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9–10 June

One unit was bowing out of the anti-partisan war. Jagdkorps II’s Chief of Staff signalled on 9 June that as Ergänzungsjagdgruppe Süd was moving from Southern France to the Reich, those of its aircraft being used for such operations were being withdrawn. However:

… other available aircraft [some words missing] are ready for operations, can be temporarily made available.

At midday, Geschwader Bongart was summoned into action by Luftflotte 3. A “weak” Flak unit defending the Marèges hydro-electric dam on the River Dordogne was menaced by “terrorists” massing nearby (they had been surrounding it since 6 June) and Bongart was ordered to reconnoitre the position and mount an offensive mission if necessary. The dam lies in a thickly-wooded valley whose sides rise 150 m or more above the level of the reservoir and the Maquis were apparently on the heights. Later that day, the 10. Staffel signalled its parent IV. Gruppe in Bourges that the defenders were surrounded and the Flak Brigade had requested a supporting attack. The Staffel said that it could operate from Clermont-Ferrand with two He 46 right away, or three in two days’ time. (Since Clermont is about 300 km from Aix, it seems that 10./Fl.ZG 2 had aircraft in more than one place). Nevertheless it clearly thought that greater striking power might be needed, asking for the attachment of two Bf 109 or Bf 110 from the 11. Staffel.

The Resistance threat was multiplying across the country. That afternoon the base command at Valence-La Trésorerie in the Rhône Valley reported to the Abwehr that “strong bands of terrorists” at Combovin posed a direct threat to the aerodrome.

NOTE: Combovin lay south east of Valence-La Trésorerie, about 12 km away by road. It was where the Resistance in the Drôme Départment had its HQ.

These groups had fired on German reconnaissance aircraft and were thought to possess heavy machine-guns and anti-aircraft weapons. Valence seemed beset by uprisings: since 06.00 hrs. that day the Resistance had been fighting German forces near Romans-sur-Isère while in the early hours of 8 June there had been a surprise attack on a depot at St. Rambert D’Albon; and an assault by 200 men on a bridge at Tournon-sur-Rhône had been repulsed. In addition, one or two bombers were requested for an attack on insurgents near Chabeuil (4 km south east of the aerodrome) whose positions were hard for ground forces to approach.

Guéret (a town of about 10,000 people, 60 km NE of Limoges) had been seized by the Resistance on 7 June, some of the cadets from the town’s school for Vichy Garde paramilitaries going over to them. Apparently the Germans had sent over a reconnaissance plane that evening and forces were then assembled to retake the town, a column setting out from Montluçon early on the 9th. Heralding the ground assault, an aircraft flew over Guéret, shooting at anything that moved, driving the inhabitants to seek shelter. It was followed by another ten machines which strafed and bombed. Although houses and commercial premises collapsed; in the town centre there was (reportedly) not a single home or shop undamaged and the streets were carpeted with broken glass. Remarkably, a resident, Jacques Poudensan, was able to photograph an He 111 banking over the rooftops of the town. Some 8 km south of the town, a column of retreating Garde vehicles was attacked by German fighter bombers (GMT+2) with three vehicles set ablaze. Other parties withdrawing into the countryside that morning were also strafed. There were few casualties but some of the groups were dispersed. Witnesses estimated that between two and four fighters were involved, one suggesting that the He 111 was acting as a flying command post since it was not seen to take any offensive action.A prisoner from Pz.Gren. Regt. 4 Der Führer (2. SS-Pz. Div.) described the destruction in Guéret:

While on a patrol, my [11.] company drove through the town of Guéret. The place had completely burned down and was still smoking a bit. I don’t know who burned it. Anyway, I saw many houses burned down beside the main roads.

Maquisards had occupied Valréas, 27 km south east of Montélimar, on the 8th, cutting communication lines and barricading roads. The Luftwaffe responded by shooting up these barricades on 9 June and again two days later. The Resistance claimed to have brought dow one machine and damaged another with Bren Gun fire. In the ground assault which followed, the Germans employed 60 Luftwaffe personnel, 50 from the Army and six armoured cars; on 12 June they reported killing 70 “terrorists” and capturing and shooting another 70. Aircraft later dropped leaflets claiming that 110 hostages had been shot in reprisal for the Resistance’s actions.

The day 642 civiilans were murdered by the 2. SS-Pz. Div. at Oradour-sur-Glane, 10 June, also saw an evening attack on Tarbes in the Hautes-Pyrénées. As described in the clandestine news sheet, « L’Écho des Femmes »:

Lacking any concentration of material or troops of the resistance organisations which could justify this aggression, Tarbes was bombed on 10 June by the Luftwaffe, and passers-by machine-gunned pitilessly by aircraft flying at rooftop height.

Modern sources suggest that six people were killed and that buildings were damaged in the rue Ferrère and rue Lordat. The German impression (Army Group G war diary for 8 June) however was “Tarbes infested with guerillas” and the town’s own website notes with pride that “during the Second World War the Resistance … formed part of the daily life of the city of Tarbes, as attested to by the [award of] the Croix de Guerre”. In response to his protests, the German authorities demanded that the mayor, Maurice Trélut should sign a document stating that the attack was none of their doing. The farcical document rejected by Trélut blamed the attack on “unknown aircraft bearing the markings of the Luftwaffe”; his refusal saw him deported to his death in Buchenwald. Aside from its own airfields (in use for fighter training until May) Tarbes lies well within reach of Mont-de-Marsan and Toulouse-Blagnac and it is quite possible that the Germans sought, as in so many places that summer, to intimidate the local populace but I have not yet found any description of the aircraft involved or their number, not even the usual reference to black crosses.

Also that day, Station Command E222/XII at Dijon-Longvic reported the presence of a Do 17 E of 9./FZG 2, in a brief message that was Ultra’s first mention of the 9. Staffel.

11–12 June

The 11th brought congratulations from Hptm. Rudolf Gräber, Luftflotte 3’s Operations Officer (Air) to Bongart “on your success of yesterday”, unfortunately without saying what or where this might have been. Also that day, IV./Fl.ZG 2 asked Orléans where it might get ration-dropping containers, suggesting that a supply mission had been ordered. In another pointer to recent operations, Bongart himself sought expedited delivery of Italian bombs as his stocks had been used up. He also sought the “speedy allocation” of three bomber observers, three reconnaissance observers and two photographic personnel. His other request was for the whereabouts of ZG 1 which had been ordered at 22.00 hrs. to move its serviceable elements and ground crews to Bourges where they would be subordinated to him; lorry space and fuel vouchers were requested for this transfer.

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