Staffelkapitan Hans-Ekkehard Bob of 9./JG54 attacks Tilbury Docks, near London, during the Battle of Britain.
Hans-Ekkehard Bob was born in Freiburg/Breisgau, Germany, and grew up in the village of Staufen. In 1936 he joined the Luftwaffe and after training, flew the Arado Ar-68 in Czechoslovakia. But later he was assigned the Bf-109, his favorite fighter. Throughout the war, he flew the B, C, D, E, F and G models of this unique little fighter.
With 9./JG54 he flew his first combat missions in Poland and France as a Schwarmfuhrer. His first victory was a Gloster Gladiator. He was later given command of 7.Staffel. But on November 28, 1940, he commanded 9.Staffel, where he stayed until August of 1943. Upon joining the 9.Staffel, he asked an unteroffizier of logistics who was a skilled artist, to create several ideas for a unit emblem. The one which Bob chose was the 'Devil's Head,' which was applied to every aircraft and unit vehicle. (After Bob left the unit, the 'Devil's Head' emblem disappeared).
By November 11, 1940, Hans E. Bob had 19 victories and received the Knight's Cross from Reichsmarschall Goring. During the 'Battle of Britain,' Bob's unit was one of the first equipped with 250kg bombs. These were the famed 'Jabo' aircraft. The 9.Staffel were assigned mostly ships and dockyards as their targets.
On June 22, 1941, Hans E. Bob took the 9.Staffel on missions during 'Operation Barbarossa' against Russia. By the end of 1941 he had 39 victories. By September of 1942 he had the magical 50 victories and received a promotion to Hauptmann.
During 'Defense of the Reich,' Bob claimed his 57th victory when he rammed a B17 Flying Fortress. In August of 1943 he left 9.Staffel and was promoted to Major, becoming the Commander of IV./JG51. On May 9, 1944, he took command of II./JG3. In August he commanded II./EJG2 and was for a short time on the Staff of General Kammhuber in Berlin.
He prepared an airfield at Innsbruck for an Me262 unit and became a member of JV44, led by General der Jagdflieger, Adolf Galland. Hans-Ekkehard Bob flew about 700 combat missions and claimed 60 victories.
Britain knew no darker days than at the height of the 'blitz.' There seemed little in which to take comfort or hope, for in those days the news in North Africa looked bleak and there was mounting shipping loss in the Atlantic as a result of U-boats. She was a desperately embattled nation who stood alone, with only the thinly stretched Royal Navy and Royal Air Force to defend her. Invasion appeared imminent.
Germany, flushed with her recent European conquests, was feverishly attempting to wipe out RAF Fighter Command by bombing the airfields as a prelude to moving troops across the English Channel. But the RAF were highly organized, and with the help of radar, put up a strong fight against the Luftwaffe bombers and their fighter escorts. Frustrated, the Germans switched aim to London and other civilian targets. The thinking was that the RAF would rise to give battle in an attempt to protect the populace and cities.
This was a mistake, for it gave the RAF a breathing space to build up their aircrews, aircraft and bases. It came at a cost to the population and cities. But it was a price that Britain could afford at the time. The result changed the outcome of the Battle of Britain against the Luftwaffe and was a major turning point in the war.
In the meantime, the Luftwaffe were still trying to get the RAF fighters up to engage in combat. The German 'fighter sweeps' over England failed to get the Spitfires and Hurricanes airborne, for their instructions were to fight only if bombs were dropped. So the Germans had a new idea: fitting 250kg bombs to the 109's which could then fly to England as bombers, and revert to their natural fighter role after having released their bombs. Thus was born the 'Jabo' or fighter-bomber. In this tactic, they were marginally successful. Staffelkapitan Hans-Ekkehard Bob's 9./JG54 was one of the first units to be so equipped, attacking mostly dockyards and ships.
In Robert Bailey's DOCKYARD DELIVERY, Hans Ekkehard-Bob is shown striking such a target near London, creating chaos along the busy dock front.
Birth of the 'Jabo'
by Hans-Ekkehard Bob
Our missions against England continued and were increasingly difficult. The poor weather conditions in the fall of 1940 made it almost impossible to fly sorties. Despite all difficulties, the German pilots remained confident.
The British fighters would no longer take off and engage in aerial combat when German bombers were not seen in the skies over Britain. This enabled the German fighters to roam the skies from southern England to London without enemy contact. To lure the British fighters into battle, a few Staffeln of the Messerschmitt Bf109's were fitted with bomb racks. This may have been the birth of the 'Jagdbomber,' or fighter-bomber.
As Staffelkapitan of 9./JG54, I was to attempt a test flight with a 250kg bomb attached under the fuselage of a Bf109. At the time, this was considered almost impossible and a 'Himmelsfahrkommando' or suicide mission, because it wasn't known if the aircraft could withstand the added weight of the bomb. As fighter pilots, we had no idea of how to go about with bombs, how to aim and hit a target, or even how to go about flying a bombing mission. I actually had no prior experience with bombing.
The takeoff with the bomb, from a meadow at Quines, was quite risky. As I became airborne, I realized that I just couldn't drop the bomb anywhere. What should I do with the bomb? As in so many previous occasions, I again realized how often spontaneous decisions were made. Without much deliberation, I notice that from the British mainland a small piece of land extended toward the sea. (Dungeness). This was where I could perhaps drop my bomb and maybe even hit a target! Decided, accomplished. I wasn't able to determine where the bomb actually fell. In order to approach our targets with the correct glide angle, we applied lines on the sides of the canopy windows. As usual, improvising. In time, we achieved quite satisfactory results.
In 1967 I was invited to London for the 50th anniversary of the Royal Air Force. A former British fighter pilot asked me secretively, why in 1940 we had bombed the peninsula of Dungeness when there wasn't anything there worthwhile to bomb? After I explained to him that we had done our practice bombing there; he nodded understandingly.
We now began to fly with bombs against England, attacking various targets. Our first targets were the Biggin Hill airdrome and the Tilbury docks near London, where warships were being constructed. Soon, word got around that bombs were being dropped from Bf109 equipped units. This resulted in the resumption of aerial combat.