TIT FOR TAT - COMBATING THE CONDOR

Battling Over The Atlantic

Tit For Tat
Combating The Condor

34 www.britainatwar.com

TIT FOR TAT - COMBATING THE CONDOR
Battling Over The Atlantic

The Focke Wulf Fw 200 Condor made itself
known to the British during the invasion
of Norway in April 1940 and with few
aircraft available to the only combat unit,
Kampfgeschwader 40 (KG 40), air combats
were few and far between. Chris Goss tells
the story of the early air war between the
RAF and the Condor culminating in the first
Condor air combat success on 17 July 1941.

O

N 25 May 1940, Oblt
Hellmuth Schöpke and
his crew from1./KG 40
became the first Condor crew to
be shot down by enemy aircraft
when Fg Off Herman Grant-Ede,
flying a Gloster Gladiator of 263
Sqn, intercepted their Condor near
Narvik in Norway. The bomber
was forced to crash-land in the sea
near Dyrøy Island where Schopke
and one of his crew were captured.
One other crewman was killed but
two others evaded capture. Ede

had never seen a Condor before
and thought his victim was a Ju
90 transport. He recorded two
combats, the first stating:
‘Red Section took off at 0905
for a defensive patrol of HarstadSkaanland area. Anti-aircraft
bursts showed position of enemy
aircraft (e/a) which was pursued
and jettisoned its bombs four miles
south-east of Lemminvaer. Eight
large bombs were observed to
drop from outer engines. Speed
250 to 350 attack No 1 used at

1,000 yds two short bursts fired
no hits. Enemy aircraft using
tracer from single gun on top rear
turret. E/a was low wing fourengined monoplane with dirty
green camouflage and single rudder.
E/a dived to sea level and escaped
seawards due to superior speed."
Even though he was credited with
shooting this aircraft down, by his
own admission, he only fired twice,
didn't hit it, and it got away. The
second combat 50 minutes later was
more conclusive: 

ABOVE:
Fw 200 C-3
of I./KG 40,
BordeauxMérignac,
1941.

www.britainatwar.com 35

TIT FOR TAT - COMBATING THE CONDOR
Battling Over The Atlantic
BELOW RIGHT:
This is believed
to be the first
F8+EH to serve
with 1/KG 40. 
On 31 July
1940, Fw 200
C-2 Wk Nr 0023
coded F8+EH
arrived on 1/
KG 40 which
is believed to
have been a
replacement
for this Fw 200
C-1 Wk Nr 0007
F8+EH which
was shot down
by Flak into
the North Sea
off Hartlepool 
during a minelaying mission
on the night
of 20 July
1940. Hptm
Roman Steszyn
(St Kap), Fw
Willi Meyer,
Gefr Silverius 
Zraunig and
Gefr Josef
Perl were all
killed with Fw
Herbert Külken
and Fw Karl
Nicolai taken
prisoner.
BELOW:
On 28 May
1940, Fw 200
C-1 coded
F8+AH of 1./KG
40 is believed
to have forcelanded at
Gardemoen
in Norway;
it is thought
that this is
that aircraft
being towed
away by two
Panzer IIs. Note
the newly
adopted KG
40 ‘World in a
Ring’ badge.

"...on return from previous combat,
AA fire observed over Harstadt at
about 1025. E/a seen going south
five miles east of Hartsadt. Red 1
approached with back to sun and
e/a engaged 10 miles south-east of
Harstadt. Return tracer from single
upper turret gun silenced after first
burst. After several more bursts
white smoke came from engines and
trail of white smoke from port wing
root. E/a's speed 250-300 dirty green
camouflage with black cross on white
ground either side of fuselage. Return
fire was observed again just before
ammunition ran out. E/a was going
down towards sea when combat
finished."

INCONCLUSIVE COMBATS

At the end of the Norwegian
campaign, I./KG 40 lost one more
Condor to RAF fighters. On 29 May
1940, Lt Otto Freytag was shot down
by Plt Off Neville Banks of 46 Sqn,
the incident resulting in the deaths
of Freytag and his crew, although
Banks would be killed later that same
day. It was already clear, however,
that the Condor had proved its worth
but following the Norway Campaign
they still remained few in number.
By the start of January 1941, I./KG
40 only had 12 aircraft and, of those,
a number were always unserviceable
and combats between I/KG 40 and the
RAF remained infrequent.

