Sunday, 30 January 2011

Kecay-FW-190 in Foreign Service (Captured Butcherbirds Vol II)

Kecay-FW-190 in Foreign Service (Vol II)

Superbly done monograph replete with photos and artwork of the FW-190 flying "under various flags". Text in English. Soft cover, 100 pages. If this is anything like Kecay's first Fw 190 volume then this is a 'must-have'  - but beware, opening the book as in the photos here may possibly result in the soft cover/binding falling apart over time. A little cheaper than the incredibly expensive Vol I....but recommended without hesitation !
Publisher: Kecay (Poland 2011)

More on the crash of the French NC 900 depicted above on this blog at the following page

Friday, 28 January 2011

Bf 110 nightfighter photo album NJG 3

nice NJG3 album offered for sale on Ebay Some of these images are reproduced in Stipdonk/Meyer Teil 2. The RK holder appears to be NJG 1 ace Paul Gildner, here with the rank of Oberfeldwebel. 'D5+IM' would be a 5./NJG 3 machine, taken around Spring 1942 (Stipdonk). Click on the images for a closer view.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Werner Mölders Bf 109 Friedrich August 1941

Nice selection of views of Werner Mölders photographed in Warsaw during August 1941 just three months before his death. Currently on offer via Ebay seller antik fuchs here  Click on the image for a much larger view.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

book review - Das Flurschaden-Geschwader Die Chronik des Kampfgeschwaders KG 51 Edelweiß

With many thanks to my correspondent I. Lahiri for my copy.

Jan Horn's new self-published history of KG 51 from 01 January 1944 to war's end arrived with a thud on the door mat and, given the amount of interest this book appears to have generated on the various forums,  warrants a blog post. For what they are worth, my initial impressions then.  Horn's work is a large and imposing volume (370+ pages, A-4) written up in a war-diary format with chapters assigned to individual Gruppen. The first part of the work is entitled  "The unequal fight in the West" and describes Me 410 long-range night intruder missions carried out by  I. and II./KG 51 between February 1944 and August 1944 before the author covers III./KG 51 flying Fw.190 Jabos during the same period.  III./KG 51 is rather disconcertingly illustrated with the well-known Bundesarchiv photo sequence of I./SKG 10 Fw 190 Jabos in Normandy. (see Chris Goss 'Luftwaffe Hit-and-run raiders' )  Horn's explanation being that this unit -despite no changes in structure or personnel - had been re-designated from early July 1944.

The next chapter tells the story of the Erg.Gruppe IV./KG 51 (Jan.~Dec.1944) and includes a number of unseen images. The 'heart' of the book (pages 128 to 324) covers the Me 262; from the first arrivals to the re-equipment of I. Gruppe, from Einsatzkommando Schenk to the missions of I. and II./KG 51, from Gefechtsverband Kowalewski to " the last battles ".  Pages 131-158 cover the first operational deployment of the Me 262 as a bomber, from the chaotic dispatch of the first ground echelon in July to the arrival of the best albeit hurriedly trained jet bomber pilots of the Einsatzkommando I./KG 51 (otherwise known as Kommando Schenk) to northern France through to their withdrawal to Holland in September 1944. The first bombing sorties were flown against troop concentrations along the banks of the river Seine from 25 August 1944. The 'time-line' for KG 51's first jet bomber operations in the West established by the author represents a considerable revision to previously published material. I am not an Me 262 'specialist', but there is a certain amount of 'new' material here. I am also noticing one or two interesting 'revisions' - Horn has no combat losses for 02 October 1944, just a couple of accidents. This is the date given in most sources (Smith/Creek, Hess etc..) for the first 9th AF Me 262 victory with Ofw. 'Ronny' Lauer of 3./KG 51 as victim, forced down by 365th FG P-47s in the vicinity of Njimegen. Horn has Lauer sustaining serious injuries in 9K+NL (WNr. 170 069) crashing on take off for his second sortie of the day..
For 'collectors' of these sorts of things, each sortie description is copiously detailed with the sort of information only available from flight logs, daily situation reports, Ultra decrypts, Lw. Kdo. West telegram orders and counter-orders and so forth, no doubt carefully compiled over many years of painstaking research. There are first hand accounts, most notably from Me 262 pilots; what comes across primarily is the unreliability of the jet engines and the futility of flying combat sorties piecemeal, single machines reduced to strafing American road convoys as the airspace being defended by KG 51 towards the end shrank day by day..

