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IRON CROSSES OF THE LUFTWAFFE PHOTOGRAPHS

After starting the Battle of Britain signed photographs I was constantly asked whether we had any German signed material. Having had Germans sign our commemorative covers on numerous occasions, I thought it worth trying to produce a few photographs to test the water. The German photographs were an immediate success, mainly due to a very reasonable price coupled with our reputation for quality and genuine signatures.

The German photographs differ in being certified out of 210, but all the photographs are the same format in size and shape, and as always every signature is 100% genuine and certified on the reserve. The photographs are, to the best of our knowledge from the 1939-1945 period and we continue to try and find the best photograph of the airman concerned. As before each photograph will be accompanied by a brief career history.

The series was going to be made up of 50 photographs originally, but this number dropped to 25 as we devoted more time to our Battle of Britain series and also due to the fact that having started as a sprint it got harder and harder to find the Luftwaffe aircrew, who in many cases were older than their Allied counter-part. So far we have produced 26 photographs - so we will endeavour to get to 30! Many of those incorporating in the series are holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, and in some cases the highly prized Oak Leaves and Swords.

Here are those currently available in the series:

SP(GL)01 - Gerhard Krems Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Krems was a Leutnant with No 2 Squadron, 27 Bomber Wing when the ‘Adlertangriff’ was in full swing during the Battle of Britain.. Prior to August 1940 he had been flying reconnaissance missions. His Knight’s Cross was awarded while he was flying bombing raids on Russia and was dated the 25 May 1942 having completed 250 missions.

SP(GL)02 - Leutnant Herrmann Buchner Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Having researched Buchner it appears that he is most noted for his time flying the Me 262 with some success as he managed to score 12 victories while flying this quite remarkable German jet aircraft. His Knight’s Cross was awarded 20 July 1944 while Staffelfuhrer of 4/SG 2 ‘Immelmann’ with the citation quoting 46 victories. Buchner was to end the war with 58 victories having flown over 630 missions. 

We regret that the photograph used for reproduction had all ready been signed and therefore when copied the signature was also copied. This has meant that the photograph bears two signatures, the one on the photograph is as reproduced, however, the signature on the bottom white border is 100% genuine.

SP(GL)03 - Oberst Hajo Herrmann Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords

One of the few pilots to be awarded the Oak Leaves and Swords, and famous for his ‘Wilde Sau’ (Wild Boar) night fighting tactics which he introduced in mid-1943. Also well known for his slightly controversial ‘Rammkommando Elbe’ tactics which could be argued as a necessity of a last attempt. Herrmann started the war as a bomber pilot with KG 4 where he won his Knight’s Cross. After a spell on the Operational Staff he converted to becoming a Fighter pilot and formed JG 300. He was subsequently awarded Oak Leaves in August 1943, and then Swords in January 1944. During the war he carried out 300 Bomber missions and sank 12 ships and also 50 Fighter missions and achieved 9 victories against four engined bombers.

SP(GL)04 - Oberleutnant Viktor Petermann Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Petermann is a quite remarkable pilot in that he lost his arm after being hit by flak from Anti Aircraft guns yet succeeded in returning to front line flying and scoring four more victories with the aid of an artificial left arm. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross on the 29 February 1944 having scored 60 victories and was at the time recovering from his injuries. It appears that almost all Petermann’s activity was over Russia he also succeeded in sinking a gun boat and 50 troop ferries during a number of low-level attacks. Petermann flew throughout the war with JG 52 apart from a brief spell with JG 7 in April 1945.

SP(GL)05 - Oberst Ralph von Rettberg Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Rettberg joined ZG 26 in 1937 and was promoted Squadron Commander of 1./ZG 26 on 1 April 1940. Shortly afterwards he was promoted Group Commander II./ZG26 and led it during the Blitzkrieg on France, the Battle of Britain, the Balkans, and in Russia. His Knight’s Cross was awarded on the 14 June 1941 while a Captain and four victories to his name. Early in 1942 with the rank of Wing Commander he was tasked to form the new ZG 2 in Russia. From 12 January 1942 he headed the new ZG 26 based in the Mediterranean area and carrying out home defence duties until late September 1943. After which he was posted to various staff positions within the German airline, and with the 4. Flying Training-Division. Rettberg flew a total of 200 missions and achieved eight aerial victories as well as destroying twelve aircraft on the ground.

