Saturday, 28 May 2011

(1937-1941) PZL P.24

PZL P.24 D102 shot down, photographed by Germans, Argos Airfield, end of April 1941In the history of the Greek air force, no aircraft type saw as much combat as the Polish-built PZL P.24. According to a Polish researcher, Greek Ρ.24s shot down 40 enemy aircraft (36 Italian and 4 German). According to other researchers, the Greek fighter aircraft (primarily P.24s) scored about 22 confirmed and 12 probable victories for a loss of 19 of their own. While this is the highest number in the history of the Greek air force, it is not comparable to the successes of more experienced nations. For example, during only two months in the winter of 1940-41, the RAF pilots in Greece flying the comparable Gloster Gladiator shot down 42 Italian aircraft for the loss of 16 of their own.

Operational History
Polish test pilot B. Orlindski in front of the third prototype P.24/III at a demonstration to the Greek airforce in Tatoi, 1936September 1936 - The Greeks order 36 PZL P.24 fighters from Poland. The photo on the right shows Polish test pilot B. Orlindski in front of the third prototype P.24/III at a demonstration of the type to the Greek airforce in Tatoi.
May 1937 - The fighters arrive in Greece, with some delay attributed to the Skoda LK 32 machine guns. They are 30 PZL P.24F and 6 PZL P.24G.
October 1940 - At the time of the Italian invasion, together with a few Bloch MB.151, these are the only Greek frontline fighter aircraft. Depending on the source, out of the original 36 PZL aircraft only 24-30 are operational.
PZL P.24 D129, Salonika-SEDES. Autumn 1940, one of the few still armed with 20mm cannon


Fighter Squadrons (Lt.Col. Emanuil Kelaidis) at the beginning of the war:
21 Mira. Ioannis Kellas briefing pilots before mission21 Mira with 10 PZL P.24 (under Capt. Ioan. Kellas from 28 Oct. 1940 to 27 April 1941) at Kalambaka. 9 officers and 5 NCOs
Pilots: Kellas Ioan., Sakellariou Ioan., Katsaros Ioan., Kyriazis Ioan., Papadopoulos, Papaioannou Ant. and others

22 Mira with 9 PZL P.24 (under Capt. A. Antoniou from 28 Oct. 1940 to 27 April 1941) at Salonika/Sedes. 6 officers and 6 NCOs. By the end of the war, 22 Mira will have taken part in 90 patrol missions 22 Mira in SEDES(353 sorties), 30 escort missions (113 sorties), one naval convoy escort mission (3 sorties), two strafing missions (6 sorties), one army escort mission (8 sorties), and 30 aircraft transport missions (104 sorties). 22 Mira will have claimed 13 victories, 6 probable and 20 heavily damaged enemy aircraft.
Pilots: Antoniou Andr., Doukas Geor., Fanourgakis Grig., Giannikostas Kon., Mitraleksis Mar., Toregas Athan., Katsimpouris Ant., Kotronis Korn., Michalitsanos Alex., Kontogiorgos Vas., Daggoulas Epam., Filis Dim., Lampropoulos Kon., Katsarelis Leon., Argyropoulos Panag., Michopoulos Ioan.

23 Mira with 11 PZL P.24 (under Maj. Gr. Theodoropoulos from 28 Oct. 1940 to 27 April 1941) at Larissa. By the end of the war, the squadron will be down to only three aircraft. By the end of the war, 23 Mira will have taken part in 88 missions (353 sorties) with a claimed 30 Spyros Depountisvictories and 11 probable or heavily damaged enemy aircraft.
Pilots: Theodoropoulos Gr.. Apladas Andr., Bousios Patr., Kotronis Korn., Tsitsas Kon., Kavounis Char., Validas Theod., Kougioumtzoglou Ioan., Sioris Kon., Nomikos Geor., Michopoulos Ioan., Mokkas Geor., Valkanas Grig., Depountis Spyr., Papaioannou (from 1 Dec. 1940).

