Thursday, May 12, 2022

Wenn wir fahren gegen England!*

Junkers Ju 87 Sturzkampfflugzeug "Stuka"
The formation crossed the coast of the Cherbourg Peninsula shortly after leaving their base at Théville. They were still gaining altitude, their orders were to intercept and bomb an English convoy which was expected to make landfall at Southampton around noon. Feldwebel Ernst Wolfram grinned as he recalled his gunner, Flieger¹ Hans Decker, complaining that they would miss lunch, again.

"It's not right Herr Feldwebel, this will be the third day in a row with us in the air while the rest of the Geschwader gets lunch. I'm tired of brötchen and cold cuts, a hot meal would be nice!" Decker had been very insistent on this as they had preflighted their aircraft. "Why can't one of the other Staffeln take this mission?"

Wolfram had stopped in mid-stride, turning to his gunner he smiled and said, "I'll take that up with the Reichsmarschall² the next time I see him, ja?"

Wolfram smiled again as he remembered the look on young Decker's face, for the briefest of moments the lad had taken him seriously.

"How are you doing back there Junge?" he asked over the intercom as he looked back over his shoulder to see how his wingman was doing. As always Jürgen Meyer's aircraft was exactly where it was supposed to be.

"I'm all right, I'm surprised you can't hear my stomach rumbling over the noise of the engine." Meyer answered.

Wolfram snorted, the lad was still exercised over missing lunch.

"Ah, I thought it was the wind making that noise. You'll live."

Bill Evans was deck crew on a small steamer out of Felixstowe. His ship was sailing in convoy with ten other small ships, bound for Southampton. Evans was looking forward to a bit of shore leave. He'd been working this route since the Germans had invaded France and had been at sea the entire time.

He was taking it easy at the moment, the First Mate was harassing someone else for a change. He thought about lighting his pipe, then thought better of it, their cargo was highly flammable. So he sat back and watched the sea and the sky. He enjoyed days like this, clear, warm, and without much wind. A perfect day to be out on the water.

As he leaned back against the bulkhead he saw small spots way up to the southeast. After a moment, he realized that they were aircraft, a lot of aircraft. So he headed for the deckhouse, better to report and look a fool than not report and get his arse chewed by the Captain.

"Ships at ten o'clock." Wolfram heard over his radio. He looked in that direction, sure enough, he could see the wakes of a number of ships.

"Make sure your harness is tight Hans. Targets ahead."

Again the radio came to life, Wolfram recognized the Staffelkäpitan's³ voice, "All flights, attack in succession."

As he watched, the lead flight prepared to attack. Soon they would go into the steep dive which virtually guaranteed good bomb hits. Provided the pilot didn't lose his nerve and pull out of his dive too soon. Very few Stuka pilots lost their nerve.

The First Mate yelled at Evans to man the single 20 mm gun that was just forward of the hold, and just aft of the fo'c's'le. Though he had minimal training on the gun, it was better than the man they told off to be his loader.

"Miller, just load each one of these into here, like this." Evans demonstrated by loading the first magazine, the Oerlikon was simple enough, but Miller didn't seem all that bright.

"Ow, do I know when ta' reload the thing?" Miller asked.

"When the bloody gun stops firing or when I yell at ya. After you attach the magazine, go grab another. Keep 'em comin'!"

Evans adjusted the gun to his height and then swung it around to get a feel for it. Looking up he could see that for the moment his ship wasn't being targeted. But others around him were. He was quickly in action.

Looking through the window on the floor, Wolfram was watching for his target to appear, when it did, he punched the speed brakes out, then moved the throttle to idle as he pitched the aircraft's nose over. And there it was, just above his crosshairs, perfect.

Glancing over at the marks scribed onto the canopy glass, Wolfram could see that he was spot on, 60 degrees of dive, that mark aligned with the horizon. Looking forward he could see that his target was nicely centered along his line of attack. Then he saw that the ship he had chosen was starting to slip to his left, damned thing was maneuvering!

He adjusted for the ship's movement and he was dead on once again. At five hundred meters he pulled the bomb release, then retracted his speed brakes. Pulling back on his stick, he grunted as the G-forces pressed him down into his seat.

He could barely make out Decker yelling over the intercom. As the blood flow returned to his head, he could make out what the man was yelling, at the same time he heard Decker's gun hammering at something behind them.

"Englische Jagdflieger! Break left!" Decker was screaming.

Then there was a harsh thump aft and he could no longer hear Decker, the man's gun also fell silent. Wolfram knew they were in deep trouble.

"Hold your fire!" Evans could hear the First Mate screaming from just behind him, "You'll hit our boys!"

As he tracked the Stuka which had just pulled off of its bomb run, he saw a Hurricane in hot pursuit. As he looked away to find another target, he saw a thin stream of smoke issue from the German plane he had wanted to fire at, "Looks like the flyboy nailed him!" Miller yelled.

In the next instant a burst of antiaircraft fire from one of the other ships blotted the Hurricane from the sky.

