August 1942

KesselringOOD

The earliest contemporary reference I have so far found to Kommando Koch itself is from 1 August 1942 when Ob. Süd was allocating infra-red telescopes to Luftwaffe units. The purpose of this Nachtsuchgerät (night search device) was defensive: it would show heat sources—a night fighter’s exhaust for example—as a yellow or reddish spot of light, and three of them were issued to Kdo. Koch. Although this offers us a date by which the Kommando was in, or destined for, the Mediterranean Theatre, the unit is not readily identifiable in the (often incomplete and obscure) order of battle reports transmitted at that time. It was not until the 16th that Fliegerkorps X gave figures for two unnamed units—with 3 (0) and 3 (2) aircraft—one of which may have been the Kommando.

Nachtsuchgerät … detects a night fighter … by mean of two telescopes [Gläser], each of length 18 cm and diameter 8 cm … The apparatus can in some cases be connected via an amplifier to a warning system, a modification known as "Armin" … Prisoners of war have indicated that each telescope is attached to a 2 millimetre cannon [sic] pointing rearward like a sight, so that the telescope “looks” in the same direction as the gun and has a field of view of 30º.

AIr Ministry to RAF Middle East, 4 August 1942

NOTE: According to Ob. Süd, the Nachtsuchgerät was also shortened to NSG and nicknamed Katze (cat), Katzenauge (cat’s eye) or Handspanner (hand-peeper) and it had been successfully tested by Luftflotte 3 at a range of 800 metres. Deliveries to Ob. Süd had been due to start on 15 May.

Two Ju 88 carrying Caruso were operating on the night of 1/2 August, apparently in connection with an attack by aircraft of I./LG 1 on tanks and vehicles near El Alamein. At 2240 hours on the 3rd/4th, a lone Caruso-equipped Ju 88 operated in support of an Italian attack on Valetta, Malta. On 2 August an He 111, GJ+JH flew from Kalamaki to Heraklion, Crete; Allied Signals Intelligence overheard its wireless traffic but did not yet know that it belonged to Kdo. Koch.

NOTE: He 111 H-6, W.Nr. 7424, GJ+JH would be 15% damaged in a crash landing at Stolp-Reitz on 10 May 1944. At that time it was serving with the Beauftragter für Hochfrequenzforschung (Commissioner for High Frequency Research), Travemünde. (Information courtesy of Norbert Schuchbauer).

Whilst aircraft were escorting Axis convoys throughout that summer, the night of 4/5 August stands out as the first time (to British knowledge) that an He 111 of Kommando Koch was involved. It was in the air from 2025–0300 GMT and there were “strong indications that [it] operated against British recce aircraft near [an] Axis convoy”. Shortly afterwards it was learned that:

One aircraft successfully carried out Wildschwein [wild boar] operation until both apparatus failed.

It is impossible to be sure what “both apparatus” meant: two jamming sets, transmitter and monitoring receiver or some other permutation of electronics? Three nights later, a Heinkel was being used to map British visual and radio beacons in the Western Desert. When the Malta-bound Pedestal convoy was approaching the Sicilian Narrows on the 12th, Kesselring’s order of the day urged:

The English are attempting with very strong forces to break through the Sicilian Straits … This must not happen, if the blood of many thousands is not to have flowed in vain. Let every aircrew, every man at a Flak gun, every signals operator at a jamming transmitter be clear on this: this enemy must be brought to his knees.

At this time Air HQ Egypt was urging “the most rigid secrecy” on the subject of jamming, so that the enemy should learn nothing of its effectiveness. In Malta by 5 August five instances of airborne jamming had been encountered and three from ground sources. Two days later the Malta Detachment of No. 89 Squadron summed up its experience:

During the last month numerous cases have occurred of jamming of V.H.F. and A.I. equipment by enemy transmitters resulting in contact being lost with raiders … An attempt was made to overcome this interference by ensuring that every aircraft operating was equipped with A.I. capable of working on two different frequencies, so that with 3 aircraft at readiness, 6 different frequencies were obtainable. This method was in some measure successful, but it was decided that new equipment … A.I. Mark VII, be sent from England: at present the enemy has no way of interfering with operation of this equipment … Initially difficulties were encountered when operating this equipment at heights in excess of 10,000 feet [3,000 m] but these have since been remedied.

The reader should bear in mind that while this new radar might circumvent one aspect of the German disruption, ground radars and VHF communications were still vulnerable, so a means of homing on the jamming aircraft themselves was still needed.

NOTE: T.R.E. noted that in July 1942 only 37 aircraft were flying operationally with A.I. Mk. VII, the number being limited by the availability of spare sets and testing gear. An order for 500 sets of A.I. Mk VIII had already been placed with GEC.

Air HQ Egypt was also reviewing developments:

6 August: It is probable that the recent jamming of RDF and VHF in Egypt by equipment carried in enemy bombers was experimental and that [he] is using every possible means of checking the effect on us.

24 August: It is most important to scotch the enemy’s use of jammers before he has time to develop it … The codeword “LARK” will be used in referring to jammer carrying aircraft …

Deciphered messages in late July and again on 10 August told the British that transmissions from their own aircraft operating over the sea were being monitored from Kounavi in Crete,16 km south of Heraklion. The German listeners not only knew that the RAF was (say) using ASV in a given area but sometimes heard the sighting reports that were called in. A communication next day, from a Ltn. Ulrici in Köthen, asked Maj. Koch’s permission for a Fw 200 to be ferried from Cottbus to Bordeaux, where it would remain for a week. Ulrici’s message gave Koch’s address as “Athens-Kalamaki, 10. Fliegerkompanie”, the British remarking that this unit was part of Luftnachrichtenregiment 40. Meanwhile in Britain, the RAF had flown its first jamming operation on 6 August.

Wellingtons, Swordfish and Albacores operating from Malta experienced ASV jamming on the night of 10/11 August and on three of the ensuing five nights. On the first occasion, “the intensity of the interference was severe, making detection of surface vessels impossible except at short ranges”. On the 17/18th however, “there was no interference and the target was homed onto from 85 miles” [136 km].

continued on next page …

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TIMELINE

 

10–15 August

“Pedestal" resupply convoy to Malta.

30 August–
5 September


Battle of Alam Halfa.

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