The Heinkel HE 111 “wolf in sheep’s clothing” Bomber In 17 Incredible Pictures

He 111P dropping bombs over Poland, September 1939 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-317-0043-17A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia)
He 111P dropping bombs over Poland, September 1939 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-317-0043-17A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 / Wikipedia)

The German Heinkel HE 111 was designed in the early 1930s at Heinkel Flugzeugwerke. Because it was disguised as a cargo plane it has been called a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” because it’s purpose was to build a fast medium bomber for the future Luftwaffe. The 1919 Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from having an air force and also banned the development of bombers.

Due to the distinctive extensively glazed “greenhouse” nose which was used on the later versions of the HE 111 it was the best best-recognised German bomber of the war.

It performed well until the Battle of Britain when the weak defensive armament, poor maneuverability, and relatively low speed became apparent. However, it still proved capable of sustaining heavy damage and remain airborne.

The HE 111 was used in a multitude of roles all over the European Theater. From a strategic bomber in the Battle of Britain to a torpedo bomber in the Battle of the Atlantic. On all fronts it served as a medium bomber and transport aircraft.

Despite frequent upgrades, the He 111 became obsolete towards the end of the war. It was to be replaced by the Bomber B project but that was never able to produce a workable replacement. Thus having nothing better the Luftwaffe was forced to continue to use it until the very end.

After the war, the Heinkel design was still in use, the Spanish-built CASA 2.111 was a licence-built version which differed significantly in powerplant only. The Heinkel’s descendant continued in service until 1973.

Heinkel HE 111 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-343-0694-21 / Schödl (e))
Polen, Blick aus Bugkanzel einer He 111
From the nose gunner’s view (Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S52435 / Stempka)
A He 111E in Luftwaffe service, 1940. The early variants had a conventional, stepped cockpit (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-401-0244-27 / Göricke)
Spanien, Flugzeug der Legion Condor
He 111E of the Legion Condor. Note the early variants’ conventional “stepped” cockpit (Bundesarchiv)
A captured Heinkel He 111H bomber, which was abandoned by the Luftwaffe during the retreat after the Battle of El Alamein
A formation of He 111Hs, circa 1940 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-408-0847-10 / Martin)
Produktion von Flugzeug Heinkel He 111 P-4
He 111 production in 1939 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-774-0011-34 / Hubmann, Hanns)
Produktion von Heinkel He 111
A He 111 in the preliminary stage of wing installation (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-774-0013-06 / Hubmann, Hanns)
Flugzeug Heinkel He 111
Heinkel He 111H in the Romanian Air Force (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-622-2960-35A / Grosse)
Flugzeug Heinkel He 111
Kampfgeschwader 1 (KG 1) France – June 1940 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-385-0560-31 / Wanderer, W.)
Formation of HE-111 flying over heavy seas in 1940 (Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-0678)
Flugzeug Heinkel He 111
HE 111 on their way to Poland – Kampfgeschwader 1 (KG 1) (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-317-0045-11A)
(Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1978-066-11A)
Blick aus Bugkanzel einer He 111
(Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-L21844)
Norwegen, Flughafen Fornebu
Junkers G 38, Junkers Ju 52, Junkers Ju 90, Junkers W 34, Heinkel He 111 on a captured airfield in Norway – April 1940. (Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-760-0171-19 / Ruge, Willi)

Joris Nieuwint

Joris Nieuwint is a battlefield guide for the Operation Market Garden area. His primary focus is on the Allied operations from September 17th, 1944 onwards. Having lived in the Market Garden area for 25 years, he has been studying the events for nearly as long. He has a deep understanding of the history and a passion for sharing the stories of the men who are no longer with us.