Biplane fighter aces


Oberfeldwebel Erwin Sawallisch

8 October 1914 – 19 August 1942

Erwin Sawallisch was born on 8 October 1914.

Sawallisch took part in the Spanish Civil War as a member of the Legion Condor.

By the beginning of October 1936 six of the new batch of He 51s had arrived in Spain, together with ten volunteer pilots and more mechanics - ”a necessary and welcome strengthening”, as Oberleutnant Herwig Knüppel described it. ”Just like we had done two months previously, they had put together their He 51 single-seaters in Seville, for which we soon almost fell around their necks with joy.”
This latest batch of pilots comprised Oberleutnante Dietrich von Bothmer, Oskar Henrici and Günther Radusch, Leutnante Kurt von Gilsa, Paul Rehahn and Henning Strümpell and Unteroffiziere Willi Gödecke, Kowalski, Ernst Mratzek and Sawallisch. It was now possible to split the Jagdstaffel into two elements – five aircraft under Oberleutnant Hannes Trautloft headed north on 5 October to León to escort supply and bombing missions around the Nationalist enclave at Oviedo in Asturias, while the others, under Oberleutnant Kraft Eberhardt, went to Barahona and eventually on to Zaragoza. Communications between the two Ketten would be maintained by a solitary Fokker F VII that had been assigned to the Staffel.

By the middle of October, more Heinkels had arrived, and the strength of the fighter Staffel increased to 14 He 51s.

In the afternoon on 13 November, nine He 51s from the German Legion Condor took off from Ávila to provide escort for five German-flown Ju 52/3ms and three He 46s, which were to attack the Republican positions on the west bank of the Manzanares. It seems that at least six CR.32s also were present.
At 15:00, twelve I-16 type 5 “Moscas” and twelve I-15s intercepted them over Madrid. The I-16s were led by the Russian squadron leader Kapitan Sergey Tarkhov (’Antonio’) (he was the commander of the first and newly created escuadrilla of I-16s) in their first combat while the I-15s (Escuadrilla Palancar) were again led by Starshii Leitenant Pavel Rychagov. All Republican pilots taking part in this combat were Russians.
The Republican fighters dove on the Henrici Kette. Unteroffizier Ernst Mratzek was able to claim an I-16 as it dove past. Oberleutnant Oskar Henrici claimed a Russian fighter in the same way as the He 51s dove into the clouds. A bitter dogfight raged over Madrid at 1,500 meters. The Knüppel Kette dove into a cloud, reversed course in a steep turn and re-emerged below the Republican aircraft. Oberleutnant Herwig Knüppel and Unteroffizier Sawallisch claimed two I-15s; Sawallisch made his way home with some difficulty with shot-up tail surfaces. The Eberhardt Kette had remained above the bombers as top cover. Oberleutnant Kraft Eberhardt collided with an enemy fighter he had shot down and was killed when his fighter crashed to the ground at Casa de Campo; the Russian pilot was able to bail out. Oberleutnant Henrici took a bullet through the lung, but was able to land his aircraft in friendly territory at Alcorcon. As he left his aircraft, however, he collapsed and died. The German Staffel became completely scattered, each pilot seeking cover in cloud and making his own way back to Avila. Leutnant Henning Strümpell and Leutnant Dietrich von Bothmer reported the destruction of two further I-15s.
Henrici was probably shot down by Leitenant Sergey Chernykh, (I-16 in Escuadrilla Kolesnikov). It seems that Eberhardt collided with Tarkhov since it’s reported that he single-handed fought against a number of He 51s before being forced to bail out after a collision. While hanging in his parachute, Republican soldiers mistook him for Nationalist pilot and opened fire, hitting him six times. Tarkhov landed in Madrid but was attacked by the public because they thought he was a German. He died of his injuries at Gómes Ulla hospital on 23 November. This led General Miaja to the issue following order the next day:

