FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

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FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby dunmunro » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:19 am

Raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo, July 30 1941:
Kirkenes and Petsamo fiord are separated by about 50km.

Attack on Petsamo: 9 Albacores and 9 Swordfish (12 TBs and 6 bombers) and 5 Fulmars (fighter bombers)
Opposition: Me109 fighters (at least two, but probably more)
Losses: 1 Albacore, 1 Fulmar (+ 1 previously ditched - Operational Loss) both to fighters
Claims: none
some damage from flak.

Attack on Kirkenes: 9 Fulmars encounter heavy flak and engage at least 3 me109s and 6 Me110s.
Losses: 2 Fulmars and 1 Me110 (Zerstörerstaffel 1.(Z)/I./JG 77) confirmed from German records. Fulmars claimed 1 Me109 and 2 Me110s and another Me110 probable.

12 Albacore TBs of 827 squadron encounter heavy flak. Engaged by Me109 fighters and Ju87s acting as ersatz fighters. 6 Albacores lost to flak and fighters. Ju87 confirmed (Lehrstaffel 12./IV.(St)/LG 1) as lost to Albacore front gunner. claims for 1 Ju87 certain and 1 me109 and 1 Ju87 (probables). No Fulmars present.

8 Albacore TBs of 828 squadron attacked shipping down another fiord. They encountered flak and heavy fighter opposition. 5 Albacores lost. No Fulmars present.

Total losses = 12 Albacores and 4 Fulmars (one non combat)

German records state:

According to KM Admiral Polarküste (Admiral responsible for Northern Norway):
Major attack on Kirkenes with 30 - 40 aircraft then secondary attack on Petsamo. Mainly english aircraft (hurricane and swordfish). In Kirkenes no german vessel sunk, only minor damage. In Petsamo one norwegian vessel (Rodvaer) sunk.
31 aircraft shot down. 25 by fighters, rest by Flak
17 aircrew saved. Orders from HMS Victorius was found on aircrew
Aircrew confirmed start from carrier


German aircraft available in the vicinity as of June 21 1941:
5./KG 30 at Banak (northern Norway) with ten Ju88s [misc]
IV.(St)/LG 1 at Kirkenes (northern Norway), with thirty-six Ju87s [misc]
I./JG 77 at Kirkenes with ten Bf109E and Bf109T
Stab/ZG 76 at Kirkenes with six Bf110s
1.(F)/124 at Kirkenes with three Ju88s [misc]
1.(H)/32 at Kemijarvi and Rovaniemi (northern Finland) with seven Hs126s and three Do17P
1./KuFlGr 406 at Banak with He115s and Do18s.

probable Luftwaffe response was 10 me109s, 6 Me110s and many Ju-87s, with 2 or 4 of the Me109s covering Petsamo and the other German aircraft covering Kirkenes. It would seem that at Kirkenes, total numbers were 6 - 8 Me109, 6 Me110 and many Ju-87.

based upon the various accounts and German kill claims, I would suspect that Luftwaffe fighters shot down 6 to 9 Albacores and 3 Fulmars while Flak destroyed 3 to 6 more Albacores. Fulmars shot down 1 Me110 and Albacores shot down 1 Ju-87.
Sea Hurricanes shot down a Do18 on recon patrol on July 31.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby José M. Rico » Tue Jan 11, 2011 2:04 pm

Here is an interesting link about the raids on Kirkenes and Petsamo.

http://www.fleetairarmarchive.net/Rollo ... _1941.html

It provides very detailed information about the aircraft lost and crew casualties.

Petsamo- 1 Albacore and 2 Fulmars lost.
Kirkenes- 11 Albacores and 2 Fulmars lost, +8 other Albacores damaged. 2 Bf-109s and 1 Bf-110 claimed by FAA.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby dunmunro » Tue Jan 11, 2011 7:57 pm

I used a wide variety of sources in my original post, which included detailed loss and damage reports of Norway based Luftwaffe aircraft. The key points that should be remembered are that the Fulmars did not provide a close escort to the various Albacore and Swordfish strikes, and that the strike aircraft (Albacores/Swordfish) were attacking widely separated targets, so this was not a mass strike against a single target, which would have allowed for concentration of the Fulmar escort. At Kirkenes the Fulmars were engaged by an approximately equal number of Luftwaffe fighters which prevented them from providing support to the Albacores.

