|No 101 Squadron was formed on 12th July 1917 and based at South Farnborough. The squadron was commanded by Major The Hon L J E Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, and by the end of July the squadron was sent to France where 101 Squadron was to become the second specialist night-bomber unit in the Royal Flying Corps. 101 Squadron was equipped with the FE2b two-seat pusher bi-plane and on the 20th September 1917 began flying night bombing missions during the Battle of Menin Ridge. 101 1quadron continued night bombing missions during the 3rd Battle of Ypres and the Battle of Cambrai. 101 squadron attacked several German long-range night bomber airfields during February 1918 and these missions were among the first offensive counter air operations and up until the end of the war continued bombing missions. After the First World War 101 squadron were based in Belgium until March 1919 when returning to Britian and disbanded on the 31st December. No.101 squadron reformed on the 21st March 1928 at RAF Bircham Newton and in March 1929 the squadron was issued with the new bomber the Boulton and Paul Sidestrand. The squadron moved to RAF Andover iIn October 1929 where it remained until December 1934 when 101 squadron moved to RAF Bicester and issued with the the improved Boulton Paul Overstrand, which featured the first powered gun turret in RAF aircraft as well as othe rmodifications including more powerful engines. The Boulton Paul Overstrand is displayed on 101 Squadron's official badge. In June 1938 No 101 Squadron re-equipped with Bristol Blenheim and was stationed now at RAF West Raynham in May 1939, as part of No 2 Group, Bomber Command. When World War Two broke out 101 Squadron were stationed at RAF Brize Norton, but returned to West Raynham. It was not until the fall of France when the squadron became operational but suffered a set back when its officer commanding, Wg Cdr J H Hargroves, and his crew were lost on its first bombing mission on 5th July 1940. During the Battle of Britain 101 Squadron Blenhiems carried out bombing missions against the German barges in French ports as well as German airfields in France. Another OC 101 Squadron, Wg Cdr D Addenbrooke, was lost on the 3rd April while taking part in a raid on French ports just 3 days after taking command. 101 Squadron were re-equipped with the Vickers Wellington in April 1940 and were based at RAF Oakington and became part of No 3 Group bomber command. On the 24th July 101 Squadron lost its first Wellington on a raid against Brest. Ten Wellingtons of 101 Squadron took part in the first 1,000 bomber raid on Cologne, but losses began to mount and between July and September the Squadron lost 20 Wellingtons with 86 aircrew killed. In September 101 Squadron moved to RAF Holme-on-Spalding-Moor in Septmber 1942 and became the first operational Avro Lancaster squadron in No 1 Group.Bomber Command. 101 squadron moved to its final wartime base, RAF Ludford Magna on 15th June 1943. 101 Squadrons Lancasters took part in the raids on Hamburg and the raid on the secret German rocket site at Peenemunde. Over the winter of 1943-1944 No.101 squadron took part in the raid on Berlin but suffered high casualties. On the 31st March 1944, during the Nuremberg Raid, 101 Squadron lost 7 Lancasters and crews out of 26 dispatched. In the spring and summer of 1944 101 squadron attacked targets in France in preparation for and support of the allied invasion of Normandy. On D-Day, the squadron used "ABC" to jam nightfighter controllers to protect the British airborne landings. After D-Day 101 squadron continued raids on German cities with their last bombing mission on Berchtesgarden on 25th April 1945. 