Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Udet U 11

The sole Udet U 11 Kondor [condor] Grossverkehrsflugzeug [large airliner], Werknummer 243, photographed in January 1926 at Oberschleissheim airfield north of Munich, with test pilot Harry Rother. The aircraft is still in pristine condition and devoid of any markings; it would later be assigned the fuselage code D-828. First flown by Rother on January 19, 1926, the U 11 was powered by four Siemens & Halske Sh 12 air-cooled radial engines with aerodynamic fairings, extended driveshafts (necessitated due to the pusher configuration), and two-blade propellers.

The U 11 was the largest aircraft produced by Udet Flugzeugbau, München-Ramersdorf, following an order by Deutscher Aero Loyd. As is beautifully illustrated by the photos, it was an open-cockpit design with side-by-side seating for the two pilots. The navigator's station was located in the very front of the aircraft, ahead of the pilots. The fuselage was constructed from Duralumin profiles and covered by Duralumin sheets. It could seat eight passengers and also contained a toilet and a luggage compartment.

The wings, featuring two main spars, were manufactured from wood, with fabric covering and a plywood-reinforced leading edge. The empennage consisted of Duralumin tubing and profiles, also covered with fabric. The landing gear was fitted with a then rather common rubber suspension system and 1100 by 220mm main wheels.

Rother's test flights revealed significant design shortcomings, and the aircraft's service career with Deutsche Lufthansa (successor to Deutscher Aero Loyd) was correspondingly brief. The U 11 subsequently crashed during the delivery flight to Deutsche Verkehrsfliegerschule [German air transport school]. The failure of the U 11 was among the reasons for the financial failure of Udet Flugzeugbau and its eventual acquisition by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (BFW). At least one of the above photos appears to have been an official release by BFW, as it bears a company stamp on the rear.

Enlargements of sections of the second photo posted above reveal a number of interesting details (below).

Monday, 27 July 2015

Focke-Wulf Fw 58

Inspection of the starboard Argus As 10 engine of a Focke-Wulf Fw 58 C Weihe [harrier] liaison aircraft, photographed at Cottbus, near Berlin. Unfortunately, none of the aircraft's markings are visible, thus rendering a more detailed identification difficult.

The inscription on the back of the original photograph reads: Vor dem Start [before take-off]. The exact date is unknown, although judging by the attire of some of the mechanics, the picture appears to have been taken in summer. (Fischer collection)

Friday, 24 July 2015

After The Battle Magazine: Nordhausen

Karel Margry, After The Battle magazine no. 101, Battle of Britain International Ltd., London, England, 1998. Magazine article, illustrated, published in English.

Cover image © by Battle of Britain International Ltd., 1998.

As related in my review of Jean Paul Pallud's After The Battle magazine article First Manned Rocket Launch (issue no. 151), posted here on June 4, 2013, After The Battle is a quarterly military history specialist publication, committed to an extremely well researched and deeply absorbing "then and now" approach, and focused on the period of World War II. Moreover, After The Battle magazine's articles are abundantly illustrated, and the photos provided are expertly captioned. This is something I consider essential, but it is all too often lacking, even in dedicated special interest publications.

After The Battle no. 101 is one of the magazine's occasional issues to contain material regarding the German aerospace industry of the period. For anybody reasonably well versed in German history of the 20th century, the name Nordhausen will be inextricably linked to the abysmal existence of the Mittelwerk GmbH underground production facilities in the Kohnstein mountain and the associated Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. The Mittelwerk facility was created with the aim to protect the manufacture of some of Germany's most advanced aerospace products - Fieseler Fi 103 missiles, A4 rockets, and Junkers jet engines - from Allied bombing campaigns. It was not least the bombardment of the Peenemünde rocket research centre on the shores of the Baltic Sea in August of 1943 that revealed how vulnerable Germany had become to air attacks as the war dragged on. Mittelbau-Dora, on the other hand, housed the inmates who were forced to construct both the concentration camp itself and the tunnel system of Mittelwerk.

The enormous Mittelwerk underground manufacturing plant and the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp are prime examples of the immeasurable ruthlessness applied by the National Socialist leadership in order to vainly attempt to avert an inevitable, self-inflicted, and utterly complete defeat. The associated cost in terms of human suffering was staggering and yet of no consideration whatsoever to the powers that be. In spite of such colossal and infinitely inhuman efforts, however, both the construction of the facilities and the actual mass production of rockets, missiles, and engines at Mittelwerk came too late in the war to still effect a perceptible impact - other than the indescribable human misery perpetrated at Mittelwerk and Mittelbau-Dora, that is.

Nordhausen is the main feature of After The Battle no. 101. It is a 42-page investigation into the wartime history and subsequent fate of the Mittelwerk and the Mittelbau-Dora, written by accomplished long-time After The Battle author Karel Margry. The article is presented in the typical After the Battle format, i.e., carefully researched text, illustrated by numerous black & white photos, many of them providing interesting comparisons between wartime scenes and the very same locations as they appeared at the time the article was written (1998). In addition, four colour photos relating to the topic can be found on the magazine's cover and in the centre-spread. The article also contains various maps to provide context with regard to geographic locations, underground production facilities, and concentration camp installations.