" ...on 13 January 1945 Ofhr. Hans Busch taxied out in Me 262 A-1a 9K+1W WNr. 170 049. After running up his engines at the western end of the runway, he released the brakes. Busch reported

 "....halfway down the runway the machine started to veer off to the starboard side - the engine on that side was obviously still not developing full thrust. With my speed now at around 130 km/h and the jet now on the frozen-hard grass, I judged it far too risky to abort my takeoff - especially since there was a farm on the edge of the airfield which I was likely to plough into. My speed was still increasing, albeit far too slowly. At 188 km/h the farm house was so close that I could do nothing but pull back in desperation on the control column in an attempt to pull the aircraft off the ground..luckily the machine responded - we were briefly airborne. I flashed over the farmhouse roof. However the aircraft was hardly flyable - more out of control - as a result of the overly steep rotation. It started to roll - despite my desperate attempts to correct with the rudder - lost height, and the starboard wing gouged into the ground..everything then happened very quickly. The undercarriage shattered into pieces, the starboard wing broke off, the nose was torn away, followed by the port wing and then the tail, so that only the central section and the cockpit was still in one piece. As the rear tanks went up the canopy was blown off and with it my flight helmet and throat mike. I was on the ground - as if I was sitting in a chair - and quickly scrambled clear on all fours. As the ambulance drove up I was already celebrating my 'birthday'. The aircraft was 95% destroyed - I escaped with an injury to my knee, singed hair and burns to my face..I was back in the air on the 31st..."

The book concludes with pages covering pilots with RK and RK/EL and holders of the Deutsche Kreuz in Gold. There is also an incomplete list of unit leaders (Kdre,Gr.Kdr, St.Kap.) and finally a list of losses. The page of references includes many internet sites with which we are probably all familiar - but none of the forums, which I found surprising.

To conclude this first look; not a cheap book by any means  and I am very fortunate in that I was able to organise an 'exchange' to secure my copy. If you collect Luftwaffe unit histories then you will probably be quite pleased to secure yours - only 500 printed after all. The title I'm afraid not only reflects the lack of 'impact' the Geschwader had on events (' the crop damage' Geschwader) but could possibly be a metaphor for the book's contents, especially if you are looking for new accounts and photographs, although you can hardly blame the author/compiler for that. There is for example, no new info on Puttfarken's loss over the UK on 23 April 1944 - the description of his last sortie is what you could expect to read almost anywhere on the internet. Sources for the mission accounts appear to be log-books and similar data, but the sources themselves are not detailed which is a shame. You wouldn't perhaps buy this for the photo content - but equally there are some nice images. The story of this Geschwader during the last year of the war is well summed up by four photos taken during December 44/January 45 of I./KG 51 pilots seen at Hopsten; Ofw. Erich Kaiser is firstly seen at a pre-sortie briefing, looking extremely apprehensive. He is then photographed in his flight gear consulting his map and performing a walk-around check of his Me 262. The fourth image in the sequence is of his burial on 03 January 1945. He had succumbed to his injuries sustained in a crash-landing after running out of fuel following 1./KG 51's dawn attack on Eindhoven during the Bodenplatte operation on New Year's day 1945 (Manhro in 'Bodenplatte' cites this crash as having occurred on 31 December, which appears unlikely since the jets were being feverishly prepared for the following day's 'big blow'). Kaiser was an experienced combat pilot with over 300 sorties in his log.  A similar incident with a rather more satisfactory outcome is related by Leutnant Erhardt Laue who reported;

