Best in the West

Fw 190 on the West­ern Front

Aviation Classics - - CONTENTS -

Af­ter a se­ries of en­coun­ters with the Luft­waffe’s new Fw 190s dur­ing the early part of 1942, the RAF took no chances when it was called upon to pro­vide aerial cover for Al­lied seaborne land­ings at Dieppe on Au­gust 19. Forty-eight squadrons of Spit­fires took part – but as the Bri­tish pi­lots soon dis­cov­ered, nu­mer­i­cal su­pe­ri­or­ity alone was not enough…

As Op­er­a­tion Bar­barossa con­sumed more and more re­sources in the east and with Amer­ica hav­ing joined the war against Ger­many, Adolf Hitler or­dered the con­struc­tion of a de­fen­sive line that would stretch right down the west­ern coast of Europe – the At­lantic Wall. The or­der was given, Führer Di­rec­tive Num­ber 40, on March 23, 1942, and work be­gan im­me­di­ately – con­cen­trated ini­tially on the ma­jor ports clos­est to Bri­tain, such as Cher­bourg, Boulogne, Calais, Dunkirk and Dieppe. Bunkers were hastily con­structed, barbed wire was un­rolled and con­crete walls went up. Not far be­hind this new ‘front line’, the Luft­waffe’s pri­mary fighter units in the west, JG 2 and JG 26, were sta­tioned at bases across north-west­ern France and Bel­gium and en­joyed a spring and early sum­mer of wreck­ing havoc on the RAF. Dur­ing this time the Bri­tish en­gaged in Cir­cus op­er­a­tions, co­or­di­nated bomber and fighter at­tacks on tar­gets in­side oc­cu­pied Europe. Th­ese were in­tended to draw the Luft­waffe into com­bat in con­di­tions un­favourable to them and to cause ha­rass­ment that would waste Ger­man re­sources. In­stead, they tended to re­sult in Spit­fires get­ting shot down in sub­stan­tial num­bers by Ger­man pi­lots fly­ing Fw 190s. For ex­am­ple, Cir­cus No. 178, on June 1, saw a group of eight Hurri-bombers – bomb equipped Hawker Hur­ri­canes – be­ing es­corted to their tar­get in Bel­gium by a to­tal of 168 Spit­fires. This large for­ma­tion was nat­u­rally picked up on Ger­man radar and two Grup­pen from JG 26 were scram­bled to in­ter­cept them: I./JG 26 based at St Omer-arques and III./JG 26 at Wevel­gem. When the Fw 190s caught up with the Spit­fires off the coast near Os­tende, they suc­cess­fully ‘bounced’ them and shot down the wing com­man­der plus eight of his pi­lots. An­other five Spit­fires were dam­aged in the melee. None of the Focke-wulfs was dam­aged. The fol­low­ing day, a group of 12 Spit­fires from 403 Squadron was set upon by II./JG 26

Fw 190s led by Haupt­mann Joachim Müncheberg. The Canadian unit ex­e­cuted a three-way split, only to find it­self be­ing attack from above by yet more Ger­man fighters. Eight of the Spit­fires were de­stroyed to no Ger­man losses. This prompted the des­per­a­tion that ended when a Fw 190 was cap­tured by the Bri­tish, as de­tailed on p34-39. By now, the new Spit­fire IX was well on its way to op­er­a­tional ser­vice and this gave the RAF some mea­sure of con­fi­dence that the Fw 190, though deadly, might fi­nally meet its match. The first Spit­fire IX ver­sus Fw 190 en­counter came on July 30 dur­ing Cir­cus No. 200. Six RAF Dou­glas Bos­tons were sent, with a sub­stan­tial fighter es­cort, to bomb JG 26’s base at Abbeville-dru­cat. Dur­ing the op­er­a­tion, a sin­gle Fw 190 was suc­cess­fully de­stroyed by Spit­fire IX pi­lot Flight Lieu­tenant Don­ald Kingaby. Un­for­tu­nately for the Bri­tish, 14 Spit­fire Vs were also downed