24 Mira with 6-8 Bloch MB.151 (under Savelos from 28 Oct. 1940 to 15 Jan. 1941, and Capt. A. Anagnostopoulos from 16 Jan. 1941 to 27 April 1941) at Eleusis. 10 officers and NCOs

28 October 1940 - SM-79 bombers escorted by CR-42 fighters attack Thessalonica. P.24s intercept and force them to disperse before they cause any damage. One P.24 is shot down, presumably by the CR.42 escorts.
2 November 1940 - 3 PZL-24s of 21 Mira attack a formation of (probably) Cant Z-1007 bis bombers and presumably fighter escorts over the Epirus front. F/Lt Sakellariou & Sgt Papadopoulos are shot down and killed in action. The third PZL manages to escape.
The same day a formation of Cant Z-1007 bis bombers tries to bomb Thessalonica. Six PZLs of 22 Mira and antiaircraft guns engage the enemy bombers. F/Lt Marinos Mitraleksis (P.24, Δ130), after using up all his ammunition unsuccessfully against an enemy bomber (Cant Z-1007 bis, MΜ 22381), he rams it and saws off its rudder with his propeller’s blades. The bomber plummets to the earth out of control, while Mitraleksis successfully crash-lands his P.24. He will be decorated with the Golden Order for Valour and later on with the Flying Cross, War Cross, Golden Cross of St. George’s Order with Swords and the Phoenix Order with Swords.
A diorama at the National War Museum in Athens commemorates this achievement:
Diorama showing Mitraleksis downing an enemy bomber using his propeller. Note that the aircraft was Δ130 and not Δ142.