101 bomber squadron suffered the highest casualties of any Royal Air Force Squadron during the Second World War, losing 1176 aircrew killed in action. In October 1945, the Squadron moved to RAF Binbrook and later equipped with Avro Lincolns. In May 1952 101 squadorn became the first bomber squadron to receive the first Jet Bomber the English Electric Canberra B2 and in 1954 were stationed in Malaya carrying out bombing misisons against terrorist targets. In October 1956 during the Suez crisis to Malta for Operation MUSKETEER bombing raids against Egypt befroe being disbanded in February 1957 but in 1959 101 squadron was reformed and re equipped with the new Avro Vulcan B1 and the first squadorn to be armed with the British H Bomb, In 1961 101 squadron moved to RAF Waddington. In 1968 the squadron was equipped with the new Vulcan B2 . In 1982,101 Squadron Vulcans took part in Operation CORPORATE, during the Falklands War. A 101 Squadron crew carried out the first and last Operation BLACKBUCK Vulcan conventional bombing raids on Argentinean forces occupying Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands. These 8,000 mile round trip missions required extensive use of Air to Air refuelling. After the Falklands war 101 squadron was equipped with VC10s and supplied fighter aircraft with air to air refuelling during all major conflicts form Bosnia, to Operation Desert Storm and continues today in this role.|
|I./JG 54 was initially formed as I./JG 70 near Nuremberg in July 1939, just two short months before hostilities broke out. As was to become tradition within Grunherzgeschwader, the Gruppe took the Nurember coat-of-arms (a veritcally divided shield with a black heraldic bird on the left, and red and white diagonal stripes on the right) to represent the region the unit came from.|
On September 15, 1939, I./JG 70 was redesignated I./JG 54
The initial unit designation for II./JG 54 was I./JG 138. This unit was raised in 1938 after the Austrian annexation. Naturally many Austrian nationals were recruited when I./JG 138 was formed. The Aspern coat of arms (black lion's head surmounting a white cross on a red field) was taken by the Gruppe for its identity.
I./JG 138 was briefly designated I./JG 76 before finally becoming II./JG 54 on April 6, 1940.
The III./JG 54 has its roots in Prussia. Initially I./JG 21, the members were drawn from the Jesau region in Prussia. The modified Jesau coat-of-arms (a shield with a Jesau cross with three diving aircraft on a red background, with a white outline on the shield) was adopted as the Gruppe's own.
On July 15, 1939, I./JG 21 was redesignated III./JG 54. However, the bureaucratic nature of the young Luftwaffe was such that it was over a year before records would reflect the new designation. Consequently, III./JG 54 fought in Poland and France as I./JG 21.
Kommodoren of JG 54 :
Major Martin Mettig; 2 Feb 40 to 25 Aug 40.
Oberst Hannes Trautloft; 25 Aug 40 to 5 Jul 43.
Major Hubertus von Bonin; 6 Jul 43 to 15 Dec 43.
Oberstleutnant Anton Mader; 28 Jan 44 to Sep 44.
Oberst Dieter Hrabak; 1 Oct 44 to 8 May 45.
|No. 85 Squadron was formed on the 1st of August 1917 at Uphaven. Shortly afterwards the squadron moved to Mousehold Heath nea Norwich under the command of Major R A Archer. The squadron transferred to Hounslow in November 1917 and in March 1918 received its new commander Major William Avery Bishop VC, DSO, MC. On 1st April 1918 No.85 Squadron was transferred into the new Royal Air Force and went to France in May1918 flying the Sopwith Dolphin and later SE5A's. 85 Squadron duties were fighter patrols and ground attack sorties over the western front until the end of the war. On 21st June 1918 Major Edward Mannock DSO MC became commanding officer. On the 26th July 1918 during a patrol with Lt DC Inglis over the front line Major Mannock failed to return and on the 18th of July 1919 Major Mannock was awarded a posthumous VC. No. 85 Squadron had 99 victories during their stint on the western front, returning to the UK in February 1919, and being disbanded on the 3rd of July 1919. 85 Squadron was reformed on June 1st, 1938, as part of A Flight of 87 Squadron based at RAF Debden commanded by Flight Lieutenant D E Turner. The squadron started training on the Gloster Gladiator until the 4th of September when Hawker Hurricanes were supplied. On the outbreak of World War Two the squadron moved to Boos as part of the Air Component of the BEF 60th Fighter Wing, and their Hurricanes were given the role to support the squadrons of Bristol Blenheims and Fairey Battles. By 1st November 85 Squadron's Hurricanes were moved to Lille Seclin. 85 Squadron scored its first victory of World War Two when Flight Lieutenant R.H.A. Lee attacked an He111 which crashed into the Channel, exploding on impact while on patrol over the Boulogne area. In May 1940, during the German advance, 85 Squadron were in combat constantly and over an 11 day period the squadron confirmed 90 enemy kills. When their operating airfields were overun the squadron's last remaining three Hurricanes returned to England. The squadron lost 17 pilots (two killed, six wounded and nine missing). During the Battle of Britian the squadron took part in the conflict over southern England and in October the Squadron moved to Yorkshire and were given the new role of night fighter patrols. 85 Squadron continued in the night fighter role for most of the war, with only a brief period as bomber support as part of 100 group.|
