Robert and Claude (Bob and Clod for short) visit Sheerness Naval Dockyard, on the Thames Estuary. BoB's Sheerness has the barrage balloons and a more realistic layout. Clod's paintwork has gone to the dogs (not to the Isle of Dogs, a good few miles upstream from here) and his Merlin doesn't cut out like it ought to, if he should bunt.
This Heinkel has the badge and unit letters of a different Geschwader, KG4 'Wever', and was my mount when I opted to play the bomber gunner instead of the fighter pilot in the stock 'Interceptions - single fighter vs single bomber' mission. We got away!
The low sun glints off the bomber's glazing and casts an amber glow on the landscape as our pilot prepares to land, having made it all the way back across the Channel.
Sticking with the bomber theme, this is a 'Stuka party' from viewpoint of the guests who are wishing they'd made an excuse and stayed at home. The mission is 'Ground Attack' from the included training missions and like the others it's 'live firing' with a real enemy and you can play a choice of aircraft types on either side.
Here we are, all dressed up and somewhere to go...IIRC the party is at Tangmere airfield near the south coast.
And here we go, just dropping in to say 'Hello, Mister Churchill, have this one on us'.
We took some hits but got away as the Spit overshot us. One of the others wasn't so lucky...
Looking around for somebody to join up with didn't go quite to plan - the first aircraft that joined up with us was a Spitfire...
Again, we got away, but again, another Stuka had fared rather less well...
I then decided to re-try the mission to see if I really could fly not just for the fighter escort instead, or with the defenders, but with a 109 or a 110 instead of a Stuka, choosing a Bf110C4 from Erprobungsgruppe 210. This famous unit was formed to try out schnellbomber tactics for the new Me210, hence the unit designation (and to heck with security precautions). This worked, down to our 110s having the correct unit gruppe code letters 'S9' and bearing the correct unit badge, a red map of Britain with yellow crosshairs superimposed - cheeky beggars. The only problem was we lacked the proper bomb fairing and our two SC50s (think that's what they are) were a bit too far forward. Still, I was planning to get rid of them before too long.
It’s the morning of 17th July 1940, and playing RAF, I’m a week into my first serious, sustained effort at a campaign in BoB2. The latter being the realistic simulation of the Battle that it is, this is the ‘channel convoy’ phase, during which Fighter Command’s main task – my task - is protecting the aforementioned shipping. As in real life, the Navy hasn’t yet accepted that these convoys are too risky and their loads should go by rail instead. The cost is proving high for both sides, with my losses not much less than those we believe we’ve inflicted on the Luftwaffe.
I’ve been letting the campaign AI set the ‘Directives’ which determine general tactics, and accepting the results, in terms of which patrols are flown over which convoys, and which squadrons are scrambled to beef them up when raids come in. I then get offered the chance to fly in any plane in any RAF squadron, typically on take-off or upon sighting the enemy. Or can just jump into one at any time - ‘frag’ they seem to call it, not sure why.
Today, I opted to fly as Red 3, in the CO’s section in A Flight, 603 'City of Edinburgh' Squadron, at the point its Spitfires had sighted a big ‘hundred plus’ raid heading for Convoy Weasel, off the East Coast, where the weather was a bit better than in the Channel. I didn’t get a screenie of the campaign map/wargame interface until the raid and the intercepting squadrons were all heading home. But the pic I did get then still usefully illustrates how things are presented to the player in the campaign interface, close to how it looked in the real Fighter Command Ops Rooms at the time. All you need to do, to get the picture I saw at the start, is to imagine the direction arrows next to the markers are going in the opposite direction.
This is the view from my Spitfire’s cockpit right after I’d opted to fly in this position with this intercepting squadron. The CO is in XT-F, with the blue and red squadron leader's flash under the cockpit. I neglected to get a pic of the raid we had just spotted, but it was BIG, with maybe 50-70 aircraft in formation, visible up ahead.
At about this point, the CO came up on the blower and ordered B Flight to go for the fighters, while we in A Flight hit the bombers, picking our own targets. At the same time, he led the squadron off in a wide sweep to the right, before curving back in towards the enemy. I got left behind! As I wondered what to do about this, I looked ahead and saw that the sky in front of me was rapidly filling with fighters turning and diving. I wasn’t sure if this was our lot or another squadron mixing it with the raid’s escorts, but it did give me a chance to do what I do best - sneak up behind and clobber somebody whose attention was directed elsewhere.
So that’s what I did, singling out this 109 who seemed to be on his own. Not to mention probably low on fuel, operating so far north.