During the same action Sgt Epameinondas Dagoulas claims one more bomber. Cant Z1007bis downed by the Greek AirforceThe evening of the same day, another formation of 15 enemy bombers and 7 fighters, raids the city of Thessalonica again. Antoniou (leader of 22 Mira) shoots down one enemy fighter. One P.24 is shot down, but the pilots, Sgt Konstantinos Lambropoulos, bails out safely.
3 November 1940 - Five fighters of 22 Mira intercept a formation of 9 Italian bombers and fighters heading towards Thessalonika. F/Lt Konstantinos Giannikostas claims one enemy fighter.
14 November 1940 - Nine fighters of 23 Mira shoot down two CR-42s and damage a third, which will be later destroyed during crash-landing.
Grigorios Valkanas18 November 1940 - 22 and 23 Mira engage Italian fighters over Morova. Having spent all his ammunition, Valkanas (23 Mira) intentionally rams an enemy bomber. Both Valkanas and the enemy crew are killed. Sgt. Dimitrakopoulos is shot down but bails out safely.
20 November 1940 - Four PZLs of 21 Mira engage three CR.42s and a bomber, probably a Cant Z.1007bis, over Lake Mikri Prespa. The bomber is shot down by Ioannis Kellas. A few hours later, 21 Mira will have all its PZL P.24 fighters replaced by British Gloster Gladiator biplanes.
3 December 1940 - Six PZLs of 23 Mira engage 18 CR.42s over Moschopolis. Konstantinos Tsetsas is shot down.
January 1941 - The Greeks now have only 19 P.24, 2 MB.151 and 7 Gladiators. Influenced by the British allies, the strategy to be pursued is the control over an area through continuous patrolling.
8 January 1941 - 9 PZLs (22 Mira) and 6 Gladiators (21 Mira) attack a formation of Cant Z1007bis bombers over Ostrovo. Cptn Gregorios Fanourgakes of 22 Mira claims one probable victory. The same Greek formation later engages 9 CR.42 fighters and one Ro.37 reconnaissance biplane over Celoure, where Captains Antoniou and Nikolaos Scroubelos claim one victory each.
25 January 1941 - After two weeks of bad weather, PZLs engage enemy aircraft near Thessaloniki, with Antoniou shooting down one Cant Z.1007 bomber. Around noon, 7 PZLs (22 Mira) and 7 Gladiators (21 Mira) attack 8 BR-20 bombers from the 116a Gruppo, 37o Stormo B.T over Premeti-Kleisoura. Antoniou claims a second kill. Staff Sgt Panagiotis Argyropoulos of 22 Mira and Cptn. Kellas claim one each. Two more BR-20 bombers are shot down by another PZL and another Gladiator.
28 January 1941 - PZLs from 22 Mira attack an enemy bomber formation heading to Thessalonika. Cptn Savellos shoots down one Cant Z1007.
8 February 1941 - During a reconnaissance operation over Kleisoura, 7 Gladiators (21 Mira) and 8 PZLs (22 and 23 Mira) engage a lone two-engine Italian bomber, which spectacularly manages to escape.
9 February 1941 - One Cant bomber is downed by Staff Sgt Eleftherios Smyrniotopoulos (24 Mira, Bloch MB. 151). At the same time, a large dogfight takes place over Kleisoura between 8 PZLs (22 and 23 Mira) and 4 Gladiators (21 Mira) with 12 Italian fighters escorting 30 bombers. F/Lt Mitraleksis claims one probable CR.42 victory (trailing black smoke). Cptn Kellas shoots down two fighters. Stf. Sgt Demetrakopoulos (21 Mira) claims one more. Two other pilots (21 Mira) claim one probable fighter each. Dagoulas (22 Mira) shoots down one enemy aircraft. The Greeks lose two aircraft, badly damaged while crash-landing at their bases.
10 February 1941 - A patrol of 11 fighters (Mira 21, 22 and 23) engage three Italian bombers over the Boubesi-Kleisoura-Premeti region. Cptn Fanourgakis claims one victory.
11 February 1941 - Two Gladiators (21 Mira) on patrol are ambushed and shot down by Italian fighters. The pilots, Cptn Anastasios Bardivilias and Stf Sgt Kostorizos are killed.
15 February 1941 - Cptn Fanourgakis claims one bomber (out of a formation of three) over Tepeleni.
20 February 1941 - 19 Greek fighters (probably the whole of the surviving fighter force of Greece) escort bombers over Sendeli. They are engaged by 10 Ro.37 and 15 G.50 aircraft. In the battle, 7 PZLs (22 Mira) lose contact due to radio malfuntion and are forced to engage the enemy on their own. Four Italian fighters are shot down by Antoniou, Fanourgakes, F/Lt Michaletsianos and Dagoulas. Antoniou manages to crash land his P.24 safely at Premeti despite heavy damage.
23 February 1941 - A formation of three Gladiators of 21 Mira, five P.24 of 22 Mira and nine P.24 of 23 Mira, engage seven Italian fighters. F/Lt Scroubelos and Staff Sgt Chrissopoulos are killed, the latter on crash-landing his Gladiator.
27 February 1941 - From this day and on, all fighter squadrons are withdrawn from operations at the front due to the small number of available aircraft and the arrival of the next generation of Italian fighters (Macchi and Romeo).
2 April 1941 - 8 Gladiators (21 Mira) pursue 10 Cant Z.1007 bombers over Florina and shoot down two of them.
6 April 1941 - On the day of the German invasion, a German reconnaissance Hs.126 aircraft is shot down, shared between Cptn Antoniou and F/Lt Antonio Katsimpouris. A second Hs.126 is shot down, shared among Cptn Doukas, F/Lt Kontogeorgios and Katsimpouris. A Dornier 17 bomber is shot down by F/Lt Oikonomopoulos.
15 April 1941 - One Hs.126 is shot down by Staff Sgt Pericles Koutroubas (23 Mira), who will be killed in action later the same day. What remains of the Greek fighter engage a large formation of German bombers and fighters near Trikala. German in captured PZL P.24Three Greek aircraft are shot down: one Gladiator (21 Mira, Kellas wounded), one PZL (22 Mira, Katsarelis wounded) and one Bloch (24 Mira, Mokkas killed). 11 of the remaining PZLs will be destroyed on the ground by German raids.
April 1941 - Any surviving P.24 aircraft are captured by the Germans and used by themselves or the Italians for liaison and training, before being scrapped.


