The Luftwaffe finally seemed to recover some determination to secure coverage of British targets. During the afternoon, 4.(F)/123 was able to photograph Poole and Christchurch Harbours, for the first time since 12 August and 18 March 1943 respectively. Substantial numbers of landing craft were identified at Poole as well as 13 “objects afloat.” There were no vessels at Christchurch but 28 single- and nine twin-engined aircraft on the airfield there. Six days later, a full evaluation of the pictures downgraded the initial estimates—the total shipping seen would suffice for 1.3 landing formations and in particular there were no LCT in Poole.
Further east, two Bf 109 of the 5. Staffel were aloft from 1346–1525 and were able to photograph the strips Foulness – Eastchurch – Whitstable – Canterbury and Canterbury – Adisham – Dover – Folkestone. In addition they got pictures of Folkestone and Dover Harbours (which they compared with those taken on 26 July 1943). The airfield at Canterbury (last visited on 2 November 1942 apparently) was partially covered by cloud and no aircraft could be made out. The mass of shipping identified at Dover included six Motor Torpedo Boats, 18 minelayers and four LCT (Landing Craft Tank).
The day proved costly for 4.(F)/123. The 21 year-old Uffz. Heinz Luginger (Bf 109 G-5, W.Nr. 27108) was shot down and killed by German Flak near Lison (15 km SE Carentan) and Bf 109 G-6, W.Nr. 20373 crashed outside Équemauville (just west of Honfleur) and was 10% damaged although Obltn. Hedrich emerged unscathed. One of these incidents may explain why one aircraft was called continuously by its controllers from 1037 GMT.
An Fw 190 F-1, W.Nr. 5619, was ferried from its former owner, 1./NAG 13, to the 2. Staffel; this machine was armed with 2 x MG 17 and 2 x MG 151/20 but its radio set and camera had been removed. The 3./NAG 13’s Bf 109 G-8, W.Nr. 710061 was destroyed in a crash following an engine fire.
An innovation that night — perhaps reflecting a heightened sense of urgency — was the use of II./KG 51 and I./SKG 10 for shipping reconnaissance. From the former unit, four Me 410 took off from 0124 and from the latter four Fw 190 for the area Fécamp – Brighton – North Foreland – Dunkirk. British radar reported enemy aircraft between Sandwich and Beachy Head and between Selsey Bill and Isle of Wight from 0231–0315, one of which was overland at Hythe for about two minutes. The Germans achieved no more than sightings of shipping south of Beachy Head but ADGB commented that:
Two aircraft were detected NW of Guernsey during the evening. These proceeded to about 30 km south of Start Point, took up a north-easterly course for another 25 minutes and then turned for home at 1917 GMT.
In an air raid on 5.(F)/123’s base of Monchy-Breton, Fw 190 A-5, W.Nr. 190.015.2662, (black?) “16” suffered damage to its fuselage, tail unit, main plane, landing gear, engine and airscrew. Five days later it was handed over to the AGO workshops at Cravant-Bazarnes and its airframe was still there when the Allies inspected the site in October. It was documented as KM+EX, built by Focke-Wulf, Bremen, rebuilt by AGO, Oschersleben in 1943, and received for repair on 6 June. This Focke-Wulf had been passed over to 5.(F)/123 on 10 April but it is not clear from whom.
NAG 13 was informed on the 25th of the allocation of a Fi 156 C-3, W.Nr. 5575, which it must however collect from Herzogenaurach.
The 26th brought no more than R/T traffic suggesting that 4.(F)/123 may have been active during the afternoon and evening.
A Bf 109 of 5.(F)/123 left Monchy Breton at 0702 to photograph the Thames Estuary and Dover – Deal but broke off at 0738 on account of mist “over the mainland” and pressure cabin defects. At the time he turned back, the German pilot saw “Two Lightning vapour trails” on a reciprocal course but no contact resulted.
Two NAG 13 aircraft left Morlaix early in the evening for the Brixham – Dartmouth area and two contacts were plotted near Start Point at 1827 and 1838 GMT. At 1905, four Fw 190 (from I./SKG 10?) were to fly out over Arromanches-les-Bains (the future GOLD Beach) and return 50 minutes later.
Two-fold attempt at reconnaissance of English harbours on the south coast failed owing to fighter defence and icing-up.
Two machines of 4.(F)/123 were heard returning to Bernay late in the morning while another pair was active from 1553–1702 GMT. These last were warned of Allied fighters 15 km north of St. Malo at 1623, prompting British Intelligence to wonder why a threat so far from the 4. Staffel’s usual operating area might be worthy of mention.
At 1545, three aircraft of NAG 13 were deployed from Dinard to Cherbourg, whence they were due to take off on an operation; British radar duly plotted them north of the French coast at 1800.
For eight minutes from 1107 GMT a 5.(F)/123 machine was warned of Typhoons in the Berck – St. Pol area and diverted to land at another airfield. British readiness was to have tragic consequences when a pair of Typhoons from No. 183 was scrambled from Thorney Island to investigate two contacts south of the Isle of Wight at mid-afternoon. Flying Officer A.R. Taylor closed on two bogies which he and W/O G.F. Humphrey identified as Bf 109s; expending only 80 rounds, Taylor was able to dispatch both before Humphrey could get into a firing position. This incident was cited in the Air Defence of Great Britain summary of the period 16 May–1 June, with two inferences drawn:
In fact the two victims were Mustangs of the 339th FG, badly off course on their return from an escort to Berlin. First Lieutenant James L. Lynch (P-51B 42-106626) and 2/Lt. Gordon F. Perry (P-51B 42-106745) were both killed and a Walrus of No. 275 Sqn. found wreckage but was unable to recover either man’s body. (Neither of the 183 Sqn. pilots, both Canadian, would themselves live much longer: Taylor was killed on 6 June and Humphrey on 17 August 1944).
Two aircraft, thought to be from 4.(F)/123, were plotted over the Seine Bay at 1926 and around 10 minutes later were called on radio — “you have been recognised” — and ordered to land at once because Allied planes were awaiting them south of Selsey Bill. This was enlarged upon in the German naval situation report for the day: “Attempted reconnaissance over Exeter and Torquay miscarried due to fighter defence and icing-up” (the same problems encountered the previous day).
As on the 24/25th there was an apparent night reconnaissance over the Channel when four aircraft were plotted leaving the Caen area from 2139–2240 and heading for the Selsey Bill – Isle of Wight area. Again, the Kriegsmarine gave the German perspective:
On a flight over the Channel during the night 6–7 merchant ships were detected south of Falmouth, a formation of MTBs south of Selsey Bill and 30 ships in the bay east of Portsmouth.
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