Moreover, the deeply captivating - and frequently intensely disturbing - photo content complements Margry's competent and comprehensive narrative enormously. The images provide views of the inside and outside of the Mittelwerk production facilities as well of the situation at Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. The historic photos were taken both during the war and right after the cessation of hostilities, and the comparison with the modern day situation is often intriguing. Although much has been published about wartime Germany's underground manufacturing facilities in recent decades, images depicting the inner workings of these facilities are still somewhat rare, and Margry's Nordhausen provides a number of such extraordinary glimpses. Next to various details of the tunnel system itself, there are many shots of A4 and Fi 103 components at various assembly stages.

Perhaps most importantly, however, the article does not neglect to delve deeply into the topic of slave labour and the associated concentration camp installations, in text and pictures. This is an immensely crucial subject matter all too often willingly (and thus negligently and spinelessly) "overlooked" in uncounted otherwise competent specialist publications on the late-war German aerospace industry and its output. The construction of the camp and manufacturing plant at Nordhausen as well as the subsequent manufacturing operations resulted in a death toll of around 20,000 human beings. The rational, clean layout drawings of the camps thus stand in perverse contrast to what can only be described as drastic images depicting the fate of those unlucky enough to have been confined there.

The creation of much, if not all, of the most modern and fascinating German aerospace equipment at that stage of the war would have been impossible without the implementation of slave labour of the most barbarous kind. This is an irrevocable fact of greatest significance, and it apparently renders rather uncomfortable a number of authors specialised in the field. It is to Karel Margry's credit that he did not elect to cheaply skirt around the issue and that he instead addressed it frankly and yet without hyperbole or tendentiousness.

All back issues of After the Battle magazine, including the above reviewed issue no. 101, remain available through the publisher's website. More information regarding Mittelwerk and Mittelbau-Dora may be found in Yves Le Maner & André Sellier's remarkable Bilder aus Dora, reviewed elsewhere in this blog.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Arado Ar 96 TG+TN Redux

A few months ago, fellow student of historic German aviation Eric Guillaume provided me with an alternate view of Arado Ar 96 B "yellow 20"/TG+TN, the subject of a detailed blog entry published here on June 27, 2013. Eric was kind enough to allow me to feature his photo in a post on this blog, thus facilitating a more complete picture of the aircraft in question.

It is evident that Eric's photo (bottom) was taken around the same time as the photo I originally posted (top), as the aircraft appears to be in the very same, abandoned condition, resting on jacks. Due to the customary practice of boarding the aircraft from the port side, the aircraft's camouflage is less deteriorated on the starboard wing fairing than on the port wing fairing.

I would like to express my gratitude to Eric Guillaume for providing me with the image and consenting to its publication in this context. (Fischer collection, top; Guillaume collection, bottom)

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Vera von Bissing

Images of German aerobatic aviatrix Vera von Bissing, originally featured in Erika - Die frohe Zeitung für Front und Heimat [Erika - The Happy Newspaper For Front And Homeland], no. 43, volume 1, Berlin, October 1940 (see cover, top), published and printed by Deutscher Verlag, Berlin.

Erika was a generously illustrated German periodical with a rather modest page-count, published in the early 1940s. At first appearing weekly, it was later restricted to a monthly publication schedule, and then terminated. The topics covered include entertainment, reports, and propaganda.

After attaining her pilots license in 1930, Vera von Bissing (October 23, 1906 - June 15, 2002) was trained in aerobatics by Gerhard Fieseler and subsequently became a notable and successful aerobatic pilot.

The images reproduced here were originally part of a one-page, five-photo report, illustrating Vera von Bissing's activities in the service of the National Socialist Flyers Corps (NSFK). In actual fact, von Bissing's relationship with the NSFK appears to have been somewhat coerced and strained.

The centre photo depicts von Bissing and an unnamed mechanic working on the Siemens-Halske Sh 14 A engine of her personal BFW M 35 b sports aircraft D-EXIV. The photo below shows von Bissing flying D-EXIV, although the article presents this as von Bissing test flying a newly completed aircraft. Note that the front seat has been covered.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Schleicher Rhönbussard & Schneider Grunau Baby

DFS/Schleicher Rhönbussard, likely D-6-612 (the dark aircraft in the main photo, top, and in the detail enlargement, bottom), and Schneider Grunau Baby D-6-660 (light coloured aircraft in the rear and in the detail enlargement, centre) of NSFK-Gruppe 6 Breslau (Schlesien).

The Rhönbussard first flew in 1933. It was designed by Hans Jacobs as a small high-performance sailplane. The number of completed aircraft amounted to over 200.

In its original configuration, the Grunau Baby sailplane was designed by Edmund Schneider, together with Wolf Hirth, in Winter 1930/31. Several thousand Babys were built.

Devised in spring of 1937, the aircraft code system (e.g. D-6-660 ) of the NSFK [Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps, i.e., National Socialist Flyers Corps] was implemented by July 25, 1937. The exact date of the photograph and the location are currently unknown to me, however. (Fischer collection)