Me 262 B-1a/U1 Red 8

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Messerschmitt 262 B-1a at Schleswig-Jagel - Part 1

No book about German night fighters lacks the photograph of Me 262 lined up at Schleswig-Jagel in May 1945, including two FuG218 Neptun equipped two-seat Me 262 B-1a/U1 (e.g. Smith & Creek, Me 262 Volume 3, p. 454). However, in no known instance are all the aircraft identified.

Closer examination for the photograph reveals six Me 262: two night fighters of 10./ NJG11 on the right side, two single-seat Me 262 A-1a on the left side, another two-seat Me 262 B-1a and, behind the latter, the very dark nose and front wheel of another Me 262 aircraft.

Although quite a few photographs of Me 262 B-1a/U1 night fighters exist, these were taken over a rather long period of time during which the aircraft were tested by British and American teams. There is, however, only a small number of photographs which originated from May, and possibly early June 1945 and which picture the aircraft with their Luftwaffe markings rather than RAF or fantasy ones, as does the above mentioned photograph.

Two of the aircraft can clearly be identified:
  • Me 262 B-1a/U1, W.Nr.110306, Red 9 of 10./ NJG11, and
  • Me 262 B-1a, W.Nr.110165, a two-seat trainer. It is unknown to me which unit 110165 belonged to. 10./ NJG11 seems a reasonable guess, as this former Kommando Welter Staffel flew Wilde Sau sorties with Me 262 in the closing months of the war. Although as late as early March 1945 introduction of 10. Staffel pilots to their new jet aircraft were conducted by single-seat Me 262 A-1a, according to the recollection of Lt. Herbert Altner in Smith & Creek, Me 262 Volume 3, p. 461, the unit may have received a two-seat trainer later. Alternatively, the aircraft may have belonged to EJG2 which was using Schleswig-Jagel as its final base, however, was officially dissolved April 25, 1945 (J. Zapf in Jet&Prop 1/2009 p. 16).
  • One Me 262 A-1a has been identified as W.Nr. 500443, Smith & Creek, Me 262 Volume 3, p.454. Forsyth identifies this aircraft as Yellow 6 of I./ JG7 (R. Forsyth, Jagdgeschwader 7 Nowotny, Osprey Publishing, p. 124). Other sources attribute this W.Nr. to Yellow 5 of 3./ JG7 flown by Unteroffizier Anton Schöppler and surrendered on May 8, 1945 at Fassberg to British troops (Morgan & Weal, German Jet Aces of World War 2, Osprey Publishing, p. 94) . A third interpretation is given by M. Murphy, possibly quoting H. H. Stapfer, Me 262 in Action, Squadron Signal: W.Nr. 500443 marking was White 5, but altered after capture at Schleswig-Jagel to White or Yellow 6 with the application of British markings, see LEMB USA 1 Messerschmitt Me262A1-a.
  • Upon closer examination, I assume that the other Me 262 B-1a/U1 is W.Nr.110635, Red 10 of 10./ NJG11. Of four Me 262 B-1a / U1 night fighters exist photographic records: W.Nr. 110305, Red 8, W.Nr.110306, see above, W.Nr.111980, Red 12 and W.Nr. 110635. The nose of Red 8 wore the last three digits 305 clearly visible, excluding it as a candidate. To the right of the officer standing in front of the aircraft, the external fuel tanks as well as a small part of the left engine cowling can been seen: the fuel tank tips seem to be of rather light color, whereas the engine cowling appear dark below and bright on the top. Comparing photographs of Red 10, ditto p. 462, with Red 12, ditto p. 468, they show distinguishable details in this regard: the drop tanks of Red 12 are black without any discoloring whereas those of Red 10 show their metallic shine through heavy wear. Equally, the left engine of Red 12 has a replacement ring in a metallic or bright color with a patch of dark green, RLM 83, on top extended from the wing´s surface. In contrast, the engines of Red 10 are apparently of the same color as the upper fuselage, RLM 76 with black undersurfaces.
The remaining two aircraft´s identity can only be guessed.
  • The aircraft behind W.Nr. 110165 seems unusually dark, almost black. Based on a photograph published in David E. Brown, Ales Janda, Tomas Poruba, Jan Vladar, Messerschmitt Me 262s of KG & KG (J) units, JaPo Publishing, p. 165 the aircraft could be a Me 262 A. As this photograph shows Me 262 B-1a, W.Nr. 110165 still in German markings, it might have been taken at the time of the line-up of Me 262 aircraft in Schleswig-Jagel.
  • The Me 262 A-1a at the very left end of the line-up seems to have dark undersurfaces. This puts it into accord with the two-seat night fighters of 10./ NJG11.

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