36 www.britainatwar.com

THE FIRST
RECORDED COASTAL

Command Condor engagement was by
Sunderland N9027/DA-J of 210 Sqn,
captained by Flt Lt Peter Parry-Jones,
130 miles off Bloody Foreland on 14
August 1940, the Condor scoring hits
on the Sunderland's starboard wing
and fuel tank, forcing it to return
to base. Just over a month later,
Sunderland P9603, coded H, of
10 Sqn RAAF, captained by Flt Lt
Ivan Podger, reported an inconclusive
combat off the Irish Coast at 08 11 on
25 September 1940. On 11 October
another inconclusive combat, this time
with an Avro Anson N9908, coded
P, of 48 Sqn flown by Sgt Wood (the
aircraft reported by the Germans as a
Blenheim) credited with driving the
Condor away from a convoy. On 3
December it was the turn of a Saro
Lerwick, L7264 of 209 Sqn, flown by
Fg Off Nelson, to have an inconclusive
combat 260 miles north-west of
Ireland. Surprisingly, even the German
crew accurately recognised their
unusual assailant as a Lerwick!
The first reported air-to-air combat
of 1941 occurred on 11 January
between Sunderland L5805 of 201 Sqn,
captained by Flt Lt Donald Lindsay,
and a Condor north-west of Rockall,
the Sunderland claiming to have
damaged the Condor. Then, on 29
January 1941, a combat between a Fw
200 C-3 flown by Oblt Erich Adam

TIT FOR TAT - COMBATING THE CONDOR
Battling Over The Atlantic
LEFT:
Fw 200 C-3
of I./KG 40,
BordeauxMérignac, 1941.
BELOW:
Oblt Erich Adam
(left) of 2./KG
40. 2nd from
right is Hptm
Fritz Fliegel. 
The event is
the award of
the Iron Cross
to him and
his crew on
returning to
Mërignac having
been shot down,
forced-landing
in Portugal on 8
February 1941.

of 2/KG 40 and Sunderland L2163
of 210 Sqn, flown by Fg Off Barry
Aikman, resulted in the Sunderland's
Rear Gunner, Sgt Reg Williamson,
being wounded and Lt Alfred Winter,
the Radio Operator on the Condor,
mortally wounded in the head. The
Sunderland used its machine guns,
the Condor machine guns and 20
mm cannon although it was hit 15
times, damaging the starboard outer
engine and navigational equipment.
Its gunners reported hitting the
Sunderland which was last seen with a
dark stripe of smoke after it.

DIVED INTO SEA
IN FLAMES

March 1941 saw the first combat
between a mainland based Fighter
Command squadron and a Condor
when two Hurricanes of 3 Sqn
damaged one off Sumburgh, Shetland
Islands, on 2 March 1941. Plt Off Doug
Robertson recorded:
"...when flying over sea 30 miles
east of Sumburgh, I sighted one Fw
200 flying only a few feet over the
sea and at the same time heard Red 1
(Plt Off John Crabb) give the TallyHo. I followed Red 1 into the attack

flying astern and slightly above him.
Immediately Red 1 broke from his
first attack, I fired a three second
burst from dead astern and observed
tracer entering the fuselage of e/a.
I broke away as Red 1 was delivering
his starboard attack. I climbed to the
right and delivered a diving beam
attack from 200 feet above, firing
a one second burst. I had to break
this attack as Red 1 was firing from
the opposite beam. I then delivered
another astern attack firing a six
second burst from approximately
200 yds range. Again tracer seen
to enter e/a. During all these
attacks, I experienced no return
fire..."
The Fw 200 C-3 in question forcelanded at Varhaug south of Stavanger;
the only casualty being meteorologist
Karl Schwalb who was injured.
At last, April 1941 saw the first
confirmed air-to-air kill on the 16th of
the month when Flt Lt Bill Riley and
WO Donaldson in a Beaufighter of 252
Sqn shot down the Fw 200 C-3 flown
by Oblt Hermann Richter of 1./KG 40
off Blacksod Bay, the German crew all
reported as missing. Riley's terse report
reads as follows: 
www.britainatwar.com 37

