One of the most fascinating models ever to grace the Oxford Diecast aviation collection is this German Henschel Hs 123A-1 dive-bomber, which was piloted by Lt. Kurt Hamann, then attached to 3./Schlachtfliegergruppe 50 in 1938 (AC083), just a year prior to the outbreak of war in Europe.The Henschel Hs 123 was a single-seat biplane dive bomber and close-support attack aircraft flown by the German Luftwaffe during the Spanish Civil War and the early to midpoint of World War II. Although an obsolete design, it continued to see front-line service until 1944, and was only withdrawn due to a lack of serviceable airframes and spare parts.
At the start of Operation Barbarossa, the single Gruppe of the Luftwaffe that was dedicated to ground support was II.(Schl)/LG 2, operating 22 Hs 123s (along 38 Bf 109Es). In service use on the Eastern Front, the remaining aircraft had been field-modified with the main wheel spats removed, additional armor and extra equipment fitted as well as mounting extra machine guns and even cannons in under-wing housings.
Some volunteers of Escuadrilla Azul (15 Spanische Staffel/VIII. Fliegerkorps) of JG-27 detached in Luftflotte 2 managed Hs 123s in collaboration of II.(Schl.)/LG 2 units for ground strikes along Bf 109E-7/B fighter-bombers during 1941-42 period.
During the initial drive, the unit participated in action along the central and northern parts of the front, including a brief time in support of the fighting around Leningrad, and participating in the battles for Bryansk and Vyazma. The first weeks revealed problems associated with using the Bf 109E which was plagued by undercarriage and engine problems in the fighter-bomber role. Its liquid-cooled inline engine was also more vulnerable to small arms fire than the Hs 123’s radial.
The winter brought hardship to all German forces in Russia, and the pilots in the open cockpits of the Henschels suffered accordingly. Despite this, they took part in the Battle of Moscow. In January, the unit was re-designated as the first dedicated ground attack wing (in German Schlachtgeschwader 1, SchlG 1). The Hs 123 became a part of 7./SchlG 1.
This “new” unit participated in operations in Crimea in May 1942, after which it operated on the southern sector for some time, participating in the Second Battle of Kharkov and going on to take part in the Battle of Stalingrad. In the meantime, the small number of operational Hs 123 continued to slowly dwindle. Aircraft had been salvaged from training schools and even derelict dumps all over Germany to replace losses. The aircraft that had supposedly replaced the Hs 123, the Ju 87, also started to be assigned to ground support units, leaving tactical bombing to newer aircraft.
Look for this aircraft to pounce on enemy ground formations some time in September.