Disbanded 19th December 1975
|On 1st March 1915, the officers and men who made up No.1 Reserve Squadron and the Recruits Depot, all of whom were based at South Farnborough, Hampshire, were brought together to form No.15 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Initially, the new squadron was equipped with a diverse range of flying machines, including Henri and Maurice Farmans, Avros, Bleriots, Moranes and BE2c aircraft. Having relocated to an airfield at Hounslow, west of London, where the squadron was allowed time to work up to operational status, it was, on 11th May, relocated to another airfield at Swingate Down, to the east of Dover, on the Kent coast. On 23rd December 1915, No.15 Squadron, RFC, deployed to France for operational duties. Throughout its time on the Western Front, during the First World War, the squadron was engaged in observation and reconnaissance duties, initially using BE2c aircraft but later, during June 1916, upgrading to R.E.8s. The work undertaken by the squadron, in its reconnaissance role, was recognised by higher authority, on a number of occasions, in the form of telegrams or communiqués. On 1st April 1918, No.15 Squadron became part of the newly formed Royal Air Force, which came into being with the amalgamation of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service. With the end of hostilities in November 1918, came a reduction in the fighting strength of the RAF and, although not disbanded as a number of squadrons were, No.15 was reduced to a cadre. The axe finally fell on the final day of December 1919, when No.15 Squadron was disbanded. |
It was to be approximately five years before No.15s number plate was to be resurrected when, on 20th March 1924, No.15 Squadron was reformed as part of the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE), at Martlesham Heath, Suffolk. Over a period of ten years, No.15 Squadron completed 12,100 flying hours on over seventy-five different types of airframe. Over that same period, it also saw five changes of commanding officer.
On 1st June 1934, No.15 was re-designated as a new unit, equipped with Hawker Hart Mk.I aircraft, undertaking daylight operations flying as part of Bomber Command. The new C.O. was Squadron Leader Thomas Elmhirst, who secured permission for his squadron to change the number plate to Roman numerals and have the XV applied to the fuselage on all the squadrons aircraft. This decision was to have a lasting effect and was only interrupted by the Second World War. Thomas Elmhirst also gave thought to the fact the squadron should have its own badge and motto, both of which were approved, during 1935. In early 1936, the squadron re-equipped with Hawker Hind bomber aircraft. These machines remained in service with No.XV until 13th July 1938, when the unit converted to Fairey Battle bomber aircraft. It was with the latter aircraft that the squadron prepared for war when, on 27th August 1939, a state of emergency was declared.
History repeated itself when the Squadron returned to France on a war footing, but it was forced to return to England in order to re-equip with the Bristol Blenheim bomber. The new aircraft was initially seen as a wonder aircraft, but No.XV Squadron was virtually decimated in strength following the German invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940. With the Blenheim being designated unsuitable for the task, the squadron began converting to the Vickers Wellington bomber, designed by Barnes Wallace, on 7th November 1940. This was really a stop-gap measure as on 30th April 1941 No.XV began converting to the Short Stirling, four-engine, heavy bomber. During the next couple of years, night after night, the squadron carried the fight back to the enemy, enduring many losses and exploits of valour in the process. It participated in all the 1,000 bomber raids against Germany.
