The Luftwaffe found itself having to upgrade a number of French bases to support operations against Britain. As early as 7 August orders were given to make all the preparations necessary for the continued occupation of Dreux during the Winter. Fliegerkorps I said on the 14th that setting up base commands on KG 77’s aerodromes at Couvron and Chambry was urgently necessary. On the 23rd Luftwaffe authorities in Western France asked for a report on aerodromes where runways of at least 1100 x 40 metres could rapidly be constructed. The response came that work underway at Dijon-Longvic could be completed in about 14 days while one could be built at St. Dizier in five weeks if works were expedited. A conference was planned at Dinard on the 31st where ZG 76 would make known its wishes for the improvement and extension of the runways. The 24th of August saw Mannheim pressing Nancy-Essey for an urgent response to a question about searchlights for runway illumination. Ten days later, a Dr Westphal was authorised to go ahead with constructing a flarepath at Joigny as soon as possible. Rather than carry out compass compensation back in Germany (for which 3.(F)/123 went to Würzburg and I./LG 1 to Langenhagen) there was an obvious advantage in building the necessary concrete platforms in France, KG 55 asking for one at Chartres for example, and it was thought that another was being installed at Orly for KG 51.
By mid-September aerodromes were beginning to be referred to by code-numbers and Luftgau Belgien-Nordfrankreich was developing bases for transport units. The list of planned works—apparently in the St. Omer area and to be completed by the 29th—began with the construction of taxiways “so that aircraft can be kept camouflaged well away from tarmac”. Quarters and cookhouses were needed; tankage must be provided for at least 100,000 litres of fuel; electric lighting of boundaries and obstructions was to be installed and beacons must be clearly visible. All aerodromes were to have transfer ramps at the (nearest?) railway station sufficient to handle 24 tank wagons per day—indicative of the scale of operations envisaged—and where possible a siding of their own big enough for two tank wagons. On 11 September the same Luftgau gave approval to develop Aerodrome No. 325 for use by Heinkels and next day compass bases were allocated to Nos. 501, 502 and 555.
Late on 31 August: Oye, Marck, Étaples, Berck-Sur-Mer and Bois-Jean were ordered to be equipped as advanced landing grounds for Stukagruppen with the available supplies of SD 500 bombs distributed equally between them. Furthermore, Oye was to be the advanced landing ground for a Schlachtgruppe. This concentration of dive-bombers opposite the Straits of Dover could easily be read as preparation to support an invasion and in some cases Zerstörer units had to be relocated first. Next day it was learned that KG 26 had moved a Gruppe to Maldegem and another to Wevelgem while KG 30 had transferred one Gruppe each to Chièvres and Melsbroeck. These aerodromes were to be readied “in all haste” and stocked up for at least four operations by each Gruppe. In addition, Maldegem and Wevelgem were to receive 24 x SC 1000 apiece, Chièvres and Melsbroeck 48 each.
In fighting the RAF, the Luftwaffe naturally learned more about its opponent, sometimes coming to mistaken conclusions.
Defending himself against Spitfires south of the Isle of Wight on 8 August, an airman of I./St.G. 3 saw his machine gun bursts bouncing off from beneath their cockpits, leading to suspicions that the Spitfire was armoured in that area. Fighters encountered near Newcastle a week later were said to have yellow stripes at their wingtips. At the end of the month, KG 51 reported “Spitfires on the underside of which the profile of a Bf 109 had been painted. This had been so skilfully done that when seen from underneath [they] could easily be mistaken for Bf 109’s”. Following actions “over London” and “west of London” on 4 September, Fliegerkorps IV and V reported the presence of Beaufighters: “In some cases they were mistaken for Me 110s. There seemed to be about one Staffel of them”. Unknown to Bletchley Park, this was elaborated on in the day’s situation report:
In the area south of London, twin-engined fighters appeared for the first time. Recognised as such too late, they were able to shoot down a fairly large number of the Zerstörer which were escorting Zerstörergruppe 210.
Erprobungsgruppe 210 had attacked the Vickers factory at Weybridge, causing serious damage and dreadful casualties. The V./LG 1, flying as escorts, lost four Bf 110 plus one damaged (the German situation report gave a total of 15 Bf 110s lost during the day). The only British fighters involved were Hurricanes and Spitfires; no Beaufighters are known to have been taken part and Fighter Command had just eight at this point, all of them in night fighter squadrons. Rather more reliable intelligence came on 15 August when a Spitfire No. 234 Squadron force-landed at Théville with an extensive list of code nubers for place names on board (e.g. 1 = Bridport, 2 = Seaton, 3 = Exmouth).
The parachute and cable (PAC) system installed for the defence of British aerodromes made an understandable impression. A pilot reported that during a low-level attack on an RAF base, sone of the AA shells fired had “expelled wires which were apparently held in the air by small parachutes about 10 yards apart”. This was followed four days later by information from Luftflotte 2 that some units had noted how:
The English were using rocket-like projectiles to protect aerodromes against low altitude attacks. These are said to burst at a height of about 50 metres and to emit clouds of vapour and something else, (possibly entangling wires — document was rather illegible at this point)
One aircraft was thought to have fallen to this weapon and more observations were urgently needed, especially about what altitude the rockets reached.
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