Sunday, 31 January 2016

Latécoère 298 torpedo bomber in the Battle for France

"..On 23 May 1940 some eighteen Latécoère 298s dive-bombed bridges and road junctions between Boulogne and the river Somme...".  (William Green in 'Warplanes of the Second World War' volume 6)

The best aircraft in the world in its class in 1939 according to Morareau and Ledet in their book " Le Latécoère 298 ". First flown in May 1936, at the outbreak of the war, Laté 298s were operated by no fewer than seven escadrilles de Torpillage in the Aéronavale. But the Latécoère 298 never launched a torpedo in anger, being largely deployed on missions for which it was hardly suited and for which its crews had not been trained - bombing and ground-strafing missions against German columns in northern France. The following account provides a rare glimpse (in English) of the reality of what happened to the Latécoère 298-equipped escadrilles (squadrons) of the French naval air arm in May 1940..

Having evacuated Boulogne on 21 May 1940 and come under fire from French anti-aircraft guns over Dieppe, the Latécoère 298s of escadrilles T2 and T3 had reached the relative safety of Cherbourg on the Cotentin Peninsula.

On the morning of 23 May, led by their CO, Lt de vaisseau Marraud, six Laté 298s of escadrille T3 were airborne at 05h00 from Cherbourg tasked with bombing any German armour encountered in the vicinity of Boulogne ; the secondary target was the rail bridge over the shipping canal near Noyelles-sur-Mer. Marraud's T3.1 was hit by anti-aircraft fire south of Boulogne, succeeded in getting as far as Outreau before being hit again and having to carry out an emergency ditching off the Cap d’Alprecht, south of Boulogne (off Le Portel). Marraud and his crew escaped unhurt. Second-maitre Etienne in T3.2 had escorted the CO out to sea and ensured that his crew were picked up by the French torpedo boat Mistral. Crossing back over the coast in search of targets Etienne strafed anti-aircraft positions on the Samer-Montreuil road. He jettisoned his bombs before returning to Cherbourg, his munitions exhausted. Near Le Touquet, two more sections (2x2 aircraft) were also met by anti-aircraft fire but there were no German columns on the road. The aircraft jettisoned their bombs on the Noyelles bridge over the Somme - without hitting it - and returned to Cherbourg at 09h25. Two other  Laté 298s were reportedly shot down by Messerschmitt Bf 109s.

At 10h09 on the morning of 23 May, four Latécoère 298 floatplanes from escadrille T2 were dispatched from Cherbourg  to find and bomb German armour reported between Samer and Boulogne. Lt de vaisseau Jacques Lamiot was one of the pilots who flew the mission and he later recalled;

"... We overflew the coast at Boulogne and followed the road in the direction of Abbeville. Keeping our eyes peeled we scoured the road and the surrounding areas but could spot no signs of life, neither friendly nor enemy, neither civil nor military. We headed back to Boulogne flying at 1,000 metres, a height that would enable us to thwart any diving attack and which allowed us to be able to see what might have been hiding under the tree cover. Suddenly we were caught in a hail of anti-aircraft fire. Initially we were unable to spot where it was coming from although my gunner finally indicated that he could see muzzle flashes some way behind us. With there being no sign of any armour the decision was made to attack this battery which was on a small hill. I gave the signal. But while we'd had our eyes fixed on the ground we had failed to take notice of a line of fighters some way off heading in our direction and which, based on the assurances that I had been given prior to departure, I had assumed were RAF aircraft defending the sector. Just as I was about to let down on a firing pass I found myself caught up in a burst of tracers; what I took for Hurricanes were in fact Messerschmitt Bf 109s and the lead aircraft just avoided colliding with me by a whisker..."   (Icare No 61)

The  Laté 298s of T2 paid a heavy price - Lv Lamiot carried out an emergency landing, engine ablaze, his gunner (Quartier-maître Paul) dead and his radio operator (Second-maître Thénaisie) badly injured. In the Laté flown by EV1 Huet, his gunner, SM Coucal was killed before the pilot ordered his radio operator to take to his chute; Huet put down at sea but the Me 109s strafed the aircraft injuring the pilot. T2-2 got back to Cherbourg QM Payol wounded while T2-4 was reported missing ; the crew (seconds-maitres Halgand and Le Pezron, both wounded and quartier-maître Tassel, who died of his injuries) were taken captive. At 12h15, four more Latés from Cherbourg attacked the Fort de la Crèche (a coastal battery outside Boulogne) : although the target was hit, information that the Fort had been occupied proved unfounded. There were no losses. Later that afternoon four Laté 298s of T2 carried out a strike on a rail bridge over the Abbeville canal at St Valéry sur Somme, which the Laté 298s of T3 had failed to hit that morning. The sortie was again a failure but all the aircraft returned.

