The Innards of Intelligence: Bildskizze – Visual Air Reconnaissance Report

Apart from the written report (see an example at this link), German aerial observers also regularly provided visual reports. These were called Bildskizze. An example with explanation is below.

Bildskizze

German text Translation
22.11.41 22 November 1941
An Koluft Obstlt Heymer (Pz.-Gruppe) To: Koluft Lt.Col. Heymer (Pz.-Gruppe)
Zeit: 07.05 – 07.30 Time: 07.05 – 07.30
Karte: 1:400.000 Bardia Map: 1:400,000 Bardia
Hoehe Height: (not given)
Map elements from the top:
n. Tobruk – n. Bardia To Tobruk – To Bardia
Capuzzo – Trigh Si. Azeiz Trigh Capuzzzo – Sidi Azeiz
Arid Gasr el Arid airfield
2 Kfz 2 motor vehicles moving south-east
10 Kfz 10 motor vehicles moving northwest
Feindfrei Free of enemy
Keine Bewegung No Movement
Omar Omar
3 Jaeger 3 Fighters
Abwehr: 3 Jaeger Defense: 3 Fighters
500 Kfz 500 motor vehicles
Gabr Saleh – Trigh el Abd – B. Gibni – Abid Gabr Saleh – Trigh el Abd – Bir Gibni – Gasr el Abid
44°:30’ 45°:00’ Numbers indicate coordinates on latitude/longitude
Gez. Block, Ltn Signed: Lt. Block
Beobachter Observer

D.A.K. war diary entry 28 February 1941

28 February 1941

At 08.00 hours the Commander, with the Chief of Staff, the IIa, and the Commission (Captain Weller) flies to Sirt and then joins the Forward Detachment Wechmar at en Nofilia. The purpose of this trip to the Forward Detachment is mainly the reconnaissance of the terrain around Sirt and east of en Nofilia.

At 18.00 hours a parade and march past of the troops of the 5th naval transport column is carried out in Tripoli before Major-General Streich, the commander of 5.lei.Division.

The Commander together with the gentlemen accompanying him arrives in Tripoli during the evening.

D.A.K. war diary 27 February 1941

27 February 1941

Arrival and departure of subordinated troops

Arrived in Tripoli

M.G.Batl. 8, 5. (Pi.) M.G. Batl. 2, 1/2 Supply Services Pz.Rgt.5, Staff Quarters 5.lei.Div.[1]

Air force attacks English patrol area el Agheila and destroys it. Afternoon renewed attack on dug-in enemy forces.

At 12.00 hours a parade is taking place in front of the castle of the troops which arrived on the 4th naval transport column. March past of 2 AA batteries, the VW platoon of A.A.3 and one supply column, while on their way to the frontline.

13.00 hours at the invitation of the Commander a lunch is held at the Hotel Uaddan for His Excellency Gariboldi, His Excellency de Rubeis (Vice Governor) and His Excellency Aimone Cat, and several high-ranking Italian officers.

During the afternoon the Commander, accompanied by Major Schraepler, inspects the positions guarding Tripoli on the road Tripoli – Homs. Evening ships of the 5th naval supply column enter the harbour of Tripoli, with the whole of M.G.Batl. 8, one engineer company, the divisional staff and other units.

At 21.00 hours the Commander presents a short overview of the situation on the Libyan front to a commission of officers arrived from Berlin and Rome. Afterwards a conference is held, covering especially the supply situation.

[1]These were Machine Gun Battalion 8, the 5th (engineer) company of Machine Gun Battalion 2.

D.A.K. war diary entry 26 February 1941

26 February 1941

During the morning Commander inspects the unloading of the 4th naval transport column in the harbour.

At lunchtime His Excellency Roatta with two gentlemen of his staff and Admiral Weichhold, in charge of the naval transports Naples – Tripoli, are invited to the Hotel Uaddan. Afterwards conference with Admiral Weichold; he requests stronger escorts for our naval transports at sea, in the air, and on the ground, and considers it possible to disembark tanks on the shore of the Great Sirt.

Afternoon conference of the Commander with Lt.Col. Hartlinghausen[1], who has been installed as Fliegerfuehrer[2] by X.Fliegerkorps.

At 19.00 hours a conference is held at the Italian army commander, His Excellency Gariboldi, in the presence of His Excellency Roatta.

Result: Lieutenant General Rommel prevails, contrary to the initial view of His Execellency Gariboldi, in that the 5.lei.Div. will be placed in the area of en Nofilia and will hold contact with the enemy.

Unloading of 4th naval transport column is finished by evening.

