The 5.(F)/123 put up one machine from 0340–0502 to photograph the East Kent coast, covering Margate – Ramsgate – Manston – Deal – Dover. Poor film quality meant that complete details of shipping in Dover Harbour and aircraft at Manston were not obtained, although 20 LCT were seen at the former which had not been there on the 24th.
During the evening, three NAG 13 planes from Dinard saw two freighters SW of Portland Bill. Toward midnight, a lone aircraft was plotted south of Scilly before returning to Brittany
Bf 109 G-6, W.Nr. 161317, white 13 was again taken over by 1./NAG 13 (see 3 May above); it had MW 50 boost, 2 x MG 131 and 1 x MG 151/20, FuG 17 and an Rb 12.5/7 x 9 camera.
The 3./NAG 13 lost another Bf 109 G-8/MW 50, W.Nr. 710124, yellow 4, in which Oberleutnant Grosser was killed after hitting obstruction during a practice flight at Laval, at 0531 GMT.
Reporting on captured bomber crews’ morale, RAF Intelligence noted:
“… discouragement among reconnaissance units, which have been able to bring back photographs only rarely [and] the failure to carry out sufficient anti-invasion reconnaissance.”
An unnamed prisoner was quoted as saying:
“You don’t seem to understand why we do so little reconnaissance. It is because we are simply hounded out of the air”.
Nothing was heard beyond radio traffic suggesting an operation over the Central Channel around midday.
Five aircraft of NAG 13 flew security reconnaissance over the western part of the Channel on the 1st but there seems to have been no activity on the 2nd. R/T from a single aircraft, thought to belong to 5.(F)/123, was heard at 1919 on the 3rd, while NAG 13 put up a total of five Bf 109s during the day.
The 4.(F)/123 took over Bf 109 G-6, W.Nr. 15733 on the 1st, after repairs to crash damage. A drive was announced in Luftflotte 3 to return Bf 109 G-6 and G-8 wings needing repair to the factories since without them the supply of repaired aircraft during the month was in doubt.
On the 3rd at 1300 GMT, Maj. Hans-Friedrich Schulze-Moderow took off for 2./NAG 13 in the South of France. His place was taken by Hptm. Troebs (see above). The 1.(F)/121 took over Me 410 A-3, W.Nr. 170317 but next day passed A-1, W.Nr. 148 (VC+SL) and A-3, W.Nr. 170033 (DG+XY) to 1.(F)/33 in Saint-Martin-de-Craux.
Bad weather on 4 June led FAG 123 to cancel all operations and just one machine was heard, apparently working with Orly. From 1426 it was given warnings of the presence of hostile aircraft, and apparently diverted to Coulommiers for a landing at around 1950 GMT.
The 5th brought no more than “Slight indications from R/T of activity in the Central Channel 1548–1552 [GMT].” On an afternoon flight from St. Nazaire, Ltn. Eduard Minner of 3./NAG 13 lost orientation at Flers (when landing?) and caused 35% damage to the wings and tail of his Bf 109 G-8, W.Nr. 710073, yellow 2. The Gruppe’s 1. Staffel took over Bf 109 G-6, W.Nr. 161162 from Guyancourt.
Looking at their efforts over the period between mid-April and the invasion itself, it is not easy to deduce what Luftflotte 3 was expecting its reconnaissance units to achieve. Allied Intelligence analysts were conscious that they might lack the full picture either of operations flown or results obtained and were accordingly cautious in their estimates of what the Germans might know of invasion preparations. As time went on however, they noted how the results of photographic sorties were being compared with those from months or even years earlier, and realised that the Luftwaffe cannot have successfully covered those targets in the interim.
Since the Germans expected an invasion, why did they make so little effort regularly to photograph — at a minimum — all the major ports in Southern England in Spring 1944? How did they prioritise: why photograph Penzance and Newlyn before Falmouth, why Christchurch rather than Weymouth and Portland? It is not as if they did not know where the naval bases and the prewar ferry ports were. Repeated coverage of these targets could have shown how fast preparations were advancing and even whether embarkation was underway. Venturing further inland could have revealed evidence of the immense build-up of troops and material in Southern England. As mentioned above, the Germans could estimate the overall threat by extrapolating from the photos they had to the known capacities of other English harbours, but would they not have preferred hard evidence to informed guesswork?
If they hoped to spot the invasion force after it had sailed, why was German “security reconnaissance” almost non-existent at night? They had Ju 88s with anti-shipping radar in France but preferred to use them over the Mediterranean and Atlantic rather than patrolling the Channel where admittedly they would have been more vulnerable to Allied night fighters. Were they reliant on reports from their E-boats, or satisfied with the human and signals intelligence they were getting?
Throughout the war, single, fighter-type aircraft operating at high altitude proved hard to intercept with fighters of similar performance; as the German “tip and run” raids had shown, fast and low incursions were also difficult for the RAF to counter, if far from invulnerable. What is more, there was no recent experience of reconnaissance over England being particularly costly, because precious flew overflights had even been attempted for several months.
ADGB’s review of the first half of May made this comment on German efforts:
In daylight varying amounts of cloud over the Channel played some part in hampering the enemy’s reconnaissance programme, although the effect of this factor was probably less than that of our defences.
The same inhibiting factors were felt to be valid over the next fortnight as well. Regarding defences, reports from the Y-Service make it clear that German controllers were regularly warning their pilots of Allied aircraft operating defensively over England as well as those marauding over France and Belgium. Sometimes the airmen were advised that they had been spotted, sometimes they were recalled but we do not know is how just cautious the ground stations were. Were missions ordered to abort at the slightest sign of a threat or only where interception was imminent.
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