(Below; Laté 298 downed on 23 May 1940)

Thursday, 28 January 2016

AZ Model Bf 109 G-6/AS 'Special Markings' build review

I was interested to read Patrick Mizgala's build review of the new AZ Bf 109 G-6/AS 'special markings' release over two pages in the current issue of Scale Aircraft Modeller International (SAM Publications). Now I quite like AZ Model's Bf 109 G-6 series - 'Model of the Year 2015' in the small scale category in the German 'Modellfan' magazine. Unfortunately Patrick missed a number of points concerning the subject aircraft in this release clearly explained elsewhere on this blog. Firstly, the G-6/AS variant featured a refined cowl, tall tail and enlarged supercharger. Hence the parts in the box are the same as those featured in AZ Model's Bf 109 G-10 boxes. However for a G-6/AS as depicted in this box the chin bulges will need to be sanded off. Mizgala referred on a number of occasions to the box top presentation of Bf 109 G-6/AS 'Red 2'; this is the 1./NJGr 10 Moskito hunter flown by Friedrich-Karl Müller during July-August 1944. Note the spelling of the name - written incorrectly all through his article. Apparently while doing his research Patrick discovered a picture on the internet that shows Müller's aircraft with no head armour. I'm assuming that this was the photo via Jean-Yves Lorant already posted on my blog - see link below. I published three pictures of Müller's 'Red 2' in SAM Publications own "Model Aircraft" in a 'wilde Sau und Moskito-Jagd' feature back in June and July 2014, exclusive to SAM - with some superb profile artwork by Anders Hjortsberg. The absence of head armour was a particular feature of Mosquito-chasing high performance Bf 109s. It was a shame that Mizgala appeared to be unaware of any of this. I'm assuming too that this is where AZ got their inspiration for the kit from! The all-black Bf 109 G-6/AS that Patrick did eventually build from the box (Dieterle's 'Green 5' of 2./Erg.JG 2) is also covered in-depth on this blog. Note that unfortunately AZ's research for this release has been particularly sloppy; wheel hubs were not red for a start and they have even got the colour of the Staffel number wrong on the decal sheet; it is blue in the kit and should of course have been green. One other point to note about the decal sheet - no spinner spirals. The modeller has to purchase those separately. I have to thank Czech modeller Jan Pavlik for sending me a sheet of these - they were out of stock at Hannants.  Cheers mate!

To conclude, a couple of links on this blog covering both the aircraft and the issues mentioned ..

Bf 109 G-6/AS 'Red 2', 1./NJGr 10 Moskito hunter flown by Friedrich-Karl Müller during July-August 1944 - pictures and artwork here.

'Green 5', the overall black Bf 109 G-6/AS of 2./Erg.JG 2, the Ergänzungsnachtjagdstaffel (night fighter replacement training unit) featured on this blog here

Monday, 18 January 2016

Night Blitz Heinkel He 111 Melun KG 55

According to the inscription on the reverse of these images, these are scenes from Melun Villaroche aerodrome, located south-east of Paris and home to KG 55 between September and December 1941 for night raids over the UK..

via Olivier Rogge's Ebay sales here

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Oblt. Hermann Westdickenberg, Staffelkapitän 2./ NAG 14 - more Bf 109 recce Aufklärer

Above; Oblt. Hermann Westdickenberg at the controls of his G-6/R2 in Romania during 1944 as Staffelkapitän 2./NAG 14. Click on the photo for a full-screen view.  Jean-Louis Roba text and photos via Westdickenberg exclusively for FalkeEins blog.