“Any aviator who jumps from his aircraft using a parachute is out of the battle and, therefore, I order all forces defending Madrid not to shoot at parachutists under any circumstances. They may be our own men, but, if they prove to be enemies they can provide us with valuable information, which will be of great use for our operations.”
A second Russian pilot was killed when Starshii Leitenant Vladimir Mikhailovich Bocharov (’Jose Galarza’), after claiming a He 51, was wounded and made a forced-landing in enemy territory with his I-16 “Black 9”. He died of wounds or was killed by Nationalists; according to Russian sources, the next day a wooden box was dropped by an enemy aircraft. When opened it was found to contain the mutilated corpse of Bocharov (who was a detachment leader in Escuadrilla Tarkhov).
Totally, the Nationalists claimed seven victories (2 I-16s and 5 I-15s). Five of them were later confirmed; the two unconfirmed was those made by the killed Henrici and Eberhardt (I-16) for the loss of two aircraft (Henrici and Eberhardt) (other sources claims four lost He 51s).
The Republicans claimed four victories while losing four aircraft and pilots (including Bocharov and Tarkhov). The fourth victory seems to have been claimed by Leitenant Nikifor Balanov (I-16), who reportedly claimed a He 51 on this date. Bocharov and Tarkhov were posthumously awarded the Gold Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union on 31 December 1936.
Oberleutnant Herwig Knüppel recorded:
“13 November 1936 was the blackest day for the Jagdstaffel Eberhardt. We flew in the afternoon as escort for the Kampfstaffel of Oberleutnant von Moreau, starting out from Ávila and heading to Madrid. Following the second bombing run, we were attacked by around 24 low-winged and biplane fighters (Ratas and “Curtisses”) from above on the eastern border of Madrid at an altitude of between 1200-1500 metres. It developed into an exceedingly hard air battle.”
Leutnant Wolf-Heinrich von Houwald recorded:
“On Friday, 13 November 1936, we encountered the Ratas for the first time and a wild melee resulted. We downed five of them, but what were these victories when compared with the loss of our Staffelführer? This only served to show that our good old He 51s were too slow compared with the new Ratas - they could play with us as they wanted. Furthermore, the Soviet “Martin Bombers” [Tupolev SB], which were arriving daily, were 50 km/h faster than us, and the people were scared of them. Feverishly, we waited for the Bf 109s to arrive from Germany.”
Following Eberhardt’s death, Hauptmann Knüppel became the new Staffelkapitän. Eberhardt and Henrici were awarded a posthumous Cruz Laureada de San Fernando. This was the He 51s first combat with Soviet fighters.

On 12 December, the 4.J/88 (He 51B-1) had a great day when they claimed four SBs and one unconfirmed. They were claimed by Leutnant Kurt von Gilsa, Leutnant Paul Rehahn, Unteroffizier Sawallisch, Unteroffizier Willi Gödecke and Oberleutnant Herwig Knüppel (unconfirmed).
None of these claims can’t be verified by Republican records.

On 4 January 1937, the He 51B-1s of J/88 escorted Ju 52/3ms bombing enemy positions when they were surprised above Torrijos by Republican I-15s. The escorting fighters claimed three enemy fighters over the Bilbao area when Leutnant Wolf-Heinrich von Houwald (2 Staffel) claimed an I-16 and Unteroffizier Sawallisch (4 Staffel) and Oberleutnant Harro Harder (1 Staffel) claimed an I-15 each. Oberleutnant Harder (flying He 51B-1 2-64) described his first claim for a subsequent propaganda article:

“I hear machine guns behind me. A Red is coming for me sharply from above, his radial engine appearing like a giant eye. I pull “2-64” into a turn and the Red streaks past with two of our fighters already in pursuit. Far below, down in the valley, I see one turning around. Using my superior speed I know I can block him off. I get behind him, fire, he turns, I cut him off, another turn, the smoke twists from my tracer shells disappear into his machine. Now he climbs, black, with a red band in front of the tail, rolls onto his back and plunges almost vertically to the ground. I pull myself together - the intoxication has blinded me to everything else going on. I see a He 51 nearby. Exhausted, I pull up and fly to Vitoria, where I make a low-level loop over the airfield.”
One Ju 52/3m from 3.K/88 was lost over Bilbao when they attacked the Campsa fuel depots. Oberfeldwebel Adolf Hermann and Karl Schmidt parachuted but Feldwebel Herbert Barowski, Unteroffizier Paul Ziepek and Gefreiter Hans Schüll were all unable to escape the burning bomber and were all killed. This was the only bomber loss on this day. Once upon the ground, Oberfeldwebel Adolf Hermann tried to defend himself with his pistol from an armed mob but was rapidly overpowered. His body was dragged through the streets of Bilbao provoking a demand for rerisals by the Legion Condor which were, however, refused.
The Republicans reported that eight I-15s intercepted nine Ju 52/3ms escorted by 20 He 51s, claiming two Ju 52/3ms and two He 51s. One Ju 52/3m crashed near Bilbao while the second crashed at Vitoria airfield. Spanish sources credit the Ju 53/3m that was shot down near Bilbao to alférez Felipe del Río Crespo from the Escuadrilla de Chatos del Norte. There is some confusion in this claim since Soviet sources credits the Ju 52/3m shot down at Bilbao to Leitenant Sergei Bulkin while the second was credited to Leitenant Nikolai Petrukhin (both from Escuadrilla Turzhanskii). No claimants for the He 51s have been found.
One I-15 was lost when teniente Juan Roldán Maldonado of the Escuadrilla de Chatos del Norte was shot down and killed in I-15 ‘15’. Three more I-15s were damaged and Leitenant Petrukhin was wounded.