SP(GL)06 - Lt General Walter Krupinski Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

‘Graf Punski’ (Count Punski) joined 6/JG 52 in January 1942 and between then and December 1942 he shot down 66 Russian aircraft. After being wounded in combat he return to operations as Staffelkapitan of 7/JG 52 in March 1943. On 5 July 1943 he achieved eleven victories in a single day, and these were his 80th to 90th victories. By March 1944 he had scored 177 victories and with the rank of Oberleutnant he was awarded Oak Leaves to his Knight’s Cross. Also in March 1944 he was transferred to 1/JG 5 to fly in Defence of the Reich and later became Kommandeur II/JG 11. He commanded III/ JG 26 between September 1944 and March 1945 before he joined Galland’s ‘Squadron of Experts’ flying Me 262s with JV 44.

SP(GL)07 - Oberfeldwebel Johannes Richter Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Richter was with Helmut Lent for Lents' first night time victory. This was, according to his log book, his 201 flight and they were flying on the night of 12/13 May 1941. Between 00:35h and 02:20h they shot down 2 Vickers Wellington bombers over the area of Schleswig. In all Richter flew 30 combat missions with Lent in Bf 110s, 2 missions as radar/radio operator. Helmut Lent went on to amass 113 victories and was awarded the Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords and Diamonds. Richter then went on to fly with Rudolf Schoenert, another high scoring ace.  Total of 67 victories, 1 victory with rear machine gun in cockpit.

SP(GL)08 - Major Karl Rammelt Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

On 20 May 1942 with the rank of Oberleutnant he was posted to join II/JG 51 'Mölders' in Russia. In February 1943 he became Staffelkapitän of 4/JG 51. From March 1943 he was Kommandeur II/JG 51 and he and his unit flew missions in North Africa, Italy and the Balkans. His Knight's Cross was awarded on 24 October 1944. Unfortunately, during the Christmas period of 1944 he was seriously wounded in aerial combat. Total of 46 Victories, of which 11 were 4 engined bombers and 20 on the Eastern Front. (14 further victories unwitnessed). A total of 450 combat missions (including many low-level operations).

SP(GL)09 - Hauptmann Otto Schultz Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Otto Schultz flew with II /JG 51 'Mölders' during the Battle of Britain. He moved to the Eastern Front and gained his first victory on the 22 June 1941. As well as flying missions on the Russian front he also flew missions against Tunisia, Italy, Romania and Hungary. He was awarded his Knight's Cross on the 14 March 1943 while at the rank of Oberfeldwebel with 51 victories. He scored 20 victories in Tunisia and went on to become Staffelkapitän of 6/JG 51. Schultz was a very accomplished fighter pilot and often referred to as one of the Luftwaffe's fighter 'experts' who on account of their ability and experience managed to survive the entire war and completing a vast number of missions. Total of 73 victories, 40 of which scored on the Eastern Front and 8 four engined bombers. Over 800 missions.

SP(GL)10 - Major Klaus Haberlen Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

On the 1 January 1939 he attended the air warfare college at Werder after which he joined 4. KG z.g.V. 102 on the 1 September 1940. He was transferred to III./KG 51 on 7 October 1940 as Adjutant where he remained until June 1942. Having been promoted to Hauptmann in April 1942, he was transferred IV./KG 51 as Staffelkapitän on 1 July 1942. On Christmas Day 1942 he became Staffelkapitän I./KG 51, and on the 14 February 1943 he became Kommandeur I./KG 51. As Kommandeur he was awarded the Knight's Cross in June 1943 and was promoted to Major in October. On the 1 January 1944 he was transferred as second in command of air district XXVIII. On the 1 October 1944 he was made Adjutant to the General der Kampfflieger. On the 3 March 1945 he joined Luftgaukommando VII until taken prisoner in May 1945.

