Part Two

Air Crew and Ground Crew

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Men of a Luftwaffe anti-aircraft unit at work on a range finder used to predict anti-aircraft fire. These optical devices worked in one of two ways to enable the users to calculate ranges, either coincidence or stereoscopic. Using coincidence the rangefinder split the target aircraft image into two separate pieces, usually one above the other; the two views were then moved into alignment to produce a range figure. The stereoscopic technique used two separate images of the target aircraft, one for each eye, that had to be merged together to get the correct range. These rangefinders were just a small part of the Luftwaffe’s extensive anti-aircraft system which, at its peak, employed 1.25 million personnel, such was the importance placed on it by the Third Reich. (IWM HU92638)

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An oberleutnant aboard a Bv138 flying boat. These aircraft were powered by three Jumo diesel engines which, though economical, did not bestow great performance. Although the Bv138 could carry a small bombload or depth-charges, most operations were purely reconnaissance. The aircraft could defend itself though and the type was credited with the destruction of an RAF Catalina and a Blenheim. Some were later modified to carry out minesweeping duties. Most Bv138s were equipped with catapult points for operation from seaplane tenders and some were fitted with a modified fuel filter to remove seawater pollutants when refuelling from U-boats. (IWM HU92196)

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The wartime caption reads, The German anti-aircraft arm is equipped with the most modern listening equipment which can pick up the slightest sound of enemy aircraft. At the beginning of the war, the most-used type of searchlight in the Luftwaffe was the 150cm Flakscheinwerfer 37. Operating in units of up to 64 lights, the ears of the searchlights were the sound locators, although the wider ranging fire-control radars that entered service later in the war were more effective. During 1942 the much brighter 200cm Flakscheinwerfer 40 entered service. These were usually positioned close to the radar. If searchlights were brought to bear on to a target aircraft and locked on then the aircraft was rendered useless as a bomber because the bomb-aimer was blinded. (IWM HU92197)

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Over the target. A Luftwaffe film reporter switches on the camera, fixed in the fuselage of the bomber, when the target area is reached. What is not clear is whether the film was for propaganda or mission evaluation purposes. The Nazis were experts in the use of propaganda, a weapon of control, upon their own people. Hitler, who was aware of the value of good propaganda, appointed Joseph Goebbels as Minister of Propaganda and National Enlightenment. The Luftwaffe had been central to the effective use of blitzkrieg tactics and were largely responsible for early success in the campaigns in the west. The Luftwaffe in action was a popular topic for newsreels and Goebbels had to ensure that the German Air Force always appeared to be one to be reckoned with. This man wears the Type FL 30231 seat type parachute (Sitzfallschirm). The fact that it resembles the harness used by the RAF is no coincidence, as from 1937 the Luftwaffe contracted British company Irvin to supply parachutes. Following the outbreak of war Germany continued to copy and produce this system with very few modifications. (IWM HU92198)

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On a night operation against England surely and accurately, the pilot flies his machine, heavily laden with bombs, in an attack against the industrial area of the Midlands. In 1940-41 the Luftwaffe carried out sustained bombing campaigns against London and other British cities in which over 43,000 British citizens lost their lives. The Blitz, though named after the German Blitzkrieg strategy of mobile offensive ‘lightning’ warfare, was most certainly not an example of this. While the Battle of Britain raged, the Luftwaffe had concentrated on the attempted destruction of the Royal Air Force although a limited bombing campaign against industrial and communications targets had been under way since mid-August 1940. On the night of 24 August 1940, German bombers intended for the oil refineries at Thames Haven dropped their bombs on central London. Churchill immediately ordered retaliatory attacks against Berlin which led to an escalation of the air war from both sides. (IWM HU92199)

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This propaganda photo from mid-1940 had the caption, Coastal defence along the Channel. The finely attuned ear of the A.A. listening apparatus picks up the hum of aircraft engines from the direction of the Channel. The range of early German sound locators was around three and a half miles but as sound takes time to travel, aircraft tended to be a mile ahead of the location at which they generated their engine noise. Consequently the early ‘listeners’ were really only for last minute warning of fighter aircraft. As the war progressed Flak became more accurate and certainly more numerous. By 1942, around 15,000 88mm guns defended Germany as well as 37mm and 20mm guns. The 88s could fire a 10kg shell up to 10,600m at a rate of 15-20 rounds per minute. When the shells exploded at a preset altitude, they sent metal splinters flying in all directions at high speeds. (IWM HU92200)

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An iron greeting for England. This photo shows Luftwaffe gorund crew bombing up a Heinkel He111. The Heinkel He111 bomber could carry some ordnance externally beneath its wings but the air craft’s two ESAC bomb bays, one either side of the walkway linking front and rear crew compartments carried bombs vertically. Standard load was eight 250kg bombs stowed nose uppermost as shown in the photo. The bombs being loaded here are in fact 50kg. In the early stages of the Second World War the majority of German High Explosive bombs dropped on Britain were 50 or 250 kg but gradually bombs of increasing size and weight were available to the Luftwaffe(IWM HU54512)