On 2 March, the Chief of Staff, Oberstleutnant Dr.-Ing. von Richthofen’s plans for reorganisation and rotation began to start when four of the original pilots, Oberleutnant Hannes Trautloft, Leutnant Wolf-Heinrich von Houwald, Unteroffizier Sawallisch and Oberleutnant Alfons Klein, were sent back to Germany.

Sawallisch ended the Spanish Civil War with 3 biplane victories.

In August 1942, he served with 4./JG 27 in North Africa flying Bf 109F-4s with this unit.

Between 18:25-19:30, in the evening of 3 August 1942, ten Spitfires from 145 Squadron took off to patrol over the northern part of the line at 19,000 feet followed by Hurricane IIcs from 33 and 213 Squadrons.
Eight Bf 109s of II./JG 27 were sent off on a Frei Jagd about ten minutes later, six more escorting Jabos on a raid at the same time. The German unjt’s pilots reported three different engagements.
The first was with two Spitfires, one of which was claimed by Oberfeldwebel Emil Clade of 5./JG 27 at 19:03 north of El Bahrein, the pilot reportedly baling out. Spitfire V BP865 of 145 Squadron was shot down into the sea with Pilot Officer A. E. Mulhall (Argentinian) safely baling out.
The second engagement reported was with eight more Spitfires, two of which were claimed. The first at 19:12 north-west of El Hammam by Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Bendert (4./JG 27) and the second by Oberfeldwebel Sawallisch (4./JG 27) north-north-west of El Hammam at 19:15. 145 Squadron recorded meeting 12 Messerschmitts, Spitfire V BR519 being damaged and crashed on landing, the pilot Sergeant R. A. Cunningham being safe. They claimed two possible victories over two Bf 109s, these being claimed by Flight Lieutenant Cecil Saunders (Spitfire Vb BR583/ZX-T) and Sergeant P.G. C. Thomas (Spitfire Vb BP986/ZX-X) over the north end of the line.
The third engagement was with a reported 24 Hurricanes, three of which were claimed. Oberleutnant Rudolf Sinner (6./JG 27) claimed one at 18:55 south-east of El Daba and a second at 19:00 over Bir Ibrahim. The third was claimed by Oberfeldwebel Herbert Krenz at 19:20 north-west of Quabr Hanizadr. Again, one of the pilots was seen to bale out. 33 Squadron lost two Hurricanes and got one damaged at around 19:00. Pilot Officer W. Friend returned with BP352 slightly damaged. Pilot Officer H. Steward safely baled out of BP192 while Sergeant J. A. Kingdon was wounded, and he crash-landed his badly damaged BE409/G. Hurricane IIc BP331 from 213 Squadron was also lost when 23-year-old Pilot Officer Robert Joseph Wallace (RAF No. 49696) was seen to spin in and crashed for no apparent reason 10-15 miles south-west of Burg el Arab.

At 08:30 on 4 August, 12 Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron were provided with cover by Kittyhawks during a raid, the South Africans being attacked by two Bf 109s of 4./JG 27 which were escorting a reconnaissance Bf 110. Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Bendert and Oberfeldwebel Sawallisch each claimed one fighter shot down south-east of El Alamein at 08:08 and 08:10 respectively. One Tomahawk IIa was shot down when 2nd Lieutenant E. H. Johnson crash-landing with AK429 (Cat. II) 10 miles west of El Alamein, wounded in his left leg. He remained unconscious in the cockpit for three hours, but ultimately recovered, then walked for eight hours until picked up and put in hospital.
At 13:25 on the same day, 213 Squadron patrolled over the El Alamein line as top cover to 33 Squadron, awaiting the return of a formation of Baltimores, Kittyhawks and Spitfires from a raid. Eight Bf 109s of II./JG 27, pilots including Sawallisch and Bendert again, were scrambled, this latter pair each claiming a Spitfire shot down north-west of El Hammam at 13:28 and 13:30 respectively. Flight Sergeant S. R. Fry of 213 Squadron was shot down, force-landing Hurricane IIc BN117 north of Hammam. The Squadron reporting that they had been bounced by MC.202s, but no Italian claims were made in the area during this day.

