The Dornier Do 26 and Northern Missions

The Dornier Do 26A (V-1, D-AGNT “Seeadler”) flying boat.

Dornier Do 26V4

In the 20s and 30s of last century, the firm Dornier was the leading one in German flying boat construction. The chosen configuration, engines in tandem and wing stubs (“sponsons”) on the lower fuselage for water stability proved very successful, and so Dornier flying boats, especially the “Wal” (= “whale” in English) played a major role in establishing early airborne connections over the Atlantic Ocean.

Normally the Wal was a two engined machine, and so were its successors Do 15 and Do 18. But Dornier also had built four-engined versions, as the Do R4 “Superwal” and the experimental Do S. With prospected increase of Atlantic traffic, Dornier renewed this configuration for another type, the Do 26.

The new flying boat became a special aerodynamic beauty. The wing stubs were omitted, and stabilizer floats retractable to the wings were foreseen instead. In the position of the bend of the gull wing, the machine carried the four Jumo 205 C Diesel engines, delivering 600 hp each. The rear propeller were driven by elongated shafts and hinged to rotate upwards 10° on take-off to avoid damage by spray water. The aircraft was an all-metal construction. First flight of the V-1, civil registration D-AGNT was on 21 May 1938 with Flight Captain Erich Gundermann on the controls, the second’s one, V-2 D-AWDS, on 23 November 1938 in the hands of Egon Fath. The aircraft were overtaken by the Deutsche Lufthansa and became baptized “Seeadler” and “Seefalke” (“Sea Eagle” and “Sea Falcon”, remark by RT: ornithologically “Seeadler” is “white-tailed eagle”, Haliaetus albicilla, while a “Seefalke” is no distinct species).

The new aircraft gained attention when in early 1939 an earthquake in Chile happened and the “Seefalke” transported 580 kg of medicines there. Under the control of Flight Captain Graf (= earl) Schack von Wittenau, it needed 36 hours for the 10.700 km distance. But the civil career of the Do 26 remained short. Although the Boeing 314 was already serviceable in May 1939, so there have been no fair economic reasons, the USA refused to permit a regular service route over the North Atlantic between Lisbon and New York for the Do 26. Because of this, the Do 26 only operated on the South Atlantic route. The V-1 did six, the V-2 twelve times the tour between Bathurst (now Banjul, capital of Gambia) and Natal (Brasil). Two Passengers could be carried alongside to the mail, one time even three.

When WWII broke out, both aircraft were out in the Atlantic and returned home on “adventurous ways” (Neitzel says, they were ordered together with catapult ship “Ostmark” to Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain, from where it was planned to keep on doing transport service and reconnaissance in one, but this proved impossible). After their return, they received a military equipment, including a 20 mm cannon in a rotating turret on the bow and some machine guns in blister-formed glazed stations on both sides of the fuselage right behind the wing. Together with the Blohm & Voss Ha 139s, they formed the “Transozeanstaffel” (=”transoceanic squadron”). Four more samples were built, now under the designation Do 26 C, what meant receiving military equipment from the beginning together with Jumo 205 D engines of 880 hp performance.

In the following time, they were used during “Unternehmen Weserübung”, the occupation of Norway, where they had to deliver supplies. But they soon had to suffer heavy losses. V-2 “Seefalke”, still under command of Graf Schack, was shot down on 9 May 1940 at Tepkölenfjord (location could not be verified, RT). The crew including Graf Schack survived and were taken POW by the British. V-1 and V-3 (“Seemöwe”, = sea gull) were destroyed on 28 May at Rombakkenfjord, Norway on 28 May 1940 by British fighters (Hurricanes from 48 (F) Squadron) (location confirmed as “Rombaksfiord” near Narvik by http://www.skovheim…./do26/do26.html, this means, V-1 and V-3 ran into heaviest fighting around the city of Narvik, including temporary German retreat. The aircraft were strafed on the ground and sunk. One wreck in comparably good condition was found in 1991).

