Afrikakorps

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The next step was soon adopted by using one large formation of three Schwärme; either in line abreast, stepped up in line astern or in a swept formation. But even operating as a Schwarm was not without its problems, mainly caused by the large frontage of the formation that could easily be in excess of 500 yards, as the task of manoeuvring was not always easy. Any sizeable heading change would cause the outermost aircraft to lag considerably behind its leader, even when allowing for changes in throttle settings between the leader, who would have to throttle back, and the outside man at full throttle.

Against the Western Allies only a handful achieved a century of victories whereas in the east more than seventy achieved this feat, with eight going on to surpass 200 and two claiming more than 300 victories. While these facts could suggest the Red Air Force was less capable than its western Allies, which may well have been true when Germany first invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, this was certainly not the case as the war progressed and the high totals are more a reflection of the vast scale of the air war in the east.

Hitler had clearly not reckoned with Britain and France fulfilling their guarantee of Poland’s sovereignty, and on 3 September Britain and France declared war on Germany. A British Expeditionary Force was sent to France along with a token force of RAF aircraft, including army co-operation Blenheim and Battle light bombers, and four Hurricane fighter squadrons. Although there was little in the way of action undertaken by Allied forces on the ground, there were early aerial clashes over France and Germany.

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