Born in Hamm in June 1917, Hermann Westdickenberg (studio portrait below) joined the Heer (army) in 1936 and participated in the Westfeldzug (campaign in the West) serving with 253 I.D in France. According to his own account his exploits in the field in France with his small advance recce troop were noteworthy - for example, first into Roubaix and into Lille, where he accepted the surrender of a large number of French troops south of the city. 253 I.D spent the winter of 1940-41 in France. Westdickenberg flew sorties as a Heer observer - flying in Luftwaffe recce machines. He eventually took the opportunity to join the Luftwaffe in 1941.  Later that year he was posted to Finland at Kemiaervi near the Russian border with 1.(H)/32, an observer in the Hs 126. Although not a pilot, his rank meant that he was in charge of the aircraft. During 1942 he commanded a detachment of three machines based in Petsamo, specialising in aerial photography and artillery spotting.

In January 1943 he was recalled to Germany and trained as a pilot at Brieg and Jüterbog, before finally achieving the relevant Scheine qualifying him as a Bf 109 pilot, specialising in short-range reconnaissance. Subsequently posted to 2./ NAG 14, his unit moved to Romania in April 1944. During the transfer Westdickenberg turned his Bf 109 over at Craiova and had to complete the journey to Bacau by train. Tragedy soon struck - on his very first sortie from Bacau, the Staffelkapitän Hptm. Hans von Hollenleben (below) was killed in an accident.

Oblt Westdickenberg was immediately named as von Hollenleben's successor. By and large though the first few months at Bacau were relatively pleasant for the men of 2./ NAG 14 - there was little activity in the sector aside from Russian preparations for a large offensive. Everything was to change from mid-August with the subsequent opening of the Soviet offensive in the region of Jassy. Romanian resistance collapsed and Soviet superiority was overwhelming. Flying in Rotten the pilots of NAG 14 were forced to join combat - claiming a number of victories - as well as performing recce missions, such was the numerical superiority of the Soviets.  A recce Staffel such as 2./NAG 14 was an autonomous unit with a strength of sixteen aircraft and up to 270 personnel. Westdickenberg had soon made arrangements for his men and aircraft to fall back to Hungary, a decision which led to disagreement with his hierarchy. However given that the unit was still relatively intact there were no additional complications. However in December 1944 he fell ill while his Staffel suffered losses in the vicinity of Budapest. Large numbers of sorties were flown as the Russians encircled the city. Returning to the front Westdickenberg assumed command of 1./ NAG 14 and ended the war flying missions over Czech territory - on 8 May 1945 1./ NAG 14 was still flying at Budweiss. Although surrendering to the Americans Westdickenberg and his men were handed over to the Russians to endure several years of captivity. Westdickenberg returned to Germany in 1949. A resourceful and competent leader, he enjoyed a successful postwar career in business.

Photos via Jean-Louis Roba above and expired ebay auction below

Celebrating the 2,500th sortie of Nah-Aufklärungs-Staffel 2/14 at Bacau, Romania during the summer of 1944. Westdickenberg is second left (hands in pockets).

More recce Aufklärer on this blog

Scenes from I./ NAG 12

'Heimo' Emmerstorfer NAG 12

Henschel Hs 126 winter recce

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Luftwaffe groups on Facebook - reporting copyright infringements and violations of owners' rights

There are many Luftwaffe pages on Facebook. For authors and publishers it can be a good forum for publicising your work. Elsewhere Facebook 'Groups' host a number of 'well-known' posters and self-appointed experts - and other enthusiasts- presenting all sorts of material and commenting. Sounds good right? However there are some big down-sides to FB's Luftwaffe pages ..

As one enthusiast put it when faced with a poster seeking details of the Bf 109 K-14s delivered to JG 52 and whose reference library appeared to comprise one solitary Squadron Signal monograph ; ".. there are certain places and mediums to have serious discussions on aviation history and certain places where it is futile to attempt such a task..."  Or as another said;  "..sorry, I prefer to be stupid on the 12 o'Clock High forum than brilliant on Facebook..". Too many posters and too many fantasists who spend every day putting on line out-of-date artworks, pictures of Erich Hartmann, entire pages of Luftwaffe im Focus, a whole book of Sundin profile artworks, not to mention all the rare pictures from the two volume JG 300 history..

Perhaps you're thinking that I tend to do something similar here  - but what makes this site different is that I ask. The trouble with FB is that those self same 'experts' believe somehow that they have the right to simply lift material from other websites and/or from (copyrighted) books - not that the average FB user even appears to buy new books. And 'new' pictures on other web sites? oh I'll help myself to those. So blatant and just wrong!  And referencing constantly, as some FB group posters do, does nothing for your reputation among serious Luftwaffe enthusiasts and authors.

