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Bf 110s "needed their own escorts" a canard?

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    Originally posted by WP840
    Did the RAF Mosquito need a fighter escort?
    The Banff Strike Wing Mosquitos were often escorted by 19 Squadron Mustangs in operations off Norway in late 1944 and early 1945.


      Being tied to the bombers hurt both the 109 and 110 which much preferred the free reign of combat at height where boom and zoom tactics were in their favor.
      "If the C.O. ask's you to be Tail End Charlie...just shoot him!!!....A Piece of Cake.


        I suspect the Bf110 may have been marginally better at the boom and zoom tactic, due to heavier firepower. Issue is, by the Battle of Britain the time of the “free hunt” is ending. The Luftwaffe were now up against an integrated defensive control system and Fighter Command was happy to ignore sweeps by pure fighters, when it was able to. A high altitude offensive sweep over the UK that no longer regularly encounters defensive fighters is not going to achieve much when Goring wants fighter kills and will be problematical if his bomber formations are still getting hit. With radar the defenders hoped to be above or at least aware of the foes. The bombers had to be escorted and 110 had to help with this – there were never enough LW fighters. The move to close escorts of bombers removed the edge the German fighter pilots wanted. This hit the 110 more than the nimble 109, which had better odds of recovering from this situation. As a fighter with just this one trick of” boom and zoom”, the 110’s time as a day fighter was numbered.

        As the 110 as the greater range, could it be that these escorted the bombers for the larger part of their journey, while waves of 109s arrived to cover parts of the flight. This being observed could have been thought of as 109s arriving to escort the 110s?


          If the given stated wins/losses are correct (or anywhere near correct as I've learned to take most statistics with a grain of salt), then Stephen likely has his answer.
          It seems 110s weren't the "easy meat" as often portrayed/assumed.

          History, even well documented relatively recent history such as we're dealing with, is filled with claims, exaggerations, propaganda/PR, and untruths that become legend...if not outright accepted "facts".

          It 's good that a journalist as experienced as Mr. Wilkinson (he'll hate me for saying this because it will make him feel ancient, but I enjoyed his work in Flying, many years ago when I was a kid) is trying to set the record straight.
          Last edited by J Boyle; 28th August 2018, 02:54.
          There are two sides to every story. The truth is usually somewhere between the two.


            I think you could pick any set of figures to prove whatever your angle you wanted to spin. As said by Maple 01 above, challenging the accepted view sells. I think to be taken seriously then best avoid those figures above as they as based on "claims" and exceed the actual losses. If the LW fighters had been as good as those figures then they must have won the Battle!

            Bergstrom actually introduces another figure. He says that looking at one months figures ( 8th August to 7th September) in British records where there specifies which type of German fighter shot their plane down, then 23% give credit to the 110 over the 109. I applied this as a general rule.....

            So I took the figure 1050 of total RAF aerial losses and removed 12% (a figure generally apportioned to the part of RAF shot down by Luftwaffe bomber gunners in RAF reports). Then I divided the ratio of the 924 remaining fighter losses by 23%. Now we have

            Bf109 shot 717 vs losses of 534 with a ratio of 1.3 to 1
            Bf110 shot 213 vs losses of 196 with a ratio of 1 to 1

            So now we have a third situation with the Bf109 being better than 110 at shooting down the RAF. This one matches the general perception of that relationship, so would probably be best avoided by an author trying to give a new insight into the Battle.

            Which of our three scenarios actually fits reality? We could start by taking the start figures of the serviceable LW fighters and comparing them to their acknowledged combat losses. On 20th July (will have to do for now) shows 656 serviceable Bf109 against 168 Bf110 in Luftflotten 2 and 3. This means that in July through October that the Bf109 lost the equivalent of 66% of their starting strength while the Bf110 lost 116% of theirs! This would tend to support that your chances of surviving in a Bf110 were significantly slimmer than in a Bf109. (Need to take in factors like sortie rates and whether certain missions are skewing the figures, like a certain raid from the direction of Norway and use by both types in vulnerable bombing roles, but even then the difference is quite impressive).

