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LukeFF

Spitfire IX armed recce missions in Northwest Europe

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Did the the Spitfire Mk IXs of the 2nd Tactical Air Force carry bombs when flying armed recce missions? I see references to them doing so in other theaters but nothing about Northwest Europe in 1944-45. For instance, I've been reading through 412 Squadron RCAF's mission logs, and for Armed Recce missions it always mentions "All aircraft carried 45-gallon long range tanks" but nothing ever about carrying bombs. 

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Posted (edited)
On 5/11/2020 at 5:54 PM, LukeFF said:

Did the the Spitfire Mk IXs of the 2nd Tactical Air Force carry bombs when flying armed recce missions? I see references to them doing so in other theaters but nothing about Northwest Europe in 1944-45. For instance, I've been reading through 412 Squadron RCAF's mission logs, and for Armed Recce missions it always mentions "All aircraft carried 45-gallon long range tanks" but nothing ever about carrying bombs. 

 

On page 214 of Royal Canadian Air Force at War 1939-1945 there is a picture of 412 Sqdn Mk IXEs loaded with 3 bombs. The caption reads, "Spit IXes of 412 Squadron are ready to crank over and head out for a tactical mission. With cannon and their trio of bombs they would be as effective as a Typhoon."

 

Edit: On the facing page is a picture of a 411 Squadron being serviced, it also has bombs. The caption refers it it being serviced in the mud somewhere on the Continent. And there is a picture of three 411 pilots posing with the squadron's last 500 pound bomb, caption says they were at Rheine Germany.

 

To answer your question @LukeFF, I think with or without bombs is appropriate for armed reconnaissance missions.

 

2nd Edit: On page 431 of Fighter Squadrons of the RAF there is a another picture of 412 Squadron Mk IXs with a bomb on the centerline station, caption dates the picture as Dec 1944. So they were either at Volkel (B 80) or Heesch (B 88).

 

Edited by busdriver
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21 hours ago, LukeFF said:

Did the the Spitfire Mk IXs of the 2nd Tactical Air Force carry bombs when flying armed recce missions? I see references to them doing so in other theaters but nothing about Northwest Europe in 1944-45. For instance, I've been reading through 412 Squadron RCAF's mission logs, and for Armed Recce missions it always mentions "All aircraft carried 45-gallon long range tanks" but nothing ever about carrying bombs. 

Luke, there are a lot of photos of Spitfires with bomb loads in the books "2nd Tactical Air Force" Vol 2-4

 

... and from the Vol.2

Untitled-1.jpg.0beddcab5072820f8e5052f3aacd3bf4.jpg

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Armed recce with bombs for spits were introduced towards the end of the Normandy campaign but became more common in the autumn/winter of 1944. Much depended on the wing commander of each particular wing and even group headquarters tended to advise rather than instruct, trusting (for the most part) its Wing Leaders to assess the situation and make the right call.

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Posted (edited)

 

21 hours ago, LukeFF said:

Did the the Spitfire Mk IXs of the 2nd Tactical Air Force carry bombs when flying armed recce missions? I see references to them doing so in other theaters but nothing about Northwest Europe in 1944-45. For instance, I've been reading through 412 Squadron RCAF's mission logs, and for Armed Recce missions it always mentions "All aircraft carried 45-gallon long range tanks" but nothing ever about carrying bombs. 

I do not know of any armed recce missions with bombs. The armed recce mission, was for all intents and purposes, a low level fighter sweep. You were to engage any enemy assets, air or ground , that you spotted. You were to keep an eye out in the area of your patrol for anything that intel (spies, as the RAF pilots called them) might be interested in. 

Some people seem to be informing you that the Spits did carry bombs. But I don't think that's what you're asking. They did, of course. But not on armed recce. Bombs were carried to hit specific targets. Not just carried to drop on whatever you found. The recce in armed recce, means reconnaiassance of course. You don't do recon missions carrying bombs. 

I have an excellant book by a 2nd Tactical Air Force pilot named E.A.W. Smith. It's called "Spitfire Diary." He flew many armed recce missions. Not one, in the book, involved carrying bombs. Always strafing.

Edited by Poochnboo

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44 minutes ago, Poochnboo said:

But I don't think that's what you're asking. They did, of course. But not on armed recce. Bombs were carried to hit specific targets. Not just carried to drop on whatever you found. The recce in armed recce, means reconnaiassance of course. You don't do recon missions carrying bombs. 

 

I think you may be on to something, that being the distinction between RAF and USAAF tactics and mission description. :good:  USAAF did indeed carry bombs and drop on targets of opportunity when conducting armed reconnaissance. The USAAF considered the primary objective of armed reconnaissance to be finding and destroying ground targets. Perhaps the Spitfire's more limited range/endurance on internal fuel probably played a part. In the game it probably doesn't matter. Speaking as a SP 1GCCFP, I would take bombs.

