Thread: Tunisian losses
View Single Post
Old 21st March 2005, 20:43
Christer Bergström Christer Bergström is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 410
Christer Bergström is on a distinguished road
Re: Tunisian losses

Friends, according to Playfair’s 40-year old book, explicitly and admittedly flawed by difficulties to obtain accurate Luftwaffe loss statistics, it is said that during the period 22nd - 30th Nov., the Luftwaffe lost 63 a/c (excluding those destroyed by Malta's a/c) in Tunisia, incl. 21 on ground and 3 to AA guns.

I wonder which units should have suffered all those losses in only nine days. Anyway, in “Fighters Over Tunisia” (which I now have) one can find only 30 Luftwaffe losses in the air - losses due to accidents included - during the same period. The only figure which matches with Payfair’s old stuff is that 20 Luftwaffe aircraft were destroyed on the ground. But where we shall find the difference between the 30 Luftwaffe losses in “Fighters over Tunisia” and the 42 Luftwaffe aircraft which Playfair implies the Luftwaffe lost in the air is an interesting question.

Abyway, due to the daily returns to the Generalquartiermeister der Lw, the Luftwaffe fighter units in lost a total of nine aircraft due to hostile action in the air in Tunisia between 22 Nov and 30 Nov 1942.

Obviously, Playfair's source for Allied losses also are flawed, since he writes - according to Juha: "Eastern Air Command flew an estimated total of 1,710 sorties and lost at least 45 a/c". - At least 45 aircraft? And Playfair apparently continues like that whenever he talks about Allied losses: "they lost at least. . ." or "so far as is recorded. . ."

I didn’t take the time to count the Allied losses listed in “Fighters Over Tunisia” during the same period - which occupies pages 62 - 79 in that book - but even a cursory reading shows that the Allied losses clearly were considerably higher than those of the Luftwaffe in fighter combat. Also, the Allies made quite heavy overclaims, which seems not to be the case regarding the Luftwaffe fighter claims.

Interestingly, the authors of “Fighters Over Tunisia” found that when II./JG 51 on 27 Nov 1942 attacked a formation of Spitfires and claimed seven shot down for no own losses, the corresponding Allied records gave no clue as to actual Allied losses. This is what the authors (Shores, Ring and Hess) found instead: “324 Wing recorded that of five sweeps made, two were badly bounced from cloud cover, but no details of the actual losses were recorded.” (p. 70.)

When Shores, Ring and Hess sum up the Tunisian air war at the end of the book, they write:

“Tunisia to the ‘experten’ of the German fighter force had proved to be a great killing ground. As the numerical strength of the Allies increased however, and the area over which operations took place got smaller, life became increasingly difficult for them. [. . .] Undoubtedly the Luftwaffe fighters had done a better job in Tunisia in early 1943 than they had in Libya and Egypt during 1942.” (p. 389)


“The Tunisian Campaign [. . .] can perhaps be said was the last great heyday of the German fighter pilots in the West.” (p. 384.)

Or as the Polish fighter pilot Ludwig Martek of 145 Squadron is quoted recalling from the Tunisian air war:

“We [i.e. the Allied pilots] were always superior in numbers.” (p. 412.)
All the best,

Christer Bergström