As 1943 drew to a close, No.XV prepared to continue the fight with new equipment. Having converted to the Avro Lancaster bomber in late December 1943, the squadron went operational in mid-January 1944 with its new aircraft. By the time the war came to an end, No.XV was flying Lancaster B.1 Specials, which were specially adapted to carry 22,000lb Grand Slam bombs. February 1947 saw another change of equipment when the squadron converted to the Avro Lincoln bomber, whilst based at RAF Wyton in Huntingdonshire. However, by the end of that same year, No.XV found itself deploying aircraft to Shallufa, Egypt, as part of Operation Sunrise.
Another change of occurred at the end of November 1950, when No.XV Squadron was disbanded but immediately reformed with Boeing B29 Washington bomber aircraft. It was during the Washington period, in March 1951, that the squadrons code letters ‘LS’, which it had been adopted during late 1939, were removed from the aircraft fuselages. The new scheme called for a natural metal finish, adorned with only the RAF roundel, fin flash and aircraft serial. With technology advancing all the time, No.XV entered a new phase in its history in June 1953, when it was declared fully operational flying English Electric Canberra bombers. During the next couple of years, the squadron continued to train and undertook many navigational and bombing exercises, which proved fruitful in 1956 when the Suez crises erupted. No.XV was deployed to Nicosia, as part of Operation Accumulate, on 23rd October. During the short period of fighting that followed, No.XV dropped a higher concentration of bombs than any other squadron. Following a cease-fire, the squadron returned to England where, on 15th April 1957, it was disbanded.
The 1st of September 1958 saw the re-formation of No.XV as a V-Bomber squadron, equipped with Handley Page Victor B.I bombers. These aircraft were not only adorned with the official RAF insignia described above, but were also permitted to carry the squadron badge, together with the Roman XV numerals. The squadron retained these aircraft until 1964 when it was again disbanded. For a period of five years No.XV Squadron ceased to exist. However, this changed on 1st October 1970, when the squadron number plate and badge were resurrected and No.XV was reformed at RAF Honnington, in Suffolk. Equipped with Blackburn S.2B Buccaneer aircraft, the squadron departed for RAF Laarbruch, where, during January 1971, it officially became part of Royal Air Force Germany. After thirteen years service with the squadron, the Buccaneers were replaced with Panavia Tornado, swing-wing, bombers. On 1st September 1983, No.XV became the first RAF Squadron in Germany to be equipped with this type of aircraft. During the latter quarter of 1990, No.XV had deployed two flights, totalling twelve crews, to Muharraq Air Base, on Bahrain Island, in readiness for operations against the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. During the following conflict, two aircraft crewed by XV Squadron personnel were shot down, resulting in the loss of Flt Lt Stephen Hicks and the capture of Flt Lts John Peters, John Nichol and Rupert Clark.
The squadron returned to RAF Laarbruch at the end of March 1991, where a number of awards, for service in the Gulf War were announced. Wing Commander John Broardbent was awarded a Distinguished Service Order, whilst Sqn Ldr Gordon Buckley and Sqn Ldr Nigel Risdale were both awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses. Senior Engineering Officer S/L Rob Torrence was awarded the Member of the British Empire. Following disbandment in January 1992, No.XV was reformed a few months later on 1st April, at RAF Honnington, where it took on the role of the Tornado Weapons Conversion Unit. It was also granted the status of a Reserve Squadron. No.XV (R) Squadron remained at Honnington until 1st November 1993, when it re-located to RAF Lossiemouth, Moray, Scotland. During January 1998, it was re-designated as the Tornado GR1 Operational Conversion Unit and equipped with the up-graded Tornado GR4 variant. In 2011, just four years away from its 100th anniversary, No.XV (R) Squadron still operates from RAF Lossiemouth, providing refresher crews and new crews to the front line squadrons.
