Link to Home page  

The Heinkel was the mainstay of the Luftwaffe's bomber forces early in World War II and was the most numerous German bomber type involved during the Battle of Britain. Possibly one of the most enduring images of the Battle of Britain is a photograph of a Heinkel 111 silhouetted from above over the docklands of East London.

The Heinkel 111 was based on the single engined Heinkel Ha70 Blitz (Lightning) a fast passenger aircraft designed in the early 1930's. The twin engined Heinkel 111 shared the original Blitz's distinctive elliptical wing design and entered service as a fast airliner in 1935. The airliner role was never, however, its whole intended purpose and in 1938 the first bomber versions entered service just in time to be tested by the German Condor Legion during the closing stages of the Spanish Civil War . In the skies over Spain the Heinkel 111, alongside its stablemate the Dornier Do 17, proved to be too fast to be adequately intercepted by Republican fighters. Due to this no steps were immediately made to provide a heavy defensive armament or armour. During the Battle of Britain it soon became apparent that the latest RAF fighters, the Spitfire and the Hurricane, were easily capable of intercepting the Heinkel 111 and that the Heinkel 111 had no effective defences. Only the Heinkel's rugged design and the lack of heavier cannon armament on the RAF fighters prevented even more of these aircraft being destroyed during the Battle. Like the RAF, the Luftwaffe's bloody experience of bombing by day in the absence of air superiority led to it concentrating mainly on attacking by night.

The short comings of the Heinkel 111 in the face of a modern fighter force led to more heavily armed and heavily armoured designs entering service. These, however, lacked the performance and handling qualities of the original design and were still easily countered by the newer cannon armed Allied fighters. Slower and less versatile than the later versions of the Junkers JU 88 the Heinkel 111 was finally mainly replaced in the bomber role by mid 1943 but continued to serve as a transport or mine layer.

There are now only three original surviving Heinkel 111's. One of these can be seen in the Battle of Britain Hall at the RAF Museum, hendon.

The statistics below are for the Heinkel 111 H which formed the backbone of the Luftwaffe bomber force during the Battle of Britain.

Type: Medium Bomber
Crew: 5 (Pilot, Navigator, Bombardier, Engineer, Radio Operator)
Powerplant: 2 x 1,300 hp Junkers Jumo 211F inverted V12
Maximum Speed: 250 mph
Service Ceiling: 27,500 feet
Range: c 1,750 miles
Armament: Originally 3 x 7.92mm MG 15 machine guns in assorted cockpit and gondolier locations. Later increased to seven MG 15.
2,000 Kg bomb load carried internally



Fun stuff Gallery Maps Local Memories Aircraft and Airmen History home