Winston Churchill described the Fw 200 Condor as the 'scourge of the Atlantic', something of an exaggeration even when the Condor was at its most dangerous, but despite this the long range German bomber did represent a serious threat to Allied shipping in the early years of the Second World War, able to launch air attacks on convoys all around the western coast of Britain and Ireland, appearing in areas where nobody had expected to see hostile aircraft.
The Condor was at its most dangerous at the start of its anti-shipping career, a 'happy time' that stretched from the summer of 1940 to the summer of 1941. At this point British convoys had very little protection against aerial attack, with limited numbers of escort ships, very few anti-aircraft guns and no chance of aerial support. This allowed the Condor crews to overcome the serious weakness of their aircraft and make low level attacks that inflicted heavy losses on a series of convoys.
Forczyk traces the British and Allied reaction to these early German successes. These saw an ever-increasing number of anti-aircraft guns fitted to Allied merchant ships and convoy escort ships, but the most effective response was the introduction of effective air cover. This included the one-shot catapult armed CAM ships and large long range aircraft of Coastal Command and the USAAF (I was surprised to learn that the B-24 Liberator served quite effectively in this role), before the appearance of an ever-increasing number of escort carriers and long-range fighter aircraft such as the Beaufighter and Mosquito finally ended the Condor threat.
The book is well illustrated, and the text is supported by two very useful maps, showing sinkings and Condor losses in 1940-41 and 1943. Thes two maps vividly illustrate both the wide-ranging threat posed by the Condor, and the extent of its defeat by 1943.
Forczyk makes it very clear how the Condor's successes were achieved despite the faults of the aircraft rather than because of its strengths. The aircraft's long range was achieved at the expense of structural expense or armour, which made it very vulnerable both to fighter attack and to accidental damage, while most of its successes came before it was equipped with an effective high or even medium level bombsight.
This is a well structured and well illustrated account of a high-profile threat to the crucial Atlantic convoys, and the well coordinated Allied response that finally defeated it.
Design and Development
Statistics and Analysis
Author: Robert Forczyk