Fw 200 Condor Units of World War 2
The newest in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft series is authored by a retired Royal Air Force logistics officer, Chris Goss. Specializing in Luftwaffe air operations, Chris Goss has built an impressive collection of original photographs, interviews, and correspondence with WWII veterans and their families. His aviation photograph collection alone exceeds 50,000 images. This material has been placed into the public sphere in over twenty-three books that Chris Goss has authored, not to mention being a contributor to magazines like Flypast, Aviation News, Fan D’Aviation, and Aerojournal.
Chris Davey provides the side profile color plates as he has for more than thirty titles from Osprey. Chris Davey, living in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, is one of the last traditional aviation airbrush artists in the business.
The cover painting is provided by Mark Postlethwaite, depicting Fw 200C-3 Wk-Nr 0063 on an armed reconnaissance mission over the Atlantic. The painting depicts a running battle with an Armstrong Whitworth that was protecting the Convoy QB346 that got the worst of the gun battle with the Condor. In the past twenty years, Mark has established himself as one of the world’s leading artists. He began doing covers for Osprey in 2004 and has now painted over 100 book covers. Crowood Press has published two hardbound books on his air combat paintings under the title “War in the Air”. Check out his website at https://www.posart.com/.
I counted eighty-four photographs, all in black and white. Additionally, there are twenty-two color illustrations on eleven pages with a short caption supported by a detailed summary in the Appendix.
Originally designed by Kurt Tank for Focke-Wulf as a long range airliner, the Condor was quickly adapted as a long range reconnaissance and maritime patrol bomber by the Luftwaffe. Despite limited production (~ 250 to ~275) the Fw 200 was an early success against shipping. The Fw 200 was called the ‘Scourge of the Atlantic’ by Winston Churchill due to its attacks on shipping either from bombing or the direction of U-Boats to their target. The Condor suffered heavily from serviceability problems and some structural problems, possibly due to the change in mission from being an airliner to a military bomber.
Chris Goss provides a short introduction to the Fw 200, then dives straight into combat reports with that of Flg Off Herman Grant-Ede of 263 Squadron’s encounter with what he thought was a Junkers 90. The Battle of Britain provides a bit more intensity as Chris Goss accesses German mission reports, leading off with Hauptmann Volkmar Zenker’s report of July 24, 1940. Despite having only a few operational Condors, their potential was established by the end of 1940 as the tonnage sank ratcheted upwards.
Chapter Two focuses on the Battle of the Atlantic in 1941 as the Condor came into its own. Using British and German reports, Chris Goss provides an insider’s view to the action. The British response to the Condor’s success was fitting transport ships with aircraft, Fairey Fulmars and Hawker Hurricanes, in a “launch and forget” scheme. The only problem was for the one Condor that was damaged upon landing at its base, two of the five transports carrying fighters were sunk with an additional freighter badly damaged. These transports were replaced with CAM ships, freighters fitted with a catapult, but their effectivity was minimal. The first vessel launched was immediately sunk by U-108, and only a single launch of a CAM fighter was achieved in 1941. The CAM ships would nevertheless soldier on until aircraft carriers became the main defense in mid-1943.
America’s entry into the war in early 1942 was a good period for German U-Boats, but the Condors continued to be plagued by equipment failures. Chris Goss notes that even by April 30, 1942, although III./KG 40 had twenty aircraft, only six were available for operations. It seemed like the Fw 200 continued to battle, but their battle was with engine problems and instrument failures rather than enemy forces.
The ‘Beginning of the End’ focusing on 1943 continues with reports from both sides, but a major part of this chapter is the section on ‘The “Faith” Attack’ that details the spectacular success of III/KG 40
Condors on the Allied convoy ‘Faith’ in July 1943 was quite memorable. Chris Goss also provides details on the operational introduction of the German guided missiles, the Ruhrstal FX1400 (‘Fritz’) and the Henschel Hs 293.
The last chapter chronicles the end of the Condor as the Allied bombers began destroying them on the ground before they got a chance to fight. Those lucky Condors that were able to get airborne didn’t fare much better as they quickly ran into Mustangs, Thunderbolts, and Lightnings. A good example was the combat report of Captain Art Jeffrey who was piloting one of thirteen P-38s when they caught a Condor taking off from its airfield. The ensuing one sided battle result was not unexpected. Operational availability continued to be a sore spot and the accident rate continued unabated without Allied interference.
The Chapters include:
- Chapter One
- To War [Page 9]
- Battle of Britain [Page 18]
- Chapter Two
- 1941 – Battle of the Atlantic
- Black Phase [Page 32]
- Mediterranean Diversion
- Chapter Three
- 1942 – Changes [Page 43]
- Chapter Four
- 1943 – Beginning of the End [Page 46]
- Colour Plates [Page 51]
- The ‘Faith’ Attack [Page 65]
- Chapter Five
- 1944 – Nowhere To Hide [Page 82]
- Other Major Units
- Postscript [Page 85]
- Fw 200 Condor Units – Senior Executive Officers
- KG 40 Related Units
- Other Units
- I., III. and IV. / KG 40 Ritterkreuz Holders
- Aircrews Awarded the Deutsces Kreuz in Gold while with I. and III. / KG 40
- I./ KG 40 Shipping Claims 10 July to 31 October 1940
- Fw 200s Used by Fliegerstaffel Des Fuhrers (FDF)
- Standard Fw 200C Military Variants (Umrustsatze)
- Condor Attack Profile
- Selected Biographies
- Color Plates Commentary
If you own one the previous releases in the Combat Aircraft series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be pleased. I really enjoyed the use of German and Allied combat reports to flesh out the combat experience of the Focke-Wulf Condor from Chris Goss. My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.