While claims by air gunners tended to be badly inflated they anyway shot down numerous fighters. Even weakly armed and vulnerable bombers could be pretty dangerous opponents if the gunners were good and fighter pilots used poorly thought out tactics in their attacks. Two examples are told in my other pages, see here and here, the last case namely that of 27 Sept. 1939.
On Luftwaffe air gunners there is interesting information on Richard Hough’s and Denis Richards’ The Battle of Britain (Coronet edition 1990 ISBN 0 340 53470 2) p. 156 note** , it shows the results of a study based on opinions given in 1988 by some 100 surviving Battle of Britain era British fighter pilots. 40 of them rated the quality of German bomber gunnery good or excellent, 32 thought it average and 30 poor. In the text there is a short description of the combat on 13 August 1940 between the tight formations of the Dornier Do 17Zs from the II. and the III./KG 2 and the Spitfires from the 74 Squadron and the Hurricanes from the 111 and the 151 Squadrons during which the air gunners shot down two British fighters but the KG 2 lost five Dorniers and four more badly damaged. In the note there is also mentioned a combat during which 9 He 111s shot down three out of the first six attacking Hurricanes. This probably refers to the combat between 9./KG 55 and 79 Squadron over the Irish Sea on 29 September 1940. 9. Staffel lost one He 111 and two other were so badly damaged that they were forced to turn back (out of 9 He 111s) but He 111 gunners shot down three Hurricanes out of 11.
Luftwaffe air gunners had showed their deadliness already earlier. On 2 March 1940 a Dornier Do 17P from 1.(F)/22 was intercepted by three Curtiss Hawk H-75As from GC II/5. The Frenchmen claimed it as probably destroyed but in fact it evaded them with only slight damage, and escaped into Belgian airspace. There it was intercepted by three Hurricanes of the Armée de l’Air Belge, from 1/I of the 2eme Regiment from Schaffen. The section leader, Lt Henrard, led the trio in a tail chase in line astern, presenting the German rear gunner with an easy target, and he utilized that fully. One after the other the three hurricanes were hit; Henrard’s aircraft was shot down and crashed, the pilot being killed, whilst the other two were both crippled. One force-landed at once and turned over on its back, while the third, code H-23, managed to reach Schaffen, where it too force-landed, riddled with bullets. The Dornier escaped with only 5% damage.
On British air gunners
On 22 May 1942 a lone Blenheim IV of 60 Squadron, RAF flown by Warrant Officer Martin Huggard made a low level bombing attack on the airfield of Akyab. Five Ki 43 pilots of the 64th Sentai scrambled individually to give chase. Sergeant Major Y. Yasuda was first to attack the retreating Blenheim flying at very low level over the Bay of Bengal. As Yasuda dived from above to attack he was at once hit and wounded by the air gunner Sergeant “Jock” McLuckie’s return fire and forced to head back to Akyab. Captain M. Otani was next to attack in the same way, but again return fire hit his plane and he was obliged to return. Then the commanding officer of 64th Sentai, the famous JAAF ace lieutenant colonel Kato, Tateo, accompanied by two others, caught the fleeing bomber. Kato made a diving attack but McLuckie raked the underside of the Ki-43 as its pilot pulled up in order to avoid hitting the sea. The fighter began to burn and dived into the sea killing Lt Col Kato. After that the other two Ki-43 Hayabusas disengaged. The Blenheim had not suffered a single hit.
Kato had claimed a total of 18 victories at the time of his death. Yasuda had claimed at least 4 victories plus one probable by 22 May 1942 and he survived the war claiming over 10 victories.
On July 7 1943 at 16.20 the 455 Squadron(RAAF) Handley Page Hampden S/455, serial number P5302, code UB ○ S, took off from Leuchars, Scotland. Its crew consisted of S/Ldr B.R.D. O’CONNOR (Pilot), F/O R.N LINDEMAN (Nav), P/O C.H WALTERS (W/AG) and F/Sgt COLLINS (W/AG). They formed with 14 other Hampdens from 455 Squadron and the formation set course for Egersund in Norway. Two of the Hampdens had to return early because of engine troubles with one other Hampden acting as an escort returning with them, but the other twelve continued and spread out 40mls from the Norwegian coast to search shipping targets but found nothing. But S/455 was found at 18.50. From the Operations Record Book (ORB) of 455 Sqn: ”…Aircraft S/455 was attacked by two ME 109’s; one broke off after first attack and thought to be hit by rear gunner’s first burst. The second enemy A/C made five attacks, but due to good controlling by F/SGT COLLINS, J. and evasive action by the Pilot, A/C S/455 was not hit and returned safely to base…”
And this extra information comes from Form 541: “...1850...Two E/A reported by rear gunner...Throughout attacks beam gunner gave excellent running commentary from astro dome which get pilot fully informed and enabled him to take violent evasive action, finally bringing A/C S to land safely without jettisoning torpedo...”
The victim was Feldwebel Josef Sommeregger from 1./JG 5, his plane was so badly damaged that he had to force-land onto sea. He went missing. His plane was Bf 109G-2, Werk Nummer 14055, White 3, which of course became a total loss. The place of loss was SW of Egersund, 90 km SW of Stavanger. Fw Sommeregger had at least one aerial victory in his credit, he seems to have shot down the Bristol Beaufighter Mk VIc Z/235 Squadron, crewed by Sergeants Elliot and Pickney, while they were escorting with five other Beaufighters four Hampden TB Is from 455 Squadron off Norwegian coast on 12 April 1943.
And Hampden had the weakest armament of the three types of medium bombers with which RAF went to war in September 1939. It was the only one of those three types which wasn’t equipped with power-operated gun turrets. Instead both the upper rear and the ventral gunner had a twin manually operated 7.7mm Vickers GO machine gun.
NAA A9186, 141 ORB 455 Sqn, both Form 540 and 541
NA AIR28/462 ORB RAF Station Leuchars
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Link to the source page of the photo.
Link to the source of the photo