
this scale of success - particularly where
the Mosquito was involved - must have
been greatly diminished by the Gruppe's
own casualty Iist: no fewer than seven
crews had gone down in combat, and only
four of the twenty-one airmen had
survived. (An eighth crew had crashed
fatally off a non-combat flight.)
The final, dark path to the practical
el imination of I and II I/ZG 1 was not far
ahead as the All ied plans for the launch of
Operation Overlord gathered pace.
However, it was over the Mediterranean
that the next reverse was suffered, on 20
April: escort duties for bombers attacking
never returned: somewhere along the
route he became isolated, and evidently
proved easy prey for Mosquitoes from
o. 157 Squadron.
Vacillating Fortunes
Occasional successes were still being
recorded, particularly against multi-
engine Allied aircraft. A quarterly total of
seven 'kills' involved three PB4Ys and
one Sunderland; the other three aircraft
were a brace of Beaufighters and a single
Mosqu ito. From April onwards, there
would be just the single occasion when
the Luftwaffe would add to this figure, but
the aircraft type involved was the most
improbable example in the Allied
inventory, namely the Mosquito. On II
April the latest sortie to provide escort for
a U-boat was being conducted by ten Ju
88s. A mixed force of eleven Mosquitoes
from Nos. lSI and 248 Squadrons,
including two aircraft equipped with the
57mm gun, closed with the enemy, the
o. lSI Squadron aircraft acting as top
cover. The close escort from 248
Squadron turned to batter the escorting
Two actions during March really
brought home the escalating price to be
paid for the Luftwaffe's numerical and
technical inferiority. First, on the 8th a
I/ZG I patrol over the Mediterranean
was 'bounced' by Beaufighters, and
returned home short of three crews.
Then forty-eight hours later, a double
Schwarm-strength force was circl ing a
Japanese U-boat heading for France.
Two Mosquitoes bearing 57mm guns,
escorted by four further Mosquitoes
from No. 248 Squadron, then appeared
on the scene, and in the ensuing air
battle one Ju 88 was shot down; there
were no Allied losses. A second Gruppe
patrol relieved the first, led by
Oberstleutnant von Janson, the ZG 1
Kommodore. Von Janson had only
recently assumed the Geschwader
command, in late 1943, and had little
or no combat experience. The patrol
being duly completed, he headed his
force back for France - but he himself
had struck home and the 'Beau' quickly
joined its adversary in the water. Both of
the Beaufighter airmen got cl aI', but only
Baumann survived from the Ju 88, the
other two crewmembers being drowned
during, or following, the final impact. (A
second 7/ZG lcrew was shot down and all
killed later in the engagement.)
The Grim Reaper was no respecter of
combat experience, a fact demonstrated
on St Valentine's Day. Oberleutnant
Necesany, yet another senior figure in
l/ZG 1, had been on hand even longer
than Horstmann. He had been credited
with his first 'kill' on 11 September 1942,
and to date had amassed six definite 'ki lis',
two 'probables' and one 'damaged'.
During the day's operations, a PB4Y-I of a
US Navy unit was forced to 'ditch' after a
combat with Ju 88s. Necesany did not
return to the airfield, and no further trace
of aircraft or crew was recorded, the dark
waters of the bay having almost certainly
claimed them.
132
133
OPERATION STEINBOCK
CHAPTER ELEVEN
Operation Steinbock
was within the southern reaches of
Britain. Then, too, the usc of sky markcrs
was very dependent upon the existing
weathcr conditions, not so much for those
markers providing the route, as for those
involved in actual target marking. For
instance, any appreciable wind strength
would cause the parachute-mounted
markers to drift off course even if
accurately dropped. Also, any error in the
markers' release by the 'pathfind r'
aircraft, especially should the target be
c1oud-covercd, would compound the
problem. In fact the Luftwaffe was facing
the ame set of technical and climatic
restrictions that all too often intruded
upon the total effectivene s of RAF
Bomber Command operations.
The First Assault Fails
Because London was so close to the
Luftwaffe bomber airfields, allied to its
commcrcial importance as well as its vast
bulk, it wa almost bound to be the first
choice for the initial assault: this was
despatched on 21/22 January. Units took
off from airfields that were spread in a wide
Another innovation was the usc of sky
markers both for routc indicators for the
main force as well as the target area; in a
manner reminiscent of the RAF's No.8
(PFF) Group, this was to become a regular
feature of Steinbock operations. Whenever
weather conditions were clear, a line of
incendiary bombs were dropped at right
angles to the main force approach, and
this was utilized by the bomb aimers as the
start-point for a timed run, at the end of
which the bombs wcre released. Further
aids to keep the main force on track all
the way were Iight beacons and
searchlights within its own territory, and
flares on marker buoys dropped over the
Channel. High-power beacons, VHF
beams and D/F 'homing' equipment
supported the visual aids (although these
were swiftly compromised by 'jamming'
counter measurcs).
However, there were several limitations
to the overall pattcrn of thesc 'guidance'
systems. The above-named visual aids
were only of true valuc if the final target
Operation Steinbock
Firepower
A reconnaissance version of the Ju 88S, the Ju 88T was produced in two variants. This is a T-l,
as confirmed by the BMW 801 engines with their VDM metal propellers.
The theoretical weight of ordnance that
could bc concentrated on a single target
by the total force was sizeable. The
relatively hort courses to be flown from
the Continent to London meant that the
bombers could regularly indulge in their
maximum bomb/incendi::Uy capacity. In
addition, the Luftwaffe still possessed
good radio and radar equipment with
which to properly mark a target, as well
as to proce s the bombers into and out of
that target. The principle unit ta ked
with the duty of target marking was I/KG
66, whose crews were briefed to operate
their Do 217s in a manner markedly
different from their predecessors in
1940/41. Instead of a constant altitude
approach to and from the target, the
, lass of 1944' Pathfinders set out at
minimum altitude, climbed rapidly over
the Channel, and finally made a gradual
descent into the target.
190, which undoubtedly possessed the
ability to confront its adversaries on an
equal basis, but whose minimal bomb-
carrying apacity and relative lack of
range would add little to the overall
offensive.
Peltz and his staff laboured hard and
long to assemble their force: by the on et
of Operation Steinbock on 20 January it
comprised fourteen Gruppen with a
nominal strength totalling 491 aircraft, of
which 431 were declared operational. The
Ju figure within the e totals were 233
and 312 respectively, simultaneously
highlighting the dependence of the
Luftwaffe upon this veteran bomber
d e ~ i g n , and the continuing lack of
replacement de igns, now urgently
required. KG 6 was represented by it tab
and I to III Gruppen sub-units, KG 54 l y
its equivalent Geschwader tal as well as
I and II Gruppen; also present with its Ju
8s were II/KG 30 and Geschwader
Stab/KG 76.
The tailwheel on a Ju 88 seen in its retracted position. It slots neatly into the recess within the solid U-
shaped metal yoke. The lateral ribbed pattern of the tyre was a regular feature on luftwaffe aircraft prior
to, and during, World War II.
attack force were daunting, to say the
least. By this point in the air-war Britain's
radar and night fighter defences presented
a formidable challenge to any attacker, a
world away from the polyglot set of
counter measures that had existed for
much of the original 'Blitz'.
From the German side of things, the
overall quantity and quality of aircraft
that the Luftwaffe could now despatch
against Britain varied between poor and
indifferent. Four of the six aircraft designs
thrown into the fray - the Do 217, He
177, Ju and Ju I - did not possess
either the necessary offensive or defen ive
capability to both strike their target with
effective bomb loads and fight their way
through to the target and back with
acceptable Icvels of loss. The fifth aircraft
type, the Me 41 , had a reasonable
chance of evading the defence, but its
relatively small bomb-carrying capacity
restricted the effecti veness of its offensi ve
function. The remaining type was the Fw
The circumstances that prevailed during
the months of 1940/41 when the
Luftwaffe crew. flew their initially
rampant course over Britain were starkly
different to those in which their
successors were brought together for what
was intended to be a resumption of the
'Blitz'. The odds facing this secondary
Another Blitz?
In the light of RAF Bomber Command's
assault upon Hamburg during the high
summer of 1943, senior personnel in the
Luftwaffe had persuaded Goering that
concentration on a solid aerial 'home
defence' force had to be granted top
priority. Armed with all the very
pertinent facts supporting this
programme, Goering then put the
proposal to Hitler. His apparent
determination to convince Hitler of the
strength and logic of the proposal
promptly withered when they were face to
face, Hitler's vehement reaction being to
comprchen ively berate Del' Dicke for his
(in the Fuehrer' mind) negativc attitude
towards combating the RAF incursion
over Germany. 'Meet force with force' was
the gist of Hitler's response - in other
words, he demanded that Goering make
thc Bri tish pay for thei r temeri ty by the
launching of a counter bombing offensive
against their island I
Thus Goering emerged from this one-
sided discussion with his leader armed
with what amounted to a stinging rebuff
for 'his' Luftwaffe. During a subsequent
conference on 28 November, Gocring
appointed Generalmajor Dietrich Peltz to
bc thc Angriffsfuehrer England. Th is was a
grandiose title for what would turn out to
be a piecemeal and ultimately vain
attempt to inflict material damage upon
the British industrial infrastructure. The
cnterprise was gi ven the ti tic teinbock,
and the a sembly of a suitable bomber
force then proceeded apace during the
remaining weeks of 1943.
734 735
OPERATION STEINBOCK OPERATIO STEINBOCK
This Ju 88 is undergoing major servicing, with the right engine detached as well as the right under-wing
panel and wing racks. The ovoid pattern of the nacelle front-end is clearly demonstrated.
arc between Brittany and Holland, and
converged on the capital. But if
Generalmajor Peltz had hoped for the
delivery of a heavy blow <lgclinst the city,
the post-operation reports must have made
dispiriting reading. Around 450 individual
orties were made during the twin-phase
raid, but the percentage of bomb out of
the estimated 500 tonnes that were
despatched and actually made impact
within the metropolitan area was barely 5
per cent, while just over 5 per cent in all
struck the surrounding mainland of south-
east England! Besides this, the other major
contributors to the raid's failure were
deteriorating weather during the raid'
second phase in the early hours of the
22nd, and what appears to have been
serious RCM interference with the Y-
Verfahren guidance system used for final
ordnance-rele<lse by the pathfinder crews.
Added to this technical rehuff was the
material and human loss amongst the
Luftwaffe bomber force. A total of twenty-
six aircraft in all either came down in or
around Britain, or crashed within Europe.
ince exactly half the operationally
available aircraft were Ju ,it is not
surprising that at least nine of the aircraft
that failed to regain the Continent came
from units equipped with that design. KG
6 mourned the loss of four crews MIA, KG
54 and KG 76 were short of two crews
each, and a single loss was recorded by KG
30. The Mosquito night fighters reaped a
steady harvest, with seven recorded 'kills'
(including two Ju 88s), and the A
defences gained definite credit for four
more (three Ju 88s).
The Odds Lengthen
This very inauspicious start to Steinbock
did not bode well for subsequent
operations in terms of either frequency or
effectiveness. Indeed just fourteen more
raids of sub tance would be launched
before the end of March, with eleven
smaller-scale raids. The second January
attack on the 29/30th was made by a
reduced force of around 300 bombers, and
the results were jlU as poor as after the
fir I' attack. This time the loss rate was
lower, however, with just twelve crews
affected, of which two could be definitely
credited to the defences.
The general level of nocturnal
operational experience among the
Luftwaffe crews involved in the c<lmpaign
was appreciably lower than in 1940/41 -
which was not surprising, given that most
operations since then had l een conducted
during the day. When this debilitating
factor was added to a total lack of any
operational experience, the odds again I' a
afe return were greatly increased. For
example, during the second London raid,
the I[[/KG 54 crew led by Unteroffi:ier
Georgen was on it fir I' sortie; but a bare
few minutes after their Ju 88 had crossed
the Suffolk coastline, three of them were
h<lnging under their parachutes, with the
Ju 88 and its pilot going down, the victims
of a o. 68 Squadron Beaufighter's attack.
The sporadic nature of the raids, with
their vast over-concentration on Britain's
capital city, was never likely to have any
real effect upon the country's industrial
output, nor was the 'revenge' aspect of the
overall campaign going to apply the
slightest psychological pressure on the
population. Seven atta ks of any ize were
directed upon London during February,
with a concentration of three continuou
night towards the month-end. everal
hundred people were killed, and damage
was infl icted throughout the city - but
more than half the bomb tonnage
dropped during Fehruary (5 0 tons out of
1,0 2 tons) fell well outside the
metropolitan area, with the spread
ranging between the Channel coast and
East Anglia
l
Only on the nights of
18/19th and 20/21 st was this si tuation
reversed, with nearly 0 per cent of the
bombs falling on south-cast England
striking home allover London and killing
over 400 citizens in the process.
A Horrendous Casualty Rate
An even more striking example of the
poor quality of night oper<ltions di played
by the Luftwaffe crews was the horrendous
number of 10 ses that were caused by
influences other than the RAF night
fighters or the AA guns. On 3 and 4
February, for example, just one of the
fourteen casualty aircraft was actually shot
down. All nine los es on the I /19th were
apparently self-inflicted, as were five of
the eight on the 20/2 1st. Of cour e, some
aircraft may have been so damaged by
night fighter or fire that they failed to
get across the Channel or orth ea,
while a weakened structure or frayed
control cables caused by battle damage
could have led to the aircraft failing
during the final stages of its sortie.
736
Another negative factor came from the
regular presence of RAF 'intruders' over
the Continent, ever ready and capable of
falling upon any Luftwaffe crew whose
vigilance migh I' be relaxed as they
approached the apparent security of their
own airfield. Whatever the circumstances
leading to these tatistics, the effect upon
the urviving crew' general morale must
have been considerable.
Whenever the Mosquitoes or
Beaufighters did engage the Luftwaffe
bomber, the resultant combat generally
came out in the RAF's favour. 0 it was on
22/23 February that a 96 Squadron
machine piloted by Sub-Lt Anderson was
vectored onto a 'bogey' over central
Suffolk. An approach from above led to
the RAF night fighter over-shooting, but
sound work by its radar-operator Fit I'
Bodard meant contact was swiftly
regained - only for his pilot to over-shoot
a second time' Sadly for the enemy crew
it became a case of ' third time unlucky', as
they manoeuvred their Ju in what
turned out to be vain attempts to evade
their assailant. Finally the by now hrightly
burning machine fell onto its back and
plunged to its destruction.
The Situation Deteriorates
When Steinbock operations were resumed
in Mar h following a two-week break,
neither the quality nor the concentration
of bombing had improved; even worse
were the losses incurred: nine aircraft
MIA, plus a Do 217 shot down by its own
flak batteries, and four heavy crash-
landings on return to base. o. 410
quadran shot down a brace of Ju 8s, and
there were single uccesses for Nos. 6 and
96 quadrons. One Luftwaffe airman had
a very lucky escape from death when the
gondola section of his IV/KG 3 Ju 8 was
shot away and he was thrown out into
mid-air; pulling his parachute rip-cord, he
floated down to land in Essex, while his
fellow airmen taggered back to
M I bro k for a crash-landing.
even nights later, the same crew took
off for a raid on London in a Ju A-4.
Approaching the city over Essex, the
bomber wa set upon by Fg Off Huppert in
his o. 410 Squadron Mosquito, and just
one of the four airmen survived the
resultant crash. This was one of ten losses,
of which around half fell to night fighters.
Sub-Lt Bunting of No. 488 quadron
added a Ju 1 and a Ju 8 A-4 to hi tally.
The latter aircraft was bathed in
searchlight beams when it was
intercepted, but the beams also picked out
the Mosquito, blinding the crew. Despite
this unwelcome form of 'support', Bunting
kcpt on the tail of the diving, weaving
aircraft of 9/KG 30, and eventually
managed to set it on fire in one wing-root
and the engine. The doomed bomber fell
onto its back and buried itself in the
Suffolk countryside; two of the four
airmen on board died with it.
The previous night Hull had been the
focus for assault when nine out of the fifty
Luftwaffe crews despatched failed to
return. A full third of these wer credited
to Fit Lt ingleton and Fg Off Haslam of
o. 25 quadron. Vectored far out over
the north-east tip of Norfolk, ingleton
duly closed in on a Ju 88 from dead astern
and had a direct hit; but he had to take
violent evasive action when hi victim
started shedding large sections of
bodywork and then blew up on the way
down. lmost immediately a second
'bogey' was announced by the G I
controller, heading north-west. Once
again what was identified as aJu 8 ,flying
an undeviating course, was taken
completely by surprise and promptly
de patched into the North Sea.
Then yet another 'contact' - the third
in under thirteen minutes - flashed up on
the AI Mk. X radar screen, al 0 heading
north-west. This Ju 88 pilot, unlike the
other two, was not taken by surprise and
executed several sharp evasive actions -
but all to no avail. One engine was fired,
after which a final bur I' of gunfire from
the Mosqu ito set the enti re mach ine
ablaze, wi th the free:i ng orth ea
nuffing out the flames along with the
lives of any surviving crewmember.
However, the Mosquito had uffered
glycol tank damage to both engines
during the attacks, and the RAF airmen
were fortunate to regain friendly soil; they
were also lucky to escape with only slight
injuries when the aircraft had to be crash-
landed following an engine fire and total
power loss. (On this night, four
interrogation desks at II/KG 54's airfield
remained unclaimed, doubtless in part or
wholly due to the Singleton/Haslam
partnership.)
The Operation Founders
Operation Steinbock's fortunes were
continuing to flounder on 24/25 March
(coincidentally this wa also RAF Bomber
Command's last - and wor I' - run to
Berlin, when seventy-eight crew were
MIA). Again 10 per cent of the 143
attackers were lost, although just four
were actually claimed by the night fighter
and AA defence. A switch to Bristol for
th ree nigh ts cond uded the month 's
operations, but reaped the same bitter
harvest of heavy loss (thirteen out of 139)
in return for little bomb damage. It was
clear to the discern ing members of the
737
Luftwaffe High Command that their
aircraft and crews possessed neither the
necessary quantity nor quality of air power
even to marginally harm Britain'
industrial output, while bearing
inordinate casual tie in the process.
In spite of the'c decisive portents and a
los factor averaging just over 7 per cent
between Steinbock's inception in J::lIlumy
<lml the end of March, Generalmajor Peltz
faithfully carried out his brief up to the
end of May. In this period London was
largely abandoncd in favour of a range of
seaport targets spread between Yorksh ire
and the West Country. However, after
another period of inactivity in pril,
London was subjected to a fin<ll assault on
the 18/19th. In turn, its own defences
claimed eight of the thirteen German
losses, although one of these was almost
self-infl icted: nteroffizier Brand (III/KG
54) had lost one engine, sever<ll
instruments and - even more criti al in
the circum tances - his compass. Sighting
an airfield after flying for at least another
hour after he had been hit, he elected for
a forced landing over what he believed to
be the ontinent. adly for rhe crew,
their 'friendly' location turned out to be-
Bradwell Bay in Essex! But <It lea I' all four
airmen were unharmed, whereas the
majority of those lost during Steinbock had
not fared so well.
pril witnessed eight raids that could
be classified as 'major', with a continuing
high loss-rate of around 9 per cent out of
approximately 850 individual sorties. May
proved less fruitful even by the overall
standard of Steinbock operations. Once
again attacks were only initiated in mid-
month, with the West Country seaports of
Bristol and Portsmouth the focus
of attention. The ever-diminishing
influence of the attacks could be aptly
summed up by what proved to be the final
thru ts during late May; the e were
directed against Falmouth and Torquay as
well a Portsmouth. Whereas the latter
could be regarcled as containing valuable
facilities - in this instance naval - the
same could hardly be said of the
remaining two locations.
And 0 the 'Baby Blitz' slipped into
posteri ty, never to be resumed. From
now until VE Day the aerial assault
on Britain would be conductecl through
the medium of the Fuehrer's
Wunderwaffen: the pilotless V-I and the
ev n more fearsome and equally
undirected V-2 ballistic rocket.
CHAPTER TWELVE
NACHTJAGD
A Ju 88C-6 bearing the 4 Staffel letter of an unidentified Geschwader running up its Jumo engines. The
aircraft is equipped with lichtenstein BC (FuG 202) radar. as confirmed by its external aerial array.
If the Battle of the Atlantic can be
regarded as the most prolonged campaign
in the western hemisphere during World
W,lr II, the mainly nocturnal bombing
offensive of the RAE can be placed in a
similar category. The increasingly savage
intensity with which the crews of Bomber
Command and their adversaries from the
Luftwaffe conducted operations between
1940 and VE Day paralleled the battle at
sea. In addition, the importance of the
campaign to the Allied cause, though
arguably not as basically critical to the
ultimate chances of victory as the war at
sea, was still one of sufficient value to
merit its continuation throughout the
entire ix years of World War II. The
aerial pounding of the German war
economy was expected to bring about a
debilitating 'haemorrhage' effect upon the
mis' ability to continue the conflict, let
alone to xpand their malign influence
throughout Europe and the Middle East.
Although Air Chief Marshal 'Butch'
Harris's confident prediction that his
crews could induce a state of surrender
among the German authorities through
their intensive bombing of the Fatherland
never came anywhere near to realization,
nevertheless the disruption to the
German economy was of material value in
bringing about final victory.
The early months, and indeed the first
two years, of the bombing campaign
witnessed a similar advance, from almost
totalunreadiness to either properly attack
or defend by the two protagonists, to a
point where they were both better able to
resi t the other's counter-blows. Bomber
ommand' policy of despatching 'penny
packet' of bombers and attack ing a
multiplicity of targets on the same night
was symptomatic of it gross optimism
that the German economy could be
materially damaged in this fashion. Worse
still was the as yet unknown fact of the
large-scale inability of the crews to even
get within striking distance of their
targets, let alone to land their ordnance
accurately. This parlous situation was
Nachtjagd
finally revealed through an assessment
exercise based on examination of target
'strike' photographs conducted by a
Professor Butt during the second half of
1941. His report naturally made
extremely gloomy reading at the Air
Ministry, one of whose fears was that the
bombers might now well be diverted to
other activities in support of the other
two services, rather than being permitted
to continue operating under their original
strategic bombing brief. Churchill's earlier
assertion regarding the RAF, that 'The
fighters can bring us salvation, but only
the bombers can bring u victory', was at
this stage seemingly well off the mark.
For their part, the Luftwaffe High
Command had scarcely considered
making any provision for night defence,
apart from a handful of units equipped
with single-engine Bf l09s. The pilots
were expected to take advantage of
favourable weather cond itions (when
these were on hand), as well as any
searchlight batteries within their
operational zone whose beams might
illuminate a bomber long enough for the
fighter to close to firing range. These
arrangements were almost as 'ad hoc' as
the principles under which their
opponents were operating. However, by
the end of 1940 the first proper night
fighter Gruppen had been created, with
the twin-engine Bf \\0 rightly regarded as
a much more suitable aircraft for the night
fighter role, albeit still bereft of airborne
radar equipment.