Op­er­a­tion Ju­bilee

Against this stark back­drop, the Al­lies had been plan­ning their first foray, in force, on to the Ger­man-held Con­ti­nent. Joseph Stalin, un­der ex­treme pres­sure from the Ger­man forces still plough­ing ever deeper into Soviet ter­ri­tory, was des­per­ate for the Bri­tish and Amer­i­cans to open up a sec­ond front in the west. Even a shift of re­sources back to France would have been more than wel­come. In ad­di­tion the Amer­i­cans, dis­mayed by Bri­tain’s ap­par­ent in­ac­tion, were chomp­ing at the bit to see the Bri­tish take a more ag­gres­sive at­ti­tude to the war by launch­ing Op­er­a­tion Sledge­ham­mer – an attack to gain a foothold on the French coast. What took place in­stead was Op­er­a­tion Ju­bilee, which in­volved at­tack­ing the strongly held port of Dieppe on Au­gust 19, 1942. Canadian troops, who had been kick­ing their heels in Bri­tain for months, vol­un­teered to take the lead and lit­tle prepa­ra­tion work was done. How hard could it be to roll 6000 troops and dozens of tanks on to a beach and drive up into the town? Over­head, the RAF had as­sem­bled a for­mi­da­ble force to sup­port the land­ings. There were two squadrons of Hurri-bombers, six squadrons of Hur­ri­cane fighters, four squadrons of re­con­nais­sance Mus­tang Mk.1s, five squadrons of Bos­ton and Blen­heim bombers, three squadrons of the new Hawker Ty­phoon, 42 Spit­fire V squadrons, two with Spit­fire VIS and four with Spit­fire IXS. In ad­di­tion, the Amer­i­cans sup­plied re­cently ar­rived B-17s from the 97th Bomb Group to launch a di­ver­sion­ary raid. Op­er­a­tion Ju­bilee com­menced at 5am but the first Ger­man fighters were not scram­bled un­til 6.15am – four Fw 190s from 5./JG 26 based at Abbeville-dru­cat. Fighters from 1./JG 26 then took off five min­utes later from St Omer-arques. Ar­riv­ing over Dieppe, it was clear to the pi­lots that re­in­force­ments were needed and the rest of I. Gruppe took off. The first aerial victory of the day was made by Ober­feld­webel Heinz Bier­wirth, who shot down a Spit­fire at 6.43am. By now, the sec­ond Jagdgeschwader in the area, JG 2, had joined the battle. Un­terof­fizier Kurt Ep­siger of 1./JG 2 de­stroyed a Han­d­ley Page Ham­p­den at 6.46am and then a Spit­fire two min­utes later. On the ground, the mainly Canadian in­fantry had landed on the ex­posed beaches around Dieppe and at­tempted to break through con­crete walls and for­ti­fied po­si­tions – only to find that the Ger­mans had care­fully con­structed them to elim­i­nate any pos­si­ble cover for at­tack­ers. Over­lap­ping fields of fire from bunkers over­look­ing the beaches had a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect and hun­dreds of Cana­di­ans were slaugh­tered – the sur­vivors be­ing rounded up and cap­tured. Tanks landed on the stony beaches soon found that they were en­tirely un­suited to sup­port­ing tracked ve­hi­cles, which sim­ply sank into them and be­came stuck. It was a dis­as­ter and the sit­u­a­tion in the air was lit­tle bet­ter. A pair of Mus­tangs were shot down by Haupt­mann Hel­mut-felix Bolz at 6.55am and 7.02am, and be­tween then and 9am, an­other nine Spit­fires were shot down for the loss of one Fw 190. James Edgar ‘John­nie’ John­son, then a squadron leader, flew Spit­fire Vb EP215 ‘DWB’ dur­ing the Dieppe raid and had his first ‘duel’ with a Fw 190. He said: “I was lead­ing the Aux­il­iary 610 Squadron (County of Ch­ester), fly­ing over Canadian troops who were tak­ing part in the com­bined op­er­a­tion against Dieppe.

