April–May 1944


April’s transformation of III. and IV./Fl.ZG 2 into Geschwader Bongart was presumably with combat in mind and the crews and aircraft are likely to have needed preparation for their changed role. Larry de Zeng has written that the Geschwaderstab moved to Bourges on 15 April, with operations commencing a month later. Fliegerzielgeschwader 2 came to Bletchley Park’s attention via a routine communication in May when the 12. Staffel was stationed at Cazaux, south west of Bordeaux. At that time it seems still to have been carrying out its normal duties since at 18.00 hrs on the 17th it informed the Kriegsmarine’s 8th Destroyer Flotilla at Royan that it could not provide an aircraft: the Ju 88 was still out of commission and no other aircraft was available. The unit was in Châteauroux a month later but the date of its transfer is not known. On 30 April, Fw. Heinz Schertag died in a bombing and strafing attack at Busigny. He was a cook with 8./Fl.ZG 2 and, judging by the location, may have travelling on the Cambrai–St. Quentin rail line.

Planning during May and June for the expected Allied invasion in the West envisaged the use of Fl.ZG 2’s Reggiane 2001s and Do 17s as, respectively, “Operational fighter bomber Gruppe and operational bomber Gruppe”. Their role was to be »Bandenbekämpfung«, combatting gangs and both Bourges and Dussac were considered as likely bases.

Major Dr. Albrecht Ochs had become the Geschwader Operations Officer on 23 February, replacing Maj. Hennig who had been in a vehicle accident. On 8 March, Ochs assumed command of the III. Gruppe in Mons-en-Chaussée. His early activities included target pressentation flights in a Bf 108 or Junkers W. 34 and inspections of individual Staffeln. He also spent two days learning to pilot a glider and many more sessions qualiffying on the Do 17 E although his longest training flight on the latter lasted just 30 minutes. During a trip to inspect the 6. Staffel on 14 April there were persistent warning of enemy aircraft and his W. 34 was chased by an Fw 190 while flying on the deck from Mons-en-Chaussée to Étampes. Four days later he was in Paris for “important operational discussions” with Luftlotte 3 and III. Flak Korps and to meet Bongart himself at Le Bourget. This and recent meetings with the Luftgau staffs for Belgium/North France and West France may well have been connected with invasion preparations. On 13 May, Ochs inspected the 7. Staffel in Reims and the 9. in Nancy. Five days later in Reims he was trying out the Ar 197 V-2, NH+AO, which he flew back to Estrée-en-Chaussé. Landing from his “2000th flight under Hitler” on the 24th, Maj. Ochs “escaped a hero’s death by just two seconds [when] seven Mustangs shot the Ar into flames while I was 5 metres away from it”.

NOTES: Described by Ochs as a “single-seater for aircraft carriers, sesquiplane with BMW 132i”, only three prototypes of the Ar 197 were built, each with a different engine, before the programme was cancelled in favour of the Bf 109 T.

Och distinguishes between between Estrée- and Mons-en-Chaussée but it is not clear why, since these villages lie at either end of the airfield’s main runway.

The 8. Staffel lost Reggiane Re. 2002 W.Nr. 1282 at Mons-en-Chausée (presumably on or by the airfield) on 5 May and Ofw. Walter Hartnack was killed. Eleven days later, the 50-year-old Hptm. Gottlieb Blank of the 10. Staffel was killed when his Bü 133 C-1 (W.Nr. 1127) crashed on Aix L’Enfant airfield. On the afternoon of 24 May, another Re. 2002 of 8./Fl.ZG 2 (W.Nr. 1260) suffered engine trouble on take-off from Toul (about 260 km ESE of Paris) for a test flight. The pilot, Fw. Josef Knollmayer, suffered a fractured skull and a broken right knee in the ensuing crash and died later that day in Toul’s military hospital. His aircraft was 60% damaged. The next day, Maj. Dr. Ochs he flew two 5-minute circuits of Estrée in Re. 2002 W.Nr. 1180.

Note: The Allies already had evidence that the Luftwaffe might employ the Reggiane fighter, having deciphered a message that 17 of the type had left Treviso bound for Neuburg an der Donau in the space of a quarter-hour on the morning of 11 March:

W.Nr. 1118 , 1126, 1134, 1143, 1166, 1179, 1181, 1221, 1229, 1232, 1233, 1235, 1236, 1237, 1250, 1252 and 1255.

Two of these machines will reappear later in this story.

continued on next page …


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