Around 09:50 on 7 August, eight Bf 109s, four each from I. and II. Gruppen, were scrambled, soon encountering 12 Hurricane IIs of 274 Squadron, six with bombs and six as escort, which were attacking MT before making off out to sea. The I. Gruppe pilots saw them over the sea near Ras Gibeira, and Hauptmann Gerhard Homuth from Stab I./JG 27 claimed two of them shot down; reported as a Hurricane 09:21 5 km north-west of El Alamein and the second as a P-40 at 09:23 south of El Hammam. Leutnant Hans Remmer claiming to have damaged a third.
274 Squadron reported being attacked over the sea by two Bf 109s between 10:05-11:10, one of which had a blue spinner. Two Hurricanes were lost with 24-year-old Flight Lieutenant Christopher William Wharton Darwin (RAF no. 42050) in BE683/P shot down off Sollum and Flight Sergeant Paul Gordon Hemmer (RCAF no. R/83123; from the U.S.) in Z5337/O shot down near Burg el Arab. Both baled out, but neither was rescued.
The four Messerschmitt pilots of II. Gruppe’s 4.Staffel, led by Oberleutnant Ferdinand Vögl, reported meeting 24 Hurricanes and 12 Curtiss fighters near Hammam, and later another formation of fighter-bombers. Nine claims were submitted by the pilots of this unit. Although the opponents of III./JG 53 and I./JG 27 and the identity of those ’shot down’ have proved readily accessible to identify, no details of such losses as those now claimed can be found. Claiming pilots were:
Oberfeldwebel Sawallisch, who claimed one Hurricane at 09:12 east of Alam el Kadim and a second Hurricane at 09:15 south-east of Alam el Kadim
Oberleutnant Vögl, who claimed one Hurricane at 09:12 south-east of Alam el Kadim and a second Hurricane at 09:16 east of Alam el Kadim
Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Bendert, who claimed one Hurricane at 09:13 south-east of Alam el Kadim, a second Hurricane at 09:21 east-north-east of Alam el Kadim at 1500 meters altitude and a P-40 at 09:23 south of El Hammam
Oberfeldwebel Franz Stigler, who claimed one Hurricane at 09:14 east of Alam el Kadim and a second Hurricane at 09:20 east-north-east of Alam el Kadim

On 10 August, twelve Kittyhawks of 4 SAAF Squadron were scrambled at 08:30 to carry out a patrol. They encounter four II./JG 27 Bf 109Fs which took off at 09:09.
The German pilots reporting encountering 16 British fighters south-east of El Alamein and claimed four shot down, two each by Oberfeldwebel Sawallisch (08:31 north of El Muhafid and 08:30 north-west of El Muhafid) and Oberfeldwebel Stigler (08:32 north of El Muhafid and 08:33 north-north-west of El Muhafid).
The South Africa reported being jumped by two Bf 109s out of the sun, one being claimed damaged by Lieutenant J. W. Wheeler (Kittyhawk Ia ET901/KJ-U) over El Alamein at 09:25. His Kittyhawk was damaged in the combat but he returned safely to base. One Kittyhawk was shot down (28-year-old Canadian Pilot Officer John Kitson McIvor, RAF no. 107257, KIA in Kittyhawk I AK623) and one crash-landed on return (Lieutenant T. B. Milne safe in ET512).

In the morning on 11 August, 4./JG 27 despatched four Bf 109s, the pilots of which reported engaging ten Hurricanes, claiming five of them in the El Hammam area. Claiming pilots being:
Oberfeldwebel Sawallisch – 1 Hurricane 10:10 north-west of El Hammam and 1 Hurricane 10:13 east of El Hammam
Oberleutnant Ferdinand Vögl – 1 Hurricane 10:11 west-north-west of El Hammam and 1 Hurricane 10:17 east-north-east of El Hammam
Oberfeldwebel Franz Stigler – 1 Hurricane 10:13 south of El Hammam
Ten Hurricanes of 1 SAAF Squadron (take-off 11:20) were repeatedly subjected to 'hit and run' attacks by a reported six Bf 109s and Captain L. R. S. Waugh (Hurricane IIb …698/AX-P) returned claiming one of the Bf 109s damaged 15 miles west of Burg el Arab.
Neither side suffered any losses in this combat.

