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Old 24th January 2009, 09:57
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Jim Oxley Jim Oxley is offline
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Me110: Ill-used in BoB

I've often thought that the Me110 was ill-used over Britain as an escort, to which it was so ill-suited.

IMHO it would have been far better to employ it as a free ranging ground straffer, operating in concert with, but free of, the main bomber forces. Escort could (and should) have been left to the more nimble Bf109's. As a ground straffer the Me 110 would have been able to make use of it's very good speed and powerful armament, coming in very low and adding a very important distraction to Fighter Command's raid reaction.

To a degree this approach was trialled by Epro 210 with reasonable success. But the concept would have been far more effective with several Gruppe's of Zerstorer's free ranging over Britain rather than just two Staffel's.
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Old 24th January 2009, 10:57
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Re: Me110: Ill-used in BoB

Stephen Bungay writes about this in his book "The Most Dangerous Enemy".
He comes to the conclusion:
"It [the Luftwaffe] had all and precisely the weapons it needed at its disposal. What mattered in attacking the ground targets was bombing accuracy. Stukas could deliver the accuracy, but were too vulnerable and were needed later to attack the Royal Navy when the invason commenced. The key weapon was the Bf 110. Had all the Zerstörer crews been retrained to deliver fast, low-level pin-point attacks in the way that Erprobungsgruppe 210 were, Göring would have had a war-winning weapon in his hands.
The radar stations were difficult to destroy, but they were all on the coast, which made them vulnerable to two tactics: air attacks by squadrons of Bf 110s and commando raids."
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Old 24th January 2009, 13:05
F19Gladiator F19Gladiator is offline
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Re: Me110: Ill-used in BoB

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Oxley View Post
I've often thought that the Me110 was ill-used over Britain as an escort, to which it was so ill-suited.

IMHO it would have been far better to employ it as a free ranging ground straffer, operating in concert with, but free of, the main bomber forces. Escort could (and should) have been left to the more nimble Bf109's. As a ground straffer the Me 110 would have been able to make use of it's very good speed and powerful armament, coming in very low and adding a very important distraction to Fighter Command's raid reaction.

To a degree this approach was trialled by Epro 210 with reasonable success. But the concept would have been far more effective with several Gruppe's of Zerstorer's free ranging over Britain rather than just two Staffel's.
Hi Jim,
The blatant failure of the Bf 110 in air to air fighting in the BoB is often repeated in literature. Christer Bergström in his book ”Luftstrid över kanalen”(1), 2006, has analyzed the victory and loss statistics in the BoB and presents a different picture to the usually repeated "Bf 110 fighter BoB disaster" scenario.

The confirmed aerial victories achieved by Bf 109 units amounted to 815 while the Bf 110 units gathered 407 confirmed victories.
A comparison between confirmed victories and operational losses due to air battles gives at hand that in the period 8 August to end of October 1940:
Bf 109 units scored 815 victories to 489 losses – a ratio of 1,7:1
Bf 110 units scored 407 victories to 185 losses – a ratio of 2,2:1

In October the Bf 110 units even had a ratio of 3:1 while the Bf 109 units dropped to 1,4:1.

Christer Bergström continues to discuss the matter as well as comparing Spifire and Hurricane relative performances and some of the RAF unit’s performance, RAF Bomber command losses, coastal command and the Fleet Air Arm..
When finally comparing the scores by Bf 109 and Bf 110 units as mentioned above with the estimated true losses by each side for the period July-October 1940 it turns out that in approximate figures the authentic victories versus actual air battle losses where:

Spitfire 550 victories to 329 losses – a ratio of 1,7:1
Hurricane 750 victories to 603 losses – a ratio of 1,2:1
Bf 109 780 victories to 534 losses – a ratio of 1,5:1
Bf 110 340 victories to 196 losses – a ratio of 1,7:1

Bergström continues by discussing the validity of the data including the difficulties in identifying if a Bf 109 or 110 shot down a RAF fighter, however, the outcome is that minimum 25-30% of all British aircraft losses inflicted by Luftwaffe fighters were scored by Bf 110s.
The “Total failure of the Bf 110 as a fighter aircraft in the BoB” is perhaps another BoB Myth worth reassessing?