“At 10,000ft my squadron had been badly ‘bounced’ by a large num­ber of 109s and 190s. In the en­su­ing dog­fight I got in a long burst at a 190 which be­gan to smoke. The wheels dropped and it fell away to­wards the sea. “Im­me­di­ately af­ter­wards, an­other large bunch of en­emy air­craft came down on us from astern and the flanks. In the en­su­ing dog­fight the squadron be­came split up and I found my­self alone in a hos­tile sky. “The only thing to do was to get out as quickly as pos­si­ble – the golden rule in those days was that there was no fu­ture in fly­ing alone. But as I was mak­ing my way to­wards the coast, I spot­ted a soli­tary air­craft over the town. I eased to­wards it and recog­nised the en­emy fighter as a 190. “I yawed my Spit­fire to cover the blind spot be­hind me and to make cer­tain that I was not about to be at­tacked. Th­ese move­ments at­tracted the at­ten­tion of the en­emy pi­lot. He snaked to­wards me al­most head on. Then we both turned hard to the left and whirled round on op­po­site sides of what seemed to be an ever de­creas­ing cir­cle. “With wide-open throt­tles I held the Spit­fire V in the tight­est of ver­ti­cal turns. I was grey­ing out. Where was this Ger­man, who should, ac­cord­ing to my reckoning, be fill­ing the gun­sight? I could not see him, and lit­tle won­der, for he was gain­ing on me – in an­other cou­ple of turns he would have me within his sights. “My over-con­fi­dence of a few sec­onds be­fore had al­ready given way to ir­ri­ta­tion at los­ing my op­po­nent. This was in turn re­placed by a sick­en­ing ap­pre­hen­sion as the 190 gained on my tail. I asked the Spit­fire for all she had in the turn, but the en­emy pi­lot hung be­hind like a leech – it could only be a ques­tion of time. “Stick over and well for­ward, I plunged into a near ver­ti­cal dive. A danger­ous ma­noeu­vre, for the 190 was more sta­ble and faster than my Spit­fire at this sort of game. But I had de­cided on a pos­si­ble means of es­cape. At ground level I pulled into an­other steep turn, and as I gauged the height and watched the rooftops flash by I caught a glimpse of the Dieppe prom­e­nade. Of sta­tion­ary tanks. Of the white casino and a de­serted beach. “But I had no time to ad­mire the view. The 190 was still be­hind. A short dis­tance off­shore I could see one of our de­stroy­ers sur­rounded by a clut­ter of smaller ships. We had been care­fully briefed not to fly be­low 4000ft over th­ese de­stroy­ers – oth­er­wise they would open fire at ei­ther friend or foe. “I rammed the throt­tle into the emer­gency po­si­tion, broke off my turn, and – at sea level – headed straight for the de­stroyer. Flak and tracer came straight at me from the de­stroyer, and more, slower tracer from the 190 be­hind passed over the top of the cock­pit. “At the last mo­ment I pulled over the mast of the de­stroyer, then slammed the nose down hard and eased out a few feet above the sea. I broke hard to the left and searched for the 190. He was no longer with me. Ei­ther the flak from the de­stroyer had put him off or, bet­ter still, had shot him down. I made off at high speed for our own south coast.” Be­tween around 8.30am and 9am most of the JG 2 and JG 26 Fw 190s had re­turned to their bases to re­fuel and rearm be­fore re­turn­ing to the fray. Be­tween 9am, when a sin­gle Mus­tang was shot down, and 10.30am, an­other 19 Spit­fires were shot down and a Bris­tol Blen­heim. Then there was an­other lull. This was a timely mo­ment for a force of 22 B-17s, es­corted by Spit­fires, to attack II./JG 26’s air­field at Abbeville-dru­cat. The raid lasted eight min­utes, from 10.32am to 10.40am but caused lit­tle dam­age, ex­cept for three B-17s suf­fer­ing hits. Just a sin­gle Spit­fire was shot down at 11am, but then from 11.28am to 1.35pm a fur­ther 36 Spit­fires and a Mus­tang were shot down. The ac­tion on the ground had ended by 2pm, with all re­main­ing Al­lied forces ei­ther with­drawn, killed or cap­tured. But in the air, from 2pm to the end of the day at 7.43pm, an­other 37 Spit­fires and a Hur­ri­cane were claimed de­stroyed by the Ger­mans. It was the Focke-wulf Fw 190’s finest hour – with dozens of Bri­tish fighter air­craft downed for the loss of just a hand­ful of Fw 190s. JG 2 lost eight pi­lots, killed or miss­ing, and six were wounded. It claimed 67 en­emy air­craft de­stroyed. JG 26 lost six pi­lots and claimed 38 vic­to­ries.

