August 1942

KesselringOOD

The earliest contemporary reference I have so far found to Kommando Koch itself is from 1 August 1942 when Oberbefehlshaber Süd (Supreme Commander South) 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, to date I have not identified the unit 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 known as NSG, Katze (cat), Katzenauge (cat’s eye) and 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 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. Later, a prisoner claimed that Kdo. Koch had two He 111 fitted with the jammer and that one of the sets had been brought from Köthen during August. The Kommando went on, he said, to use it from Kalamaki during the first three weeks of September. It had to be set to the desired frequencies before take-off and was simply switched on or off by the wireless operator while airborne.

Whilst aircraft were escorting Axis convoys throughout that summer, the night of 4/5 August stands out as the first time (to British knowledge) 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.

This suggests that the He 111 was able to accomodate and power either two jamming sets or perhaps a transmitter plus a receiver for detecting hostile frequencies. Three nights later, a Heinkel was being used to map British visual and radio beacons in the Western Desert.

At 2217 hrs. on 15 August another Wildschwein, a Ju 52 marked NR+AE (possibly W.Nr. 5906), left Heraklion in Crete. After refuelling at Berca (Al Birka, Benghazi, Libya) it was to take off again at around 0100 and orbit over the sea roughly midway between Crete and the African mainland for as long as its fuel held out. Controlled by a ground station on Crete, it was to jam British A.S.V. aircraft operating SW of the island. The mission was deemed successful and NR+AE set down at Berca before returning to Heraklion on the morning of the 16th. On the 17th there was a report of the arrival (presumably in Africa) of some electronic gear along with a Störtrupp (jamming contingent) aboard the SS Ravello. From nightfall a Lichtenstein-equipped aircraft of Kdo. Koch was to fly an anti-submarine patrol off the Greek west coast, to the limit of its endurance. This may have been an He 111, since Ju 52 NR+AE was due to refuel at Castel Benito (now Tripoli International) in Libya the same night:

Aircraft is on an important task. Quickest possible dispatch is to be ensured under entire responsibility of supply forwarding station. Aerodrome command is instructed to follow the orders of [that station] with regard to the preparation of Castel Benito for night landing from 2030 hours onwards [and] arrangements for servicing the aircraft itself.

Despite these demands, it was still in Catania, Sicily at 1520 hrs., leaving some doubt over whether the operation took place as planned. The night of 19/20 August saw another Wildschwein flight, this time to protect a U-boat which was damaged and unable to dive, and NR+AE left Kalamaki for Heraklion. Arrangements were also set in train on the 20th for a Lichtenstein patrol ahead of the tanker Picci Fassio, a radar-carrying He 111 of II./KG 100 duly taking off at 2100 to operate between the western tip of Crete, Tobruk and Derna. That afternoon Ju 52 NR+AE and He 111 GJ+JH left Athens-Kalamaki for Heraklion.

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).

The following evening (21st/22nd) brought another anti-submarine patrol by moonlight, to protect a convoy. In addition there was jamming support against British reconnaissance aircraft by a Ju 52 and an He 111 of the Kommando. The Heinkel took off at 1745 and landed at Kalamaki at 2330 after operating south of Crete. A Ju 52 and an He 111 were again assigned to provide “indirect” RCM protection for the Fassio convoy on the night of 22/23 August but it was an escorting Ju 88 which drove off a British shadower in a sea-level engagement. The Kdo. Koch machines were due to give cover between 1800 and 0200 while the times of the jamming operation (presumably when the sets were actually transmitting) were later given as: He 111 from 1800–2125 and 2145–2210 hours; Ju 52 from 2355–0010 and 0025–0130. For its part, Ju 52 NR+AE landed in Derna, Libya from Heraklion at 0210 and continued to Tobruk at 1000.

The next evening’s mission involved two He 111 shielding the Kreta and a damaged Axis submarine from reconnaissance and bomber aircraft. These aircraft landed at 2307 and 0345 hours respectively, having reportedly jammed one British interloper from 1900–1912, 1922–1927 and again intermittently on 175 kHz from 2032. The mission was abandoned at 0130 in the face of equipment failure, then one engine cut out on the flight home but the crew made a smooth landing at Kalamaki. Even so, when Fl.Kps. X summed up the day, it said that ten “searching aircraft” had been jammed. On the night of the 24/25th one of the Kommando’s He 111 jammed “several British aircraft” while patrolling the sea area west of Greece, before landing at Lecce at 0220.

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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