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, tthe 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 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 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.

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.

AHQ Egypt, 6 August 1942

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 …

AHQ Egypt, 24 August 1942

At 2217 hrs. on 15 August another Wildschwein, a Ju 52 marked NR+AE (W.Nr. 5913), 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 ASV 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 and information from the Y-Service indicated that this aircraft also flew from Heraklion to Catania that day. On the 17th there was a report of the arrival (presumably in Africa) of some electronic gear along with a Störtrupp (jamming squad) 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 Athens-Kalamaki for Heraklion, as did He 111 GJ+JH. Arrangements were also set in train on the 20th for a Lichtenstein patrol ahead of the tanker Alberto 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, Libya. That afternoon Ju 52 NR+AE and He 111 GJ+JH left 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).

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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