April–May 1944

April’s transformation of III. and IV./Fl.ZG 2 into Geschwader Bongart was presumably with combat in mind and the crews and aircraft are likely to have needed preparation for their changed role. Larry de Zeng has written that the Geschwaderstab moved to Bourges on 15 April, with operations commencing a month later. Fliegerzielgeschwader 2 came to Bletchley Park’s attention via a routine communication in May when the 12. Staffel was stationed at Cazaux, south west of Bordeaux. At that time it seems still to have been carrying out its normal duties since at 18.00 hrs on the 17th it informed the Kriegsmarine’s 8th Destroyer Flotilla at Royan that it could not provide an aircraft: the Ju 88 was still out of commission and no other aircraft was available. The unit was in Châteauroux a month later but the date of its transfer is not known.

The 8. Staffel lost Reggiane Re. 2002 W.Nr. 1282 at Mons-en-Chausée (presumably on or by the airfield) on 5 May and Ofw. Walter Hartnack was killed. Eleven days later, Hptm. Gottlieb Blank was killed when his Bü 133 C-1 (W.Nr. 1127) crashed on Aix L’Enfant airfield. On the afternoon of 24 May, another Re. 2002 of 8./Fl.ZG 2 (W.Nr. 1260) suffered engine trouble on take-off from Toul (about 260 km ESE of Paris) for a test flight. The pilot, Fw. Josef Knollmayer, was injured in the ensuing crash and his aircraft was 60–70% damaged. Knollmayer died later that day in Toul’s military hospital.

Note: The Allies already had evidence that the Luftwaffe might employ the Reggiane fighter, having deciphered a message that 17 of the type had left Treviso bound for Neuburg an der Donau in the space of a quarter-hour on the morning of 11 March:

W.Nr. 1118 , 1126, 1134, 1143, 1166, 1179, 1181, 1221, 1229, 1232, 1233, 1235, 1236, 1237, 1250, 1252 and 1255.

Two of these machines will reappear later in this story.

 

June 1944

1-2 June

The Auvergne Resistance had mobilised on 20 May and a group about 3,000-strong had gathered on Mont Mouchet, north of Paulhac-en-Margeride. The Germans knew about all this and:

The aerial reconaissances [they] carried out enabled them to reconstruct the organisation of the Mont Mouchet redoubt, evaluate its armament and understand its means of supply … On the night of 1/2 June, the men of the 2nd Company were standing guard … the previous day the Mouchard (German spotter plane) had overflown the plateau where the cars and lorries were parked … This was the prelude to a probing attack on 2 June; the main assault would not follow for several days yet.

5 June

On the eve of the Allied landings, 7./Fl.ZG 2 lost an aircraft to friendly fire. Oberfeldwebel Walter Lorenz (Re. 2002 W.Nr. 1281) was reported shot down by an Fw 190 near Épernay. There is no corresponding victory claim but the incident took place in the area where the Focke-Wulfs of Stab and I./JG 26 were then based. It is possible that the Reggiane had been mistaken for a “razorback” P-47, a type it superficially resembled.

6–7 June

Hauptmann Heinz Wichelhaus, Kapitän of 11./Fliegerzielgeschwader 2, sent a request for an He 111, CK+PV to be flown over to Châteauroux at once “for Fw. Wielhert.”

In response to a series of Maquis actions instigated by a BBC message the night before, German troops arrived in Crest. They were fired on by the Résistants, the fight continuing into the early evening before the insurgents were forced to pull out. The Germans were assisted in this action by a spotter plane.

Major Zandt (Kommandeur of the IV. Gruppe) was advised that Oberst Bongart had made an intermediate landing at Orléans-Bricy on the 7th, where his aircraft was damaged by “English fighters” (more likely American ones). Zandt was asked to send a W. 34 to pick up the crew of the damaged machine. The same day, “Kommodore Bongart” signalled from Bourges to Maj. Resch of his 10. Staffel in Aix-Les Milles: this unit was not to transfer but to remain where it was. However, one aircraft with photographic equipment was to be sent at once to Bourges and if any photographic personnel were available they should be sent on in another machine. This reference to the 10. Staffel not transferring suggests that a move had been envisaged, from which it could be inferred that the Invasion was to have triggered a redeployment of the Geschwader’s elements to operational bases.

8 June

On 6 June, the Combat resistance group had briefly seized control of Saint-Amand-Montrond (40 km SSW of Bourges) from the Vichy Milice but pulled out on the evening of the 7th. At around 0500 the next morning the Germans arrived and began “shooting at everything that moved”. They were supported by at least one aircraft, as recalled by an eyewitness interviewed by researcher Philippe Canonne:

German soldiers were everywhere. We understood that something special was coming [and] were trying to find a hiding place in our house when we heard an aircraft over the town. It flew over several times at low altitude … [but it] was too low and hit a tree … It crashed an caught fire immediately, no chance for the pilot to escape.

M. Canonne has been able to identify the aircraft as Fw 190 A-8 W.Nr. 0234, flown by Fähnrich Johann Köster who died in the crash. The pilot was a member of the Jagdlehrer Überprüfungsgruppe (fighter instructor testing group). This unit had recently left, or was in the process of leaving, Orange-Caritat. Since Kößler was on an operation, he may well have been a member of the Gruppe’s operational component, the Einsatzstaffel.

NOTE: He may also be the pilot identified as “Köstler, Hans, Unteroffizier, 2./JGr.Süd” in a list of Jagdgruppe Süd airmen compiled by Klaus Fischer, Lino von Gartzen and others.

His aircraft however poses a different question: if it was an A-8 (a type usually referred to by a six-digit Werk Nummer) then it did not come from the Überprüfungsgruppe which had never had that recently-introduced model on its strength and did not record any Fw 190 losses during June. It is perhaps possible that the unlucky machine had belonged to Ergänzungsjagdgruppe Süd whose 1. Staffel was likewise based at Caritat. That Gruppe had begun the month with 34 of the A-8 and recorded just one lost — “not through enemy action” — which can however be accounted for by another incident.

continued on next page …

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