Re-equipment, Precautions, Logistics

Another indication that the Luftwaffe in the West still had preparations to complete came with news that KG 54 was to be “provided with new armaments” (i.e. convert to the Ju 88) as of 15 July and that the III. Gruppe would therefore go to Münster-Handorf while the other two deployed to operational airfields. Five of III./KG 54’s bomb-aimers were to attend a Ju 88 conversion course in Anklam on the Baltic, meanwhile; they should be specially qualified men who could disseminate the techniques they were taught throughout the unit. The next day an order went out that a senior, officer-rank Stuka pilot should be assigned to each of LG 1, KG 54 and KG 77 to assist in training these Ju 88 formations for dive-bombing. The I./LG 1 was arranging its return from Hannover-Langenhagen to Orléans-Bricy at this point. On 18 July, 30 “young blind-flying crews” were assigned to Luftflotte 3 to bring units up to strength, even though most of these men were rated “not yet entirely ready for action”.

Worries over defence had not gone away, as this warning of 12 July to Luftwaffe ground organisations in Western France shows:

There is danger that the English Airforce in revenge for our successful attacks on shipping and land targets in the last days will launch a concerted attack on thickly occupied aerodromes that have not yet been attacked. All possible safety measures are to be taken immediately and the greatest vigilance to be maintained. Fire must be opened immediately by every gun in case of attack.

At the end of the month, “a long order from the Reichsmarschall” called for all buildings to be camouflaged in autumn and winter colours, which suggests that he was not counting on a speedy end to the war. He also called for the dispersal of stocks of heavy bombs and for particular attention to the camouflage of railway goods wagons. Depots in Western France were told “that to reduce the danger from air-attacks loaded trucks were not to be left in munition depots nor full tank lorries in fuel depots”. General von Greim was forcefully reminding Fliegerkorps V of Göring’s orders to provide camouflaged slit trenches on all airfields and near living quarters; compliance was to be reported by 1800 on the 31st. The construction of anti-splinter walls for all Fliegerkorps V’s aircraft must be completed by the evening of 4 August although JG 2’s response was that putting up such walls on field aerodromes was pointless as aircraft were camouflaged and widely dispersed. Early in August instructions were issued on constructing dummy installations to deceive raiders.

A recurring theme in the traffic for this period is establishing communications links between Luftwaffe formations and organisations in occupied France. There are some mentions of actual or suspected sabotage of phone lines, for example at the intersection of the present-day N6 and D31 at Montgeron on the south eastern outskirts of Paris on the nights of 2/3 and 4/5 July, when several metres of cable were removed. It was learned on 24 June that “the Germans are using the Lorenz teleprinter machine”, something which would have great significance later in the history of Bletchley Park.

Further evidence that logistical support in France was still not fully up and running was offered by Luftflotte 3’s edict that, owing to shortages in the occupied territories, no oil or petrol was to be provided for aircraft arriving from the Reich except transports, despatch carriers and the Reichsmarschall’s duty flight. JG 2 had problems of its own, complaining on the 15th that (in Bletchley Park’s reading):

… the Bf 109 night-flying planes (?) allotted for delivery from Eschwege were again as on all previous occasions without exception found to be unfit for service. Motors were badly worn and there were numerous other defects. Two forced landings were necessary during delivery on account of technical failings. The pilots commandeered for the delivery flights lost on average 6 days front-line service … JG 2 asks … Eschwege to remedy this state of affairs which has gone on long enough.

That query in the first sentence was probably a misunderstanding of the suffix “N”, which in hindsight did not mean Nacht (= night) here but rather the DB 601N engine.