Specifications
PZL P.24 F/G fighter

Crew: 1
Length: 7.81 m
Wingspan: 10.68 m
Height: 2.69 m
Wing area: 17.9 m²
Weight: empty 1,329 kg, max loaded 1,915 kg
Powerplant: 700 kW Gnome Rhone 14N-07 (950 hp)
Max. Speed: 430 km/h at 4,250 m
Ceiling: 10,500 m
Range: 700 km
Rate of Climb: 11.5 m/s
Power/mass ratio: 0.376 kW/kg (0.23 hp/lb)
Armament: (P.24F) 2x 7.9mm MG, 2x 20m Oerlikon FF cannon and 2x50kg bombs (2 x 50 kg) under wings, or (P.24G) 4x 7.9mm MG and 2x50kg bombs (2 x 50 kg) under wings.
During the war, most were equipped with a total of 4x MG due to 20mm cannon ammunition shortages. The machine guns were Ceske Zbrojovice, Czech copies of the British Vickers MG.
Other Equipment: German (Telefunken) radio and American (Gaertner) oxygen supply system.


For Gamers and Game designers
Its original speed was about 420 km/h, but due to modifications, such as engine, camouflage and armament, this quickly dropped to 400 km/h, and to 380 km/h after two months of intensive use in Greek service. The type's two main weaknesses, as noted by the Greeks, were the bad cockpit visibility and the duration of flight, which was limited to 1 hour and 45 minutes. In practice, they would be able to patrol for 30-35 minutes over the front. Also, a pilot of average quality would need at least 600m of runway to land, which was difficult to find in Northern Epirus.
The P.24 had similar performance with the Italian CR.42, but was completely outclassed by newer Italian and German fighter aircraft, such as Macchis and BF109s.
For Modellers
The 36 Greek P.24 fighters carried the codes D.101 to D.136. Due to the lack of dependable sources, their paintschemes have been widely debated over the years. Before Oct. 1940 they are thought to have had aluminium colour with black codes, and light blue national markings on fuselage, under the wings and on the rudder. After Oct. 1940, the wheel cowls are thought to have been removed, as well as the national markings (which are now a bit darker) from the rudder. A few of the aircraft now carry white rather than black codes.
According to D. Georgiadis, it is also possible that some aircraft wore a four-colour camo (Dark Brown, Dark Green, Sand, Sky Blue) right before or right after the 28th of October 1940.

The following is a list of individual aircraft with profiles, models and photos, where available:

Δ102 (P.24G)
A profile by Wojtek Rynkowski (1941, 23 Mira, probably flown by G. Laskaris), an illustration from unknown (probably Polish) source (April 1941, 23 Mira), a model by Tom Cleaver, and a profile by D. Georgiadis, which accurately shows the red spider on the fuselage:

D102 captured by the Germans D102 captured by the Germans

Δ103
The camouflage introduced in late 1940. Upper surfaces were green and brown, and under surfaces were light blue. There are no national insignia under the wings.


Δ104
14 Nov. 1940 - Flown by Kavounis Char., it overturns during landing. Damages are repairable.

Δ106 (P.24F)
14 Nov. 1940 - Δ115 collides with Δ106 during landing (Δ115 flown by Daggoulas). Damages repairable.

A profile by Wojtek Rynkowski (14 November 1940, 22 Mira) and a model by Will Hendriks (1:48):


Δ107 (P.24F)
An Autumn 1940 (21 Mira) profile from unknown source:


Δ109 (P.24G)
A 1941 profile in the Azur 1/72 kit.