It took several passes, all the while praying that somebody wasn’t sneaking up on me. I’m not a section leader with wingmen of his own, just a wingman on his own, with only a rear view mirror and the odd glance behind to cover my tail. But after another flurry of flashes, smoke and flying pieces as my third or fourth burst got some more hits, the 109’s canopy came off and the pilot bailed out.
I was suddenly conscious again of the continuous R/T chatter indicating the squadron was heavily engaged, but turning around to port get a good look, could make out little. Ahead and to the south, I could see a near-vertical cluster of specks, with another group in relatively tight formation apparently further away, above them and to the right.
Closer in about half-right, was another small formation, with at least one machine trailing smoke and perhaps fire, and some scattered aircraft behind (out of sight to the right), apparently in pursuit. As I closed, the aircraft up ahead started contrailing, which gave me a better indication as to their heading.
Over to the right, further away, a spread-out group of specks whirling round and round, up and down, indicated an air fight in progress.
Decisions, decisions! In the end I decided that rather than seeking out and rejoining the squadron just yet, I would investigate that formation with the aircraft leaving the smoke trails. Retreating bombers, I thought. With some of our boys on their heels.
I edged closer to the aircraft I had noticed trailing the now-depleted formation, thinking I would join them in chasing down the Huns up ahead. I got a nasty shock when I recognised the supposed pursuers were Bf110s!
I got out of there fast. Happily, none of the big Messerschmitts seemed to have noticed me. As I watched, the two aircraft trailing smoke finally gave up the ghost and fell away.
So I came back in and attacked one of the 110s with whom I had very nearly tried to formate, a short time ago.
I got a few hits on him but he was reasonably well-handled and didn’t give me an easy target as we dodged amongst the clouds. I got a few hits but in the end, my ammo ran out and I had to let him go.
After that, I decided to go home rather than try to rejoin the others in the middle of an active a combat zone, but exited to the wargame interface when I found out from Control that I was a hundred miles from base!
Soon after, I was offered another flight as 253 Squadron’s Hurricanes spotted retreating Germans. Again, I opted to fly as Red 3, next to the CO. All our Hurricanes bore the early-war black and white wings underneath, intended quickly to identify friendly aircraft to the Observer Corps, on the ground.
Again, I was caught out when the boss took the squadron off to one side before giving his attack orders for each flight. Before I could rejoin, several calls warned of low fuel and the order to reform was given. As I watched, the squadron came back together and drifted off towards the coast, over on my right. I thought about doing a bit of hunting on my own, but the enemy were rather numerous, and I too was getting low on fuel.
So I called up the others, by now out of sight, and got a bearing to rejoin them. Time to go home!
This was the cumulative position at the end of these morning air battles and a week of many more like them. Up to now, as you can see, my fighter losses have been nearly as high as our own claims, which I hope are not too badly inflated!
Fortunately, as the wargame interface tells me every time it happens, newly-produced or repaired aircraft are regularly being allocated to squadrons, which are being rotated in and out of quiet sectors when deemed necessary. I could husband my strength by giving up, or heavily scaling back, trying to protect convoys. But apparently this can result in you being removed from command! So I’m ploughing on, but considering amending the campaign Directives (which BoB presents to you each day at the start of morning, afternoon and evening periods), perhaps to increase the strength of patrols (at the cost of pilot fatigue and wear on aircraft) or perhaps scrambling more squadrons, in the hope of getting a better claim-to-loss ratio. I think reducing my own losses is the priority now; how best to do that, short of staying on the ground, being the conundrum I need to solve. My campaign setting choices include historical Luftwaffe tactics, which delays the latter’s switch to attacking airfields and more optimal targets to about mid-August and Adler Tag. So I have a while to go at trying to look after these darn convoys without running down my strength before I need it for the main event!
Thanks Jens! All of this is probably 'old hat' to seasoned BoB2 players but I'm glad it brings back memories and maybe encourages others to give the sim a shot - I've still not seen or played a sim of the Battle that's in the same league in most of the ways that matter, to me at any rate.
20th July. Ignoring the convoys for a change, the Luftwaffe goes for a target on the coast, one of our airfields possibly. Two squadrons try to get to them first...
...but after we're jumped by 109s I get separated. After some inconclusive combat, I follow one of the Messerschmitts out over the Channel, as they withdraw. And come out of cloud behind the whole shooting gallery...
Feeling heroic, I shake up the nearest 109s first...
...then have a go at the Heinkels...
...before making my escape. Must be worth a DFC, at least...
The 109 of Hans 'Assi' von Hahn, I/JG3 falls to the guns of a Hurricane, as the pilot bails out. The rear section, including the mast, should go when the 109's canopy is jettisoned, but it seems to be a bit sticky in BoB2 as in some other sims.