September 1942


The early hours of the 1st again saw No. 46 Squadron’s crews experiencing jamming when attempting interceptions over the Egypt:

Scrambled Alex area, obtained a contact, closed to 10,000 ft range dead astern of E/A and 200ft below. Observer reported excessive interference. After diving to increase speed E/A was lost. Several times interference was experienced..

(P/O J.A. White, Sgt. K.F.G. Inskip)

Scrambled Cairo area, contact obtained. E/A lost on turning towards it. Interference on AI experienced after take-off and also experiences Nth-Nth West of base but not during chase which was very close to Cairo.

(P/O J.R.W. Roe, Sgt. D.A.T. Young)

The existence but not the location of a Störleitstelle Afrika (Jamming Control Station Africa) was revealed to the Allies via a message of 1 September, addressed to a radar repair depot in Messina. For the first night of the month, all available jamming aircraft were ordered to protect two ships, Abbruzzi and Picci Fassio from nightfall: two Heinkels were deployed, from 1700–0030 and 2145–0500 hours but the Fassio was torpedoed and sunk by the RAF at 0045. A Wildschwein was on station with the convoy at the time and had jammed seven ASV frequencies. Even so, the Germans monitored continuous ASV contact reports from hostile aircraft and right before the attack there was a call to illuminate the target. As for the Abruzzi, she was reportedly attacked from 1720–25 in complete darkness by two Beaufighters and seven Liberators despite the presence of seven escorting Axis aircraft which shot up one of the B-24s. The subsequent verdict on the incident was that ”no one can be blamed”.

During the night … the tanker Picci Fassio was sunk off Derna by enemy planes. In the same area the escorted tanker Abruzzi with 484 tons of fuel for the German Army was damaged by a bomb hit … and was abandoned by the crew. Another air attack occurred during the night … on the escort of the steamer Proserpina east of Otranto … The extraordinarily vigorous and successful enemy air activity against the African supply operations is extremely troublesome …

Seelkriegsleitung, 2 September 1942

Shipping losses due to enemy air attacks have assumed intolerable proportions. I hereby direct [you] to take measures to ensure that in future losses are reduced to a minimum.

Directive to X. Fliegerkorps and Kdo. Herling, 2 September 1942

NOTE: Abruzzi remained afloat and received air cover from the 48^ Squadriglia pending the arrival of the tug Ciclope arrived to tow her to Ra’s al Hilal, where she arrived late on the afternoon of 3 September. Rome ordered an inquiry into the actions of her crew since the ship had no serious damage and al lher secret papers had been left on the bridge. Some 450 tonnes of petrol were unloaded and a diver was sent down, establishing that apart from a slight list to starboard, the ship’s trim was normal, she was not holed and only small amounts of water had got in. Abruzzi was towed to Benghazi on the 9th.

The ground stations were evidently very busy for Fliegerkorps X complained to Ob. Süd that Obltn. Zadra, currently in charge of the WIM-Zentrale was the sole plotter and that his health had deteriorated considerably as a result of continuous night duty; relief plotters were urgently requested. Perhaps in response to this entreaty, Oberst Aschenbrenner advised Fliegerkorps X advised that Noto was immediately to detach 10 good WIM operators to the Zentrale at Kounavi.

NOTE: An intercept station had been established at Noto, Sicily in March 1942 by 10./Ln.Rgt. 2. From this vantage point, “all VHF transmitters on Malta could be heard most distinctly [and] air battles could be followed from take-off to landing”.

As on several previous days, British ground stations in Egypt plotted airborne jamming in the early hours of 2 September:

… bearings disclosed the source of interference to be travelling East and at this juncture the “Lark” warning was passed to 252 Wing Controller. After reaching 070º at 0341 [GMT+2] the source of interference appeared to travel West through 147º. At this time Raid 3 was on the table and its movements coincided with that of the source of interference …

Two RCM aircraft operated on that night, indirectly protecting the damaged and drifting Abruzzi and the Italian Navy's tanker Stige. Only one carried out this task and the tanker reached its destination at 0800 on the 3rd while the Abruzzi was towed into Benghazi. At 2355 hrs, 90 km NNW Tobruk an RAF aircraft reported interference on its ASV: “intermittent A.M. C.W. [amplitude modulated continuous wave] on port side of tube only, course 312º.” In addition »LN Sonderkommando RPZ« (Special Air Signals Detachment of the Reich Postal Service Main Office) at Noto, Sicily reported the detection of ASV radars at 1925 and 2035. In both cases bearings were taken but detection was followed by “electrical interference”.