Elements of the Italian motorised divisions Ariete[3] and Trento, as well as reinforcements in artillery, arrive in the port of Tripoli.

I./Flak 33 brings down an English Bristol Blenheim[4] near Sirt.

[1]Lt.Col. Harlinghausen held this command only for a few weeks, until the arrival of Major-General Froehlich.
[2]The local theatre commander for the German air force.
[3]Ariete was an armoured division, not motorised. Trento was motorised, but lacked trucks.
[4]A light twin-engined bomber, obsolete by 1941, but still used in large numbers. RAF Bomber Losses in the Mediterranean does not record this claim.

D.A.K. war diary 25 February 1941

25 February 1941

Arrival and Departure of Subordinated Troops

Arrived in Tripoli

4. and 5./Flak 33, Elements 2.(H) 14 3./N.A.39[1]

During the night 24/25 several enemy air attacks, probably from Malta, on city and port of Tripoli. Slight military damage, e.g. a small Italian ship on the Tripoli roads burned out, 1 Italian supply depot hit. Intense AA fire without visible success. (Ic-report)[2] of X.Fliegerkorps that one English plane probably did not return. Fourth naval supply column arrives around 19.00 hours in Tripoli. It contains:

2 batteries of I./Flak 33 and their light columns[3]
3 M39
Reconnaissance plane of A.A.3
Radio intercept platoon and supply goods.

The convoy was repeatedly threatened by enemy submarines, even right before the entry into the port of Tripoli.

Italian cruiser of the escort was torpedoed by enemy submarine and sank.[4] Admiral Weichold[5] arrived with the convoy.

armando_diaz_allengren2

Armando Diaz in 1934/35, probably during a a visit to Australia. Picture taken by Allan C. Green 1878 – 1954State Library of Victoria

[1]4th and 5th Batteries of 1st Battalion AA Regiment 33; 2nd Squadron Army Air Reconnaissance Regiment 14; 3rd Company Signals Battalion 39, respectively
[2]Ic = Intelligence officer on the staff. This was Vickers Wellington ‘O’ T2891 of No. 70 Squadron based in Luqa, Malta. The a/c lost its way on the return leg from the attack and ran out of fuel over Catanzano, 375km NW of Malta, forcing the crew to bale out. Both pilots, P/O Green and F/Lt Pain died. Four remaining crew members, including one from the RNZAF were taken POW, Sgts. Mead, Green, and Limbrick, and LAC Norker.
[3]Light columns were organic supply columns
[4]This was the Armando Diaz, a 6 inch cruiser of the Condottieri class, Cadorna subclass. She was sunk by HM/Sub Upright under the command of Lt. J Wraith, D.S.C. Armando Diaz went down in six minutes following a magazine explosion with heavy loss of life. Depending on the source, 464-500 of over 600 men on board went down with her.
[5]Admiral Eberhard Weichold was the German naval attache in Rome. He was a highly decorated submarine commander in World War I, and now acted as German Admiral at the High Command of the Italian Navy and was in command of the German Naval Command Italy.

First blood: D.A.K. war diary entry 24 February 1941

24 February 1941

Enemy situation: elements of an Australian division[1] apparently pushed forward to Agedabia and south of it. 40km north-east of el Agheila strong enemy forces noted. The area of the Oasis Marada apparently evacuated by the enemy.

During the morning hours successful push of a reinforced patrol of Forward Detachment Wechmar in the area of el Agheila: 2 enemy armoured cars, 1 truck and 1 car destroyed. 1 English officer and 2 other ranks captured, 1 Englishman killed, 1 escaped. No losses of our own.

Commander arrives around midday in Tripoli, coming from Sirt. Courier from Berlin with important news:

e.g. Announcement of the soon to come subordination of former German soldiers of the French Foreign Legion.

[1]This was 6th Australian Division.

D.A.K. war diary entry 23 February 1941

23 February 1941

Commander flies to en Nofilia to Forward Detachment Wechmar under Italian fighter cover. Inspection of the newly arrived dummy tanks. Orders for the improvement of the positions at en Nofilia. Midday return flight to the Oasis Hun. Here only few Italian troops. Orientation by the Aide-de-Camp of the Italian commander who was not present at this time. Around evening return flight to Sirt; there conference with the commander of Italian division Pavia. Overnight in Sirt.

Ground and air situation unchanged.

Naval transport situation:

There are some logjams in the naval transport order, since the fourth planned transport column from Naples has not left until now due to bad weather. The Corps points out the need to urgently accelerate transport columns considering the current situation.