by Robert Taylor
Aircraft – Stuka Ju87
At 0426 hours on 1st September, 1939 three Ju87Bs of 3 Staffel, Stukageschwader 1 took off from Elbing to record the first bombing mission of World War Two. It marked the beginning of six years of relentless endeavour by the notorious Stuka and its courageous crews.
Following its success in the Polish and French ‘Blitzkrieg’ campaigns the Stuka was seen by the German High Command as the supreme new weapon to succeed long range artillery. With its banshee-like wailing siren the Stuka pilots would deliver destruction from the skies and create a devastating psychological effect upon all those below.
An evil looking aircraft, its spatted undercarriage for all the world looking like the extended talons of some monstrous bird, the Ju87 Stuka was arguably the most menacing looking combat aircraft ever conceived . Having the ability to make an almost vertical controlled dive, its pilots could plant their bombs with greater accuracy than any other dive-bomber of the war, but its effectiveness required total control of the air, and over southern England that was a situation that did not happen. Quickly the Stuka pilots found how vulnerable they were against the fast manoeuvrable fighters of the RAF.
Though it never again achieved the decisive successes of Poland and France, the Ju87 was operated effectively on all fronts in most theatres. Poorly armed, slow and highly vulnerable by any standards, it was nevertheless the aircraft flown by the most highly decorated Knight’s Cross winner of the war – Hans Rudel – who flew 2530 missions and claimed over 500 tanks destroyed. In spite of its shortcomings the Stuka enjoyed success wherever the Luftwaffe maintained a measure of control in the air, and was one of the few aircraft of either side to fly operationally throughout the war.
The Stuka when dressed for war was an awesome spectacle. Robert Taylor’s outstanding painting shows a formation of Ju87s bombed up and fitted with long range tanks heading out on a shipping strike over the Mediterranean in 1941 and this superb edition provides a memorable record of this remarkable aircraft.
Each print in the edition is signed and numbered in pencil by Robert Taylor and four highly decorated Ju87 Stuka pilots: Hans-Karl Stepp, Kurt Kuhlmey, Franz Kieslich and Rudel’s Wingman on over 500 missions, Helmut Fickel.
Overall print size: 34" wide x 24" high
Edition size - 1250 signed and numbered prints
Kieslich – is one of the ‘old guard’ Stuka
pilots who formed the backbone of the Dive Bomber Force. He joined the
Luftwaffe in 1935 and was a Stuka pilot instructor. He then joined SG
77 in France in 1940 and from there went to the Balkans where he saw much
action. Remaining with SG77 he became Group Adjutant in May 1942, and
led a squadron by August. He was made Commander Of
Kuhlmey – Regarded as one of the greatest leaders in the
Luftwaffe’s Dive Bomber Force, Kurt Kuhlmey was a popular and highly
successful Ju87 Stuka pilot. Widely known as ‘The Duke of El Hachin’,
partly due to his successes in the battle near the village of El Hachin,
but also for his noble character and his man-to-man soldierly attitude
towards his compatriots. He joined the Luftwaffe as a volunteer in 1934,
and took part in the campaigns in Poland, Norway and France as the Squadron
Commander of I/SG1. Later, with the same squadron he flew against Malta
in 1941 and participated in the successful attack on the British aircraft
carrier ‘Illustrious’ and against convoys in the Mediterranean.
He fought in North Africa where he quickly became one of the most popular
aviators and commanded II/SG3 from 1st April 1942 through to March 31st
1943, becoming Commodore of Stukageschwader 3 from April 1st 1943 to February
1945, seeing action on the Eastern Front and in the Crimea. Kurt Kuhlmey
also fought successfully in Finland (Imola) and was Commodore of SG2 ‘Immelmann’
during early 1945 following which he joined the staff of the General of
Helmut Fickel – One of the most outstanding young pilots
of III/SG2 ‘Immelmann’ on the Eastern Front, Helmut Fickel
flew his first mission on March 10th 1943 near Poltawa. From 15th October
1943 throughout the summer of 1944 he was Adjutant in the famous III/SG2,
flying over 500 missions as the famous Rudel’s Wingman. He accompanied
Rudel on many of his most difficult and dangerous tank raids and was himself
highly successful in these attacks. By the end of 1943 he had proved himself
as one of the most brilliant Stuka pilots and by the summer of 1944 he
was leading his own squadron becoming Commander of 9/SG.2 ‘Immelmann’
in November 1944, an appointment in which he greatly excelled and held
until the end of the war.
Colonel Hans-Karl Stepp – One of the most popular personalities
of the Stuka Force and a highly respected leader, Hans-Karl Stepp joined
the Luftwaffe as early as 1936. He first flew the Ju87 Stuka in 1938 and
was one of the few who survived the Neuhammer disaster when 13 Stuka crews
died in a crash on 15th August 1939, due to ground fog, in a demonstration
training attack. He took part in the Polish and Western Campaigns, and
also the Balkan and Crete campaigns.
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