TIT FOR TAT - COMBATING THE CONDOR
Battling Over The Atlantic

losing quantities of oil. LAC Griffin
crawled out into the wing and found
two large holes in the bottom of the oil
tank. He returned to the hull, obtained
tools, plugs, and a two-gallon tin of
oil and a small preserved fruit tin.
He returned to the wing, plugged up
the holes, pierced the top of the tank
and managed to keep a continuous
supply of oil poured into the tank to
counteract the loss through leakage.
LAC Griffin made four journeys into
the wing, each time with a two-gallon
tin of oil. In all, he was two hours in

ABOVE:
Beaufighter of
252 Sqn, 1941.
RIGHT:
Planning
another
mission. In the
background is
Hptm Edmund
Daser of 1./
KG 40 and
with the
ruler is Hptm
Fritz Fliegel,
Gruppen
Kommandeur
of I./KG 40. 
Both would be
awarded the
Knights Cross
but Fliegel was
killed in action
on 18 July
1941.       
BELOW:
A convoy is
stalked by a
Condor.

“At the end of the patrol an enemy
aircraft was sighted at 1420 hrs on a
course of 210 degrees. Identified as a
Condor. I started my attack from the
beam quarter, finishing up astern. Fire
was opened at 300 yards and continued
in short bursts to point blank range
when astern. The Condor replied
with the midship gun. The Condor
caught fire at the rear port wing root,
both engines appearing unserviceable.
The Condor swung to the left,
straightened out, then dived into the
sea in flames at an angle of 45 degrees.
No survivors and very little wreckage
were seen. The Condor was painted
entirely green, with crosses silhouetted
in white. No lower gondola observed.”

TENACITY OF PURPOSE

The last day of June 1941 saw another
running combat between a Condor
and Sunderland with Lt Rudolf Feldt
of KG 40’s 3 Staffel the commander of
the German aircraft and Fg Off Athol
'Attie' Wearne, 10 Sqn RAAF, Captain

38 www.britainatwar.com

of Sunderland P9600.
Yet again, both
aircraft shot at each
other, resulting in
Ofw Werner Sieth
being wounded
with damage to the
oil and fuel tanks
of the Sunderland
and resulteing in
an exceptional act of bravery as the
DFM citation for Leading Aircraftman
Milton Griffin shows:
For personal bravery, tenacity of
purpose and devotion to duty whilst
employed as a member of Sunderland
aircraft crew. On 30 June, 1941, LAC
Griffin was first fitter in Sunderland
"E"/10 when the aircraft was attacked
by a Focke Wulf 200 south-west of
Ushant. The combat was indecisive.
A later report was received that the
enemy aircraft was making for Brest
in order to land wounded. After the
engagement, it was found that the port
outer engine of the Sunderland was

the wing nursing the engine in intense
heat, right alongside the engine and
in a very cramped position. In view
of the intensity of the enemy fire, it
is considered that LAC Griffin's act
contributed materially to the safe
return of the aircraft to base.
From now on, encounters between
Condors and the RAF began
to increase and 3 Staffel crews
encountered Coastal Command at least
nine times during June 1941, albeit that
the RAF only logged two encounters.
However, the first recorded combat of
July 1941 resulted in both aircraft being
damaged, one more so than the other.

TIT FOR TAT - COMBATING THE CONDOR
Battling Over The Atlantic

THREE BURSTS
OF TRACER

At 0205 on 17 July 1941, Fw 200 C-3,
Wk Nr 0063, coded F8+CL, of 3./
KG 40 lifted off from Cognac, France,
on a combined weather and armed
reconnaissance over the Atlantic.
At the controls were Oblt Rudolf
Heindl, with his second pilot Uffz
Edgar Siegmund. The rest of the
crew were Oblt Hans Jordens (radio
operator), Uffz Karl Reichl (radio
operator), Fw Hans Singer (flight
engineer), Fw Walter Pflugbeil
(observer) and meteorologist
Regierungs-Rat Von Hartel.
Just after 0800, and flying just 50 feet
above the sea, the Condor came across
Convoy OB346 sailing northwards off
the west of Ireland, the crew noting
there were 36 freighters of up to
10,000 BRT, four destroyers and five
patrol boats as well as an Armstrong
Whitworth Whitley. This was Z6635,