On 12 August, the claims of 4./JG 27 became even more exaggerated. In the morning, twelve 2 SAAF Squadron Kittyhawks undertook an armed reconnaissance of the southern area. After bombs had been released on various targets the three aircraft of the top section were jumped by two Bf 109s, Lieutenant W. L. O. Moon’s Kittyhawk I AL174/U being badly damaged, causing him to force-land at a forward landing ground. Lieutenant T. M. McLeod also force-landed in AK906/O back at base at 07:30 wounded, but Lieutenant J. R. Burls (AK760/K) was able to claim damage to a Messerschmitt in the El Imayid area at 07:35. Another aircraft was reportedly hit by Flak as the attack was underway and Lieutenant A. Morrison force-landed at El Hammam station with ET874/D on fire; he managed to get out just before it blew up.
Three of 4./JG 27’s Messerschmitts had taken off early in the morning, but a fourth, piloted by Oberleutnant Ferdinand Vögl, was unable to get off due to engine trouble. The three remaining pilots returned to report having encountered 40 fighter-bombers and 16 escorting Curtiss fighters, between them claiming eight Hurricanes and four P-40s! Undoubtedly, they had been the attackers who had hit the three South African Kittyhawks; equally undoubtedly, these claims were vastly overstated. The claims being distributed as follows:
Oberfeldwebel Sawallisch – 1 Hurricane 06:42 south-east of El Alamein, 1 Hurricane 06:48 west of Alam el Kadim, 1 Hurricane 06:51 north of Alam el Kadim and 1 P-40 07:00 south-west of Alam el Halfa
Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Bendert – 1 Hurricane 06:43 south-east of El Alamein, 1 Hurricane 06:50 west of Alam el Kadim, 1 Hurricane 06:52 east of Alam el Kadim, 1 P-40 07:02 south-west of Alam el Halfa and 1 P-40 07:04 south-west of Alam el Halfa
Oberfeldwebel Franz Stigler – 1 Hurricane 06:44 south-south-east of El Alamein, 1 Hurricane 06:53 south of Alam el Kadim and 1 P-40 07:03 south-west of Alam el Halfa

On 14 August, eleven Kittyhawks of 2 SAAF and 11 of 4 SAAF Squadron escorted 12 Baltimores to bomb LG 18 in the Daba-Fuka area. Ten minutes behind them came 12 more Kittyhawks of 260 Squadron with six attached US P-40Fs of the 57th Fighter Group, to provide top cover for 12 Bostons bombing Fuka Station. Twenty minutes behind these aircraft came eight Spitfires of 92 Squadron on their first patrol since re-equipment, their task being to cover the returning formations against any pursuing Axis fighters.
At 06:57 four Bf 109F-4 trops of II./JG 27 were scrambled, followed seven minutes later by six more. The Messerschmitts initially attacked the Baltimores and their escorts, one Kittyhawk being claimed by Oberleutnant Rudolf Sinner (6./JG 27) north-west of El Alamein at 06:25, but not confirmed due to lack of witnesses.
MC.202s of the 9o Gruppo also took part in this interception. At 05:58 Tenente Antonio Canfora led six MC.202s of the 97a Squadriglia that were scrambled at Fuka to face raiders. Near El Daba at 06:20 they intercepted 12 bombers, identified as Marylands, covered by about 18 P-40s. At the end of the fight, one P-40 was claimed by Tenente Canfora as a probable with a Maryland also claimed as a probable by an unspecified pilot and some others damaged.
4 SAAF Squadron reported being attacked by seven plus Bf 109s and MC.202s when flying top cover over Fuka at 06:20; one of the unit’s aircraft were shot down, and a two was badly damaged. 21-years-old Lieutenant Neil Washington Hancock (SAAF no. 104008V) was killed when his fighter (Kittyhawk I ET978) was shot down while Lieutenant David Woodliffe’s Kittyhawk (AK720) was damaged by Bf 109s with the tailplane badly hit and he belly-landed on return. The pilot was safe. The third (AK788) was damaged Cat. I in combat with Bf 109s but the pilot was safe.
The German fighters then attacked a formation identified as ten Bostons and 20 Kittyhawks, without result, finally heading for that escorted by 260 Squadron. Here Oberfeldwebel Sawallisch claimed two (one 06:15 at 2000m 2km north of Fuka and a second 06:30 at 20m south of Ras el Maquiran), Oberleutenant Sinner a third (06:30 at 2000m 5km north-west of El Alamein) and Oberfeldwebel Herbert Krenz (6./JG 27) a fourth (06:25 north of El Hammam).
260 Squadron’s top flight was attacked out of the sun, two Kittyhawks being shot down. This unit’s next section of four was then attacked over Daba by two Bf 109s, losing sight of the bombers. Their pilots patrolled the area until they spotted the Baltimores which had just bombed LG 18 and were now being engaged by Messerschmitts; the Kittyhawk pilots at once joined in this combat. The third four were the only aircraft of the unit to actually reach the target, and here they were also attacked by Messerschmitts, one Kittyhawk force-landing. Two then returned to base, the fourth fighting a lone combat, Sergeant W. R. Cundy (Kittyhawk I ET1016/V) claiming one Messerschmitt as a probable. Totally 260 Squadron lost two aircraft in combat with Bf 109s but the pilots, Squadron Leader P. P. Devenish and Warrant Officer O. Bowerman, were safe. A third Kittyhaek (AL149) was attacked when flying at only 50-100 feet altitude near its home base (reportedly by a Hurricane), and force-landed ten miles north of LG 97 with the pilot Pilot Officer E. G. Aitchison safe.
Lieutenant William O'Neill of the USAAF reported engaging five Bf 109s, two of which he claimed to have shot down, before being shot down into the sea himself. He was later safely picked up.
At this stage the 92 Squadron Spitfires joined the action, Squadron Leader ‘Jeff’ Wedgwood (Spitfire Vc BP476/QJ-B) opening the unit’s scoring in its new guise, shooting down Leutnant Gert Mix (Bf 109F-4 trop WNr. 10074/Yellow 5) of 6./JG 27 who crash-landed after his aircraft was hit in the cooling system to become a PoW.
Although O'Neill’s claims were noted in contemporary USAAF documents, possibly because he was flying as part of an RAF formation and probably filled in an RAF combat report, his victories appear not to have been noted as such in subsequent US records.

