Artist: © John Weal
Source: Air International Magazine, February 1986 (Vol.30, No.2)
The Messerschmitt Bf 110, often (erroneously) called Me 110, was a twin-engine heavy fighter (Zerstörer – German for ‘Destroyer’) in the service of the Luftwaffe during World War II. Hermann Göring was a proponent of the Bf 110, and nicknamed it his Eisenseiten (‘Ironsides’). Development work on an improved type, the Me 210 that was to replace the Bf 110, begun before the war started, but due to teething troubles, resulted in Bf 110 soldiering on until the end of the war in various roles, alongside its replacements, the Me 210 and the Me 410.
The Bf 110 served with success in the early campaigns, the Polish, Norwegian and Battle of France. The Bf 110’s lack of agility in the air was its primary weakness. This flaw was exposed during the Battle of Britain, when some Bf 110 equipped units were withdrawn from the battle after very heavy losses and redeployed as night fighters, a role to which the aircraft was well suited. The Bf 110 enjoyed a successful period following the Battle of Britain as an air superiority fighter and strike aircraft in other theatres. During the Balkans Campaign, North African Campaign and the Eastern Front it rendered valuable ground support to the German Army as a potent fighter-bomber (Jagdbomber-Jabo). Later in the war, it was developed into a formidable night fighter, becoming the major night-fighting aircraft of the Luftwaffe. Most of the German night fighter aces flew the Bf 110 at some point during their combat careers, and the top night fighter ace of all times, Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, flew it exclusively, and claimed 121 victories in 164 combat missions.
Video Source – War Thunder.com
The Bf 110’s main strength was its ability to accept some extreme weaponry. Early versions had four 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 17 machine guns in the upper nose and two 20 mm MG FF/M cannons fitted in the lower part of the nose. Later versions replaced the MG FF/M with the more powerful 20 mm MG 151/20 cannons and many G-series aircraft, especially those who served in the bomber-destroyer role, had two 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons fitted instead of the MG 17. The defensive armament consisted of a single, flexibly-mounted 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine gun. Late F-series and prototype G-series were upgraded to a 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 81 machine gun with a higher rate of fire and the G-series was equipped with the twin-barrelled MG 81Z. Many G-series night fighters were retrofitted or factory-built with the Schräge Musik (Jazz Music) off-bore gun system, firing upward at an oblique angle for shooting down bombers while passing underneath, frequently equipped with two 20 mm MG FF/M, but field installations of the 20 mm MG 151/20 or 30 mm (1.18 in) MK 108 cannons were also utilized. The Schräge Musik weapons were typically mounted to the back of the rear cockpit.
The Bf 110 G-2/R1 was also capable of accepting armament such as the Bordkanone series 37 mm (1.46 in) BK 37 cannon. A single hit from this weapon was enough to destroy any Allied bomber.
The fighter-bomber versions could carry up to 2,000 kg (4,410 lb) of bombs depending on the type.
Source Reformation and Reich defence 1943
The Geschwader was reformed in 1943 from the old III. Gruppe and the I. Gruppe and III. Gruppe of Zerstörergeschwader 1.
The II. Gruppe was re-equipped with the Messerschmitt Me 410 Hornisse. In October 1943, Hauptmann Eduard Tratt was appointed Gruppenkommandeur II./ZG 26. On 29 November, he shot down a USAAF B-17 as his 30th victory. ZG 26 meanwhile was soon in action against the bombers of the USAAF Eighth Air Force. ZG 26 claimed some 19 bombers downed on 8 October, while intercepting a raid against Münster on 10 October, II. and III. Gruppen suffered moderate losses but claimed 18 bombers in return. Four days later, ZG 26 took part in inflicting heavy losses on American bombers during the raid on Schweinfurt, claiming 10 victories. ZG 26’s conflict against the USAAF day bombers was infrequent, although on 29 November 1943 6 bombers of the 95th Bomb Group were downed over Bremen by a frontal Werfer-Granate 21 rocket attack by six Me 410’s (9 were claimed) and on 16 March 1944 18 bombers were downed over Augsburg.
III./ZG 26 under Major Johann Kogler, was based in Wunstorf during early 1944, with Bf 110’s armed with two 30mm and four 20mm cannon ( two in a ventral fuselage gun pod), and four Werfer-Granate 21 210mm rocket launchers, designed to break up the massed bomber formations from long range. ZG 26’s Me 410s also gradually took on added weight with extra cannon and rockets, culminating in the fitting of a bomb-bay mount 50 mm Bordkanone BK 5 cannon ( with 21 rounds) on the Me 410A-1/U4 aircraft on duty.
Burdened by such equipment the Zerstörer compromised high altitude performance and rendered the aircraft highly vulnerable when caught by the Allied fighter escorts. On 20 February, 16 Bf 110G’s of III Gruppe were intercepted by the P-47 Thunderbolts of the 56th Fighter Group, losing 11 aircraft shot down. Two more were lost on 22 February in addition to Hauptmann Tratt, who was shot down and killed in combat over Nordhausen flying a Me 410 A-1. He was posthumously awarded the Eichenlaub on 26 March and promoted to Major. Tratt was the highest scoring Zerstörer pilot of the war.
Berlin was the target of the American ‘heavies’ for the first time on 6 March, and interception was made by ZG 26 who claimed 8 bombers destroyed. However, II. and III./ZG 26 lost 11 out of the 17 aircraft deployed, a crippling loss rate; I. and III.Gruppen of ZG 26 were withdrawn to Königsberg, where they began conversion to the Me 410. On 11 April II./ZG 26 downed ten B-17s without any losses, although their second sortie of the day ZG 26 was intercepted by strong formations of escorting P-51s that shot down 8 Me 410s and 3 Bf 110s; 16 crewman were killed, and 3 wounded.