During 194 /l94l, the parallel creation
of the chain of Himmelbett ground-radar
sites provided the achtjagd with an
expanding opportunity to inflict regular
ca ualtie among the RAF bombers. At
this period of the offensive, Bomber
Command was still operating on the basis
of individually spaced sorties by its crews,
the concept of a 'homber stream' with
which to swamp the enemy defences being
still many months distant. Thus it was that
the German ground-radar stations guided
their night fighters onto their 'contacts'
738
with an all-roo-often fatal re ult for the
solitary British bomber and its crew. As a
resu It \941 could be regarded as a yeaI'
when the Luftwaffe garnered more success
from its overall level of operations than
Bomber Command.
'Butch' Arrives
The arrival of ACM 'Butch' Harris as
in- Bomber Command in February
1942 did not signal an impending
intensification of the bombing campaign,
since the Command was till in the
'doldrums' as regards its overall
effectiveness. However, the basic policy
change away from 'preci ion' bombing of
specific industries ro the 'blir:ing' of
German citie had already been decided
by the Air Ministry (and by extension
Churchill and hi Cabinet) before Harris'
arrival at High Wycombe. Hence the
often virulent post-war accusations that it
was Harris on his own initiative who
directed his force against the German
civilian population can be seen as
basically flawed. Equally there is no doubt
that the C-in-C was consistently
determined to blast the heart out of azi
Germany. One has only to consider his
verbal prophecy made during 1940/41
while witnessing yet another heavy raid
on London from the roof of the AiI'
Mini'try: 'They have sown the wind, and
they are going to reap the whirlwind'.
eldom can a similar utterance have come
home to roost so literally!
Position of Weakness
The Command Harris inherited was weak
in terms of both overall strength as well as
the quality of its aircraft. The majority on
strength came from the first generation
'workhorses' of the RAF - the Hampden,
Whitley and Wellington, as well a a
number of Blenheims. The four-engine
Halifax and Stirling bombers made up the
overall figure, and the Lancaster was just
about to enter service. Operations against
the Hanseatic seaports up on the Baltic
featured prominently among Harris's
initial range of targets, but already the
dangerously out-dated concept of
individually flown sorties was giving way
to the 'bomber stream'. This in turn was
to put increasing strain upon the
Luftwaffe night fighters' ability to
regularly cull bombers from among the
attacking force. Hitherto the Bf l\ Os
circling their Himmelbett zones were
more than capable of picking off an
opponent before the latter had cleared the
fixed orbit area allotted each night fighter,
but the introduction of the 'bomber
stream' was to wamp each Himmelbett
:one through which the tream' course
took it. Although single bombers could
still be intercepted, the vast majority was
likely to escape their aerial predator'
lethal attention.
The trio of raids launched in late May
and early June brought home this
unpleasant truth to the Luftwaffe. What
became the first ever 1,000 bomber raid,
launched against the city of Cologne on
30/31 May, cost Bomber Command forty-
one crews out of the total number of
aircraft dispatched. Although this figure
was not small, it was still well within the
estimated loss-rate of around 5 per cent:
the Command could not hope to sustain
its offensive should this percentage figure
be regularly exceeded. For the remainder
of 1942, the balance of advantage could
be viewed as much more equal, with
bomber losses still suffered, but the
majority of the bomber crews reaching
and, what is more, successfully returning
from their target.
Introduction to the Nachtjagd
I' to the middle period of 1943 it was the
Bf 110, along with a smaller number of
other type such as the Do 217Z, which
had sustained the night battle against the
RAE By now equipped with airborne
radar in the form of the 'Lichtenstein'
series, the Messerschmitt design was still
739
capable of dealing with the RAF" 'second
generation' of bombers: the Lancaster, the
Halifax and the Stirling. However, it
performance, at least in terms of speed
advantage over the bombers, was fairly
minimal. Range was another factor, which
now had to be considered in view of the
'roving commission' style of Nachtjagd
operations.
The introduction of the Ju 88C-6 series
into night fighter operations occurred
during the winter of 1942/1943.
Following extensive testing of the variant
prototype at Rechlin during the previous
winter, the Reichsluftfahrtministerium
(RLM) placed an initial two orders for the
aircraft totalling just fewer than 5 O. The
Junkers night fighter (designated Ju
6b a' against its C-6a day fighter twin)
offered an enhanced performance
compared to the Bf 11 . For example the
maximum range of the Bf 110 was
marginally over 2,100km (\,300 miles),
and this was achieved only with
additional fuel reserves borne in the
external wing tanks. This compared badly
with the Ju 88C-6, whose internal fuel
capacity alone permitted a range of just
over 2,900km (1,800 miles). A similar
disparity in maximum height applied -
NACIITJAGD
NACIITJAGD
From Feindto Friend
As the crews of No. 578 Squadron based at Burn in north Yorkshire filed into the brief-
ing room on the afternoon of 22 March 1944, their minds must have been fully occu-
pied with the daunting task ahead of them. By this stage of the 'Battle of Berlin' the
chances of completing atour of duty generally ranged from poor to almost non-exis-
tent. The often lengthy nature of operations over central Europe, coupled with the high
calibre of the Luftwaffe air and ground defensive network, had created this situation,
to which there appeared to be no short-term solution.
There were exceptions to the rule of course, as FIt. Sgt. Eric Sanderson and his
fellow crewmembers had so far proved. The planned operation to attack the industrial
heart of Frankfurt would be the final one of their 'tour'. Now this last, tantalizing hur-
dle between physical salvation and the threat to life and limb posed by flying on oper-
ations was within afew hours of being cleared. RAF station commanders did make
occasional operational flights. On this particular night Group Capt Marwood-Elton had
put himself on the battle order, having elected to fly in a'supernumerary' capacity
with Eric's crew.
The nervous tension that was always present during preparations for an operation,
noticeably diminished once the crews were at their stations and the engines were
started up. One by one the night-shrouded Halifaxes taxied out in pre-determined order
to the runway-end. Each pilot rewed up to full power before releasing the brakes as the
green Aldis-lamp signal winked its 'take-off' message from the control trailer.
On the other side of the North Sea, the Germans were on astate of general 'alert'.
The night fighter crews had received their equivalent briefing, which was of necessity
much less complicated than their RAF adversaries. As the early warning radar picked
up the first traces of the encroaching bomber stream, those crews assigned Sitzbere-
itschaft('cockpit readiness') made ready to start up and take off.
Among those ready for tonight's sortie was twenty-three-year-old Oberleutnant
Heinz Roekker, flying from Langensalza with 2/NJG 2. This airman was well versed in
operational flying, having flown consistently since late 1941. More importantly, he had
run up aformidable number of victories from among the ranks of Bomber Command
ever since his Gruppe was reassigned from the Mediterranean onto Nachtjagd duties
in mid-1943. Along with Unteroffiziers Carlos Nugent (Bordfunkerl and Fritz
Wefelmeier (Bordmechaniker), Heinz was ready for his latest sortie in Ju 88 R4+BB
belonging to Stab/I Gruppe.
The bomber-stream's course to its target took the form of aright-angle approach,
with the Lancasters and Halifaxes crossing into Europe north of the Zuiderzee before
turning almost due south. The hoped-for dispersal of the enemy night fighters to cover
other threatened regions such as around Hannover and Hamburg seemed to be basi-
cally achieved; in the course of the operation just thirty-three out of more than 800
RAF crews were MIA, in return for which large segments of Frankfurt were accurately
marked and bombed.
The night fighters appeared to have made their mass presence felt during the
lengthy southern leg, and the inevitable cull of bombers and crews began to be
observed and called in by their more fortunate colleagues. Two of these losses - both
Lancasters - had been claimed by Oberleutnant Roekker by 22:20 hours, when the
stream was traversing Koblenz and closing on the target area. Now his radar operator
Carlos Nugent was picking up the trace on his FuG 220 set, indicating yet another
Viermot. Detached in his lonely and very cold rear turret, Fit Sgt Sanderson kept up his
vigil along with the mid-upper gunner. This vigilance now began to payoff, although
both airmen would have preferred the alternative - 'Nothing to report!' But this was
not to be, and Eric called up to his pilot that aJu 88 had closed in below the lumbering
bomber, whereupon the aircraft was thrown into the standard 'corkscrew' method of
evasion. Unfortunately for the RAF crew their adversary was Oberleutnant Roekker,
who was perfectly capable of matching 'R for Robert's' frantic flight pattern.
This parallel form of manoeuvring went on for several minutes, placing ever-increas-
ing physical pressure on both pilots, but more so on the airman in the Halifax, over-
burdened as his charge was with fuel and ordnance. Finally, he elected to level off and
bank the bomber fully on its side; in this way it was hoped his two gunners could gain
asight of, and land their gunfire upon, the shadowy aerial predator. Eric Sanderson
later recalled that although he could see the Ju 88 during most of the action, he was
never in aposition to bring his gunsight to bear.
This proved not to be the case for the Luftwaffe Experte, who opened fire in the
course of this latest manoeuvre by his adversary. The rain of 20mm cannon struck
home with deadly effect on the right wing, whose supplementary bays housed amass
of incendiary bombs. Attempts to jettison the wing-load proved to be in vain, but it
was unlikely that asuccessful action would have contained the fire, let alone seen It
bemg extinguished -the metal surfaces of abomber contained flammable alloys,
which once alight, was sufficient to ensure the aircraft's ultimate fiery demise.
Eric and the other six crewmembers now heard their pilot call out 'Jump! Jump!'
and within a matter of seconds all the others had vacated the doomed Halifax through
the nose and rear fuselage hatches. Alone in his turret, Eric opened the turret doors,
collected his parachute pack from its stowage point just inside the fuselage, and
clipped itto his harness. He then held on for aminute, in case the Ju 88 chose to
close in for another assault. but nothing happened. Amajor vibration through the
entire airframe, coupled with the knowledge that the bomb-load was still in position,
now made up Eric's mind that it was time for him to bale out. Rotating the turret fully
through 90 degrees by hand (the electrical system was inoperative) and opening the
doors, his final action was to bodily throw himself backwards out into the slipstream.
But his upper torso was barely out into the night air when he was brought to ajolting
halt - his feet had snagged the interior of the turret basel
Now began anightmare experience as he attempted to regain access to the turret in
order to make asecond, clean exit. But all his attempts to grasp the turret frame, or to
bounce his body up and down, proved completely ineffectual against the overwhelm-
ing strength of the slipstream. Worse was the fact that the angle of his body was such
that he could not even disengage his feet from his fleece-lined flying boots. But worst
of all was the wash of flames from the burning airframe, which was roasting him and
threatening to burn him alive!
How long he hung in this situation would never be clear, but he was aware of the
bomber's ever-steepening angle, along with the fact that the drop from their former
altitude of around 5,000m (16,000ftlto ground level would not take more than a
minute or so. The only alternative to going in with the bomber seemed adrastic one,
namely pulling the parachute ripcord in the hope that he would be pulled clear - an
action that posed the very real risk of literally ripping off his legs in the process. This
prospect passed through Eric's mind, to be immediately replaced by the more positive
thought: 'Life is sweet. with or withoutlegsl ' Without further ado, he pulled the rip-
cord, and his parachute opened with apistol-like crack - but his body felt as if it had
been torn in half. In the short period between his desperate last-ditch move and land-
ing he caught aglimpse of treetops; then he passed out completely.
Eric regained consciousness in the wood, but it was some time before full con-
sciousness returned and he realized he really was still in the land of the living. He
began to flex the different parts of his body, first his head and neck, then his arms, all
of which reacted positively. But there was no such reaction when he came to his legs,
and as he sat up and looked, all he could see was atangled mass where his legs
should have been. But the initial sense of horror at having apparently lost them both
gradually gave way to atremendous sense of relief as his hands felt all the way along
their length. The tangled mass proved to be his Mae West and harness, while the
numbness was because the two pieces of equipment had wound themselves so tightly
around that they had cut off the circulation. So not only was he alive - he was physi-
cally intact as well! However, without boots, which had indeed been yanked off his
feet as the parachute pulled him free, with abroken collar-bone, and suffering severe
facial burns, the nineteen-year old gunner was in no state even to contemplate any
attempt at escape or evasion. So he crawled to the edge of the wood, where he
attracted the attention of several soldiers watching the burning wreckage of 'R for
Robert'; these carried him into anearby village. (His mability to walk at this point was
later confirmed to be the result of torn ligaments and muscles.1
When hostilities ceased mMay 1945, Enc was repatriated to Britain. Heinz, on the
other hand, after ashort period in captivity, was released to return to alife-time
career in the teaching profession, and for many years the two men went their separate
ways with no contact. Then ahistorian called Gus Lerch who was researching RAF
bombing raids on Frankfurt, made aconnection between the two airmen Thanks to hiS
acting as an intermediary, Eric and Heinz renewed their relationship, albeit on an
immeasurably more personal and happy basis! Illogical though it might seem (at least
to those who have never been involved in aconflict), former adversaries often make
common cause, if for no other reason than that they have all survived where so many
of their contemporaries have not. And so Eric and Heinz have paid numerous visits to
each other's homes in Blackpool and Oldenburg. In this manner the transition from
Feind (enemy) to 'friend' has been fully achieved.
140
7,900m (26,000ft) against , OOm
(29,00 ft) respectively. Admittedly the
sreed advanrage appeared to lie with the
Rf IIOG - 550kmph (342mph) against
500kmph (31 mph) - but these figures
were attained at sea level, whereas active
operations were being conducted between
a minimum of 4,500 and 6,000m (15,00
,md 20, OOft) when the Ju gained the
advantage, however little.
The level of offensive armament was
similar to the Ju C-4. As well as the
hitherto standard provision of one 20mm
MG FFM cannon and three 7.9mm
MG 17 machine-guns on the Ju 8C-2 and
C-4 variants, two further MG FF cannon
were now mounted in the ventral
gondola. Defensive armament consisted
of single MG 17 machine-guns located in
the rear of the cockpit canopy and the
ventral gondola.
Although the Ju 8 interior was almost
a' cramped as its Messerschmitt
contemporary, there were at least two
vital benefits to crew security, basically
because in the Ju de ign the crew could
move about the cockpit much more ea ily
as compared to the tandem arrangemenr
existing in the Bf 110. For instance,
should the pilot be killed or wounded in a
Ju , he couId be removed from h is scat
and his position taken over; alternately,
should this prove impossible, then the
conrrol column could till be handled
from the right side of the forward cockllit.
Furthermore, in the event of an
emergen y forcing a bale-out, the enrry
hatch in the bottom of the fuselage could
be opened or jettisoned to permit a safe
exit, while the entire rear canopy could
also be jettisoned.
By comparison the 'tandem' layout of
the Bf 110 cockpit made it impossible
even to gain access to the pilot, let alone
take over the controls. Moreover if the
pilot had to bale out, this had to be done
in the knowledge that the aircraft's fins
and stabilizer were on the same le\'el as
the cockpit, otherwise it presented a
potentially lethal obstruction to any
airman unfortunate enough not to be
wept clear by the Jipstream. The radar
operator and air gunner were both
seemingly more fortunate in that they
baled out to the rear of the aircraft, which
took them over the fuselage, This was the
case in all varianr up to the Bf I 1 F,
given that the rear entrance hatch was
fitted to the end cockpit frame. However,
the Bf 1JOG featured a side-h inged
entrance hatch within the main rear
cockpit frame, and this meant baling out
to the left side, with the attendant risk of
at least striking the stabili:er as one did so.
The operational cene at the time,
following the Ju -6's introduction into
service during the second half of 1942,
was one of growing technical
improvemenr. R F Bomber Command
was in possession of the first basic 'plan
position indicator' (PPI) in the form of
'H2S', and 'Oboe' was due to make its
debut in early March 1943. The
Luftwaffe, for its part, was making full use
of FuG 202 'Lichtenstein BC' in tracking
down the RAF bombers, while the more
advanced FuG 212 'Lichtenstein Cl' and
FuG 220 'S -2' sets were similarly due for
introduction during the course of the year.
Also in the pipeline was the passive
homing device FuG 227 'Flensburg',
designed to pick up the signals from the
bombers' 'Monica' tail-warning set, as
well as' axos', wh ich performed the same
function again t H2 .
Bomber Command in 1943
During 1943 Harris initiated a series of
'battles' over the Ruhr, Hamhurg and
Berlin. Much serious damage wa inflicted
upon Germany's major industrial region,
and in particular, the inception of the
precise blind-marking device Oboe
permitted a number of cities to be located
and struck with varying degrees of severity
between March and July. The second
'battle' over Hamburg lasted a fraction of
the Ruhr campaign, but the firestorm that
was created during the course of the
action added to the normal degree of
destruction. Germany's second most
important industrial and commercial
centre had therefore been dealt a
tremendous blow, although its ultimate
recovery occurred sooner than expected.
evertheless, no less an authority than
Albert peer reportedly expressed the
opinion that another four or five raids
conducted with the same severity could
lead to a total collap'e of national morale,
with all that this might imply for the
continuation of the war.
By grim contrast the 'Battle of Berlin',
whose successful prosecution was
expected to I ring about such a favourable
situation, commenced with a severe rebuff
for the Command during the initial series
of raids in August 1943, and was showing
141
ominous signs of its ultimate failure before
the la t raid of the year against the 'Big
City' had been completed.
Following the Hamburg disaster, the
too-rigid Himmelbett sy tern had been
swiftly abandoned in favour of a far more
flexible method of bomber interception.
Oil' the Luftwaffe night fighters were
directed wwards, and fed into the 'homher
stream' using directions from ground
stations. The latter would broadcast a
continuous stream of information
regarding the bombers' location and
course, which was to become known as a
Laufende Reportage or 'running report'.
Although there were occasions when the
Luftwaffe crews failed to make effective
large-scale contact, they generally did so
successfully, and then dealt out
punishment that resulted in severe loss-
rates for Ilied aircraft.
Battle is Fully Joined
As 1943 began, ACM Harris was in
pos e sion of a bomber force whose
quality of aircraft was only beginning to
reach his expectations, other than the
Lancaster. Of the other two four-engine
contemporaries, the hort tirling Mk III
wa falling dangerously behind in terms of
its overall performance, its poor
maximum altitude being its most serious
deficiency. The Merlin-engine Halifax
Mks \I and V were also somewhat in the
performance shadow of the Lanca ter.
However, the replacement of the Merlin
by the Bristol Hercules, as well as
improved fin and rudder patterns and a
cleaning up of the fuselage outline, would
in time place the Handley-Page bomber
on a par with its ever-impressive Avro
stable-mate. The fourth element of his
force, and sole survivor from the 'first
generation' of RA F strategic bombers, the
Wellington, was due to soldier on until
the latter months of the year.
Between I January and the beginning of
March, the partial diversion of Bomber
Command away from its basic brief to the
bombing of the U-boat ba es in western
France lI'a: an undoubted irritant to
Harris and his plan for a fuJI-scale assault
upon German industr). Furthermore, the
operational trials with Oboe in January
and February revealed a frustrating mix of
success and failure during the series of
raids conducted primarily against Essen in
the Ruhr.
The Ju 88R Series
layout of the Ju 8 created problems, in
this instance for fitting the equipment in
place. The single uitable location was
forward up against the nose bulkhead, but
this wa immediately adjacent ro the
pilot's seat and must have made it really
difficult for him to get in and out of it.
The Ju C-6 was not in ervice for too
long before plans to improve it
performance were put into operation.
Although this variant was regarded as the
first ustomized Junkers night fighter, it
was still somewhat of a stop-gap ma hine,
and the power provided by its Jumo
motor wa proving no more than
adequate for general operation.
Furthermore the introduction of the FuG
202 radar set with its external aerials had
then reduced its maximum sp ed by some
30km (ZOmph) as compared to the
Ju 88C-4.
The first example of what was th R
erie in Ju 8 development ba i ally
involved the onver ion of the -6b by
virtue of a power-plant change - from the
current Jum0211J to either the BMW 01
MA (Ju 88R-I) or BMW801 G2 or D2 (Ju
88R-2). Up to 1943 the BMW801, with
its noticeably enhanced power output as
compared to the Jumo serie , had been
reserved for the FW 19 ,but this situation
was then amended to permit joint upply
to the Ju R. peed performance ro e to
the C-4 level, while maximum altitude
performance similarly rose from around
FuG 212 sets' efficiency until their
general displacement by the final variant
- FuG 220 ( -2) - during the following
winter.
The sets were operated by the radio-
operator, but there was no available space
in his position directly behind the pilot.
This was yet another example of the
extent to which the restricted cockpit
NACHTJAGD
The distinctive outline of a Ju 88G-6 with Jum0213E engines is further highlighted against the snowy
airfield surface. The aircraft bears SN-2 aerials on the nose, and a single Schraege Musik cannon directly
behind the cockpit. Tail-warning SN-2 aerials can also be discerned extending behind the rudder.
It was inevitable that such an
excrescence would rob the Ju of a
percentage of its overa II performance,
but not enough to materially reduce its
threat to the RAF bomber crews. On the
other hand, the impending introduction
in late July 1943 of a simple but effective
antidote to Lichtenstein would cause a
recurring problem for the FuG 202 and
The Ju 88G prototype displays the distinctive shape of the square-pattern rudder. This, along with the
fuselage, came from the Ju 188E-l; the remainder of the airframe is of standard Ju 88 format. The small
retractable radio mast was placed directly behind the cockpit. However, the majority of production
G-model airframes reverted to the normal fixed mast placed on top of the forward canopy.
As the 'Battle of the Ruhr' progressed, so
the Bomber Command crews f;K d the
German' well organized aerial defensive
system. Although target within the
industrial region were granted priority,
Harris was shrewd enough to direct his
force against other targets in a bid to
dissipate the worst effects that the
achtjagd could bring to bear upon its
aircraft. everthcles the intensity of
attacks against the region was stepped up
during May and June, when no fewer than
sixteen targets were attacked - and not
only that, but on fully ten occasions
bombing results were confirmed as good
to excellent.
If the progress of the battle was seen to
yield positive results, it also had to be
acknowledged that this was being
achieved at a sobering increase in crew
losses; on occasions the percentage of
MIA aircraft exceeded the 'break-even'
figure of 4 to 5 per cent. The bulk of these
losses could properly be ascribed to the
achtjagd, with a smaller proportion
falling to the flak batterie . During 1943
the major night fighter continued to be
the Bf ItO in its penultimate FA and final
GA variants. The introdu tion of the Ju
88C-6b into regular service amongst
several units had ommenced at the end
of 1942, though only one (I/NJG I based
at Venlo) appeared to be wholly equipped
with the aircraft; in addition clements of
II, III and IV JG 3 and I JG 4 were
allotted Ju 8s. The current location of
the JG 3 units was in the north-west of
Germany, and would remain so for at last
the intervening twelve months.
For the first time the Junkers aircraft
featured on-board radar equipment in the
form of the FuG 2 2 (Lichtenstein BC).
The nose area of the Ju C-6b sprouted
the similar external aerials as the Bf 110,
but in a different form. On the Bf 110 the
aerials for both 'Lichtenstein' variations
then in service (FuG 202 and FuG 212)
were closely grouped and attached
respectively to the ends of an H-shaped
frame or a single metal 'bar' mounted in
the centre of the nose. The more
generous nose area afforded by the Ju 88's
shape permitted the supports for each of
the four aerials to be spaced out in a
square pattern. Then, small 'X' frames
were fitted to the supports, onto which in
turn was fitted the twin sets of aerials in a
vertical alignment.
