The Mosquito was down to 2000 ft (600 m) and within 200 ft (60 m) when visual contact was made and (in Simpson’s words) “both my Navigator and I recognized the target as a Ju 88G.” Dropping back to 600 ft (180 m) dead astern, Kent fired a burst of 1–2 seconds, causing “three distinct explosions … in the fuselage and wing roots.” The burning Junkers fell slowly to starboard and hit the sea off the mouth of the West Scheldt, exploding with a brilliant flash at 18.14 GMT. The time, place and known German losses (see below) strongly suggest that this was a Ju 88 of LG 1 rather than a Ju 88 G night fighter.
The Seekriegsleitung summed up as follows:
During the night of the 22nd/23rd, 49 bomber aircraft with 5 illuminators mined the Scheldt; good effect is to be reckoned with, since the target was easily made out. Four aircraft are missing …
On Thursday, 25 January the Royal Navy was warning that:
Nine mines have already been swept in or very adjacent to searched channel between N.F. 12 and N.F. 15 buoys … Observing extreme difficulty in sweeping ground mines now being laid by enemy, request you will inform the appropriate Military and Air Force Authorities that unless better results against minelaying aircraft can be produced the only channel to the Schelde [sic] is likely to be blocked with wrecks at no far distant date.
Mining aircraft however would cease to be a problem for, as the SKL noted on 22 January:
The alarming development of the fuel question in the Luftwaffe has led to several urgent warnings from [its General Staff] in which the most extreme restriction of operations—exclusively to essential war tasks and where there are good prospects of success—is necessary.
Among the matters discussed when the Luftwaffe Operations Staff (Führungsstab) met on 12 February, apparently with rference to the mining operations, was this:
After LG 1 had been stood down for quite a long period, it was recommitted action in the West for a limited period. It suffered considerable losses on its first missions and the operational results did not match the assets expended. LG 1’s Kommodore has now submitted to the OKL Führungsstab an exhaustive report of the experiences of his Geschwader’s stand-down and short-term activation. These experiences show unequivocally that long stand-downs of formations without a corresponding maintenance of practice must lead to considerable losses such that the cost of the new operations bears no relation to the results until the crews are once again fully accustomed to working together. Therefore when the fuel situation demands that a Geschwader be stood down it is better to disband part of it and leave at least a Gruppe on operations or keeping up its training.
© Nick Beale 2020–23