Breathtaking Images – Downed Luftwaffe Planes During The Battle of Britain

The fuselage of a Heinkel He 111 bomber, being transported by road to a scrap yard, October 1940.

History’s most famous and arguably most important air battle was the Battle of Britain, where the outnumbered RAF fought against a formidable enemy attempting to nullify British opposition in preparation for a full scale invasion.

The Germans had launched air raids on Britain over the course of June and July 1940, but on August 8th, they unleashed the first of the intense raids that signified the battle.

These raids were meant to destroy British aerial defences, making the job of invading the island nation much easier. However, as history shows, despite superior numbers, the Germans failed in their objective, putting the plans of an invasion on hold indefinitely.

With the Luftwaffes’s strength at this time, how did the British defy the odds and prevail?

With the Help of Pilots From Europe

At the start of WW2, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) lacked trained pilots. The RAF nabbed pilots from the Fleet Air Arm and Coastal command to bolster numbers, but this still wasn’t enough. The rest of the ranks were made up of European pilots, who fled as their countries fell into Nazi control.

There enough to make four full squadrons of Polish pilots, and one full squadron of Czech airmen.

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 in flight.
Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 in flight.

Strategic Focus

To begin with, the Luftwaffe were targeting the industries and infrastructure that maintained the RAF’s fighting abilities, like airfields, ports and factories. These attacks could have significantly wounded the RAF, but the German’s shifted focus between different strategies and targets one after another, unintentionally allowing the RAF to continue fighting.

Superior Aircraft

One of the reasons for Britain’s victory is their arguably better aircraft. The Germans flew planes such as the twin engine Messerschmitt Bf 110 heavy fighter. This aircraft, while heavily armed, was much less manoeuvrable than single engine fighters involved in the battle, earning in the nickname ‘Göring’s folly’.

Other fighters, like the Bf 109 were much more suited to the fast paced aerial combat seen during the Battle. It was highly manoeuvrable and fast in a climb. It also carried a cannon in the nose that could bring down enemy fighters in just a few shots.

But the British had the Spitfire, which was incredibly manoeuvrable and carried eight .303 machine guns. Pilots in the cockpit of the Spitfire held a dogfighting edge over the Bf 109, which while it could climb faster, couldn’t beat it in a close-in dogfight.

A MK IIA Supermarine Spitfire, 1941.
A MK IIA Supermarine Spitfire, 1941.

During the battle, the RAF shot down an estimated 1887 German aircraft. Some of these were lost to the sea, while others were virtually evaporated from high speed crashes, but many manged land and keep the crew and aircraft mostly intact.

A side effect of fighting over friendly territory, is you have access to destroyed enemy equipment. The hulks of crashed planes were inspected and analysed to find their strengths and weaknesses, and then broken down and re-used in the production of more British aircraft.

Before being removed, many of these crashed aircraft were photographed. Here are 22 of those images!

 

Civilian staff investigate the fuselage of a Messerschmitt Bf 109E4, ‘Red 2’, of 3./LG 2, in the grounds of a technical college, 1940. Note the ‘Mickey Mouse’ staffel emblem on the rear fuselage.
Civilian staff investigate the fuselage of a Messerschmitt Bf 109E4, ‘Red 2’, of 3./LG 2, in the grounds of a technical college, 1940. Note the ‘Mickey Mouse’ staffel emblem on the rear fuselage.

 

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 (W.Nr. 3465) ‘White 2’ of 4./JG 52, flown by Feldwebel Paul Bosche, which force-landed on Little Grange Farm, Woodham Mortimer, Essex on 8 October 1940.
Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 (W.Nr. 3465) ‘White 2’ of 4./JG 52, flown by Feldwebel Paul Bosche, which force-landed on Little Grange Farm, Woodham Mortimer, Essex on 8 October 1940.

