Book review on Java Gold Blog.
Thanks to Stuart over at Tanknet, I have come across this, and had a bit of a look. I want to note that I am publishing this for research purposes, and not to in any way, shape, or form endorse the content.
It’s a pretty comprehensive collection of this Luftwaffe propaganda magazine, that was published in multiple languages, and also featured a lot of colour pictures. Publication seems to have been bi-weekly, and it is reasonably close to the events, so for CRUSADER it is worth looking through the December to March issues of it.
The magazine carried foto stories of the war, both home and actual front, some political articles, regular columns such as ‘How they gained their Knights Cross’, some funny corners and a crossword, amongst other things.
When reading it we shouldn’t forget that it was a propaganda magazine for the Nazi regime, and anything, both pictures and text, needs to be critically considered in this regard, and with it constantly in mind.
Some sample content related to CRUSADER below:
I previously plugged the article at this link. Very pleased to see that the second part has now been published.
You can grab it here for a small fee: http://airwarpublications.com/earticles/unit-history-earticles/Andrew and Morten are doing excellent work in bringing interesting vignettes of the war to our attention, and hopefully many will support them.
The usual disclaimer still applies.
Edited 30 May 2018: Added ULTRA Intercepts.
As I said, every so often I post something not related to CRUSADER.
The document below is a report by the unit that recovered the body of Captain (Hauptmann) and Squadron Commanding Officer (Staffelkapitaen) Hans-Joachim Marseille, at the time the top scoring German ace in North Africa, when his Me 109 went down in flames on 30 September 1942 in the area of Pz.Gren.Regt.115 of 15. Panzerdivision.
Marseille was a major part of German propaganda about the war in Africa, and the way the immediate actions after his death and recovery went demonstrate this. He was generally regarded as an exceptional fighter pilot, and had been awarded well over 100 victories at the time of his death.
M o r i t z, Lieutenant in the Staff of Pz.Gren.Rgt. 115
O.U., 30 September 1942
Report on the Crash of Lieutenant Marseille
On 30 September 1942, at 11.42 hours, 6 German Messerschmitt fighters, coming from the east, fly towards the location of the staff units of Pz.Gren.Rgt.115. Directly above the position of the heavy infantry gun company, in about 200 m of altitude, one of the planes suddenly started trailing black smoke; while the pilot escaped, and then, since the parachute did not open, fell from 200 m of altitude smashing into the ground, the plane spun almost vertically down and exploded on the ground. Remaining parts burned.
Immediately attending soldiers of the heavy infantry gun company, as well as the doctor arriving five minutes later, could only note the death of the pilot because his brain was smashed in (in addition to a complex fracture of the femur). The time of the crash was 11.45 hours. Further investigations showed that the pilot was Lieutenant Marseille. He carried the following private items on his person: 2 rings, 1 medal, 1 letter, 1 watch, Knghts Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords. These things and the whole pilot’s dress, including parachute, were picked up shortly before 12.00 hours by Sergeant W. Wal, L-21658 Munich II (7.schw.Flum.Kp.Ln.Abt.Afrika).
I arrived at 12.00 hours myself, and immediately recognised Lieutenant Marseille based on the published pictures. I ordered immediately, following the doctor’s cleaning and wound-dressing of the body, to lay it in state. Lieutenant Marseille was laid up under a large awning, covered by a Swastika flag, and surrounded by a honour guard of six men with rifles. At the same time, the commanding officer of the 1st battalion, 10cm Artillery Group Littorio, stationed nearby, Captain Luisiana, arrived with 3 officers and put two wreath fabric pieces in the national colours of Italy onto the chest of the dead Lieutenant Marseille, under the ceremonial greeting of all those present.
At 13.15 hours, Lieutenant Marseille was collected in ceremony by all the officers of his squadron, led by his squadron commander, and transferred to his base.
Lieutenant, Staff Pz.Gren.Regt.115
 His actual rank at this time was Hauptmann, Captain or Flight Lieutenant
 Unusually, at the time the regiment had two heavy infantry gun companies, normally equipped with 150mm sIG33 guns, the 13th, and the 15th company. It is not clear which one is referred to here, and I do not know if both were physically present with the regiment at the time.
He should also have carried the diamonds.
 Marseille was the Squadron CO until his death.
Thanks to RodM on the 12 O’Clock High Forum, I can now add two ULTRA intercepts conveying the news of Marseille’s death to authorities in London. This is again a highly unusual step, showing that Marseille was not just recognised on the German side. The intercepts are to be found in the UK National Archives, DEFE 3/573 – Intelligence from intercepted German, Italian and Japanese radio communications, WWII, CX/MSS/C 1-533, 1942 Sept 16-1945 May 15.