"..  In early March 1945 I was ordered to fly 170 103 from Hopsten to Burg. The airfield at Hopsten was completely bombed out - and we had been ordered to transfer the remaining machines to Burg. Preparing the aircraft and the flight out were relatively straight forward - once in the air I just had to follow the Mittelland canal. I was the last but one machine to leave. I carried no munitions, neither was the radio functioning. Only on very few occasions previously would I have made a transfer flight like this.. As I approached my destination five Spitfires hove into view. However during the course of the skirmish that followed I was forced south and fast running out of fuel stood no chance of reaching Burg. I elected to carry out an emergency wheels down landing - the field I selected to put down on looked flat enough from my height. I touched down without any problems but as the aircraft ran out and was coming to a stand the nose gear leg caught in a rut. My landing would have been perfect but for a few metres more ground. I soon found out that I had put down in a marshy area near Borkheide south of Berlin..."

I am certainly hopeful that there is much more of interest to discover in the German-language text as I read through. Perhaps I may even be able to present some of the book's accounts in English...

Author Jan Horn's web site is here for orders and details of some interesting future publications

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Ebay rarities He 162, Ju 388, Mistel, Junkers Ju 88

Ebay seller of the JG20 album (see previous post) is offering many more interesting Luftwaffe images at his shop address here A small selection follows, including Hs 129, He 162, Ju 388, Mistel combination, and Me 410. The He 162 images are familiar (WOTBC perhaps.?). As is the Hs 129 image, the example that tested the SG 113A  - tubes of explosives that were triggered by light-sensitive cells. Note the installation that can be seen on the fuselage. Although  captioned as 'nightfighters' the Junkers Ju 88 Cs with the large camouflage mottles appear to be KG 40 machines on the images for a closer view.

Major Walter Oesau (2) - JG 20, JG 51 and JG 2

In my previous post we looked briefly at Maj. Walter Oesau's appointment as Kommodore JG 2 during 1941. Thanks to another photo album unearthed this week on Ebay this post suggested itself.  On his return from Spain as one of the leading Legion Condor aces Oesau joined the Stabsschwarm of I./JG 2 (1 March 1939). By 15 July 1939 Oesau was promoted to Oberleutnant and given command of 2./JG 20, the date I./JG 20 was activated in  Döberitz initially consisting of two Staffeln drawn from JG 2. Prior to the invasion of Poland I./JG 20 was transferred to Strausberg on 26 August 1939. From there, the group was transferred to Sprottau anticipating an attack from the Polish Air Force. A week later the group moved to Brandenburg. On 21 February 1940, the unit was relocated to Bönninghardt under the control of  JG 51.It continued to operate in this fashion until the end of the Battle of France. On 4 July it was re–designated III./JG 51. Oesau served as Staffelkapitän of 7./JG 51. In this JG 20 veteran's photo album offered on Ebay during January 2011 there are two images captioned as being the aircraft flown by Oesau (see above). The image below, according to the album caption, shows an Emil bombed up for an attack on British forces holed up in Dunkirk - the chalk inscrption on the bomb reads 'Mahlzeit' or 'meal time'...

The image above depicts a JG 20 Emil on the airfield at St. Omer, a derelict Curtiss Hawk in the foreground. The same photo album (entitled 'JG20 in the French campaign' by the seller) contains a couple of references to Guenther Burgaller.. (see images below captioned  'meine Staffelkapitän' ) - this is presumably the same Burgaller who served with the 'Richthofen' in both WWI and WWII which must make him something of a rarity in Luftwaffe history circles. He served under Voss in WWI as part of the so-called 'Flying Circus' and was StaKa 1./JG2 on the outbreak of WWII. He was a well known racing car driver in the interwar period. He departed JG 2 in October 1939 for JG 51 but died in a crash in February 1940 as Gkr II./JG51 and must have been at least 44 yrs old at the time of his death. He certainly didn't get to the French campaign. He would almost certainly have been a contemporary of Walter Oesau's in Döberitz during 1939..

