November 1942

QT5593

On the 1st, one Heinkel was on submarine search ahead of the Zara convoy (presumably with radar) and one was giving jamming cover. No Allied transmissions were detected but Zara was torpedoed by British aircraft off Tobruk and had sunk by the next evening. With Zerstörer aircraft unavailable for daylight escort, pairs of cannon-armed Ju 88s had been proposed as a substitute and such machines were also expected to be useful after dark:

Night 2nd–3rd [tanker] Portofino to be continuously escorted by a cannon Ju 88 of Fliegerkorps X … to interrupt air attacks and to shoot down flares.

(ULTRA QT 5022)

On this occasion, it was LG 1 which supplied the Ju 88s and both had landed by 0645 hours. New jamming tactics were planned that night, with two aircraft operating as a feint over the Mediterranean, south west of Crete. It is possible that this stemmed from a suspicion that jamming transmissions told the Allies that here was something the Axis was anxious to hide. According to a later report, one He 111 was jamming from 1930–0500 hours but whether this was instead of or as well as the proposed feint is unclear.

On the afternoon of 3 November, two Heinkels with search radar transferred to Trapani, Sicily. The Portofino convoy was protected by two He 111 jammers from 1815–2245, two Ju 88 of LG 1 from 2000 (these landed at Berca—now Al Birkah—Benghazi) and a Do 217 of the Nachtjagdkommando which was aloft from 2130–0330 hours. The Portfofino’s convoy made it into Benghazi on the 4th but she was destroyed in an air raid two days later.

Owing to differences in equipment R/T, communication between all types of aircraft and [Luftwaffe] Signals Trupp of convoy not possible. Therefore aircraft control officers with Signals Trupp … to have FuG 10 with R/T attachment, so as to pass by W/T to high escort [a] warning of approaching low-level air attacks thus enabling fighters and Zerstörer to be directed on enemy in time.

(ULTRA QT 5417)

Two Wildschwein Heinkel sorties took place “in [the] specified area” on the night of 4/5 November, one of them by GJ+JH On the following night there was not only a single jamming sortie but also another feint in the form of flare-dropping over the sea around 300 km NNW of Benghazi. Heinkel GJ+JH, was in action again on the 6/7th. Bad weather prevented operations on 10/11 November.

Here the story seems to end for despite (at the time of writing) having followed ULTRA traffic and British intelligence summaries through to the end of December 1942, I have found no further mention of Luftwaffe airborne jamming operations in the Mediterranean Theatre. Sonderstaffel Koch still features on the Fliegerkorps X order of battle for the morning of 26 November, with a strength of 8 (5) aircraft but a week later it has gone. There are a number of possible explanations for this apparent cessation (permanent or temporary) of activity including:

reports of Koch’s activities were still made (perhaps by another command authority) but were no longer being intercepted/deciphered;

Axis commanders had concluded that existing jamming sets were ineffective or were attracting Allied attention and had discontinued the flights;

the Axis forces’ withdrawal from El Alamein and the ensuing losses of Libyan ports meant that convoys to Africa must be routed ever farther west, away from Fliegerkorps X’s zone of operations.

continued on next page …

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