The 'Sharks' Bite ever Deeper
NACHTJAGD
The s ries of Ruhr raids was
interspersed by attacks across the length
and breadth of Germany, but these w re
varied in their results. The PFF crews of
o. Group were doing their very best to
place the markers accurately, but the
combination of distance and weather
inevitably affected the positioning of
these, and left the majority of such targets
either uns athed or at best marginally
struck. Wind drift inevitably affected
marker positioning on ome occasions,
while the H2 equipment used ~ y the PFF
bombers did nor always prove precise
enough to identify a target, particularly in
overcast conditions. Indeed, the several
natural and technical problems that faced
the pathfinders from day to day were
never consistently overcome right up
unti I the final months of World War II.
To all the e difficulties was added the
increasing influence of the ever-
burgeoning enemy air and ground
defences. By the beginning of 1943, the
Luftwaffe authorities could be in little
doubt that the Anglo-American bombing
offen ive was a potentially mortal threat to
their nation' prospects of even sustaining,
let alone winning, the war. While the
merican B-17s and B-24s were still
waiting to progress beyond targets in
France and the Low Countries, dolf
Galland (lnspector of Fighters) had
recognized the risks posed by the bombers'
impending presen e over Germany. Hi
contemporaries in charge of the night
fighters were already aware of the twin
danger building up in the night skies, and
were disposi ng the necessary resources in
radar stations, AA batteries and
particularly aircraft. But although this
strengthening of the home defence
(Reichsveneidigung) meant increa cd
danger for the Allied airmen, this build-up
was being achieved at a cost to the overall
German war effort. good proportion of
the men and equipment that it involved
would normally have gone to supplement
the military campaigns currently raging in
North Africa and Rus ia. However,
because they were not sent out to fulfil this
primary function, the task of holding
ground on these and future fronts was
made increasingly impossible: it created,
in effect, a military haemorrhClge that
would never be stanched, let alone cured.
Thus was a 'second front' created over
western Europe many months before
Anglo-American oldier burst upon the
Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944.
Battle of the Ruhr
On the night of 5/6 March the 'Battle of
the Ruhr' was officially launched in
devastating style. ince Oboe worked on
the basis of signals received in the aircraft
from two UK stations, it followed that its
effective maximum range was limited by
the earth' curvature - this was unlucky
for the Ruhr, which fell within the
equipment's ambit; otherwi e the
majority of Germany's remaining
industrial cities fell outside it. Although
the accurate use of Oboe was only the
first stage of the marking procedure, with
further PFF aircraft backing up during
each operation, what transpired over
Essen this night exceeded mo t
expectations. Over 40 main force
bombers laid down a carpet of bombs
through the haze cover; the result was
over 65ha (160 acres) of total
devastation, and severe damage to the
vital Krupps factory complex. Before
March was out this city absorbed a
second, equally severe degree of
punishment, while two further raids,
though less severe, were administered in
April. Duisburg, the other major Ruhr
target that was subjected to the same
frequency of attack during this same
period, appears to have escaped relatively
unpunished, though it turn for feeling
the full effect of Bomber Command's
strength would occur later.
Germany's primary industrial region
provided much of the military resources
for the war effort, and the more
destruction that could be rained upon its
myriad of factories, the better. I' to now,
however, the permanent and often
impenetrable layer of indu trial smog
cloaking much of the Ruhr had proved as
effective a 'shield' as any man-made
defensive system. But the advent of Oboe,
once it had been perfected, was expected
to subvert both the natural and military
protection so far afforded the region. This
prospect was heightened when free-fall
target indicators, whose fuses were set to
operate just above ground level,
superseded the usc of 'sky-marker'
parachute flares. Duesseldorf on 27/28
January duly suffered from the
consequences of this alteration in
operating technique, although two
subsequent raids on Cologne in ebruary
did not proceed anything like as well.
742
743
NACHTJAGD
NACHTJAGD
A pair of mechanics are working on a BMW801 engine, confirming this is a Ju SSG-l variant.
The aircraft is equipped with FuG 220 'SN-2' as denoted by the Hirschgeweih radar aerial
display. The propeller spinners bear single colour bands in a spiral format.
No. 100 (ReM) Group
No. 100 Group was created in late 1943 with the basic brief of sowing confusion among the Nachtjagd crews.
This was to be achieved by interfering with the complicated electronic and radio network linking night fighter and
ground-based radar systems. With this in mind, five squadrons were formed and in place by the middle of 1944.
These' were two squadrons of Halifaxes equipped with 'Mandrel' transmitters, one squadron each of B-17s and B-
24s fitted out with 'Jostle' and 'Piperack', and one mixed squadron flying Halifaxes, Wellingtons and Mosquitoes,
whose function was to jam the German radar signal system.
The various pieces of equipment functioned as follows: 'Mandrel' provided a 'blacking' screen across anything
up to 160km (100 milesl, using around eight aircraft flying in line abreast. In this way, a large section of the Ger-
man early-warning radar system was taken out at astroke. 'Jostle' jammed the Nachtjagd fighter-control chan-
nels: and 'Piperack' took out the specific channel wave bands for lichtenstein SN-2'.
The second stage in preventing the night fighters locate their exact target or targets was for formations of
between ten and twenty aircraft to release bundles known as 'Window' over a location; this could be away from,
or ahead of the bomber 'stream'. Alternatively, this decoy force could accompany the 'stream' before breaking off
somewhere along the route. In addition, B-17s or B-24s could also fly within the 'stream' using 'Jostle' and 'Piper-
ack' as aclose 'screen' for their charges.
Finally, aircraft designated as 'target support' would orbit above the main force during target approach and with-
drawal, jamming the flak and searchlight radar, and night fighter radio frequencies as well as their radar sets.
All of the above-mentioned equipment provided 'passive' support for the bombers; seven squadrons of Mosquitoes
gave 'active' support. Numbers of aircraft would sweep ahead of the bombers to orbit in the vicinity of known
night fighter bases or assembly beacons, and quite apart from their fighter role, would use their own radar and
equipment to disrupt that of the Luftwaffe crews. Furthermore, the excellent qualities of their A.I Mk lOon-board
radar sets were supplemented by two pieces of equipment used to track the Bf 11 Os, Ju 88s and He 219s The first
was the well-tested 'Serrate IV' that picked up bearings from 'SN-2'; the other was 'Perfectos', apulse system
that triggered off the 'Neuling' and 'Erstling' IFF sets in use by the Nachtjagd - and so the very equipment meant
to benefit the Luftwaffe crews now proved to be amortal threat!
During November 1943 the full weight of
Bomber Command began to be regularly
brought to bear against Germany's capital
ity. The night of 1 /19th wime sed the
first of fourteen raids sent out over the
ensuing winter period up to 24/25 March.
The first two assaults, during which
bombing concentration swung from
Focal Point: Berlin
if nor exceeding, anything produced prior
to its introduction. Two late ugu t raids
on Berlin left Bomber Command short of
125 aircraft and crews MIA, and a further
forty-one failed to return from the 17/1
ugust raid on Peenemunde. (The latter
operation witnessed the debut of Schraege
Musik.) That particular night saw the
night fighter drawn to Berlin by a skilful
Mosquito diversion. A number of the
Luftwaffe crews vainly orbiting the 'Big
City' in anticipation of an attack caught
ight of the firework display far to the
north and, unfortunately for the Allied
aircraft, used their initiative to head in
that direction. Once there they handed
out severe punishment to the last
attacking wave from Nos. 5 and 6 Groups.
The majority of the assaults were
delivered by Bf 110 taffeln, but the Ju
s were al 0 present, albeit in Ie ser
numbers. These came mainly from NJG 3:
with its mix of Bf IlOs, Ju s and Do
217s it wa continuing to operate from
airfields between north-west Germany
and southern Denmark, and was therefore
in a better position to deal with the
bombers during the entire op ration. In
the course of the night its crews submitted
claims for ten bombers in all, while
operating under Himmelbett. One pilot
from IV/ JG 3 was Unteroffizier
Gramlich, whose attempt to intercept an
in-coming bomber failed. Later, a the
final wave of bombers \Vas withdrawing,
Gramlich \Vas carrying out his second
sortie further to the south over
Heligoland, when all at once the
monotony of constant orbiting was
hroken by details of a 'conta t'. He was
directed onto what turned out to be a
bomber flying well south of the briefed
return track. Just like the No. 51
quadron Halifax lost during the first
Hamburg raid, this RAF crew paid the
ame upreme price when Gramlich'
burst of fire from close in sent their
bomber into the orth Sea.
became ever more threatening to the very
existence of the R F bombing offensive.
The revised system of Laufende
Re/Jonage ('running report') owed its
inception to Ober t Viktor von Lo sberg.
He perceived that the inflexible
Himmelbett system was too limiting
geographically, in that only a small
proportion of the toral night fighter force
could be guaranteed to make contaer with
the attacking bombers; this was because
the latter entered and departed the
Continent in a narrow later::!1 form, and
therefore flew over or near only a minimal
number of the Himmelbett zones. s an
alternative, he proposed that a flexible
method of 'feeding' the Luftwaffe crews
into the 'bomber stream' be put in place.
A continuous radio commentary would
provide information regarding the
composition of the formation and the
direction the bombers were flying. The
night fighters would be directed to fly to,
and orbit, specified visual or radio beacons
whose location was judged to be in the
immediate area of the encroa hing enemy
formations; should such judgement prove
correct, the crew would be duly 'fed' into
the 'bomber stream', there to carry out
their deadly duty.
Although the revised proce s was still in
its infancy during August and eptember,
the success rare was already approaching,
hazard in the form of the Mosquito and
Beaufighter 'intruders'. During the series
of Hamburg raids, the RAF weI'
operating these aircraft in the vicinity of
known night fighter airfields located on
the general approach to the target. This
same night (24/25 July) a Mosquito of o.
25 quadron was circling within sight of
Westerland when FIt Lt Cooke observed
an aircraft with its navigation light on, in
the proce s of taking off. It was a Ju 88
of Ill/NJG 3, and befor it could disappear
into the low cloud layer, Cooke caught up
with it and delivered a lethal burst of fire;
Leutnant Toepfer and one other airman
were lost along with their aircraft.
The relatively low losses suffered by the
RAF bombers over this period were due in
no small measure to the introduction of
'Window', which effectively put out the
radar guidance 'eye' normally provided
by the Wurzburg and Lichtenstein
equipment. More importandy, use of the
metallic strips threw the basically static
Himmelbett system totally out of kilter.
As an immediate result, the Luftwaffe
authorities were forced to adopt what
were initially desperate alternative
measures in order to be able to continue
to offer a serious challenge to Bomber
ommand's thru ts. However, a system of
interception teadily evolved over the
remaining months of 1943, whose effect
Between then and 2/3 ugust three more
raid were launched by Bomber
Command, along with two daylight
mi sion t y the B-17s of the AAF.
The outcome was severe damage to the
city's industrial infrastructure and many
civilian regions, in large parr thanks to
the deadly natural phenomenon known as
a 'firestorm'.
In spi te of the severe disruption to the
entire defen ive system posed by the
introduction of 'Window' - a system that
compromised the radar equipment used by
the Luftwaffe - there was no guarantee of
toral immunity from attack for the
bomber crews. This applied in particular if
any bomber was flying a course outside
the main 'stream'. For instance during the
first raid, a Halifax of o. 51 quadron
was caught our by a Ju 88 from 11/NJG 3
flown by Oberleutnant Koeberich; his
radar operator was Oberfeldwebel
Heidenreich. The haple s cr w's location
over Flensburg was way north of what
should have been their return course, and
all seven airmen paid the supreme price
for thi error when their aircraft was
summarily de patched.
On the other hand, the Nachtjagd
crews were by now facing an increasing
Operation Gommorah - the grimly
appropriate codename a igned to the
destruction of Germany's second major
industrial city by ACM Harris
commenced on the night of 24/25 July.
Hamburg - the Catalyst
for Change
The continuing use of the fixed
Himmelben system did not reveal the
technical advantages of the Ju 88 over the
Bf 110, particularly in respect of the
former de ign's far greater range capability.
This important performance factor would
only emerge in the aftermath of the Batde
of Hamburg when the night fighters were
switched from Himmelbett to operations
conducted under the Zahme au principle
of infiltration into the 'bomber tream'. In
the meantime the Ju 8 crews played their
part in defending the national territory as
stoudy as possible.
7,5 Om (24, OOft) to well over 9,4 Om
(29,000ft). However, there wa a control
problem arising out of the combination of
enhanced power and the current standard
rudder pattern on the Ju 88: it appeared
that lateral control was adversely affected,
given that the overall rudder area was not
equal to the pressures imposed upon it by
the BMW powerplant's maximum output.
But a olution was already in the wings,
with the fir t test flight of the final Ju
night fighter - the G-model - being made
during June 1943.
The radar quipment fitted to the R-l
was the FuG 212 'Lichtenstein CI', while
the R-2 was to be equipped with FuG 220
, N-2'. In the latter case, the aerial
layout was the same as for the Bf 110.
Each aerial upporr was angled outwards
and down in an 'L' shape to form a
massive 'X'. The aerials themselve were
gready extended in length, and the entire
layout proved to be even more
aerodynamically limiting than either of
it Lichtenstein predec ssors'
744
745
NACHTJAGD
On 7 November 1942, in a ceremony conducted at Melbroek in Belgium, the then Hauptmann Semrau was
awardedthe Ritterkreuz by Gen Kammhuber. Sadly, Semrau did not survive the war; on 8 February 1945,
while flying back to Twente in Holland, his Ju 88G-6 was 'bounced' and shot down by Spitfires. A
posthumous award of the Oak leaves to his Ritterkreuz was announced on 17 April 1945.
sorties. [n return for this sizeable loss-
factor, just seven Abschuesse had been
recorded.
One of the crews that managed to avoid
problems with their Bf 110 was that
headed by Leutnant I eim Roekker. The
initial use of Wilde Sau tactics with which
to intercept the RAF bombers posed [ittle
difficulty for him: up until then, night
operations over the Mediterranean had
often been conducted without the benefit
of airborne radar or even ground
direction. As a consequence the
continued use of the visual search
technique was almost second nature to
the budding EX/Jerte who had already
amassed six 'kills'. On the night of 24
August, during the latest assault upon
Berlin, two Lancasters fell to his guns -
the sole victims recorded in the Bf 110
before the Gruppe's wholesale conversion
back to the Ju 88. The last recorded
instance of a Bf 110 operated by the
Gruppe in the latter role was on 9
October when Major Jung, the
Gruppenkommandeur, flying a G-2
variant, brought down a B-17 during the
8USAAF mission to bomb targets located
along the Baltic coast. However, this
success was rather countered by two other
Bf 110s - both G-4s - having to force-
land due to battle damage brought about
by return fire.
IfNJG 2 had been transferred back to
Germany from the Mediterranean for
what would prove to be the second' and
final time on 16 July. Between now and
May 1945 its aircraft and personnel would
lead a typical existence 'on the move' in
accordance with general L u f t w ~ f f e
practice. No fewer than fifteen airfield
locations spread between France and
Denmark would feature in Gruppe
operations. The experiences of this
Gruppe, both positive and negative,
would reflect the general fortunes of the
achtjagd as it fought out its bitter
personal conflict with Bomber Command.
The first airfield utilized between July
and October 1943 was Parchim, north of
Berlin, where conversion to the Bf 110
was effected. In add ition, the more
successful crews were detached to Holland
where they operated on Himmelbett
duties. One of the recorded 'ki lis' by the
latter group, based at Gilze-Rijen,
involved the Bf 110 of Feldwebel
Ternieden. [n the early hours of 31 July, a
Stirling involved in the attack on
Remscheid in the Ruhr was brought down
to the end of November, nine aircraft had
been totally destroyed and a number of
the crews concerned ki lled, and a further
ten suffered variable degrees of damage
from a mixture of operational or training
G-4 mach ines had been incorporated
within the Gruppe's ranks and used on
active operations, both by night and day.
The unit's experience with the Bf 110 did
not prove very satisfactory, however. Up
I/NJG 2
As the RAF's bombing offensive moved
into the final months of 1943, the
involvement of the Ju 88 in the
achtjagd was steadily if slowly rising.
One of the first of the six major night
fighter Geschwadern to become largely
equipped with the Junkers design at this
stage of World War 11 was JG 2. [n turn,
[/ JG 2 was already well versed in
operating the Ju 88, ever since its
involvement in the Fernnachtjagd over
Britain during 1940/41. Since then, the
unit had maintained its link with the
aircraft. The sole departure from this
operational structure had occurred
between JuIy and the year-end. In this
time a number of Bf 110 F-4, G-2 and
left: Major Paul Semrau had a long and
distinguished operational career with NJG 2 from
late 1940 onwards. He assumed command of 3/NJG
2 on 22 December 1940, and held the post until 19
July 1943. He was subsequently appointed to head
II Gruppe from 1 January 1944. Finally, his status
as Geschwader Kommodore was confirmed on
12 November 1944. Semrau's total of victories
was forty-six.
leutnant Hans Breithaupt served with I/NJG 2 and
was in command of its 3 Staflel from 16 October 44
onwards. His crew experienced several incidents
involving their aircraft's loss or damage. The final
such incident occurred on 30 November. when
their Ju 88G-6 was brought down by a Mosquito.
Unfortunately Unteroflizier leyh (radar operator)
was the sole fatality. The second contrasting
picture depicts Herr Breithaupt
(above right) after the war, at the controls of
a civilian aircraft.
NACHTJAGD
considerable distance in from the coast of
Europe; second, its sheer geographic spread
cancelled out the conditions for large-scale
destruction, either through the direct effect
of bombing or the indirect effect bought
about by the creation of a 'firestorm', as at
Hamburg. Then the ability of the
'pathfinder' crews to locate their target -
especially when given the often negative
visibility, coupled to the poor 'returns' on
the H2S radar screens over what was
largely a featureless mass - rendered a good
number of the attacks ineffective. All too
often the target indicators and support
marker-flares fell on the fringes of, or even
outside, the city boundaries.
ineffective to excellent, were carried out
with low loss-rates. This promising statistic
was not [() be long sustained, however, and
the remaining two sorties for ovember
cost upwards of 5 per cent losses between
them, while bombing results again varied
widely. [n addition, on just one of the
occasions visibility was very clear, and this
adverse pattern of weather conditions
persisted throughout the course of the
winter. December proved no better when
the same number of attacks was initiated;
losses continued their upward spiral [() over
6 per cent in M[A aircraft, in addition [()
which the last December raid saw thirty
more bombers 'written off' through crashes
on their return I
The lengthy run into and away from
central Germany generally permitted the
Luftwaffe more than enough time to
position its night fighters where they were
likely to contact the bombers en route;
alternatively, the Bf 110s and Ju 88s were
sometimes ordered direct to Berlin.
However, this latter stratagem proved
fallible on occasions, when Bomber
Command's briefed target was elsewhere.
A total of five major raids to other than
the 'Big City' was launched before the
year-end. Another debilitating factor that
would at least marginally cut into the
achtjagd's overall efficiency was the
creation of 'spoof' raids by small bomber
formations and/or Mosquitoes. (The
much more deadly radio counter measures
employed by No. 100 Group were just on
the horizon, but would not corne into play
much before the 'Battle of Berlin' had
been played out.)
Several factors were [() militate against
the city's destruction: first, Berlin was a
146 147
NACHTJAGD
NACHTJAGD
Below: A Ju 88G stands in idle splendour at langensalza in April/May 1945. Twin Schraege Musik cannon
straddle the top of the fuselage centre section. Radar aerials are angled to lessen the ReM interference to
the SN-2 radar equipment caused by the revised-length strips of 'Window' dropped by the RAF from mid-
July 1944 onwards.
Above: A close-up of the vertical fin on a 7/NJG 5 Ju 88G reveals the tail-warning aerial positioned on top.
This is in contrast to the normal practice of mounting the aerial array beneath the rudder. This photograph
was reportedly taken in Switzerland following the pilot's inadvertent straying into that neutral country's
air-space.
Parlous Times
By mid-1943, the influence of the
8U AAF's daylight offen ive over the
Gerrl1an hinterland was increasing, and as
a re ult the Luftwaffe had been
reinforcing its single-engine fighter force
with the twin-engine Bf 110. Thi
procedure was acceptable as long as the B-
17s and B-24s were operating beyond
Allied fighter cover, because the German
fighter pilots could then launch their
attacks almost at their leisure, safe in the
knowledge that their sole adversary was
the lumbering bomber formation.
This situation rook a turn for the worse
with the introduction during October of
the P-38 Lightning. The earlier
installation of drop-tanks for the P-47 also
meant that this rugged fighter could close
in on the western reaches of Germany in
the latter part of 1943. However, it was
the introduction into combat of the P-51,
with its much greater degree of range, in
December 1943 that truly put the
Reichsverteidigung pilots on the back foot.
This was particularly so for the twin-
engine crews, whose extreme
vulnerability to the USAAF fighters was
now cruelly exposed on every occasion.
Although the Bf 110G-2 and Me
41O-equipped units had initially provided
the core of its anticipated success, and was
to consist of six MG 151/20 cannon - two
mounted in the nose, and four in a ventral
tray offset to the left. The prototype V5
was completed and ready for its first flight
on 24 June 1943, to be followed by six
pre-production airframes - although
armament in the ventral tray was reduced
to two MG 151/20 on production Ju 8G-
Is. Internal modifications included an
extra fuel tank in the forward bomb-bay,
and hot-air equipment for the stabilizers.
The entire airframe structure was formed
from m tal, unlike the Ju 88e and R
models, whose rudder and elevators had
been fabric-covered. The BMW801 G
engines were provided with the GM-I
boost system.
Its initial entry into combat service
occurred during December, at a time
when the combination of its heavy
firepower, as well as the wholesale use of
chraege Musik, and the as yet
unjammed -2 radar set, would turn the
aircraft into a very formidable hunter.
The Ju 88G was basically conceived as a
more effective day and night fighter, with
a much improved armament to provide
greater striking power: this would be at
The Ju 88G Enters Service
was transferred out to become 6/ JG 2,
and a new 2 taff 1 was in place by
October.
On 10 October the main body of I JG
2 tran ferred from Parchim to Greifswald,
but its period of tenure here wa
extremely brief; a mere eleven days later,
yet another order from above moved the
Gruppe to Kassel-Rothwe ten. From here,
the crews would participate in the bulk of
the 'Battle of Berlin'.
leutnant Adolf Kaiser (below left pilot) and Feldwebel Heinz Jasinieki (below right radar operator) flew
combat together in Russia and over central Europe; the latter duty was undertaken within I/NJG 2. Kaiser
ended up with twenty victories, of which sixteen were shared with Jasinieki. However, during their time
in Russia the crew was credited with one Ju 52 'damaged', the unfortunate transport having been
visually identified as a DB-3 before being attacked!
near Bergen-op-Zoom. This unfortunate
aircraft must have been well detached
from the 'bomber stream', otherwise the
use of the radar-disrupting 'Window'
strips, introduced but a few nights
previously over Hamburg, would almost
certainly have prevented any night fighter
operating under the fixed-circuit
Himmelbett system from homing in on a
specifically identified target.
