Junkers Ju 88 vol. III


Ofw. Alfons Köster of 3./NJG 2 increased his tally by three kills. Before midnight on June 24 he downed a Wellington of 37 Sqn. over Benghazi followed, two nights later, by a 70 Sqn. Wellington over Sidi Barrani. June 27 was a lucky day for Fw. Werner Heyne who shot down one of the four Beaufighters attacking Derna airfield. The next victory belonged to Rökker: in the early hours of June 28 he shot down a 108 Sqn. Wellington after a low-level pursuit. The British bomber crash-landed in the dessert. A Ju 88 flown by St.Fw. Zappe was caught in heavy anti-aircraft fire. The gunner, Fw. Alfred Fuß was so terrified that he jettisoned the canopy and bailed out of the aircraft. The attempt at saving his life proved ill fated, as he hit the vertical stabilizer and was killed instantly. In the meantime, Zappe managed to nurse his damaged aircraft back to base and landed safely.
The following week opened up a lucky streak for 3./NJG 2’s commander, Hptm. Paul Semrau. By July 6 his tally grew by five victories, while the remaining I./NJG 2 pilots shot down only two enemy aircraft. Semrau’s success story began in the first minutes of June 30. His first victory was a heavy bomber. He noticed that the aircraft had four engines and twin vertical stabilizers, so he assumed that he shot down a Halifax. In reality he shot down an American Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bomber of HALPRO unit returning home after a raid against Tobruk. Less than 20 minutes later Semrau scored another kill, this time a Wellington. He shot down another Wellington on July 3, while one more was sent to the ground by Fw. Heyne. Early in the morning on July 5 Hptm. Semrau destroyed a Wellington of 38 Sqn., but on the same day the unit lost Lt. Erwin Wolfbauer’s crew. The following night two more Wellingtons fell victim to Semrau and Hptm. Harmstorf, but not without losses – Lt. Georg Wiedow’s crew did not return to base.
During the next two weeks I./NJG 2 flew combat patrols over the Eastern Mediterranean and flew supply missions out of Crete for Afrika Korps. Lt. Wolgang Wennig’s crew was lost during that time. The unit operated out of a number of bases simultaneously. The night fighters were detached to Benina, Benghazi, Berka, Derna, El Quasaba, Tobruk and Kastelli, Crete, while Catania in Sicily remained the main operating base.
The unit resumed its fighter operations on July 21/22. On that night Ofw. Köster shot down two Wellingtons, but his aircraft also suffered in the engagement. The pilot managed to land in the dessert and Köster, Ofw. Biehne and Uffz. Handl trekked for a day and a half to reach the German lines. Hptm. Heinz Harmstorf, who also downed a Wellington on the same night, was not so lucky. He was hit in the head by the British gunner’s fire and lost consciousness. The Junkers’ gunner took over the controls and landed safely at Quasaba. Heinz Harmstorf, who had four kills to his credit, succumbed to his wounds a few hours later.

Junkers Ju 88C-6 (W.Nr 360 022, F8+EX) from 13./KG 40. Lorient airfield, France, November 1942. The letter “E” on the fuselage painted in white and repeated in black on the lower wing surface. Propeller spinners in RLM 70 with a thin, white band. Cockpit reinforced with side-mounted armor plates. [Painted by Maciej Noszczak]


During the day of July 23 Ofw. Köster claimed an enemy aircraft, quite possibly a Boston of 24 SAAF Sqn. The night of July 25/26 saw a loss of 108 Sqn. Wellington shot down by Oblt. Hißbach, while Ofw. Sommer and Fw. Siewert downed two more on July 27. On the same night a team of British commandos attacked Quasaba airfield. One of the members of I./NJG 2 described the events of that night:
“The night of July 27 was a disaster to all of us. At about 1:00 am I heard explosions and shots fired at the airfield. Everybody thought that one of the aircraft caught fire and its ammunition was exploding. We didn’t know the real reason of the commotion until we heard the scream: British tanks on the airfield! Well, that was the last thing we needed! Get out of the tents! We could still hear the explosions and we saw enemy vehicles firing at the aircraft. We won’t be able to do much with just our side arms – Oblt. Hißbach said – and I don’t think they’re trying to take us prisoner. So we decided to lay low and wait. Tommy ran a surprise attack with approximately 16 vehicles having by-passed our positions in the dessert. The night guards used everything, including aircraft guns and 2 cm Flak weapons, to return fire. Before any counterattack could be launched, it was real hell. We lost all of our aircraft, except one, which was airborne at the time. Three Stukas were also destroyed and several other aircraft were burnt down. We also lost a few men who were either wounded or captured. To us, that was the end. Only with greatest effort did we manage to put together one serviceable aircraft out of all the wreckage. It seemed that it was over for us in Africa. We had enough, half of the men were sick.”

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