Wolfram tried to see to the rear, he couldn't see or hear Decker. Then he heard the man's gun firing again. Perhaps the intercom was out. With his tail covered, he realized that he needed to concentrate on flying, he had just seen one German aircraft banking too low, the aircraft's left wingtip had caught a wave, sending the Stuka cartwheeling out of control and into the sea.

The convoy entered the Solent just after one o'clock, the brief action had scattered the ships and they took some time to reform. No further attacks had been forthcoming. The gunners aboard the various ships claimed seven dive bombers shot down and three fighter aircraft.

In reality, three German aircraft had been lost, the lone fighter shot down, and claimed by the gunners, was a Hurricane from 501 Squadron.

No ships had been lost, only one had suffered any appreciable damage.

Upon landing back at Théville, Wolfram discovered that he had lost one of the radios in his aircraft. Which accounted for the loss of the intercom system. Decker was unhurt, though still angry at missing lunch.

"Come on Junge, there's a café downtown which makes a very nice beef bourguignon, I'm buying."

"What the Hell is a bourguignon?" Decker asked.

Wolfram chuckled, "Ah, the ignorance of you provincials, it's a stew of beef braised in red wine, often red Burgundy, and beef stock, flavored with carrots, onions, garlic, and herbs, garnished with pearl onions, mushrooms, and bacon. I think you'll like it."

"And you're buying?"

"Natürlich, your gun saved us! It's the least I can do but feed you!"

The two Luftwaffe airmen received a pass, Decker was not disappointed with his meal.

Wolfram had noted that they were on the schedule again tomorrow. Again at lunchtime.

He made sure Decker was well fed.

Evans and Miller went ashore after their cargo was unloaded. They too went into town and headed for the nearest pub. Both reported for duty the next day very hungover.

They would be heading out again tomorrow, before lunch.

* When we drive against England! (German marching song)
¹ Airman (German)
² The rank of Hermann Göring, commander of the Luftwaffe and Hitler's number two man.
³ Squadron commander (German)


  1. The War marches on, new participants, more threads woven. The Stuka boys will run into the buzzsaw soon. Thumbs up Sarge.

    1. I wanted to have the Battle of Britain as one of the threads in the book. An interesting topic.

    2. Of course you would. Your handle O A S demands it. Great installment Sarge. Looking forward to this section of the series.


    3. It does, doesn't it? It's almost as if aviation is in my blood. 😁

    4. Crusty Old TV Tech here. Excellent couple of chapters the last few days. Glad you swung to the air war for a while. Fertile field that, Battle of the Beams, the Wizard War, Fighter Command, Bomber Command, etc. all ending up in space with the A4. Looking forward to more.

    5. I aim to please.

      Sometimes I hit the target.

  2. No taters in the stew? How uncivilized!

  3. Wow Sarge. This is a very exciting (is that the right word?) installment.

    Among the many things I doubt have, the resolve to dive into a hail of gunfire and not pull out until precisely the right moment is probably one of them.

    1. It took a great deal of nerve and focus to be able to do that. I doubt I could do it either!

    2. Not everyone is LTCDR. Dick Best I know I am not.

    3. Most folks know their limitations, those that don't are kinda scary.

  4. When the day was done, everyone involved in the story went out to eat.
    I really do enjoy this serial format of story telling, I guess if it was good enough for Charles Dickens & his fans it's good enough for us!

    1. I figured it was a good way to show the humanity of the participants, different sides but all having the same needs.

  5. I have some dim memory that Stukas had some arrangement with elevator trim that releasing the bomb dialed in a lot of nose-up trim so that the aircraft automatically broke out of its bomb run. My memory is firmer that they were pretty much slaughtered by the RAF on their cross-Channel raids.

    1. I need to look into that, your vague recollection triggered my own vague recollection, I think you're onto something there.

      And yes, the Ju 87 was easy meat for the Spitfires and Hurricanes of Fighter Command.

    2. Yep, the Stuka had an autopilot to pull out of the attack dive.

    3. Indeed -

      An automatic bombing system (which linked the autopilot, gunsight, bomb release gear, dive brakes, and elevators) simplified the pilot's actions. The pilot set his chosen altitude for bomb release/pull-out, normally 900 meters. Then, when he opened the dive brakes, the automatic system adjusted the elevator trim tabs and started the dive. The pilot then manually fined-tuned the dive angle (often 90 degrees!) by reference to the visual horizon. At release, the automatic controls adjusted the elevator trim tabs and the aircraft pulled out, usually getting no lower than 450 meters. (Source)

  6. An air force's desire for dining rather than grub seems not to be a solely American trait!

  7. Dive bombers without fighter escort were just a target for enemy fighters. And Germans had very short legged fighters at the time. It was bad over the Channel, and it would be even worse over London - 15 minutes of air combat and bingo fuel

    1. Yup. The Spit and the Hurricane also had short legs, but it didn't matter as they were fighting over England.


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