Air Enthusiast 1996-07
M.Axworthy - Flank Guard. Romania's Aerial Advance on Stalingrad (1)
One of two impressed ex-Polish, civilian RWD 15s seen at Saltz forward fighter airfield during the siege of Odessa in September 1941. Its peculiar nose profile is caused by the presence of one of ‘Grup 7 Vanatori’s’ Bf 109Es in the background.
Forty Blenheim Is (1 to 40) were bought in 1939-1940, and three ex-Yugoslav examples (41-43) were received from the Germans in 1941. Spares were rare and attrition was heavy in 1941, and in 1942 only ‘Escadrila’ 1 at Stalingrad and ‘Escadrila’ 3 on maritime reconnaissance at Odessa still operated them. In 1943 the two units were amalgamated at Odessa as ‘Escadrila’ 1/3, and operated from there until the city fell in April 1944. The squadron, now named ‘Escadrila’ 1, still existed when Romania changed sides in August 1944, and performed its last reconnaissance missions in Allied service over Cluj-Napoca in September 1944.
In the background is Lockheed 10A Electra YR-AFC, which was the most common airliner in LARES service before the war, and the most common transport in the ‘Escadrila’ LARES in 1941. The mottled wartime camouflage scheme was that adopted by most civil airliners. It is thought to have been the underlying LARES light grey overpainted with the dark olive green used as the base colour on FARR aircraft. In the foreground is a Ju 52; the type that succeeded the Lockheed as the most common transport from 1942. LARES also had a single civil registered Ju 52 in 1941.
Румынские ВВС стали крупнейшим зарубежным эксплуатантом P.11 - они получили 50 самолетов P.11b и около 80 истребителей P.11c, выпускавшихся в 1936-1938 годах по лицензии румынской компанией I.A.R.
A PZL 11C at Turnu Severin in 1943. Fifty-four Polish fighters were interned in Romania in September 1939, 29 of which were refurbished, given Romanian serials and served with ‘Escadrilas ’ 49 and 50 in 1941, before being relegated to advanced training in later years. Twenty-six were PZL 11Cs (301 to 325 and 328). The other three were PZL 11As (326, 327, 329). The other Polish fighters, which were only used for training, seem to have retained Polish serials. In the background is a ‘Lublin’ RXIII.
A Potez 63B2 11 at the front in late 1942. Twenty Potez 63B2 light bombers (numbers 1 to 20) had been received in 1939 and formed ‘Escadrilas’ 74 and 75 for the invasion of the USSR in 1941, but losses and a shortage of spares led to all remaining aircraft being concentrated in ‘Escadrila’ 74 very early in the campaign.
Ten Miles Hawks were bought for the FARR in 1936, two of which were still in service in mid-1943.
The 19 PZL 23 light bombers (1 to 19) which fled to Romania in September 1939 were sufficient to keep ‘Escadrila’ 73 operational throughout 1941 and 1942, but a shortage of spares restricted their serviceability and they were withdrawn from the Stalingrad campaign prematurely. The survivors were employed as trainers from 1943. Plans to use them as night nuisance bombers in 1944 came to nothing.
Twenty-two usable PZL 37 medium bombers (201 to 222) which fled to Romania in 1939 were sufficient to form ‘Escadrilas’ 76 and 77 for the invasion of the USSR in 1941, but losses and lack of spares led to the breaking up of ‘Escadrila’ 77 early in the campaign. In May 1944, ‘Escadrila’ 76 was briefly pressed back into action as the Red Army reached the Romanian frontier, but further losses and the enduring shortage of spares soon cut operations short.
Ten Bloch 210BN5s (1 to 10) had also been bought in 1936, and they saw combat service in 1941 with ‘Escadrila’ 82. They bore a charmed life over the heavy A-A defences of Odessa. The Romanians thought that this was because the Soviet gunners did not to take into account that they were much slower than the other Romanian bombers and failed to adjust their fire accordingly. From 1942 they were used as transports.
One of the 17 RWD 14 ‘Czapla’ reconnaissance/observation aircraft which fled to Romania from Poland in September 1939.
One of at least three DH.89A Dragon Rapides acquired in 1936 by LARES, in wartime livery. At least four DH Dragonflies were also bought. As they were all powered by Gipsy engines, which were produced in Romania, they were easily kept in service as staff transports during the war.
The Potez 651 was also used to train Romania’s first paratroops in 1941-1942. As in Germany, paratroops were part of the air force, and 4th Parachute Battalion was hidden amongst the numerical sequence of barrage balloon battalions. Its first company, seen here on August 15, 1941, had been founded on June 10 that year, and further companies were raised in 1942 and 1943, but by October 1943 only 215 trained paratroops were available. An impatient Antonescu then ordered a mass induction of picked army troops to bring it up to a regimental strength of 2,877. However, by August 1944, only the 4th Battalion (861 men) was fully operational. It never made a combat drop, but played a key role in securing the airfields around Bucharest from the Germans over August 23-26. In 1944 the army also raised an air transportable battalion.
A Potez 561 overpainted in the rough wartime camouflage scheme used by civil airliners. At least four Potez 560s, eight 561s and two 566s were bought for LARES and the FARR over 1936-1939. The civil registration letters on this one are still visible.
In September 1941 Romania received a second batch of Nardis from Italy, this time 21 Nardi FN.305 IVs (101 to 121 - 103 illustrated), which were exchanged for its four SM.83 transports.
One of the three LARES SM.83s seen in company livery in 1939. A fourth example was in private hands. They were bought in 1938, but returned to Italy in early 1941 in exchange for 21 Nardi FN.303 IV trainers.
A PWS 26 trainer/liaison aircraft. As many as 62 of these aircraft were interned or sold on by the Germans. Final assembly of many of the latter was carried out in Romania.
YR-AMA, one of 61 RWD 8 ex-Polish trainers interned in 1939.
The RWD 13S casevac aircraft of Nadia Russo-Bossie, a female pilot of the ‘Escadrila Sanitara’, in Red Cross livery at Saltz forward fighter airfield during the siege of Odessa in September 1941. The unit was officially numbered ‘Escadrila’ 108, but was popularly known as the ‘Escadrila Alba’ or ‘White Squadron’, and had a high propaganda profile in ‘Axis’ Europe because of its female pilots. It even appeared in an Italian feature film. In the background is another RWD 13 in FARR livery.
The fall of France in 1940 had prevented the delivery of a second order for another 20 Potez 63s. However, the Franco-German Armistice Commission belatedly allowed delivery to be completed from old Vichy stocks, and it is certain that at least ten, and probably 20, Potez 63.11 reconnaissance aircraft were delivered in 1941-1942.