Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 6 January 1942

Enemy Behaviour 6 January 1942

Due to heavy dust storm the disengagement of German-Italian forces in the area of Agedabia was apparently not noted by the opponent. Because of this all day no enemy contact. Air reconnaissance not used due to bad weather conditions. According to radio interception enemy grouping by and large unchanged. The enemy forces on the Bardia front are, according to radio intelligence, re-grouped for an attack against the Sollum front.

Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment 5 January 1942

1. Enemy Behaviour on 5 January 1942

Also today only weak enemy reconnaissance and artillery activity on the Agedabia front. On the northern front the reconnaissance battalion C.I.H. was identified. The enemy group south of Beda Fomm was no longer recognised, a night-time move in south-easterly direction (Saunnu) is possible. The enemy group at and south of Giof el Matar might have been reinforced by a battalion from 7 Support Group. It has to be expected that the enemy will also tomorrow only slowly follow the German-Italian rearguards. Air reconnaissance can thus far not note the bringing up of any new enemy formations, neither from Cyrenaica nor from the area of Tobruk.

2. On the Halfaya front stronger enemy artillery and air activity. According to radio intercepts 2 South African Brigade appeared there for the first time.

Panzergruppe Intelligence Assessment, 4 January 1942

Enemy Behaviour on 4 January 1942

The enemy forces noted yesterday in the area Giof el Matar – el Haselat (1 – 2 reconnaissance battalions of the Gialo group) did today not push further than El Haselat in a southwesterly direction, under attack by Fliegerfuehrer. The enemy forces adancing in westerly direction on a broad front along the line B. el Fescia – Feheid, identified by radio interception as 7 Support Group, have made contact with their most forward elements with Group Mickl in the Agedabia – Position. North of Agedabia , the reconnaissance battalion C.I.H. stood today only 10km north of the town. It has not been confirmed that the enemy group south of Beda Fomm is the Polish Brigade, according to radio intercepts this brigade should rather take over from 5 Indian Brigade in the area Berta.

Axis Aircraft on Captured Landing Grounds–November/December 1941

Background

On 3 January 1942 the Air Liaison Officer with 13 Corps sent through a report on operations, including an Appendix on Axis planes found at the various landing groups which had been overrun at this stage. At this point in time, Agedabia and Antelat landing grounds had not been captured, and for some reason the list does not include Sidi Rezegh, where at least 18 planes would have been found (16 were destroyed when the landing ground was taken).

The list includes all planes found, and it is important to note that the wrecks did not necessarily hail from the CRUSADER operation, but could have originated anytime during operations, including the COMPASS offensive earlier in 1941. It is also worth keeping in mind that a good number of these planes would not necessarily have been lost due to enemy action – accidents were a constant hazard, and many planes were thus written off. Finally, the table of course gives only a snapshot, since planes that were lost outside aerodromes would not be considered here.

Planes that almost certainly were lost on current operations were the Me 109F and Mc202 types, as well as a good number of the Ju 88s, while the Breda 88 and Me 109E wrecks most likely preceded Operation CRUSADER. One Me 109F was captured in flying condition, and there are some pictures on the net of this plane flying with No. 1 Squadron S.A.A.F.

A note on Mediterranean Air War Vol. I

As an aside, I found the same statistics in Mediterranean Air War Vol. I MAW I) today, but there are some issues I have with the conclusions drawn there. First of all, in addition to the 458 planes below, MAW I also gives numbers for Agedabia and Thamet aerodromes which of course had not been taken at this stage (and Thamet would not be taken until a year later, in fact). These numbers appear to be simply a repeat of the claims made by the S.A.S. for the raids on these airfields in December. The problem with this is of course that these claims were certainly wrong for Agedabia, and probably for Thamet. At Agedabia the S.A.S. claimed 37 planes destroyed, but in reality it was ‘just’ 18. Of course, there probably would have been other planes that had been shot up in strafing raids, or crashlanded. But we simply don’t know, so to state that 37 wrecks were found there is not based on any real evidence.

Furthermore, the conclusion drawn in MAW I is that the number of planes found on the airfields can be taken as a ‘fairly accurate assessment’ of Axis losses. This is of course utter nonsense, and I am perplexed as to why it is stated like this. The only thing it is, is an accurate assessment of the numbers of planes found on the airfields. Any plane that crashed or force-landed away from an airfield is not included in this assessment. The number of planes to whom this happened is without doubt significant (probably in the hundreds since the start of the war in North Africa), so the number of wrecks found on airfields does not tell us anything other than the absolute minimum of planes lost by the Axis between 10 June 1940, and the end of December 1941. In other words, it is quite meaningless. The reason for publishing it below, and why I think it has some information value, is different. I think the statistic shows quite well the range of planes that the Axis used, and who primarily used which airfield (e.g. Benina – German, Berka – Italian), and in some cases we can also clearly tie units to airfields (e.g. Gazala No.2&3 – JG27 with Me 109, Benina – LG1 with Ju 88).