Gruppe records at this time indicated
that 2 and 3 Staffel were operating
wholly on the Bf 110. In what appeared
to be confusing contrast, I Staffel either
possessed ami xed Bf I IO/J u 88
complement of aircraft, or began the
process of conversion back to the latter
design earlier than the other two
Staffeln. At the end of August, 2/NJG 2
148
149
'ACHTJAGD
Desertion? (May 1943)
The unlocking of an enemy's defensive system, even in modern times, can sometimes depend upon the hand of
fate as much as on positive technical research. On two occasions this indeterminate factor was to compromise the
Nachtjagd's ability to pursue its assaults upon Bomber Command in its normal effective manner.
The first occasion came on 9 May 1943 with the arrival of a Ju 88R-2 at Oyce in Scotland. The aircraft in ques-
tion was a Ju 88R-2 (D5tEVI belonging to 1O/NJG 3, and was being flown by Oberleutnant Heinrich Schmitt and
his crew. At first sight the night fighter's arrival in Scotland could easily be ascribed to its pilot having flown a reci-
procal course while attempting to return to the airfield in southern Norway. However, the fact that an escort of
Spitfires had been on hand to 'guide' the aircraft towards Dyce was one clue as to the premeditated nature of the
incident. Then it was subsequently alleged that Schmitt had sent out a radio message to his airfield stating his Ju
88 had an engine fire and that a 'ditching' was being attempted.
Whatever the circumstances that led to the Ju 88's detention, the fact was that the British were at last in pos-
session of one of the Luftwaffe's two airborne radar systems in the form of FuG 202 'Lichtenstein BC'. Tests con-
ducted with the set confirmed its efficiency level was roughly equal to the RAF's AI. Mk IV, with one advantage: it
was discovered that the aerials projected a narrower beam that enabled the target to be followed with greater
success should the bomber make a course deviation. Air tests also confirmed the value of the 'corkscrew' manoeu-
vre to the RAF crews.
bullets. His efforts to control the air raft
proved increa ingly futile, and so he
called for the crew to bale out: all on
board floated safely down to the ground.
mere six days later Herb rt was at
readiness when the order to take off wa
announced over the tan nay sy tem. This
time around, however, the order was for
those involved to clear the airfield and
remain away until the 'all clear and
return' signal had been receivecl. Herbert
was flying in the company of a se ond Ju
piloted by his Gruppenkommandeur,
and the Rotte climbed slowly to a
thousand metres or so before levelling off
and taking Lip a meandering course. This
took the aircraft down towards the
northern reaches of the Ruhr, then off to
the west before turning roughly outh
again. The 8U AAF was out in force,
which meant that the fighter escorts were
available to threaten the ecurity of the
Luftwaffe in general, and vulnerable small
formation in particular. ure enough,
both Ju were 'bounced', and Herbert's
CO was shot out of the ky and killed
along with his crew. With his Ju badly
damaged, Herbert eased down towards the
ground, seeking some suitable place to put
the nigh t figh tel' down. The th ick
indu trial haze over which he was now
flying did not help matters, nor did his
vain effort to find an airfield. Finally, he
was forced into a crash-landing on a
stretch of countryside that fortunately was
flat and of sufficient length for the aircraft
to be put down with no serious physical
damage to its crew. (It is ironic that the
8US AF mission on 24 January was
almost wholly 'aborted', so making
Herbert's sortie rather superfluous; on the
other hand, his despatch would hav been
justified had he achieved the unlikely feat
of getting through and knocking down a
B-17 or B-24).
January/March 1944:
Deceptive Victory
1f the employment of the J u agai nst the
U AF was proving nothing Ie s than
suicidal, then it u e in the primary role of
night fighter alongside the Bf llO was
paying handsome dividend by the
beginning of 1944. The introcluction of
S -2 radar, with its wavelength bands
that were impervious to the R F's
'Window' strips in current Lise, was of
leader and flier, but a man who always
displayed a light-hearted manner; and Krueger
with his quiet demeanour had rroved to he an
equally fine comrade. I will ne\'er forget them'
My final reflection on this incident relate, [0
my parachute harness, which could never have
absorbed the full force of the deploying canory
because it was bound to have been weakened
by the flames a, the aircraft hlew up. It was
rrohably hecause the air pres>ure in the canory
was reduced hecause of the large holes burnt in
its surface that the weakened harness held up
under the strain of the parachute's opening' I
still rossess a piece of the parachute silk.
There were occasions when the J u 88
crews never even got within striking
distance of the bombers b fore they were
taken down. Herbert Gleich was a pilot
based at Vechta near the Dutch border. A
proportion of the unit's Ju was
equipped with 2 lcm rocket-tubes under
the wings, for use against the American
formations. On 24 January, Herbert was
ordered to take off to intercept the
bombers who were now on a course for
home. Despatching a single-engine
fighter on a solo sortie was bad enough -
but just how a Ju was likely to beat the
odds of returning safely when the AAF
fighters were in abundance over the
Continent was not clear at all! The
bomber stream was just coming into sight
when Herbert's Ju 8 was suddenly
buffeted and shaken by the impact of .5
through my head, although I had no sense of
time. Eventually I pulled the rircord, and the
rarachute brushed against my face before
deploying to pull me up with a jolt. There were
several hum holes in the canopy. and I noticed
that the skin on the backs of my hands was
hanging in strirs, although I still felt no rain.
s I drorped down out of the cloud layer I
noted I W'lS heading directly into the River
Weser. I swung my feet and attemrted to
redirect my rarachute towards the wooded
slores on the riverbank - but suddenly I
drorred into tree branches, and my canopy
instantly snagged on them, leaving me
dangling in mid-air' Fortunately I was ahle to
swing over to the tree-trunk, release my harness
and dror to the ground. A glance at my watch
showed 13:05 hours - barely one hour since
take-off. Clambering down to a nearby road I
hailed a passing motorcyclist who took me to a
doctor's surgery.
I later esrabl ished that our Ju 8 had broken
in two and crashed in flames on the far-,ide
bank of the Weser at Bodenverder. about km
[50 mile J north of Kassel-Rothwesten. Initially
I h'lll no knowledge of my crew', fate, and only
later did I hear that their bodies were
discovered some distance from the wreckage.
Haurtmann chulz was found with his hand
grasping hi, rircord; he had suffered deer
wounds to his neck. Feldwebel Krueger must
have been knocked unconscious when the
aircraft disintegrated, because he was still
strapped in his cockpit scat. I felt a ,ense of
grem loss; I had always regarded Schulz as a fine
The crudely blacked-out Balkenkreuz on this NJG 2 Ju 88C-6 contrasts sharply with the remaining
markings in pristine condition. However, this might be the first stage in an overall dulling-down process.
More than twenty victory markings are recorded on the fin; the picture is probably taken during 1943,
since the Gruppe did not receive the FuG 202 equipment until late in 1942.
noted that the altimeter showed just 900m
l3,OOOft] - could we make it back to base, or
must we bale out l Suddenly there was a harsh
lightning flash and a screech from the engine
that caused me to instinctively cross my arms
in front of my face - then a deathly silence. I
recall feeling totally calm a I awaited the final
imract, and thinking' 0 this is what it's like to
die'. uddenly there was a ru h of air, upon
which I uncovered my eyes to find myself in
mid-air.
The will to live immediately resurrected
itself a I thought: 'First of all, take it easy -
then grasp the rireord" I looked round for my
fellow crewmembers but saw nobody. The
instinct to pull the ripcord was tempered by the
risk of having my parachute canopy damaged
by falling debris from our aircraft, but I realized
that the air all around was clear. These
thoughts took only split seconds to pass
The 'One-way Corrigan' Factor
In the period since Oberleutnant Schmitt had brought his Ju 88R-2 into Dyce, the night battle had largely swung in
favour of the Nachtjagd. One current advantage lay in the existence of the SN-2 radar sets, these proving impervi-
ous to the disturbance effect created by the use of 'Window'. In addition, the use of FuG 350 'Naxos' and FuG 227
'Flensburg' with which to track the transmissions emanating from 'H2S' and 'Monica' was of material use in hom-
ing in upon the bombers.
On the night of 13 July 1944 Obergefreiter Maeckle took off in his 7/NJG 2Ju 88G-1. Maeckle was an inexperi-
enced pilot, which was to prove a salient factor in what would befall him and his crew this night. His specific brief
was to search out Stirlings engaged in mine-laying operations in the North Sea shipping lanes. When he did not
return it was assumed that he had either been shot down or otherwise crashed fatally. But the crew were very
much alive and safely down on an airfield, albeit on the wrong side of the water. What Maeckle had done was to
become disoriented; then probably acting upon the radio transmission signal obtained by his radio-operator, he
took up an appropriate course and finally located an airfield at which he landed - only to find himself down at
Woodbridge in Suffolk where the crew were promptly taken into custody!
The importance of the Ju 88G-1's delivery into Allied hands could not be under-stated. Within days the aircraft's
specialist electronic equipment was being put to the test, and appropriate antidotes to their current effectiveness
quickly followed. In the case of 'Flensburg' the solution was simple and negative, in that orders were issued for
'Monica' to cease transmissions. lin truth, the tail-warning gear had proved almost as much a hindrance as an aid,
since it could not differentiate between friendly and hostile 'contacts'). Amuch more positive and debilitating
counter-measure was taken in respect of the SN-2 radar set. The current 'Window' strip-lengths were replaced by
extended strips. For the remaining duration of World War II these would seriously interfere with the wavelength-
band on which 'SN-2' operated. Once again the operational advantage had changed hands, this time in permanent
favour of the RAF bomber crews and their No. 100 Group 'supporters'.
The weather waS frosty, and there was an
under-cast extending up to around I,500m
[sOOOft], above which was strong sunshine and
rerfecr vision. Soon we spotted a single 'bogey',
that materialized into a B- I7 flying around
1,50 m in a westerly direction as we closed in
from above. Hauptmann Schulz took up a firing
position after dropping below the bomber, and
then coming up to a level range position just
20 m away. He fired a burst before banking
away at a roint just 100m behind the bomber.
It was then that we received hits from the
American gunners. ome of the bullets
runctured the fuel tank in the forward bomb-
bay, releasing an almost over-powering stink
within the cockpit as we turned back south-
east for Kasse I.
As my pilot pulled the emergency release for
the fuel ranks in the fuselage I quickly snapped
my parachute pack onto my chest harness and
We were In the process of walking to the
canteen for our lunch when the 'scramhle' "'a'
announced. We linmediately turned round and
ran to our operations huilding where we
collected the hag containing our map',
ml\'lgation equipment and flying helmet',
there heing no time to don full flight gear. We
then rushed out to the dispemtl where our Ju 88
had aire'llly been prepared for start-up, and
climbed ahoard - the CO, Feldwebel Krueger
our Bordfunker, and me. The entry hatch was
slammed shut, and we taxied out for take-off
from our base at Kassel-Rothwesten.
The enemy bomber formation was sti II over
the North Sea and heading in towards Holland.
Their target was as yet unknown, and so we
initially flew north-west to radio heacon
'Mary's' site ncar Celie; it was suspected that
the bombers were heading for Berlin. lIn fact
this was an incorrect assumption, since all
three bomb divisions had been briefed for
Brunswick and Hannover.1 oon after reaching
the beacon area we received information that
the bombers were now concentrated around
the Muenster region, so we then took up a
westerly course and called up for details of the
formation. It was composed of B-17s, the so-
called 'Flying Fortress'; this was an aircraft that
we found great difficulty in attacking with
regard to a suirable angle of approach, since
there apreared to be no gap in its defensive
armour, regardless of whether one attacked
from the front, rear or the sides!
the multi-engine element of the Reichs-
verteidigung, the partial diversion of
several Ju units to this duty was made
during the winter of 1943/44. s with
their Messerschmitt contemroraries, so a
certain number of the Junkers aircraft
were adapted to carry WrGr.21 rocket-
tubes under their wing urfaces. Thi
particularly fearsome weapon proved very
difficult to aim accurately, but when it
landed quarely home, it could literally
blow a bomber out of the sky. f course,
the need to approach from behind and to
maintain a steady closing speed while
lining up to fire off the rockets, left each
atta ker vulnerable to the bombers' mass
defensive fire. This was a risk that had to
be faced even when a one-to-one
encounter ensued.
On 30 January the 'scramble" (alarm-
start) signal was released at noon. One of
the crews on readine s duty was that of
the 1 JG 2 Gruppenkommandeur, 'Ali'
chulz; hi Bordmechaniker was
Unteroffizier Georg Frieben, who recalled
this fateful operation:
750 757
NACHTJAGD
NACHTJAGD
The delightfully slim and lethal lines of the Ju 88G-1 are caught in this picture. This aircraft was the one
mistakenly flown into Woodbridge during July 1944. FuG 227 Flensburg aerials adorn both wing leading
edges, with a third aerial positioned vertically above and below the right outer wing. The yellow leiter
P in a circle denotes an experimental aircraft.
Although the majority of bomber losses
were attributed to the night fighters, the
flak batteries had their share. However,
there were occasions when 'own goals'
were scored - hardly surprising, given the
fluid nature of aerial combat and the
inevitable inFringing - for example, while
engaging a 'cork-screwing' aircraft - of the
theoreticcil height separation below which
the flak gunners were Free to engage.
On the second Berlin raid Leurnant
Wuestenfeld (3/ jG 2) had been airborne
For Four hours and was heading towards
the Ruhr when he picked up several
Viermocs whose silhouettes were
highlighted by the cloud-layer. As he was
closing on one to within six hundred
metres, he saw four flak bursts straddling
his path, Followed by a second Four almost
under his nose. He banked sharply to the
left, but almost immediately took a strike
somewhere in the left wing that fired the
engine and knocked out his instrument
panel. Calling for a bale-out, both he and
Unteroffizier WeFelmeier jumped. No
such Fortune was granted to UnterofFizier
Schmidt (BordFunker) who was fatally
injured by flak splinters and went down
with the ju 88 when it Finally crashed.
WuestenFeld had diFFiculty in getting
clear and was knocked unconscious when
he landed very heavily. He came to in a
patch of snow in a wood; noticing an
overhead telephone wire, he traced its
length for over one hour until finally he
staggered up to a property near Goslar.
Here the person in charge took him For an
RAF airman and wanted him arrested I
Having established his 'Friendly' identity,
he was then transported to hospital,
having suFfered serious injuries to his
lower head and legs. AFter release from
the hospital, and despite all personal
striving, he was barred From further
operational flying. (The officer in charge
of the flak around Hannover later spoke
to WuestenFeld, and was adamant that the
ju 88's [FF equipment must either have
been malFunctioning or was not switched
on, which was why the night Fighter was
taken for an RAF aircraFt and was
thereFore fi red upon).
The opportunity for RAF air-gunners to
successFully engage a night Fighter rarely
occurred. Either the bomber's defenders
were taken by surprise and knocked out of
action or killed, or its superior firepower
won the day should it be attacked.
Sometimes the balance of surprise lay with
the bomber, as occurred during one of the
cost Fifty-five out of 783 crews dispatched.
(The use on 2/3 january of the j u 88s from
Il[/KG 3 to illuminate the target area
undoubtedly added to the pressures facing
the bomber crews.) Magdeburg (21 st)
proved another costly sortie when the
loss-Figure reaclied fiFty-five, and worse
was still to come.
Bomber Command was very much on
the back Foot during the winter of
1943/44. Although a number of
operations went off successfully either in
terms of heavy damage inflicted or heavy
losses avoided, these were in the minority
in both respects. january had opened
hadly when two successive runs to Berlin
A Ju 88 from 2/NJG 2 has a cannon-calibre weapon positioned directly ahead of the cockpit, and is a field
modification made by the Gruppe Armament Officer for Schraege Musik operations. The flash eliminator
was an absolute requirement to stop the otherwise strong flash effect from blinding the pilot during firing.
Hauptmann Tober, Staffelkapitaen in III/NJG 2, and Leutnant Roesner inspect their badly damaged Ju 88C-6
following a forced landing during the winter of 1943/44. The right-hand engine has become detached, and
the radar aerials inevitably 'bent' through contact with the ground. Note how the right-side windscreen
panel has a straight upper frame compared to the curved filting applied to bomber/reconnaissance
variants. Twin Schreage Musik cannon can be seen directly behind the cockpit.
Lancaster. However, the basic problem for
Bomber Command remained the high
quality of a good proportion of the
Nachtjagd crews, allied to the generally
sound quality of the flak batteries. This
was a combination against which even
the best bomber crews would be hard
pressed to gain the upper hand.
The ju 88 element of the Nachtjagd
was still operating a mixture of the C-6
and R-2 variants, and the switch to
Zahme Sau tactics meant that the
junkers design had ample opportunity to
demonstrate its higher fl ight endurance
as compared to the BF 110. Once the
night Fighter found itself inside the ranks
of the 'bomber stream', the ability of the
S -2 radar to select targets at will was
being Fully demonstrated. Two further
electronic devices were also in service,
either of which could be used to track
down bombers both From a distance and
close-in: the First was FuG 350 'Naxos',
that operated by picking up emissions
from the bombel'S' H2S sets; the other
was FuG 227 'Flensburg', that perFormed
a similar function by latching onto the
transmissions of 'Monica', the bombers'
tail-warning equipment positioned
below the rear turrer.
along the port fuselage side. Some units
had ju 88s that operated with just a single
cannon. Late production ju 88G-6s bore a
Factory modiFication, where twin
MG 151/20s were posi tioned laterally at a
point Further back along the fuselage in
line with the wing trailing edge.
The New Year: Relative Firepower
As the year turned and the war moved
into 1944, the odds were getting ever
longer against the bomber crews fulFilling
'Butch' Harris's forecast that this oFfensive
against Berlin in particular would induce
a state of surrender within Germany by
the end of March. Already the available
bomber strength was restricted to the
Lancaster and Halifax units, and only the
introduction of the Mk III with its
Hercules engines would redress the
balance. Moreover, the general
perFormance of the HaliFax Mks II and V
was noticeably deficient compared to the
prime importance in locating and
tracking the Lan asters and Halifaxes. 0
less valuable was the Fitting of Schraege-
musik cannon. [n the case of the j u 88
there were to be several variations in the
number and location of these weapons. In
the case of the ju 88 G-l, and the
majority of G-6 airframes, single or twin
MG 151/20 cannon were located over the
Forward bomb-bay.
Many of the aircraFt with Schraege
Musik were adapted 'in the Field' (as it
were) by the unit groundcrew. This was a
practice that had a Fortunate outcome for
the achtjagd, when in july 1944 a ju 88
G-1 From 7/NjG 2 flew what amounted to
a reciprocal course to land at Woodbridge
in Suffolk. ThiS aircraft had not been
modified, and so the RAF bomber crews
remained in general ignorance about the
weapon's existence, right up to VE Day.
The Schraege Musik weapons could be
mounted in pairs directly behind the
cockpit, and either laterally or in tandem
752
753
for both Bomber Commanel's aircraft and
their crews. But costly as the Berl in raid
had been, it was exceedeel on the 19th
when a run ro Leipzig co t seventy-eight
crews, by far the greate t loss-factor
arising out of a inglc operation -
although this would be equalled, or even
incr aseel eluring March.
An Ominous Portent for the
Nachtjagd
There were always regular opportunities
for the achtjagcl crews to core multiple
'kills' during a single sortie. One of those
pilots rapidly expanding his skills to
Expene level was Oberleutnant Roekker
who now regularly flew a I Gruppe tab
machine (R4+BB). On the 15th two
Lancaster and one Halifax went down
before his gun, two of these in the spa e
of nine minutes. even nights later, the
same number of bombers fell during a raid
on Frankfurt. Finally during the disastrous
final Berlin assault, a trio of bombers out
of the seventy-eight MIA were picked off
between the city and Winterberg as the
disintegrated bomber stream was wending
it tortuous path back to England.
Gramlich brought down one of the
enemy: he was flying out of the Luftwaffe
Test Centre at Werneuchen when he
picked up a bomber visually again t the
lit-up cloud layer.
On hi first pas hi cannon
malfunctioned 0 he was only able to
deliver a relatively weak firepower, as
afforded by his machine guns. Return fire
struck the nose of his aircraft, but it had
no effect against it armoured bulkhead.
Hi second pass was deliberately directed
across the fuselage in order to disable the
two gunner, after whi h he swit hed his
sight to th wings. The RAF pilot kept
manoeuvring in an attempt to evade this
attack, but his efforts were in vain, and
finally - just after several of the crew had
baled out - the bomber went over on its
back and dived to it de truction.
The circumstances of this combat
brutally illustrated just how the odds were
continuing to be stacked against urvival
NACHTJAGD
On 27 May 1943, JK-260 incurred this damage to its left engine mounting during a landing at Omttala. The
Jumo power-plant has come adrift and the VS-11 wooden propeller shows its fragility. The aircraft
is equipped with an MG-FF cannon placed in the gondola. The gun-sight for the windscreen-mounted
weopon is clearly visible.
was 'bounced' by a P-47, and the crew all
shared Hauptmann chulz's fate.
Leutnant Honold was imilarly assailed
but managed to make a forced landing,
although one airman was fatally wounded.
Gruppe operations in February proved
to be much more easily paced, if these are
judged by the mall success/loss ratio of
2:1. Both 'kills' were ascrib d on
successive nights to Oberleutnant
Roekker, while the sole ca ualty occurred
on the 25th, to Leutnant Borner. Bomber
ommand did not operate regularly until
the middle of the month, and it first raid
was to Berlin on the 15/16th. This raid
achieved a very heavy concentration in
bombing because nearly 800 bombers
succe ded in getting through; but it also
resulted in nearly 5 per cent 10 ses. The
flak gunners were given priority this
night, but this did not prevent some of the
hardier pilots from venturing into the
city's air space. By chance, Unteroffizier
As the 'Battle of Berlin' boiled up to its
almost stunning climax ov r the 'Big City'
on 24/25th March, the Gruppe continued
to add to its 'score', with a corresponding
decrease in its own operational 10 es.
However the Ge chwader did suffer a
severe personnel loss during January:
on the night of 21/22nd, Major Prinz
zu Sayn Wittgenstein, only appointed
Kommodore on the 1st, was in the process
of hooting down the latest in a sequence
of bombers when his own Ju 8 was shot
down; he fell to his death because his
parachute failed to open.
That same night four other bombers, all
Halifaxes, were brought down by l/NJG 2
crews. Six nights later Leutnant Junge
(2/NJG 2) fell to a bomber's air-gunners,
and none of the crew urvived. The month
ended with a mixture of succe s and failure,
not against the RAF but the 8U AAAF.
