Part Three

Luftwaffe Operations

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The caption of the time read, Under the most dramatic circumstances, the Italian Head of State Mussolini was released from his imprisonment by the government of the traitor Bagoglio. Mussolini was liberated from the Grand Sasso in the Abruzzi mountains by men of the German parachute formations. The picture shows the Duce leaving his prison in a Fieseler Storch aircraft. The special commando/special forces unit that carried out the audacious mission was commanded by Otto Skorzeny and was composed of Luftwaffe Fallschirmjäger (paratroops), Sicherheitsdienst (SS Security Service) and Waffen SS(IWM HU92213)

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When this photo was issued for propaganda purposes in 1941 the caption proudly proclaimed, They bombed the Empress of Britain. The largest ship ever built for the transatlantic route to Canada was the Empress of Britain. At more than 45,000 tons, the Canadian Pacific liner dwarfed her competitors. In peacetime, the Empress of Britain undertook winter cruises to exotic locations like Hong Kong and South America. On 26 October 1941 the crew (pictured) of a KG40 Focke Wulf 200 Condor, based in the South of France, found the Empress of Britain, impressed as a troop transport, at sea some 110km north west of Donegal. The Luftwaffe aircraft straddled the ship with bombs causing it to catch fire and a U-boat later sank her with two torpedoes. For leading the attack, the captain of the Condor, Bernhard Jope (pictured with flying suit) was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. (IWM HU54518)

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Stuka pilots in the Mediterranean theatre being given their briefing. During the Battle of Britain the Stuka was found to be vulnerable to modern fighters but the type continued to serve. It was widely used during the fierce battle for Crete operating from Greek airfields. The invasion of Crete, Operation MERKUR, called for the Stukas to attack both ground targets in support of German paratroopers as well as Royal Navy ships. The officer, a Leutnant (centre) is wearing a private purchase leather coat, cut in identical style to the official cloth greatcoat and adorned with shoulder boards indicating his rank. These coats were permitted but at the officer’s personal expense. (IWM HU92204)

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The wartime caption for this photograph read, A German Ju88 brings back the top of a ship’s mast. During a low-level attack upon a British destroyer, the top of the ship’s mast tore the underneath part of the fuselage. The mast tip, however, remained in the aircraft’s body. The machine made a successful landing. The picture shows the plate shaped torn-off mast tip of the British destroyer. An unusual war souvenir. The aircraft that had flown unfeasibly low over the ship was in fact a Heinkel He111. Piloted by a Major Harlinghausen during the Norwegian campaign, the aircraft attacked the SS Sirius in the Westfjord. Harlinghausen survived the war and served in the post-war Luftwaffe until 1961. (IWM HU92205)

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The moment of impact as a road bridge at Volotov, 3kms east of Novgorod, receives a direct hit from a Stuka of I/Stuka 2 on 17 August 1941. On that day, German forces pushing towards Leningrad captured Narva. The Ju87D could carry an 1,800kg bomb beneath the fuselage and four 50kg or two 500kg bombs beneath its wings. Most Stukas were, however, armed with the 1,400kg armour piercing bomb or the 1,000kg general purpose weapon. (IWM HU24848)

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This dramatic photograph shows a train burning after the attack by Ju87s of III /Stuka 2 on 8 July 1941 near Tuschkovo, on the line between Memel and Novosakoloniki. At this stage of the war in the East, Panzergruppe 4 had captured Pskov and advanced toward Novgorod and Leningrad.

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Photograph taken from an enemy aircraft during the attack on HMS Gloucester by Luftwaffe Ju87s and Ju88s on 22 May 1941. The ship can be seen taking avoiding action. The Gloucester was completed in January 1939 and in May 1940 joined the 7th Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean fleet based at Alexandria. In July 1940 Gloucester was damaged by an Italian air attack and her Commanding Officer, Captain F R Garside, was killed. Between August 1940 and May 1941 the ship was involved in many actions, and earned many battle honours as well as the nickname, ‘The Fighting ‘G’’. In May 1941 while Royal Navy ships sought to prevent a German seaborne landing on Crete they were subjected to frequent attacks from the air. After repeated attacks and numerous direct hits, HMS Gloucester sank in the Antikythera Channel, north-west of Crete on 22 May 1941. In less than a year’s service in the Mediterranean, HMS Gloucester had lost over 736 men, including two Commanding Officers. Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham said, ‘Thus went the gallant Gloucester. She had been hit by bombs more times than any other vessel, and had always come up smiling.’ (IWM HU24829)

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