torpedotag

Beginnings

A Kampfgruppe 126 has been identified (12/6/40). It is probably connected with Fliegerdivision I.

(ULTRA CX/JQ/38)

A prisoner of war says there is a 600 kilo torpedo which has been specially designed for release from aircraft … the He 111 [can carry] a pair, … externally beneath the fuselage [and] released simultaneously with a slight difference in the rudder setting in order to straddle the target.

(A.I. 1 (k) Report No. 890, 14 November 1940)

At least three authors have written about the shooting down of KGr. 126’s Oblt. Helmut Lorenz in November 1940, suggesting that at the time he was engaged in the first operational torpedo trials with the He 111. In fact his first sorties had taken place at least three months earlier.

Note: The British knew that Lorenz had obtained his Oberleutnant’s seniority in 1932 and had been posted to the 5th U-Boat Flotilla in October 1937; from this they inferred that he had acquired expertise with torpedoes.

Kampfgruppe 126's composition and location had come to British attention in a signal of 16 June mentioning that the unit had 26 He 111 based at Marx in Niederscachsen, North Germany. As early as 8 July 1940 the aerodrome of Lanvéoc-Poulmic was allocated for use by a Küstenfliegergruppe. It measured 1100 x 1200 metres, had four hangars and was considered suitable for all types of aircraft; known to the Luftwaffe as Brest-Süd, it was given Field Post Number L 33679. A week later a message giving out call-signs and code groups offered “reason to believe that KGr. 126 might be carrying out operations” against Britain. On the 22nd came a cluster of signals about an Fw 200 from KG 40 and four He 111s of KGr. 126 arriving in Lanvéoc to take on fuel for an operation (later cancelled). Orders for a KG 40 mission from Brest during the night of 23/24 July mentioned that KGr. 126’s zone went “as far as Objective 30” and some of its aircraft landed at Lanvéoc early on the 24th (all times GMT):

02.55 1J+KH [sic: probable error for 1T+KH]

03.58 1T+KL

04.12 1T+HL

04.28 1T+EL

At least one more KGr. 126 machine was present because it was announced that 1T+BL wouldKM060840 probably leave the airfield that night. Midway through the afternoon, 9. Fliegerdivision asked Lanvéoc for weather reports every 90 minutes, deciding at 18.15 hrs. that conditions were too bad for an operation known as »Domino« to proceed. He 111 1T+HL was still at Brest on the afternoon of the 26th.

Torpedoes and mines

It is now revealed that KGr. 126 dropped the 1,000th aerial mine in British waters during the night of 26 July. The formation deserves special commendation for its indefatigable and courageous activity under most difficult weather conditions and against strong defence.

Kriegsmarine War Diary

The first sign of what later proved to be torpedo operations from Lanvéoc came on 28 July when the control tower reported that 1T+BH with Oblt. zur See Lorenz aboard had set off on an operation early that morning and had returned by 12.30 hrs. At 15.45, Lorenz sent a report on his mission to KG 40 in Oldenburg. Orders had also been given for him to report to 9. Fliegerdivision. Meanwhile, word was given that an altermative airfield in Western Frnace was to be prepared for KGr. 126 and Oberleutnant August Weil was appointed Kommandant of Brest-Lanvéoc and Poulmic.

Aircraft 1T+DL arrived at Lanvéoc at 02.32 on the 29th while 1T+BB and 1T+FL (this last probably He 111 H-4 W.Nr. 3263) landed at at 04.00 hours, all having completed their tasks; the same machines left for Marx at 05.49. Three of the unit’s He 111 were also reported landing at Marx on the morning of the 30th. On 2 August a Hauptmann Gies notified KG 40 that the torpedo workshop of Brest-Süd was fully operational. Nothing more was heard until 5 August when Lorenz set down at 17.05 hrs., after bad weather scrubbed operations. Also on the 5th, Fliegerdivision 9 was advised of the delivery of 90 parachute mines, while an advance party of mine technicians had reached Brest’s harbour railway station.

On the 6th, Lorenz was again kept from operating by the weather and reported that for the next few days the moon’s phase would be unsuitable anyway. On 7 August, a three-strong party of mine testers arrived and torpedo technicians were among those ordered to assist them. Next evening, Lorenz again reported that he had not operated (unnecessarily since he had already explained that there would be a hiatus). On the 9th he advised that in the target area the moon currently went down at 22.03 hrs. but he expected to be back in action within a night or two.

Still not flying on the 10th, Lorenz signalled that orders had been given for “LT operations” in the Brest area (correctly interpreted by Bletchley as torpedo-dropping) but tactical reports were only to be sent in exceptional cases.

continued on next page…

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