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57 minutes ago, Poochnboo said:

 

I do not know of any armed recce missions with bombs. The armed recce mission, was for all intents and purposes, a low level fighter sweep. You were to engage any enemy assets, air or ground , that you spotted. You were to keep an eye out in the area of your patrol for anything that intel (spies, as the RAF pilots called them) might be interested in. 

Some people seem to be informing you that the Spits did carry bombs. But I don't think that's what you're asking. They did, of course. But not on armed recce. Bombs were carried to hit specific targets. Not just carried to drop on whatever you found. The recce in armed recce, means reconnaiassance of course. You don't do recon missions carrying bombs. 

I have an excellant book by a 2nd Tactical Air Force pilot named E.A.W. Smith. It's called "Spitfire Diary." He flew many armed recce missions. Not one, in the book, involved carrying bombs. Always strafing.

 

Thanks, that's what I was thinking as well. I know that Spitfire XIVs didn't carry bombs on armed recces, because before February 1945 no Spitfire XIVs were carrying bombs. 

 

2 minutes ago, busdriver said:

USAAF did indeed carry bombs and drop on targets of opportunity when conducting armed reconnaissance. The USAAF considered the primary objective of armed reconnaissance to be finding and destroying ground targets.

 

Yep, that is for certain.

 

2 minutes ago, busdriver said:

Perhaps the Spitfire's more limited range/endurance on internal fuel probably played a part.

 

That's my guess as well.

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6 minutes ago, busdriver said:

 

I think you may be on to something, that being the distinction between RAF and USAAF tactics and mission description. :good:  USAAF did indeed carry bombs and drop on targets of opportunity when conducting armed reconnaissance. The USAAF considered the primary objective of armed reconnaissance to be finding and destroying ground targets. Perhaps the Spitfire's more limited range/endurance on internal fuel probably played a part. In the game it probably doesn't matter. Speaking as a SP 1GCCFP, I would take bombs.

Yes. Being a game, I think we can do whatever the hell we want. No one from heaquarters is going to be calling the C.O. "You silly clot! What were you thinking by carrying bombs on an armed recce mission!?"

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36 minutes ago, Poochnboo said:

Yes. Being a game, I think we can do whatever the hell we want. No one from heaquarters is going to be calling the C.O. "You silly clot! What were you thinking by carrying bombs on an armed recce mission!?"

 

The whole point of this question was to ask if/when we get armed recce missions in career mode what sort of loadouts will be most appropriate to assign by default.

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Posted (edited)
58 minutes ago, busdriver said:

 

I think you may be on to something, that being the distinction between RAF and USAAF tactics and mission description. :good:  USAAF did indeed carry bombs and drop on targets of opportunity when conducting armed reconnaissance. The USAAF considered the primary objective of armed reconnaissance to be finding and destroying ground targets. Perhaps the Spitfire's more limited range/endurance on internal fuel probably played a part. In the game it probably doesn't matter. Speaking as a SP 1GCCFP, I would take bombs.

I don't think so. You see, when you lift off with a load of 500 pounders under your wings, you need to have a target for them. If your are carrying them, "Just in case I find something," there's always the chance that, maybe, you won't. That means that you're going to be landing back at the field with a couple of bombs. Nobody wants to do that!

  In a book called ,"Allied Strafing, A Cockpit View Of Air To Ground Battles," the author writes, "Back in 1943 I had strafed a number of tanks during guns only armed recces when the Germans were retreating back to the 'Winter Lines.'" He also went on to state that during another mission they were doing an armed recce and found a group of German tanks. Because they had no bombs they could only strafe them, but they radioed  back to base to tell them what they had found. He went on to state that, "This mission was launced. Some planes had GP bombs and some only guns. The tanks were repeatedly bombed and strafed." 

I don't think U.S. fighters carried bombs on armed recce missions either. Could be wrong. Oh, btw. He was an American pilot flying with the 79th fighter group in Italy.
 

12 minutes ago, LukeFF said:

 

The whole point of this question was to ask if/when we get armed recce missions in career mode what sort of loadouts will be most appropriate to assign by default.

Well, that depends on  wether you want to be historically accurate or not. Just for fun? Carry whatever you want. But historically accurate, I think it's guns only.

Edited by Poochnboo

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17 minutes ago, Poochnboo said:

I don't think so. You see, when you lift off with a load of 500 pounders under your wings, you need to have a target for them. If your are carrying them, "Just in case I find something," there's always the chance that, maybe, you won't. That means that you're going to be landing back at the field with a couple of bombs.

 

We indeed disagree, and I take no offence. 9th AF and 2nd TAF were taking the war to the Germans. When hauling iron, there would be plethora of alternate targets (last known positions, LOCs, intersections, bridges, bottlenecks along lines of retreat) it's a very short distance between available targets in northern Europe. There's really no notion of "just in case I find something" to bomb it's more of where and what you bomb. That's the very cool thing about the flexibility. You wouldn't simply bring your bombs back.

