A day in the life of the Luftwaffe – Operations report by Fliegerfuehrer Afrika 23 Nov. 41

A day in the life of the Luftwaffe – Operations report by Fliegerfuehrer Afrika 23 Nov. 41


During the war in North Africa, from summer 1941 onwards, the ability of the Empire to read Enigma messages through the ULTRA intercept programme was a critical aspect in the success of the campaign that was waged against enemy supplies. It also delivered other operational intelligence that allowed Empire air force planners to see how the enemy operated.


This operations report was sent on 23 Nov. 41 at 1730 hrs from Fliegerfuehrer Afrika Ic (intelligence officer) to Fliegerkorps X in Greece, and ITALUFT, the German Luftwaffe staff in Italy. The report was intercepted by the British decoding teams and decrypted at Bletchley Park. It can now be found in the National Archives in Kew, London. I have left the report in the original text, annotated it, and provided a glossary below. I also re-ordered it according to time.


Junkers 87 dive bombers of an unknown unit taking off in North Africa. Courtesy Bundesarchiv Bildarchiv.

Fliegerfuehrer Afrika Operations Report 23 November 1941

0401 hours

1 Ju.88 of the AFRIKA Kette[1] carried out recce of the tracks BIR EL GUBI – GIARABUB as far as SIDI OMAR. No enemy M/T observed. N.E. of BIR EL GUBI a concentration of about 100 M/T.

0540 hours

2 Bf. 110 of Stab Stuka 3 on recce S. of DERNA as far as 30 degrees N. 1 Bf. 110 brought confirmation of the 2 field aerodromes[2]. 1 Bf. 110 missing.

0550 hours

15 Ju.87 of II/StG2 carried out attack on tanks and M/T concentration E. of BIR EL GUBI[3], with 5.5 tons of H.E. bombs accurately placed in the target area. Very strong fighter defence: 3 Ju.87 missing, 1 Ju.87 made forced landing. 1 Ju.87 crashed on aerodrome, crew escaped by parachute.[4]

0555 hours

18 Ju.87 of I/StG1 attack on field fortifications and a battery position E. of BIR EL GUBI with 6.05 tons of H.E. bombs: bombs on target: effect not observed on account of strong fighter defence: 2 Ju.87 missing. 1 Ju.87 made forced landing, crew wounded but rescued.

0601 hours

1 Bf.110 of AFRIKA Kette in BIR HACHEIM to BIR EL GUBI and BAB ES [??} E. of BIR EL GUBI concentration of ?40 M/T. Otherwise nothing observed. At 0622 hrs [?] Bf.110 of III/ZG26 broke off attack on concentration near BIR EL GUBI as fighter protection was not assured.

0735 hours and again at 0802 hours

1 Ju.88 of the AFRIKA Kette on photographic recce of roads, railways and aerodromes SIDI BARRANI to EL DABA: heavy railway traffic at railhead: aerodromes only partly covered on account of heavy cloud.

0945 hours

11 Bf.110 of III/ZG26 broke off low-level attacks S. and E. of BIR HACHEIM on account of contact with 30-40 Curtiss fighters.[5]

1140 hours

In square 6231 3 destroyers and 1 small merchant ship, course west.

[No time]

I/ and II/JG27 shot down 10 enemy a/c on freelance patrols and while escorting Stukas. 1 Bf.109 missing, 2 Bf.109 made forced landing.


[1] This was a small group of reconnaissance planes at the disposal of Fliegerführer Afrika
There was only one field aerodrome in the area, Landing Ground 125, occupied by Hurricanes of No.33 Squadron and Blenheims of No. 113 Squadron
[3] This was likely on 1 South African Brigade which was in the area, ‘masking’ Bir el Gubi and the Ariete division position there. From memory I believe that these attacks were not very effective, even though they were unpleasant.
[4] The losses suffered in these attacks were clearly not sustainable. 
A loss rate of 20% per sortie must have been extremely worrying. 33% and 16% loss rates in two sorties combine to 8 out of 33 planes lost, or about 25%.
[5] This, together with the losses suffered over target by the Ju 87s, shows that while the Desert Air Force may not have had the number of kills of its adversary, it did achieve its operational objective on this day, which was to inflict losses on the enemy strike force and keep them away from their target, or at least reduce their efficiency.


  • Afrika Kette – a small unit (Kette – Chain) equipped with long-range reconnaissance Junkers 88 and Messerschmidt 110, stationed in Greece but under control of the Fliegerfuehrer Afrika.
  • Bf. 109 – Messerschmidt 109, single-engined fighter
  • Bf.110 – Messerschmidt 110 twin-engine multi-role plane (heavy fighter, recce, ground attack)
  • Curtiss – Curtiss Tomahawk single-engined fighter
  • Fliegerfuehrer Afrika – commander flying units Africa.
  • Fliegerkorps X – Air Corps X in Greece, with head-quarters in Athens Tatoi airport.
  • H.E. – High Explosive
  • Ju.87 – Junkers 87 single-engine dive bomber
  • Ju.88 – Junkers 88 twin-engined multi-role aircraft used as reconnaissance, medium bomber (level and dive), night fighter.
  • M/T – motor transport
  • Recce – reconnaissance
    Stab – Staff squadron. For dive bomber wing 3 this was well equipped with recce and transport planes.
  • StGSturzkampfgeschwader – dive bomber wing
  • Stuka – Sturzkampfbomber – Dive bomber.
  • ZGZerstoerergeschwader (destroyer wing), equipped with Messerschmidt 110 planes.