those in which he conducted functional flight checks from

Leon airfield, between December 3, and December 12, 19384.

Only one serial number of the aircraft from this batch is known,

this being WNr. 715 of Bf 109 E-3 coded 6•925, which places

this machine in the middle of the first production run from the

Erla factory (90 aircraft from the WNr. 667-756 range).

Further aircraft were gradually delivered and assigned

with fuselage codes from 6-99 to 6-131. This allowed the reequipping of three Staffeln (squadrons) of the Legion Condor’s

fighter group, Jagdgruppe 88, with new machines, although

a number of Bf 109 Ds were retained in service. Some of the

oldest Bf 109s of the A and B variants, could therefore be handed

over to the Spanish nationalist fighter unit, 1a Escuadrilla of

Grupo 5-G-5, which was formed at the end of December 1938

at Recajo-Logroño airfield, but took part in fighting only from

March 8, 19396.

A total of 41 Bf 109 Es were sent to Spain before the end of

the Civil War. Most of them represented the E-3 variant, whose

armament consisted of two 7,92mm MG 17 machine guns in the

fuselage and two 20mm MG-FF cannon in the wings. However,

there were also at least seven Bf 109 E-1s in Legion Condor

service, which were armed with four MG 17 machine guns.

On the basis of the available photo reference, the following

aircraft may be identified as the E-1: 6•1187, 6•119, 6•1208,

6•121, 6•1229, 6•123 and 6•12410. These machines most

likely belonged to one of three batches manufactured by AGO

Flugzeugwerke GmbH at Oschersleben and Gerhard Fieseler

Werke at Kassel, starting in January 1939. The photos known

to this author do not allow the identification of the variant of

‘Emils’ coded 6•113, 6•114, 6•129 and 6•131 with all certainty,

whilst a photo of 6•103 has yet to surface.

Last months of fighting

Quite little is known about the actual combat use of the

Bf 109 E in Spain. After the end of the Battle of the Ebro, the

Legion Condor was ordered to rest until December 1, 1938,

with only Staffel of the Jagdgruppe 88 remaining in combat

readiness. At that time, the whole unit was based at La Cenia

airfield located in Tarragona, on the southern province of

Catalonia. The latter was the target of the next Nationalist

offensive, which would be launched on December 23, 1938.

Before that, the Jagdgruppe lost two of its aircraft on the

ground in result of a Republican bomber raid on December 16,

whilst its pilots, namely Lt. Theodor Rossiwall of 3. J/88 and

Lt. Horst Tietzen of 1. J/88, claimed two I-16s on December 20

and 21, respectively11. It is generally acclaimed that during the

first days of the offensive, poor weather conditions prevented

the German fighter pilots from flying many combat sorties12,

although the flight logs of Uffz. Herbert Schob and Uffz.

Gerhard Halupczok reveal that between December 21 and

27, both NCOs flew no less than twice each day13. In the air

battles conducted between December 28 and 31, the Germans

claimed the shooting down a total of 17 enemy aircraft. The

successful pilots were again Lt. Tietzen of 1. J/88, as well as

Lt. Heinz Bretnütz, Lt. Wilhelm Ensslen (3), Oblt. Alfred von

Lojewski, Lt. Wolfgang Redlich, Uffz. Schob, Fw. Georg Schott

(3) and Lt. August-Wilhelm Schumann (2) from 2. Staffel, Uffz.

Freund, Lt. Wolfgang Lippert, and Oblt. Hubertus von Bonin

from 3. Staffel, and Lt. Kurt Hörmann from Stabskompanie14.

It is unknown what Bf 109 variants they had flown during these

missions, with exception of Uffz. Schob, who usually piloted his

old, trusty Bf 109 D-1 coded 6•6015.

The new year 1939 began with another victory for

Lt. Ensslen of 2. J/88, who claimed an I-16 over Valls, one of

the main Republican airfields. The latter, along with Vendrell

and Villafranca, was the subject of successful strafing raids

performed by the German fighters on January 12, 1939, and



Source: Hanns-Wolrad Dölling via Erik Mombeeck coll.

Another photo taken during the same session in La Cenia. The RLM 63 light grey finish of

the support struts of horizontal stabilizers is clearly visible. It was typical for all ‘Emils’

of Jagdgruppe 88, despite many colour profiles incorrectly showing the struts as painted

in RLM 65 light blue.

Source: Hanns-Wolrad Dölling via Erik Mombeeck coll.

Rear view of 6•111. Note the first aid kit stencil partially superimposed over the

identification marking, and the tail wheel tyre with a white sidewall, which was quite

common for the Bf 109.

eventually became the new home of Jagdgruppe 88 from

January 21 to February 1, when the unit moved to Sabadell

airfield, five days after the fall of Barcelona. In January, the

Germans claimed a total of ten air victories16. The enemy

aircraft, mostly identified as ‘Ratas’, fell prey to Lt. Ensslen (2)

of 2. J/88, Oblt. Karl Ebbinghausen of Stabskompanie; Oblt.

Helmut-Felix Bolz, Oblt. von Bonin, Lt. Josef Fözö, Obfw. Müller

(2) and Fhr. Heinz Tornow of 3. J/88, and the commander of

the Jagdgruppe, Hptm. Walter Grabmann. Only one pilot was

lost: Lt. Karl-August Böttcher was shot down over Mollet by

anti-aircraft fire on January 29, 1939,

Next month brought the Jagdgruppe another six victories17:

two claimed on February 3 over the Republican airfield

Figueras by Oblt. von Bonin and Fhr. Tornow of 3. J/88, one

by Lt. Ensslen of 2. J/88 on February 5, in the same area, and

three on February 6 over Vilajuiga airfield, which were claimed

by 1. Staffel pilots: the squadron’s commander, Hptm. Siebelt

Reents, Uffz. Gerhard Halupczok, and Uffz. Heinz Nirminger.

The latter is officially recorded as lost in an air accident on May

11, 1939, but both the Lt. José Falcó San Martin’s testimony and

reliable research from Juan Arraez Cerda reveal that Nirminger

was one of the two victims of the aforementioned Republican

pilot, the other being Uffz. Heinrich Windemuth of 1. J/8818. It

appears that both lost Messerschmitts were actually Bf 109D-1s

from the final delivery, coded 6-96 and 6-98. On February 10,

the Nationalist troops reached the French border at Perthus

pass. Catalonia was now conquered.

The next and final target was Madrid, the capital city of Spain.

Jagdgruppe 88 moved to a new base at Barcience-Torrijos on

March 11. Due to the lack of opposition in the air, the German

fighter pilots mainly flew surveillance and reconnaissance

missions during that period. The last air victory of the Legion

Condor is believed to be scored by Oblt. Hubertus von Bonin

INFO Eduard - July 2019