Messerschmitt Bf 109 E vol. II


During that period the Bf 109 Es flew mostly escort missions, but scraps with Polish fighters were very rare. This was mainly due to the fact that Polish squadrons were scattered along borders that were far too long to be covered by such a meagre force. Still, when they did slug it out, the Germans were not always on the winning side. On 1st September the Emil pilots not only failed to score any victories but also suffered their first losses. A formation of He 111s heading for Poznań was intercepted by three P.11s of 132. EM, and the escorts – Bf 109 Es of II./ZG 1 – attempted to bar the way. The Germans must have found the result of this early skirmish somewhat disturbing, for in the course of a fierce dogfight which lasted for a dozen or so minutes, the three Poles shot down two Emils. The victors were Ppor. [Second Leutnant) Kostecki-Gudelis and Kpr. [Corporal) Jasiński. One German pilot was killed, and the other captured. Although their names are unknown (the unit’s combat diary has not survived), many independent witnesses observed their duel and both wrecks were found.

At times various celebrities visited frontline units, JG 53 in that case, to provide morale boost and recreation. Machines of JG 53 featured a variety of painting schemes. This Bf 109 E-1 is painted in grey and lightly mottled in green. [Kageros's Archive]


The 6./186 unit, which participated in the attacks on Polish Navy ships in the Bay of Gdańsk, encountered heavy anti-aircraft fire and lost two Bf 109 E-3s. I.(J)/LG 2 also lost two Emils.
Soon the Polish Air Force found itself overwhelmed. The Emils scored their first victory over Poland on 3rd September, in the operational area of Luftflotte 4. At 16:20 hrs Lt. Rudolf Ziegler of 1./JG 76 shot down a PZL.23. Five minutes later another fell to Uffz. Willi Lohrer of 3./JG 76. On his first pass Ziegler learned that when attacking such a slow opponent, a special technique was required:
“The Pole violently broke off to port. He was chased by two of my comrades, but they too overshot. I bored in for a second firing pass. I knew by then that I needed more time for aiming. I lowered my landing flaps. I was 200 metres away when the rear gunner opened up on me. His bullets were whizzing past my cockpit, but I paid no attention to them. The Polish pilot dropped down as low as he dared, and now he was going flat out right on the deck. I was barely 25-50 meters above the ground when I cut the distance to 50 meters and let go a few bursts. I must have hit him with my starboard machine gun, for I saw a thin trail of smoke coming out of his starboard wing. Then I saw a red flame, which quickly spread. When the fire had engulfed the cockpit, the Polish machine rolled over and went straight down. A flash from the impact and a pall of smoke billowing up marked its end”.
Despite their hopeless situation, the PZL.23s of 1. EB (Bomber Squadron) fought back with determination. Their rear gunners hit Ziegler’s machine several times. Oblt. Dietrich Hrabak, the Staffelkapitän of 1./JG 76, was forced to belly-in when the engine of his fighter was riddled with bullets. He returned to his unit three days later. A third PZL.23 fell that day to Lt. Karl-Heinz Nordmann of 2./JG 77, who also learned to slow down before engaging a ‘Karaś’ (due to its fixed undercarriage, the cruise speed of the PZL.23 was barely 240 kph, its maximum speed 304 kph). Nordmann lowered not only his landing flaps, but the machine’s landing gear as well. His quarry – a PZL.23 of 2. EB - attempted a crash landing and at 17:45 hrs it nosed over.
On the afternoon of 4th September the pilots of I.(J)/LG 2 put up a fight in defence of their charges - some Stukas of III./St.G 2. Mixing it up with P.11s of III/4 DM, they knocked down two Polish fighters, one each credited to Fw. Hugo Frey and Ofw. Hermann Guhl (a third claim by Lt. Klaus Quaet-Faslem was not confirmed). One Bf 109 E was badly shot up by the Poles and eventually written off. On the same day Hptm. Wilfried von Müller-Rienzburg, the Kommandeur of I./JG 76, claimed a PZL.23.
On the morning of 5th September Hptm. Hannes Trautloft, the Staffelkapitän of 2./JG 76 and a Condor Legion veteran, opened his scoring over Poland. His Schwarm cornered a PZL.23 of 32. ER (Reconnaissance Squadron) and made short work of it.
In the afternoon 1./JG 76 claimed two ‘P.24s’ (this more advanced model, similar in appearance to the P.11, was exported to several countries, but didn’t see service in Poland). Victories were credited to Lt. Hans Philipp and Fw. Karl Hien. Phillip reported that before he opened fire, the pilot of the engaged fighter bailed out. It is possible that the Polish pilot had simply forgotten to fasten his seat belt and during the ensuing aerobatics fell out of his open cockpit.
Over the next few days further scraps with Polish fighters were inconclusive. The highly manoeuvrable P.11s, especially in the hands of skilled pilots, proved very difficult to pin down. On the other hand, the P.11’s armament of two 7.92 mm machine guns posed no real threat unless a Polish pilot scored a lucky hit in a Bf 109 E’s engine or radiator.