Luftwaffe loss confirmations are found here:
http://www.rafandluftwaffe.info/

Despatch giving futher details:
http://funsite.unc.edu/hyperwar/UN/UK/L ... /38300.pdf
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby José M. Rico » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:03 pm

I'm afraid the FAA would still have heavy losses in any case. The Luftwaffe had been alerted prior to the raid and the Messerschmitts were superior aircraft overall. Thanks for the links.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby dunmunro » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:37 pm

José M. Rico wrote:I'm afraid the FAA would still have heavy losses in any case. The Luftwaffe had been alerted prior to the raid and the Messerschmitts were superior aircraft overall. Thanks for the links.


The common perception is that 9 Fulmars versus 3 Me109s and 6 Me110s should result in a slaughter of the Fulmars, but this didn't happen, instead 2 Fulmars were lost but in turn downed an Me110.

However this raid is very interesting as it might be the first large scale multi-carrier strike of the war. The FAA flew off 60 aircraft including 53 against Kirkenes and Petsamo, from two carriers. However, they could have just as easily sent the same number of strike aircraft against a KM force. If Tovey had these two CVs available just two months sooner, it might have seen Bismarck overwhelmed by single large strike. It showed how rapidly the FAA was recovering from the loss of two CVs in 39/40 and damage to two more in Jan/May 1941, and how potent it might have been without the loss of Courageous and Glorious, both of which had a larger aircraft capacity than Furious.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby José M. Rico » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:34 pm

dunmunro wrote:The common perception is that 9 Fulmars versus 3 Me109s and 6 Me110s should result in a slaughter of the Fulmars, but this didn't happen, instead 2 Fulmars were lost but in turn downed an Me110.

Don't forget the presence of the 20 Albarores (11 lost and several other damaged).
The fact is that we don't know exactly how the dogfights over Kirkenes evolved or how many German planes were present. At least I haven't seen any detailed official report of this strike (perhaps you do?). We simply don't know which aircraft were engaged and by whom. The raid was supposed to be a surprise attack, once that was lost, heavy losses were to be expected.

By the way, 3 Me109s and 6 Me110s would certainly "slaughter" 9 Fulmars.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby dunmunro » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:57 pm

José M. Rico wrote:
dunmunro wrote:The common perception is that 9 Fulmars versus 3 Me109s and 6 Me110s should result in a slaughter of the Fulmars, but this didn't happen, instead 2 Fulmars were lost but in turn downed an Me110.

Don't forget the presence of the 20 Albarores (11 lost and several other damaged).
The fact is that we don't know exactly how the dogfights over Kirkenes evolved or how many German planes were present. At least I haven't seen any detailed official report of this strike (perhaps you do?). We simply don't know which aircraft were engaged and by whom. The raid was supposed to be a surprise attack, once that was lost, heavy losses were to be expected.

By the way, 3 Me109s and 6 Me110s would certainly "slaughter" 9 Fulmars.


Victorious launched her Fulmars after the Albacores had departed. The Fulmars were supposed to overtake the Albacores but never made a rendezvous prior to being engaged by luftwaffe fighters. The 9 Fulmars did, in fact engage a large force of Me109s and Me110s which were described as 3 Me109s and 6 me110s in Victorious' strike report (see the Despatch linked above), and this fits with the recorded number of Luftwaffe fighters based in the area.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby Bgile » Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:31 pm

dunmunro wrote:However this raid is very interesting as it might be the first large scale multi-carrier strike of the war. The FAA flew off 60 aircraft including 53 against Kirkenes and Petsamo, from two carriers.


Yes, but I can't help noticing the fact that USS Yorktown alone launched a larger strike during the battle of Midway.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby José M. Rico » Wed Jan 12, 2011 12:19 am

dunmunro wrote:Victorious launched her Fulmars after the Albacores had departed. The Fulmars were supposed to overtake the Albacores but never made a rendezvous prior to being engaged by luftwaffe fighters. The 9 Fulmars did, in fact engage a large force of Me109s and Me110s which were described as 3 Me109s and 6 me110s in Victorious' strike report (see the Despatch linked above), and this fits with the recorded number of Luftwaffe fighters based in the area.

