Early on the 13th, the unit was advised that heavy radio-beacon 5 was out of order and that it would be notified when it was working again.
From Ultra, the British learned that “a difficult situation” had arisen between KGr. 100 and Armee Oberkommando 4 at Vannes over accommodation. Hauptmann Diekotter of 9. Fliegerdivision explained that Flughafenbereich (Airfield Regional Command) Morlaix had guaranteed accommodation at a hotel for 8 August. Luftgau West France had passed the request to AOK 4 and KGr. 100 was asked contact the army authorities direct if it had any more trouble.
The Gruppe reported its strength as:
At midday, Division instructed the Gruppe to carry out operations that night in accordance with the previous day’s orders. Two hours later KGr. 100 was questioning whether it was bound by the instruction given to KG 40 to break off operations over the (English?) west coast if there was moonlight and less than 6/10 cloud cover. The reply from the Division was that the instruction was cancelled as far as KGr. 100 was concerned and there were no restrictions concerning cloud. Meanwhile, at 13.30 hrs. Kampfgruppe 100 had issued an urgent request for delayed action fuses.
At 19.00 hrs. the unit’s Oblt. Mansfeld was asked to make a prompt report on the start of the night’s operations and half an hour later 9. Fliegerdivision was told that 21 He 111s would take off from 19.50–23.24. This was KGr. 100’s report but the number of aircraft involved is greater than the unit had earlier reported having in France, suggesting that some may have been brought in from one of the German aerodromes.
According to the night’s Home Security Report, at 21.30 hours the Nuffield Aeroplane Factory at Erdington in Birmingham (better known these days as the Castle Bromwich Spitfire shadow factory) was “hit by several bombs reported to have been dropped by 10 Heinkel aircraft [and] considerable damage was caused to three blocks of buildings but to what extent is not yet fully known nor is the result on production yet ascertained.” The initial report was of around 30 casualties.
The German situation report for the night descirbed the attack as follows:
2300 hrs. [GMT+2] Birmingham, Castle Bromwhich, Morris Motor Works
Bombs jettisoned in emergency and mission broken off. 264 SC 50 and 664 incendiary bombs were dropped.
Effects not clearly observed owing to clouds.
However serious Britain’s situation may have been, one Bletchley Park analyst could still indulge in a humorous aside, referring to Aschenbrenner as “the fiery captain” (his name translates as “cinder burner”) when introducing a sequence of messages between him and 9. Fliegerdivision.
At 06.15 hours the Hauptmann reported that all 21 aircraft had been dispatched against target 7461, starting between 19.50 and 23.34 and arriving over their objective between 22.05 on the 13th and 01.43 on the 14th. They had dropped 264 x SC 50 and 664 incendiaries but cloud had prevented any observation of the results. Aircraft unable to attack owing to ”frequency disturbance” (presumably British jamming of the X-Verfahren transmissions) had bombed ground defences instead. Two machines had had engine trouble, one jettisoning its bombs; and a missing Heinkel was thought to have made a forced landing in France, since it had been in W/T and D/F contact during its return flight. The missing aircraft may have been He 111 W.Nr. 5252, 6N+CA for at 10.30 hours on the 14th KGr. 100 reported that something had happened to it while returning from the night’s mission (this may relate to Wakefield’s account of a crewman ordered to bail out over England, only for his pilot to regain control of the bomber soon afterward).
A German aircraft had been reported circling over Brittany’s south coast from 01.30–02.00 hrs. and at 04.00 word came that it had force landed between Bénodet and Pointe de Mousterlin. At the time it was thought be a Ju 88 and a patrol had tried to reach it but been unable to get across the salt marshes. Later, Luftnachrichten Regiment 12 was able to confirm that the machine was under guard and that its crew and wireless gear had been taken to Vannes. During the morning the 9. Fl.Div. was told that it was an He 111 and that it was damaged but the airmen were unhurt. An Hs 126 of Aufklärungsgruppe (H) 41 patrolling the Biscay coastline on 18 August spotted the wreckage of an He 111 marked “DH” on the shore between Hourtin Plage and Plage du Pin Sec.
During the night’s operations, three night fighters had been seen taking off from an aerodrome with a searchlight emplacement, south of Gloucester. Other aircraft thought to be night fighters were seen in the air but none of the bombers had been attacked. Crews had seen red and red-and-white illuminated arrows on the ground which they took to be guidance for fighters. There had been numerous searchlights but nowhere was AA fire very strong (on the other hand the Heinkels had been fired on over France by their own Army’s Flak and the necessary complaints had been lodged). The returning raiders had landed between 00.40 and 04.56 hours.
At 13.50 hours and apparently anxious for validation of the new target-location techniques, the Division asked Aschenbrenner to report whether the previous night’s attack could be taken as successful — given “the procedure employed” was it likely that hits had been obtained? He responded (as per his original report) that exact observation had been precluded by cloud and so a reconnaissance machine must be sent when the weather allowed. One cannot help thinking that the higher command might have worked out that bombing blind meant not being able to see one’s target.
At 08.00 hours, 9. Fliegerdivision announced that operations would probably be flown during the night of 14–15 August and a later signal added that the intended targets were numbers 7419 and 8213. The prospects for the mission prompted a rapid exchange of signals from 18.20 hours onward.
First, Aschenbrenner told his superiors that according to his weather report, cloud was expected from 20.00 and bad weather from 04.00 hours. This would mean his unit dispatching just three Ketten at 23.00 and so he suggested it would be better to go by day on the 15th, so that he could send 25 machines. Approval followed for a day attack if the weather precluded night flying. Aschenbrenner advised that repeated consultation with the Brest weather station pointed to cancellation and that an attack with only a few aircraft in the early hours of the 15th would dilute his unit’s effectiveness. Agreement was duly given to go by daylight.
In the middle of all this, the Gruppenkommandeur, signalled that he was badly in need of a meteorologist since there was only one in Brest. His point was reinforced when Bletchley Park later picked up his complaints that the night’s met forecast had been wrong and the operation need not have been scrubbed.
Aschnebrenner further complained that his newly-assigned group of targets around Liverpool was too far away but that an attack might be possible with new equipment in 10–14 days’ time; he asked instead to be allocated a target just to the east of Bristol. The inference is that at the Heinkels’ operating height it was not currently possible to pick up the intersection of the X-Verfahren beams as far away as Merseyside.
During the day the unit requested a replacement for W.Nr. 2424, 6N+LK which had crashed near Köthen on 6 August.
continued on next page …
PART TWO OF FIVE