Text: Jan Bobek
Illustration: Piotr Forkasiewicz
The black day of the Jagdgeschwader “Udet”
Among the German fighter units that moved
from the Eastern Front to Western Europe at
the end of summer 1943 was II./JG 3 “Udet”
under the command of Maj. Kurt Brändle.
From the eastern battlefield, its Stab and
three Staffeln returned with more than 2,100
kills to their credit. It suffered its heaviest
losses during the Battle of Kursk and in the
following weeks of July, losing 24 Messerschmitts Bf 109 in combat and 14 pilots killed,
wounded or missing.
After moving west in late August 1943, JG 3
was supplemented with a large group of novices, but its core was still a strong group
of experienced veterans. The transition to
combat with American bombers and their
fighter escorts was no easy task. Brändle’s
unit scored more than thirty kills during
September and October, but lost 22 pilots
with 17 Bf 109s shot down, while another 20
were written off due to crashes. However,
the worst was yet to come.
On November 3, 1943, American heavy bombers made a raid on Wilhelmshafen, accompanied by one Fighter Group with P-38s and
seven others armed with P-47s. Germans
were only able to send 139 fighters due to
bad weather. Brändle’s II./JG 3 took off from
Schiphol and in a 30-minute battle with P-47s
of 4th Fighter Group under the command of
Lt. Col. Blakeslee claimed four victories. Two
P-47s were lost and Brändle scored his 171st
and 172nd victories in the process.
However, the situation was reversed in
the afternoon when Schiphol airfield was
attacked by 64 B-26 Marauders. The first
box of Marauders flew under the protection
of Coltishall Wing and the second box was
protected by Spitfires of the Canadian Digby
Wing, commanded by W/Cdr Lloyd W. Chadburn. Brändle’s unit was ordered to make an
emergency take-off at 15.40, but alarm came
late as bombs began to fall on the airfield as
the last of the 109s were taking-off. Brändle
didn’t have time to organize his unit against
the attacking formation. The fighter escort
faced about fifteen 109s, which were scattered in flights of two to four fighters. Spitfires
attacked them immediately.
The first kill was recorded by F/O A. Bradshaw of No. 129 Sq at 15:56 over Zandvoort,
on the coast. Canadian No. 416 Sqn. fought
the 109s in a wild dogfight at 1,000 feet over
the same town. At 16.00 one fighter was shot
down by F/Lt D. E. Noonan over the town´s
centre. His victim was apparently Fw. Walter Stienhans of 6./JG 3, whose machine
crashed into the town and the pilot was
On the outskirts of Zandvoort one Bf 109 each
were claimed by F/Lt R. D. Booth, F/O W. H.
Jacobs and F/Lt A. H. Sager. Noonan and
Sager together shot down one more. There
was probably some overclaiming, because
only Gefr. Hans Hahn, also of 6./JG 3, crashed
on the outskirts of the town and perished.
A member of this Staffel, Fw. Walter Stienhans, shot down Jacobs, who was last seen
with black smoke coming from his Spitfire and did not survive. Over Schiphol one
Bf 109 was shot down by S/Ldr M.G.L.M
Donnet of No. 64 Sq. This may have been
the machine that crashed at Hoofdorp and
its pilot escaped unhurt. Two other Messerschmitts made emergency landings at Schiphol, one with combat damage, the other due
to pilot error.
Over the sea off Ijmuiden, W/C Chadburn hit
another Bf 109, whose pilot bailed out.
F/Lt John D. Mitchner of No. 402 Sq RCAF
first pursued one fighter whose pilot bailed
out before the Canadian could open fire. He
then sent down another machine, burning,
whose pilot also bailed out. This moment is
captured by Piotr Forkasiewicz in the painting of this boxart story.
Chadburn claimed another Bf 109, whose
pilot also bailed out from burning machine.
The final success was achieved by S/Ldr
G. W. Northcott of No. 402 Sq RCAF, who hit
a Bf 109 which caught fire and disintegrated.
Northcott mistakenly thought his wingman's
machine was on fire. However, his wingman
flew unhurt through the explosion and lost
contact with his leader. This situation was
recreated by Piotr Forkasiewicz on the boxart of the previously released 1/48 scale kit Spitfire Mk. Vb late. The five victories
listed above correspond to the three losses
that occurred over the sea. Major Brändle,
Lt. Horst Brock of 6./JG 3 and Uffz. Horst Kirschner of 4./JG 3 did not survive. The
crushing defeat of II./JG 3 became one of the
most successful actions in the history of the
Royal Canadian Air Force.