Taking L.G. 125 out of commission – Luftwaffe attacks on 23 November 1941

09-12-13: I have updated this post following a detailed discussion at 12 o’clock high:

In order to allow strafing attacks and fighter cover deep in the interior of the Axis position, a landing ground was established far to the south in the desert. This was found by Axis air recce and then subjected to attack in order to put it out of commission, since it posed a considerable risk to the Axis rear area installations. In order to combat it, and the advance of Force E to Gialo, a very strong ‘Benina Group’ was assembled by the German air force, consisting of the full strength of LG1, the Ju 88 equipped bomber unit in theatre, and a group of StG3, a dive bomber unit equipped with Ju 87. In total over 50 bombers were assigned to this task of rear area protection, at a time when the battle was at a critical juncture outside Tobruk.

L.G.125 had No. 33 Squadron (long-range Hurricanes), No.113 Squadron (fighter Blenheim IVF with additional machine-guns under the fuselage) and a battle flight of No. 73 Squadron (Hurricanes) based on it.  A discussion about the long-range Hurricane can be found at this link. The long-range Hurricane with the extra underwing tanks was not exactly a stellar performer.

Image

EGYPT, WWII. “HURRICANES ON PATROL – CARRYING 2 45-GALLON LONG-RANGE TANKS.” – From the AWM

23 November was the day when a concerted effort seems to have been made to take L.G.125 out of commission. There were at least four separate encounters on the day above LG125:

1) recce by two Bf 110 of Stab/StG3 after 0540 German time
2) Attack by I./NJG2 at 0815 German time
3) Attack by Benina Group at 1107 German time
4) Attack by Benina Group at 1515 German time

In addition there was a recce at 0720 by III/LG1 which does not seem to have led to an encounter, although this may have been the cause for the scramble that led to the loss of the Bf110.

Losses suffered by the German force in these attacks were 2x Ju 88 NJG2 damaged severely, and 1x Bf 110.

Below are excerpts from German messages relating to the events of the day, from the ULTRA intercepts held in Kew.

CX/MSS/459/T30
Following operations report from for 23/11 sent by Fliegerfuehrer AFRIKA IC to Fliegerkorps X and ITALUFT at 1730/23/11:-
“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 .
[…]”

CX/MSS/458/T16 (note this was the morning report of action on the previous day, 22/11)
On 23/11 O.C. BENINA Group reported as follows: (document badly torn in parts)
“…. occupied by 25 to 30 twin-engined and 15 single-engined a/c and about 200 M/T.
0700 to 0900 hours:
No enemy forces on BENGHAZI – TRIPOLI road in area square 81-91 E.13: normal traffic of single M/T units in both directors.
Thirdly: operations 1107 to 1116 attack with 23 Ju.88 on enemy aerodrome square 2186 – E 23. with very good results. 5 to 6 a/c were left burning fiercely. Strong splinter results may be assumed. Fighter defences consisting of 8 Hurricanes over target. One Ju.88 shot down 2 Hurricanes. Medium and heavy A.A. Losses: 2 Ju.88 missing, one crew saved.
1515 – 1520 ours:
2 Ju.88 bombed the same target with good hits in the area. Strong light A.A.
1430 hours
Square 1235 – East 23, one man dropping by parachute, probably forced landing of missing a/c mentioned above. Rescue operation follows on 23/11.
Please send a Storch to BENINA.
Readiness return for 23/11. (Roman) I LG.1, 5 Ju.88 (Roman II LG.1 4 Ju.88, (Roman) I Stuka 3, 27 Ju.87. Detachment of NJG.2, 6 Ju.88.

Image

Flying Officer L C Wade of No. 33 Squadron RAF, photographed at Gambut, Libya, after being awarded the DFC for his successes in the Western Desert fighting. Lance Wade, a Texan, joined the RAF in Canada in 1940 after being turned down by the USAAC. After pilot training in the United Kingdom, he joined No. 33 Squadron in Egypt and claimed his first victories on 18 November 1941 when he shot down two Italian Fiat CR42s. He took part in the heaviest fighting in the Western Desert before completing his first tour of operations in September 1942. He then toured training establishments and test-flew aircraft in the USA before returning to operations in North Africa as a flight commander with No. 145 Squadron RAF in January 1943. He was made Commanding Officer the following month and added to his victory claims over Tunisia, Sicily and Italy, before ending his second tour as the top-scoring Allied fighter pilot in the Mediterranean area in November 1943. Wade was promoted to Wing Commander and joined the staff at Desert Air Force Headquarters, only to be killed during a routine flight when his Auster spun and crashed at Foggia on 12 January 1944. He remains the highest-scoring American pilot to serve solely in the RAF, with 25 victories. – From the IWM.