 

Troops and civilians pose with Junkers Ju 88A-1 (B3+BM) of 4./KG 54, which belly-landed on Marsh Farm, Earnley, Sussex, on the evening of 21 August 1940. It had been intercepted by No. 17 Squadron Hurricanes during an attack on RAF Brize Norton.
Troops and civilians pose with Junkers Ju 88A-1 (B3+BM) of 4./KG 54, which belly-landed on Marsh Farm, Earnley, Sussex, on the evening of 21 August 1940. It had been intercepted by No. 17 Squadron Hurricanes during an attack on RAF Brize Norton.

 

A soldier peers into the cockpit of a downed Messerschmitt Bf 109E. This is probably Bf 109E-1 (W.Nr. 3576) ‘Red 13’ of 7./JG 54, flown by Uffz. Zimmermann, which crashed near Lydd in Kent on 27 October 1940.
A soldier peers into the cockpit of a downed Messerschmitt Bf 109E. This is probably Bf 109E-1 (W.Nr. 3576) ‘Red 13’ of 7./JG 54, flown by Uffz. Zimmermann, which crashed near Lydd in Kent on 27 October 1940.

 

RAF personnel inspecting the burnt-out wreckage of a Junkers Ju 88 reconnaissance aircraft of 4.(F)/122 on Cockett Wick Farm, St Osyth near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex. The aircraft was shot down on 20 July 1940 by No. 56 Squadron Hurricanes.
RAF personnel inspecting the burnt-out wreckage of a Junkers Ju 88 reconnaissance aircraft of 4.(F)/122 on Cockett Wick Farm, St Osyth near Clacton-on-Sea in Essex. The aircraft was shot down on 20 July 1940 by No. 56 Squadron Hurricanes.

 

Wrecked German aircraft (Me 109E, He 111 and Ju 88A) in Britian, 1940.
Wrecked German aircraft (Me 109E, He 111 and Ju 88A) in Britian, 1940.

 

The remains of a Messerschmitt BF 109E-3 of I JG 52 being transported on the back of a civilian lorry September 1940.
The remains of a Messerschmitt BF 109E-3 of I JG 52 being transported on the back of a civilian lorry September 1940.

 

Soldiers collecting for the Spitfire Fund use the fuselage of a Heinkel He 111 as a focus of interest for locals in a street ‘somewhere in south east England’, 10 October 1940.
Soldiers collecting for the Spitfire Fund use the fuselage of a Heinkel He 111 as a focus of interest for locals in a street ‘somewhere in south east England’, 10 October 1940.

 

A crashed Italian Fiat BR.20M bomber in Britian. Italy formed the “Corpo Aereo Italiano” with 13° and 43° Stormi (80 BR.20Ms) in September 1940. They flew attacks on twelve days between 24 October and 10 January 1941, losing three aircraft to enemy fire, and 17 for other reasons.
A crashed Italian Fiat BR.20M bomber in Britian. Italy formed the “Corpo Aereo Italiano” with 13° and 43° Stormi (80 BR.20Ms) in September 1940. They flew attacks on twelve days between 24 October and 10 January 1941, losing three aircraft to enemy fire, and 17 for other reasons.

 

Locals watch as troops and police inspect Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 (W.Nr. 3367) “Red 14” of 2./JG52, which crash-landed in a wheatfield at Mays Farm, Selmeston, near Lewes in Sussex, 12 August 1940. Its pilot, Unteroffizier Leo Zaunbrecher, was captured.
Locals watch as troops and police inspect Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 (W.Nr. 3367) “Red 14” of 2./JG52, which crash-landed in a wheatfield at Mays Farm, Selmeston, near Lewes in Sussex, 12 August 1940. Its pilot, Unteroffizier Leo Zaunbrecher, was captured.

 

Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 of Oberleutnant Paul Temme, Gruppe Adjutant of I/ JG 2 ‘Richtofen’, which crashed near Shoreham aerodrome in Sussex on 13 August 1940.
Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1 of Oberleutnant Paul Temme, Gruppe Adjutant of I/ JG 2 ‘Richtofen’, which crashed near Shoreham aerodrome in Sussex on 13 August 1940.