En­ter the Jabo

Two months be­fore Dieppe, while all the fighter units of JG 2 and JG 26 had con­verted to the Fw 190, their re­spec­tive fighter-bomb Staffeln, 10.(Jabo)/jg 2 and 10.(Jabo)/jg 26 still had their orig­i­nal Messer­schmitt Bf 109F-4s. In late June, how­ever, both be­gan to work up on Fw 190A-2s and A-3s fit­ted with cen­tre­line racks to carry bombs. Op­er­a­tions

be­gan swiftly, with bomb­ing raids on ship­ping around the Isle of Wight in early July. Through­out the re­main­der of the month and into Au­gust, the two Jabo units car­ried out nui­sance hit and run raids on tar­gets both at sea and in­land. In ad­di­tion to ship­ping, the Ja­bos tar­geted fac­to­ries along the south coast. By the time Bri­tish fighters had been scram­bled to in­ter­cept them they were al­ready on their way back to France. Fighter es­corts were some­times pro­vided for the bomb-armed Fw 190s but on most oc­ca­sions they proved un­nec­es­sary. Dur­ing four months of raids, JG 2’s Ja­bos suf­fered no losses. JG 26 lost just one pi­lot – an in­ex­pe­ri­enced flyer who, hav­ing at­tacked the air­field at Manston, went back for an­other go and was shot down in flames. He sur­vived and was taken prisoner. The broad sweep of Ger­man at­tacks was nar­rowed down to tar­gets in Kent and Sus­sex in Oc­to­ber 1942 – those clos­est to the unit’s bases in France. The Bri­tish at­tempted to counter the Jabo threat by po­si­tion­ing five squadrons of the fast and heav­ily armed new Hawker Ty­phoon on the south coast and ly­ing in wait for the Fw 190s. This yielded some suc­cess and a pair of Ty­phoons from 486 Squadron suc­cess­fully bounced two Ja­bos from 10./JG 26 shortly af­ter they had at­tacked a church in Hast­ings, killing two civil­ians and in­jur­ing 16 oth­ers. One of the Fw 190s crashed into the sea and its pi­lot, Feld­webel Karl Niesel was killed. In his of­fi­cial re­port, the sur­viv­ing pi­lot de­scribed that attack’s tar­get as “a block of flats”. Mean­while, Hitler or­dered that more day­light raids should be car­ried out on Bri­tain in re­tal­i­a­tion for the RAF’S night­bomb­ing of­fen­sive. There­fore, the Luft­waffe planned an all-out Vergel­tungsan­griff or ‘vengeance attack’ on a Bri­tish city and picked Can­ter­bury as their ob­jec­tive. Un­for­tu­nately, the Jabo units of JG 2 and JG 26 were the only bombers in France at the time and be­tween them they could only muster 19 ser­vice­able air­craft. As a re­sult, they were joined by yet more Fw 190 fighter-bombers from III./ZG 2 and sev­eral dozen fighters from the other Staffeln of JG 2 and JG 26 were fit­ted with bomb racks, re­sult­ing in an attack force of 68 bom­b­car­ry­ing fighters. They were to be es­corted to the tar­get by 62 more Fw 190s while six car­ried out a di­ver­sion­ary raid else­where. Af­ter wait­ing for just the right weather con­di­tions, this large force set off late on the af­ter­noon of Oc­to­ber 31 and ar­rived over Can­ter­bury at around 5pm, fly­ing fast and low. As soon as they were re­ported ap­proach­ing the coast, bar­rage bal­loons were raised and a num­ber of the Ger­man pi­lots dropped their bombs off tar­get as a re­sult. Nev­er­the­less, 31 bombs hit the city and killed 32 peo­ple, as well as caus­ing a sig­nif­i­cant amount of dam­age to build­ings. Spit­fires were scram­bled but as be­fore the Fw 190s quickly turned around and sped back to France once their mu­ni­tions were ex­pended. Only a sin­gle Fw 190 from II./JG 2 was caught and shot down, its pi­lot be­ing taken prisoner. How­ever, dur­ing the re­turn flight Leut­nant Paul Gal­land, brother of Gen­eral der Jagdflieger Adolf Gal­land, and his wing­man be­came lost in low cloud nine miles from Calais. He then heard a dis­tress call from an­other Ger­man pi­lot and af­ter some search­ing spot­ted a Fw 190 fly­ing very low and be­ing chased by a Spit­fire. He went to help but the Spit­fire pi­lot saw him com­ing and pulled away into the clouds. Gal­land en­tered a turn and his Fw 190A-4 stalled. He was try­ing to re­cover when the Spit­fire emerged from the clouds and fired on him. Bul­lets ham­mered into Gal­land’s ma­chine and it went down in flames. His wing­man then shot down the Spit­fire, be­lieved to have been from 91 Squadron. At­tacks from Bri­tish fighters weren’t all the Fw 190 pi­lots had to worry about though. Amer­i­can Boe­ing B-17FS from the Eighth Air Force’s Bomb Groups had be­gun a cam­paign of day­light bomb­ing raids that would now con­tinue un­til the end of the war and JG 2 and JG 26 were fre­quently sent up to in­ter­cept them. Dur­ing the in­ter­cep­tion of a 32 bomber raid on Oc­to­ber 2, the Ger­man fighter pi­lots en­coun­tered Amer­i­can fighter es­corts for the first time – Spit­fires from the US 4th Fighter Group and P-38 Light­nings from the 1st Fighter Group. Dur­ing the en­su­ing skir­mish, seven Fw 190s were shot down, com­pared to six Spit­fires and a pair of P-38s. The odds were al­ready evening and one of the Fw 190s was shot down by a gun­ner on board a B-17 – the first time this had hap­pened. None of the bombers was shot down.

