The following introduction is as supplied by Pen and Sword:
After recounting his early days as a naval cadet, including a voyage to the Far East aboard the cruiser Köln, and as the navigator/observer of the floatplane carried by the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer during the Spanish Civil War, the author goes on to describe his flying training as a Stuka pilot.
The author’s naval dive-bomber Gruppe was incorporated into the Luftwaffe upon the outbreak of war. What follows in this book, therefore, is a fascinating Stuka pilot’s view of some of the most famous and historic battles and campaigns of the early war years: the Blitzkrieg in France, the Dunkirk Evacuation, the Battle of Britain, the bombing of Malta, North Africa, Tobruk, Crete and, finally, the invasion of the Soviet Union.
The author also takes the reader behind the scenes into the day-to-day activities of his unit and brings the members of his Gruppe to vivid life. The story ends when he himself is shot down in flames by a Soviet fighter and severely burned. He was to spend the remainder of the war in various staff appointments.
The book is a soft back book, with pagination of 306, offering people the chance to read about Helmut Mahlke memoirs of a Stuka pilot.
Foreword to the English Edition
Chapter 1 Childhood
Chapter 2 Training to be a Naval Pilot
Chapter 3 Naval Officer's Basic Training
Chapter 4 Foreign Training Cruise
Chapter 5 Transferred to the Luftwaffe
Chapter 6 Shipboard Aviator
Chapter 7 Training to be a Stuka Pilot
Chapter 8 StaffelKaptain in Campaign against France
Chapter 9 Operations over England as GruppenKommandeur
Chapter 10 Malta and the Mediterranean
Chapter 11 Operations in North Africa
Chapter 12 Trapani/Sicily
Chapter 13 Operation 'Merkur' – Crete
Chapter 14 The Russian Campaign
Chapter 15 Ground-Support Operations
Appendix 1 III./StG 1 Pilot Roster At the Close
of the Campaign in France
Appendix 2 Pilots of I.(St) / 186 (T) and III./StG 1
Killed or Missing in Action, 1939-40
Appendix 3 Pilots of I. (St) / 186 (T) and III./StG 1
Posted Away 1939-40
Appendix 4 Ground personnel Killed, missing or
Died on Active Service, 1939-45
Appendix 5 Extracts from I.(St) /186 (T), III./StG 1
and III. /SG 1 Casualty Reports
Born in Berlin-Landkwitz in August 1913, his first recollection of soldiers dates back to the days of the First World War. His father a local government senior planning officer in Berlin was a Hauptman der Reserve (captain in the reserves) and commander of a railway engineer company that saw service in both France and Russia. During a brief spell of home duty, his father was sat in the saddle of his service horse, Helmut remembered lots of people in the streets all standing waving and cheering. He remembers the moment that his father gestured to him to come over and be lifted up onto the horse, he remembers clearly the feeling that left a huge impression on him it left on him and trying to put the three syllables together at first “Soldaten” German for soldier.
In 1931 aged seventeen and just having passed his Abitur, he volunteered his services to the Reichsmarine as an officer cadet. It was not long before the young Helmut Mahlke was through the medical and taking his first flight where he was allowed to stir the stick where he was described as a born natural.
He soon spent four weeks attending a yacht club at Neustadt in Holstein, where he would learn the basic lessons in basic seamanship, in other words, everything he needed to know how to manoeuvrer small boats, and also floatplanes. It was then of to Warnemunde to begin flying training proper.
His earliest fond memories of flying were doing the circuit and bumps, but it was not long before he was soon taking to the air with ease climbing into the air.
On the 26th July 1932, he heard the terrible news that the Navy's sail training ship Niobe had capsized and sunk after being hit by a freak squall of the Baltic island of Fehmarn. What made this worse for Helmut was she had on board a large part of the 1932 intake, while he was part of the lucky dozen that were training to be Naval aviators it was a loss hard to bear.
