Messerschmitt Bf 109 F-4 trop

Black Chevron, flown by Oberfeldwebel Karl-Heinz Bendert, Stab II./JG 27, Magrum/Libya, Late December 1941

Ofw. Karl-Heinz Bendert had flown in the 4. Staffel since January 1940, claiming a total of six victories by the summer of 1941. When the II. Gruppe was sent to North Africa at the end of September 1941, Bendert was transferred to the Gruppenstab under the command of Hptm. Lippert. In this theatre he would score his first abschüsse, his 7th on 22 November and his eight on 13 December. Later he was to rejoined the 4. Staffel and by that time he was one of the the leading pilots in this Staffel, soon dubbed the "Expertenschwarm" due to their tally of downed RAF aircraft.

However pilot claims in this Staffel would come in for some scrutiny by other pilots in JG 27, especially those filled during the August 1942 battles. During this month few Axis aerial victories were recorded, with the exception of those made by 4./JG 27, who claimed numerous victories almost daily. On 16 August, two suspicious pilots from 2./JG 27 came across five 4./JG 27 pilots shooting off their ammunition in the desert in a mock combat. Slipping away unnoticed, one of the witnesses, Lt. Hans-Arnold Stahlschmidt, reported the incident to their commander Major Edu Neumann.

When the five pilots of the "Expert Staffel" returned, they claimed an incredible twelve victories between them, including Ofw. Benderts 35th to 37th Abschüsse. When the pilots were confronted by the fact, they stood by each other confirming each other claims. The next day the friend of Bendert, Ofw. Sawallisch took off for a test flight over the sea. Suddenly the other pilots saw his Messerschmitt dive straight into the water below. The reason for his death is officially unknown. However, it was possible that he risked being accused of making false claims, and fearing a court martial, he took his own life.

Some 58 false victory claims were submitted between 20 June and 12 October 1942, most of these occurred in August. This series of events was never reported to the Luftwaffe high command, and Ofw. Karl-Heinz Bendert, who during the period from June to October 1942 claimed a total of 26 British aircraft shot down later received the Ritterkreuz as a Oberleutnant for his total of 55 "confirmed" victories, all of them western kills. He survived the war after logging a total of 610 combat missions and finally passed away on 16 July 1983 in Oldenburg.

Note that this Messerschmitt has no white Mediterranean theatrical markings, instead its theatrical marking is just as the machines on the channel front, an engine cowling and rudder in Yellow. Note also the Gruppenstab emblem under the cockpit, A British lion with a Band-Aid on is behind chased by a bullet.

A profile of Ofw. Sawallisch machine is included in my Profile book No 10 as the 55th Profile.

This is one of eight profiles made by me during the week, most if not all of them would be included in Profile book No 13.

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