The Data

Table 1 below has summary data by class of aircraft, while Table 2 is a reproduction of the original table. For some planes it is a bit difficult to classify them. For example, the Cr.42 served both as a fighter and a ground attack plane, and the same was true for the older fighters. The He 111 served both as a ‘hack’ (liaison) plane and as a bomber/torpedo strike plane.

Table 1: Summary of Planes on Overrun Landing Grounds by Class

Total by Type Number Total by Group
Fighters 243
 (current) Me 109F/Mc202 37
Me110 27
(old) Me 109E/G.50/Mc.200 86
Cr.42 93
Bombers/Strat Recce
Ju 88/S.79/Br.20/Do 17/He 111 94 130
Ju 87 36
Transport/Liaison/Tactical Recce
Glider, Ju.52, S.81, Ca.133 48 48
Ca. 310/311, Ghibli, Fi 156, Hs.126, Caudron, Ro.37, Ro.63, Me 108 32 32
Other 5
Breda 88 2
Cant. Z501 Flying Boat 3
Total 458 458

Table 2: Planes on Overrun Landing Grounds by Landing Ground and Type

Landing Ground German Planes Number Italian Planes Number Total by Airfield
Gambut Ju 87 3 G.50 1 42
Me 110 8 S.79 2
Me 109E 17 Ju 87 5
Me 109F 1 Mc.200 3
Ju 88 1
Fi 156 1
Bir el Baheira Me 110 1 2
Hs 126 1
Gasr el Arid Me 109F 2 2
El Adem Ju 87 2 Ca. 311 4 78
Me 109 1 S.79 5
CR.42 or Ro.37 64
G.50 2
Sidi Azeiz Me 109E 1 Cr.42 1 3
Ghibli 1
Gazala No.1 Do 17 1 Mc. 200 5 36
Ju 52 3 S.79 14
Me 109 2 Cr. 42 5
Hs 126 2 Ro.37 1
Fi 156 1 Bomber 1
G.50 1
Gazala No.2 & 3 Me 109F 11 G.50 2 35
Me 109E 6 S.79 6
Fi 156 3 Br.20 1
Ju 87 1 Cr.42 2
Me 110 2 Mc.200 1
Tmimi Ju 88 3 S.79 7 23
Ju 52 2 Cr.42 1
Me 109F 4 Biplane 1
Ju 87 5
Martuba West S.79 12 22
Ca.133 2
G.50 7
Mc.202 1
Martuba West (Sat. E) Ju 87 2 5
Me 109F 2
Me 109E 1
Martuba East Ju 87 2 Mc 202 1 10
Me 110 3
He 111 1
Me 109E 1
Fi156 1
Hs 126 1
Derna Gliders 6 G.50 3 74
Ju 88 4 Mc.200 4
Fi 156 6 S.79 2
Ju 87 7 Mc.202 1
Caudron Goeland 1
Ju 52 18
He 111 3
Me 110 8
Me 109F 4
Me 109E 7
Maraua Ju 87 2 2
Barce Me 109F 1 Mc.202 5 28
Berka Main S.79 3
Ca.311 1
G.50 7
Ro.37 2
Br.20 1
S.81 1
Ro.63 1
Cr.42 6
Berka Satellite S.81 2 29
G.50 8
Ca.133 2
S.79 1
Ca.311 1
Ca.310 1
Cr.42 14
Benghazi (Harbour) Cant Z.501 3 3
Benina Me 110 5 Breda 88 2 64
He 111 4
Ju 52 12
Me 109E 6
Ju 87 7
Me109F-2 4
Ju 88 22
Me 108 1
Caudron Goeland 1
Total 228 230

458

Part I of Wüstennotstaffel eArticle coming soon

Disclaimer first: I commented on this article extensively and contributed some material and knowledge to it, but I have no financial interest.

With that out of the way, I am very pleased to see it shaping up now into what is a very nice addition to our knowledge of the air war in the western desert. I can only highly recommend this to anyone interested in the period and theatre.

A bit of background, the Wuestennotstaffel was a specialised unit under the command of Fliegerfuehrer Afrika (German air force commander Africa), equipped with the venerable Fieseler Storch (incidentally produced in my university town of Kassel – my personal connection is that while a taxi driver there, I once drove an old lady to Sunday tea who had worked on assembling them during the war). The Wuestennotstaffel had the primary task of rescuing downed pilots in the desert. It was unique, no other air force in the theatre had such a formation. It also carried out other tasks, such as local recce, sea search and support of shipwrecked/downed personnel ‘in the drink’, and courier/liaison/personnel transport duties. It was by all accounts a fascinating little outfit.