The Gruppe was sti II expected to
operate by day, and on the 30th
Hauptmann chulz, the Gruppen-
kommandeur, and Oberfeldwebel
Lueddeke each claimed a B-17 over
Minden. But Schulz's joy was to be short-
lived, ince return fire so damaged the Ju
that it subsequently exploded: only
nteroffizier Frieben (Bordmechaniker)
was blown clear. During the action, th Ju
88 of Unteroffizier Moensters (3/NJG 2)
'ACHTJAGD
and a further four suffered damage, with
one airframe 'written off'. The hazards to
be faced by the Nachtjagd crews in night
combat are illustrated by these losses.
Two of the airborne losses were due to
return gunfire, with one occurring during
laylight operation against the U AAF
on 16 December; Oberleutnant Perino's
crew lost their lives in a Ju 88R-2 of the
Geschwader Stab. The third was brought
down when it was struck by shells
from one of its own flak batteries, and
the fourth was to unknown causes,
ince all of Unteroffizier Wel·mert's crew
were ki lied.
Running short of fuel was always a risk,
and this caused the downfall of three
aircraft, two of which were destroyed; one
crew - that of Obergefreiter Darge - was
ki lied, and the others suffered injuries. A
training flight in a Bf II G-2 took the
lives of Feldwebel Hildebrandt, while
three crews escaped with their lives in
rash-landings, one of which was caused
by 'friendly flak' damage. (One of these
was Leutnant Wuestenfeld, whose story
w have already related.)
A Ju 88C-4, in this case from I/NJG 2, has made a much smoother crash-landing, which has apparently left
even the propeller blades intact. The national markings are covered up by nets or hastily strewn hay from
the heap into which the aircraft has burrowed its nose. The absence of radar aerials and fnglandblitz
Nachtjagd badge are points of note.
Increasing Losses
I JG 2 had been fully engaged in the air
battle over the Reich. Up to 31
December its crews had taken down a
number of bombers from Bomber
Command's ranks, but at some cost:
seven Ju 8 s had been totally destroyed,
Berlin raids. The rear gunner on a 0.514
Squadron Lancaster reported a Ju 8
closing in overhead and evidently unaware
of its adversary; so when it was in the right
position and di tance, he opened fire. In
the combat report it is not clear whether
the Ju 8 actually caught fire; nevertheless
the Lancaster' fire had struck home, with
ultimately fatal effect for the aircraft from
l/NJG 3. Unteroffizier Schierholz
(Bordfunker) remembers how the pilot
banked away and down in an attempt to
extinguish the fire in the port engine, but
his effort proved to be in vain: so all three
airmen successfully baled out, leaving
their by-now fiercely blazing charge to fly
on - and it continued for more than
160km (100 miles) before crashing.
754
755
ACHTJAGD
ACHTJAGD
The BMW 801 engines fitted to this aircraft identify it as a Ju 88G-l. The aircraft bears a heavy mottle
pattern on the upper fuselage. The Balkenkreuz has been applied with a broad white surround. but the
swastika appears to be a non-outlined marking as introduced during the latter stages of World War II.
Recuperation and Regenera-
tion: April-May 1944
The 'Battle of Berl in' was effecti ve Iy
concluded with the raid on Nuremburg.
The overall cost to Bomber Command
wa calculated at just over 1,000 aircraft
and crews, against which the campaign's
second the night fighter seemed to be
swept away, probably a a result of hitting
the slipstream of another aircraft.
Sometimes a crew chose not to attack:
when the bomb aimer on a o. 625
Squadron crew noted a Ju 88 sl iding under
one wing and holding the same course, he
resisted his immeuiate impulse to open up
on him with the front turret: his weapons
had been found to be faulty during a test
fire on the way in over the orth Seal ot
so inhibited was a o. 101 Squadron
bomb-aimer, who found himself with a
dream target as the night fighter slowly
climbed in front of him at very short range
- in fact he was so close that the turret
gunsight spanned the cockpit and one
engine. A quick conference between the
rear gunner and pilot on the merits of
whether or not to take action, ended with
the pilot's sanction to open fire - only for
Fit Sgt Smith to discover that the guns had
frozen up since they had been test-fired'
over Nuremburg had been achieved
through the medium of 'Schraege Mu ik',
and most of the RAF crews had little or no
inkling of the extreme peril hovering
beneath their aircraft. In fact after the war,
Oberleutnant Roekker expressed the
opinion that this form of combat was
rather 'unsporting', a view probably shared
by other pilot, given the often one-sided
nature of most of such interceptions.
The moonlit conditions encountered
this night worked for and against both
groups of combatants. Normally little
visual ight between bomber and night
fighter was gained, other than at
minimum distance, whereas now crews
could sec far ahead in all directions,
thanks to the clear air. Vapour trails were
another unwelcome addition to
operational conditions, as the night
fighters could close in below them in the
knowledge that there wa little chance of
their being picked out. Returning crews
reported several encounters with Ju s.
One pilot did a corkscrew that threw one
off his tail, whereupon the Ju 8 swung
over to the right to finish off a Halifax. A
tail gunner reported a second that was
literally hovering overhead; he held his
fire (perhaps wisely), and after a few
operating the -2 et. uddenly the set's
screen displayed an inordinately large
'blip' as the aircraft approached Aachen.
This ultimately resolved itself into two
Lancas.ters whose close formation had
caused the screen to react in such an
apparently distorting manner. Both
bombers belonged to No. 156 (PFF)
Squadron, and the pilots - W/O Murphy,
an Australian, and Capt Johnsen from
Norway - were friend. aelly, neither was
to survive the twin attack that first set
the left-hand Lancaster on fire in one
wing, then dealt out similar lethal
punishment to the other. Just one of the
fifteen airmen survived, and that was after
he was blown out of Murphy's aircraft. As
the Nachtjagd bombers were crossing out
of Germany on the protracted return
route, another Ju crew was enjoying
success (that of Unteroffizier Walther
(2 JG 2)): north of ivige at 02:55
hours he engaged what he reported as a
Viennot mit dop/Aetem Leitwerk and shot it
down. The similarity in overall outline
between a Lancaster and Hal ifax often
confused the achtjagd crews, so causing
them to usc this term to identify a four-
engine aircraft with twin fins.
The great majority of these successes
Major Heinrich Prinz zu Sayn Wittgenstein (left) is seen with Major Semrau at an awards ceremony. The
Prinz had arrived during December 1943 as the II Gruppe Kommandeur. but was assigned to the control
of the entire Geschwader on 1 January 1944. Three weeks later. with his score standing at eighty-three.
he was shot down and killed. although his crew survived.
A Last Blow for Bomber Command
Before this stage was reached, the
achtjagd was to hand out one last
smarting blow to Bomber Command,
when nearly 100 crews were culled from
its strength during the Nuremburg raid of
30/31 March. Most of these were
attributed to the units operating the Bf
110, with the Ju playing a ubordinate
part. 2 JG 2, based at Quackenbrueck,
currently featured Ju s that had been
factory-fitted with chraege Mu ik;
during thi encounter, one of these was
being flown by Oberleurnant Koeberich
with Oberfeldwebel Walter Heidenreich
Roekker converted his monthly total into
double figures the next night (25/26th)
when a Lancaster was shot uown near
Moenchen-Gladbach.
The month ended eventfully for the
Leutnant on the 27th when flak damage
knocked out one engine and caused him
to divert from the Gruppe's airfield at
Langensalza into Mainz-Finthen. His
combat reports did confirm the difficulty
of engaging a bomber that had urvived
the initial pass and then was thrown into
a 'corkscrew': alignment of the fixed
'Revi' gunsight made deflection shooting
difficult, although on the two occasions in
March where this scenario arose he did
finally emerge victorious. However, nnt
all pilots had the expertise or the will to
keep up the chase, and very often the
night fighter would break off and look for
less elusive prey.
A second Gruppe Ju wa totally
de troyed that same night, thus bringing
the month's operational 10 ses to five. The
manner in which one of these was lost
threw up an ominous portent for the
achtjagd as 1944 progressed: on the
16th Unteroffizier Mielke had been about
to land at Nagold when an RAF intruder
shot up his aircraft; he was badly injured
and died the next day. (The same night
Unteroffizier iegel (2 JG 2) was forced
to bale out his crew after the Ju 8 had
incurred mortal damage from return fire.)
Then on the 24th another aircraft, flown
by Oberfeldwebel Baernthaler, was shot
up by an intruder's fire as it touched down,
with the pilot and one other receiving
non-fatal wounds. Ever-increasing assaults
of this nature meant that the 'happy
times' for the achtjagd would all too
soon be a wistful memory as the spring
and summer of 1944 went by.
156
157
primary aim had not been approa hed, let
alone achieved. azi Germany was still in
a position to resist the Allies' onslaught,
and the iron grip of the azi party upon
it countrymen wa as firm and all-
pervading as ever. However, the military
'worm in the apple' wa already in place.
The combined bombing offensive had
caused a sound degree of damage and
dislocation to Germany's industrial
structure, and the AAF fighter pilots
had so battered their Luftwaffe opposite
numbers that the Jagdwaffe was about to
lose air superiority permanently during
the dayIight hours.
The situation for the achtjagd was
still not critical, however, especially since
Bomber ommand had been pia ed under
the direct control of Gen Eisenhower
from early April. Over the ensuing two
months its crews would participate in the
latest transportation plan, whereby all
communication links stretching back into
the Low ountries and focused towards
the ormandy region were to be
systematically knocked out. Attacks on
airfields and coastal batteries also formed
part of the equation. Although attacks
into central Europe were not totally
cancelled, the actual number launched
prior to D-Day barely exceeded double
figure. Even so, the shorter-range target
locations did not guarantee immunity
from night fighter assault, since everal
Gruppen were based in France, Belgium
and western Holland. All three were
countries upon whose rail and road system
much of the weight of bombing was
programmed to fall.
One specific raid where the a htjagd
d monstrated its continuing strength in
this period comes to mind - Mailly-Ie-
Camp on 3rd/4th May. A large Panzer
concentration was to be bombed by
around 340 Lancasters. Rad io
transmission interference between the
main force and the controller aircraft left
the force milling around long enough for
the night fighters to engage and take
down forty-two aircraft. This high los-
rate was happily not repeated either over
Germany or the re t of western Europe
before D-Day, although the attacks in the
former instance did raise 10 se to just
over 5 per cent.
In some respects the Ju 8G was to
prove the best night fighter variant of
Ern t Zindel's creation. The BMW 80lG
engin fitted to the G-I produced
1,700hp. The other operational G Model
NACI-ITJAGD
-the G-6 - reverted to Jumo engine, in
this case the Jumo 211 E with an output of
1,750hp. Maximum speed for the G-6
varied between 434km (270mph) at sea
level to 5 4km (363mph), with a
maximum ceiling of 10,000m (33,000ft).
The C-6, by comparison, operated on
Jumo 211J engines with 1,429hp output,
and had a maximum speed of 500 miles
(3llmph) with a maximum ceiling of
, Om (29,000ft). The respective rates of
climb were 504m (I ,655ft)/min (G-6)
and 450m (1,47 ft)/min (C-6). All of this
had been achieved despite a 1,000kg
(2,200Ib) increase in loaded weight
compared to the C-6's figure of II ,450kg
(25,250Ib)
It was all the more ironic therefore that
the Ju 88G's introduction into service
during 1944 should coincide with an
upsurge in RAF intruder operations, the
prime weapon of which was the De
Havilland Mosquito. Good as the Ju G
was, its crews would be hard pre sed to
take on this redoubtable opponent, let
alone escape its lethal armament: four
20mm cannon and four machine-guns.
The Mosquito squadrons belonged, on the
whole, to o. 100 (radio counter-
measures) Group. This had been brought
into being during the winter of 1943/44
with a view to lessening the burden upon
the main force crews. This was to be
achieved through cr ating confusion in
the German radar and radio comm-
unications networks, thereby diverting
the worst of the night fighter assaults. In
addition, electronic blanking 'screens'
were created, whose effect was to delay
the point at which the bombers would
begin to register on the German ground
and aerial radar et. However, th is
basically passiv bri f was backed by the
very positive provision of the intruder
units. Consequently, to the normal
pressures of combat flying for the
achtjagd crew was added the fear of
attack, from the moment of taxiing out
and take-off until their aircraft were back
in their dispersal bays and safely vacated.
Route to Oblivion
(June-October 1944)
The Western Allied assault upon the
ormandy beaches on 6 June caught the
German military almost totally by
surprise. The Panzer forces were either
158
ti d up in the northern reaches of France
awaiting the spurious invasion threat
against the Pas de Calais, or held in
reserve elsewhere. The Luftwaffe was
imilarly caught out of geographical
'position', as witnessed on 6 June when
virtually no aerial opposition was
encountered over the beachheads. When
the authorities were able to belatedly
assemlle a force, the hapless airmen
involved swiftly found themselve totally
outnumbered and outmanoeuvred. Thi
was not only the case for the bomber
crew, but even more so for the night
fighter crews, especially when the latter
found themselves thrown into th battle
on bombing sorties.
The regular involvement of Bomber
COI1,mand over France and the Low
Countries between June and August
naturally invited a reaction from the
achtjagd, with several Gruppen
temporarily transferred in from central
Europe. 1/ JG 2 were among the fir t to
do 0, in its case moving from Eindhoven
with it Ju 8R-2s and Ju 8 G-Is to
Chateaudun and later to Dijon. An
otherwise uneventful move wa marred
when Oberleutnant Jochems was engaged
and hot down by 'friendly' flak near
Orleans, losing his gunner in the process.
The unit records in this period reveal a
total of forty-four RAF aircraft shot down
as opposed to fifteen Ju 8 s.Oberieutnant
Roekker opened this account in a
spectacu lar manner on 8 June by
destroying five Lancasters over Caen in
twenty-six minutes; a further two bombers
were brought down by other crews this
night. Several multiple 'kills'
subsequently arose, with Hauptmann
Raht shooting down three on 8 July to
bring his total to thirty-nine; on 24 June
he had been awarded the Ritterkreuz
following his 35th 'kill', while his
assumption of the Gruppenkommandeur
role on 12 June would la t until VE Day.
Eleven nights later Raht added two more
'kills' to hi tally.
The marginally Ie than 3: I proportion
of successes to losses conceal the true
cost to the Gruppe, as well as to it fellow
unit. Wherea the RAF bomber crews
who urvived returned in almost total
security to their airfield where they
remained free of aerial intervention, the
oppo ite applied to their adversaries.
There would be no stage in any twenty-
four-hour period where a Luftwaffe
airfield and its personnel could rest free
from sudden a sault. By day the Allied
medium and fighter bombers,
occasionally supplemented by the
'heavies', could carry out a 'blitz' of
whatever location or locations had been
selected. For instance on 14 June,
Chateadun absorbed a raid that destroyed
six of the recently delivered Ju G-Is,
and damaged five of their R-2
predecessors. A second raid on 24 June
took out two more Ju G-I sand
damaged a further two. Finally, on 14
AugustthreemoreJu G-Iswerelotat
Dijon. II of these material losses
resulted in either the deaths of, or injuries
to, the equally valuable groundcrews.
The principal aerial threat to the
airmen manning their Ju 88s during
night operations was the shadowy
intruder. On 10 June, Hauptmann Raht
had landed and was clearing away from
the dispersal when a Mosquito burst
upon the scene to et the Ju R-2 on
fire. All three members of Major Lorenz'
crew fared worse on 17 June, when a
Mosquito took down their Ju 8 G-1: the
aircraft crashed into the sea and none of
them survived.
On 4 Augu t the crew of Oberleutnant
Kaiser fared better in personal terms,
although they lost their JuG-I. They
were south-west of Paris and approaching
the airfield when suddenly they found
themselves under attack by a Mosquito.
All three managed to bale out safely,
though Unteroffizier Jasinieki was to have
a particularly alarming experience after
landing in the outskirts of a town. As he
was gathering in his parachute he was
approached by several ci vii ians who
greeted him with cries of'Tammi l ', having
evidently mistaken him for an Allied flier.
While he was endeavouring to persuade
them of his correct identity by using his
knowledge of French - a fact that only
strengthened his 'friends' belief that here
was an AII ied flier - he was challenged by
a mall party of German soldiers arriving
on the scene. Hearing him peaking
French, they pointed their gun at him,
ordering him to hoi t up his hands
immediately - this was a KTiegsgefangener
ready for collection, in their opinion.
It took several minutes of fast talking
before Heinz could convince his 'captor'
that his switch to German was genuine
and that he was really on their side l
Of th remaining twelve operational
los es, three were ascribed to actual aerial
combats, one was related directly to flak,
NACHTJAGD
while eight fell to unknown causes. Two
further crews went down during non-
operational flights. One of this pair was
being flown on Augu t by Oberfahnrich
askrent, a budding Experce with at least
four 'kills', two of which had been scored
just the previous night. He had landed
elsewhere from his latest artie and was
returning to Chateaudun in daylight. He
never got there, becau e his Ju G-I was
ambu hed by P-3 s east of Coulomniers;
he was killed, though his crew survived.
Seven of these crews had to make a
forced or a crash-landing, one being that
of Unteroffizier Waldheim whose
Bordfunker was Obergefreiter Christ. On
9 August their Ju 88G-l carried out an
attack not on bombers but on shipping, in
this case moored in the well defended key
port of Cherbourg. A the aircraft made
its bombing run, an unidentified aircraft
closed in from behind, then broke away,
pursued by a tream of fire from Christ'
MG 131. Waldheim had reacted by diving
steeply, but thi action put the Ju
within even more effective range of the
AA barrage. trike blew away the
entrance hatch and this created a
veritable gale within the cockpit, as well
as knocking out all lighting and numerous
instruments - including the compass.
Turning for Chateaudun, they took up
what they thought was an eastward course
- but the first visual beacon sighted did
not accord with hrist's official list.
Desperately seeking out any lit-up airfield,
and vainly firing recognition flares, the
crew ultimately found themselves
approaching the same unidentifiable
beacon thelt was too close for comfort to
Cherbourg: they had obviously flown in a
circle, and so again took up a roughly
eastward course.
Eventually, with their fuel almost
exhausted and daylight coming with a
ground mist rising, the pilot decided
upon a forced landing. He found a
suitable cornfield and put the plane
down, though the hard urface caused
the Ju to bounce back into the air
upon initial contact before slamming
back down. It stopped just short of a
stone wall, on the other side of which
was - a cemetery! The crew quickly
jumped away from the aircraft a a fire
briefly arose, then subsided in the left
engine. One of the first witnesses on the
scene was a woman who confirmed the
location to be aarborg in Alsace, and a
long distance from Chateaudun.
159
Confusion Abounds
(Late 1944)
By ovember 1944 the ability of Bomb r
Command to strike targets in Germany at
will, and with minimal casualties, was
well established. This relative immunity
could be credited to a series of phy ical
and technological advances. Fir t of all,
the Allied advance into western Europe
meant that the Germans had ever
diminishing notice of the approach of the
R F bombers. econdly, and arguably
even more important, was the
involvement of o. 100 Group, which
offered sizeable variations in radio
counter-measures.
This group's ability to confound the
German defensive system as to th likely
target was proving of paramount
significance to the burgeoning success of
th night bombing offensive. Its aircraft
were tasked with dropping radar-blinding
'Window' ahead of the bomber tream to
mask the latter's precise approach into
central Europe. Then element of the
group flew ahead, or on the flanks of, the
main force to create the impres ion of an
attack upon a location other than the true
target or target; by this stage of the
offensive more than one target was
regularly selected for assault upon the
same night. Furthermore, it was not
uncommon for the Command to create a
situation where the Luftwaffe night
fighters were forced to take off to meet
some challenge that never actually
materialized, thereby obliging them to
unnecessarily expend valuable fuel as well
as human effort.
Finally, as we have seen, a further and
even more deadly refinement to the
offensi ve was the presence of RA F
intruders in the form of the Mosquito.
The phy ical and physiological
disturbance that the ever-looming threat
posed by the De Havilland 'twin' was
creating in the minds of their adver arie
added to the pressure placed upon the
German defenders, and played no mall
part in the ultimate demise of the
Nachtjagd by the winter of 1944/45.
On the evening of 30 ovember,
Leutnant Han Breithaupt's crew wa
placed on alert for an expected intrusion
by Bomber Command. This crew had
already suffered two notable incidents -
on 27 August when a crash-landing in
Strasburg had resulted in the complete
NA HTJAGD
The experience of the Breithaupt crew
underlined the almost total domin<ltion of
the Reich <IiI' pace now claimed by the
RAF m night. Thi domination W<lS
confirmed by the December oper<ltional
tatistic - over 12,000 individual sortie
by Bomber Command, compared to just
over 1,000 by the achtjagd, and this was
with an opermional establishment of 9 a
night fighters! hortage of fuel was an
undoubted major contributor to this basic
deficiency; even so, the loss of over lOa
<lircraft and crews during December was
an ominous portent of future operations
against the bombers. As regards RAF
losses, ]allLwry 1945 witnessed marginally
over 7,000 sorties, with 134 aircraft MIA
against Nachtjagd claims of 117. The
night fighters were never to be totally
subdued, but the occasions they were to
make their presence fully felt were
increasingly rare.
The achtjagd crews, especially the
radio-operators, were hardly helped by the
sheer range of equipment to be
monitored, quite apart from also having to
cut through the RCM disturbance created
by No. 100 Group. Several visual aid had
been introduced, such as searchlight and
signal flares, pecific 'bunches' of star-
shells or vertical searchlight patterns
being used to indicate specific cities. In
addition, searchlight were used to form
horizontal 'lanes' in order to direct lost
crews towards suitable airfields. A method
of identifying the probable course of a
bomber stream was the playing of mu ic
associated with specific cities or regions of
realized that my crashed Ju 8 had been
mistaken for an RAF machine, and myself for
its 'Tommy' pilot
'
I took a few steps towards the
man and said quietly 'I am a German night
fighter airman' whereupon the hostility in his
voice vanished. \Vithout checking me out, he
now assisted me in carrying my parachute.
It was a short walk to a flak battery site
where I introduced my,cif to its CO. He rold
me how he had heard a dreadful noise coming
from above as an unidentified aircraft tumbled
out of the cloud layer and smashed inro the
ground near the site; he, too, had been under
the misimpression that it was an RAF aircraft.
A glimpse in a wall mirror within the
command post reflected my hluodstained face;
it was only now that I re'llized I had been
injured, though strangely as yet I felt no pain.
I lost no time in further trying to locate my
crew who might be in need of our help. The
remains of my Ju 88 were soon discuvered
about half a mile distant, along with Hermann's
body; his legs were firmly emhedded in the
ground, his unopened parachute in shreds. I
found it very hard to t"ke in this sad fact,
because he had baled out before me, uttering a
laugh as he did so. We hrought him back to the
site in silence.
Two hours later a, I had just finished seeing
a doctor I ran into Erik "t a first-aid post. He
was lying beside an American soldier who bore
a severe wound in hi, right thigh 'lIld was in
shock. Erik couldn't move, hut he laughed
when he saw me with a twinkle in his eyes,
which was easily seen through his glasses. But
his laughter changed to concern and sadness
when he was told of the death of Hermann,
whose lflier's luck ' had not heen as great as ours.
