Friday, July 31, 2015

Heinkel He 111 H-3 of the Royal Rumanian Air Force in Bessarabia

This Heinkel He 111 H-3, Nr. 27 of Aeronautica Regala Romana (ARR, or the Royal Rumanian Air Force) - here seen on an airfield in Bessarabia in summer 1941 - was seriously damaged at Stalino on January 24th 1943 and left behind when this airfield was abandoned. According to a German-Rumanian military contract signed in early 1939, Rumania received a significant number of weapons, including combat airplanes. Among the warplanes delivered to ARR at short notice was a batch of 32 brand new Heinkel He 111Hs (although the Werknummern assigned to this batch of He 111s is situated between two batches of H-5s, all Rumanian documents refer to the sub-type as H-3). The contract was completed in early 1940 and the bombers were assigned to Grupul 5 Bombardament (5th Bomber Group), based at Brașov (Kronstadt), in South-Eastern Transylvania. The group was made up of three squadrons, namely Escadrile 78, 79 and 80 Bombardament. Grupul 5 Bombardament was the élite bomber unit of ARR in the Rumanian Army's first two campaigns, namely the "Battle for Bessarabia and Odessa" of the summer of fall 1941, and the "Battle of Stalingrad" of the winter of 1942/1943. Being thrown in the thick of battle, the He 111 suffered heavy losses, despite being the most modern bomber type of ARR until being replaced by the superior Junkers Ju 88. Battle losses and attrition were replaced by a batch of 15 used H-6s that were assigned to the re-formed Escadrila 78 Bombardament Maritim. Despite the unit's name, these H-6s were not equipped with torpedoes, as originally planned, but were rather used as regular bombers against surface and not naval targets. They saw combat in the spring and summer of 1944, in the defence of Moldavia. Ironically, the last combat actions of the Heinkel He 111Hs were carried out against German and Hungarian forces, soon after the Rumanian forces left the Axis camp and joined the Allies in late August 1944. It was on December 20, 1944, when the few surviving Heinkel He 111Hs took part in their last combat mission: a large bombing raid against targets in Northern Hungary (today Lučenec, Slovakia). After the war the last surviving Rumanian Heinkel He 111H - incidentally an ex-Luftwaffe 'H-20 captured in late August 1944 - was withdrawn and cut up for scrap in 1956. The Rumanian He 111 H-3s were numbered in sequence from 1 to 32, painted in white on the fin. They wore a pre-war type of Splinter camouflage scheme, made of RLM 61 (Dark Brown), RLM 62 (Green) and RLM 63 (Light Grey), over RLM 65 (Light Blue). Since the Heinkel He 111 H-6s were ex-Luftwaffe machines, they kept their original camouflage of RLM 71 (Dark Green) and RLM 70 (Black Green), over RLM 65 (Light Blue). They were serialled from 47 to 60, numbers painted in white on the centre fin section.

Source :
"Luftwaffe im Focus" magazine, edition Nr.1 - 2002

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