The below is a straight copy from the Air War Publications blog (at this link), posted here with their permission.

Posted on 10/03/2014 by Morten JessenNo Comments ↓

A lot of material has surfaced since Adam Thompson and Andrew Arthy started digging into the desert activities of this fascinating and unusual unit thirteen months ago. They uncovered far more exciting stories than expected, including run-ins with British elite forces the Long Range Desert Group and the Special Air Service, the capture of a prominent German general, and, of course, lots of rescues of Allied and Axis personnel from the Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian deserts. Therefore, due to the article’s length it has been split into two parts, the first of which will be published soon. As always, our articles will be illustrated with photographs, colour maps, tables and aircraft profiles. We’ve been very fortunate to contact the families of some of the men featured in the story, and the resulting exchange of information has produced some excellent insights into the activities of the Wüstennotstaffel.

Long-Range-Desert-Group-trucks
Here’s a short taste of Part I of the Wüstennotstaffel eArticle, from the period November-December 1941: “The Wüstennotstaffel was kept very busy during the Operation Crusader fighting of November and December 1941, and growing Allied air strength presented some new challenges. Twice in two days, on 22 and 23 December, Staffelkapitän Hauptmann Heinz Gustav Kroseberg had the misfortune to land his Fieseler Storch at North African airfields just before they were hit by British bombing raids, although on both occasions the 42 year old escaped unscathed. On the first occasion his passenger was the Fliegerführer Afrika, Generalleutnant Stefan Fröhlich, who had been given a ride by Kroseberg between forward airfields.

A No. 24 SAAF Squadron Boston was shot down by Oberfeldwebel Espenlaub of 1./JG 27 on the morning of 24 November, and the four South African crewmen reluctantly enjoyed Hauptmann Kroseberg’s rescue services. The Staffelkapitän and another Storch collected them from the crash site, flew them 25 kilometres to Gazala, and later in the day transported them to internment at Derna. The Boston’s pilot, Lt. B.G. Roxburgh, ended up in German prisoner of war camp Stalag Luft III. Also on the prisoner transport flight to Derna was the very recently injured Wüstennotstaffel pilot Unteroffizier Konrad Hupp, released from Gazala hospital after crashing his Storch on the previous day.

Photo 028 - Kroseberg with Canadian airman (Der Adler)

On the next afternoon Hauptmann Kroseberg was out on a desert rescue search when he was jumped by what he called Hurricanes, although they were actually No. 3 RAAF Squadron Tomahawks. Sergeant Rex K. Wilson managed to down the slow-flying German liaison aircraft ten kilometres south of Acroma, but the Wüstennotstaffel commander was unhurt. The aircraft – officially on the strength of the Stabsstaffel Fliegerführer Afrika – was destroyed, and one of Kroseberg’s passengers, Leutnant Gorny, was wounded in subsequent strafing runs made on the downed Storch.

Overall, aircraft serviceability of the Wüstennotstaffel was quite low during the Crusader period, reflecting various factors, including the difficulty in ensuring an adequate supply of spare parts and equipment to the North African theatre. The table below provides some examples of the unit’s poor serviceability record in late-November and early December 1941.

Table: 1. Wüstennotstaffel Storch Aircraft during Operation Crusader
Date         On Strength        Serviceable     % Serviceable
26.11.41      8                               3                           37.5
04.12.41      8                               2                           25
06.12.41      8                               4                           50
10.12.41      8                               1                           12.5

Panzergruppe Daily Intelligence Assessment 3 January 1942

Enemy Behaviour, 3 January 1942

Opponent quiet opposite Agedabia front. His grouping unchanged there. 22 Guards Brigade area Saunnu and southwest. 1 – 2 reconnaissance battalions of Gialo Group put stronger reconnaissance forces from the area Giof el Matar on El Haselat. Opposite D.A.K. in area Belaudah reconnaissance and artillery activity.

Panzergruppe Daily Intelligence Assessment, 2 January 1942

Enemy Behaviour 2 January 1942

1-2 weak enemy reconnaissance battalions at Giof el Matar. 22 Guards Brigade with mass Saunnu. Group Mickl parried an attack carried out by weak infantry forces. Polish Brigade as before area south Beda Fomm. Reconnaissance battalion 4 Indian Division at Via Balbia about 20km north of Agedabia, mass 4 Indian Division still in Cyrenaica.