            The loss rates for Bf110 in each of the first three months of the battle is around half that of the Bf109, in spite of numbering only a quarter of the Bf109 strength. So their proportion of losses is double of what you would expect if the units were fighting in equal circumstances.
            Last edited by otis; 29th August 2018, 00:37. Reason: spelling's and punktuation's


              Depending only on the viewpoint of the examiner, statistics are known to be open to interpretation. I believe that the only reliable indicator of the abilities of the Me110 as a warplane, are the experiences of those who actually fought against them and recorded their experience via battle reports immediately after the event.

              Altho' I can't trace any actual record, perhaps captured versions of the 110 were flown, maybe at Farnborough, against various RAF a/c and the results then compared.


                Me 110 5F-CM was captured on 21st of July 1940 and went to the Air Fighting Development Unit at Duxford as AX772, then in 1942 it moved to become one of the aircraft used by 1426 flight the 'Rafwaffe'. That one was extensively flown on mock combat against allied types and I am sure reports of how it performed are available somewhere.

                "Where are you from?"
                "America" Somebody laughed politely.


                  If in doubt, consult Eric.

                  Eric Brown, in Wings of the Luftwaffe says the representations of the aircraft as being "indifferent" was unjustified. It was a fine aircraft but was misused by the High Command who did not make use of its key attributes. He thought it an elegant, well designed aircraft and he flew both the C and G models. While he does not cite the limitation on frei jagd in the Battle, it was possibly the factor he was referring to. He makes another point, that he never met a German ME 110 pilot who disliked the aircraft.


                    Or, the late great Bill Gunston.

                    He writes in his book "Fighting Aircraft of World War 2", Quote: 'Only when faced with RAF Fighter Command in the Battle of Britain did the Bf 110 suddenly prove a disaster. It was simply no match for the Spitfire or even the Hurricane and soon the Bf 109 was having to escort the escort fighters' !


                      John. The point of this thread is if this 'Escort fighter needing to have escort fighters' is something a myth that has gained traction through retelling rather than through available evidence. And whether this has tarnished the reputation of the Bf 110 unfairly.

                      The secondary question is if the Bf 110 was misused by the German high command and put it to use during the BoB in a way the negated its speed advantage over RAF fighters.

                      And while no slight on Gunston's own service in the RAF I would take Eric Brown's opinion, as a contemporary source who both flew the type and was able to speak to its pilots in their own language, as golden.


                        I thought that I understood the point of this thread and your kind explanation confirms such. Eric Brown is, because of his vast experience, looked upon as the 'gold standard'.

                        Equally so, the accurate answer to the thread question lies with those who actually gave battle against the 110 and staked their lives on the outcome - that is the 24ct. gold standard. They must surely provide not just the only but also the final source of crystal clear evidence when supporting or dispelling the alleged myth.

                        Any thing else I believe, is simply a 'red herring'.


                          With contemporary reports of RAF pilots on encountering the Bf 110 during the BoB would be hard to say whether the aircraft was generally outdated and unsuitable (a common accusation) or just badly utillised.

                          The platinum standard would be the views of those that flew the Bf110 in combat, understood what it was capable of and whether it was used well by the high command or not. Their lives depended on the strenght of the airframe getting them home.


                            I haven't seen any claims of the 110 being 'outdated' or 'unsuitable'. I've read that the 110 was well suited to the night fighter role over Germany and did inflict severe casualties against the bomber offensive.

                            The accusation against the 110 is that it was simply outclassed against the RAFs single seater fighters and therefore needed an escort of German single seater fighters thus proving that the alleged myth was in fact reality.

                            Perhaps not too many Luftwaffe 110 pilots survived to give their opinion about the excellence or otherwise of their machines. I've got Ulrich Steinhilper's offering somewhere, I'll see if he makes any reference.

                            I think that I've nothing more to add to this discussion.


                              The aircraft wasnt obsolete but the tactics for which it was successful (boom and zoom) were taken from it by tying them to the bombers.
                              Quote from the Me110 Tactical trials
                              para 54 The Hurricane 1 and Spitfire Vb were able to turn inside the Me110 at all heights.
                              para 55 The initial acceleration of the me110 in a dive was better than the Spitfire and the Hurricane but both were able to catch the Me110 and hold it with ease.
                              para 58 The angle of climb of the me110 is steeper than the Hurricane I and the Spitfire but these aircraft should not try to follow the me110 in a climb as they will not be making the best use of their own rates of climb, which in the case of the Hurricane 1 is equal to the Me 110 and in the Spitfire is considerably superior.
                              The Spitfire in the test was a 5b but if a Hurricane 1 can match the Me110 I am confident a Spitfire 1 will as well.
                              In a turn fight a 110 had very little hope of shaking off a Spit or Hurri..Being taken off operations the reason was simple..
                              Replacements were not keeping pace with losses.
                              "If the C.O. ask's you to be Tail End Charlie...just shoot him!!!....A Piece of Cake.