Text by kind permission of Martyn Ford Jones
|Jagdgeschwader 2 was formed from parts of Jagdgeschwader 131 "Richthofen" on 1 May 1939 in Döberitz and its first commander was Oberst Robert Ritter von Greim. At the outbreak of the war JG 2 was tasked with defence of the Reich and based in the Berlin area under Luftgaukommando III. Stab and II. Gruppe were equipped with the Bf 109E and were located at Döberitz with 10.(N) staffel flying the Bf 109D in Straussberg.|
10.(N) Staffel was one of the first night fighter units formed in the Luftwaffe. Later this staffel was expanded into IV.(N) Gruppe. This Gruppe gained the Luftwaffe’s first night kill over the RAF Bomber Command on the night of 25/26 on April 1940 when Ofw Förster shot down a Handley Page Hampden.
The unit saw little combat until the Western offensive against France and the Low Countries from 10 May 1940 onwards. During the campaign against France, JG 2 was tasked with escorting raids and defending German airspace to the south of Heinz Guderian's Panzer forces which were encircling the French and the British Expeditionary Force further north. Leutnant Helmut Wick, who later became part of a trio of outstanding aces (including Adolf Galland from Jagdgeschwader 26 (JG 26) and Werner Mölders from Jagdgeschwader 51 (JG 51)) in the Battle of Britain, attained his first and the Geschwader's second kill on 22 November 1939, a French Curtiss Hawk Model 75. The first victory for the JG 2 was scored by Oberfeldwebel Kley (3. Staffel) at the same day.
JG 2 took part in the Battle of Britain, operating Bf 109Es over the South Coast of England and the English Channel from bases in Cherbourg and Normandy. Major Helmut Wick emerged as one of the Battle’s top Luftwaffe aces, claiming 31 kills for a personal total of 56, before being killed (MIA) in action versus Spitfires of No. 609 Squadron in November 1940. Wick was seen to bail out successfully but was not found by German Air/Sea Rescue attempts. The Spitfire who dispatched him was immediately shot down by Oberleutnant Rudolf Pflanz. Ofw. Schnell, Ofw. Machold and Olt. Hans "Assi" Hahn also claimed heavily during this period, with 16 kills each. Some 42 JG 2 pilots were killed or made POW during the battle.
|56 Squadron was formed on 8th June 1916 and in April 1917 was posted to France as part of the Royal Flying Corps. 56 squadron was equipped with the new SE5 fighter. One of the major aerial combats of the squadron was the shooting down of Lt Werner Voss. By the end of the first world war 56 Squadron had scored 402 victories, and many famous fighter aces flew with 56 Squadron including James McCudden, Reginald Hoidge, Gerald Maxwell, Arthur Rhys-Davies, Geoffrey Hilton Bowman, Richard Mayberry, Leonard Monteagle Barlow, Cyril Crowe, Maurice Mealing, Albert Ball, Harold Walkerdine, William Roy Irwin, Eric Broadberry, Kenneth William Junor, Cecil Leiws, Keith Muspratt, Duncan Grinnell-Milne, William Spurret Fielding-Johnson, William Otway Boger, Charles Jeffs, and Harold Molyneux. The squadron lost 40 pilots during the first world war with another twenty wounded and thirty one taken prisoner. When world war two broke out on the 6th of September 1939, 56 Squadron was based at North Weald. 56 Squadron flew Hurricanes during the Battle of France and during the Battle of Britain. 56 Squadron claimed just over 100 enenmy aircraft shot down during 1940. In 1941 as part of the Duxford Wing it was the first squadron to be equipped with the new Hawker Typhoon and during 1942 and 1943 was based ay RAF Matlaske as part of No.12 Group. No 56 Squadron was the frist squadron to confirm a victory while flying the Hawker Typhoon. In 1944 56 Squadron moved to RAF Newchurch and was re equipped with the new Hawker Tempest V, becoming part of the No.150 Wing under the command of the Ace Wing Commander Roland Beamont. 