16 August proved to be a strange day for JG 27. At 07:27 a pair of I. Gruppe Bf 109s was scrambled and was involved in two combats, the first at 09:15 when Leutnant Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt claimed one Curtiss fighter out of six north-west of El Hammam. He then claimed a second ten minutes later from a formation of 20 west-south-west of El Alamein. Five more Messerschmitts had been scrambled by 4./JG 27 at 0912, and it seems that these had become involved with the second formation reported by the I. Gruppe pilot. At this time 11 Tomahawks of 5 SAAF Squadron were escorting Bostons on a photo-reconnaissance mission when they were attacked, one of these fighters being shot down at 09:15, 21-year-old Lieutenant Clifford Trenchard (SAAF No. 205455) baling out of the blazing aircraft (ET522/W) seven miles south-west of El Alamein and falling in no mans’ land where he was captured, becoming a PoW. However, he had been badly wounded, and he died next day. Three more of the unit’s Tomahawk IIas were damaged Cat I. by Bf 109s including AN427/D (Captain R. F. Armstrong safe). The unit in return claimed three damaged Bf 109s at 09:35 12 miles south-west of El Alamein, the claiming pilots being Captain D. C. Dove (AN366/GL-N), Lieutenant Robert Hirst (AN238/GL-O) and 2nd Lieutenant Hendrik Smith (AN461/GL-K).
Eight Kittyhawks of 2 SAAF Squadron on a fighter reconnaissance were also attacked by Bf 109s, Captain R. Clifton (ET522/W) baling out and landing in the sea at El Alamein, slightly wounded; another of the unit’s aircraft (AL160) was hit and damaged. It would appear that the two South African aircraft shot down represented Stahlschmidt’s victims, and given his known expertise as a fighter pilot, the various aircraft damaged may have been hit by him or his wingman. Equally, it is possible that the 4. Staffel pilots may also have become involved in one of these engagements - probably with 5 SAAF Squadron.
Whatever may have happened at this moment, the five pilots from 4./JG 27 returned to report a combat deep in enemy territory at about 09:30 with five Curtiss fighters and ten Hurricanes. In the next quarter of an hour they claimed to have shot down all five Curtisses and seven of the Hurricanes:
Oberfeldwebel Sawallisch (one Hurricane 08:26 west of Alam el Halfa and a second 08:32 south-west of El Hammam and a third 08:39 south-south-west of El Hammam)
Oberleutnant Ferdinand Vögl (one Hurricane 08:27 over Alam el Kadim, a second at 2500m 12km east of El Hammam and one P-40 08:38 east of El Hammam)
Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Bendert (one P-40 08:28 south of Alam el Kadim, a second 08:35 east of Alam el Kadim and a third 08:40 south of El Hammam)
Oberfeldwebel Franz Stigler (one P-40 08:28 south of Alam el Kadim and one Hurricane 08:38 south-south-west of El Hammam)
Unteroffizier Ferdinand Just (one Hurricane 08:40 south-west of El Hammam)
However, when Leutnant Stahlschmidt landed he had a different story to tell. After his combats he had seen the aircraft of 4. Staffel shooting off their ammunition into the desert sands in the course apparently of a mock dogfight! It is, of course, just possible that he did not see clearly from long range what was going on, but this seems unlikely, and no details of any such heavy losses are to be found in British records. It has been suggested that they were practising “shadow-shooting” to improve their marksmanship, but why they should have been doing so, and with what ammunition if they had already shot down a dozen British aircraft between them, is very difficult to explain or justify.
The JG 27 staff was at a loss to know what to do. Until this time, as has been demonstrated, Luftwaffe claims had, allowing for the inevitable errors during heavy combat which occurred on both sides, been remarkably accurate. Here, however, was the exception to the rule - and it is such unfortunate lapses which would appear to have largely been responsible for the scepticism with which Luftwaffe claims are still treated by many people. Throughout the first three weeks of August the main duties of JG 27 had been daily escorts to convoys sailing along the coast between Tobruk and Mersa Matruh and relatively few combats had occurred. The apparent luck of 4. Staffel’s “Experte Schwarme”, as it had become known had become legendary, and had led to some shaking of heads. As their claims raised higher certain of the pilots, notably Sinner and Börngen, had come to distrust them, and now energetically pressed for action to be taken against them.
However, when questioned, these pilots emphatically denied falsifying their claims. It was considered undesirable to report the matter to the higher command, as this would reflect badly upon the whole unit. Plans were therefore made to break up the Schwarme, posting the pilots to other Staffeln. It was also agreed to treat all future claims from them with some scepticism and to get rid of them as soon as possible. It was also suggested that all their victories to date should be forfeited, and they should start again from scratch. However, Rommel’s next offensive was due shortly, and they could not be spared until after it, so it was several weeks before they were sent home to Germany. Due to the hushing-up of the incident, the pilots’ claim for their combats in the desert were fully accepted by the authorities when they arrived home, and Karl-Heinz Bendert even went on to be awarded the Ritterkreuz on 30 December 1942.