The fact is that on several occasions the Bf 110 units performed better than the Bf 109 units on a particular day. When deployed tactically correct using the advantages the Bf 110 offered the Bf 110 was still a lethal weapon in air-to-air fighting which I believe Christer Bergström is able to show.
When used as a high altitude escort, not being tied to close escort to the bomber force, it made effective diving attacks on RAF fighters using surprise, high speed and it’s heavy nose armament to score victories.
Long range and an extra pair of eyes was also helpful in air battle, the range enabling to wait for the right moment to strike and the extra pair of eyes increasing the situational awareness of the pilot in an air battle.

Wrongly used as a close bomber escort the disadvantages with slow acceleration and climb in comparison with the Spitfire and Hurricane negated the Bf 110s strengths, which was also proven by high losses on several such instances.

To use the Bf 110 more intensively as a ground attack aircraft was in my opinion not possible within short, while not enough well trained crews were available short term. However, to use the Bf 110 fighter units tactically correct more consistently had been possible with existing a/c and pilots in the ZGs, under a better management.

The Bf 110 undoubtedly scored several successes as low level attack aircraft but was also vulnerable if caught in the act as the bomb load and low altitude put the Bf 110 at a disadvantage if intercepted by Hurricanes or Spitfires.

JaBo attacks are tactical strikes which can be very effective to gain temporary supremacy over a limited area of battleground for a limited time and best used in combination with other units, such as army or naval units in a Blitz Krieg style war, but not as a strategic weapon. In order to subdue the British defenses and defense industry some heavier bomb loads would be needed and even then the experience from the later Allied heavy bombing raids over Germany indicates that it would have been very difficult to achieve this even if Germany would have had the strategic bomber force it never had or got.

Best regards,
Goran


(1) Only available in Swedish language to my knowledge, even if earlier intended to be released in English under the title “Battle of Britain”. I hope it eventually will be released through another publisher.
See also the thread here:
http://forum.12oclockhigh.net/showthread.php?t=11715
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Old 24th January 2009, 13:11
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Re: Me110: Ill-used in BoB

A very interesting post Goran. Food for thought.
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Old 24th January 2009, 17:19
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
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Re: Me110: Ill-used in BoB

Goran
In the recent years we may notice a trend to debunk old myths, that actually turn to be new myths, or rather myths, comparing to the old truth, actually. Some of those new myths are doubtless created by limited knowledge of authors, who often cannot understand the obvious.
You have provided us (in good faith I believe) with some numbers. The problem is that for everyone, who dug a little in the Battle, they are completely meaningless! Do you think it is possible to find out, which type was responsible for victory? No way, those were big messes, and several aircraft were downed by up to ten different fighters of various types, sometimes even friendly. Also, how many mentioned Me 110 victories were achieved by gunners, those claims being usually unreliable? This should be somehow reflected in those stats, but is not.
Now, a question to you. Do you think that Goering and his staff were such a bunch of incompetent idiots, that they have removed so perfect weapon from their inventory?
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Old 24th January 2009, 18:01
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Re: Me110: Ill-used in BoB

I am always surprised at accounts of Bf 110 formations forming defensive circles at the first sign of the RAF. Understandable as that may be if you are Bf 110 crewman and want to live, what is the point of flying all the way to England just to do that? It sounds as if there was some issue of training, morale or doctrine there somewhere.

I would hate to do the maths on its vulnerability to machine-gun armed fighters but I would imagine that it was easier to damage but harder to destroy than a 109 (bigger, less agile target but with a "spare" engine to get you home).
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Old 24th January 2009, 18:40
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Re: Me110: Ill-used in BoB

I’d be careful on Christer’s analyzes.
Now at first I have to admit that I’ve not read the book, only leafed through it in one bookshop and noticed, as I have guessed, that he claimed that according to British John Alcorn’s deep study 303 Sqn was the worst overclaimer during the BoB even if when Christer gleefully posted on this board, IIRC on the old version, that British John Alcorn had made a study on the BoB and have proved that 303 Sqn was the worst overclaimer during the BoB, I informed him, and I must do that at least twice before he accepted the fact, that Alcorn had acknowledged that he had used outdated material in his study and had made a new one using better base material and according to the newer study 303 wasn’t the worst overclaimer. To me publishing accusation which one knows is wrong shows a bad researcher moral.

Christer’s selectiveness on facts is also shown on Bf 110s

in a tread in The Forum of the 1.Jagdmoroner Abteilung
http://www.1jma.dk/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=3371
Actual losses in the Battle of Britain

which no seems to went to cyber cemetery but on which on this board there was a thread on Christer’s “original” interpretation on RAF’s Cat 2 damage classification.
On 04 July 2004 : 22:00:20 message

Christer had opinion when trying to proof accuracy of 109 pilots claim during the BoB, Quote: “The twin-engine Me 110 crews with their rear gunners were just as notorious for huge overclaims as any bomber crews of any air force.”

