continued …

In the event, two Do 217 were deployed on convoy defence (reporting two flares shot down and, at 0034, an ASV aircraft “believed Douglas” chased). Three He 111 were aloft between 2115 and 0030 “for own convoy”, sighting no fewer than 30 flares and nine flare floats as well as four aircraft.

Alteration of routes on the Crete – Tobruk stretch can scarcely be of much help in view of the excellence of enemy air reconnaissance. The principle on which British convoys are run is safety. The principle on which Italian convoys are run, at any rate to judge from what we have seen of returning convoys, is luck.

Intercepted German signal of 12 October 1942

On the night of 12–13 October, an He 111 was up at 2100 hours to give jamming cover for the freighter Amsterdam, departing Patras at 0400 for Tripoli. Amsterdam was damaged by a torpedo off Misrata, Libya and taken in tow by an escort. The following night, two convoys, those of Amsterdam and MV D’Annunzio were to be supported by RCM aircraft and by all serviceable night fighters. These last were to land in Berca after completing their assignments (controllers there were told to expect one or two night fighters of Fl.Kps. X)..

The German transport MV Ruhr had already escaped a torpedo from a British submarine; on the 14th it was allocated RCM support courtesy of two He 111s which left Heraklion at 1600 and 1945 respectively, returning at 0014 and 0354 hours. At midnight the second machine reported six light buoys 168 km north of Benghazi. The following night, the Amsterdam was again the focus of attention; a detachment of IV./KG 54 at Castel Benito was to maintain one Ju 88 over the convoy at all times, charged with shooting down any flares that the RAF might drop to illuminate the ship. Two Wildschweine operated in support of the convoy although they were late in arriving because the necessary orders had only come though at 1430 hours.

NOTES: (1) Six Ju 88 deployed from Grottaglie to Castel Benito, at midday on the 15th: B3+BX, DX, CY, EY, FY and GY.

(2) Regarding the Ruhr convoy, another signal issued “very late on 15/10” claimed that “2nd a/c of Detachment Koch took off at 0035 hours, landed at 0547 hours. Nothing established.” This is clearly at odds with the timings above but other reports state explicitly that only two Heinkels operated.

Apparently no replacements had arrived for the casualties from Ofw. Gleisberg’s crew (see above) for on the 15th a request was sent for “immediate allocation of one pilot fully trained in blind and night flying and ready to operate at once, and of an observer for He 111 and Ju 88” to Kdo. Koch at Kalamaki.

Late on 16 October Benghazi was given orders to ready the tug Ciclone to assist in salvaging Amsterdam and an He 111 ASV jammer was transferred to Tripoli to screen these operations. By next morning the Italian authorities h had asked that continued night fighter cover be assured, repeating the request during the afternoon.

NOTE: On the morning of the 18th, the sender added that such protection “has so far been carried out by 4./KG 54, which is based in Sicily”.

The ship itself had been run aground a kilometre outside the harbour at Homs (Al Khums, Libya) and there were hopes of retrieving a substantial part of her cargo in the course of the 18th. That night two Wildschwein Heinkels and a Do 217 night fighter had been deployed to Catania and these machines were due at Castel Benito to carry out convoy protection on the night of the 19/20th, after which they were to return to Kalamaki. Nevertheless, Ob. Süd advised at 1700 hrs on 19 October that he had no night fighters available for the task so the Italians were taking over.

NOTE: Among the cargo later recovered from Amsterdam were 70 motor vehicles.

At around this time, the WIM Station at Bardia was told that an exchange power unit was on its way. Back in Germany, the Köthen research establsihment had been conducting jamming exercises between 9 and 17 October, radiating signals which would be listened for variously at Wustrow, Glogau (now Głogów, Poland): and Paris “Köthen will jam. Accurate reports on observations made are requested”. At least of some of these tests were aimed at jamming radio telephony and Wustrow was able to respond that when the transmissions stayed on-frequency they rendered communication impossible. These exercises were repeated on the 19th.