While the heav­ily armed Fly­ing Fortresses lived up to their names, pre­vent­ing the Ger­mans from adopt­ing the clas­sic tac­tic of at­tack­ing from be­hind and be­low, the Luft­waffe sooner learned through ex­pe­ri­ence the best ways of ap­proach­ing the ‘Vier­mots’ – so called be­cause they had four ‘vier’ mo­tors ‘mot’. The leader of III./JG 2, Haupt­mann Egon Mayer, came up with the strat­egy of a high speed head-on attack – first tried, suc­cess­fully, on Novem­ber 23, 1942. Four B-17s were de­stroyed for the loss of just a sin­gle Fw 190. Fly­ing at en­emy ma­chines in such a way could be highly risky, how­ever. One 2./JG 26 pi­lot, Feld­webel Fritz Un­gar, re­called: “Dur­ing an attack from be­hind we were un­der de­fen­sive fire from the bombers for too long, and at least three ma­chine gun po­si­tions fired at us from each air­craft. “In ad­di­tion, the es­cort­ing fighters had the task of keep­ing us away from the bombers. So, we had no op­tion left but to attack from headon. Ev­ery­thing hap­pened very quickly. Ev­ery sec­ond brought us 220m closer to­gether. “And of course, we didn’t want to col­lide but pull away over the bombers. For this pulling up and over the bomber, one needed al­most the whole last two sec­onds and 440m. Our guns were ad­justed to this dis­tance. “There­fore, we had two op­tions: to fire too early at a dis­tance of 600m or 500m or to pull up half a sec­ond late. A very danger­ous busi­ness. We didn’t have one sec­ond to fire our guns. It is in­cred­i­ble, when one thinks of all the ef­forts we had to make for just one sec­ond. One thing was ab­so­lutely vi­tal – aim very ac­cu­rately.”