On the other hand when he tried to proof the effectiveness of Bf 110s he tended to forget Bf 109s, see: http://forum.skalman.nu/viewtopic.php?t=28706
Forumindex » Militär teknikhistoria » Bf 110 - ett misslyckande?

Christer Bergström Från: Sverige 11 Feb 2007 19:52

…John Foreman skriver i sin bok ”Fighter Command War Diaries”, vol. 2, sid 44, om det uppdrag som ZG 26 flög den 28 september 1940: ”Det sista anfallet genomfördes mot 10 Groups område när en stor formation närmade sig Southampton. Denna visade sig bestå av Bf 110r och de invecklades i strid med tre Hurricane-Squadrons utanför Selsey Bill. Hurricaneplanen fick stora problem med dessa tvåmotoriga jaktplan. Trots brittiska anspråk på tre förstörda och en skadad, gick inte en enda Messerschmitt förlorad. De tyska flygarna lyckades skjuta ned inte mindre än sex Hurricanes, där fem av piloterna också gick förlorade.”…

The problem is that The BoB Then and Now Mk V allocated only one Hurricane plus one badly damaged, which force-landed back at base, a/c repairable, to Bf 110s and 5 to Bf 109s and one damaged because it run out of fuel. And well before publication of ”Luftstrid över kanalen”(1), 2006 when he was repeatedly informed, also on this board, that Mason’s Battle over Britain, on which he based his earlier analysis, was outdated and The BoB Then and Now was clearly more up do date I informed him that Mk V was the edition he should look after and he thanked me on info and wrote that he had ordered a copy of it. So he’d have been aware of the difference.

After that flood of words, IMHO LW needed 110s to escort bombers outside the range of 109. The effectiveness of 110 escorts varied but sometimes they were effective sometimes FC pilots noted that 110s concentrated too much to their own safety. So at least part of ZG Gruppen was needed to escort work, because it was the bombers which could delivery really hard blows on key industrial targets.

Juha
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Old 24th January 2009, 18:53
Franek Grabowski Franek Grabowski is offline
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Re: Me110: Ill-used in BoB

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nick Beale View Post
I am always surprised at accounts of Bf 110 formations forming defensive circles at the first sign of the RAF. Understandable as that may be if you are Bf 110 crewman and want to live, what is the point of flying all the way to England just to do that? It sounds as if there was some issue of training, morale or doctrine there somewhere.
The circle is not necessarily defensive, and was often used as an offensive formation. It was often seen in Poland in 1939, hence I presume the tactics was to keep aircraft over a particular area to be covered.
PS Still, the Alcorn's study is a nonsense.
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Old 24th January 2009, 19:43
F19Gladiator F19Gladiator is offline
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Re: Me110: Ill-used in BoB

Dear Franek,
When you are mentioning “limited knowledge of authors, who often cannot understand the obvious” and regarding the data “for everyone, who dug a little in the Battle, they are completely meaningless” you are aiming at Christer Bergström, author of two books on the subject of the Battle of Britain after more than 30 years of research. If you are interested in arguing about his data or research you’d better take contact with him via his website and get an understanding about what data and sources are behind his conclusions in his published work.
I am not a complete moron myself regarding the subject, but as I have only 40 years of studying the subject at a shallower level, I believe Mr Bergstöm is more competent to defend his own findings. Before you discard my posting as nonsense, let alone in “good faith” as you write, I believe you should first take a step back and find out how C.B. came up with this view on the matter.
Regarding the data you are regarding as nonsense you might notice when reading my post again that I have added the comment “Bergström continues by discussing the validity of the data including the difficulties in identifying if a Bf 109 or 110 shot down a RAF fighter, however, the outcome is that minimum 25-30% of all British aircraft losses inflicted by Luftwaffe fighters were scored by Bf 110s.”
I am not going to translate the book into English for you as my posting is only a short “Reader’s Digest version” of part of one chapter, but if you are to denounce specific data with general comments as you do, I would rather see you take a scholar discussion with Christer Bergström - perhaps both of you will enjoy it.

