With effect from 1 April 1944, three aircrew had been transferred to the Kommando from IV./KG 40: Gefr. Migge (pilot), Uffz. Jöckel (pilot) and Gefr. Kessel (wireless operator); there may have been others but the message was only intercepted in part. It was also learned during April that the Kommando had a “development section” (»Aufbaugr.«) and “Battle HQ" (i.e. Gefechtsstand) in Pont-Rousseau-Rezé, an area of Vannes south of the River Loire and a few kilometres east of the airfield. Another source states that Kunkel maintained close co-operation with the Werneuchen radar research station. On the 9th Fliegerkorps X instructed ZG 1 to remove FuG 212 radars from all Ju 88 C-6 aircraft. These sets were to be handed over to Kdo. Kunkel which would in turn arrange have any unserviceable ones repaired by a technical support unit. The instruction does not explain why ZG 1 had aircraft with interception radar fitted in the first place.
Nothing was heard of any flying in the first 10 days of the month but on the 11th, Ju 88 ‘C’ was homing on Nantes from 0110–0307. Six days later, four Ju 88 were due to be up from 2245 to fly out over La Raise (on a headland 16 km south of Saint Nazaire) and back in over La Rochelle by 0100; NQ+UF was called by its ground station at 0104.
A pair of Ju 88s was due to patrol from Nantes, starting at 2105 on 20 April but left no trace in W/T intercepts. There was however a pencilled note added to the British monitoring report: “see 8 AIR for encounter with a Wellington”. A lone Ju 88 was intended to be up from 2245 on the 24/25th and three at the same time on 26/27th. On the 30th the intention was for two Ju 88 from 2215 and at 0242 on 1 May a Wellington was attacked by two aircraft about 450 km WSW Nantes.
The 22nd of May saw a Kdo. Kunkel observer, Fw. Hermann Schmatz, recommended for the Iron Cross 1st Class. He had completed 30 Feindflüge (flights against the enemy): 16 longer than four hours, 14 shorter. As for accredited victories, he was said to have shot down a Mosquito on 10 October 1943 and assisted in the probable destruction of a second; on 8 November he had taken part in a combat with two Liberators, both of which crashed; and on 2 and 4 May he had taken part in the shooting down of two four-engined bombers. These last two successes show that Schmatz was a member of Ltn. Artur Ewert’s crew (see below).
On 2 May, in a mission which escaped British monitoring, three of Kdo. Kunkel’s Ju 88s were assigned to freelance night fighting against a Bomber Command raid on Toulouse, and at 2350 Ewert claimed a Halifax probably destroyed. In fact there were no losses from amongst the 131 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitoes which No. 5 Group despatched to this target. Aeronautics and explosives factories were destroyed and the Pont d’Empalot badly damaged, 45 of the population were killed and 65 injured.
The next night, the RAF attacked an extensive Wehrmacht depot and barracks at Mailly-le-Camp in Eastern France. Luftflotte 3 threw in everything it had against the attack: as well as 10 Fw 190 of I./SKG 10 and five Me 410 of II./KG 51, four of Kunkel’s Ju 88s took off from 2135 for freelance night fighting. Artur Ewert claimed a four-engined aircraft about 53 km south of Paris at 2258 hours. Luftflotte 3’s Operations Officer’s report on the raid noted the unit’s contribution:
Fliegerkorps X … Against raids in are Paris–Étampes–Le Mans: four Ju 88, of which one Ju 88 contacted the enemy … Victories: one four-egined aircraft shot down for certain. No losses.
Bomber Command lost 46 Lancasters on this operation but Ewert was the only one from his unit to contact the enemy. This overland operation generated wireless traffic involving NL+DM (position fix 139 km East of Royan at 0109, unsuccessfully called 0122–0214); NL+DP (position fix about 8 km SW Chartres at 2327 and landing there 11 minutes later); ‘F’ in contact with Nantes a minute after midnight).
Notice was given that two Ju 88s would be up from Nantes to carry out one of their customary patrols from 2210 on 6 May but nothing was heard to confirm that these actually took place. A Wellington was attacked by two Ju 88 at 0058 hours on 13 May although on this occasion there had been no intelligence to suggest a night fighter operation would ensue and it is interesting that for the first time the British weekly appreciation of the Kommando’s operations warns “but possibly others [happened] without our knowledge”.
In Berlin on 23 May orders were given to establish a new 9./(Nacht)/ZG 1 within III./ZG 1, drawing on the personnel and equipment of Jagdkommando 1./128 and Nachtjagdkommando Kunkel. This was to be accomplished by 1 July. Nothing more was heard by the Allies until the 26th when warning was given that two Ju 88 would be taking off from Nantes at 2300 hours (one source suggests that Kunkel himself shot down an unidentified aircraft over the Bay on 27 May, which may tie in with this sortie). The diary of the Seekriegsleitung for the 27th states that: “Three Ju 88 were deployed on night fighting over Biscay. 1 kill”. Three Ju 88 were scrambled from Nantes at 2300 on the 28th, apparently in response to a raid by eight Mosquitoes and 118 Lancasters (one of which was lost) on rail targets in Angers. Enough bombs fell wide of their targets to destroy 800 buildings and leave 254 French people dead and 220 injured. The month ended with a patrol by four Ju 88 from 2201 hrs. but again no W/T was intercepted.
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PART FOUR OF SEVEN