fast bombers in africa

Although the suc­cesses of the Jabo raids had been rel­a­tively in­signif­i­cant, the Ger­mans re­solved to in­ten­sify them as 1942 drew to a close. It was de­cided that a new sort of unit should be es­tab­lished to spe­cialise in th­ese at­tacks – the Sch­nel­lkampfgeschwader or ‘fast bomber wing’. SKG 10 was to have three Grup­pen, each com­pris­ing four Staffeln, com­pared to the more usual three. Since ex­ist­ing Fw 190 pi­lots were all needed else­where, SKG 10 would be manned by for­mer Bf 110 pi­lots drawn from the Zer­störer Grup­pen or ‘heavy fighter groups’. Mean­while, the first Fw 190 unit had ar­rived in North Africa – III./ZG 2. Heavy losses in­flicted by the Bri­tish in the theatre had prompted Göring to prom­ise that 40 of the new Focke-wulf Fw 190 fighter-bombers would be trans­ferred there to help. III./ZG 2 ar­rived in Tu­nisia, hav­ing flown there via Italy and Si­cily, in early to midNovem­ber and flew its first mission against Bône har­bour, held by the Al­lies, on Novem­ber 12 and nu­mer­ous clashes with en­emy ground forces and Spit­fires en­sued. Five days later, II./JG 2 be­gan to join III./ZG 2 at Sidi Ahmed. Its pi­lots were soon bat­tling P38 Light­nings of the 14th Fighter Group and B-17s of the Twelfth Air Force. In De­cem­ber 1942, it was de­cided that III./ZG 2 would be re­named III./SKG 10 to be­come the third Gruppe of the new Geschwader, though it con­tin­ued its bomb­ing op­er­a­tions in North Africa – at­tack­ing Al­lied ground tar­gets rang­ing from ships to tanks and mo­tor ve­hi­cles and sup­port­ing Ger­man ground forces. In March of the fol­low­ing year, a third Fw 190-equipped unit moved to North Africa, II./SCHL.G 2. In April, III./SKG 10 was is­sued with the Fw 190A-5/U8, the pre­de­ces­sor of the Fw 190G, but was deeply unim­pressed with it, re­gard­ing the twin un­der-wing 300 litre drop tanks as per­ilously vul­ner­a­ble to ground fire. How­ever, it then be­gan to re­ceive the Fw 190F pre­de­ces­sor, the A-5/U3S with added ar­mour pro­tec­tion, and found that th­ese were much bet­ter suited to the fighter-bomber role. In­tense fight­ing fol­lowed, with hun­dreds of sor­ties be­ing flown against ad­vanc­ing Bri­tish forces but to no avail. All of the Luft­waffe’s sur­viv­ing Fw 190s in North Africa were evac­u­ated on May 8, 1943.

Night raid fi­asco

Back in early 1943, with the pi­lots of the first two SKG 10 Grup­pen still un­der­go­ing train­ing and con­ver­sion from the Bf 110, JG 2 and JG 26 con­tin­ued to face grow­ing num­bers of

