On 15 October, the Naval Communications Officer in Bergen reported that an He 219, B4+AA, had taken off at 14.00 hrs. in company with Bf 110s B4+IA and B4+LA, en route over the Skagerrak to Lista. Operational Watch suggested their mission may have been convoy escort. Two Bf 110s (their unit not stated) took off from Bodø for Trondheim at 10.00 hrs. on the 17th; two more leavinf for Tromsø at the same time next morning. The Navy reported that a Ju 88 with the B4 code had been at Vaernes on the 19th; Operational Watch noted a Ju 88 and three Bf 110 “(B4 series)” leaving Vaernes that morning for Lista. Altogether more vague was this British report for the 24 hours from dawn on the 25th:
2 Me 110 and 1 Ju 88 of [Fliegerführer] 4 are reported to have scrambled at some time during the day but failed to make contact.
German night fighters guarded the entrance to the Baltic from both shores and a Ju 88 was up from Aalborg-Ost, Denmark between 00.23 and 02.22 hours on the 28th. Two days earlier, F/O E.C.A. Pilkington of Bletchley Park’s Air Section had issued his report “Present bomber and heavy fighter position in Norway”, including the following paragraph:
B4 series: This first came up on 12/10. Unit consists of at least 1 He 219, 3 Ju 88 and 5 Me 110. They have come up since 12/10 in the BODOE, TRONDHEIM and LISTER areas and there is no clear indication of a single base. The markings of this unit are so arranged that it is unlikely that they possess more than 4 Ju 88, and they are therefore probably not ZG 26 renamed. They probably came from the FINNISH theatre.
The recipient of copy No. 107 of this paper pencilled in the margin: “Night Fighter Staffel FINLAND.”
After Finland signed an armistice with the Soviet Union on 19 September, Luftwaffe units had to quit the country, the Nachtjagdstaffel among them. It was to be another two months before it changed its name however. Based in Norway its potential targets included civil air traffic between Britain and Sweden, supply drops to the Norwegian Resistance; minelayers over the Skagerrak and Kattegat; Bomber Command raids routed over the area; and RAF anti-shipping missions.
On 10 November, Oberst Bongart of Luftgau VI sent a message to Hüschens in Lista asking for luggage to be sent by courier to the Flak barracks at Lappstadt. When deciphered, this apparently trivial communication confirmed to the Allies the Staffel’s present location. On the 18th, the unit was addressed at Lista and Hptm. Hüschens reported as Staffelkapitän to Jafü Norwegen that his unit had ten aircraft, as follows:
Next day at 23.00 hrs. the coastal defence authorities at Kristiansand-South (also the location of a “fighter area battle HQ”) sent out notice of an inter-service conference on the 21 November about establishing night fighter operations over the coast from Oslo to Bergen. The 21st also brought two Ju 88 sorties: the Kriegsmarine in Frederikshavn reported one had taken off “for Grove for night fighting” at 21.18 hours and another from Kristiansand-South a minute later for the same purpose. One of the aircraft involved suffered damage but this was not attributable to emeny action.
Six days later, the Admiral commanding the Skagerrak signalled that from then on the Luftwaffe would be undertaking “dark night fighting” along the coast from Oslo to Stavanger. It is perhaps a tribute to the RAF’s Strike Wings that he reiterated that in principle vessels along the coast, including Oslofjord and the Kattegat, had permission to fire on aircraft at all heights, by day and night. One of the night fighters operating on the 27th was damaged by an hostile aircraft’s gunfire but this damage was classed as “not observed by enemy”).
Meanwhile, at 18.00 hours on the 26th, Bf 110s B4+CA and B4+JA were scrambled from Lista and two unidentified aircraft operating from Farsund (i.e. Lista) between 20 hrs..05 and 22.48 the following night were thought by Operational Watch to possibly belong to “Nightfighter Staffel Finland.”
The Navy was directed to report to Jafü Norwegen each day by 16.00 hours the areas in which there were no convoys and the times this would apply. As a basic principle, night fighting would not be undertaken at less than 200 metres’ altitude in the vicinity of convoys. Even over 200 metres, the fighters would be operating at their at own risk. No aircraft were recorded as lost to enemy action in 1944 but the normal hazards of aviation persisted (perhaps intensified by operating over water and mountains, if not naval Flak). A Bf 110 G-4/R3 was lost in September; two more G-4/R3s and a G-4 in November; and a further G-4 in December.
In an order dated 23 November, the unit’s name was changed from Finnland to Norwegen to reflect its new situation. During December new pilots were transferred in, including: on the 4th Hptm. Joachim Vogt and Obltn. Walter Schulze, both from III./NJG 2; on the 26th Ltn. Werner Rose from I./NJG 6. New aircraft also arrived during the month: a repaired Bf 110 G-4, a new Bf 110 G-4/R6 and three new Ju 88 G-6s. Voigt was quickly successful, bringing down Stirling "S for Sugar" of No. 620 Squadron on the night of the 28/29th. On the last night of the year. Ofw. Kurt Keilig took off in Ju 88 G-1 B4+DA, claiming a Lancaster (PB134 of No. 83 Squadron) at 01.47 hours on 1 January 1945. One of the Staffel’s aircraft incurred damage on operations that night but this was not through enemy action.
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PART TWO OF FOUR
Nachtjagdstaffel Norwegen in 1945