B4+FA, a Ju SSG-G, bears the code letters for Nachtjagdstaffel Norwegen, but is seen at Guetersloh in
northern Germany following its arrival there on SMay 1945. The bulge on the centre of the canopy is the
cover for FuG 350 'Naxos', used for tracking the signals from the RAF bombers' 'H2S' sets.
order my jungs to bale out by shouting 'Raus!'.
The engines screamed as the aircraft went
into a vertical climb before losing speed - it felt
as if it was trying to complete a loop. \Vhile
Erik and Hermann were executing a swift bale-
out, I quickly swung myself out of my armoured
scar and back towards the entrance hatch. But
then my right leg snagged Hermann's dangling
,cat harne s, just as the Ju flipped over onto its
hack and began spiralling to the ground' I
attempted to free my leg, but couldn't because
of the cenrrifugal force exerted upon my limbs
- I hanging with my head barely inche,
away from the open hatch as my body was
tossed from side to side, and I was beginning to
lose my strength. I remember seeming to give
up, although I realized this would signify the
end. As I regained my senses I thought: 'This is
my last flight!' - but otherwise I felt no regrets
or fear of dearh. I could see the milky-grey
cloud layer coming up, into which I descended
at around 900m [3,000fr]. Suddenly I heard an
explosion and felt myself enveloped in flames.
My brain registered this as the final impact -
'So this is dearh"
But ,imultaneously I felt a bla't of air
lhrectly in my face, which also ,ent my hody
shuddering. I semi-consciously reached for and
pulled my ripcord; there was a hard jerk and I
found myself swinging back and forth under the
parachute canopy. A bare few seconds later I
hit the ground. I was lying on my back and was
initially inG1pahie of moving as the giant
canopy collapsed slowly by my side. The huild-
up of tension as the aircraft was tumbling out of
the sky was replaced by both ;1 physical and
mental sense of peace. I realized my good
furtune, and gave thanks for this. I guessed the
Ju 88 had disintegrated in mid-air at the last
moment, thHnving me clear just before
the crash. I also realized I had escaped serious
injury. Tonight was obviously not intended ro
he my last flight, and I could already envisage
myself hack in a new aircraft!
ow I could hear the droning of the
approaching bomber stream, sounding ever
louder. The sky was lit up by searchlights, hut
this Armada sailed on relentlessly in an
eastward direction as flak snapped at its heels. I
could also pick out the short bursts of fire from
our night fighters as a sharp battle began,
conducted from borh the air and ground.
I kept thinking of Erik and Hermann who
had to he c1u,e by; we had come duwn
perilously close to the front line. I s[(x,d up
GllItiou,ly and collected my parachute into a
bundle. I was setting off slowly when a shadowy
figure appeared and shouted energetically
'Hands up! You arc a prisoner" But I recognized
the unmistakahle Schwabian accent, and
route-marker flares or 'Christmas Tree' target
markers dropped by the pathfinder aircraft, for
bomhs exploding, for bursts of tracer fire from
an attacking night fighter, or for any burning
aircraft that might have suffered such attack.
We were completely dependent upon our own
eyesight, just as we had been in the early
month, of the Nachtjagd. But nothing,
abwlutely norhing, could be discerned, and all
we h'lLllI'as the aircraft's engines droning their
monotonous song. I constantly checked all
switches and indicator equipmenr and adjusted
the Reflexvisier gunsight. We were fully ready
to engage our adversary.
Down on the ground in the destroyed streets
of our cities, women, children and old people
were running into cellars Clnd !'ihclters
accompanied hy the chilling, howling sirens. I
can visualize their concerned faces, and sense
their worry and fear that they me left almost
defenceless against the bombing raids. Do they
think 'lbout us as we fly night after night and
attempt to ward off the piti less attacks I
And so we kept searching as we flew around
between 5,00 and 6,000m 116,000 and
19,000ftl. with six trained eyes feverishly
looking for the anticipated target in the
moonlit sky. In this light we had to be creming
a dark shadow, thu highlighting our position
for any orher aircraft flying lower down,
hecause only the latter can make a sighting
against the horizon at night.
'Try the Irrakurzwelle HF) channel
once more; perhaps we can pick up some
indication from its Reportage Irunning
commentaryl' was my latest suggestion to Erik,
our young man from Hamburg. So he diverted
his attention to the radio set, which now meant
we had lost one pair of observing eyes. Itwas
now that I began to sense that we were being
lined up as a potential victim for a Mosquito
lurking below and ready to strike. I
instinctively reacted by throwing the Ju 8 in a
tight left-hand turn and dropping several
hundred metres in heighr. Upon levelling off I
climbed back up and upon again levelling off
commenced to put the aircraft through a
constant twisting flight-path. uddenly, red
and yellow tracers shot past on borh sides, and
an uncontrollahle tremor shot through my
limb as I felt the impact of the strike thanks
to the shuddering control column; I could also
hear the noise of our MG IZ machine guns
firing hack at our assailant.
I instinctively pushed forward with full force
on the control column in order ro escape our
opponent - but too late. For the very first time
the good old Ju failed to respond, and I sensed
that the elevators and rudder must have been
family damaged. All I could now do was to
NACHTJAGD
Would the bombers arrack ronight! Following
their heavy losses during the previous winrer
and early spring it had become ohvious that our
own bomber operations were ,uspended during
any period of full m(xmlight, and since then
the Lancasters and Halifaxes had regularly
utili:ed the self-,ame conditions for their
frightful raids. They were ably supported by the
Mosquitoes, whose large numbers and
effectiveness were now causing seriolls
problems for our night fighter force. In addition
the activities of o. 100 Group had alh-ersely
affected borh our ground and airborne radar
equipmenr, ro the point of ncar bre'lkdown. Of
course, although its aircraft rarely if ever
carried bomhs, it was in its flying crews' speciClI
interest to concentrate their attentions upon
us, since we were their umber One threat!
As we continued to orbit at around 5,000m
[16,000ftl. my Bordfunker continued to
complain ahout his inability to gain
information on the bomhers' approach and
location: 'All the wave-lengths are jammed"
The full moonlight was lighting up the cloud
layer below, which ,eemed like a snowfield
stretching out of sight. ome miles to the west
we could sec line, of tracers, like coloured
strings of pearls tossed carelessly about by a
giant hand. What we were seeing was the
ground battle around the Ri ver Roer. There the
soldiers were bitterly contesting the ground
war, usually in rain and mud, but tonight in the
frozen soil. \X1e fliers had little or no
understanding of the unimaginable conditions
under which our soldiers were fighting.
I suggested that my Bordfunker tried to
contact PrimadonnCl 2. This station was the
sole unit that so far (fingers crossed) had not
been jammed by the Tommys - probably
thanks to its tactical uselessness' She is a
splendid old maid - naturally lacking flesh and
blood - but reliable. Unfortunately, because
she could not differentime between bombers or
fighters, large formations or single aircraft, her
information was far toO basic to lead our night
fighters to the enemy or to assist them to track
down the bomber stream. However, we could
establish that the homhers appeared to be
closing in on the Ruhr, and that the first
machines should be passing through our zone
within a few minutes. With no knowledge of
their exact course or height, we made
wisecracks and praised our 'old maid' of a radio
station. Provided she was not wrong, we should
be mak ing contact.
And so we waited impatiently for the first
sign of the bombers, that we would have to pick
up by eye, concentrating our attention on the
starry heaven. We also looked out for
supplementary indicators such as searchlights,
A clear, almost cloudless eveoing existed over
our ba,e in cast Holland. However, a maner of
minute, hefore, the green signal ro commence
operation> had transformed the unreal calm
inro a hectic activity. Our Ju with it, three-
man crew sped along the runway at full power
,md lifted off inro a star-lit sky. We wasted no
time in flying south wwards the outer edge of
the Ruhr, which was anricipated as heing
wnight's wrger. We then received information
that the bomher stre<lm h<ld cle<lred the English
coast, with the Ic<lding aircraft already recorded
as heing over the Scheidt estuary.
Our initial flight p<lth was flown at low level
in order w challenge any 'Intruder' activity, hut
then we pulled up through the relatively spar,e
cloud cover at around 300m 11,000frj; this
cloud was covering the hulk of western Europe
,md extending up w a further 900m 13,000frj.
At thi, poinr we shor through the milky-grey
to be confronted by a giant moon that
spre"d its cold and hostile beam, all around. It
now that we received the radio instruction
to assemble over beacon 'Bruno' in the
Moenchen-Gladbach area. Our powerful
Jum0213 morors, with their 1700t P , thrust
the twelve [Ons of our Ju 8 up through the <lir
at 5,000 revs a minute.
Now we were flying in a verimble fairyland,
hut we had ro keep a constanr lookout for the
Mosljuiro 'Intruder' - the fastest <lnd arguably
the most efficient British fighter, superior ro all
its German contcmporrlrics other than the Me
262 jets. They had a measurably superior speed
as well as berrer radar equipmenr comp'Hed ro
our trusty Ju 88.
Our initial exercise was to examine the air
space "II ,,,.ound in order ro Sl )t any enemy
aircmft before these could initiate an arrack. It
wa, literally a marrer of life and dearh, with death
a real possibility should we nor exercise such
vigilance. Finally, when we reached our hriefed
altitude of 2,5 m I, ftl, I eased hack on the
conrrol column, trimmed the aircraft, and beg"n
a systematic visual search of the star-laden sky.
My Bordfunker, Feldwebel Erik ellschop,
arrempted ro establish the position and strength
of the bomber stream, but the [Hdio reports that
were meant to provide such informi-ltion proved
spasm(xlic as well as confusing.
Hermann with his radar set had no more
luck, and repeatedly complained about
'Criminals and their damned disturhance'.
destruction of their]u 8G-6, and again
on I September when it was forced into
a crash-landing at Koeln-Ostheim. Now
the crew W<lS ready to take off in their] u
8 G-6 R4+GL. The following report is in
the Leutnant's own words:
760 767
CHAPTER THIRTEEN
Operation Gisela
the Reich - for instance, waltz music for
Vienna. These measures smacked of
desperation, but were better than
nothing, given the parlous operational
circumstances.
From the Frying Pan into
the Fire!
As the war moved into its final three
months, the Nachtjagd crews were being
placed in a hopeless position of logistical
and technical inferiority. The raids by
Bomber Command were getting through
almost unimpeded, and German industry
was in an almost moribund state of
disruption. The night fighter crews were
chasing their own tails as o. 100 Group's
radio counter-measures continued to take
effect. The intruder menace also
continued to thin out the ranks of the
Geschwadern, with fatal consequences
not only for the Bf 110 or Ju 88
concerned, but also for their entire crews.
Naturally there were occasions when the
Luftwaffe airmen escaped with their lives
- onIy to fi nd that they were sti II in peril
even after landing safely on the ground.
One such incident involved Leutnant
Johannes Strassner of I/NJG 2, flying a
Ju 88G-6:
The 2 February 1945 was an especially
memorable day. We [Ook off from Twente at
18:31 hours in order to contest an attack
against Mannheim. We flew to Moenchen-
Gladbach, and orbited the area at 3200m
[IO,OOOft]. Up to this point we had always
striven to carry a second Bordfunker whose
duty was to operate the SN-2 radar set;
constant monitoring of the equipment could
give warning of aircraft closing in from behind.
However this was not always possible, and
tonight there was just the normal three-man
crew on board.
After thirty minutes of waiting we were
surprised by a short salvo of gunfire, which set
the right wing on fire. Hans Hahn
(Bordfunker) and Helmut Pareidt
NACHTJAGD
(Bordmechaniker) resronded to my bale-out
order and got out through the entrance hatch,
but I was not so fortunate. Twice when I
attempted to hold the control column steady in
order to get my left leg out from behind it, the
aircraft lurched into a sharp left-hand curve
when 1 let it go. On the third occasion I
managed, with my remaining strength, to pull
my leg clear and make for the hatch. By now
the aircraft was hanking over again and about
to go into a spin.
In my anxiety 1 pulled the ripcord
prematurely and rassed out because of the
fierce opening shock. 1 recovered in a few
seconds, however, and observed our faithful
machine blazing amid exploding ammunition
on the ground as I swayed under my canopy.
The sense of relief and gratitude at being alive
swept over me during my descent, which lasted
some fifteen minutes. As I neared the ground 1
observed a flare shooting up; I later learned this
had been fired by Helmut. Its light allowed a
view of a village, and I ended ur landing in one
of its hack gardens - right on a manure pile!
This was Noithausen ncar Grevenbroich.
As I grappled to release my parachute
harness I heard people aprroaching, one of
whom said in a questioning tone 'Friend?' I
realized they probably thought I was a Tommy,
and identified myself to them. I was then
taken into an unlit house. In the distance I
could hear gunfire from the front line - we
had been fortunate with the easterly wind
direction, otherwise we could have landed
lover there'! As I accepled a cigilretLe and a
drink, the tension experienced over the
previous twenty or thirty minutes began to
dissipate. The local policeman appeared and
asked for proof of identi 1'1', so 1 produced my
operations carel. A short time later Helmut
turned up, having landed at the other end of
the village.
But the peace around us did not last long. At
around 20:30 hours a prolonged bombing
attack was commenced by low-flying
Mosquitoes against Grevenbroich railway
station. (Noithausen was in the unfortunate
position of lying in the fork formed by two
railway lines') A woman grabbed me by the
arm and hustled me in the darkened
surroundings down into an emergency shelter. I
162
will never forget the following hours. Some 100
people, mainly women and children, huddled
within the concreted space. Every thirty
minutes along came a Mosquito to release its
load of bomhs; some women would be saying
their prayers before a picture of Mary set
between candles - then silence until the next
attack. Here we came to appreciate the true
spirit of the Rheinlanders in the face of
constant day and night bombardment.
The attacks ceased around daybreak, after
which we could give thought to returning to
Twcntc. Above all we were anxiolls to confirm
we were still alive' Hans turned up around
06:00 hours, having lost his flying boots when
his parachute opened, and been supplied with a
pair of high-heeled shoes by the local
Volksstunn (Home Guard). Being the first out,
he had had the particular misfortune to land
right in Grevenbroich railway sration; bombs
had been landing all round him as he ran to get
clear of the locality! Both Helmut and I were
delighted to sec him, and to sec that we were
all intact.
At around 06:30 hours we caught a bus to
I euss, and from there travelled by tramcar to
the airfield at Duesseldorf-Lohausen. Here we
handed over our parachutes, and telephoned in
to our I/NJG 2 HQ before getting travel
permits to Twentc. On our return we visited
the parachute packer, and gave him money,
since we owed him our lives as a result of his
efficiency.
In retrospect, all three of us felt that the
>mack Lhat had cost us our Ju 88 occurred in a
manner suggesting the use of a Schraege Musik
weapon - an opinion shared by Hauptmann
Wandell', who felt he had been downed over
France by the same form of armament.
More than twenty years later, in the
summer of 1967, we sought out the village of
Noithausen, and amazingly I met once again
the woman who had guided me down into
the cellar; she remembered the occasion
very well.
(Auth01-'S note: There are no records to
sU/Jport the Schraege Musih assertion,
eS/Jecially since the main intruder activity was
conducted by the Mosquito, that had
standard forward-firing armament.)
Over the lengthy period between the
cessation of 'Fernnachtjaeger' attacks on
British airfields in October 1941, and the
heginning of 1945, RAF Bomber
Command operations had built up almost
totally unhindered by this form of
menacing pressure. During late 1943
General Josef 'Beppo' Schmid, who had
not long taken over command of
Nachtjagd operations from General
Kammhuber, had voiced his opinion that
'Intruder' attacks should be renewed as an
additional form of defence against the
ever-expanding enemy bomber offensive.
Disruption of the initial assembly of the
RAF aircraft, and later of their safe
retrieval on return, could play almost as
important a part in the offensive's failure
as could be achieved by the achtjagd
night fighters over Germany. In the event
his voice went largely unheeded, and it
would only be during the autumn of 1944
that serious thought would be given to
such an undertaking being made on a
sizeable scale. (The Me 410s of V/KG 2
and lllKG 51 were involved in what had
amounted to 'hit-and-run' raids from late
1943, which had been conducted mainly
hy day. The occasional night sortie had
sometimes paid good dividends, as on the
22 Apri I 1944 when a handful of II KG 51
crews had caught the B-24s of the
USAAF's 2nd Bomb Division as the latter
returned in the dark and inflicted serious
casualties. All in all, however, Allied
bomber operations were barely affected by
such puny and extremely irregular
Luftwaffe counter strokes.)
The High Command's fixation with
totally disrupting and destroying Bomher
Command over Europe was all the more
illogical in view of the success that had
heen regularly achieved by the RAF
fighter crews in their Beaufighters and
Mosquitoes since the ITliddle of 1943. The
German crews preparing to set off into the
emhattled night skies could never
guarantee their immunity from counter
attack at any point of an operation.
Taxiing out, taking off, orbiting a beacon,
Heinz Roekker was assigned to IINJG 2 in May
1942. and remained with the Gruppe for the ensuing
three years. In that time he rose to the rank of
Hauptmann and control of 2/NJG 2 from 5 January
1944 onward. He was awarded the Ritterkreuz on 27
July 1944. and this was followed by the Oak Leaves
on 12 March 1945. He is the sole surviving top-
scoring Nachtjagd Experte. having a final tally of
sixty-four - all but one achieved by night.
engaging the hombers, landing hack down
and taxiing in - every stage was open to
swift and often fatal assault. In addition,
the demoralizing effect on the surviving
crews could not be easily discounted.
And so it was that plans were put into
effect for a large-scale assault that went
under the codename Operation Gisela.
The initial briefings were conducted as
early as the beginning of December, but
fully three months would pass before its
actual execution, because in this time the
163
units tasked with the operation would be
brought up to the required strength. A
second codename, Zep/Jelin, was intended
to act as an 'alert' for the operation, with
Gisela being used on the day in question.
Heinz Roekker (II JG2) recalls its whole
redevelopment:
The revival of the 'Fernnachtjaeger' concept
pioneered by our Grupre in 1940/41 was
resurrected in late 1944. Major Schnaufer, our
leading night fighter Ex/)ene, was a prominent
supporter of a mass assault on the RAF bombers
over their own airfields, in which the bulk of
the was expected to participate. Its
protagonists helieved that only in this manner
could a 'knock-our' blow be innicted upon the
RAF bomber force. In overall of the
operation was Oherstgeneral Grahmann (3
Jagddivision). However, there was a suspicion
that, desrite all efforts at tight security, the
Allies were well aware of the impending
venture. (The Military Radio Station at Calais
regularly played the dance-rune 'Tonight I
dance wirh Gisela'.) Perhaps due to this
suspicion, we heard nothing more until the
heginning of March. Then the code-name
Ze/J/Jelin was announced, and the hriefed units
duly transferred to unoccuried Holland and
north-wesr Germany.
Blow...
During the early evening of 3 March 1945
the latest Bomber Command assault was
launched, the operation displaying all the
various ingredients designed to confuse
the Luftwaffe defenders. Two targets were
selected for arrack: the synthetiC oil plant
at Kamen in the Ruehr; and the
Dortmund-Ems canal at one of its most
vulnerable points (Ladhergen), where the
waters were carried over a massi ve
viaduct. Nos. 4 and 5 Groups were the
respective forces involved, with some 400
heavy bombers between them. In addition
to providing marker-support over Kamen
and Ladhergen, No.8 (PFF) Group was to
despatch Mosquitoes to mark and bomb
OPERATION GISELA OPERATION GISELA
General Josef 'Beppo' Schmid took over command of the Nachtjagd in late 1943, displacing General
Kammhuber who was re-assigned to command Luftflotte V in Scandanavia. Schmid lcentre) and his Chief
of Staff Oberst Wittmer lright) are seen conversing with General Hugo Sperrle. (Hitler once described
Sperrle as 'one of my most brutal-looking generals' thanks to the latter's autocratic features!)
A total of sixty to seventy crews were to be
involved in the operation, with each Gruppe
being assigned a specific geogmphic area and
ordered to attack bombers and to bomb airfields
or other relevant ground targets; our Ju 88s could
be loaded with ten 50kg II 10lbi bombs for the
latter purpose. Hauptmann Raht, our
Gruppenkommandeur, led us off at 23:00 hours
in our Ju 88G-6 fighters, each hearing a four-
man crew; mine consisted of Carlos Nugent
(radar operator), Hanns MattaI' (radio opemtor)
and Fritz Wcfelmeier (ohserver). Our bomh-Ioml
consisted of two Abwur/beha/rer (containers),
each holding 50/l0kg fragmentmion hombs. We
flew at minimum altitude over the North Sea in
order to avoid rad(lr detection, our destination
heing northern Lincolnshire.
Shortly before reaching the enemy Co<lst we
climbed to the briefed operational height of
900m 13,OOOftj. It was good to be free of the
nerve-straining act of flying just above the
waves - we were so close we could sec our
slipstream ruffling the foamy crests of the
waves. Consequently I had to concentrate on
the altimeter as well as giving equal attention
to flying a correct compass heading. (We were
not allowed to lise the radio altimeter, since the
enemy direction-finding equipment could have
picked it up.) Fortunately visibility was good,
with patchy cloud cover, and after some ninety
minutes we flew in over England.
Upon climbing to our operational height we
waited tensely for whatever might now elapse.
It was a strange feeling to be over enemy
territory, where anything unexpected might
happen, as opposed to the familiarity when
flying over Germany - hur norhing untoward
occurred. We saw no searchlights or flak, but
we had to consider the possibility of night
fighters being vectored onto us, given the
superior radar equipment in RAF use. Our SN·
2 radar was switched off, because nor only did
we expect to pick out the RAF bombers by
their navigation lights, but also the Mosquitoes
could not home in on the set uCll1smissio!ls!
Right: Three fighter pilots from the 404 Fighter
Group are examining the SN-2 aerial array on a
Ju BBG-G. Detached propeller spinner provides
precise detail on the VS-111 hub mechanism. The
curved clips on the side of the cowling normally
form securing points for the exhaust shroud.
... And Counter Blow
Even as the 3 March attacks were
progressing, the Nachtjagd crews from
seven Gruppen responding to the Gisela
signal were being briefed and ready to
take off. Heinz Roekker again:
Meppen to the north of the primary
targets, just ahead of the main force
attacks, in yet another bid to mislead the
night fighters as to the true target.
The upshot of all these supporting
actions was that the Kamen force struck
its target and returned home with no
losses to the defences. The Ladbergen
attackers were able to hit home with
virtually no fighter interference, but as
they withdrew, a number of night fighters
managed to be vectored into their path,
and eight Lancasters were culled from the
stream. On the other hand, a Mosquito
and a Sti rling were MLA from among the
ranks of the supporting force. A loss
percentage of just over 1 per cent at this
late stage of World War 11 was more than
supportable for conti nued effecti ve
Bomber Command operations, at Least in
crude statistical terms (though not for the
unfortunate ai rmen concerned).
However, the night's activities were not
yet completed as the RAF crews headed
westwards for what was expected to be a
tiring but uneventful conclusion to yet
another 'op' ...