During the early afternoon on 19 August, Oberfeldwebel Sawallisch of 4./JG 27 took off on a test flight in Bf 109 F-4 trop. WNr. 8782 from which he failed to return. Next day his naked body was washed ashore, the reason for his death officially unknown. However, it was thought possible that, accused of making false claims and fearing a possible court martial, he had deliberately dived into the sea.

At the time of his death, Sawallisch was credited with 3 biplane victories and a total of 36.

Kill no. Date Time Number Type Result Plane type Serial no. Locality Unit
1 13/11/36 15:00- 1 I-15 (a) Destroyed He 51B-1   Madrid area J/88
2 12/12/36   1 SB (b) Destroyed He 51B-1   Spain 4.J/88
3 04/01/37   1 I-15 (c) Destroyed He 51B-1   Bilbao area 4.J/88
4 30/10/39 15:23 1 Blenheim Destroyed Bf 109   NE Helgoland 4./JG 77
5 14/12/39 15:28 1 Wellington Destroyed Bf 109   N Wangerooge 4./JG 77
6 14/12/39 15:30 1 Wellington Destroyed Bf 109   N Wangerooge 4./JG 77
7 30/04/40 20:50 1 Wellington Destroyed Bf 109   SW Stavanger 4./JG 77
8 13/06/40 02:10 1 Skua Destroyed Bf 109   Trondheim 4./JG 77
9 08/09/40 19:45 1 Hudson Destroyed Bf 109   Bergen 4./JG 77
10 15/07/41   1 MiG-3 Destroyed       Stab/JG 77
11 25/08/41 10:50 1 I-153 Destroyed     E Ljuban Stab/JG 27
12 11/09/41 17:38 1 Pe-2 Destroyed     Wolchowskaja Pristanj Stab/JG 27
13 21/09/41 09:52 1 I-153 Destroyed     Leningrad Stab/JG 27
14 21/09/41 09:55 1 I-153 Destroyed     Leningrad Stab/JG 27
15 04/10/41 10:45 1 I-18 Destroyed     Michjejewa Stab/JG 27
16 04/10/41 13:55 1 DB-3 Destroyed     Michjejewa Stab/JG 27
17 04/10/41 13:56 1 DB-3 Destroyed     Michjejewa Stab/JG 27
18 04/10/41 14:08 1 SB Destroyed     Spass Stab/JG 27
19 03/08/42 19:15 1 Spitfire V (d) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   NNW El Hammam 4./JG 27
20 04/08/42 08:08 1 P-40 (e) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   SE El Alamein 4./JG 27
21 04/08/42 13:28 1 Spitfire V (f) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   NW El Hammam 4./JG 27
22 07/08/42 09:12 1 Hurricane II (g) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   E Alam el Kadim 4./JG 27
23 07/08/42 09:15 1 Hurricane II (g) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   SE Alam el Kadim 4./JG 27
24 10/08/42 08:31 1 P-40 (h) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   N El Muhafid 4./JG 27
25 10/08/42 08:34 1 P-40 (h) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   NW El Muhafid 4./JG 27
26 11/08/42 10:10 1 Hurricane II (i) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   NW El Hammam 4./JG 27
27 11/08/42 10:13 1 Hurricane II (i) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   E El Hammam 4./JG 27
28 12/08/42 06:42 1 Hurricane II (j) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   SE El Alamein 4./JG 27
29 12/08/42 06:48 1 Hurricane II (j) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   W Alam el Kadim 4./JG 27
30 12/08/42 06:51 1 Hurricane II (j) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   N Alam el Kadim 4./JG 27
31 12/08/42 07:00 1 P-40 (j) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   SW Alam el Kadim 4./JG 27
32 14/08/42 06:15 1 P-40 (k) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   2km N Fuka: 2000m [ENE Fuka] 4./JG 27
33 14/08/42 06:30 1 P-40 (k) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   S Ras el Maquiran: 20m [NW El Alamein] 4./JG 27
34 16/08/42 08:26 1 Hurricane II (l) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   W Alam el Halfa 4./JG 27
35 16/08/42 08:32 1 Hurricane II (l) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   SW El Hammam 4./JG 27
36 16/08/42 08:39 1 Hurricane II (l) Destroyed Bf 109F-4 trop   SSW El Hammam 4./JG 27