SP(GL)11 - Hauptmann Franz Oswald Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Franz Oswald started his career in the Luftwaffe as an Observer flying in Dornier 17s and Junkers 88s, however in 1942 he transferred as a pilot to fly the HS129. He gained one of the few Knights Crosses awarded to pilots flying the HS129 tank destroyer, his being awarded for destroying 50 enemy tanks. He saw combat in France, Tunesia, Sardinia and Russia, and was in action throughout the Battle of Stalingrad.  Flew over 300 combat missions in the HS129 with 50 enemy tanks destroyed. 

SP(GL)12 - Major Paul Zorner Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Until the middle of 1942 Zorner was a transport pilot with 150 missions. He was then posted to night-fighter duties with II./NJG 2 in July 1942, then onto IV./NJG 2 in October, Squadron Commander 2./NJG 3 in December, Squadron Commander 8./NJG 3 in September 1943, Group Commander III./NJG 5 in March 1944, Group Commander II./NJG 100 in November 1944. He was awarded his Knight's Cross in August 1944 followed by the Oak Leaves in September. He completed 272 missions, of which 108 missions at night, and scored 59 night victories.

SP(GL)13 - General Gunther Rall Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves with Swords

One of the big 'aces' of the Luftwaffe, Rall's scored his first victory in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg on France. He became Squadron Commander of 8./JG 52 in July 1940. After his 36th victory on 28 November 1941 he was seriously wounded. He returned to his squadron in August 1942 and was awarded the Knight's cross shortly afterwards for amassing 65 victories. In April 1943 he was Group Commander of III./JG 52 until March 1944. He scored his 100th victory on 22 October 1942 earning him his Oak Leaves, and his 200th on 29 August made him the third highest scoring fighter pilot and also the award of his Swords. During his flying career he was shot down five times.  Total 621 missions, 275 victories (3 West).

SP(GL)14 - Major Gerhard Schopfel Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Schopfel joined the Luftwaffe from the Police Force in 1937, and served with l./JG 51 before joining 9/JG 26 as a Staffelkapitan. One of the most successful German fighter pilots during 1940, scoring 27 victories. He scored his first victory on the 19 May 1940 in France, then during the Battle of Britain he enjoyed numerous successes including 4 Hurricanes of No 501 Squadron on 18 August 1940. Became Kommandeur III/JG 26 on 21 August 1940. He was awarded the Knight's Cross on 11 September 1940. From 6 December 1941 to 10 January 1943 Kommodore JG26 as Galland's successor.   Total of 700 missions, 40 victories in the West.

SP(GL)15 - Oberleutnant Erhard Nippa Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Nippa entered the war during 1942, firstly with the 10./JG 2 'Richtofen', which was very successful as a fighter bomber unit against British coastal shipping. In late 1942 10/JG 2 was taken over as 15/SKG 10. From June to the end of August 1943 SKG 10 was based in the Mediterranean area and was involved in trying to thwart the Allied troops during the Invasion of Sicily. After the invasion the unit was renamed to II./SG 10 and moved to the Eastern Front in Russia. Awarded the Knight's Cross for his successful fighter bomber and close support sorties against ground and shipping targets, where he had successfully sunk a destroyer and freighter.  Total of about 300 missions, 1 destroyer and 1 freighter (3000 BRT).

SP(GL)16 - Hauptmann Hermann Greiner Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Greiner joined 4./NJG 2 on the 27 April 1942 as a nightfighter. He scored his first night victory on 25/26 June 1942, and his second followed on the 6/7 October 1942. On 23 November 1942 he became a Nightfighter School instructor. He returned to operations with 10/NJG 1 on 19 May 1943 and by the end of September 1943 he had scored 13 night victories. On 4 October 1943 he became commander of I/NJG 1. In March 1944 he was posted to 11./NJG 1 and at the end of May became Staffelkapitan. After 36 victories he was awarded the Knight's Cross. On 1 November 1944 he was appointed the commander of IV/NJG 1. On the 7/8 March 1945 he was forced to bale out of his aircraft, have sustained injuries he was taken to a military hospital, where he spent the remainder of the war.  Total of over 240 missions, 51 victories.