Next day the Axis commanders issued new instructions: finding it hard to provide sufficient escorting aircraft given the needs at the front, they directed that convoys leaving Tobruk and Benghazi should be routed to proceed together wherever possible. Furthermore, ships bound from Greece to Italian ports should pass by night through areas where Luftwaffe escort was required. The Kommando suffered an operational loss on 2 September when He 111 H-6, W.Nr. 7586, TM+KP crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from Kalamaki, killing all four of Ltn. Johannes Rische’s crew. Two bodies were recovered, those of Rische and his wireless operator, Uffz. Helmut Brohammer, who are buried in the Dionyssos-Rapendoza war cemetery. Their unit was recorded as "Sonderkommando Koch beim Kampfgeschwader 100", a choice of words suggesting that the Kommando was supported by rather than aubordinated to KG 100; place of death was “sea area near Kalamaki, 12 km south east Athens, Greece”.

By 1430 on the 3rd, Fliegerkorps X realised that the Sportivo convoy (which also included the transports Bianchi and Padenna and four escorts) had been located by the British and ordered jamming by all available aircraft. The position that afternoon however was that “all the Wildschweine are ill” but one later “recovered”, taking off at 1937 hours, an RAF aircraft experiencing “railing type interference” on its ASV display at midnight, about 120 km NNW Tobruk. Whilst the Sportivo got through to Tobruk, Padenna, Bianchi and the torpedo boat Polluce were torpedoed or bombed overnight, the first of these by an RN submarine, the others by aircraft. Lieutenant Edward Catton (SAAF) and his crew (Wellington T2979) took off at 2054 on 3 August, ordered to locate a convoy and call down a strike on it. They reported:

Two flares dropped and seven or eight barges (believed to be F-boats) were sighted in pos. 33 16 N, 23 05 E. Intense fire damaged a/c and Navigator but not seriously. A/c after a short while returned to base as petrol was leaking and the S.I. was jammed. A crash landing was made owing to punctured port tyre.

NOTES: “F-boat” was an Allied name for the Marinefährprahm landing craft, employed for transport and as Flak escorts. The position given is 70 km NNE Derna, 160 km NW Tobruk.

On the 5th, Sonderkdo. Koch reported from Kalamaki that three of its aircraft were unserviceable: an He 111 H-6 was having both engines changed; another was undergoing a “special installation” as was the unit’s Ju 88 D-5.

A new convoy consisting of four transports and 12 destroyers was considered a “decisive factor for continuing the North African struggle” and so the daylight escort on 6 September was to include:

For Ankara and Sestriere: at least six aircraft from first light, to the position of rendezvous with Ravello and Manara (c. 0730), continuing until 1000.

From 1000 until dark, at least nine aircraft.

Additional escort continuously from first light until 1030, Italian aircraft and three Bf 109 of Fliegerkorps II.

From 1000 until dark, three Ju 88 of Fliegerkorps II as low cover against torpedo-carrying aircraft, three Bf 110 as high cover.

It was also hoped to bring in Do 217 night fighters (even though Berlin had not yet agreed to allocate any) and as a further protective measure German wireless operators were to be embarked on the escorting Italian destroyers Folgore and Antonio Pigafetta. In addition, Fliegerkorps II (in Taormina, Sicily) confirmed that »Trupp 7« would operate aboard the destroyer Aviere for the protection of the combined Ravello and Ankara convoys. From the context it seems that their role was to liaise with the air escorts. Fliegerkorps II also signalled details of two jamming sorties apparently due to take place overnight (many words are missing from the intercepted text) along designated patrol lines. A pair of minesweeping Ju 52 which arrived in Athens-Tatoi on the 6th were to be sent to Tobruk “at once”, and this too could be seen as a measure to ensure the “decisive” convoy’s safe arrival. First however there was a practice mission: WIM 7 at Derna was notified by the »WIM-Zentrale« that from 1200–1500 an He 111 would be making a jamming test flight, radiating on 173, 180, 190 and 200 mHz. All WIM stations were to report signal strength and direction on those frequencies.

NOTE: ULTRA intelligence on the above convoy prompted a “Most Immediate” personal signal from the Chief of the Air Staff to the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Middle East, saying that this “clearly offers supreme opportunity for RAF to strike blow which, if successful, may well affect whole future course of war. Sure you will do everything possible regardless of necessary cost …” In the event, Manara had already been torpedoed by aircraft on the afternoon of the 6th and beached in Corfu.

continued on next page …





13 September

Failed British commando raid on Tobruk.

Early September–
late October

Eighth Army build-up and training for planned offensive. Axis forces fortify positions before El Alamein, laying extensive minefields.

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