YG-Q, of 502 Sqn crewed by Wg Cdr
Don Shore (Captain), Fg Off Arthur
Brock, Plt Off John Macleod, Sgt S
Larmour and Sgt Basil Henson. The
Whitley immediately turned towards
the Condor to investigate:
"At 0810 hrs while on anti-submarine
escort an aircraft was sighted on the
starboard bow flying across the head
of Convoy OB346 on a northerly
then westerly course at a height of
approximately 50 feet. The aircraft was
not identified, but was taken to be a
Hudson on patrol. A shallow dive was
made on the same course to intercept
and identify. The letter of the day was
sent and answered incorrectly.
"Q/502 Sqn at once closed in and
came up astern at 500 yds range. The
aircraft was then identified as a Fw 200.
Q/502 proceeded to close from
astern and on the port side of e/a
closing range at 1450 knots. E/a
commenced to climb. At 250 to 300

yds, captain instructed 2nd Pilot on
the front gun to open fire. The first
three bursts of tracer appeared to pass
the port side of the aircraft. At 200
to 300 yds, e/a commenced to fire
with tracer from a position on top of
the fuselage after of the main plane.
Q/502 was unable to close the range
and instructions were given to the
2nd pilot to continue firing. He then
fired a series of short bursts and tracer
appeared to enter the e/a amidships
on the port side. E/a then opened fire
from a second position on the port side
of the fuselage while maintaining fire
with his top gun. Four black objects
were then seen approaching. These
passed underneath and were followed
by explosions, three in the cockpit (one
between the Captain's legs) and one in
the fuselage by the pyrotechnics. The
explosions caused injury by shrapnel
to the Captain's arm and a fire was
started among the pyrotechnics. 

ABOVE:
A Short
Sunderland,
many of
which had
running
battles with
Condors.
BELOW:
Believed
to be the
Whitley of
502 Sqn shot
down on 17
July 1941.

www.britainatwar.com 39

TIT FOR TAT - COMBATING THE CONDOR
Battling Over The Atlantic
RIGHT:
As Allied
aircraft
improved,
combats
with Condors
became very
one sided. The
last moments
of Lt Ernst
Rabolt and his
crew from 7./
KG 40.

BELOW:
A Focke-Wulf
200 Condor
is abandoned
by its crew,
having been
shot down by a
233 Squadron
Hudson on
23 July
1941 whilst
shadowing a
convoy. Six
airmen were
picked up by
one of the
Royal Navy
convoy escorts.

The navigator went aft and
with the second Radio Operator
successfully extinguished the fire.
One enemy bullet entered the
front turret through the Perspex
close to the 2nd Pilot's head, the
2nd Pilot continued to fire bursts
at e/a which appeared to enter e/a
amidships. At this time the pilot
was endeavouring to gain on e/a
in order to bring rear guns to bear
without having to turn away and so
rapidly widen the range. E/a then
entered cloud...
"...at 0816 hrs the starboard
engine of Q/502 began to show
signs of overheating and the
Captain decided to break off
combat and turn back towards
convoy. At 0820 hrs, the starboard
engine then began to overheat rapidly,
petrol pressure dropped and a slight
fire started round the engine with
the escape of glycol. With the leading
escort vessel of the convoy four to
five miles ahead, and at a height 1,000
feet, the starboard engine lost further
power and Captain gave the order
"Prepare to land in the sea!". After
the starboard engine had stopped and
height could not be maintained, bombs
and pyrotechnics were jettisoned.

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Aircraft still lost height and SOS was
signalled to leading vessel by Aldis
lamp. The aircraft struck the water
800 to 1,000 yds from the leading
escort vessel at 0825 hrs. Dinghies
were launched and crew held on until
rescued. Before sinking, the aircraft
was found to have several bullet holes
along the starboard side of the fuselage
and there were six bullet holes in one
of the dinghies..."
Apart from Hans Jordens and Karl

Reichel, both killed on 5 December
1941, all members of both crews
survived the war.
As the Battle of the Atlantic escalated,
so combats between Allied aircraft
and the Condors of KG 40 increased,
but the results invariably ended in the
destruction of the Condor. However,
although the Germans didn't claim it,
by July 1941 the score was one-all; a
score that would quickly increase in
the Allies' favour. 