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, carried 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 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+BK would 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

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.

Aircraft 1T+DL arrived at Lanvéoc at 02.32 on the 29th while 1T+BB and 1T+FL 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. 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.

Torpedoes and bombs

Late on 11 August, a Luftwaffe signals unit reported that raiders had dropped 20–26 HE and incendiary bombs on Lanvéoc’s northern perimeter and adjoining open country. Three men had been killed, three seriously injured and 12–15 slightly hurt among signals and army construction personnel; base personnel had suffered burns. Two more bombs, one a dud, had fallen into the sea south of the Naval Academy without doing any damage. Lorenz had apparently missed all this for he landed in 1T+BH at 01.45 hours while just over an hour later, 1T+GL arrived in Lanvéoc from Marx.

In the early hours of the 13th, Brest’s radio beacon was ordered to stay on until 06.00 for Lorenz’s aircraft. Back on the ground he reported that at 21.40 hrs. the previous evening he had attacked a cargo vessel of about 6,000 tons in the southern exit of St. George’s Channel. Both his torpedoes had dropped successfully but despite the close range and just 1º difference in their set angle, one had passed ahead and one astern of the target. He had seen 10–15 similar ships in the area, apparently an inbound convoy (possibly HG 40 which arrived off Milford Haven on the morning of the 13th).

Trawlers bombed and machine gunned 12/8, 20 miles off Smalls [Lighthouse, Pembrokeshire]. Kerneval hit below [waterline] by cannon and m.g. bullets. Riverythan engines damaged by near miss bomb. 2 casualties in Ermine and Kerneval.

(Admiralty War Diary)

Lanvéoc was bombed again on the 13th, a Bf 109 being put out of commission and another damaged. Three men were injured, two of them seriously (the Admiralty noted that four Blenheims had attacked aerodromes in NW France and seaplane bases at Brest, St. Brieuc, Querqueville and Dinant). Lorenz expected to take off again that evening, probably at 18.45 hrs., and asked for radio beacons 13, 14 and 15 (Cherbourg, St. Malo and Brest respectively) to be switched on until morning. It was also announced that at 19.50 hrs., Fliegerdivision 9 would be sending 21 Heinkels north of the Thames to take part in harassing attacks and mining .

During the day, KG 40 was instructed to report to the Division on every torpedo attack after the completion of the operational trials and by 25 August at the latest; after that, daily reports would be required.

continued on next page…

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