 

 

 

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Would WW2 fighters usually bring unused ordnance back to base (land), or would they throw it onto a bomb-dump in case there was no target of opportunity during the mission?

I think armed-recce would be a bit too wasteful/ dangerous, if landing with unused bombs was iffy or even required throwing the bombs away before landing.

 

Bringing back 500 or 1000lbs of bombs on a P-38, P-47 or even P-51 probably was much less of a concern than bringing back bombs on a Spit. As long as it was symmetrical.

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What is certain is that the Mk.IX was not cleared officially to carry both 2x 250lb and a 1x 500lb together till September of 1944; 126 Wing (401, 411, 412 & 442 Squadrons) did not carry a full load till 19th October.

 

The consensus seems to be that the single 500 was preferred to the 2x 250 loadout, but if range was an issue then 2x 250s and a slipper tank was the norm.

 

Just found this nugget from "126 Wing RACF" by Donald Nijboer, Osprey Publishing, attributed to No. 17 (F) Sector on 10th July 1944:

Quote

 

With regards to the policy of fighter aircraft carrying out armed reconnaissance of roads aimed at the destruction of the enemy's lines  of communication, it is considered that the maximum effort is not being obtained  by the present method

Therefore, it has been decided that in future, where conditions permit, a portion of the force involved will carry bombs. The target for the bombs will be a target of opportunity decided by the leader of the formation. In the event of no such target(s) presenting itself, the leader will instruct pilots to attack a"last resort" target selected with the aid  the Army Liaison Coordinator during the briefing.

It is emphasised that accurately placed bombs in such positions as crossroads or t the head of suspected convoy movements will prove of great value.

It is suggested that in a formation of three to four aircraft, at least two of them carry bombs, and in a formation of two to six, all of them should carry bombs.

The further aim in view is to to keep the pilots in constant practice with the technique, and to develop this technique in new pilots.

Squadrons will be advised by sector ops when to bomb up and under no circumstances are pilots to return with bombs. They must be dropped well inside enemy lines.

Bombing heights are to left to the discretion of the leader of the formation. However, it is suggested that at least a 5,000-6,000ft ceiling should be available in order to maintain the accuracy required for dive bombing.

 

That covers the official side. However, there's wiggle room for crafty formation leaders to say conditions did not permit...

 

I have 441 Sqn's Daily operational record sheets for July. I will consult and see if any information is forthcoming, particularly post July 10th....

Bingo!

 

Out of a total of 14 Armed Recces flown by this squadron in the remainder of July after the 10th only these two note use of bombs. Also note that the majority of mission types were not Armed Recces but Frontline Patrol, Beach Patrol and High Patrol.

441-17-07-44.PNG

441-31-07-44.PNG

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2 hours ago, 41Sqn_Banks said:

Screenshot_20200513-013608_Drive.thumb.jpg.6d13dd9e840633e6fb1a72fe2c005cbe.jpgScreenshot_20200513-013535_Drive.thumb.jpg.c6c41c3ab7a66d92990e5ead6b368d0c.jpgScreenshot_20200513-013838_Drive.thumb.jpg.018b424d8bdf99920467e36969b0813e.jpg

 

Indeed, and there are quotes from 370th FG P-38 pilots about them carrying bombs on armed recon missions. They were part of the Ninth AF. 

 

Interestingly enough, I was scanning through Alex Urbanke's book on III./JG 54, and even there, there are accounts of Fw 190 D-9s flying armed recon missions in the spring of 1945. I can imagine it wasn't too hard for them to find something to attack...

3 hours ago, DD_Fenrir said:

What is certain is that the Mk.IX was not cleared officially to carry both 2x 250lb and a 1x 500lb together till September of 1944; 126 Wing (401, 411, 412 & 442 Squadrons) did not carry a full load till 19th October.

 

It seems that, from the photos I've seen, that Spitfire IXs started carrying 1x 500 + 2x 250 when they started operating from the temporary landing strips in Normandy. There are a number of photos from that time of Spitfire IXs loaded up as such.

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9 hours ago, busdriver said:

 

I think you may be on to something, that being the distinction between RAF and USAAF tactics and mission description. :good:  USAAF did indeed carry bombs and drop on targets of opportunity when conducting armed reconnaissance. 

 

They did indeed - I remember Yeager talking about it.

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Screenshot_20200517-115135_Drive.thumb.jpg.34ac802b4070af36f6c17a31e1586332.jpg

 

Screenshot_20200517-115206_Drive.thumb.jpg.e7a2cc670afc31a68d2c3ce481dcd456.jpg

 

"In the attacks on the enemy transport the aircraft were not bombed-up as a rule, and carried drop tanks ..."

 

Tactical Paper No. 4 is a review limited to experiences with Spitfire XVI.

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