Of course some FB 'groups' insist on a 'source' - as if that information gives them any right to just take and repost material! The ease with which FB 'works' appears to be part of the 'problem'. Browsing the various Groups can be much quicker and faster than wading through a forum - as any FB user will know you get updates -or "notifications"- the moment your 'friends' post. Some of these FB groups may quickly rival 'traditional' internet forums over-seen by ever-present and occasionally over-bearing moderators  ( and I don't mean you Nick!) with their all-too legitimate concerns about copyright, defamation etc etc.

That's just one of the down sides. Other characters like the guy involved with the IL2 board hosted by also haunt FB. Apparently he has created one of the biggest Luftwaffe sites on the web. Amazing. He never seems to post any images of his own, doesn't appear to have done any original research or writing. And at one point they were quite happy to take $20 from you for the dubious privilege of being able to access copyrighted works.  Frankly I prefer not to bump into Acred and those FB group posters who 'encourage' him and his ilk if I can help it. Read here some of the exchanges I had with him after he helped himself to some of the original images posted on this blog.

I doubt very much whether illustrators, writers, researchers and collectors, even institutions, want to see all "their" material posted on FB. Many of them though I doubt are even aware of the extent of the copyright theft problem on FB. Among the wider uninformed FB-user public the school of thought though seems to be that WW II images, even artworks based on such images are essentially public domain and if posted for discussion and education, count as "fair use" when it comes to copyright - the laws of which vary just about everywhere and which, especially in the US appear quite liberal..

Subject: Re: Facebook copyright report Form
 Hi, Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. Please note that in order for us to process a report alleging infringement or violation of legal rights, that report would need to come from someone authorised to act on behalf of the rights owner (e.g. lawyer, agent). Based on the information that you have provided, it is not clear to us that you are the rights owner or are authorised to act on their behalf. Please clarify whether you are the rights owner, or if acting in a representative capacity, please clarify your relationship to the rights owner. Once we have received this information, we will be happy to investigate this matter further. If you are not in fact the rights owner or their authorised representative, but you believe that their rights may be infringed or violated by content on the site, you may wish to contact the rights owner directly. Thank you,
  Intellectual Property Operations Facebook

Subject: Re: Copyright Report Form
 Hi, Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We have removed or disabled access to the content that you have reported for violating the Facebook Statement of Rights and Responsibilities concerning the following link:

As you can see I recently tested FB's own reporting system - the person behind the 'Messerschmitt Fighters' group page that had posted a number of pictures from Jean-Yves Lorant's JG 300 history. We were pleasantly surprised to see a rapid response from Facebook and access to specific copyright material that I complained about was quickly blocked. As the complainant the material you report has to be your copyright or else you must be what FB refers to as the 'copyright holder's representative' - and you have to be able to demonstrate that. Simply reporting that a FB page has posted over 150 of Sundin's profile artworks - another FB page - won't necessarily result in FB taking any action. If you can't afford a £50 book, that is your problem and not something I'm going to feel guilty about. But posting images from such sources constantly will have an impact on the production of new works. So it is hardly surprising that - as one FB group moderator recently opined - some people  "...are only joining the group to check copyright violations.."  Given that there are so many of them they are perfectly entitled to so do I say !

Similar articles on this blog

Sales of repros as originals on Ebay 

Most enthusiasts - and certainly not David Weiss - wouldn't dream of spending 1,000 euros on a set of images, would they ?

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Die Wehrmacht - the Bundesarchiv collection # 1 Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, Ernst Kupfer, Stukageschwader 2

With more and more BA photos released and available to view and reproduce on non-commercial web sites it is perhaps time to start a new series of Bundesarchiv photo finds ; herewith some images from PK reporter Niermann dated 1942

Sowjetunion.- Generaloberst Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen am Steuer des Flugzeugs Fieseler Fi 156 C-3 "Storch", neben ihm ein Soldat mit Karte

 Seen in Russia during early 1942 Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, CO of VIII Fliegerkorps at the controls of a Fieseler Fi 156 C-3 "Storch", alongside him a soldier with map

 Ju 87 D-3 of II./St. G 2 on a Feldflugplatz (field strip) - pilot preparing for a sortie somewhere in Russia  - Kennung may be T6+AD. Note the white chevron in front of the emblem, the significance of which is not entirely clear - see the letters page in Aérojournal No. 5 Feb-Mar 1999. Kommandeur II./ St.G 2 from April 1942 was Ernst Kupfer seen preparing the spit roast below..

new 2016 catalogue from Lela Presse

The new Lela Presse catalogue for 2016 just dropped through the letter box.

