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