 

Soldiers pose with Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 (W.Nr. 5587) ‘Yellow 10’ of 6./JG 51 ‘Molders’, which crash-landed at East Langdon in Kent, 24 August 1940. The pilot, Oberfeldwebel Beeck, was captured unhurt.
Soldiers pose with Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4 (W.Nr. 5587) ‘Yellow 10’ of 6./JG 51 ‘Molders’, which crash-landed at East Langdon in Kent, 24 August 1940. The pilot, Oberfeldwebel Beeck, was captured unhurt.

 

Soldiers guard the smoldering remains of Junkers Ju 88 (W.Nr. 4136: 3Z+BB) of I/KG 77 which crashed at Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire on 3 October 1940.
Soldiers guard the smoldering remains of Junkers Ju 88 (W.Nr. 4136: 3Z+BB) of I/KG 77 which crashed at Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire on 3 October 1940.

 

Civilians and RAF airmen inspect the burning remains of a Heinkel He 111 which was shot down by RAF fighters over the north east coast of Scotland and crashed on a house, July 1940.
Civilians and RAF airmen inspect the burning remains of a Heinkel He 111 which was shot down by RAF fighters over the north east coast of Scotland and crashed on a house, July 1940.

 

RAF personnel inspecting Heinkel He 111P (coded G1+FA) of Stab/KG 55 which was brought down at Hipley in Hampshire, 12 July 1940. It has been camouflaged to prevent the Luftwaffe attempting to destroy the remains. The bomber was shot down by ‘B’ Flight of No. 43 Squadron over Southampton Water.
RAF personnel inspecting Heinkel He 111P (coded G1+FA) of Stab/KG 55 which was brought down at Hipley in Hampshire, 12 July 1940. It has been camouflaged to prevent the Luftwaffe attempting to destroy the remains. The bomber was shot down by ‘B’ Flight of No. 43 Squadron over Southampton Water.

 

Heinkel He 111 P of Stab/KG 55 which crash-landed at Hipley in Hampshire on 12 July 1940. It was shot down by Hurricanes of ‘B’ Flight, No. 43 Squadron over Southampton Water.
Heinkel He 111 P of Stab/KG 55 which crash-landed at Hipley in Hampshire on 12 July 1940. It was shot down by Hurricanes of ‘B’ Flight, No. 43 Squadron over Southampton Water.

 

RAF personnel examine the wreck of Heinkel He 111H (G1+LK) of 2./KG 55 on East Beach, Selsey in Sussex, shot down by P/O Wakeham and P/O Lord Shuttleworth of No. 145 Squadron, 11 July 1940.
RAF personnel examine the wreck of Heinkel He 111H (G1+LK) of 2./KG 55 on East Beach, Selsey in Sussex, shot down by P/O Wakeham and P/O Lord Shuttleworth of No. 145 Squadron, 11 July 1940.

 

Troops guard the wreck of Heinkel He 111P (W.Nr 1582: G1+FR) of 7./KG 55, which was shot down during an attack on Great Western Aerodrome (now Heathrow) and crash-landed at High Salvington near Worthing, 16 August 1940.
Troops guard the wreck of Heinkel He 111P (W.Nr 1582: G1+FR) of 7./KG 55, which was shot down during an attack on Great Western Aerodrome (now Heathrow) and crash-landed at High Salvington near Worthing, 16 August 1940.

 

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The remains of Junkers Ju 88A-1 (W.Nr. 2142: 3Z+DK) of 2./KG 77 on public display at Primrose Hill in London, 10 October 1940. The bomber had been hit by AA fire and crash-landed on Gatwick racecourse on 30 September.
The remains of Junkers Ju 88A-1 (W.Nr. 2142: 3Z+DK) of 2./KG 77 on public display at Primrose Hill in London, 10 October 1940. The bomber had been hit by AA fire and crash-landed on Gatwick racecourse on 30 September.