Amer­i­can bombers fly­ing mis­sions against tar­gets within oc­cu­pied Europe. At the end of 1942 a typ­i­cal raid com­prised just over 30 B17s. Now this had dou­bled and B-24 Lib­er­a­tors had also be­gun to join in. The Ja­bos con­tin­ued to attack the south of Eng­land and dur­ing one raid on Lon­don on Jan­uary 20, a 500kg bomb dropped by a Fw 190 landed on Sand­hurst School, killing 38 chil­dren and six teach­ers. Else­where, the raid re­sulted in the deaths of 26 more civil­ians with dozens in­jured. Amer­i­can bombers car­ried out their first day­light raid over Ger­many on Jan­uary 27, with 64 B-17s and 27 B-24s at­tack­ing Wil­helmshaven. More raids fol­lowed. By now, SKG 10’s first two Grup­pen had com­pleted their train­ing and their cam­paign of fighter-bomber raids on the south of Eng­land be­gan on March 8, 1943, with the bomb­ing of a trawler close to Ed­dy­s­tone Light­house. Hast­ings was hit again on March 11, fol­lowed by a raid on Il­ford and Bark­ing on March 12. Th­ese nui­sance or ‘vengeance’ at­tacks con­tin­ued through­out the month and into April. Dur­ing train­ing, it had been de­cided that SKG 10 should not only attack dur­ing day­light but dur­ing the night too. There­fore, on April 16, 1943, its pi­lots were or­dered to attack Eng­land un­der cover of dark­ness. The pi­lots had re­ceived very lit­tle train­ing in night and in­stru­ment fly­ing and their air­craft had no spe­cial equip­ment fit­ted to en­able suc­cess­ful nav­i­ga­tion at night. It was a recipe for dis­as­ter. This be­came ap­par­ent even as the first wave took off. Two Fw 190A-5s col­lided in dark­ness at Abbeville, killing one pi­lot, and an­other three col­lided on take­off at Poix, killing Ober­leut­nant Ru­dolf Trenn, the com­man­der of 3./SKG 10. Those air­craft that man­aged to get air­borne reached the south coast of Eng­land just be­fore 11.30pm and there was an­other ac­ci­dent at 11.35pm when the leader of 2./SKG 10, Ober­leut­nant Kurt Klahn, fly­ing too low, was forced to bail out near Sta­ple­hurst in Kent and was killed. At around the same time, the sec­ond wave, II./SKG 10, was tak­ing off – eight air­craft each from 5./SKG 10 and 7./SKG 10 – and head­ing for Lon­don. Each car­ried a pair of un­der­wing drop tanks and a sin­gle SC 250 bomb on a fuse­lage rack. Ev­ery­thing went ac­cord­ing to plan ini­tially, but as they flew over Lon­don, three of the pi­lots be­came lost and dis­ori­en­tated. Feld­webel Otto Bech­told was blinded by search­lights and de­cided to drop his bomb and head for home. Un­for­tu­nately, he found that he couldn’t work out where he was, let alone where home was. Fly­ing back along the Thames es­tu­ary, he headed out to sea, at­tempt­ing to get his bear­ings, then he spot­ted the north coast of Kent and as­sumed it was France. Bri­tish flak opened fire on him but he as­sumed that this was sim­ply a mis­take, dropped a flare and switched on his air­craft’s nav­i­ga­tion lights. Be­mused, the Bri­tish used search­lights to guide Bech­told to the RAF base at West Malling. He landed and was cap­tured. The sec­ond pi­lot, Ober­feld­webel Otto Schultz man­aged to drop his bomb on a fac­tory but then sud­denly re­alised he was al­most out of fuel. He flew around, look­ing for some­where to land, when he spot­ted the lights at West Malling which had been switched on for Bech­told. As he ap­proached, how­ever, all the lights abruptly went off and he crashed into an or­chard. He was badly in­jured but was found by a lo­cal man who gave him a drink – which he was still drink­ing when am­bu­lances ar­rived. Fi­nally, Leut­nant Fritz Set­zer of 5./SKG 10 also at­tempted to land at West Malling, hav­ing run out of fuel evad­ing flak bursts. He too thought he was in France but when he re­alised his mis­take he gunned his en­gine and at­tempted to es­cape. The gun­ner of an ar­moured car sta­tioned at the air­field opened fire on him and hit his fuel tank – ig­nit­ing what lit­tle of his fuel re­mained. The Fw 190 crashed and Set­zer crawled out with his clothes on fire. Bri­tish fire­fight­ers drove over in a ten­der and there was ap­par­ently a scuf­fle. Set­zer broke free and ran around the back of the ve­hi­cle – straight into the arms of the sta­tion com­man­der, Wing Com­man­der Peter Townsend. Set­zer fi­nally sur­ren­dered and was taken to the base’s sick bay. This was not the end of the Fw 190 as a noc­tur­nal raider or fighter how­ever. It was to play a key role in Ober­stleut­nant Hans-joachim ‘Hajo’ Herrmann’s Wilde Sau op­er­a­tions, de­tailed else­where in this pub­li­ca­tion. While all this was go­ing on in the west, the Fw 190 was also mak­ing a big im­pres­sion on the Eastern Front – see pages 70-75.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