Δ112
From left to right, a profile by Wojtek Rynkowski (1941, 22 Mira), a 1:33 paper model by Marek Pacynski (Spring 1941, 22 Mira), the box cover for the 1:48 Mirage Hobby kit, an illustration from an unknown Polish source (March 1941), and a model by E. Papadimitriou:

captured by the Germans, probably in Amfikleia captured by the Germans, probably in Amfikleia

Δ113 (P.24G)
A profile by Wojtek Rynkowski (1940):


Δ114
P24G, D114 with test probe under left wing. In original natural metal finish before fitting the cockpit enclosure

Δ115 (P.24G)
14 Nov. 1940 - Flown by Dagoulas, Δ115 collides with Δ106 during landing. Damages are repairable.

A profile by Wojtek Rynkowski (14 November 1940, E. Dagoulas), a model by Steffen Arndt (IPMS Deutschland), and a model by D. Koukourdinos (pre-war, 1940):


Δ116 (P.24G)
A superb 1/48 model by Gabriel Kalfopoulos, a profile by Wojtek Rynkowski (Dekeleia 1938), and a model from the National War Museum, Athens (presumably after October 1940):


Δ118
20 Feb. 1941 - Flown by Sioris, its engine breaks down and it is forced to land near Konitsa.

Δ120 (P.24G)
A profile by Wojtek Rynkowski (1940, 22 Mira) and a profile by Ioannis Mansolas:


Δ122
4 Jan. 1941 - Flown by Sioris, it overturns during landing at Korytsa airfield.

Δ124
18 Nov. 1940 - Flown by Stasinopoulos, it crashes on another aircraft on ground. Damages are repairable.
2 Mar. 1941 - Flown by Kotronis, it lands outside the airstrip.

Δ125
14 Nov. 1940 - Flown by Kotronis Korn., it is heavily damaged in a dogfight and lands at Florina airfield. The aircraft is later repaired.

Δ126 (P.24F)
A profile by D. Georgiadis (pre-war, 1940):



Δ127
18 Nov. 1940 - Flown by Michalitsianos, it overturns within the airfield.

A profile by Michail Solanakis and a model from unknown source:


Δ129 (P.24F)
A profile by Wojtek Rynkowski (November 1940, 22 Mira), a profile by Sankowski (autumn 1940, 22 Mira, Salonika-Sedes), the box cover for the 1:48 Mirage Hobby kit, and a model by D. Koukourdinos (pre-war, 1940):


Δ130
2 Nov. 1940 - Flying the Δ130, Mitraleksis rams and downs a Cant Z-1007bis bomber by sawing off its rudder with his propeller’s blades, before successfully crash-landing.

Δ133
14 Nov. 1940 - Flown by Skroumpelos Nik., it collides on ground with another aircraft. Damages are minor and repairable.

Δ135
28 Oct. 1940 - Flown by Kougioumtzoglou Ioan., it crash-lands due to engine break down during take-off. The pilot suffers leg injuries and is taken to the hospital. The aircraft is damaged.
18 Nov. 1940 - Flown by Apladas Andr., it overturns within the airfield. Damages are repairable.

Δ136
Before the war starts, pilot Schinas is killed in an accident flying Δ136. The aircraft is destroyed.


Additional photos of unidentified aircraft
A P24F being re-armed (left wing MG). Photo taken probably in Mikra P24s in SEDES Soldiers around a P24F A P24F possibly photographed by Germans in Argos Greek pilots in front of P24 P24 destroyed P24 destroyed, Larisa, 1941 P24 destroyed, Larisa, 1941 21 Mira PZL repaired in KEA

4 comments:

  1. Φίλε μου έχεις κάνει απίστευτη δουλειά. Μπράβο σου
    My friend you have done a marvelous job. Keep up

    ReplyDelete
  2. I think that this is the most complete work about the Greek PZL P24´s that exists on the internet. Congratulations.

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is a very valuable resource. Many thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Αυτό που με στενοχωρεί είναι πως είσαι μόνος σε ένα διαδίκτυο παραδομένο στη μπουρδολογία. Μακάρι να υπήρχαν κι άλλοι Έλληνες με τέτοιο μεράκι και σοβαρότητα στο αντικείμενό τους.

    ReplyDelete