                                The common claim made is that the Bf 110 was unsuatible for skies of the UK and was thus pulled back to other 'safer' theatres and later found valuable use as a night fighter.

                                The unsuitability was how it was used and that had it been utillised in a way that took advantage of its speed then it would have been a very serious threat to RAF pilots without needing its own escort.


                                  I would also suggest anyone with an interest on this subject might read the complete write up by Captain Eric Brown.



                                    I found this online Vintage. Is this what you were referring to? Hermann's Destroyer By Captain Eric Brown

                                    The Zerster, or destroyer, category of warplane, a term for the strategic fighter as represented by the Messerschmitt Bf 110 borrowed from naval parlance, was particularly favoured by Reichsmarschall Hermann Ging, the Oberbefhlshaber of the Luftwaffe; the Bf 110-equipped Zerstergruppen were the elite of the air arm of which he had been the principal architecte German propagandiste had made far-reaching claims for the capabilities of the Bf 110, claims in which the Reichsmarschall undoubtedly believed implicitly, and when first deployed operationally there was every reason to suppose that it would fulfill the most sanguine expectations of its creators.
                                    Over Poland, the Bf 110 enjoyed considrable success in combat with the appreciably more manoeuvrable if slower PZL P11 single-seaters, and the disastrous armed reconnaissance sortie over the Schillig Roads, the Jade Estuary and Wilhelmshaven performed on 18 December 1939 by 24 Wellingtons of the RAF, when nine of the bombers fell victim to the Bf 110 Cs of 1. and 2.Staffeln of Zerstergeschwader 76, appeared to substantiate the boastful claims made by Reichsmarschall Ging and must have been a great morale-raiser for the crews of the Luftwaffe strategic fighter units.
                                    Thus, the Bf 110 was to enjoy an awe-inspiring reputation by the time it was committed to the "Battle of Britain". There had not been time to thoroughly analyse the results of combat in French skies during May-June 1940, in which the Zerstergruppen had encountered relatively modem and reasonably well-armed single-seat fighters, although under conditions of Lufttwaffe aerial supremacy; encounters which had necessitated a reappraisal of the tactics employed by the Zerster formations and had revealed some of the weaknesses in the strategic fighter concept. The strategic fighter had to be something of a compromise between conflicting requirements and the Bf 110 was such a compromise, if a remarkably successful one.

                                    The concept demanded heavy firepower and sufficient fuel for long range, which, at that point in time, dictated a relatively large aircraft of twin-engined configuration. It had to possess performance comparable with that of the more specialised dfensive fighter by which it was likely to be opposed, and as one of its primary tasks was the defence of bomber formations, a high degree of manoeuvrability was mandatory. Some of these desirable attributes conflicted in their achievement with others, the range requirement with its weight penalty being achieved only at the expense, for example, of manoeuvrability. In the "Battle of Britain" the Bf 110 fell far short of anticipation and its limited success was to lead to a widespread belief that it was an unsuccessful design. This was, in fact, far from the case, for the Messerschmitt strategic fighter was not the indifferent warplane that its showing during the "Battle" led many to believe. It was a very effective warplane but inadequate understanding on the part of the Fhrungsstab of the limitations of the strategic fighter category led to its incorrect deployment with the result that the Zerstergruppen suffered some 40 per cent attrition within less than three weeks of the launching of Adlerangriff.
                                    A soundly designed warplane having attempted to present the nationale for the Bf 110's relatively poor showing in British skies during the summer of 1940, which resulted in this elegant warplane being adjudged unfairly by many aviation historiens as unsuccessfull.

