Thursday, March 26, 2015

DORNIER DO 17 - Battle of Britain

The Do 17E and Do 17F gave way to the broadly similar Do 17M and Do 17P, which were bomber and reconnaissance variants respectively, differing from the earlier versions in being powered by 900 hp Bramo Fafnir 323A or BMW 132N radial engines in place of the inline DB600s originally fitted. These raised the maximum speed to fractionally above 300 mph. The DB600-powered versions remained in limited use at the beginning of the war, but by the Battle of France all had vanished from frontline service. On 10 May, 188 serviceable Do 17Ms and Do 17Ps were available, together with 338 examples of the further improved Do 17Z.

Production Do 17Zs featured more powerful (1,000 hp) Bramo 232P radial engines with two-stage superchargers, but more obviously had an entirely redesigned forward fuselage, much deeper, more extensively glazed, and with a huge underslung ventral gondola. This had first appeared on the Do 17S (built in pre-production form only) and made the aircraft look much more like a Ju 88. It raised the crew complement to five, though the bombload remained a paltry 22001b. Defensive armament was increased to six 7.9-mm machine guns, one fixed and one free-mounted firing forward, one firing aft in each of the dorsal and ventral positions, and two in the side windows. But these weapons were mounted singly, and had relatively limited arcs of fire. By comparison with the multi-gun powered turrets fitted to aircraft like the Wellington and Blenheim they represented little more than a last-ditch defence, although Do 17 gunners did down surprising numbers of RAF fighters which pressed their attacks too closely, or failed to break away aggressively enough. The Do 17U was basically a hybrid combining the new nose with the engines of the Do 17M. The 15 aircraft built were used as dedicated pathfinders by Kampfgrüppe 100, and carried a second radio operator.

The Dornier Do 17 was the least numerous of the Luftwaffe bombers deployed against Britain during the Battle, but has been claimed by some to have been the most effective. Most German military aircraft of the period were designed from the start as warplanes, but were first revealed in a civil guise - masquerading as airliners or 'high speed mailplanes'. For example, Dornier itself had built Do 11Cs in Switzerland as 'freight transports'. The Do 17, by contrast, was really designed as a high speed mailplane, with tiny cramped cabins fore and aft of the wing accommodating six passengers with very difficult access. This was realised too late, and the three prototypes were soon placed in storage, where they remained until discovered by a curious RLM test pilot, who flight-tested one and was so impressed by its performance that he suggested the type's conversion for use as a high-speed bomber.

Dornier were by then working on the long-range Do 19, a four-engined heavy bomber, and were not greatly interested in the idea. Nor, until the death of General Walther Wever, was the Luftwaffe. But Wever's successor as Chief of Staff, Albert Kesselring was a tactical man, through and through, and preferred large fleets of relatively cheap, lightweight bombers optimised for what was, in essence, a close support role. The Do 17 soon won his approval, while the Do 19 (probably the aircraft the Luftwaffe really needed for the Battle of Britain) was unceremoniously scrapped. Three further Do 17 prototypes were built with twin endplate fins in place of the original aircraft's single fin, and the forward fuselage was deepened and fitted with extensive glazing to accommodate a full bomber crew. The aircraft retained much of the appearance of the original, and this led to the type's 'Flying Pencil' nickname.

Aircraft losses suffered during the invasion of the Low Countries and France were not fully restored, while some units were already converting to the newer, faster and more effective Ju 88. Do 17 numbers dropped throughout the Battle of Britain. On 1 September 1940, the frontline bomber Kampfgrüppen had 158 Do 17Ms and 212 Do 172s on charge. These won a reputation for low level pinpoint bombing attacks, but also flew their share of medium level area attacks. The Do 17 was highly manoeuvrable, and its crews could dive at speeds which bordered on the unbelievable. If sufficient height were available, and the defending fighters low on fuel, Dorniers could sometimes escape by pushing their noses down and diving for home 'flat out' - much like the Ju 88. A final version of the 'Flying Pencil' in use during the Battle of Britain was the Do 215B, 18 of which were designed and built for export (to Sweden) but were then embargoed and re-directed to the Luftwaffe, which used them for reconnaissance duties.

Friday, March 13, 2015


Heinkel He 177 A-5 Greif - longe range bomber

 RLM Heinkel He-177 Greif KG 100 Luftfahrt-Kunstruck von Mark Postlethwaite

'We shall go out and bomb every building in Britain marked with three stars in the Baedeker Guide.' - Baron Gustav Braun von Sturm, 24 April 1942.

Luftwaffe retaliatory bombings of several small British cities. They were ostensibly carried out in accordance with tourist ratings listed in a famed German guide published by Baedeker. By the standards of World War II they were minor in physical damage caused and minuscule in strategic effect. Their main role was to serve German domestic propaganda and to please Adolf Hitler’s desire to retaliate for British raids on Lübeck and Rostock.

