German Propaganda Archive Calvin College

 

Background: These two articles were published in the eighth of a series of booklets on the war. The date is in late in 1940. They give a German perspective on the Battle of Britain.

The source: “Zerstörer kämpfen über London” and “Alarm in Birmingham,” Bomben auf Engeland. Kleine Kriegshefte Nr. 8 (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP., 1940), pp. 1-5 and pp. 7-9.


Fighters Battle over London

by Benno Wundshammer


The “sharks” are over London again. Protected by their fighters, German bombing planes can carry out their attacks unhindered. 7000 meters are between the German airplanes and the burning capital of a dying empire, 7000 meters obscured by rising flames and choking smoke. Still, the path of the Thames is clear through the haze.

A fresh wind from the west blows the smoke to the side for a moment, and the German He-111ís fly through, their bomb bays releasing their payloads. As is so often the case, the enemy flak is wild and ineffective. As the German bombers begin their attack, enemy aircraft arrive. The sharks turn to meet then and the air battle begins. But Lieutenant Issue CoverB, wingman to the commander, can tell the story better:

“While the bombers were doing their splendid work, we suddenly noticed a big group of single-engine planes several hundred meters above us. The formation was on the same course as we were and had the same coloring as our Me-109 fighters. Under the lighting conditions— we were above the cloud layers—the whole formation looked like a formation of German fighters, and I thought wow, we sure are protected today! We thus held course, and watched our bombers hit their targets. Suddenly I saw a shadow above the cockpit, and heard a clattering in the rear of my aircraft and then saw beneath me enemy fighters. Spitfires and Hurricanes!

A quick look up gave me an unexpected shock. The presumed German fighter squadron was neatly in the process of turning to dive through our formation. They were shooting from every gun. I could see the gas vents. Gas vents? Ah, yes! When Spitfires and Hurricanes fire all of their guns at once, which are close to each other, the exhaust vents on their wings open. Their small flames have a devilish similarity to a burning gas vent.

We were being attacked! It lasted less then a minute, lightning-fast and too quick to understand. The English fighters plunged through our formation, guns blazing. Several daring lads went into spirals to scatter the formation.

Before I could respond, my good plane “Gerda” had been hit. I yelled into my radio, and was relieved to have everyone answer that they were unhurt. “Only hits in the side and the right wing, otherwise everything is in good shape!” Have I mentioned I was the commanderís wingman? Our head shark, the commander was up in front, then me, and behind us the whole group. The high society of the fighter world was gathered above London, and I had the catbird seat. I could hardly be attacked from the rear, since the enemy fighters would have to go through the entire squadron of sharks behind me, something that has not happened before and would be difficult to accomplish.

The English fighters in the meanwhile had turned to the side and were climbing high again, preparing for new attacks on us. We of course had hardly been sleeping, and were in the right firing position. They were as stubborn as donkeys, I tell you, attempting the same maneuver again. Suddenly I saw a Spitfire, hugging the tail of the commander flying just in front of me. A pretty picture, I thought to myself for a moment. In the bright sun both planes were vivid: the Spitfire sparkling in the light, gray-green with a strike of brown above and bright light blue beneath.

Its two cockades glittered like the eyes of a beautiful butterfly. I noted that only subconsciously, because I had already moved the stick a bit to pick up speed and get in a good firing position. Just then the radio blared: “Shit!” Spitfire to the left!” Shortly after: “Another Spitfire to the right!” A tough spot, I thought, and than the thought went through my mind that it would be a shame if they shot down our Old Man right before my nose!

You know, everything went through my head in a tenth of a second, and I’d made the decision: Go after the Spitfires to the left and right and save the chief. The position was a good one. The old lady Spitfire was in my sights. I pressed the firing button and the tracers shot forward... and hit! The Spitfire shook, turned — its lights had gone out — and turned over, all in an instant. I shot once more, and it plunged into the clouds beneath and disappeared. And what the devil, sometimes oneís good deeds are rewarded. In this case, at least, that was true. As I dispatched the Spitfire, my comrades in the rear had done the same to the other one. As I looked back, things were clear behind me...

Now we had a moment of quiet. The fighters were elsewhere. I flew past the commander. But now they were back! We fought back, hardly giving them the chance to get a shot in. I could not see much of what was going on, since I was keeping an eye on the commanderís aircraft. Something had happened to it. It lost altitude at every turn, shook, and seemed likely to crash. Had something happened? Something had happened — engine problems. I saw that the right propeller was turning more slowly, and finally stopped moving altogether. The right engine had been hit, and over London, the center of the enemy fighters, right in the middle of a fight with a numerically superior enemy that was coming at us from all directions. Not a pleasant situation. The injured machine was naturally slower and less maneuverable. We had to protect it. That naturally affected the maneuverability and fighting ability of the entire squadron. But our commander was an experienced Lufthansa pilot and he was able to keep the plane in the air.

