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Old 19th April 2022, 11:36
Simon Trew Simon Trew is offline
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Analysing survival rates among Luftwaffe air crew in 'Steinbock' and other operations

I wonder if anybody can help me address questions about comparative air crew survival rates (i.e. across nationalities, during different operations throughout WWII). Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is in the specific context of my ongoing research about ‘Steinbock’. (see other forum threads) But it would be interesting to have reference points from other Luftwaffe, or Allied, operations between 1939 and 1945.

As far as I can tell, the Luftwaffe lost about 275 aircraft destroyed during the ‘Steinbock’ raids (interpreted widely to include the Bristol, Hull, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Torquay and Falmouth raids as well as the 14 attacks on London, but EXCLUDING planes lost in transfer flights as well as aircraft destroyed in Steinbock-related training or Allied attacks on bomber unit airfields). One can certainly argue about that figure – for example, it includes KG 51 Me 410s lost when they were part of a ‘main raid’ attacking force, but excludes them when they were involved in a ‘harassing raid’ or intruder mission; it also excludes Fw 190 types entirely. However, given that discrepancies between sources are unlikely ever to be fully resolved, 275 two- and four-engine aircraft seems like a reasonable basis to work from.

From the (approximately) 275 two- and four-engine aircraft lost during the ‘Steinbock’ raids, there were 130 survivors who became prisoners (131 if the survivor from a 1./F)/121 recce aircraft sent to photograph the results of the first Portsmouth raid is included). These came from:

KG 2 = 35 PW / number of planes from which at least one PW survived = 15
KG 6 = 25 PW / 15
KG 30 = 12 PW / 6 (incl. 1 plane that returned to base)
KG 40 = 6 PW / 2
KG 51 = 0 PW / 0
KG 54 = 27 PW / 10
KG 66 = 4 PW / 3
KG 76 = 4 PW / 2
KG 100 = 17 PW / 6
KG 101 = 0 PW / 0

So that’s a total of 130 PW from 59 different aircraft (or 131 from 60 if the 1.(F)/121 aircraft is counted). As a proportion, that means that about 21.45% (59 of 275) of the two- and four-engine aircraft destroyed during ‘Steinbock’ produced at least one prisoner.

From 275 planes lost, as far as I can tell, the entire crew survived (to become PW) from only FOUR of the 59 aircraft that produced at least one prisoner:

2./KG 2, Do 217 M-1, U5+DK (23/4 February, abandoned plane that subsequently glided to Cambridge).
5./KG 2, Ju 188 E-1, U5+EN (27/8 March, first Bristol raid)
6./KG 30, Ju 88 A-4, 4D+EP (27/8 March, first Bristol raid)
3./KG 54, Ju 88 A-4 Trop, B3+PL (18/19 April, last London raid, crash-landed at RAF Bradwell)

From 275 planes lost, as far as I can tell, the entire crew was KILLED when the aircraft was destroyed in the following cases:

KG 2: 32 aircraft
KG 6: 40 aircraft
KG 30: 21 aircraft
KG 40: 1 aircraft
KG 54: 34 aircraft
KG 66: 17 aircraft
KG 76: 2 aircraft
KG 100: 3 aircraft
KG 101: 4 aircraft

That’s 154 aircraft. Really, to this figure should be added KG 51 Me 410s lost in the ‘Steinbock’ main raids. It’s a bit difficult to isolate these from aircraft lost in harassing raids and intruder missions, but I reckon about 9 Me 410s were lost in the ‘Steinbock’ main raids. So that would raise the overall total from 154 to 163 aircraft. As a proportion, 163 of 275 is a little over 59%.

Self-evidently, that means that about 19.3% of Steinbock aircraft losses (275 minus 59 minus 163 = 53) produced neither any prisoners nor involved the loss of the aircraft’s entire crew. This is explained by those aircraft that made it back to NW Europe, permitting crew members either to bale out before their plane crashed or to survive a crash-landing that wrote off the plane.

So, to my questions:

A. Please can anybody provide me with comparative data for other reasonably large-scale Luftwaffe bomber campaigns? I guess the most obvious comparisons would be with earlier raids against the UK (1940-41 or Baedeker raids?), but sustained operations over other areas of enemy-held territory (especially USSR) might also be interesting.

B. Please can anybody provide me with comparative data for broadly comparable Allied bombing operations? It would be interesting to know, for example, the proportion of British or U.S. bombers that were lost over enemy-held territory from which the entire crew survived, or the proportion that produced at least one prisoner, or the proportion that were lost along with their entire crew.

C. In the absence of ready answers to the above questions (which would be understandable, for several reasons), please can anybody suggest focused sources that I might look at that could help me? I don’t have the resources (time etc) needed to carry out detailed research, but it occurs to me that TOCH forum users might either have carried out similar research about Luftwaffe operations other than ‘Steinbock’ and know about relevant publications, or know of sources of consolidated (but not-yet-analysed) data about Allied bombing operations that I could use for my own purposes.

Whatever the case, I hope the information presented above is of interest to some forum users and perhaps it might prompt research into other Luftwaffe operations about which users are already knowledgeable, but about which I know very little indeed.


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