Berlin and Wuerzburg, located further
into Germany and well separated
geographically. The final 'active' element
of that night's operations involved
Lancasters of Nos. I and 5 Group laying
mines off Oslo and the Kattegat, as well as
B-24s of the 492 BG which bombed
Emden.
A 'sweep' by No.7 Group's conversion
units over the North Sea, dropping
'Window' to simulate an attacking force
was the first, 'passive' element of the
operation. The other element of
deception was arguably even more vital in
ensuring the Luftwaffe was kept at bay
and was provided by No. 100 (RCM)
Group. Its opening action was to lay a
radar-blinding screen of 'Mandrel'
transmissions across the main force's
inward route. Then, Halifaxes of No. 192
Squadron monitored the Luftwaffe radio
traffic while other aircraft carried out
'jamming' tactics using several specialist
devices such as 'Pipe-rack', 'Jostle' and
'Carpet'. A third sub-operation involved
aircraft creating the impression of a
'pathfinder' action over the town of
764 765
Not all abandoned aircratt were lett in flying condition. This Ju SSG-l has had the lett undercarriage leg
retracted in a bid to prevent its immediate use at least. Standard fixed aerial mast is replaced by a shorter,
retractable fitting directly behind the cockpit canopy; this was a feature on the Ju SSG prototype. The
aircratt still bears the factory code letters.
Apart from occasional groundlights, nothing
could be seen. Then after thirty minutes of
searching in vain, we suddenly observed, in the
far distance below, the navigation lights of a
single aircraft - a novelty as far as we were
concerned, especially when given the near
suicidal usc of our lights over Germany, which
would almost certainly invite an 'Intruder'
attack. I opened the throttles and soon closed
on our prey, that I visualized soon going down
in flames following our imminent attack. The
Lancaster or Halifax was flying due south
around 750m [Z,500ftl; I flew underneath and
simultaneously equalized my speed to that of
the bomber, ready to operate the 'Shraege
Musik' cannon. I sighted through the 'Revi'
gun-sight and pressed the trigger. I immediately
noticed that the dim tracer-line was falling
behind the target, but before I could take
correcting action the pilot switched of( his
lights and put his aircraft inro a dive.
The star-lit sky allowed me to follow his
action, but rarher dumbly I still attempted to
remain below his course in a further attempt to
OPERATION GISELA
utilize the Schraege Musik; but could not
ach ieve more than a 40-degree angle of sight -
far less than the 70-degree sighting angle
necessary. By the time I realized I was not going
to succeed, and had decided to revert ro my
forward-firing weapons, I found the standard
gunsight was not switched on, and my prey had
disappeared below the horizon. By now we were
down to around 90m [300ft\ and I could discern
houses and trees. I was sure the RAF crew
would be counting their luck and sweating with
relief in the process! This was the first failure I
had experienced with Schraege Musik, and I
put it down to either miscalculating the range
thanks to the misleading visual effect of the
navigation lights, or having a weapon that had
been wrongly sight-adjusted by the armourers.
We orbited for a further hour without
sighting another aircraft - but then came
across a lit-up airfield. With no bombsight in
place we were forced ro bomb at random, but
the switching off of the lights was soon
reversed. Although we were sure that
aircraft were then landing, having no
navigation lights thwarted any attempt to
identity and attack.
In the meantime we had ro think about
getting back ro Twente, but before we did so I
flew over a location with full lighting. Since
there were no discernible defences, and I still
had ammunition for the nose weapons, I
opened fire upon a vehicle before heading out
to sea at minimum altitude as an evasive action
against night fighters. The weather had
worsened by the time we were approaching
Twente, with. rain and a cloud base no more
than 300m [I ,000ft] above us. A wearherfront
had developed which the forecasters had
missed, and whose presence spelt trouble for
other crews. Some could not find their airfields,
several crashed when trying ro land, or were
forced to finally bale out. In addition, radio
beacons and ground/air systems had been prey
to British interference.
After landing ar around 03: 10 hours I made
my report, including the failed attempt at a
'kill'. Worse still, Oberfeldwebel Winn said
that he had identified the same bomber and
had been ready to attack when he had observed
that I was closing in; so naturally he was quite
upset that I had probably denied him a certain
victory! Hauptmann Raht had better fortune,
downing two bombers; these proved to be the
Gruppe's sole confirmed 'kills'.
Two other battle-tested pilots partici-
pating in Gisela were Walter Briegleb
(7/NJG 2) and Gunther Wulf (9/NJG 5).
Both had varied experiences during the
operation; Briegleb relates his as follows:
This was my ninetieth operational flight, and
we had been preparing for Gisela since
Ocrober. Seven times the codename had been
issued to our III Gruppe as we sat in a state of
cockpit readiness on several successive airfields
- Varel, Jever, Wittmundhaven, and our
present location Marx. So when the alert order
was again issued on 3 March, I and Hauptmann
Ferger (Kommanduer) rook little heed and
went off to celebrate in the local town.
However, the subsequent reports from the
operations room became ever more urgent, and
as we finally returned by bus we saw the signal
flares indicating rake-off!
At the dispersal my crew chief Feldwebel
Fischer hastily helped me to don my flying suit
and Mae West, and my crew boarded the Ju
88G-6 whose engines were already started up.
We got on board, pu lied up the entrance hatch,
tax ied out and took off Our course took us out
over Texel's radio beacon, after which we
headed for the Lincoln area. As we approached
the enemy coastline we saw the searchlight
'lanes' acting as a guide for the returning
bombers as they approached at around I,ZOOm
[4,000ft]. Our tautened nerves only relaxed
again when we were safely past this 'barrier',
whose brightness made us feel as if we were
being offered up on a plate. In fact we felt some
sympathy for the bomber crews as they
completed what was normally the easiest part
of their operation - the pilot waiting to rake his
place in the airfield circuit pattern, the radio
operaror 'listening out', the navigator putting
away his equipment, the tail gunner
anticipating climbing out of his cramped turret
and stretching his aching limbs.
My thoughts on this matter were interrupted
by one of my crew reporting a 'k ill' ro the left
and behind. (On return ro Marx, the time and
location was tied in with what was the twelfth
victory for Feldwebel Koppe.) I now picked Out
a Lancaster and positioned my Ju 88 about
150m beneath it, sighted, and pressed the
button for the Schreage Musik - and nothing
happened'
'Damn' The weapon has jammed" I
shouted, ro which came the reply 'Fault
corrected'. A second firing attempt brought no
better result, so I pulled up level with the
bomber and gave him a full blast with the
forward firing cannon. The fuselage burst inro
flames and the aircraft went down like a comet.
We picked out a second bomber with its
OPERATION GISELA
navigation lights on, and were almost within
firing range when these were switched off The
pilot then carried out a series of 'corkscrew'
manoeuvres for almost ten minutes, before
resuming a normal flight path, presumably on
the assumption that he had lost his assailant. I
was positioned of( to his right and level with
him, but now dropped down about ZOOm
directly behind, before pulling sharply up and
letting him fly through my stream of gunfire.
This was my twenty-fifth victory spread over a
period of fourteen months.
We could sec numerous fires burning, and
realized the enemy night fighters would now be
seeking us out. We accordingly altered course
sharply, and utilized every bit of cloud cover to
throw them off the trail as we headed for home.
However, as the Dutch coast was reached we
felt the tension mount again, as the forecast of
good weather conditions proved badly
incorrect. Mentally we kept on our toes until,
some four hours after rake-off, we touched
down safely. We were the first crew back, and
greeted our fellow airmen as they landed and
reported similar success. Only Hauptmann
Ferger was disgruntled, having arrived over a
blacked-out Lincolnshire and sighted nothing
to shoot at, either in the air or on the ground.
This had happened to other crews, too, and was
thought to be the fault of a 'chair-borne
warrior' in Planning, who had had the
'brilliant' notion of despatching a second wave
of aircraft twenty minutes after the first'
Having scored twenty-nine victories already,
Ferger had anticipated reaching the thirty mark
this night. (In fact he would never achieve his
goal, because he and his gallant crew were
brought down by a Mosquiro on 14 April, and
none of them survived.)
Gunther Wulf's experience during Gisela
proved to be even more involved
following h is take-off from Lueneburg:
We had received fragments of information,
having been briefed on the defences in eastern
England and studied airfield and beacon
dispositions. Our Ju 88G-6 aircraft were
equipped with extra fuel tanks ro extend our
flight time. Finally, on 3 March, came the order
to transfer to Wittmundhaven. The weather
conditions were expected to produce light to
moderate northerly winds, and broken cloud
with moonshine appearing during the course of
the operation; only the latter, however, was to
prove a correct forecast.
We rook off at Z3:Z1 hours and headed
north-west for Borkum. From here we dropped
to a height of 30m, using the radio altimeter all
the way over. I concentrated on my
instruments despite being able to see the waves
clearly, and was greatly relieved upon
approaching the enemy coast to pull back on
the controls and climb to the briefed
operational altitude. (The strain of flying on
instruments for nearly an hour leaves one
almost hypnotized and with eyeballs like organ
stops.) As we closed on the coast I sighted a
convoy to my left, but paid little attention
since I had no bombs with which to make an
attack, apart from which I had other matters to
attend to. I was later to reflect ruefully on not
absorbing the fact that the vessels were
steaming northwards..
The countless vertical searchlights spanning
Lincolnshire could now be seen acting as
'channelling guides' for the bombers. Somehow
we managed ro fly in along one of these
'channels' without being picked out, and
circled in the region of several airfields.
ILargely within No. I Group, according to the
names quoted by Wulfl Above one of these
brightly lit airfields I picked out the exhaust
flames from a Lancaster. However, my speed
was such that I was forced to lower the
undercarriage to slow down.
Just as I closed into range the bomber
banked left, throwing off my gun-sight.
retracted the undercarriage and kept him in
sight, gaining a firing position as the landing
approach lights appeared below. These were
suddenly extinguished, and the bomber
climbed steeply to the right. My initial burst of
fire set the right inner engine on fire, but as I
flew underneath I noticed that the rail gunner
was firing flares, indicating to me that the crew
had no idea they were under aerial attack. A
second burst of fire into one wing-root with
Schreage Musik sealed the bomber's fate, and it
fell away to the right in flames, exploding on
impact. I was shocked to realize how low we
now were, at less than 400m; this was by far the
lowest height at which any of my victories had
been scored. We now headed for Hull, pursued
by light flak rising from our victim's airfield.
We were astonished to find light blazing all
over the city, as if nobody was aware there was
a war on' expended my remaining
ammunition on several industrial sites -
though with no discernible effect - and then
headed east over the Humber estuary. This
reduced the risk of running into balloon cables;
any balloons being towed by vessels could be
avoided because in the moonlight we could see
them in time.
As the Spurn Head lighthouse passed by our
left wing we began to relax - but too soon, as
it turned out. Suddenly light flak began to
engage us. What was this? We were well clear
of the coast at this time. I dropped even closer
166 167
OPERATION GISELA OPERATION GISELA
The pre-operational tension shows up on Heinz Roekker's features as his radar operator - Oberfeldwebel
Carlos Nugent - assists his pilot to strap in, Nugent received the Ritterkreuz on 28 April 1945, after
participating in sixty-two of Hauptmann Roekker's victories,
Upon occupying the Junkers factory at Bernberg, the troops found some Ju 88s largely reduced to burnt-out
shells. The frontal view of a Ju 88G-1 at Bernberg shows the top pair of aerial supports with the sockets
into which the SN-2 aerials would normally be slotted. The armoured windscreen and left wing-root air-
intake can also be seen.
same manner and similarly despatched. Both
had probably dropped their bombs as they were
heading back to England at maximum speed in
a bid to get cle"r of our dcfenccs.
By this point we had flown over the Allied-
occupied zones in Belgium and Holland.
Suddenly I saw a brightly lit airfield, Hnd knew
immediately that it could not be a German
hllSC hcc(lusc two rlircnlft were seen with their
navigation lights switche,1 on. At the time,
RAF Bomber Comm'lIld were mounting rHids
involving hundreds of aircraft, and on tHke-off,
assembly and landing it was necessary for their
aircraft to burn these lights as a safety measure
against possible collision. In addition, by this
stage of the Wat the A II ied crews had less to fear
from our Fernnachtjaeger than from collisions.
In stark contrast we never put on our
navigation lights thanks to the risk factor posed
by RAF 'Intruders'.
I positioned myself beneath these aircraft:
they were orbiting at around 100m [3,OOOftl.
I took off at 18:30 hours from Twente along
with my radar-operator Carlos Nugent, radio-
operator Hanns Mattar and observer Fritz
Wefelmeier. We were briefed to defend the
Ruhr city of Hagen against the RA F homhers,
although we knew that the actual attack was
almost over. A prolonged search of the region
ended at 20:50 hours when a four-engine
aircraft with twin fins was picked out at around
4,000m 114,000ft[; my Schraege Musik guns set
it on fire and it fell away blazing to explode on
the ground. No more than two minutes later a
second bomber was spotted, attacked in the
out, nor that he and his crew would be
fortunate to escape injury or death at the
conclusion of this operation:
The Final Shots
By March 1945 Hauptmann Heinz
Roekker was a thoroughly battle-tested
pilot now in command of 2/NJG 2. As he
prepared for action on 15 March he had
no way of knowing that his tally of over
sixty RAF aircraft was about to be closed
Operation Gisela was destined never to
be repeated either in terms of numbers of
Ju 88s involved, or in 'kills'. A small-scale
incursion twenty-four hours later barely
encountered any RAF aircraft, while the
sorties on 17/18 March and 20/21st ended
with no more than three definite 'kills'.
by two British aviation authors that this was an
aircraft from No. 44 Squadron that was
rcturning from a raid on Ladbergcn. The
control tower had radioed the messages 'Bograt
10 min' and 'Bograt 15 min' to the crew,
indicating hostile aircraft in the vicinity and to
head away for the >tated lime-spells. All seven
of Fg Off J. J. Ryan's crew lost their lives.
Operation Gisela was destined to reap an
even more solid reward for the Luftwaffe
than was reflected in the claims submitted
by eleven of the participating crews, with
a total of sixteen bombers or other aircraft
types being involved. In fact the final
figure was twenty-one, with at least two
heavy crash-landings that claimed the
lives of some of the crew. However, the
cost to the Luftwaffe certainly took the
gloss off the action: eight crews would be
Iisted as MIA, while a further fourteen
were involved in crashes or bale-outs over
western Europe, with a proportion of their
number being killed or seriously injured.
(Two out of this latter figure suffered the
misfortune upon their return of falling to
'friendly' flak!)
Having confirmed our location, and noting
thal then: w a ~ a t1ufficicnt fuel n:tlcrvL' to gel u:'
back to Wittmundhaven, we headed north-east
and soon made radio contact, landing at 02:50
hours in the face of rain and a 300m cloud
ceiling. A number of crews had either landed
elsewhere or had not yet reported in; one ere\\'
miraculously managed to bale out of their
stricken Ju 88 after it struck the ground and
pulled up into a short, sharp climb before falling
hack to earth. Yet another crcw was forced to
balc out west of Berlin when they finally ran out
of fuel' A change in the force and direction of
the wind and the arrival of low cloud since take-
off had created this havoc. Latcr in the morning
wc took off for Lueneburg, where wc landed in
the midst of a heavy snowstorm. We felt satisfied
with the results of the operation and were all
geared up to rcpcat thc cxercisc right away, but
thc order never came - why not?
After the war I made enquiries into the
identity of my Lancaster victim. I \vas informed
to the sea surface as the moonlight picked out
the outline of sever,,1 vessels - the convoy thal
we had passed by on the way in, and which had
steamed into this 'ambush' location during the
ensuing hour or so' The incident lasted less
than sixty seconds, and we escaped intact t ( ~
resume our course homewards. A Ithough we
then ran into heavier cloud than foreGlst I was
confident of our getting back to base on track.
When we were approaching the coast I pulled
up and requested a QDM for Wittmundhaven
from my Bordfunker, but all his efforts proved
to be in vain. We could not understand this, as
we had never been let down in our
navigational skills before, and were sure we
were in the vicinity of Borkum. Thankfully, a
break in the clouds allowed us to sight a
visual beacon, identified after much delving
into his documents by Hein Schmitz
(Funkmessfunker) as Leeuwarden in northern
Holland, and wcll ovcr 100km south of the
briefed course'
768 769
OPERATIO, GISELA
OPERATIO GISELA
Side view of the same Ju 88G-1 picks out the twin masts for the FuG 101 radio-altimeter equipment. The
outer edge of the aileron has been marginally extended as a measure to increase the stability of the
controls. The pilot mast droops down from its location outboard of the landing light.
A sizeable number of both Allied and Luftwaffe aircraft involved in the nocturnal battles near to the
German/Swiss border did manage to stray into the neutral country's airspace. In the foreground is a Bf
110G equipped with Fug 202 'Lichtenstein Be'. Directly behind the Bf 110G is a Ju 88G-6 whose nose bears
the aerial array for FuG 218 'Neptune'. The presence of sheep wandering around these machines of
destruction lends an almost bizarre touch to the scene.
Borchers, who rose from Oberleutnant to
Major in this time, as well as a suming the
Kommodore post during this period.
In August 1944, when Alois had
completed 152 £light of all types, his
Flugbuch recorded a wi tch to the Ju
The Geschwader tab and 1 JG 5 were
based at tendal west of Berlin, and the
crews 10 t no time in training-up prior to
starting operations. The same period of
withdrawal from Nachtjagd duties
permitted Borchers to take his first leave-
spell in over two years. He duly £lew with
his crew to Oldenburg, returning to
Stendal on the 9th. As they flew
eastwards, Borchers observed a large
thundercloud and informed the others
that he was going to test out the aircraft's
£lying qualities by heading right into the
mass. It was an almost fatal decision, as
Mother eHure now vented her spl en
upon the intruder. The Ju 8 was thrown
in every direction by the extreme
turbulence, and Borchers found the
control column naking about and the
aircraft initially defying all his attempts to
maintain position; by the time it emerged
on the far side of the storm-front he had
lost virtually all his phy ical strength.
This potentially lethal experience had
lasted less than two minutes, and the crew
shakily re umed course for tendal.
Imagine their shock when they climbed
out and examined their machine. The
wing surfaces were heavily wrinkled, and
in fact hoth units had to be detached and
replacem 'nt units fitted. Borchers later
stated that he hoped never again to go
through such an experience I
Alois's Flugbuch from August to the
following March re£lects the general ebh
and £low of Nachtjagd operations, and the
risks inherent in night operations - risks
accruing from technical failures, almost as
much as from direct combat. An example
of the former occurred soon after the fore-
going incident with the weather. In this
case, a sortie from Laon-Athies in France
on 12 August was hardy under way when
the trim mechanism on a new
replacement rudder failed to function.
This made the Bf 110 being £lown that
night very unstable, and almost resulted
in Major Borchers announcing a bale-out;
however, his £lying expertise enabled him
to bring off a safe, if tense landing. On I
September a transit £light from Jesau to
l-leiligenbeil was made with a missing oil-
tank cap, while the next night the Ju 88
suffered £lak damage over Danzig.
An Airman's Tale
good teamwork, self-control in emergencies
being foremost among the e. We also had
much to thank our groundcrews who had
never let us down - for extllllplc, I never
suffered engine problems due to faulty
maintenance. And we owed a particular debt
of gratitude to our crew chief, Franz Fran: from
Vienna. Finally we also realized we could never
have survived thesc ycars of aerial combat
without a huge slice of Luck!
Unteroffizier Alois pitz I' had been
aircraft-crazy since his early youth.
developing interest in aviation toys,
followed by the construction of gl iders as
a teenager, culminated in his becoming an
apprentice at the Fokke- Wulf plant at
Bremen in 1937. Over the ensuing three
to four years he learnt to £ly gliders,
qualifying for his 'C' certificate. pon
enlistment in the military, this general
background undoubtedly a sisted hi
pa sage through technical training courses
between 1941 and early 1943, when he
was as igned to the recently e tabl ished
NJG 5 operating on the Bf II . Here he
wa appOinted crew chief to the
Kommodore's aircraft, but 'ubsequently
£lew on operation as the 'third man'; he
had no specific technical function, but
was expected to look out for, and identity
enemy aircraft. From June 1943 until
August 1944 he £lew with a pilot named
I ;witched on the right engine while in the
circuit, and made my landing arproach. The
aircraft wa; almost over the airfield boundary
when I wa; stunned by the sight of another
aircraftcomrleting a belly-landing right on the
runway ahead, its skidding rath marked hI'
huge comet-like ;parks. At the same time the
airfield light; were switched off'
'\ hat now?' my reaction. To attcmrt to
with a 'sick' engine was courting
di;a;ter, hut in critical sitllations one generally
reacts imtinctively. Being so low I could ,ee the
airfield ;urface in the landing light;, and I
decided - though with mixed feeling; - to
effect a landing on the gras; running parallel to
the runway. Thankfully, following a serie; of
humrs after we touched down, the aircraft
finally halted right at the far end of the airfield.
Bmcly had wc halted with thc enginc; still
running when ;mall flames began to belch out
of thc damaged cngine, ju;t as the firc-crcw
drove on the scene. However their services
werc not needed becau;e the flames
exnngul>hed thcm;elves when I ;witchcd off
all rowcr.
What had happcned' Thc cxplanation was
that thc bclly-h111dmg aircraft had not Glilcd up
on its radIO, and the airfield contmllcr
accordl11gly thought thi; wa; our aircraft. Hc
thcrcfore switched off the lights "; a natllral
rrccaUlion agaInst any 'Intruder,' thar might hc
in rhe area!
And so my last 'kill' had almmt secn us
suffcr a simiJ.lr Icthal cnd, though thankfully,
luck had hccn on our ;idc. And wc had won
thmugh thanks w scvcral mhcr facwrs: first,
engine flight was norhing new, since I had been
forced to do this when srruck by our own flak;
the Ju 88 maintained height perfectly in this
sitllation. Hanns made contact with Twente to
inform them of our rroblem and to say that we
would soon he in the circuit. However, ground
fog had rolled in over the airfield since we had
taken off, and we received orders instructing us
not to land, and diverting us to Vechra. I still
headed to Twente to see if a landing were
possible - a veteran flier always heads for his
own base just as a horse seeks out its own stall
- but as we orbited I could see that all was
shrouded in a milk-like 'soup', making a
landing impossible.
The flight to Vechra was uncomfortable
hecause ir is unpleasant to fly all the time on
one engine, but we finally reached the airfield
around 22:45 hours. Hanns radiod in the fact
that we had only one engine operating, but
Twente had already passed on this information,
and we were given permission to land.
quickly switched on the forward-angle gunsight
and opencd firc with thc nose-mounted
cannon. The Mosquito struck the ground in
flames and exploded. To our astonishment
there was no retllrn fire from the flak defences.
Later we established that the airfield was either
Eindhoven or St Trond, both of which had
been turned into operational bases following
their occupation by the Allies.
With no further indication of enemy aircraft
we had turned for home when I noticed the
temperature gauge for the right engine was at
the 'danger' mark. The coolant radiatOr must
have been damaged by a piece of the
Mosquito's wreckage. I immediately switched
off the engine in order to be able to switch it
back on again when we reached Twente. One-
rrobably awaiting their landing imrructions.
