Friday, 1 January 2016

Dornier Do 217 in II./KG 2 and II./ KG 40, Cognac, France 1941-42 - daily Ebay photo find #156

The Dornier Do 217 was the first new bomber design to enter large scale service with the Luftwaffe during the course of WW II. Introduced in early 1941, the Do 217 E-1 was at the time the fastest and heaviest German bomber in service and during the mid-war period played a major role in the night attacks on Britain with Kampfgeschwader 2. Beginning its combat career in the summer of 1941 when most of the bomber force had been deployed to the Eastern Front, the new bomber was assigned to two Gruppen remaining in the west, II./KG 2 and II./KG 40. At that time KG 2 was still largely equipped with the obsolescent Do 17 Z and air raids on Britian were largely ineffectual and desultory being largely confined to anti-shipping and mine-laying operations; Ofw. Borner of 4./KG 2 recalled ;

"....Our crew was sent to Oberpfaffenhofen to convert onto the new Do 217. We had lodgings in the Hotel Fleischmann and in houses around the airfield nearby in Steinebach. This new machine was considerably heavier and faster than our good old Do 17 Z and had been conceived as a 'universal' multi-role bomber, capable of horizontal and dive-bombing, as well as of performing mine-laying and torpedo-launching against shipping targets..Take off weight was some 16.5 tonnes and the aircraft could comfortably attain speeds of 460 kph. These were figures to inspire and be proud of. Above all the extra turn of speed would considerably increase our chances of survival (sic) when coming up against enemy fighters. However these were purely theoretical considerations. Laden with a full complement of defensive armament and a full bomb load, we could only manage 380 kph - the increased bomb carrying capacity was obviously the prime factor in the eyes of our hierarchy. The twin BMW 801 radials could go like the clappers and it was pure pleasure to push the throttles all the way forward and climb out steeply - all 16.5 tons- but the engines were largely untested in action. As we were to find out, in terms of increasing our survivibility, the Do 217 ultimately represented no progress at all.. The Do 217 had been developed under great secrecy and even now was still classed as Geheimhaltungstufe 1 - top secret. Even so a delegation of Soviet airmen was allowed to visit us during April 1941 and inspect our 'wonder bird' - they were mightily impressed. During our training our StaKa Oblt. Genzow was awarded the Ritterkreuz, which was naturally an event of some importance in the little town in upper Bavaria where we were stationed. There was a large parade through the town with flags and bunting, a march past of Hitler Youth in front of the entire population and Party officals. Meanwhile our training continued. On rest days we spent our time sunbathing on the banks of the nearby Lake Woerth. Swimming and sailing were popular activities - rubber dinghies were carried in the fuselages of our Do 217s and inflated automatically when jettisoned overboard. Now they were put to good use on the water - even when relaxing we were training for worst case scenarios..."

Translated by this blog author from Ulf Balke's "Der Luftkrieg in Europa - Teil 1", (Bernard, Graefe, 1989 ) with permission.

Below; Do 217 E-1 of KG 40 in an overall pale blue-grey camouflage scheme with low-viz markings.