23 April to 3 May and 31 May to 6 June 1942
Theatre: Home Front
Location: England
Players: Britain: Air Marshal Arthur Harris's RAF Bomber Command. Germany: Luftwaffe Luftflotte 3 (Fliegerführer Atlantik).
Outcome: The destruction of over 50,000 buildings in five historic towns.

Air Marshal Arthur Harris was appointed Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Bomber Command on 22 February 1942. Harris believed in bombing as a means of fighting and even winning the war; his preferred focus was to attack enemy 'morale' by targeting cities rather than specific industrial objectives.

On the night of 28 March, a 234 bomber raid against the Baltic port of Lübeck dropped high explosives and incendiaries on Lübeck's Old Town, largely composed of wooden buildings. The bombing and the subsequent fires caused 1,000 deaths and massive destruction.
Hitler, incensed, ordered reprisal raids against historic British towns. The first, against Exeter, took place on 23 April 1942, with 25 bombers causing widespread damage and 70 deaths.
The next day, Nazi propagandist Baron Gustav Braun von Sturm claimed that the Luftwaffe would work its way through the Baedeker tourist guide. That night Exeter was hit again; there were raids on Bath, York and Norwich over the next five nights, and a third raid on Exeter on 3 May.
Thousands of buildings were destroyed, including York's Guildhall and the Bath Assembly Rooms. The Baedeker tactic was briefly resumed after Bomber Command's devastating attack on Cologne on 30 May; three successive raids on Canterbury caused extensive damage to its medieval centre, but missed the Cathedral.

While the Baedeker Raids caused much damage and loss of life, they also served to demonstrate the relative weakness of the Luftwaffe as a bombing force.

The raids
The cities attacked were:

    First period
        Exeter (23 and 24 April; 3 May)
        Bath (25 and 26 April)
        Norwich (27 and 29 April)
        York (28 April)

    Second period, following the bombing of Cologne
        Canterbury (May 31; 2 June and 6 June)

Across all the raids on these five cities a total of 1,637 civilians were killed and 1,760 injured, and over 50,000 houses were destroyed. Some noted buildings were destroyed or damaged, including York's Guildhall and the Bath Assembly Rooms, but on the whole most escaped — the cathedrals of Norwich, Exeter and Canterbury included. The German bombers suffered heavy losses for minimal damage inflicted, and the Axis' need for reinforcements in North Africa and Russian Front meant further operations were restricted to hit-and-run raids on coastal towns by a few Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter-bombers. Deal, Kent was one of these towns and was hit hard, with over 30 civilian dead, including many women and children, most of whom are buried in the Hamilton Road Cemetery, Deal, Kent.

Several other raids are sometimes included under the Baedeker title, although only a few aircraft were involved in each, and damage was not extensive.[5] These raids were all on East Anglian locations. Among the British firefighters assigned to the scene in Bath was Harry Patch, who in the 2000s became the last surviving British veteran from the First World War.

    Bury St Edmunds
    Great Yarmouth

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Admiral Support

Bloody foreigners. Untold Battle of Britain

This dramatised documentary recounts how, during the most decisive phase of the Battle of the Britain, a single squadron of 34 Polish fighter pilots wreaked havoc on the Luftwaffe, in the process helping to change the course of history and overturning RAF prejudices.

From 303 Squadron's bitter struggle for acceptance when they first arrived in the UK, to the crucial part they played in averting the German invasion, and their ultimate betrayal by the Allies, this unknown story is one of the most extraordinary episodes of World War II.

BBC South East's Robin Gibson chats to Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji in the summer 2010.


BBC South East's Robin Gibson chats to Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji in the summer 2010.

Squadron Leader Mahinder Singh Pujji was the last surviving fighter pilot from a group of 24 Indians who arrived in Britain in 1940.

The Gravesend man has died aged 92 after a stroke.

Sq Ldr Pujji, who learned to fly as a hobby in India, sailed to England after reading an advert in a newspaper. He warned his family he might never return.

The group were invited to tea by the Royal family at Windsor Castle as a thank you for their willingness to risk their lives. Within a year, 12 of the Indian pilots had been killed.

He began training in the autumn of 1940 and early the next year began flying Hurricanes protecting coastal convoys and intercepting bombers and fighters when Hitler ordered the bombing of London in the Blitz.

He survived several crashes and flew combat missions throughout the war in Britain, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Burma and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

After the war he became a champion air race pilot in India, and set endurance records in gliders. He even flew the first Indian prime minster Jawaharlal Nehru in his glider.