What is notable is the discrepancy in the height given at which Marseille baled out of his plane, compared to the report by Lieutenant Moritz above.
TO: C.S.S. Personal
From: Duty Officer, Hut 3
Following neither reported in CX/MSS nor signalled abroad
On 30/9 Fliegerfuehrer AFRIKA reported the death of Hptm. MARSEILLE, Staffelkapitaen in JG 27. He was not killed by enemy action. His engine caught fire and he baled out at 3,000 m. His parachute failed to open and he crashed at 0940/30/9 7 km south of the mosque at SIDI ABD EL RAHMAN, in his own territory. He was flying a Messerschmitt 109G.
TO: C.S.S. Personal
From: Duty Officer, Hut 3
Following neither reported in CX/MSS nor signalled abroad
AMSEL Ia to 5th Air Corps for Feldmarshall, on Hptm. MARSEILLE 2nd Report.
His engine began to smoke from unknown causes over the front area, at 6,000 metres. He then glided towards our territory, during which time the Geschwader control heard him speaking continuously. The enemy did not interfere. MARSEILLE’s voice was perfectly clear. He supposed himself that his engine was on fire. He let his companion in the Schwarm guide him as the cockpit was full of smoke. Flames were first seen as he baled out, which he did at 3,000 metres 7 km. S of SIDI ABD EL RAHMAN ….. (several sentences illegible) …. The a/c was burnt out. Engine and parachute have been found. Funeral probably in the afternoon of 1/10 at DERNA.
Codename for Chief of Staff (Ia) of Fliegerfuehrer Afrika, the commander of Luftwaffe forces in North Africa.
5a Squadra, the Italian air force command for North Africa.
Probably Field Marshal Kesselring
Wing, a unit composed of three Gruppen, the largest tactical command in the Luftwaffe. Comparable to a regiment.
Flight. A sub-unit of a Staffel or Squadron, comparable to a platoon. The six Me109 reported by Lieutenant Moritz would have been the Schwarm on this occasion. As an aside Schwarm is a very old word, originating possibly in Sanskrit, and being very similar in German, English, and Norwegian/Danish.
It’s that time of the year again, the time where I have to plug my friends at Air War Publications. They just published the first part of the 2-part e-Article on 2.H/14, the German close-range aerial recce unit that worked hard to provide intel to the staff of Panzergruppe Afrika.
Examples of the intel provided are below:
Written reconnaissance report (in this case from the long-range recce outfit 1./F121)
Visual interpretation of enemy situation from the air (probably from 2./(H)14, see comment by Andrew below.
Luftwaffe mechanics working on a dis-assembled Hs126 close-range recce plane. From Pinterest.
You can find it at this link:
As always, the article is very well researched and written, and contains a number of rare pictures. Well worth the very low price for anyone interested in the war in North Africa.
Full disclosure: I reviewed the article and contributed data and (I think) some pictures to it. I have no financial interest in plugging it here.
Andrey from the 12 o’clock high forums has gone through the trouble of putting a grid converter for the Luftwaffe Gradnetz grid system online at this link:
It is a superb help for anyone who (like me sometimes) has to figure out where the Germans sent air recce, or where they saw something.
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).
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|
|(current) Me 109F/Mc202||37|
|(old) Me 109E/G.50/Mc.200||86|
|Ju 88/S.79/Br.20/Do 17/He 111||94||130|
|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|
|Cant. Z501 Flying Boat||3|
Table 2: Planes on Overrun Landing Grounds by Landing Ground and Type
|Landing Ground||German Planes||Number||Italian Planes||Number||Total by Airfield|
|Me 109E||17||Ju 87||5|
|Bir el Baheira||Me 110||1||2|
|Gasr el Arid||Me 109F||2||2|
|El Adem||Ju 87||2||Ca. 311||4||78|
|CR.42 or Ro.37||64|
|Sidi Azeiz||Me 109E||1||Cr.42||1||3|
|Gazala No.1||Do 17||1||Mc. 200||5||36|
|Me 109||2||Cr. 42||5|
|Gazala No.2 & 3||Me 109F||11||G.50||2||35|
|Martuba West (Sat. E)||Ju 87||2||5|
|Martuba East||Ju 87||2||Mc 202||1||10|
|Benghazi (Harbour)||Cant Z.501||3||3|
|Benina||Me 110||5||Breda 88||2||64|