(photo album caption: '.. my Staffelkapitän got annoyed with the English 'lady' . He was a Bugatti racing car driver, so he has no reason to moan about my English motor bike...' )

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Hptm. Wilhelm Balthasar and Major Walter Oesau (Kommodore JG 2)

Balthasar climbing down from his 'Green 1' possibly as Kommandeur III./JG 3 (appointed 1 September 1940). He was injured on 04 September over Kent. The image below is previously published in Jochen Prien's history of III./JG 3, taken late September 1940 at Desvres in France and Balthasar is seen in conversation with the Kommodore JG3 Günther Lützow.

In February 1941 a new Kommodore was appointed to succeed Helmut Wick at the head of JG 2. Hptm. Wilhelm Balthasar (above left) was an ace who at the time enjoyed almost as big a reputation as Wick's having been one of the leading Luftwaffe fighter pilots through 1940. Born in 1914, he had been orphaned following the death of his father on the Western Front. Following his enlistment in 1933 and service in an artillery regiment, Wilhelm Balthasar had subsequently transferred into the Luftwaffe and gone on to serve in Spain. Appointed to lead the recce detachment of the bomber arm of the Legion Condor (claiming a single aerial victory), he had  subsequently moved to J/88 (the fighter arm in Spain) and added a further six Luftsiege to his score. Kapitän of 1./JG 1 in Poland and during the offensive in the West, Balthasar had been awarded the Ritterkreuz on 14 June 1940 having achieved twenty three victories. In August 1940, the young officer headed up III./JG 3 during the air battles over England. He had added to his tally during the Battle of Britain but sustained injuries on two occasions. It was not until he returned to flying duties in early 1941 that this experienced veteran was appointed to command the "Richthofen". His tenure would be short-lived. He was killed in action on 2 July 1941 after pulling the tail off his new Friedrich while trying to evade the attentions of Spitfires engaged over northern France .. (cf. Mombeeck "In the skies of France" - a chronicle of JG 2 Vol II). The web site has him claiming no fewer than five Blenheims on 23 June 1941 during the course of an RAF 'Circus'. His actual claims were 2 Blenheims on 22 June and 2 more Blenheims the following day. The Emil in the shots is WN.r 1559 ..which Balthasar kept after moving from I./JG1 - III./JG27 (cf. Gruppenemblem under the cockpit )

Balthasar's successor as Kommodore JG 2 was Major Walter Oesau (below left), a veteran of JG 132 (one of the very first incarnations of JG 2) a unit that he had left when he had travelled to Spain with Jagdgruppe 88, the fighter arm of the Legion Condor. He had been credited with ten victories in Spain. In 1939 on his return he had been posted to the Stab I./JG 2 before being moved to the new I./JG 20 and then to JG 51 and JG 3. At the time of his appointment as Balthasar's successor he was Kommandeur III./JG 3 with some 86 victories. Shortly thereafter he became only the third winner of the Swords behind Galland and Mölders. On 'rejoining' JG 2 Oesau was thus reunited with a number of former comrades that he had known back in Döberitz in 1939.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Cyber-Hobby Dragon Wing Tech Bf 109 E-4 Emil 1/32

 Dragon's new 1/32 scale Emil is here hard on the heels of last year's Trumpeter and Eduard releases. In the run up to this release I was asked to comment on the markings and colours options and am very pleased to see that Dragon have acted on the information forwarded to them during the preparation of this superlative looking kit - there is a now a Helmut Wick markings option with authentic 'kingfisher' emblem in the box ! 

