Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-7

Black 1, W.Nr. 3487, Flown by Oberfeldwebel Werner Petermann, 5./JG 77, Maláoi/Greece, 20 May 1941

On this day Tuesday 20 May 1941 the Germans initiated their attack on the Island of Crete. From 05.30 hours in the morning the Luftwaffe was engaged in attacking the Allied airfields at Malmes and Iraklion and FLAK installation around them. JG 77 commenced this attack an hour later at 06.30 when the Stab II and III Gruppe took of from Maláoi some 150 km north of Crete. Tasked with protecting the air landings and attacking the anti aircraft installations around Malmes. After the first Fallmschirmjäger had landed the Geschwader strafed any enemy positions they could find in a an effort to support their Paratroopers. Soon however, just after 15 minutes the insufficient endurance of the Bf 109 forced them to withdraw from the landing areas.

And during the continued fighting in morning hours the Bf 109 would show another of its disadvantages, its vulnerability when being hit by enemy small arms and anti aircraft fire. Just a few hits in the radiators often resulted in a loss of a machine, and as we would learn, also the loss of their pilots.

In one of the missions this forenoon a Rotte from the 5th Staffeln lead by Oblt. Berthold Jung came upon a large Allied troops consecrations around Chanea. The Jagdwaffe formation fell upon the troops with their guns blasting, and after making a renewed attack the three Messerschmitts were all hit by anti aircraft fire. This forced Oblt. Jung to ditch in the sea, and Obfw. Petermann and Oblt. Rahm to belly land their machines. This was three of the total of five losses the JG 77 experienced during the days fighting, with another 18 machines damaged.

The ordeal was however not over for the downed JG 77 pilots, as they soon was fond themselves under attack by New Zealanders. The pilots together with few own soldiers managed to hold out for about two hours but finally the Germans was overwhelmed and captured. The New Zealanders troops consisting of Maoris then started round up the prisoners preparing to kill them all. In the resulting uproar Obfw. Werner Petemann was shot and seriously injured.

Petermann was however lucky to survive the ordeal as a POW and is accredited with a total of nine abschüsse, seven RAF machines and two Yugoslavian Bf 109s.

The often published photo of Werner Petemanns Bf 109 E-7 bellied on the beach of Platanias with a RAF Hurricane from No 80 Sqn laying behind and in the far background the isle of Theodori, is a very well know shot from the Crete battles.

This profie, one of three made this week would be included in one of my forthcoming profile books.

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