Thanks, for some reason I couldn't see the Despatch on your second link earlier. I've just taken a quick look and It does in fact mention 3 Me109s and 6 Me110s. If we just had the official German reports to know how many aircraft were in the air at that time and thus verify the accuracy of that information... The enemy claims don't seem to be correct either. You mentioned only one Me110 lost, but according to HMS Victorious report, 9 Fulmars actually beat an enemy force with an equal number Messerschmitts!!! :shock: (1 Me109 and 2 Me110 shot down "for certain" + another possible vs. 2 Fulmars lost).
Great information anyway.

P.S: The German claims you quoted also seem to be all wrong; 31 aircraft shot down claimed vs 16 actual losses. Besides mistaking Fulmars for Hurricanes?
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby dunmunro » Wed Jan 12, 2011 12:45 am

Bgile wrote:
dunmunro wrote:However this raid is very interesting as it might be the first large scale multi-carrier strike of the war. The FAA flew off 60 aircraft including 53 against Kirkenes and Petsamo, from two carriers.


Yes, but I can't help noticing the fact that USS Yorktown alone launched a larger strike during the battle of Midway.


The USN did range larger strikes from Hornet (60) and Enterprise (57) at Midway, but not from Yorktown:

2. Attack Group.

(a) At about 1045 commenced launching the Attack Group composed of 17 VSB, 12 VTB and 6 VF. The torpedo planes were directed to proceed immediately towards the objective; and the VSBs ordered to circle overhead for 12 minutes and then proceed to overtake the VT before reaching the enemy. In order to conserve fuel for the VF, they were launched at 1105 with orders to rendezvous enroute. Due to the slow speed of the TBD's and the small fuel capacity of the F4F-4's, the above procedure was deemed expedient and worked out very well. At 1145 all three squadrons were rendezvoused and the group took the following formation: VT-3 at 1500 feet (just below the cloud base), 2 VF for low coverage at 2500 feet, 4 VF at 5000-6000 feet to protect the VT and low VF, and VB-3 at 16,000 feet.
http://funsite.unc.edu/hyperwar/USN/shi ... idway.html


The strikes from Hornet and Enterprise were criticized for the long delay involved in launching that many aircraft, since it took nearly a hour to launch and form up their strikes and during this time the carriers ended up having to steam away from the reported position of the KB.

The FAA force launched their entire complement during the raid, but the short flight deck on Furious (only ~530ft long) would have prevented her from ranging many more aircraft, while the useful length of Victorious flight deck would later be extended by over 100ft (to 740ft) by having the round downs removed.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby dunmunro » Wed Jan 12, 2011 1:06 am

José M. Rico wrote:
Thanks, for some reason I couldn't see the Despatch on your second link earlier. I've just taken a quick look and It does in fact mention 3 Me109s and 6 Me110s. If we just had the official German reports to know how many aircraft were in the air at that time and thus verify the accuracy of that information... The enemy claims don't seem to be correct either. You mentioned only one Me110 lost, but according to HMS Victorious report, 9 Fulmars actually beat an enemy force with an equal number Messerschmitts!!! :shock: (1 Me109 and 2 Me110 shot down "for certain" + another possible vs. 2 Fulmars lost).
Great information anyway.

P.S: The German claims you quoted also seem to be all wrong; 31 aircraft shot down claimed vs 16 actual losses. Besides mistaking Fulmars for Hurricanes?


Both sides over-claimed, which is typical for air combat. I have a book coming in the mail that might provide more detail as it contains some first hand accounts of the battle. Mistaking Albacores for Swordfish and Fulmars for Hurricanes was a common mistake, which is why the Albacore tends to get overlooked. Being mistaken for a Hurricane might be in the Fulmar's favour since the Hurricane was probably a match even for the 109 at low altitude and so the German pilots might not be as aggressive, however at low altitude the Fulmar could easily out turn an Me110 while the 110 only had a ~30km/h speed advantage. The Me110 had far more firepower but the Fulmar had either 750-1000 rpg for its 8 x 7.7mm mgs and could easily destroy any enemy fighter with a single burst.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby Bgile » Wed Jan 12, 2011 3:06 am

dunmunro wrote:
Bgile wrote:
dunmunro wrote:However this raid is very interesting as it might be the first large scale multi-carrier strike of the war. The FAA flew off 60 aircraft including 53 against Kirkenes and Petsamo, from two carriers.


Yes, but I can't help noticing the fact that USS Yorktown alone launched a larger strike during the battle of Midway.


