Messerschmitt Bf 109 E vol. II

Another Emil with oversized wing crosses. This machine belonged to 2./JG 77, which had taken part in the campaign in Poland. The fuselage number 15 is painted in red and outlined in white. Note the Gruppe emblem on the engine cowling. [Kageros's Archive]

On 1st January 1939 the fighters of JGr 88 set upon Valls aerodrome, destroying four I-15s on the ground. During the scrap that followed, Lt. Ensslen shot down an I-16 for his seventh victory. Over the next ten days German fighters claimed five enemy aircraft. Raids against various airfields were repeated on 12th January, with Valls, Villafranca del Panades and El Vendrell as targets. Each time the attackers achieved complete surprise. The Bf 109s strafed at will at Villafranca and destroyed four I-15s, and eight I-16s at the other two airfields. Besides this, several hangars were set on fire. The Germans returned to base with no losses of their own.
On 17th January 1939 the  pilots of 3./JGr 88 bagged four I-16s. German fighters flew both escort missions and strafing sweeps. On 21st January JGr 88 relocated to Valls, and soon afterwards to Sabadell. On 26th January the Nationalists captured Barcelona. Among the 13 victories scored by JGr 88 in January was the unit’s 300th, claimed on the 21st by Lt. Bolz (an I-15). On 29th January, Lt. Karl-August Bötticher was killed in action over Mollet.
Actions in February followed suit. On the 3rd two I-15s were shot down, with another the day after. On the afternoon of 5th February, JGr 88 teamed up with Italian Fiat CR.32s of 23o Gruppo “Asso di Bastoni” to attack an airfield at Figueres, not far from the border with France. The following day the fighters of JGr 88 strafed a nearby aerodrome at Villajuiga and destroyed 11 ‘Ratas’ and ‘Curtisses’ there. One I-15, which attempted to get airborne, was promptly shot down by Hptm. Reents flying a Bf 109 E-1 coded 6-119.
In the afternoon the Germans returned to the airfield, destroying more enemy aircraft on the ground, but not without cost. Overall, they hit 37 machines; the Republicans soon set fire to those damaged beyond repair. During the afternoon raid several scraps developed in the air. On his way to the target, Uffz. Hans Nirminger shot down a reconnaissance machine that had strayed across his path. Over the airfield I-15s of 3a Escuadrilla skillfully bounced the Germans. Teniente José Falcó swooped down out of the sun, and before the Germans even knew what had hit them, he had shot down two Emils! One, coded 6-96, crashed in the middle of the airfield, instantly killing its pilot, Uffz. Nirminger. Uffz. Heinrich Windemuth, the pilot of the other Bf 109 E (6-98), also perished. In return, Uffz. Halupczek brought down one I-15.
After the capture of Valencia, JGr 88 escorted bombers raiding Valencia, and in late February prepared for the thrust against Madrid. During that period the Germans chalked up five more victories, at the expense of the last remaining Republican aircraft, which were tasked with strafing Nationalist troops. On 6th March 1939, Oblt. Hubertus von Bonin, the Staffelkapitän of 3./JGr 88, shot down an I-15 over Rebasa near Alicante. Its pilot, Sargento Augustin Maestro Romerales of 2a Escadrilla, was killed. It was von Bonin’s fourth, and Jagdgruppe 88’s 314th and last victory.
From 10th March, JGr 88 operated in the Madrid area. The following day JGr 88 pulled its older Bf 109 models out of the line, and henceforth solely operated Emils. The Nationalists’ last offensive proved short and decisive. It was launched on 26th March, and after two days Madrid surrendered. During the last days of the war in Spain JGr 88 mainly carried out ground-support missions. On 29th March 27 Emils circled for an hour over Madrid, as a sign and symbol of Gen. Franco’s victory and the end of the bloody civil war.
On leaving Spain the Germans passed their aircraft to their allies, including several Bf 109 Es, which were designated C5 by the Spaniards. Due to their three-bladed propellers, the Emils were locally nicknamed Tripalas.

Boresighting machine guns was not a job for a single mechanic, as attested by this photo. That Bf 109 E-1 belonged to 5./JG 51. Fuselage sides were oversprayed with patches of RLM 02 and 70, which partially covered national insignia. [Kageros's Archive]


Blitzkrieg in Poland