Saturday, September 6, 2008

[Image] RAAF foils a Red Line Raid

1941. Tobruk, Libya.

Red Line positions get strafed.

A German Luftwaffe Messerschmitt BF109 Fighter strafes 9th Division front line posts with it's three mounted machine guns raising up clouds of dust and sand as the bullets impact the ground.

Little did this pilot know that his actions were noticed by one of the few Australian RAAF pilots who were still operational in the area who dropped in on him and shot him from the sky to the cheers and applause of the infantry in the Red Line.

I think the above photo is amazing in that it is evidence of the low altitude that the German pilots would drop to in order to have a final parting shot at the entrenched infantry. I have read accounts from members of the 2/17th Infantry Battalion that stated that they were often strafed by fast low flying German's at altitudes as low as 100 feet (approximately 30 metres for the metrically inclined).

They would often have a last parting shot at the infantry after supporting dive bombers on their attack run over the harbour and then follow the El Adem road to the safety of the escarpment and the German lines. If damaged these planes would make an all out last ditch effort to put down beyond the Red Line. Some made it, some didn't. Often the same pilots would strafe the same positions at the same time each day and would make 4 or 5 passes then tip their wings and wave at their intended targets before escaping for another try.

This one was unfortunately caught short by a rare allied fighter. The Luftwaffe certainly had unprecedented air superiority in the Western Desert in 1941. One wonders with 10 German fighters for ever 1 Allied one (at best) if some Luftwaffe pilots would be a little overconfident about their chances.

One less Messerschmitt to worry about.

images 010852 and 010843 Australian War Memorial.

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