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German fliers in Sicily. Painting the squadron badge. A Luftwaffe airman paints the white cockerel emblem of Zerstörergeschwader 26 ‘Horst Wessel’ onto a Messerschmitt Bf110. The arrival in Sicily of a large force of Luftwaffe combat aircraft was bad news for Malta. Already pounded, but not beaten, by the Italians, Malta now received such a sustained bombardment that the island itself was awarded the George Cross. By April 1942 the British had evacuated all aircraft and ships from the island, such was the ferocity and regularity of the attacks. This was a missed opportunity for Berlin. Had the Germans not still been smarting from the heavy losses of airborne troops in the invasion of Crete and invaded Malta it would surely have succeeded. (IWM HU92201)

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The German caption for this read, Preparations for the start despite cold and snow. The attack on England is carried out despite the difficulties caused by adverse weather conditions. SC250 bombs can be seen beneath the Heinkel He111. The main types of bombs used by the Luftwaffe were types designated SC (Spreng-Cylindrisch, a thin-cased general purpose high-explosive weapon); SD (Spreng-Dickewand, thick-cased semi-armour piercing) and PC (Panzer-Cylindrisch, armour piercing). These type designations were a prefix, followed by a number indicating their weight in kilogrammes. e.g. SC250, SD500. Some of the larger German bombs had nicknames, for example, SC1,000 Hermann (named after Göring, chief of the Luftwaffe), SD1,000 ‘Eseu’ (short for Entseuchung or mine-clearing). (IWM HU92202)

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Officers and men of 2/KG77 at Freux auxiliary airfield in Belgium 1940. The aircraft in the background is a Dornier 17Z. As the Luftwaffe blitzed its way through western Europe the air force had to find bases as each step in the campaign was achieved. The military bases seized from the enemy were most sought after as they had permanent facilities, which, even after sabotage, were soon recommissioned. Auxiliary airfields like Freux may have had protective revetments built while Luftwaffe specialists would have ensured power requirements were met. Warning lights would have appeared on buildings nearby if not already in place. Accommodation for officers and men if not available on site ’would have been found in commandeered houses or hotels near the airfield. Piled to the side of the personnel are their personal clothing bags (Bekleidungs-sacke), indicating that they have just arrived or are about to depart. (IWM HU22370)

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A march past at the Luftwaffe basic training school or Fliegerersatzabteilung at Neu Kuhren. After six months, recruits destined for flying training would move on to a Fluganwärterkompanie for around two months of general aeronautical tuition before moving on to elementary flying school. Wearing Paradeanzug (parade dress) these recruits pass out on completion of their basic training. Officers wear brocade belts, aiguillettes and swords while some recruits sport marksmanship shoulder cords. In the German tradition, Colours were carried by non-commissioned officers and escorted by junior officers. Note the Fahnenträger (colour bearer) carries the Colour and wears the brocade Colour belt. (IWM HU22478)

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Early Second World War interior of the Officers’ Mess at Oldenburg Luftwaffe base. Note the bust of Hitler. Pre-war messes of this type were frequently decorated with murals depicting the clandestine formation and development of the Luftwaffe. Oldenburg had a great military heritage and was the second largest garrison town in the Third Reich. Work on the Luftwaffe base began in the mid-1930s while the German Air Force was still secret. Initially a training station, the airfield later became a day and night fighter base. Later in the war the base was regularly attacked by Allied bombers and as the Allied troops prepared to overrun the airfield, leaflets were dropped on the defenders which said We want to spare Oldenburg, because we will live here(IWM HU23725)

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Leutnant Johannes Naumann, describing an air combat he had whilst his unit was engaged in protecting the Scharnhorst and Gneisanau together with other ships of the German Fleet during their February 1942 dash through the English Channel. Naumann was with III/JG26 at the time and flying the Focke-Wulf Fw190 seen in the photograph. (IWM HU38417)

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Excellent study of the crew at work within a Blohm und Voss Bv138 Flying Boat. The original German caption states that the Oberleutnant pictured at the centre was this aircraft’s commander – note the rank patch on his left arm with the two pairs of wings and the white bar. Both men wear the LKp W100 winter flying helmet, a sheepskin-lined leather helmet that featured ear telephones and built in throat microphones. The Oberleutnant (left) wears Model 306 goggles (Fliegerschutzbrille). The Blohm und Voss Bv138 Seedrache (sea dragon) was unofficially referred to as the flying clog by its crews. The type served in the Atlantic, Arctic, Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean, Baltic and Black Sea and equipped a total of around twenty squadrons. All the crew are wearing standard fighter and bomber crew inflatable life jackets. Usually worn deflated, the jacket ‘bladder’ was inflated by opening a small compressed-air bottle attached to the lower left side of the jacket. The jacket could also be inflated orally by the black tube with a one-way valve seen fitted vertically on the front left side of the officer’s jacket. (IWM HU92203)

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