Flg Off Bevan Hall’s spiralling Tempest careered into Paul Breger’s parachute as he floated down, having bailed out from his Fw 190D-9 following Green Section’s attack. The fighter crashed into the ground on the road between Handorf and Dorbaum, exploding on impact. Breger plummeted to earth with his parachute in flames and Hall was later found dead as well.
Arguably two of the finest fighters ever built, the Tempest V and Fw 190D-9 raised the bar in terms of aircraft design and operational capability during World War II. Indeed, they represented the cutting edge and pinnacle of their respective nations’ piston-engined aviation development at this late stage of the war and within their roles. The long-nosed Fw 190D-9 first appeared in the frontline in the late summer of 1944. It quickly bettered most fighters that the RAF, USAAF and Soviet Red Air Force could field and was an immediate match for even the Griffon-engined Spitfire XIV and the P-51D/K thanks to its high-performance Jumo 213 engine. The Tempest V entered service in early 1944, equipping eight squadrons. The fighter soon proved itself a stalwart performer when it was deployed to intercept V1 flying bombs over southern England. From the autumn of 1944 the Tempest V also equipped squadrons of the 2nd Tactical Air Force, operating in support of the Allied armies advancing across northwest Europe.
As told by Robert Forsyth in his book Tempest V vs Fw 190D-9, the first, dramatic, test between the Tempest and the ‘Dora’ took place on Dec. 27, 1944 in clear skies when eight aircraft from No. 486 Sqn on an armed reconnaissance to the Paderborn area encountered the 60 or so D-9s from III./JG 54 on a large-scale airfield protection flight for Ar 234s. The Tempests were flying in two ‘finger-four’ sections of four aircraft, while the D-9s were in a staggered formation at between 6,500-10,000ft, led by the Stabsschwarm. To the right and left of the Stab were, 9., 11. and 12. Staffeln, while flying top cover was 10. Staffel led by Leutnant Peter Crump, a 24-victory ace — all of his kills had been claimed in the West while flying with II./JG 26, and included Spitfires, Mustangs, P-47s and a Mosquito.
The two units met over the Munster area. On being alerted to the presence of the Tempests by ground control, the Gruppenkommandeur, Hauptmann Robert `Bazzi’ Weiss, a Knight’s Cross-holder whose personal victory tally now stood at 122, ordered the large German formation to alter course from the southwest to the northeast. This split the lower Staffeln from Crump’s Staffel and isolated it. Now highly vulnerable to attack, the pilots’ position was made even worse when, as Crump ordered them to reverse, they lost contact, dispersed and lagged behind the rest of the Gruppe.
Leading the Tempest group was Sqn Ldr Keith Taylor-Cannon from Oamaru in New Zealand, who was known to his comrades as ‘Hyphen’ and who had a V1, shares in the destruction of an Me 262 and a Ju 188 to his name. ‘We were flying at 10,000ft and sighted the Huns in two gaggles at “12 o’clock” to us,’ he later reported, ‘one formation of 15 109s and 190s at 9,000ft, with top cover of 20+ 109s and 190s at approximately 14,000ft.’
Taylor-Cannon led Red Section down into the enemy aircraft as Green Section climbed to engage 10./JG 54. The Tempests then pulled up in line astern and slightly below the lower-flying Staffel of D- 9s . ‘After breaking, I got on the tail of a Fw 190 and opened fire at 200 yards range,’ recounted Taylor-Cannon. ‘I observed strikes, and as I pulled up sharply to avoid it, I saw the Fw 190 blow up in mid-air. A general dogfight ensued.’
Two pilots in Red Section, Pit Offs Sid J. Short and Keith A. Smith (also a V1 ace), each claimed an Fw 190 destroyed, the latter reporting:
‘I got into line astern, slightly above an Fw 190 and opened fire with a short burst from about 400 yards using half-a-ring of deflection. I closed the range, and when within 200 yards fired a short burst and another at very close range of 20 yards using a full ring of deflection. The Fw 190 blew up — I could not avoid the explosion but broke to starboard as I flew through it.’
