Profile Publications No. 15 The Heinkel He 111H

The He II1V-8, D -AQ U O ,which was the test-bed for the “glass-house” nose section. MG 15 machine guns) was totally inadequate. The H-2 was fitted with two further 7-9 mm. weapons mounted in the fuselage side windows for beam pro­tection, and the He 111H-3, powered by Jumo 211 D-l engines of 1,200 h.p., sometimes appeared with the nose-cone MG 15 replaced by a 20 mm. MG FF cannon. OPERATIONAL SHORTCOMINGS In spite of these modifications, and hard-won experi­ence of combat with modern fighter aircraft, the Heinkel-equipped units which took part in the Luftwaffe's daylight offensive against the British Isles in the summer of 1940 were severely mauled. Contrary to the belief of some German schools of thought, the He 1 1 l’s speed was no guarantee of safety from the attentions of R.A.F. Spitfires and Hurricanes. Losses in the Kampfgeschwader involved in this phase of operations (which included KG 53 “Legion Condor” and KG 55“ Griefen Geschwader”) were heavy, and a feature of this offensive was the high proportion of German bombers which returned to their French bases with dead or severely wounded aircrew. Of the five main crew positions in the He 111H, the ventral gon­dola was probably the most unpopular an obvious initial target for interceptors, it earned the nick-name (Photo: Imperial War Museum) “das Sterbebett”—the Deathbed—in at least one Gruppe. German fighter protection for the bomber units during the Battle of Britain was of limited value, especially in the close support context. It was not unknown for a single under-strength Gruppe of Bf 109Es to be provided as escort for two bomber and one Stuka Geschwader. One disastrous raid was carried out by 1 1 I/KG 27“ Boelke” without any fighter cover, and the limited range of the Bf 109 cannot beheld responsible in this instance. Following the announcement that R.A.F. Fighter Command had for all practical purposes ceased to exist, the Gruppe was sent on a mission over several English south coast towns. Only 14 Heinkels returned,allseverely damaged. When the night assault on English cities began, He 111 crews were granted a brief respite from losses of this order. However, by the early months of 1941 R.A.F. night-fighter defences had been strengthened to provide avery real threat to raiders and the morale of Luftwaffe bomber crews suffered accordingly. Wireless interference sent many bombers astray, especially on flights to Midland targets when their route crossed the Bristol Channel. This estuary was a constant source of confusion to Luftwaffe pilots and navigators. The H einkel He lllH -O.
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