What the British called “Fighter Detachment 1.(F)/128 — Brest” intended to send five Fw 190s out over the coast at 10.03 hrs., returning between 11.30 and noon. A second mission proposed for later in the morning was called off. Next day, four Fw 190s were due out at 09.48, bound for “14 West 891” on a flight due to last 90–120 minutes; another four were to set out at 14.08 hrs.
On the 4th the intention was for five aircraft to take off at 15.00 hrs. from “14 West 5967” (presumably Lanvéoc) and cross the coast at the customary point, “14 West 5959”, three minutes later. Once again were due to return within 1½–2 hours. Effort increased the following day with two flights planned, each six strong, from 09.03 and 11.18 hrs. respectively. The first was to go as far as 15 West 8055 (in the Western Approaches), the second “to westward.”
At 02.37 hrs., Halifax of No. 58 Sqn. dropped six depth charges on U-415 (Oblt. Herbert Werner) about 160 km SSW of Brest. The submarine fired back before diving but it had suffered damage and cover by Ju 88s was promised from first light. It is clear whether this materialsed but Fw 190s had taken off of 07.12 hrs. to assist the stricken boat. The Staffel flew more patrols during the day: by six Focke-Wulfs at 07.45 and four more at 13.33 hrs. This was the last that British codebreakers and radio monitors were to hear of 1./SAGr. 128 for more than three weeks.
Notice was given of two patrols on the 28th” by six Fw 190s from Brest-Lanvéoc at noon and by two more from the same airfield at 13.35 hrs. Next day five were to fly out at 07.15 hrs.
A message was sent to the Technical Officer of I./ZG 1 confirming that an Fw 190 G-3 (WNr. 160337) had been taken over from "G.A.F. Station (smudge) Land."
The Technical Officer of I./ZG 1 was told that a Fw 190 G-3 (WNr. 160821, “8”) was being handed over to the Luftwaffe land aircraft workshop at Brest-South. At 10.27 hrs. the same day, "fighter detachment 1/128" reported that this aircraft had stalled while landing at Brest from an “air screening” sortie (presumably for naval forces). The Focke-Wulf had touched down violently and broken the diagonal bracing strut of its left oleo leg. Damage to the airframe was assessed at 8–10% and a replacement was “urgently necessary.” Leutnant Heinz Bichler emerged uninjured, however. Presumably his aircraft had been one of the six that were up at 09.50 GMT for a flight to the West, although if so it returned earlier than originally intended.
Today’s patrol was to take off at 10.35 hrs., fly to “14 West 58 and 68” and return within the usual timescale.
At 13.07 hours on 14 February, an Fw 190 (WNr. 1466, “+10”) was coming in to land at Brest-South after bombing practice. Failure of an electrical circuit meant that its flaps would not come down and it landed at too high a speed. The aircraft itself was about 10% damaged—and again its replacement was urgently necessary—but pilot Ltn. Heinrich Greuner was unhurt.
The 1./SAG 128 was deleted from a Fliegerführer Atlantik signals list and 10./ZG 1 was added. The British Government Code and Cypher School deduced from this that 10./ZG 1 was the “fighter detachment” renamed. This view was reinforced by the knowledge that the “new” unit was based at the same airfield, Brest-South.
A patrol by four Fw 190s from 07.03 hrs. was thought by the British to be covering the return to St. Nazaire of U-714 (Oblt. Hans-Joachim Schwebcke). This boat was carrying the survivors of U-545 (Kptlt. Gert Mannesmann) which been attacked on 10 February by two Wellingtons (from Nos. 407 (RCAF) and 612 Sqns.). Despite shooting the Canadian machine down, U-545 had been crippled and was scutttled after the other boat arrived to rescue her men.
On 2 March, Fliegerführer Atlantik announced that four Fw 190s were going to cross the coast at 07.03 hours and only 100 m. altitude. They were due back between 90 minutes and two hours later at the same height and place. That operation was then cancelled but rescheduled for 13.03, all other details remaining the same. The profile of this mission suggests that it too was to provide screening for naval units. The Operational Watch report for the day, which drew on Y-Service information as well as ULTRA, gave the following sorties:
09.00: 4 Fw 190
11.00: 2 Fw 190
13.00: 4 Fw 190
Each patrol lasted about two hours, so cover was essentially continuous.
On the 6th, four Fw 190 were due to cross the coast at 08.03, returning between 09.30 and 10.00 hrs. This was the unit’s last operation over the Bay of Biscay detected by British Intelligence.
The 10./ZG 1 (now subordinated to X. Fliegerkorps) reported to a Senior Signals Officer that six of its aircraft were equipped with FuG 25A IFF sets.
A report which rather perplexed British Intelligence revealed that five Fw 190s, two officer and four NCO pilots of 10./ZG 1 had left Lyon-Bron along with six non-commissioned and enlisted technical personnel. The analysts had seen no evidence of any prior transfer away from Brest-South where 10./ZG 1 had last been located.
On 11 April, Fw. Rudolf Schoenbach was recommended for the Iron Cross First Class, having completed 118 Fw 190 sorties: 105 over the Atlantic and 13 against French Resistance forces on the Savoie Plateau. That operation appears to have been the Staffel’s swansong, British Intelligence detecting no further Biscay patrols by its Fw 190s during April. The unit did lose an Fw 44 (W.Nr. 1564) in a crash landing on the 11th, however.
On 19 April, Hptm. Georg Borchert (Kapitän of 10./ZG 1) handed over his Staffel’s personnel and equipment “in good order” to III./ZG 1 for the building up of its 9. Staffel. A detailed strength return from ZG 1 on the 11th had mentioned neither the 9. nor the 10. Staffeln. Borchert himself went on to serve with 4./JG 2.
These are a few incidents in the unit’s life between January and April 1944, deciphered from sporadic Luftwaffe signals traffic as well as interception of ordinary wireless traffic.
All times are GMT.
© Nick Beale 2006–15