Biplane victories: 3 destroyed.
TOTAL: 36 destroyed.
(a) The Soviet volunteers claimed 4 He 51s while losing 4 I-16s and pilots. The German pilots claimed 2 I-16s and 5 I-15s (1 of each as an unconfirmed) while losing 2 He 51s.
(b) This claim can’t be verified with Republican records.
(c) J/88 claimed 2 I-15s during the day. It seems that Republican losses was one shot down (pilot KIA) and three damaged.
(d) Claimed in combat with Spitfires from 145 Squadron and Hurricanes from 33 and 213 Squadrons, which lost 2 Spitfires and 3 Hurricanes with 1 more damaged while claiming 2 probables. II./JG 27 claimed 3 Spitfires and 3 Hurricanes without losses.
(e) Claimed in combat with Tomahawk IIas from 5 SAAF Squadron, which lost 1 Tomahawk. 4./JG 27 claimed 2 Tomahawks without losses.
(f) Claimed in combat with Hurricane IIcs from 213 Squadron, which lost 1 Hurricane. II./JG 27 claimed 2 Spitfire without losses.
(g) Claim can’t be verified with Allied losses.
(h) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 4 SAAF Squadron, which claimed 1 damaged Bf 109 while losing 1 Kittyhawk (pilot KIA), 1 crash-landed and 1 damaged. 4./JG 27 claimed 4 Kittyhawks without losses.
(i) Claimed in combat with Hurricanes from 1 SAAF Squadron, which claimed 1 damaged Bf 109 without losses. 4./JG 27 claimed 5 Hurricanes without losses.
(j) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 2 SAAF Squadron, which claimed 1 damaged Bf 109 while suffering 1 P-40 lost and 2 force-landing. 4./JG 27 claimed 8 Hurricanes and 4 P-40s without losses.
(k) Claimed in combat with Kittyhawks from 260 Squadron (with aircraft from 57th FG attached) and Spitfires from 92 Squadron, which claimed 1 destroyed and 1 probable Bf 109s while suffering 3 P-40s lost and 1 crash-landed. II./JG 27 claimed 4 P-40s while losing 1 Bf 109 (pilot PoW).
(l) Remotely possible claimed in combat with P-40s from 2 and 5 SAAF Squadrons, which claimed 3 damaged Bf 109s while losing 2 P-40s and getting 4 damaged. II./JG 27 claimed 7 P-40s and 7 Hurricanes without losses.

Aces of the Legion Condor – Robert Forsyth, 2011 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-347-8
Aces of the Luftwaffe
A History of the Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945: Volume Two – Christopher Shores and Giovanni Massimello with Russell Guest, Frank Olynyk & Winfried Bock, 2012 Grub Street, London, ISBN-13: 9781909166127
Aircrew Remembered
Condor: The Luftwaffe in Spain 1936-1939 - Patrick Laureau, 2000 Hikoki Publications, Ottringham, ISBN 1-902109-10-4
Das Online-Gedenkbuch
Russian Fighter Aces of 1914-1953 years
Soviet airmen in the Spanish civil war 1936-1939 - Paul Whelan, 2014 Schiffer Publishing Ltd, ISBN 978-0-7643-0
Spanish Republican Aces – Rafael A. Permuy López, 2012 Osprey Publishing, Oxford, ISBN 978-1-84908-668-4
The Legion Condor - Karl Ries and Hans Ring, 1992 Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0-88740-339-5
Additional information kindly provided by Alfredo Logoluso.

Last modified 20 February 2019