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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Wednesday 12 April 2023

Eagles Over the Sea 1935-42

 This is Lawrence Paterson's history of Luftwaffe maritime operations in the first half of WW2. Having dabbled in WW2 naval games recently, I realised I know little about German naval aviation besides Stukas dive-bombing ships. I also regard the Fw-200 Kondor as one of Germany's most elegant aircraft designs. So, the painting on the cover was a selling point. It's currently on special offer, and if it looks pricy, that's because it's a substantial volume.

I thought I knew a bit about WW2 aircraft, but many flying boats in this book were new to me. Smaller ones, like the He-60, Arado Ar 95 and Dornier Wal, were part of the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War. Larger types, including the He 115, look ungainly but have lots of glass to improve observation. The Dornier Do26 looked similar to the Sunderland and was used to ferry men and equipment in the Narvik campaign. 

The obsession with dive bombing meant that even unsuitable medium and heavy bombers were designed to incorporate this capability. The Germans also needed help with airborne torpedo design. They used Italian designs, which must have rankled, and the Japanese sent examples of their models. There is a propaganda film, Kampfgeschwader Lutzov, which is worth a look for operations in the English Channel.

The Kriegsmarine under Eric Raeder was indifferent to naval air power other than for reconnaissance. In fairness, he wasn't alone in remaining rooted in the large fleet tradition. Despite this, he fought hard against Goring for a separate naval aviation arm. The story of that internal battle runs through the book, with Goring winning. The U-boat commander Karl Donitz regularly bemoaned the lack of joint training between Luftwaffe pilots and their crews. It took an interview with Hitler to improve matters.

There is a lovely story about a Ju 88 shot down off the coast of Scotland in October 1939. Nearly 10,000 people lined the streets of Edinburgh for the funeral procession of the two German pilots. Hard to imagine that happening later in the war. You also don't hear a lot about friendly fire incidents. In February 1940, the German destroyer Leberecht Maass was accidentally sunk by a Heinkel due to chronic miscommunication. The story is detailed, and Hitler intervened personally to resolve the problem.

The Kondor was adapted from a civilian airline, and while it had its problems, it was a successful reconnaissance aircraft. I had yet to appreciate how effective it was as a bomber. In the first six months of 1941, they sank 56 ships. After that, the 'Scourge of the Atlantic' became less effective with better AA cover and escort carriers. 

Apart from the development of naval aviation, the book is a narrative history of the various campaigns from Norway to the Mediterranean and even the Eastern Front in the Black Sea and the Baltic. For some reason, I find operational air warfare narratives repetitive, but this is well told. I see myself dipping back into this volume in future with a different perspective on the early war campaigns.

I don't have any models of the various flying boats. Still, I did include this picture of an Arado 196, one of the most successful designs, as supplied to the Bulgarians, in my Chasing the Soft Underbelly book. I found it in excellent condition at the Bulgarian Air Museum in Plovdiv.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds a good book, but not especially my area of interest. Mention of the Black Sea and Baltic did get my attention (but only as an extra to the land campaigns on the Eastern Front).