56 Squadron's new role was to defend Britian against the V1 flying bombs, and the squadron shot down around 75 V1s. The squadron moved to Europe on the 28th of September 1944 to Grimbergen in Belgium as part fo 122 Wing of the Second Tactical Air Force. During this period to the end of the war 56 Squadron became joint top scorers with a total of 149 aircraft cliamed. Over its history the squadron flew, SE5's Sopwith Snipes, Gloster Grebes, Armstrong Whitworth Siskins, Bristol Bulldogs, Gloster Gauntlets, Gloster Gladiators, Harker Hurricanes, Hawker Typhoon, and Hawker Tempests. Battle of Honours of the Squadron are : Western front 1917 - 1918 , Arras, Ypres 1917, Cambrai 1917, Soome 1918, Amiens, Hindenburg Line. During World war two : France and the Low Countries 1940, Battle of Britian, Fortress Europe 1942 - 1944, Dieppe, France, Germany 1944 - 1945, Home Defence 1942 - 1945 and Arnhem.|
|No. 87 Squadron was formed from a major part of D Squadron of the Central Flying School at Upavon on 1st September 1917. In April 1918, 87 Squadron was equipped with Dolphins when it was sent to France to fly in fighter and ground attack operations. This the squadron did to the end of the Great War, returning back to the UK in February 1919, and was disbanding on 24th June 1919.|
87 Squadron was reformed on 15th March 1937 at Tangmere and was equipped with Hawker Furies until being re-equipped with the Gloster Gladiator in June when the squadron was based at Debden. In July 1938, 87 Squadron was again re-equipped with Hawker Hurricanes and with the outbreak of World War Two the squadron was moved to France as part of the Air Force supporting the British Expeditionary Force. 87 Squadron supplied air support to the troops on the Northern Front until their airfields were overrun by the German forces. The squadron was then moved to Yorkshire, moving again to south-west England in July for defence roles both day and night. The squadron was mainly used in a night fighter role during the Battle of Britain and remained mainly in that role until the end of 1942, while also beginning intruder missions in March 1941. The squadron was then moved to Gibraltar In November 1942 as part of the build up for the invasion of North Africa, remaining there until September 1943 when the squadron again moved to Sicily. In January 1944, the squadrons main role was to patrol over the Balkans form their base in Italy. In August 1944, the squadron returned to night duties performing fighter-bomber missions and in this role 87 squadron remained until the end of the war. On 30th December 1946, the squadron was disbanded.
No.87 reformed on 1st January 1952 at Wahn as a night-fighter squadron in Germany, initially operating the Meteor jet fighter but by the end of 1957 the Meteor was replaced with the Javelin until the squadron was finally disbanded in January 1961.
Pilots of 87 Sqn c.1941. Second from the right is P/O G. L. Roscoe.
Many thanks to Flight Lieutenant Alex Thom DFC who supplied this photo.
Disbanded 3rd January 1961
|Jagdgeschwader 51 Mölders was a Luftwaffe fighter wing during World War II, named after the fighter ace Werner Mölders in 1942. JG 51's pilots won more Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes than any other Jagdgeschwader, and flew combat from 1939 in all major theatres of war. Flying Bf 109s and then FW 190s, the wing claimed over 8,000 air victories. Experten included 'Toni' Hafner, Heinz Bär, Richard Leppla, Karl-Gottfried Nordmann, Günther Schack and the legendary Mölders. |
Formed in August 1939, and commanded by 48-year-old World War I ace Onkel Theo Osterkamp, the early months of the war JG 51 was based in the West, fighting in the French campaign, and in the Battle of Britain. From late June to mid July JG 51 was the only fighter Geschwader engaged against the RAF constantly. During the whole battle JG 51 lost 68 pilots, the highest casualty rate of the Luftwaffe fighter units engaged. JG 51 was one of the two Geschewader that had four Gruppen. The other being JG 1.
Four Bf 109 of JG 51 in France 1940Whilst based out of the Belgian airfield at Mardyik in late 1940, the German ace Josef "Pips" Priller was a Staffelkapitän with JG 51, flying Bf 109-E "Yellow One". Josef Priller went on to score over 100 victories, the third highest scoring Luftwaffe day fighter ace on the Western Front, fighting solely against the Western Allies.
