Twelve Spitfires reported over Berck-sur-Mer! We could still have a go at these lads…
Gathering speed while descending from an altitude of 8000 meters down to 5000, we intend to cut off the English. We are already over the middle of the Channel when a squadron of Spitfires looms ahead. Their tight, rigid formation gives them away for miles. We’re moving up-sun to stay hidden in its blinding rays and position ourselves for a bounce. We’re trailing the enemy formation like a shadow. Over Dungeness, when the English make a wide turn to starboard, the machine on the right flank falls slightly behind the others. Our Geschwaderkommodore1 closes in to point-blank range and from a distance of no more than 50 meters, opens up. The stricken Spitfire falls over on its port wing and plummets towards the ground streaming a long white trail.
Our commander immediately breaks away and pulls up in a steep, right turn, so that the others can also engage. I go straight for the next Spitfire but when I line him up in my sights, the English pilot gets wise and breaks away to starboard. I lay off a lot of deflection and press the trigger. I can see my rounds rake across his fuselage and cockpit. The Spitfire hurtles down and I follow him in his dive. Then I cast a quick glance over my shoulder – just in time! A swarm of Spitfires trails after me in hot pursuit. With all my strength I push the stick into the right corner of the cockpit and ram the throttle lever forward. After several anguished moments I outdistance my pursuers and head for home.
The commander arrives over our airfield shortly afterwards and waggles the wings of his Messerschmitt. Everybody is excited - the ground crews rush to shake his hand. Pity I didn’t see what happened to the Spitfire I had fired at. Perhaps he didn’t make it back, just like the one knocked down by our CO. Either way, I pumped a lot of lead into mine2.
Designing the ‘Friedrich’
In the autumn of 1938 the design team of the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in Augsburg began work on a development version of the Messerschmitt Bf 109 E, which at that time was entering service as the primary fighter of the German Luftwaffe. Prof. Willy Messerschmitt, the company’s founder, and Robert Lusser, chief of project planning, sought to develop an improved version of the aircraft which could outperform earlier variants by means of an aerodynamically refined airframe and a more powerful engine.
The new fighter, designated Bf 109 F, was to be powered by the Daimler-Benz DB 601 E engine, a development version of its successful predecessor, the DB 601 A, used on the Bf 109 E. The new DB 601 E was an inline engine with direct fuel injection to the cylinders. Displacement was 3390 cm³ and maximum output at 17,750 ft (4,800 m) was 1,350 horsepower. This was a remarkable 23% increase in power3. The new engine was longer by 17.2 inches (452 mm), which necessitated a major redesign of the engine bearers and cowling. The ‘Friedrich’ (German phonetic name for the letter ‘F’) also incorporated a propeller spinner similar to that designed for the Me 209. The final result was an aerodynamically clean, superbly streamlined machine, which offered ground crews easy access to its powerplant. Furthermore, the chin oil cooler scoop was redesigned and the distinctive tailplane bracing struts of the Bf 109 E, removed. Introduction of the un-braced horizontal stabilizers required further modifications to the rear section of the fuselage.
An important factor in Messerschmitt’s quest for aerodynamic perfection were the revised wing-mounted coolant radiators, wider but flatter for less drag. The two-piece flaps, located at the rear of the radiators to regulate airflow, could be raised by 17° and dropped by 23°. The lower piece also acted as a regular wing flap. Concurrently, new wings with semi-elliptical wingtips, reshaped ailerons, leading edge slats and flaps, were designed. In order to save weight and increase the new fighter’s manoeuvrability, wing armament was discarded.