May 1944

In late April/early May, section 4(f) of British Air Intelligence began issuing weekly appreciations of German reconnaissance over the Channel and the United Kingdom. The authors of these papers were understandably reluctant to believe that the Germans could be achieving so little, warning that the known coverage:

… does not preclude successful photographs having been taken on these or other days without our knowledge, but gives a fair general impression of the difficulties that the Germans are up against.

In May, Air Defence of Great Britain (as Fighter Command was briefly renamed) started issuing fortnightly reviews of Luftwaffe activities in the West. It had this to say of the first half of the month:


1 May

The usual security reconnaissances (six sorties in all) were carried out over the Channel but there was a new development when a Ju 188, VR+MT, operated from 1915 GMT, giving an ETA at base of 2245. The British inferred from the callsigns used and a reference to crossing the coast that the flight’s purpose was reconnaissance, also noting how:

Last summer 1.(F)/121 carried out by night both protective recce in the Channel and overland PR with flash bombs … Associations of VR+MT are mainly with Soesterberg. The present flight, however, could not have been carried out by 3.(F)/122.

The latter Staffel did send out two Ju 188 in the early hours of 2 May to cover the southern part of the North Sea, F6+KL returning to Soesterberg at 0442 GMT.

The 4.(F)/123 took over Bf 109 G-5/U2/AS W.Nr. 110259, fitted with GM 1 boost, from Guyancourt.

2 May

Again no attempt was made to get coverage of land targets. Two NAG 13 aircraft deployed from Dinard to Guernsey, apparently as a staging point while another pair started from Morlaix at 1740 GMT for the West Cornwall/Isles of Scilly area. Another aircraft, probably of 4.(F)/123, came to within 40 km of Selsey between 1930 and 1950. Flights at these times may have been in the hope off spotting any invaders as they first put to sea.

A little after midnight an aircraft of Aufkl.Gr. Ob.d.L., T9+OH, was warned of hostile aircraft near its base at Orly.

3 May

The day’s most significant operation was to Plymouth by two NAG 13 Bf 109s, taking off at 1712 GMT and passing over the target area 45 minutes later, taking their pictures from 8500 m. On the way home they also sighted shipping in the Channel. In the event, the first pilot’s photographs could not be interpreted owing to oil smears (presumably from the engine, obscuring the ventral camera window) while the second one’s film did not even cover the objective but rather a stretch of land 5 km east, 15 km north and 15 km west of the city.

All that could be learned was that at “Plymouth” (RAF Roborough) there were 16 single-engined aircraft and at “Yelverton”, 32. At this point British Intelligence faltered, somebody pencilling in the margin of the Ops Watch report: “Best points out that there is no a/d [aerodrome] at Yelverton.” It seems surprising that “Best” did not think of RAF Harrowbeer, then home to the Typhoons of No. 263 Squadron and abutting the village of Yelverton.

1./NAG 13 took over Bf 109 G-6, W.Nr. 161317, white 13 (NP+PR): it lacked IFF but had the full fighter armament of 1 x MG 151 and 3 x MG 131.

continued on next page…


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