The prospects of aircrew coming down in the sea remained a concern, with extensive correspondence about life-jackets, emergency ration packs, distress signals and Farbbeutel (bags of dye to highlight the position of men in the water). “As a result of war experience”, steel helmets designed to fit over flying helmets were being issued to aircrew in France. Also on the way were new goggles (type FL 30550) “to protect their eyes against shots penetrating the safety glass of the cabin and against sun-dazzle”: KG 54 promptly indented for 350 pairs but got only 90, while 50 went to JG 2. The Quartermaster General assured Luftflotte 3 on 17 July that preparations for the sea-rescue service were being pushed forward as quickly as possible but that the Do 24 was only obtainable from the General Staff, not from his department. Another sign that suitable aircraft were in short supply was an exception to the general prohibition on the operational use of captured aircraft to permit use of the Bréquet Br. 521 flying boat in the air-sea rescue role. A warning was issued however that rescue aircraft with fighter escort were in danger “since, according to the Hague Convention, Red Cross aeroplanes operate during and after a battle at their own risk.”

NOTE: This advice was dated 12 July and deciphered sometime between 0645 and 1350 the following day. Although not issued by Bletchley Park as an individual teleprint, it may have been a factor in Fighter Command’s order of 14 July that Red Cross aircraft encountered in operational areas should be attacked.

On 20 July Göring was moved to complain about the heavy losses of fighters to causes other than enemy action. He expected all commanders to exercise strict supervision, threatening that they and the pilots concerned would suffer severe penalties should they break the rules. Two days after that came a message from I./ZG 2 to KG 54 with proposals for improving rendezvous between bombers and their escorts. Oberleutnant Noack, a signals officer with ZG 2, asked on the 25th that weather reports should be sent using the signals tables, since machine-encipherment overburdened the frequency. This was no doubt of interest to those eavesdropping on German communications as was concern that crews might turn back in response to spurious orders transmitted by the British. Instructions were given to delete the code groups FGHOPR and NSTUVW (“Break off attack”, “Return”, “Break off task”) from signals tables; these were to be replaced in future by special signals.

On 29 July a Gruppe of KG 55 was placed at readiness for attacks on shipping but warned that “the quays in harbours along the south coast are in no circumstances to be attacked”, a possible sign that the Germans hoped to use these facilities themselves in the event of an invasion. The same day, Luftflotte 3 was advised that a 10-man staff was en route to help assess the battle readiness of Stuka formations. An interesting sidelight came from a document of 30 July about the production of propaganda films on the anti-shipping campaign. Amongst other things this revealed that “no film record at present exists … of effects of direct hits” but that “films could be made both from life and from fictitious events”. Other background intelligence received toward the end of the month included: an order for 5,000 tonnes of cement to construct a runway at Beauvais-Tillé; arrangements for bringing III./JG 2 from Rhein-Main to Évreux; and the fact that Jafü 2 was installed in the Hôtel de la Digue at Wissant and likely to remain there for the time being.

It was only on 8 August that units of Fliegerkorps V were advised that sufficient stocks of parachutes, life-jackets and dinghies were now available in Luftgau West France and could be distributed to I. and II./KG 54, all three Gruppen of JG 2 and I. and II./ZG 2. The same day, Seenotzentrale (= sea-rescue centre) Boulogne gave out instructions for how aircraft were to lead rescue boats to downed machines and how the boats should fire white stars to show they had understood. If all this could be read as signs of an air force readying itself for action on a large scale, problems persisted and Fliegerkorps IV was exasperated to find that:

… almost every day a number of aircraft going into action were held up at starting or in mid-flight by filters choked with dirt, or partly filled with water. This showed that, given the quality of petrol readily available, more care of filters was needed. they must be attended to after every flight of any length. Similarly filters of tank-waggons and emergency quick fillers must be cleaned daily. Also when filling from railway tank-waggons the prescribed test for water must under no circumstances be omitted.

Such was the “extraordinary importance” of these steps that unit leaders would be held personally responsible for their enforcement.

continued on next page …

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CONTENTS

Introduction

Armistice and After

Defence

Preparing for the Offensive

Re-equipment, Precautions, Logistics

Comforts for the troops

Conferences

Special Reports

Conclusions

Sources

© Nick Beale 2020–2021


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