There are lots of new titles in preparation and due to appear in 2016 especially in the 'units' series from Jean-Louis Roba ( 2 volumes on Lehrgeschwader 1) and a new book on JG 54 from Philippe Saintes, not to mention titles on the Junkers Ju 52 (due in April 2016), the Focke Wulf Fw 200 and Philippe Couderchon's long-awaited hardback on French Fw 190s entitled 'From the Fw 190 to the NC 900'.

The second volume from Philippe Ricco on Beute French types in German colours (" Les Avions Français aux couleurs allemandes" ) is also due soon. Read Tom's review of Volume 1 on his blog here.

Also still available via the Lela Presse website is Jean-Louis Roba's superlatively illustrated (French-language) history of Kampfgeschwader 100 which we looked at on this blog here.

Get your paper copy of the new catalogue from the Lela Presse site or download a free copy here

Friday, 1 January 2016

Dornier Do 217 in II./KG 2 and II./ KG 40, Cognac, France 1941-42 - daily Ebay photo find #156

The Dornier Do 217 was the first new bomber design to enter large scale service with the Luftwaffe during the course of WW II. Introduced in early 1941, the Do 217 E-1 was at the time the fastest and heaviest German bomber in service and during the mid-war period played a major role in the night attacks on Britain with Kampfgeschwader 2. Beginning its combat career in the summer of 1941 when most of the bomber force had been deployed to the Eastern Front, the new bomber was assigned to two Gruppen remaining in the west, II./KG 2 and II./KG 40. At that time KG 2 was still largely equipped with the obsolescent Do 17 Z and air raids on Britian were largely ineffectual and desultory being largely confined to anti-shipping and mine-laying operations; Ofw. Borner of 4./KG 2 recalled ;

"....Our crew was sent to Oberpfaffenhofen to convert onto the new Do 217. We had lodgings in the Hotel Fleischmann and in houses around the airfield nearby in Steinebach. This new machine was considerably heavier and faster than our good old Do 17 Z and had been conceived as a 'universal' multi-role bomber, capable of horizontal and dive-bombing, as well as of performing mine-laying and torpedo-launching against shipping targets..Take off weight was some 16.5 tonnes and the aircraft could comfortably attain speeds of 460 kph. These were figures to inspire and be proud of. Above all the extra turn of speed would considerably increase our chances of survival (sic) when coming up against enemy fighters. However these were purely theoretical considerations. Laden with a full complement of defensive armament and a full bomb load, we could only manage 380 kph - the increased bomb carrying capacity was obviously the prime factor in the eyes of our hierarchy. The twin BMW 801 radials could go like the clappers and it was pure pleasure to push the throttles all the way forward and climb out steeply - all 16.5 tons- but the engines were largely untested in action. As we were to find out, in terms of increasing our survivibility, the Do 217 ultimately represented no progress at all.. The Do 217 had been developed under great secrecy and even now was still classed as Geheimhaltungstufe 1 - top secret. Even so a delegation of Soviet airmen was allowed to visit us during April 1941 and inspect our 'wonder bird' - they were mightily impressed. During our training our StaKa Oblt. Genzow was awarded the Ritterkreuz, which was naturally an event of some importance in the little town in upper Bavaria where we were stationed. There was a large parade through the town with flags and bunting, a march past of Hitler Youth in front of the entire population and Party officals. Meanwhile our training continued. On rest days we spent our time sunbathing on the banks of the nearby Lake Woerth. Swimming and sailing were popular activities - rubber dinghies were carried in the fuselages of our Do 217s and inflated automatically when jettisoned overboard. Now they were put to good use on the water - even when relaxing we were training for worst case scenarios..."

Translated by this blog author from Ulf Balke's "Der Luftkrieg in Europa - Teil 1", (Bernard, Graefe, 1989 ) with permission.

Below; Do 217 E-1 of KG 40 in an overall pale blue-grey camouflage scheme with low-viz markings.