The USN did range larger strikes from Hornet (60) and Enterprise (57) at Midway, but not from Yorktown:

2. Attack Group.

(a) At about 1045 commenced launching the Attack Group composed of 17 VSB, 12 VTB and 6 VF. The torpedo planes were directed to proceed immediately towards the objective; and the VSBs ordered to circle overhead for 12 minutes and then proceed to overtake the VT before reaching the enemy. In order to conserve fuel for the VF, they were launched at 1105 with orders to rendezvous enroute. Due to the slow speed of the TBD's and the small fuel capacity of the F4F-4's, the above procedure was deemed expedient and worked out very well. At 1145 all three squadrons were rendezvoused and the group took the following formation: VT-3 at 1500 feet (just below the cloud base), 2 VF for low coverage at 2500 feet, 4 VF at 5000-6000 feet to protect the VT and low VF, and VB-3 at 16,000 feet.
http://funsite.unc.edu/hyperwar/USN/shi ... idway.html


The strikes from Hornet and Enterprise were criticized for the long delay involved in launching that many aircraft, since it took nearly a hour to launch and form up their strikes and during this time the carriers ended up having to steam away from the reported position of the KB.

The FAA force launched their entire complement during the raid, but the short flight deck on Furious (only ~530ft long) would have prevented her from ranging many more aircraft, while the useful length of Victorious flight deck would later be extended by over 100ft (to 740ft) by having the round downs removed.


I don't know how I messed up the Yorktown attack numbers, but here is one on another occasion:

"Yorktown accordingly set course northward at 27 knots (31 mph; 50 km/h). By daybreak on 4 May, she was within striking distance of the newly established Japanese beachhead and launched her first strike at 0701-18 F4F-3's of VF-42, 12 TBD's of VT-5, and 28 SBD's from VS and BY-5."
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby dunmunro » Wed Jan 12, 2011 6:00 am

There's no doubt that the USN CVs could range and launch larger strikes, but for example the USN CV's that launched the afternoon strike against the IJN on June 20 1944, launched an average of 35-36 aircraft each for the 5 Essex class CVs and 28 from Enterprise, so when the USN wanted to launch a strike in a hurry it wasn't that much bigger than the FAA strikes. AFAIK, the largest strike ever ranged and launched was 39 aircraft (15 Barracudas and 24 Corsairs) from Illustrious, also in June 1944, in a strike against Port Blair, in the IO.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby Bgile » Wed Jan 12, 2011 7:04 am

dunmunro wrote:There's no doubt that the USN CVs could range and launch larger strikes, but for example the USN CV's that launched the afternoon strike against the IJN on June 20 1944, launched an average of 35-36 aircraft each for the 5 Essex class CVs and 28 from Enterprise, so when the USN wanted to launch a strike in a hurry it wasn't that much bigger than the FAA strikes. AFAIK, the largest strike ever ranged and launched was 39 aircraft (15 Barracudas and 24 Corsairs) from Illustrious, also in June 1944, in a strike against Port Blair, in the IO.


I don't understand. In the Yorktown example above, she launched 58 aircraft.
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Re: FAA raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo

Postby dunmunro » Wed Jan 12, 2011 8:31 am

Bgile wrote:
I don't understand. In the Yorktown example above, she launched 58 aircraft.


I just took a gander at First Team and Lundstrum, p169, states that Yorktown had 60 operational aircraft on May 04 1942 and launched 40 aircraft (28 SBD and 12 TBD) on the strike, "in two deckloads", although she also maintained a CAP of 6 fighters throughout the day. The ONI account states:

The attack group was composed as follows: 12 torpedo planes (TBD) of Torpedo Squadron FIVE, under Lt. Comdr. Joe Taylor; 13 scout planes (SBD) of Scouting Squadron FIVE, under Lt. Comdr. William O. Burch; and 15 bombers (SBD) of Bombing Squadron FIVE, under Lt. Wallace C. Short.
http://funsite.unc.edu/hyperwar/USN/USN ... ral-2.html


On May 07 Yorktown launched 43 aircraft according to Lundstrom and 42 according to the ONI account:"Beginning at approximately 1014, the Yorktown launched 8 fighters (F4F), 24 scout bombers (SBD), and 10 torpedo planes (TBD)"

while on May 08 she launched::
6 VF - MG's.
17 VB .
7 VS .
9 VT
for a total of 39 aircraft.
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