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 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) 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 but adverse weather prevented operations on 10/11 November.

Am quite confident that enemy will not use frequency modulated jamming for fear of jamming his own ASV aircraft but will continue single frequency jamming.

AHQ Malta, 6 November 1942

Meanwhile, S/L Scott Farnie was following the retreating Germans across Africa in the hope of capturing electronic equipment, prompted by intelligence relayed from London:

9 November, Cadell to Scott Farnie:

Would appreciate early reports on enemy decimetre link apparatus which may have fallen into our hands. Decimetre installations known to exist at El Daba, Tobruk, Sidi Barrani, Mersa Matruh and probably at intermediate points.

10 November, Cadell to Scott Farnie:

WIM 9 dismantled and stored Mersa Matruh, 1st November 1942. It is known that we have captured wireless store here. Can the contents of store be searched for RDF, decimetre link, monitoring and jamming gear?

17 November, Scott Farnie to Cadell:

Have just returned from four days in desert after unsuccessful pursuit of Wotan’s wife [i.e. Freya] and Würzburg … No trace of any apparatus … Little doubt that apparatus is removed on first priority as is case of our own … hoped that might have found something shot up but although road from Alamein to Sollum is scene of complete carnage was not able to spot anything … W.I.M. station at Mersa Matruh was not found but in any case all W.T. stores have been removed.

NOTE: On 27 November Scott Farnie’s Lysander crashed while “returning from ops” and he was admitted to hospital in Heliopolis with burns to his face, hands and arms. Transferred to the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead in May 1943, he underwent seven further operations. After a distinguished career in civil aviation he died aged 55 in 1967.

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:

  • the Axis forces’ retreat 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.
  • these shorter, more westerly routes could be covered by ground-based jammers.
  • reports of Sonderkommando 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;

continued on next page …

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TIMELINE

 

5 November

Eighth Army breakthrough at El Alamein.

8 November

Operation Torch, Allied landings in French North Africa.

9 November

Sidi Barrani taken by Eighth Army.

13 November

Eighth Army takes Tobruk.

15 November

Eighth Army captures Derna.

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