SP(GL)17 - Hauptmann Martin Drewes Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves

Martin Drewes began his formidable Luftwaffe career operating with 4./ZG76 from 1940 to 1941 and during this period he scored his first two victories. In November of 1941 he was transferred to Night Fighters and operated with III./NJG1 and ended the war as Gruppen Kommandeur of this unit. It is said of him that he could symbolise the typical young fighter pilot; he was energetic, aggressive and optimistic. At the end of hostilities his Me 110 tail displayed a total of 47 victory markings, most of them achieved together with his radio operator Oberfeldwebel Petz. Four of his victories where American 4-engined bombers shot down in daylight operations.

SP(GL)18 - Oberleutnant Gerhard Wagner Iron Cross

Wagner began his Luftwaffe training in late 1940, and then after pilot training became a night fighter pilot. He was promoted to Leutnant in February 1942. From 20 September 1943 he was the technical officer of 8. Staffel III/NJG 5. In March 1944 III/NJG 5 moved to France and on 10 June 1944 he became commander of 9.Staffel III/NJG 5 and promoted to Oberleutant in August. On 2 August 1944 during a low level attack on the Allied bridgehead in France he was shot down by flak and suffered serious burns. Captured by the Allied he was taken PoW and his injuries treated, eventually attending a military hospital in the USA. In February 1946 he was released and returned to Germany, to undergo further medical treatment through to 1948. Victories: 4 Bombers between 24.12.1943 and 21.7.1944.

SP(GL)19 - Brigadier Artur Pipan Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Pipan joined 5/STG 1 in October 1940 and flew his first mission in February 1941 from Comiso, Sicily against Malta. He subsequently flew missions in Africa, Greece, Crete and against Russia. He became Staffelkapitan of 5/STG 1 in April 1943, which was renamed 5/SG 1. He was promoted to Hauptmann in May 1944 and made Geschwaderadjutant of SG1. In March 1945 he was made acting commander of I/SG1 as the Russian advance forced the German units to retreat, moving from Warsaw, Poznan, Danzig, Pommerania and Berlin until the unit surrendered at Schleswig Holstein on the 8 May 1945. He flew a total of 758 missions, and destroyed 10 railway engines, 9 bridges, one gun boat and many tanks.

SP(GL)20 - Obergefreiter Werner Molge  

Having finished school Molge gained an apprenticeship as a toolmaker at VDM Luftfahrtwerke, during this time he joined the Flieger HJ. In May 1943 he was sent to a work camp in Poland and in July he was drafted into the Luftwaffe and sent to France for his basic training. He was awarded his wings and was posted to Jagdgeschwader 103 for fighter training. In August and September he underwent advanced training and conversion to the FW190 and then posted to join II/JG 26.  On the 4 January 1945 he was attacked by Spitfires and forced to make a crash landing. In early May his aircraft exploded from an unknown cause and he was forced to bale out, a few days later he was captured by the Allies and was held as a POW until August. Total of 35 missions and 2 victories.

SP(GL)21 - Major Hans-Ekkehard Bob Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Bob gained four victories during the Blitzkrieg on France, and gained a further fourteen victories during the Battle of Britain. In October 1940, he was promoted Staffelkapitan of 8./JG 54. He transferred to the Eastern Front in 1941, reaching his 50th victory on the 29 September 1942. His squadron was transferred to the West, and on the 17 April 1943 he accidentally rammed a B-17 Flying Fortress while making a head on attack thereby scoring his 57th victory. On the 1 August he was posted to command IV./JG 51 and returned to the Eastern front. From May 1944, he led II./JG 3 in the Defence of the Reich and on the invasion front. In August 1944 he was made commander of II./EJG 2 and then joined JV 44 ‘Galland’ on the 1 April 1945 flying Me 262 jet aircraft until the end of the war.