Otherwise according to the 'Dragon Models USA' site the kit features the following array of impressively detailed parts and options;

- Newly tooled fuselage for Bf109E using slide-mold technology, fuselage features metal-skinned detail

- Newly tooled rudders can be modelled in different positions

- Two new 7.92mm Rheinmetall-Borsig MG17 machine guns in staggered mount included

- Moveable propeller blades with accurate curved cross-section and true-to-scale thickness

- Slide-molded engine cowling cover w/maximum detail can be assembled open/closed

- Intricate Daimler Benz engine represented by multiple parts, up to after-market standards

- Full cockpit interior details - pilot's seat, authentically detailed instrument panel and radio included

- Pilot's seatbelt upgraded by photo-etched parts

- Three different depths of panel line exhibit astonishing level of detail

- Centerline SG500 bomb and ETC500 bomb rack precisely reproduced under the fuselage, drop tank included

- Strengthened landing gear realistically portrayed

Decal options -  5 colour schemes - all based in France in 1940:

1. Oberst Adolf Galland, JG 26

2. Hauptmann Rolf Pingel, I./JG 26

3. HauptmannGünter Lützow, I./JG 3

4. Oberleutnant Gerhard Schöpfel, 9./JG 26

5. Major Helmut Wick, JG2

A full 'in-box' review is available via Rowan Bayliss at

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Flugzeug Classic issue Feb 2011

Fast taking over from Jet & Prop as my preferred aviation history mag from Germany, the Feb 2011 issue features Mediterranean Ju 88 Torpedo Flieger of KG 26 and KG 77 in action against Allied shipping convoys, part two of a Ju 188 type history covering operational deployment of the type and a nice piece on the Farnborough 1945 'Beuteschau' of captured German aircraft. More at the Flugzeug Classic web site here

Helmut von Zborowski - Heinkel annular wing VTOL 'fighter' design concept

Helmut Philip von Zborowski was an interesting figure in early rocket and jet engine development. He is perhaps best known for his work on the Snecma Coléoptère annular wing aircraft during the 1950s - the subject of an interesting new book by Jean-Christophe Carbonel - which stemmed from Zborowski's wartime research on so-called Ringflügel or annular wing concepts for Heinkel.  A contemporary of Werner von Braun, Zborowski worked on rocket and jet development for BMW during World War II and was director of the BMW factories in München-Allach, where engines were manufactured by a huge work force including many thousands of POWs and some 3,000 Dachau concentration camp internees. Zborowski led the team working on the Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket engine and in 1944 was working on rockets as a means of combating the huge bomber fleets operating at will over Germany. With almost continual daytime attacks on its airfields and large scale operations almost impossible, one potential solution for the Luftwaffe was to introduce some sort of VTOL interceptor that could be launched from any open location. Zborowski worked on Heinkel's VTOL design studies as part of their Wespe and Lerche programs. Zborowski's research had shown that performance from a propeller or turbine could be considerably enhanced by the Bernoulli-effect when enclosed in a tube or circular wing, and the Heinkel designs featured "barrel-like" fuselage/wing configurations enclosing the powerplant, surmounted by a small cockpit . The Wespe intended to use a Benz 2,000 hp turboprop engine, but these were not forthcoming and the Lerche used two Daimler-Benz DB 605 piston engines instead. Nothing ever came of either design. Postwar Zborowski went to France and served as a research engineer for the Société d'Etudes de la Propulsion par Réaction (SEPR). Zborowski later founded his own company, Bureau Technique Zborowski. or BTZ which was instrumental in taking his wartime research to a first 'practical' application in the development of the Coléoptère - a type of vertical take off and landing design utilising a ducted-fan as the primary fuselage of the entire aircraft with a small cockpit area suspended above it. Known in English as a "coleopter" Zborowski's machine was designed to take off and land on its tail and carried out nine free flights before crashing. The story of this aircraft and Zborowski's work is related in Jean-Christophe Carbonel's new work on the Snecma Coléoptère annular wing aircraft. More on this work at my blog Jet & Prop by FalkeEins