Fw 190 A-2 WNR. 0120 235 DN + CO ‘Blue 4 +’ of ei­ther Jagdfliegerschule 2 or 4. Note the cam­ou­flaged han­gar with a Bf 109 parked out­side.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

A rare air-to-air pho­to­graph of a Fw 190A-3 in flight over oc­cu­pied France dur­ing 1942. Air­craft of 7./JG 2 at Théville.‘white 8’ was flown by Leut­nant Ja­cob Au­gustin, who shot down six Su­per­ma­rine Spit­fires from June 3-17. He was killed on July 15, fly­ing a dif­fer­ent air­craft.‘white 8’ missed out on at­tack­ing the RAF fighters fly­ing cover for the Dieppe raid on Au­gust 19, 1942, hav­ing suf­fered dam­age four days ear­lier. Fw 190s of 5./JG 2 at their base in France. Dur­ing this stage of the war, Luft­waffe units could line up their air­craft with­out fear of attack.the D-day land­ings changed all that and rov­ing Al­lied fighter-bombers forced Ger­man ground crews to dis­perse their unit’s Fw 190s into cam­ou­flaged and, ide­ally, hard­ened po­si­tions around the air­field.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

While Spit­fires were drop­ping like ninepins over Dieppe on Au­gust 19, 1942, Al­lied forces on the beaches around the port were in se­ri­ous trou­ble.taken in the af­ter­math of the dis­as­trous Op­er­a­tion Ju­bilee, this photo shows one of many Churchill tanks that be­came stuck in the loose shale and had to be aban­doned while Canadian sol­diers were be­ing killed all around them.

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Focke-wulf chief designer Kurt Tank, right, is pic­tured with Josef ‘Pips’ Priller of JG 26 in Septem­ber 1942. Priller was the high­est scor­ing Ger­man ace on the West­ern Front at the time and shot down the high­est num­ber of Spit­fires of any pi­lot dur­ing the war – 68. De­spite be­ing re­spon­si­ble for some of Ger­many’s dead­li­est air­craft,tank worked hard to main­tain his civil­ian sta­tus through­out the war, hence his dap­per out­fit. The Fw 190 caused the RAF se­ri­ous prob­lems dur­ing Op­er­a­tion Ju­bilee but the troops on the ground had their own prob­lems. Here, dead Royal Reg­i­ment of Canada sol­diers lie where they fell on Blue beach near Dieppe.trapped be­tween the bunker and for­ti­fied sea wall, they were gunned down by MG 34 ma­chine guns in a Ger­man bunker. Its fir­ing slit is vis­i­ble in the dis­tance, just above the Ger­man sol­dier’s head to the left. The last glimpse a B-17 crew might have of a Fw 190 be­fore it ei­ther zipped up over their air­craft, fired di­rectly into it, or crashed into it head-on.this risky but ini­tially suc­cess­ful style of attack was first used dur­ing Novem­ber 1942.

Bjorn Hu­ber Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion/chris Sand­ham-bai­ley

The cap­tured Fw 190A-4/U8 of Feld­webel Otto Bech­told af­ter he be­came dis­ori­en­tated and landed it at West Malling in Kent. Warn­ing no­tices have been scratched into the matt black night time cam­ou­flage paint. It is clear that the air­craft has no spe­cial adap­ta­tions for night fly­ing. The Fw 190A-4 of I./JG 2, flown by Leut­nant Horst Han­nig, spring 1943. Han­nig was a vet­eran of the Eastern Front who took com­mand of JG 2 in early 1943. He scored eight vic­to­ries with the unit, in­clud­ing one USAAF heavy bomber shot down on Fe­bru­ary 16, 1943. He was killed in ac­tion on May 15, 1943, by Squadron Leader J Charles of 611 Squadron, RAF.

Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion Edi­tor’s col­lec­tion

A quar­tet of Fw 190A-4s pre­pare for take­off from a tem­po­rary air­field in France dur­ing the sum­mer of 1943.They are be­lieved to be­long to JG 26. The Fw 190A-4 ‘Black 12’ flown by Haupt­mann Bruno Stolle, leader of 8./JG 26, in France dur­ing 1943.

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