Regarding the “big messes” you refer to, obviously in your opinion making it impossible to identify what happened to whom, and also initially referring to the “Myths” you might find it interesting to read the article by Dr. Alfred Price, “Myth and Legend” about the BoB, published in Aeroplane Magazine in two parts, October / November 1997.
To quote another researcher who might now face the risk of being labeled by you as among them providing a view as a result of “limited knowledge of authors, who often cannot understand the obvious, you might find it interesting what Dr. Price writes concerning what he names as:
Myth 4: During the Battle of Britain there were large-scale dogfights between the opposing fighters:

“….These images provide a misleading impression of air combat during the Battle of Britain, however. When engaging enemy fighters, the side with the advantage in altitude or surprise would usually deliver a single “bounce” attack. After that the attackers would speed clear of their victims before the latter could reply. There were very few one-versus-one maneuvering combats between fighters that lasted more than 20sec. Any pilot who concentrated his attention too long on one enemy fighter stood the risk of coming under surprise attack from another. During detailed research into the action that occurred on August 18 I found no such combat. I found mention of only one lengthy one-v-one turning fight during the action on September 15."

Considering the above from Dr. Price and combining it with the fact that the Bf 110s forte was the high level bounce attack on unsuspecting fighters, which also can be verified by studying available publications, I find it no big surprise to read a claim that 25-30% of the RAF fighter losses where inflicted by Bf 110s.


Regarding your question specifically to me:
  • No, Göring was far from being a fool regarding aerial warfare.
  • The Bf 110 weapon was obviously not “Removed from the inventory” as you put it. After the actions of October 7 Luftwaffe receded, in daylight, to nuisance raids by small numbers of bombers and JaBo attacks why the Bf 110 long range escort capacity was not longer as needed as earlier during the larger daylight bombing raids. The growing need to build up the night fighter force to protect Germany from RAF’s increasing night bombing attacks grew in priority and the Bf 110 units were given a new task when the Luftwaffe KGs switched over to night bombings.
  • It is no doubt the Bf 110 units got a mauling, some worse than others, but several Bf 109 units also had to be taken out of the front line during the BoB due to receiving crippling losses which set back their fighting morale to a level where they were not fit to continue.
My intention when posting the findings of C.B. was to give food for thoughts on the subject as I personally believe that the Bf 110 was not such a "complete “dud” as a weapon which was proven by a disastrously bad performance in the BoB after which the Bf 110 was taken out of its day fighter role for good". The reality is more in gray shades than black and white.

It can also be interesting to read the article “The Bf 110 …Hermann’s destroyer” by Captain Eric Brown, CBE, DSC, AFC, RN, in Air Enthusiast October 1973, where he states:
"In the Battle of Britain the Bf 110 fell far short of anticipation and its limited success was to lead to a widespread belief that it was an unsuccessful design. This was in fact, far from the case, for the Messerschmitt strategic fighter was not the indifferent warplane that its showing during the Battle of Britain led many to believe. It was an effective warplane but inadequate understanding on the part of the Führungsstab of the limitations of the strategic fighter category led to its incorrect deployment with the result that the Zerstörergruppen suffered some 40 per cent attrition within less than three weeks of the launching of Adlerangriff.”

As I am hinting at in my posting, the Bf 110 was actually effective when given the role it should have according to its design and concept – High altitude fighter escort, enabling them to bounce and zoom back to altitude.

Best regards,
Göran Larsson
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Old 24th January 2009, 20:35
Birgir Thorisson Birgir Thorisson is offline
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Re: Me110: Ill-used in BoB

Bf 110 as traditional dogfighter.


The Bf 110 was faster than the Hurricane at altitude, but less manouverable, Right?

The Bf 110 was slower and less manouverable than the Spitfire, but better armed, Right?

The Grumman F4F4 was slower and less manouverable than the Mitsubishi A6M2. Yet it got the upper hand over Guadalcanal, due to tactics. Teamwork. Thach-weave, a.k.a beam defence.

Why didn´t the same apply to the Bf 110 in BofB?
In addition, the Zerstörer had a rear-gunner, which must have had some tactical value.
In a traditional low-spead turning manouver, why didn´t the rear-gunner shoot down the trailing s-e-fighter before it got enough lead to hit the Bf 110?
Was it due to some aerodynamic factors? or was it due to inadequate training of the gunners?
(This is for John Vasco. What would you, judging from your personal contacts with former Zerstörer pilots, say to the hypothesis, that they, being ex-single engine jockeys, had no thought for the tactical value or potential use of the rear firing gun.)


Birgir Thorisson.

Last edited by Birgir Thorisson; 24th January 2009 at 21:33. Reason: Removing a mental lapse, confused two swedes.
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