Short noted in his Combat Report:
‘I selected an Fw 190 and commenced firing from about 200 yards range in line astern, allowing five degrees of deflection. I held my fire for about two seconds and saw large puffs of grey-coloured smoke coming from beneath the fuselage. By this time I had an Me 109 [sic] on my tail firing at me so was forced to break to port and spun off. I did not see what happened to the Fw 190, but Red 4 — Flg Off Smith — saw it catch fire and the pilot bail out. After spinning off I recovered the spin and regained my section.’
Meanwhile, Green Section had engaged Crump’s Staffel. Flt Lt E. W. Tanner described how he:
‘. . . closed in behind a straggler of the enemy formation and identified it as an Fw 190 with a long-range tank. I fired a short burst from 200 yards range, allowing slight deflection and about five degrees off line astern but observed no strikes. Green 4 [Flg Off Smith] passed me very closely and I saw him open fire at the same aircraft from about 50 yards range. I saw the Fw 190 blow up in mid-air. The Hun formation had broken so I climbed up through it and saw a long-nosed 190 flying across my nose at about 60 degrees and about 200 yards range. I opened fire, allowing 2 1/2 rings of deflection and saw strikes on the tail unit, large pieces of which fell off. I saw the 190 roll over on its back and dive steeply to earth. Flg Offs Stafford and Danzey saw it going down vertically without its tail unit and pieces coming away from the fuselage. I milled around with the Section and then pulled up above the main gaggle. I spotted a 109 [sic] on the tail of a Tempest, so I dived on the 109 and opened fire at about 400 yards, holding the burst until 150 yards. I saw strikes along the cockpit and saw the nose of the 109 go down as if the stick had gone violently forward. I was being engaged by about four other enemy aircraft so could not follow the 109 down, but Green 4 [Flg Off Smith] saw it tumbling down end over end.’
The Tempest pilots had gone about their work quickly and efficiently, downing three Fw 190D-9s flown by Oberleutnant Paul Breger, Feldwebel Karl Dahn and Feldwebel Arnfried Kohler, all from 10./JG 54. Kohler came down by parachute with second-degree burns on his face and shrapnel in his foot. Breger suffered particular misfortune. Peter Crump had managed to turn tightly to position himself onto the tail of a Tempest that was itself pursuing another D-9 in his Schwarm. The RAF fighter was being flown by V1 ace Flg Off Bevan Hall of Green Section, who had come to the assistance of Flg Off Jack Stafford. According to Stafford, ‘a 109 [sic] jumped on my tail and stayed there shooting, although without hitting me.’
Crump registered strikes on Flg Off Hall’s Tempest, forcing him to bail out of his stricken machine as it fell away in a vertical dive. Moments later, the spiralling Tempest careered into Paul Breger’s parachute as he floated down, having bailed out following Green Section’s attack. The fighter crashed into the ground on the road between Handorf and Dorbaum, exploding on impact. Breger plummeted to earth with his parachute in flames and Hall was later found dead as well.
As the dogfight raged and drifted over Munster-Handorf airfield, Crump observed the D-9 of Unteroffizier Max Mittelstadt of 10. Staffel crash-land with its Jumo 213 on fire. As Mittelstadt, a former flight instructor from JG 103, attempted to land his aircraft, oil sprayed across his windscreen. He opened his canopy and tried to peer out, only to be splashed in the face with more hot oil. Mittelstadt, who lost consciousness as he crash-landed at the end of his very first combat sortie, was pulled from the wreckage of his now-wingless D-9 by another pilot.
From 12./JG 54, Feldwebel Walfried Huth crashed and was killed at Telgte and Unteroffizier Kurt Hein’s D-9 was damaged. One German pilot wrote in his diary following the encounter, ‘I just escaped from a wild dogfight with my skin. Our formation disintegrated completely, no trace of an “air battle”, just wild confusion’. Another mentioned in a letter home, must praise my machine.’ The net result was that No. 486 Sqn had shot down five Fw 190D-9s and damaged another for the loss of Fig Off Bevan Hall and his Tempest. The men of the mauled 10./JG 54 were so harrowed by their experience that Bazzi’ Weiss decided to rest them for a few days.
Tempest V vs Fw 190D-9 is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force and Royal Air Force