Bf 109D/E Blitzkrieg 1939-40, Malcolm V. Lowe


Bf 109D/E Blitzkrieg 1939-40, Malcolm V. Lowe

Dogfight Series

We start with a brief lok at the first few combats between the Bf 109D and Bf 109E and the RAF, largely German successes at the expense of unescorted daylight bombers making ill judged attempts to operate over the German coast.

We then move on to look at the development of the Bf 109, and the path to the two main versions in use early in the war – the Bf 109D being the last of the early Junkers Jumo powered modelled, the Bf 109E the first of the much improved Daimler-Benz DB601 powered aircraft. Setting the Scene also covers the rebuilding of the post-war Luftwaffe and the campaign in Poland.

The Path to Combat chapter focuses on several Luftwaffe pilots, including two veterans of the First World War, along with Werner Molders and Adolf Galland. This covers their entire careers, but with a focus on the section flying the Bf 109 D or E.

We reach a section on the aircraft itself half way through the book, in the Weapon of War chapter. This looks at the development of the Bf 109 to the E model and the different variants of the E with their different armament. One interesting feature here is that German pilots didn’t agree on which was the best combination of guns, with some liking the cannon added in later versions, while others disliked their slow rate of fire and preferred more machine guns.

The Art of War chapter demonstrates where the Germans really had the edge in 1939-40. Experience in Spain saw them abandon ‘V’ formations of three or five fighters in favour of the Rotte of two aircraft, with the forward aircraft there to attack the enemy and the rear aircraft there to cover both of their tails. This eliminated the requirement for complex formation keeping, with the lead pilot free to operate as he wished, while the wingman just had to keep up with him. Two pairs formed a four aircraft Schwarm, which proved to be a very flexible formation. In contrast Fighter Command entered the Battle of Britain still using the formal three aircraft V and it was down to individual commanders to switch to the more effective ‘finger four’.

Despite their technical advantages, the Bf 109 doesn’t have any great combat advantages in the comparatively rare fighting between fighters during the Phoney War period, with the Bf 109D proving to be inferior to the best French and British fighters and the Bf 109E equal. However this changed after the start of the German offensive in the west in May 1940. This saw a massive increase in the scale of aerial fighting, and ended with the Luftwaffe largely dominant over the west. Here we see the numerical advantage of the Bf 109 over its better Allied opponents and the chaos caused by the rapid allied retreat combining to give the Germans dominance over in air.

This is an interesting look at the performance of the two main early war versions of the Bf 109, showing that the Bf 109E in particular was as good or better than most of its rivals, and that the Germans had the edge in tactics, and to a certain extent in experience and were able to use that to great effect.

1 – In Battle
2 – Setting the Scene
3 – Path to Combat
4 – Weapon of War
5 – Art of War
6 – Combat

Author: Malcolm V. Lowe
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 80
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2022

Help - F.A.Q. - Contact Us - Search - Recent - About Us - Privacy