The qualities of the Dornier Do 26 suggested use as long-range reconnoiter. In fact, they were the only German aircraft at that time, besides the Focke-Wulf FW 200, capable to perform such actions at all. On 31 July 1940, two Do 26 were stationed at Brest to do reconnaissance for the German U-Boat operations, since convoys supplying Britain now used the northern approach. The third one followed some time later. Until 30 September, the Do 26s flew 17 sorties on 12 days. They found no convoys, only single ships. For a short time, two Do 26 were sent again to Norway from where they flew reconnaissance over the Denmark Strait (between Iceland and Greenland) for a planned outbreak of German heavy cruiser “Admiral Hipper”.

The service from Brittany was a difficult time for the Do 26s. The aircraft proved technically trouble-stricken. Supply of spare parts was not easy for a small-series aircraft, so often two of three Do 26 were unserviceable. Long-distance flights would have meant to return and land at night, what was impossible because the Bay of Brest is surrounded by bigger hills and there were no light buoys to mark a landing runway. Taking off at night was also impossible because the fully loaded machine lacked climb capability. Morning take off delay by fog meant the cancellation of the whole flight because it would have meant a return at night.

To improve the range of the Do 26, take-off help by catapult was considered. Germany in general and Dornier especially had a long experience in aircraft catapulting for civil traffic, i.e. Atlantic crossing, and special catapult ships were available and now in military use. First, “Ostmark” was detached, but sunk by British submarine “Tuna” on 24 September 1940. Instead, “Friesenland” reached Brest on 11 October. The first effort to catapult the V-5 was scheduled for 23 November. But as one engine failed, V-5 was smashed to pieces on the water and the whole crew killed.

After this, “Friesenland” and the two remaining Do 26s were ordered south to the Gironde mouth near Bordeaux. But the Do 26s never flew reconnaissance again. In January 1941, the “Transozeanstaffel” was disbanded and in March 1941, both Do 26 were ordered back to Germany. The rest of the war, they lived a rather unspectacular life at the German proving base for seaplanes at Travemünde near Lübeck. This was only interrupted in summer 1943, when the V-6 first had to supply, than to evacuate the crew of a German weather station on Sabine Island off the icy east coast of Greenland (6-7 rsp.16-17 June 1943).

The somewhat peaceful scenes we see on some pictures suggest V-4 and V-6 were used for linking flights to Norway, and for to connect the German-controlled seaplane industry (Sartrouville on the river Seine is home of the French firm SCAN). Both V-4 and V-6 were still in the stock of the proving base Travemünde in 1944. Their final fate is unknown. Travemünde, the harbour of Lübeck, belongs to the British occupation zone, and before Lübeck was reached by British troops on 4 May 1945, all aircraft attached to the proving base were damaged beyond repair. Maybe the Do 26s had been scrapped already before or their wrecks were not worth mentioning for the British troops when they took over the place.

Specifications – Do 26V6

General characteristics

    Crew: Four

    Payload: 500 kg or 12 fully equipped troops (1,102 lb)

    Length: 24.6 m (80 ft 5 in)

    Wingspan: 30 m (98 ft 5 in)

    Height: 6.85 m (22 ft 8 in)

    Wing area: 120 m² (1,291.67 ft²)

    Empty weight: 11,300 kg (24,912 lb)

    Loaded weight: 22,500 kg (49,601 lb)

    Powerplant: 4 × Junkers Jumo 205D Diesel, 656 kW (880 hp) each

Performance

    Maximum speed: 324 km/h (175 kn, 201 mph)

    Range: 7,100 km (3,834 nmi, 4,412 mi)

Armament

1 × 20 mm MG 151/20 cannon in a bow turret, 3 × aft-firing 7.92 mm (.312 in) MG 15 machine guns

Literature

• Jörg-M. Hörmann: Flugbuch Atlantic, German catapult flights 1927-1939, Delius Klasing Verlag, 2007

• Grey, Duggan: LUFTHANSA GERMAN, South Atlantic Airmail Service 1934-1939, Zeppelin Study Group, 2000

• Manfred Griehl: Dornier flying boats in World War II – Thurs 18 – Thurs 24 – Thurs 26 -, arsenal band 171, Podzun-Pallas Verlag, Woelfersheim 1998, ISBN 3-7909-0628-X.

• Siegfried Graf Schack of Wittenau: pioneer flights of Lufthansa-Captain 1926-1945, engine book publishing, 1981 ISBN 3-87943-764-5

• Wilhelm Küppers: Green Light – Atlantic, longing – Conquest – mastery, Hoffmann & Campe Verlag, 1955

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