Against the Western Allies JG 51 had claimed 345 aircraft destroyed by May 1941. JG 51 were therefore one of the Jagdwaffe's elite units, with 'top ten' aces at this time including Werner Mölders with 68 claims, Walter Oesau with 34 claims, and Hermann-Friedrich Joppien with 31. Major Werner Mölders became unit Geschwaderkommodore during July 1940 and led the unit into the invasion of Russia in June 1941.
Claiming 69 kills on the first day of the offensive, by 30 June 1941 JG 51 became the first fighter Geschwader to claim 1,000 air victories (113 kills in 157 sorties were claimed for the day). On 24 June JG 51 claimed 57 bombers shot down for the day. Mölders became the first fighter pilot to reach 100 claims in August and in the same month JG 51's Oberfeldwebel Heinz Bär reached 60 claims and was decorated with the Oak Leaves. A total of 500 Soviet claims was reached on 12 July 1941, although 6 pilots had been lost by JG 51 in the intervening 3 weeks since the offensive had started.
After Mölders' departure in September 1941 (and death later that year) the Geschwader adopted his name as a title of honor in early 1942. Jagdgeschwader 51 Mölders was to remain on the centre sector of the Russian front throughout the rest of 1941. However Oberstleutnant Friedrich Beckh ( one of the few fighter pilots to wear spectacles) proved an uncharismatic commander after Mölders, and it was not until Major Karl-Gottfried Nordmann took over in April 1942 that a worthy successor to Mölders was found. In the period 22 June - 5 December 1941 the unit destroyed 1,881 Soviet aircraft, in return for 84 losses in aerial combat and a single aircraft on the ground.
Air support for the Wehrmacht's Army Group Centre was entrusted to General Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen's VIII. Fliegerkorps. In early January 1942, among the fighter units available to von Richthofen were II, III and IV/ JG 51. With the onset of the sub-zero conditions of the Russian winter, the majority of JG 51's available aircraft became grounded.
The Russian winter counter offensive forced III./ JG 51 into flying numerous fighter-bomber operations in direct support of the infantry, and the gruppe filed few aerial 'kill' claims through January 1942. II./ JG 51 however, accounted for most of VIII. Fliegerkorps's aerial victories during the Soviet offensive. Particularly successful was the duo of Lt. Hans Strelow and Ofw. Wilhelm Mink, both of 5. JG 51. They claimed five MiG-3s of 16 IAP on 4 January (Mink claimed three) and 9 days later Mink claimed a Pe-2 and Strelow destroyed two R-Z biplanes for his 30th and 31st victories. On 4 February, Strelow increased his victories to 36 by shooting down four Russian aircraft. The 19 year-old Strelow claimed his 40th victory on 28 February and claimed 4 victories on both 6 March and 17 March. The next day he was awarded the Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes and also shot down seven Soviet aircraft. He was awarded the Eichenlaub on 24 March, his claims total at 66.
7./JG 51, (with Bf 109G-6's) was attached to II./JG 1 in May 1944 from Brest-Litovsk, with pilots arriving at Störmede late in May and hurriedly converting to the FW-190. (It was later renamed 8./JG 1 on 15 August 1944 when the four-Staffeln Gruppe became standard) 7. Staffel was led by Ritterkreuzträger (Knight's Cross winner) Hptm. Karl-Heinz Weber with 136 confirmed kills. Its two other experten were Lt. Friedrich Krakowitzer (23 kills) and Ofhr. Günther Heckmann with 12 kills.
7./JG 51 joined II. Gruppe with 15 pilots on strength at the end of May, and during the first two months of the Normandy campaign the staffel was decimated, with twelve pilots killed, one POW and one severely wounded.
As the war turned against Germany JG 51 was forced to operate closer and closer to Germany, finally staging out of East Prussia.