By Rob Morgan
There I was, meandering through my archives, or what my wife calls ‘the boxes in the attic’ (she’s never wargamed, you understand), looking for an article on the Model T Ford armoured cars that were used by the RNAS in Russia and Galicia in 1917. I found it in an Airfix Magazine from 1979, and in the same issue came upon a brilliant reader’s letter.
According to reader Michael Horsfall of Blackpool, early in World War II a Leutnant Stahl of KG51, the ‘Eidelweiss Geschwader,’ developed an aerial flamethrower used at low level to “… spread a blanket of flames over rooftops.”
The conversion is described as ‘home-made’ but must have been developed in some way from an existing flame system.
The nozzle of the weapon apparently protruded from the rear of the fuselage beneath the tail fin, just like a tail-skid, and seems to have been partly retractable. The fuel used for the flame attacks was stored in the fuselage bomb bay, which in most marks of the Ju88 was an optional internal fuel reserve bay, capable of taking a weight of around 1,200-1,400 kg’s.
Stahl’s original system was designed for and fitted to a Ju88-A1 in the Winter of 1940-4, and may later have seen limited action on the Eastern Front. It would certainly have been most effective against thatched villages, softskin lorries and vulnerable installations during the sweeping offensives across the Steppes!
Michael Horsfall went on to describe how one of KG51’s officers developed a technique for bombing tanks crossing ice, resulting in the break-up of the ice and the ‘sinking’ of the afv. He records the loss of a T-28 on the frozen Sea of Azov early in the war. I can’t find this anywhere else, but it may ring a bell with someone.
As far as the ‘flying-flamethrower’ is concerned, I can certainly see a role for the unexpected arrival over the battlefield of a Ju88 ‘Schnellbomber flat out, and roasting a Red Army HQ or supply dump. A limited number of bursts from the device of course, say 8-10 at most, but the burning fuel would be most effective at low level (as was the Ju88-A1!), and would spread widely. No modelling skills required. Watch out for the Gaz mounted Quad-Maxim’s though!
I’d also be tempted to bear in mind that at the time when Leutnant Stahl was dreaming up his hot idea in late 1940, Kampfgeschwader 51 with 3 Ju-88 Gruppen was based at Melun-Villaroche, across the Channel, and had been heavily involved in night attacks during the Battle of Britain.
So, perhaps his original intention was to create a ‘Terror-Weapon’ for Operation Sea-Lion?