What else can I say? We shot down three more Spitfires during this battle before we slowly broke from the enemy and headed home. That is always a delicate matter, since it can easily happen that the last plane has a hard time of it, just as the dogs bite the slowest. But not to worry, in this case the sharks did the biting, not the dogs. We reached the coast with no losses. We kept the commander in the middle of the formation to prevent any surprises. We reached the English coast, then the Channel.

We were still quite high. We were cold and needed our oxygen. And then something else happened! A last surprise in this mission that certainly had not been a boring one. The other motor died! The commanderís second one, of course! In the middle of the Channel, far, far from our coast. I must say I was scared. What could the commander do? Bail out? Nothing doing! How about gliding? Rightly handled, our Me 110 makes an excellent glider. And, as I already said, our Old Man can fly. A good thing we still had a lot of altitude. I was not entirely sure of our altitude, speed, and glide path. The old man was wondering if he could make it, and I was too. But it all turned out all right. Slowly, painfully slowly the French coast grew clearer, and soon I could see the broad yellow-brown beach. We were not all that high any more, because the commander had to keep dropping to keep the glide going. He made an unexpected turn in his glide and was flying parallel to the coast. What was he doing? Did the commander want to go still further? Actually, his new course headed directly to the landing strip at B. But then he seemed to have another idea, and kept gliding along the beach.

Things got critical. It looked as if the machine would crash in the last minute. Then I saw how well our chief could fly. He recognized the danger and brought his plane back on course. Shortly afterward the plane made an emergency landing. The landing gear did not descend, since on unfamiliar ground and without the engines, a belly landing is the only possibility. He was good! It was low tide, with a broad glittering beach. He landed the machine right on the boundary between the land and the water. There was a huge spray of water than entirely concealed the plane for a few seconds, then as I looked down I saw the plane at rest in calm water, with the Old Man standing on the wing.”


Alarm in Birmingham

Noise and Fire — An Aircraft Factory Destroyed

by Oskar Lachmann


The orders were to destroy the engine and aircraft factories at Birmingham! Flying high in a northerly direction, we are already over England. The stars above were bright up until the coast, but only an occasional faint light could be seen below. With no orientation points, our engines brought us toward our goal. The reliable maps and the illuminated control panel of the warplane were enough. The English could give up wasting energy. We aimed toward the million candlepower searchlights that illuminate the night.

German night flyers do not need signposts! But our altitude kept us safe!

Since the searchlights had not yet found us, we enjoyed the bursting fireballs of English flak. The flak provides a wonderful fireworks display, as long as it is being fired without a clear target. But this did not last long, since soon shrapnel was bursting near us. A searchlight had found us! We were in the center of an enormous cathedral of light. The English flak is trying hard to entertain us with its hellish fireworks — but it does not hit us! Slowly we near our target, and the lights from one city pass us along to the next.

The center of English industry is beneath us. The ovens and steel works are working day and night to meet the needs of the army and navy. The ovens illuminate the area and are protected by powerful flak batteries. But neither they nor the numerous iron or coal mines, or the textile factories interest us today. No, we are after the engine and aircraft factories.

Intense defensive fire reaches toward us. Birmingham is at the highest level of alertness! Hell seems to have broken loose down below, but do they know what is coming? There are militarily important targets for us, and in a few minutes the previously unhit production facilities will be an inferno of ruins. The bombbays are already open!

We circle outside Birmingham a few times. The bombsights have good visibility. Despite the blackout, we see the outlines of the aircraft factory. The big assembly halls where aircraft are certainly being built are clear.

“Ready!” is the brief order! Seconds of tension — we hear nothing — the noise of the engines and the busting flak is a kind of music—and He-111 Photolook only downwards, as much as possible from the cockpit. The captain continues to circle until things line up.

OK! Two bombs of our load are on their way. The few seconds of their fall seems an eternity. Then we see powerful explosions in the factory. Reddish-yellow flames show that we hit! It is bright down below. We can see the factory clearly. The huge fire is bright red now, and its changing colors display the speed of the raging fire.

Despite the cold around us, our pulse beats faster. That comes from the tension and satisfaction we feel. A weekend in Birmingham! We have succeeded — and right away! Our next bombs are to complete our destructive work. We keep the same course toward the next target. Every barrel of English flak spits death and destruction into the night sky.

We soon see where the “big ones” are to go, for the large factory is lit bright as day by the searchlights. Now! Our reliable He-111 jumps a bit. They there is a terrible sound and we see the explosions and then more noise!

It must be terrible. The earth seems to burst as rockets of sparks or burning fragments fly through the air. We can see it from our altitude! A powerful fire is devouring what once was a major factory. The enemy armaments work is destroyed! No more airplanes will see the light of day in this factory for the foreseeable future!

 

[Page copyright © 1998 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.]


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