He was lucky to be on a Foreign training cruise and got to see a lot of the world including some of the amazing monuments around the world
On April 30th 1935 he transferred to the Luftwaffe at Warnemunde which had previously been the Commercial Pilot's School (DVS), but in the meantime been transformed into Fliegerschulen 1 (Flugzeugfuhrer) and 2 (Beobachter). Unfortunately for Helmut and the other Naval pilots being officers had to become observers and not pilots as maritime rules were that only an officer could be in command as an observer.
In March 1938 he was posted on one of the three new pocket battleships, where he was still in the back seat as an observer, he was then catapulted into the night on some night flying training exercise which went off without a hitch.
Helmut Mahlke went on to become a Stuka pilot, he was so excited to become the pilot again, be able to hold the stick and control the plane. The chapter goes on to tell you about some of the lessons he learned including listening to the instructions, that after a practice mission, he along with some of the other pilots were told to fly very low back to the airfield. Helmut thinking like a naval aviator and thought if I follow the river main back he could fly along the river with only the odd barge to have to avoid, this way of thinking, however, very nearly became his undoing. Why flying at about a metre of the surface, he suddenly spotted a thick ferry cable stretching across the river immediately ahead of him realising that he had no chance to climb above it, he had no choice but to fly underneath the cable with just millimetres to spare he somehow managed to fly by the skin of his teeth under the cable. With his heart pounding in his chest and the feeling of being the luckiest pilot in the world at that moment, he realised it was a valuable lesson learned and one that he was happy that he had followed the instructions.
The book follows Helmut Mahlke through his trials and tribulations in his first flight in the French Campaign, and then it was our turn. A brief check: bomb switches on, radiator flaps closed, dive brakes extended, close throttle, drop the left-wing and put the machine into an 80-degree dive. And suddenly the large airship hanger that was my target and had drifted into my bombsight with such apparent slowness only a moment ago now came rushing to meet me at a terrifying rate. With the wind constant, the crosshairs remained firm;y fixed on the centre of the hangar roof. It was growing larger by the second as our altitude unwound: 2,000 metres, 1,500 metres is the enemy flak shooting at us no time to worry about that now 1,000 metres.
At a height of 500 metres, I pressed the bomb button as briefed. There was a slight jolt as the bomb release fork swung down clear of the arc of the propeller and then the bomb was it its way. As we pulled out of the dive into a climbing left-hand turn, we watched it strike almost dead centre near the front of the hangar roof. My two wingmen also scored direct hits.
After the fall of France came the attacks over England, while we were establishing our new landing ground special emphasis had been placed on good camouflage. This was not solely in the hope of winning first prize in the camouflage competition ' that the AOC VIII. Fliegerkorpshad organised between all the Korps' flying units, but also – undoubtedly more importantly- because it offered the best protection against enemy air attack. Good to see that even during the horrors of war that he was still able to keep a dry sense of humour.
He was soon moved to Malta and the Mediterranean theatres serving out there before flying operations over North Africa and finally to the Eastern front and Operation Barbarossa.
For me, this was a fantastic read and I have learnt so much more from this book and in all honestly probably not one that I would have read ordinarily.
The book itself takes you on a remarkable journey from the beginning of childhood, to training, to hostilities, Blitzkrieg Poland, the fall of France, the Battle of Britain, Malta and Mediterranean, North Africa and finally to the Russian front when on the 8th July 1941 on his 159th and last flying mission helping an artillery battery that had been cut of by Russian tanks, he found himself up against new Russian Mig fighter aircraft, not the usual Ratas (I-16's) that he was used too. Three of these new Russian planes had positioned themselves nicely on his six after he had dived down to release his bombs at the Russian tanks, The first one got his burst away although at this point he thought it was ground fire and had already started to swerve side to side, it was only after hearing his gunner shouting and he looked over his shoulders did he realise the pending doom.
It was such a good read with lots of twists and turns, that I would recommend to anyone who is interested in the Stuka, German pilots, Helmut Mahkle himself or general history of World War 2 then I would recommend you read this book, I am sure you will not be disappointed.
Highs: An amazing read depicting the life of Stuka Pilot Helmut Mahkle, and his time flying a Stuka.Lows: Nothing of note.Verdict: All in all a great book fantastic read and I learnt a lot about the life of a German pilot, highly recommended book
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