Fleet Air Arm pilots

Four of the 58 Fleet Air Arm pilots who flew with RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain achieved unofficial 'ace' status for five confirmed aerial victories that summer; these are two of them - SILts R. J. Cork and A. G. Blake, who were both awarded the DSC. 'Dickie' Cork
(left) flew Hurricanes in No. 242 Sqn led by Douglas Bader, and Arthur 'Admiral' Blake (right) flew Spitfires with No. 19 Sqn; Blake scored four solo kills and one shared before he was shot down and killed on 29 October. Note the naval pilot's 'wings' badge, worn above the rank stripe on the left cuff only of the No. 5 Dress jacket.

While battles were fought in the seas, skies and fields of Norway, the British Expeditionary Force had also been locked in combat against German Army Group A in Belgium and France. The Allied forces failed to repulse the German mechanized offensive, and the decision was taken to evacuate the BEF. Between 22 May and 4 June more than 330,000 Allied soldiers were evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk during Operation 'Dynamo', by an armada of military and civil shipping, and the already thinly stretched Fleet Air Arm was committed alongside the RAF to provide air cover. Skuas were involved in air-to-air combat over the beaches and the English Channel, protecting ships from German bombers and also flying alongside Albacores to attack German ground forces. Remarkably, FAA student pilots flying tiny Tiger Moth training biplanes were also used to drop off food and medical supplies for the troops waiting on the beaches.

With German forces now occupying Norway and the whole northern coast of NW Europe much of the UK was within range of aerial assault. While the Battle of Britain raged in the skies of England during the summer of 1940, two Fleet Air Arm squadrons - 804 and 808 NAS, flying Sea Gladiators and Fulmars respectively - operated under the control of the RAF's 13 Group in the north of England and Scotland. A further 58 FAA pilots were temporarily attached to RAF fighter squadrons during the Battle; 18 of them were killed in action, and 12 made claims. Four naval fighter pilots - SILts A. G. Blake, RJ. Cork, F. Dawson-Paul and R. E. Gardner - each scored at least five confirmed aerial kills during that summer.


Fighter-bomber Bf.109E-4/B prototype.

From 8 October 1940, the RAF began intercepting Bf 109s which had been hastily adapted* as fighter-bombers by carrying a single SC250 250kg (550Ib) bomb on the centreline. Often the Bf 109Es slipped through unopposed, either at very low level (giving the defences little warning time in which to react) or very high (leaving defending fighters insufficient time to climb up to them). Even carrying a 250kg (550Ib) bomb the Bf 109E could fly at 9144m (30,000ft), well above the ceiling of the Hurricane, though within reach of the Spitfire. Yet the Jabos actually achieved little. During their initial, rather predictable, Staffel-strength attacks on London, the German perception was that they suffered unacceptably heavy losses, and some of their pilots felt that the role offended their professional pride and didn't even attempt to deliver weapons accurately on a particular target. Over London, for instance, German Jabo pilots dropped their weapons when the section leader did, and specific pinpoint targets, were often not briefed. Osterkamp, the German fighter commander was furious, and complained bitterly to Jeschonnek, who absolved himself from blame by claiming that the orders had come directly from the Führer.

Osterkamp's response was bitter and sarcastic, and cost him further promotion. 'Until proven otherwise,' he said 'I take our Führer to be a man who would not order such an idiocy, if he knew what effect it was having. I suggest the following. By God's Grace I still have about 384 fighters left at the moment, that makes 96 sections. Out of these I will send a section off twice a day at different times, with bombs under their bellies. They will reach their targets, because such small formations can slip through anywhere. Above their targets, they will dive down to 400 metres, bailout with their parachutes and let the aircraft with its bomb crash into the docks. The pilots will go into captivity. Result NO.1: the bombs will land in the docks, which you all consider "decisive for the war". Result NO.2: You will at least know exactly when the fighter weapon will have been completely destroyed - namely in 48 days. On the 49th day I will go the same way with my adjutant. Then you will all have peace. But one thing at least will have been accomplished: my boys will not have sacrificed their lives for a daydream.'

Osterkamp's concerns about vulnerability and losses were addressed by sending fighter Bf 109Es to escort the fighter-bombers, the fighters flying in at 9754m (32,000ft). The fighter-bombers were also increasingly tasked with pinpoint attacks on more important targets, and this helped improve morale.

The increasing emphasis placed on fighter-bomber operations did not go unnoticed by the British. Sandy Johnstone of NO.602 Squadron summed up the RAF attitude to the new form of warfare quite well. 'I may be wrong, but things seem to be easing off a bit these days... we only spot 109s cruising around at heights well above 30,000ft. These occasionally make furtive darts at us before soaring up again to their superior position... Could it be that the Germans have had enough?'
*A drop-fuel tank would have been better…