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The Beautiful & Ugly German Flugboot: the Blohm & Voss BV 238

Simon Templar

The journey of the famous German ship building and engineering company Blohm & Voss commenced on April 5, 1877, when Herman Blohm and Ernst Voss got together to set the foundation stone for their brainchild.

The company got their first kick start during the Second World War, when the engineers at Blohm and Voss started building flying boats for various clients with distinctive success results.

Six 1,287 kW (1,750 hp) Daimler-Benz DB 603 inverted V12 piston engines were used in total, arranged in three forward-facing engine nacelles on each wing. Photo Credit

Six 1,287 kW (1,750 hp) Daimler-Benz DB 603 inverted V12 piston engines were used in total, arranged in three forward-facing engine nacelles on each wing. Photo Credit

When the company started, a shipyard was constructed on Kuhwereder island near the Free and Henseatic City of Hamburg that covered some 1500 meter square of the area.

The yard had a large 250 meters of water frontage and carried three berths, with the capacity to handle two large ships of length 100 meters or less.

Each engine’s coolant radiator was placed in a chin cowl directly under the engine, bearing an almost identical appearance to those fitted to the Do 217M medium bomber and some examples of the Do 217J night fighter, possibly as standardized Kraftei (“power-egg”) unitized engine modules. Photo Credit

Each engine’s coolant radiator was placed in a chin cowl directly under the engine, bearing an almost identical appearance to those fitted to the Do 217M medium bomber and some examples of the Do 217J night fighter, possibly as standardized Kraftei (“power-egg”) unitized engine modules. Photo Credit

The company has a very simplistic logo with that bears its name on rounded corners with white letters; up until 1955, the name of the company was shown with the ampersand.

For over a century and twenty-five years, Blohm & Voss continued its operations as a major manufacturer of large ships and other heavy machinery. In the aftermath of the Second World War, the company was thought to have been completely demolished, however, it stood back up and now builds warships for Germany and exports a fair amount of oil drilling equipment and ships for a number of commercial customers.

Nazi Germany’s attempt to build an impenetrable Army and Air Force in open defiance to the Versailles Treaty by considerable rearmament gave the crumbling Blohm & Voss the fuel it desperately needed to re-establish and then later re-brand itself.

The sole completed BV 238 was strafed and sunk while docked on Schaalsee. Sources differ regarding the date, the attackers and the attack aircraft used. Photo Credit

The sole completed BV 238 was strafed and sunk while docked on Schaalsee. Sources differ regarding the date, the attackers and the attack aircraft used. Photo Credit

The company was then run by brothers Rudolf Blohm and Walther Blohm, who saw an opportunity to significantly change the fortunes of the company by going along with the Nazi party’s rearmament plans. Until then, the company only specialized in building ships, but after signing a new client i.e. the Nazi party, the company stepped in the design and construction of aircraft for the German state airline, Deutsche Luft Hansa, and of course the Luftwaffe.

One dark aspect that still haunts Blohm & Voss is the fact that, towards the end of the Second World War, the company used the prisoners of a work camp (some suggest the camp was, in fact, a concentration subcamp run by the Blohm & Voss) to work at its shipyard in Hamburg-Steinwerder.

According to American sources, the BV 238 V1 was destroyed September 1944 by P-51 Mustangs of the US 361st Fighter Group. The lead Mustang, Detroit Miss, was piloted by Lieutenant Urban “Ben” Drew, and another was piloted by William Photo Credit

According to American sources, the BV 238 V1 was destroyed September 1944 by P-51 Mustangs of the US 361st Fighter Group. The lead Mustang, Detroit Miss, was piloted by Lieutenant Urban “Ben” Drew, and another was piloted by William Photo Credit

Rogers. Drew was told after the attack that he had destroyed a BV 222 Wiking, another large flying boat. Photo Credit

Rogers. Drew was told after the attack that he had destroyed a BV 222 Wiking, another large flying boat. Photo Credit

He continued to believe this was the case until he was contacted by the BBC in 1974 for a documentary and told that their research had determined that the aircraft he had destroyed was actually the BV 238 V1, undergoing flight tests at the seaplane base at Schaalsee. Photo Credit

He continued to believe this was the case until he was contacted by the BBC in 1974 for a documentary and told that their research had determined that the aircraft he had destroyed was actually the BV 238 V1, undergoing flight tests at the seaplane base at Schaalsee. Photo Credit

In the aftermath of the war, a memorial was built at the campsite and the company is thought to have been paying an undisclosed amount to the compensation towards the forced labor.

German sources, based in part on the testimony of nearby inhabitants and Blohm & Voss employees, claim that the BV 238 V1 was discovered by the RAF between 23 April and 26 April 1945. Photo Credit

German sources, based in part on the testimony of nearby inhabitants and Blohm & Voss employees, claim that the BV 238 V1 was discovered by the RAF between 23 April and 26 April 1945. Photo Credit

Perhaps the most prominent achievement of the Blohm & Voss is its most celebrated flying boat simply known as BV238.

The Allies were reportedly concerned that Adolf Hitler could use it to escape to South America, and so an attack followed shortly afterwards. Photo Credit

The Allies were reportedly concerned that Adolf Hitler could use it to escape to South America, and so an attack followed shortly afterwards. Photo Credit

The aircraft was attacked by Hawker Typhoons, or Hawker Tempests. Their strafing set the engines alight, and the aircraft burnt and sank with only part of a wing remaining above the surface. Photo Credit

The aircraft was attacked by Hawker Typhoons, or Hawker Tempests. Their strafing set the engines alight, and the aircraft burnt and sank with only part of a wing remaining above the surface. Photo Credit

According to the British, the attack happened on 4 May 1945. During the strafing, the back of the flying boat broke and the forward part of the plane sank into the water. Photo Credit

According to the British, the attack happened on 4 May 1945. During the strafing, the back of the flying boat broke and the forward part of the plane sank into the water. Photo Credit

Production of two other prototypes was begun but neither was finished. A ¼-scale model of the BV 238 was made during the plane’s development for testing. Known as the FGP 227, it made a forced landing during its first flight and did not provide any data to the program. Photo Credit

Production of two other prototypes was begun but neither was finished. A ¼-scale model of the BV 238 was made during the plane’s development for testing. Known as the FGP 227, it made a forced landing during its first flight and did not provide any data to the program. Photo Credit

Guns: 8 x 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns with 1,800 rpg; 4 in each nose and tail turret 8 x 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns with 900 rpg; 4 in each wing mounted turret 4 x 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns with 500 rpg; 2 (as a twinned MG 131Z) in each manually aimed beam/waist position 2 x 20 mm (0.787 in) MG 151/20 autocannon with 1,400 rpg in forward dorsal turret. Photo Credit

Guns: 8 x 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns with 1,800 rpg; 4 in each nose and tail turret 8 x 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns with 900 rpg; 4 in each wing mounted turret 4 x 13 mm (0.512 in) MG 131 machine guns with 500 rpg; 2 (as a twinned MG 131Z) in each manually aimed beam/waist position 2 x 20 mm (0.787 in) MG 151/20 autocannon with 1,400 rpg in forward dorsal turret. Photo Credit

What made the BV 238 stand out among other war machinery of the Second World War was its sheer size; when it first flew in 1944 it was the heaviest aircraft flown by any country during the war.