CX/MSS/458/T40
Following report from Sonderkdo. JUNG, signed Ltn. SCHULZ, was sent to H.Q. L.G.1 on the evening of 23/11:-
“Armed recce in squares 015, 016, 215 and 216 E.23. In square 2168 W. of an English landing ground a very large number of M/T tracks were observed, running from E.N.E. to W.S.W. The landing ground appeared to be a base on the line of advance observed. The landing ground was occupied by M/T and a/c. Heavy Flak defence by light … (a part missing here) … R4+NK Pilot Obltn. HARMS made a belly landing in CATANIA at 1147 owing to the hydraulic apparatus being shot up. R4+HK, crew Lt. VOIGT and Fw. WOLFF, was shot down at 0815, probably while making a low level attack on British landing ground. The a/c was not seen again after the attack.”
Note: Sonderkdo. JUNG refers to (ROMAN) I/NJG.2 (cf. MSS/455/T9 and Note).

See at this link and this link for more information on NJG2 in North Africa.

CX/MSS/460/T87
Special Detachment JUNG Abt. IA informed H.Q. Luftgau Lehrgeschwader 1 BENINA, near BENGHAZI on afternoon of 23/11 that Ju 88 R4+HK had made contact with enemy and then landed in BENGHAZI, after receiving 50 hits.

CX/MSS/461/T40
Panzergruppe AFRIKA and German AFRIKA Corps morning report for 24/11, sent to Fliegerkorps X (Roman Ic. and ITALUFT:-
Own air activity in addition to report for 23/11:
Reconnaissance from BENINA by 5 Ju 88.’s of (Roman) I LG.1, East of AGEDABIA to BENGHAZI, without result.
At 0720 1 Ju 88 of III/L.G.1 reported that apart from numerous vehicle tracks no signs of enemy occupation were seen. In square 1061 E 23 an abandoned aerodrome was attacked with 20 bombs which fell on the landing ground. Also the field aerodrome in square 2185 was again recognized, occupied by 10, 2 F.G. and 3 (?0) lorries. 3 Hurricanes over the aerodrome. […]
Note: The sentence “10, 2 F.G. and 3 (?0) lorries” was obscure, and has been translated literally.

Ju88-A4 Trop L1+AA of the Wing Commander Major Knust on the return flight to Greece from North Africa, September 1941.

Ju88-A4 Trop L1+AA of the Wing Commander Major Knust on the return flight to Greece from North Africa, September 1941. From Bundesarchiv via Wikipedia.

No. 33 Squadron ORB for the day reads as follows:

Six a/c were at readiness throughout the day. At 0820 P/O Winsland and F/O Anderson took off to intercept an enemy recco a/c. A Me 110 was shot down and crashed [1]. Three a/c scrambled at 0930 hours and about 1000 hours two JU88 carried out a low-level bombing attack on the L.G. without any damage. One JU.88 was shot down by A.A. fire and the other severely damaged by the three a/c on patrol. [2] There were three more scrambles during the rest of the day but no enemy a/c intercepted. [3] F/O Anderson did not return from the last patrol. It is presumed he force-landed owning to darkness. F/Lt Noel-Johnson carried out a reconnaissance of the surrounding country to locate enemy a/c on the ground.

[1] The Bf 110 lost from Stab/StG3

[2] Probably the attack by 1/NJG2, which led to one damaged and one severely damaged aircraft.

[3] Attacks by Benina Group – LG1

Robert on 12 o’clock high has further information on the NJG2 damage, R4+HK was for a while believed lost.

23.11.41
Ju 88C-4 2./NJG2 W.Nr.0556 hit by flak by Benghazi and belly-landed at Catania 25%
Olt. Harmstorf (FF), Uffz. Krogull (BF) and Uffz. Schiffbaenker (BM) all unhurt
23.11.41
Ju 88C-2 2./NJG2 W.Nr.0712 R4+HK damaged by Hurricane by Benghazi (10%)
Lt. Voigt (FF), Fw. Zimmermann (Bf) unhurt; Uffz. Bodden (BM) WIA

Further reading:

Goon in the Block – memoir of P/O Edy

The Coleraine Battery – 6 LAA Battery which provided AA Defense

No. 113 Squadron

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