One was a aircraft wid1 twin fins
whose tyre I could not identify IAuthor's note:
This was probably an R F Mitchelli. It burst
into flames under the impact of my chraege
Musik and blew apart on impact; this was at
21: 26 hours.
I then tlIrned tOwards the other potential
victim, whose crew had clearly not noticed
what had happened because they had not
extinguished their navigation lights. The
aircraft was making its landing approach, and
as we closed in we identified it as a MosquitO
with its undercarriage lowered and about to
case down over the runway-end. I did not have
any height with which to get underneath and
open fire with my 'Schreage Mllsik', so I
170
171
OPERATIO GISELA OPERATION GISELA
A Sherman tank appears to stand guard on a group of Ju 88G-6 fighters discovered on an airfield near
langensalza. The hangars and support buildings are remarkably intact considering the weight of Allied
bombing attacks during 1944/45.
across hundreds of intact Luftwaffe
aircraft, some of which had been booby-
trapped, but nearly all left derelict
through a combination of fuel shortage
and a lack of crews to fly them. The
embattled skies over Europe finally
yielded to a degree of normality on May,
given that the ominous signs of what
would evolve into the 'Cold War' were
already appearing. The 'Night Battle'
extending over more than four and a half
year had claimed the lives of some
55, 00 British and Commonwealth
airmen, a well as thousands of their
achtjagd counterparts.
A large group of seemingly airworthy Ju 88s and Ju
188s litter a German airfield at the end of World
War II. The aircraft in the foreground has an
exposed dinghy hatch. The circular cover ahead of
the hatch belongs to the EZ-6 direction-finder
equipment fitted to late Ju 88A-4s.
The shattered frames of at least nine Ju 88Gs can be seen littering a corner of this German airfield.
Although there is a heavy concentration of bomb craters. the nature of the damage to most of the aircraft
suggests they were set on fire. probably through strafing attacks by Allied fighters. The wreckage in the
right centre comprises two machines. one spread out in sections around the other.
out of 6,572. There were nevertheless
isolated occasions when individual crew
ran up a striking total of 'kills' from just a
single ortie.
For instance, on 16 March,
Oberleutnant Erich Jung and Feldwebel
Walter Heidenreich lifted off in their] u
G-6 from II/N]G 2's airfield at
Langendiebach, their target a o. 1
Group formation briefed for uremburg.
A clear, star-I it sky enabled] ung to home
in on the bombers and settle in among
them - and the slaughter was duly begun.
Within twenty minutes the]u 8's
Schraege Musik cannon had culled no
fewer than seven Lancasters from the
'stream', almost one quarter of the final
loss-tally borne by No.1 Group this night.
(One out of this figure was credited to
Heidenreich; he persuaded Jung to let him
operate his MG81Z weapons, and a
sustained burst of fire set the bomber's left
wing ablaze.) Then, having expended
most of his main ammunition content and
while on the return flight, Jung sighted an
eighth bomber: it wa fired upon and
de patched, but not before the rear
gunner had landed strikes that disabled an
engine. eeking a landing at a small
landing strip near the River Main, Jung
over-shot and ended up with one main
wheel in a ditch.
The Jung/Heidenreich 'multi-kill'
experience was to prove one of the last
before the war came to its inevitable
bloody conclusion. [n April and early
May, advancing Allied soldiers cam
Goetterdaemmerung
The final few weeks of World War II saw
the Nachtjagd crews operating several
sophisticated devices with which to track
down and assault the RAF bombers. FuG
218 'Neptune' was a variable-frequency
radar set operating on a six-position MHz
range between 158 and 187. Wi th a
maximum range of 5km (3 miles) and a
minimum of around 120m (l30yd), it
posed a serious threat. This was even
more 0 when linked with the equally
efficient FuG 350 'Naxos', used for
homing in on the RAF's H2 ets.
(' axos', in contrast to the majority of
Luftwaffe electronic equipment, was
never knocked out or disabled in its ba ic
function before World War II ended.)
Another piece of equipment was
'Morgenstern', an extended antenna rod
with three 'X'-pattern dipole aerials,
capable of being covered by a cone-
shaped cover (at long last the Luftwaffe
had managed to fit an internal aerial
array that completely cancelled out the
speed loss previously suffered by all radar-
equipped night fighters with their
externally mounted aerials).
Although FuG 220 'SN-2' had been
seriously compromised ever since its
discovery on the Woodbridge Ju 88 in July
1944, the sets could still function to some
degree through angling of the aerials,
which at least reduced the degree of
Allied electronic disturbance.
However, no matter how high a degree
of efficiency was being realized by the
achtjagd crews, in truth theirs was by
now a battle against impo sible odds. The
cru hing weight of the Allied armies had
reduced the Third Reich to an ever-
shrinking rump of Germany itself. A
similar imbalance exi ted between the
opposing air forces, whether by day or
night. In the latter instance, Bomber
Command was experiencing an
infinitesimal loss-rate, as in January 1945
when just ninety-nine bombers were MIA
suffered a shoulder injury whilst making
what was his second jump in a matter of
weeks, and the pain suffered when his
body ab orbed the impact of the parachute
deploying must have been severe.
Nevertheless, he floated down afelyalong
with the other three ail"lTlen. His combat
days were now over, and he had completed
his last act of duty for his nation.
than three Lancasters had been culled
from the bomber 'stream' within eighteen
minutes.
Borchers, Leutnant Ruel, Oberfeld-
webel Beckert and Alois would add just
one more success to th is tally, but at tragic
cost. On 5 March the crew lifted off from
Doeberitz in their regular Ju 8C9+AA.
Over Buergstedt they engaged a Lancaster
and shot it down, but not before the air
gunners had inflicted severe damage,
causing the Ju 88 to lose height steadily.
As the stricken aircraft made a landing
approach at an unidentified airfield, the
flarepath was extinguished, probably due
to the presence of intruders. Borchers now
had little option but to call for the crew to
bale out, but only Beckert and Alois
managed to do 0 safely. Borchers went in
with the Ju 8, while Leutnant Ruel was
found near the cra h ite with an
unopened parachute.
Better fortune was to attend Alois in the
last few weeks of the war, although he still
had one more hard combat experience to
bear. On 21 April, when flying with
Oberleutnant Lehmann, he participated
in a ground-attack sortie. ome thirty
minutes after take-off, their 7/NJG 5-
assigned Ju 88 (C9+GR) lost out to a
Mosquito 'Intruder' over Goerlitz. Alois
By now the Soviet Air Force was
making regular night raids on German
target and running into the achtjagd
crews in the process. During the second
half of 0 tober 1944, Alois recorded the
shooting down of three Rus ian aircraft
including two DB-3s. However, the
normal night fighter function was
sometimes supplemented by duties
normally the brief of other specialist
Luftwaffe units. Thus on 25 October,
Major Borchers took off to complete a
reconnaissance of the Russian rear
echelons - an operation symptomatic of
the ever-dwindling logistical reserves of
the Luftwaffe as well as its overall
effici n y.
In the last winter of World War II,
Bomber Command wa again stretching
out into the far reaches of the Reich,
triking at targets a far east a Konigsberg
and Dan:ig. I JG 5 was then operating
out of several airfields in central
Germany, uch as Doeberitz and Luebeck.
On 16 January, a two-hour sortie from
Luebeck ended up with the now
Oberstleutnant Borchers having to effect
a belly-landing at Wun torf; but the relief
of the crew at surviving the experience
was mingled with great satisfaction,
because during the operation no fewer
172 173
OPERATION GISELA OPERATION GISELA
The Autocrat
Prinz Heinrich zu Sayn-Wittgenstein was, in the minds of many of his fellow-airmen, the
architypal 'Junker' aristocrat: distant, self-possessed and utterly efficient. He had originally
entered military selVice with Dcavalry regiment in 1936, but transferred to the Luftwaffe
the following year. Aposting to KG 51 around 1939 was the start of two full years' opera-
tions with the Geschwader over France, Britain and Russia. However, he was retrained for
the night fighter role, and joined 9/NJG 2as aStaffelkapitaen by the end of 1941.
His first victory was achieved in May, and by the beginning of 1943 this gifted airman
had amassed no fewer than twenty-five victories, operating with his original NJG 2unit
and then as Kommanduer of IV/NJG 5; on two separate nights during this period he
brought down three bombers. Anumber of these 'kills' had also come during the IV/NJG
5's first detachment to the Ostfront in early 1943, an experience that was to be repeated
later in the year. Here the operational conditions were relatively primitive compared to
the West. Long-range ground radar equipment was of little value over Russia because
the Russian Air Force generally carried out operations at low level as well as in small
numbers. Consequently, 'Helle Nachtjagd' principles applied, whereby the enemy air-
craft were basically sought out by visual means. In addition the first experimentation
Prinz Heinrich zu Sayn Wittgenstein stands in front of the rudder on his JuSS
night fighter, whose fin bears an impressive tally of twenty-nine Abschuss
markings, The radio aerial is attached to a side-mounted frame located above
the swastika, The marking consists of a simple white outline applied against
the mottled camouflage surface,
with what became known as 'Schraege Musik' - the fitting of upward-angled 20mm
MG-FF or MG151 cannon - was carried out by Wittgenstein among several other pilots.
Although still unauthorized by the authorities, in the case of Wittgenstein he was able
to indulge himself with little likelihood of being censured, not least because he was the
IV Gruppe Kommandeur at the time!
His second spell on the Ostfront reaped an even greater reward in victories, no fewer
than eighteen Russian aircraft going down to his visually executed assaults, including
one individual sortie 'haul' of six, and two others when half that figure was added to his
overall score! In August 1943 he assumed anew 'Kommandeur' post with II/NJG 3, and
shortly after this latest appointment was awarded the Oak Leaves (Eichenlaube) to the
Knight's Cross (Ritterkreuzl, having been awarded the Cross itself at the end of 1942.
But within four more months he had reached a further level of command, when he was
assigned to NJG 2as its Kommodore.
Wittgenstein's autocratic reputation was not only established by his conduct on the
ground, but also by his actions when in the air. His last regular radar operator recalled
how his pilot would not take off as soon as the order to take off was given; instead he
would haunt the operations room up to the time where he was reasonably certain what
general course the bombers were assuming, and the orbiting beacon or beacons closest
to the predicted route. Once in the air he would approach the selected beacon, and at
this point would literally 'crowd out' the crew operating on the beacon's frequency by
announcing his presence and 'instructing' the latter to get out of his way!
Oespite applying this despotic option on more than one occasion, it could not be
denied that as a night fighter Experte he was among the very best. Where his actions
Prinz zu Sayn Wittgenstein died as the Kommodore of NJG 2, This picture of
his flag-draped coffin has three of his officers as a guard of honour: leutnants
Breithaupt Oeftl and Strassner (right) flank Hauptmann Roekker. Roekker is
bearing a display of Wittgenstein's medal awards. All three airmen survived
the war, unlike their CO.
could be rightly criticized related to the treatment of his fellow airmen. For example,
if he could not glean apositive response from his radar operator, he would react ver-
bally as if the necessary 'contacts' could be magically transposed to the radar screen.
On one specific occasion (20 January 1944), the shooting down of a Lancaster almost
cost the crew its lives when the bomber nearly collided with the Ju 88 as it fell down.
The night fighter dropped almost to ground level before control was re-established,
but was now displaying dangerously sloppy flight characteristics consistent with
major damage to the airframe or control surfaces (in fact over 2m (6ft) had been
excised from one wing-tip.j
The Prinz now proceeded to sharply berate Feldwebel Ostheimer (radio operator)
because the latter could not initially make contact with any ground stations. Finally, act-
ing on instructions from a major ATC centre, approach was made to Erfurt/Bindersleben.
Acombination of heavy cloud and the aircraft's tendency to stall upon throttling back on
the final approach left Wittgenstein with no option but to retract the wheels and climb
back up. The result was a second approach, which ended with the aircraft being crash-
landed, fortunately without serious injury to the crew.
By now Wittgenstein was amajor in command of NJG 2and, having commandeered
another Geschwader aircraft that had also landed at Erfurt - leaving its crew to find their
own way back to their base airfield - was ready for his latest operation that same night.
The night of 21/22 January saw Bomber Command striking at Magdeburg, but the
pathfinders were unable to fully identify the target area, with the inevitable dilution of
bombing concentration. Worse still. the night fighters were finally infiltrated into the
'bomber stream' on approach to Magdeburg and pursued their quarry for agood propor-
tion of the homeward track. By the time final contact was broken off with the bombers,
the MIA crews added up to fifty-six. Wittgenstein's Ju 88 was among the first off, and
appears to have made contact with the 'stream' somewhere to the south-west of Ham-
burg. Ostheimer picked up his first 'contact' onto which he directed his pilot; Wittgen-
stein slid under the unsuspecting Lancaster and promptly despatched bomber and crew
with almost clinical efficiency. Amultiplicity of 'blips' on Ostheimer's radar screen now
confirmed the night fighter was well within the ranks of the 'stream'. Over the next
twenty-five to thirty minutes three more Lancasters were shot down without any reac-
tion from their air gunners - clear proof of the frightening lethality afforded by the
Schraege Musik weapon.
But the biter was about to be bit as the Ju 88 was manoeuvred beneath yet another
Lancaster. The initial blast of cannon fire did no more than create asmall fire, that was
quickly extinguished. The second approach was being made when a fusillade of gunfire
enveloped the night fighter and it caught fire. Wittgenstein's hoarse call to bale out fol-
lowed the jettisoning of the rear canopy. Ostheimer and the third crewmember baled
out and floated down safely, but there was no such salvation for their gifted pilot.
Wittgenstein's body bearing an unopened parachute pack was subsequently discovered
near the aircraft's wreck.
The final irony of his loss lies in the fact that his quartet of victories this night had
hoisted him into top position for the Nachtjagd with eighty-three victories, one above
his main rival for the honour, Helmut Lent.
Note: There is aseeming anomaly in the location of Wittgenstein's burial site. This
is to be found not in Germany - as might be expected, given that he was lost over his
own country - but in the official military cemetery for German casualties at Ysselstein
near Eindhoven in Holland! His remains lie alongside another aristocratic Experte,
Egmont Prinz zur Lippe-Weissenfeld, who was killed in an air accident barely seven
weeks after Wittgenstein's death.
174 175
THE J 8 IN FOREIGN SERVICE
CHAPTER FOURTEEN
loss or even damage to the bombers. Rail
bridge were a particular source for attack,
although out of the thirty-two L,000kg
(2,2 Olb) bomb delivered, only one
direct strike was achieved.
If the art of dive-bombing was a difficult
one to achieve, the art of navigation was
equally difficult and prone to serious error,
even wi th soph isticated electron ic
equipment on hand. On 17 eptember, a
briefing was made for an a sault upon a
major airfield from which a oviet
bombardment of Axis shipping traffic in
the eastern Baltic was being conducted.
The attack went ahead in the face of
thickening mist, whose presence ensured
that most bombing was inaccurate.
Worse, on the return flight, many of the
crews became lost and made landing all
over southern Finland, at some cost. In
the case of LeLv 44, fully half of the
fourteen aircraft despatched sustained
damage evere enough to render them
inoperable for a protracted period of time.
(Radio ill discipline appears to have been
part of the problem, despite airfield
homing beacons having been fully
deployed.) The overall Finnish bomber
operational duty, a mixture of
reconnaissance and attack. The former
activity was of prime importance, but the
crew also took the opportunity to strafe
any worthwhile target, especially rail or
road traffic. The current lack of Swvi
(Sturzvisier) specialized bombsights
limited the pilots in active terms to a
strafing role, but this situation was
corrected during July. By the following
month, having trained up on the
bombsight, bombing operations were
commenced. On 30 August, eight Ju s
out of a total force of thirty-one bombers
were despatched by Lentorylmentti (Air
Regiment, abbreviated to LeR). The
target at Sorokka comprised barracks for
Soviet partisans, a number of which were
duly destroyed. The MS406 fighter escort
could not prevent counter attacks by 1-16
and Yak Ls, but fortunately there was no
One of the twenty-four Ju 88A-4 supplied to the Finnish Air Force in 1943 displays the standard
Luftwaffe scheme of dark green and black-green on the upper surfaces, with light blue underneath.
Blue swastikas in white circles are applied to wings and fuselage, and the original Luftwaffe
swastika outline can just be seen further out along the wings. The yellow fuselage band
denotes Eastern Front service.
At Pori the aircraft received the
national serial number block of
JK251-273, and although retaining the
Luftwaffe camouflage scheme (at lea t for
the time being), all now had Finnish Air
Force markings, along with yellow bands
on the rear fuselag and under the wing-
tips to denote Eastern Front service. LeLv
44's operational airfield was to be
Omttola, located above the Karel ian
isthmus, but only two-thirds of the
available aircraft would actually be
as igned to the four fl ight , the remainder
acting as a reserve. Each flight was
denoted by a different colour edge to the
large numbers applied on the fins: these
were blue, red, yellow and white for Nos.
1,2,3 and 4 Flights respectively.
Reported Soviet troop movements
around the we tern fringe of the White
Sea during late May provided the first
On 14 May 1943 JK-268 was crash-landed near Onttola following the failure of one engine. The angle of
view shows how the aircraft has come to rest astride a deep ditch. The VS-11 wooden propeller on the
left-side Jumo engine has been almost totally shattered. The rear cockpit canopy has surprisingly not
been jettisoned. but the side panel is propped up against the fuselage.
Serious damage to the left stabilizer on this Ju 88 has been caused either by AA or fighter gunfire. The
aircraft's safe return is a testament to its inherent structural strength. The number-outline on the fin is
applied in light blue-grey.
The Ju 88 in Foreign Service
FINLAND
When Germany invaded Russia in June
1941, the Finn ish government added the
weight of their fighting forces, although
they were severely restricted geograph-
ically; their military action was confined
to driving the oviets out of the
occupied area of Finland alone. The
Finni h Air Force naturally played its
part in supporting these operations, but
it did so with a curious mixture of
Anglo/French types of aircraft, along
with designs from Holland, Italy,
C:echoslovakia and Italy.
The supply of aircraft from Germany
was initially rather tardy, and only eemed
to gather pace in the course of the winter
of 1942/43 when Do 17s, Bf 109s and the
Ju 88 entered the arena. In the case of the
latter, a contract was negotiated and
completed in April L943, a total of
twenty-four aircraft being involved and
provided from twO erial blocks. The unit
selected to operate the design was known
as Lentolaivue 44 (meaning 'Flying
Squadron', abbreviated to 'LeLv'). Almost
twO months previously Lt Col Gabrielsson
had taken a large group of aircrew and
mechanics to Tutow in Prussia for a
familiarization course. In early April, half
of the Ju contingent were duly flown
back to Helsinki-Malmi, and on to Pori.
An immediate return to Tutow by the
aircrew resulted in the collection and
delivery of cleven of the other twelve
aircraft to Pori on 22 April - the twelfth
had been 'written off' during an
attempted landing at Riga when it
suffered engine failure.
The Ju 8 , in common with the majority
of Luftwaffe designs, saw service with
several other Axis air forces. These
included Finland, Hungary and Rumania,
with the latter two countries receiving
between 100 and 200 airframes, while the
Finnish allocation was a more modest
total of twen ty-four.
176
177
THE JU 88 I FOREIGN SERVICE THE JU 88 IN FOREIGN SERVICE
Original factory codes can just be discerned in this side view of the aircraft whose fin, in contrast
to normal practice, bears no number. This aircraft's colour scheme was later switched to the olive
green/black/light blue-grey associated with the Finnish Air Force.
Three Finnish airmen unconsciously demonstrate the extremely cramped cockpit of the Ju 88.
Armoured cupolas for the rear-firing weapons, bulged rear section of the canopy and rolled-up
sun-blinds are points of note.
And so Finland's second confrontation
with Soviet Russia within a period of five
years drew to its inevitable conclusion on
4 September. On this day a truce was
signed, one condition of which was that
the Finns would now turn their full
attention to winkling the Germans out of
Lapland, should the latter not withdraw
by the month's end. PleLv 44's record
with the Ju 88 had proved to be one of
which its airmen were justly proud: fully
558 individual sorties had been flown
over a period of fifteen months, and in
th is ti me just one bomber had been lost in
action, though with several others
'written off' in operational crashes or
accidents. Nevertheless the human cost
was thankfully low, standing at just twelve
airmen killed. And three out of the five
Mannerheim Crosses awarded - Finland's
highest military decoration - came the
way of PleLv 44 personnel.
With German forces still occupying
Lapland on 1 October, there was no
option for the Finns to do other than
initiate action. Among the meagr
bomber force of less than forty were ten of
PleLv 44's Ju 88s flying out of Rissala.
Road and rail bridges being used by the
The Ju 88s were allocated a JK unit code, as seen on JK-265 of 3/Plelv 44 (Plelv stood for bomber, and
was a revised title applied in February 1944.1 Individual numbers ran from 251 to 274. The aircraft appears
still to bear the original luftwaffe colour scheme. This basic aircraft dispersal on the edge of the woods
seems to have a camouflage net cover.
JK-266 provides a sound example of the revised colour scheme as it prepares for a bombing sortie
in July 1944. The olive green/black top camouflage has more rounded edges than the luftwaffe patterns.
The underside colour has changed marginally from light blue to a blue-grey tinge, as well as being raised
to a mid-position on the fuselage before curving slightly downwards towards the fin. The surround to the
fuselage swastika is dulled down. The fin number 4 consists of a light blue-grey outline.
a night attack on several Finnish cities
and were heading back, but unknown to
them was the stealthy presence of a
number of Finnish aircraft within their
ranks, including an element from LeLv
44. In an action reminiscent of similar
Allied and Luftwaffe operations, the lit-
up Soviet airfields and circling bombers
provided a fine target, and the four J u 88s
of LeLv 44 were able to drop their
ordnance on Kasimovo and Gorskaya,
destroying many aircraft and support
facilities in the process.
Airfields and supply depots continued
to feel the weight of Finnish bombs as
winter gave way to spring and then
summer. However, the ever-increasing
imbalance between the Soviet and Axis
ground forces was to burst the 'bubble' of
resistance as June began. Operation
Bagmtion was initlated,with massive blows
struck at the central region of the front as
well as on the area of the Karal ien
isthmus. With more than 10:1 superiority
in armour, and an even greater advantage
in aircraft strength of 15:1, the outcome
of the battle to stave off their adversary
was never in doubt. The Ju 88s crews put
in thirty-six operations between 12 June
and J8 July, while attacking a range of
targets from bridges to fleets of invasion
barges and ships.
A secondary Soviet thrust up along
the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga further
increased the pressure upon the Finns,
although they sti II managed to at least
slow the overall Soviet advance. Jt was
in this region, during an attack on an
invasion-barge force, that the only
record d operational loss of a Ju 88
occurred. 1t was one of eleven bombing
the enemy landing at the mouth of the
River Tuulos. The crew were assailed by
two fighters, and although the pilot
dived away he apparently stalled-out
upon levelling off and went in.
Bridgeheads further north