                                    I would make the point that, apart from the debacle of the Zerstergruppen during the "Battle of Britain", the Bf 110 served with a fair degree of distinction throughout the whole of WW II as both diurnal and nocturnal interceptor, as an intruder and fighter-bomber, and in a variety of other operational roles, the basic design proving amenable to power plant changes and to accommodating armament, avionics and other equipment far and anything envisaged at the time of its conception. By any standards, therefore, the Bf 110 must be deemed a success, and I was certainly never to meet a German pilot that disliked - an accolade indeed. I had always admired the sleek, business-like appearance of Bf 110, and as soon as I flew this warplane so much vaunted Ging I felt that tingling sensation that I associated with an aircraft of considrable operational competence.
                                    Then later......

                                    It was singularly fortunate for the Luftwaffe that it possessed so tractable an aeroplane, and it is perhaps unfair but understandable that the Bf 110 be associated most widely with the "Battle of Britain" and judged on its showing in that epic conflict. It should be borne in mind, however, that the Fhrungsstab had never envisaged deploying Hermann's "Destroyer" other than in conditions of local Luftwaffe superiority if not supremacy; a situation such as that in which the Bf 110 found itself over Southem England had not been foreseen. No designer, however talented, had come up with a magic formula enabling a large and heavy twin-engined long-range fighter to compete in terms of agility with contemporary single-engined short-range single-seaters.
                                    The forward-firing armament of the Bf 110 was certainly lethal but lacking the manoeuvrability of its RAF opponents, it could bring this armament to bear only if it could employ the element of surprise or if it encountered an unwary novioe-a commodity of which admittedly RAF Fighter Command was in no short supply at that stage of the conflict.
                                    Its acceleration and speed were inadquate to enable it to avoid combat if opposed by superior numbers of interceptons, and its single aft-firing 7,9-mm weapon was inadequate to protect it from attack from astern. But if the Bf 110 received a mauling in the "Battle of Britain" it gave a good account of itself on many battlefronts in the years that followed.


                                      Hi Otis. Yes, that is part of his write-up in "wings of the Luftwaffe". Cheers



                                        Cheers to you Vintage. If you had not have mentioned it, I would not have searched for it.

                                        So far we seem to have come up with three alternatives for Stepwilks original Canard whether 110s needed their own escorts.
                                        1. Observation of 110 fighterbomber strikes where 109 were top cover for the 110. ( I have chanced across one account of an Erpro 210 raid where it is said they did this. I have made no survey of this!)
                                        2. Observations of 109s arriving as late cover on a bomber raid that was close-escorted by 110s. The 109 was short-ranged so meant they were sometimes sent in batches to cover either the start or return of a raid.
                                        3. The initial premise, that this was a mocking reference to the vulnerability of the 110.
                                        Was it a mix of the three? Is there any account to the link to the phrase to Goring initially? Otherwise I still think the best way to get to the root of it may be to search for the first recorded use of it.

                                        Found this today in Alfred Prices The Hardest Day.

                                        If the Spitfires, Hurricanes and Messerschmitt 109s could be likened to sports cars, however, the Messerschmitt 110 was like a family car and far less nimble than the others. Because the 110 was so heavy it was difficult to manoeuvre it into a firing position on the enemy fighters, recalled Leutnant Joachim Koepsell who flew this type with Destroyer Geschwader 26. So, although we had the heaviest armament of any fighter in the battle, it was very difficult to bring that armament to bear.


                                          Found two more statements from 110 pilots re this period ( Alarmstart by Patrick Erikkson).

                                          Leutnant Hans-Joachim Jabs of ZG76 I flew the 110 from 10 May 1940 over France, Belgium and later during the Battle of Britain. We were superior to the French and the Belgians with the Me110 irrespective of whether we were opposed by Moranes or Curtis. We were inferior to the Spitfires and Hurricanes over Dunkirk.

                                          Obeleutnant Victor Molders of ZG1.The French and British fighters were absolutely superior to the Me110, they were faster and more manoeuvrable. The good armament of the Me110, the four mgs and two cannons, helped little in this regard. The Me 110 was totally inferior to all fighter types and was only suited to attacks on bombers and ground targets. When I, despite all this, was able to shoot down two Moranes and one Hurricane in the French campaign, this was only to be ascribed to the effect of surprise.Fact: the Me110 is good for night fighting, attacks on bombers and for low-level ground attacks.