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

Introduction

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.

Fliegerfuehrer Afrika Operations Report 23 November 1941

0401 hours

1 Ju.88 of the AFRIKA Kette 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. 1 Bf. 110 missing. (1)

0550 hours

15 Ju.87 of II/StG2 carried out attack on tanks and M/T concentration E. of BIR EL GUBI, 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. (2) (3)

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.

 

Notes

  1. There was only one field aerodrome in the area, Landing Ground 125, occupied by Hurricanes of No.33 Squadron and Blenheims of No. 75 Squadron
  2. 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.
  3. A loss rate of 20% per sortie must have been extremely worrying.
  4. 33% loss rate.
  5. This, together with the two preceding notes, 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.

Glossary

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.

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

  1. Very useful info. I think the 1140 recon sighting was of Brit destroyers Eridge, Avonvale, and Farndale escorting supply ship Glenroy toward Tobruk. Evidently the Lw and Reg Aero got on the same page on this one. Describing events during the late evening of the 23rd, Eridge’s Captain Frank Gregory-Smith(RED TOBRUK, pp. 59-60) writes:

    “…passage uneventful until convoy off Ishaila
    Rocks to west of Mersa Matruh. Visibility poor so the
    ship at action stations. No air raid warning broadcast
    when several Italian torpedo bombers swoop low from the
    direction of the coast, burst through our ragged barrage
    and immobilised Glenroy with one hit. After brief
    exchange of signals, HMS Farndale immediately embarks her
    military passengers whilst we and Avonvale, under
    worsening weather conditions and increasing air attacks,
    stand by the damaged ship…”.

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