SP(GL)22 - Leutnant der Reserve Otto Engel Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Engel was a Heinkel He 111 bomber pilot who flew with KG53 “The Kondor Legion”, which had been formed in 1936 as a group of volunteers who participated in the Spanish Civil War. Engel was a pilot with 5./KG 53, and he and his crew flew the 30,000th mission performed by the “Kondor Legion” and achieved a certain amount of fame as they appeared in the "Der Flieger" and "Flieger, Funker, Kanoniere" publications. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross in February 1945 having completed 400 missions, including launching a number of V-1s at England from his Heinkel He 111 aircraft whilst flying over the North Sea.

SP(GL)23 - Major Hubert Rauh Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Rauh joined the Austrian Air Force in 1935 and became a flying instructor in 1937. In August 1941 he was trained as a Night Fighter pilot and on 16 January 1942 he was posted to 4./NJG 1, on the 27/28 April 1942 he took part in his first night mission and took part in a further two before joining 7./NJG 4. On 17 June 1942 he moved to 5./NJG 4 and became Staffelkäpitan of 3./NJG 4 on 1 October 1942. As of 25 May 1944 he was promoted to command II./NJG 4. On the 30 December 1943 his Bf 110G-4 was attacked by a P-47 Thunderbolt and crash landed. On 21/22 November 1944 he shot down two bomber aircraft to claim his 23rd and 24th victories, but on the same night his Ju 88G-1 aircraft was shot down.

SP(GL)24 - Fahnrich Sighart Dinkel

Dinkel began to learn to fly in April 1943 and in September 1944 joined a combat replacement unit. In October 1944 he was posted to the Messerschmitt-Werke at Regensberg, flying aircraft from the factory and delivering them to Luftwaffe units. The factory at Regensberg, near the Austrian border, was the main Messerschmitt plant responsible for building the Bf 109 fighter throughout the Second World War. During this time, he logged most of his flying hours ferrying the Messerschmitt Bf 109G variant. In March 1945 he joined Jagdgeschwader 27 with the rank of Fahnrich as Flugzeug-führer of 5. Staffel, II Gruppe. 

SP(GL)25 - Leutnant Wilhelm Noller Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross

Noller joined 2./StG 2 in the Summer of 1942, flying his first mission on June 1942 in Russia. He celebrated his 500th mission on 17 April 1943, having flown 200 missions during the Battle of Stalingrad. He flew his 1000th mission on 16 March 1944 and in August 1944 he converted to the FW190 and became a flying instructor. In March 1945 he joined 7./SG10 as an assault pilot during the German retreat. On 16 April 1945 he was wounded during combat with a Russian Fighter and was taken to the Military Hospital in Prague, where he was taken POW by the Russians in May 1945. During transit to Russia he managed to escape and return to Germany. Total of 1053 missions.

SP(GL)26 - Oberleutnant Ernest Scheufele 

Scheufele joined the Luftwaffe in October 1940, on gaining his wings in June 1942 he was posted to IV./JG 5 ”Eismeer” based in Norway to fly escort missions for Germany Navy vessels operating in the Arctic waters. He flew 67 escort missions providing fighter cover for the German Battleship Bismarck and Heavy Cruiser Prinz Eugen, and following the loss of the Bismarck in May 1941, the Battleship Tirpitz. In October 1943 he joined II./JG 5 in Finland, patrolling Arctic waters and also the Russian Front. In June 1944 his squadron was transferred back to Germany to take part in the Defence of the Reich. On 20 October 1944 6th Staffel II./JG 5 was renamed 14th Staffel IV./JG 4 and he became Staffelkapitän 14./JG 4. On 3 December 1944 he was flying a Bf 109G-14 on a ground attack mission near Aachen when he was shot down and became a prisoner or war.

SP(GL)?? - The Series Continues ...

This series is still in production, abeit it slowly at present. The series will probably comprise of around 30 signed photographs depending on how we fare with contacting German pilots. If you would to subscribe to the series then please free to contact us.

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