Early in the month Flifü Afrika had asked when a transmitter for “the WIM station” would arrive since the 70-Watt Lorenz set it was using was needed urgently elsewhere. This request may be connected with NR+AE’s flight from Grottaglie to Qotafiya on the 17th, aomg its cargo a 70 W transmitter. (Another message that day asked where a 50 W Lorenz transmitter carried by this Junkers was delivered). On 18 October, it was reported that Ju 52 NG+AE (an error for NR+AE?) with equipment for Uffz. Michael would land next day in Derna, then carry on to Benina (Baninah, Benghazi) or El Daba. Two days after that “WIM Company Mediterranean” asked Ltn. Reinhold Klingenhagen at El Daba about the loan of two transmitters and on the 21st NR+AE flew in a 1.5 kW transmitter for 4./Ln.-Regt. Afrika.

On 22 October Ob. Süd’s Head of Signals contacted his counterpart at Fliegerkorps X:

Marinetrupp consists of technically efficient personnel and is to be employed for the speedier instruction of the WIM Trupps. METO receiver is to be sent here by the quickest route with the aircraft of Unit Schütte returning from Maleme.

NOTE: Marinetrupp = naval contingent; METO was almost certainly the FuMB-1 Metox: whose final 'X' had probably been mistaken at Bletchley Park for one used as a punctuation mark in Enigma procedures. Metox had entered service aboard U-boats in August to offer warning of ASV Mk. II radar (1.7 m waveband) transmissions. On the 24th of that month, the Seekriegsleitung noted the “favourable evaluation of FuMB on U-boats”, warning however that it "should only be viewed as a stopgap” while a shore-based network able to give precise locations was established.

“Unit Schütte” is not readily identified since several Luftwaffe officers of that name are known, in the signals branch and elsewhere.

Looking back on German ASV jamming, RAF Middle East noted that “At the beginning it was the cause of a good deal of alarm and despondency” and had increased rapidly in intensity, reaching its peak on the first night of October. The main sources seemed to be Derna and Elafonisi in Crete. If the former was “never more than a strong nuisance”, the latter, being sited higher up, presented the more serious problem. Jamming had been effective at ranges in excess of 320 km against aircraft flying at 300 m and until the end of September none of No. 221 Squadron’s crews had been able to work through the interference when within 130 km of the Cretan transmitter. By early December however the problem was “of negligible proportions”, indeed operators in No. 201 Group had learned to cope so well that the number of nights when convoys were located had gone up markedly (22 out of 43 between 1 July and 27 August; 21 out of 26 from 28 August–13 October).

To Quartermaster from Supply Forwarding Station on 23/10: ZEBRA ((PROSERPINA)) is expected on 26th …

(Decrypt of 24 October 1942)

On the evening of 22 October, the Italian C-in-C at Taranto signalled to Patras:

[Ob. Süd] will carry out the following escorts tomorrow: Convoy ‘K’ from first light to 1200 [local time] with two fighter and two Me 110s; from 1200 to last light with two fighters only. During the night with one W/T jamming a/c and one fighter.

Proserpina was expected off Patras, Greece at 0400 on the 23rd, heading through the Corinth Canal for Piraeus with 3150 tonnes of fuel aboard. The Luftwaffe was due to keep at least one He 111 jammer and one bomber continuously on station overnight; from dawn her escort was to be two bombers and two Bf 110 which would see her into port, supplemented by Italian fighters. The Heinkels took off at 1730 and 2215 had both landed by 0530. Also on the 23rd/24th, the tanker Alfredo was to receive continuous cover from one night fighter in contact with a Freya station. Berca was to be ready between 2100 and dawn for landings by two He 111 and a Do 217. Clearly great importance was attached to getting her through safely. Escort after dark on 24 October was to be the usual two RCM aircraft plus a night fighter or bomber and, from daybreak, six bombers and four Zerstörer continuously overhead. Then, from nightfall on the 25th two jammers and a Do 217 night fighter would again be assigned, plus two Ju 88 bombers assigned to shoot down flares, at least 12 of which were seen. Overnight the British dropped torpedoes and bombs without success and the Junkers claimed damage to a Wellington and two "Hampdens" encountered near the convoy but the Do 217 made no contact with the enemy. One of the callsigns intercepted that night was TM+KM, a Kdo. Koch Heinkel (see above).

NOTES: One of the callsigns intercepted that night was TM+KM: this belonged to an He 111 H-6 which would reappear more than a year later on electronic intelligence patrols over the Bay of Biscay.

There were no Hampdens; according to RAF sources, only Wellingtons of No. 38 Squadron attacked the convoy on the night of the 25/26th and one of them was indeed slightly damaged.

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