continued …

Next day an He 111 took off at 1630 to provide ASV jamming cover for an Axis convoy and a second left two hours later, both landing in Heraklion; the second of these Wildschwein had jammed two Allied frequencies. Once again two Do 217 night fighters had joined in escorting the ships and although there was a British air attack, they did not contact hostile aircraft.

In a somewhat bizarre use of official encrypted channels on the 26th, the Forest Administration in Závadka (Slovakia) signalled the newly-promoted Generalmajor Aschenbrenner that the stag-rutting season was in full swing and invited him to come and shoot them. Also on that date, a “signals Ju 52”, TA+BK, force landed at Benghazi, incurring 60% damage; this machine belonged to 10./Ln.Regt. 40. On 27 September, Fw. Pradel sent two reports. Via WIM 9, he told the Senior Signals Officer with Flifü Afrika that KF+UX was taking off for Bardia at 0615; to Bardia he signalled that the aircraft’s return to Qotafiya was uncertain. These flights may have been connected with a decision that a 200-watt transmitter which was not in use should be sent to the Bardia WIM station.

Overnight convoy protection on 27 September was provided by three ASV jamming aircraft (up at 1600, 1920 and 2032), a Do 217 which left Heraklion at 1849 and another from Derna at 1930 hours. Of these night fighters, one was over the convoy from 2015–2140 then lost contact with it after its direction-finding gear broke down; the second landed at 2030 with engine trouble. Three Beauforts were subjected to jamming while operating against a convoy WSW of Crete on 27 September, such that none of them got an ASV contact and only one a visual. Three were three He 111 jammers on convoy duty that night.

NOTE: The Beaufort observers' reports left “little doubt that Cretan jammer is the most effective used by the enemy [and] apparently saturates receiver at 120 sea miles’ range [222 km] when aircraft at heights of 100 to 200 feet [30–60 m]”. The characteristics of these transmitters were judged to be different from those in Sicily, not least in their great power. This incidentally was the only ASV strike that RAF Malta could identify as having been thwarted by jamming in the period 5 September–5 October.

A less favourable view of the power of these onshore jammers had been offered by the Kriegsmarine Operations Staff’s Diary for 4 August 1942:

It is planned to set up a jamming station on the Île de Groix [in the Bay of Biscay] but it will be effective only as far as 65 km from the shore. The Communications Equipment Experimental Command [Nachrichtenmittel-Erprobungskommando] is preparing a stronger jamming transmitter whose range, however, will still be limited.

On 29 September, the Air Ministry in London was warning RAF Middle East that Freya and WIM stations were to cooperate in tracking Allied reconnaissance aircraft, immediately passing their plots to fighter and Zerstörer units. The object was, of course, to protect the supply convoys, and efforts would concentrate on the sea areas north of El Daba and in an arc off the western tip of Crete, both lying within Freya coverage. Fliegerkorps X reported its strength on the 30th, not mentioning Kdo. Koch but including “two unspecified units, strength unknown” and a Nachtjagdkommando with 4 (0) aircraft, presumably including the Do 217s. There were two He 111 jamming sorties that night, taking off at 1545 and 2030 hours. The Fliegerkorps issued an account of its ground and air WIM activities for the last night of September. Crete had taken fixes on 11 British ground radars in the 199–206 mHz frequency band and for the first time RAF night fighter radars were detected SW of Crete. Snap bearings had been taken by El Daba, Bardia, Derna and Crete West on no fewer than 14 ASV aircraft, so that the Wildschweine could be given the most productive courses to fly. To supplement the airborne effort, active jamming of ASV had been provided by the Nachtfalter at Derna and Crete West.

A local fuel crisis had developed on Crete at the end of September: transport was delayed and there were warnings that operations and convoys escorts were in jeopardy unless fresh supplies arrived. Assurances were given on the 30th that the shortages would be redressed by 4 October. Another sign of strain came in a directive of 25 September that the other ranks establishment of Luftwaffe signals units was to be reduced by 10% since the allocation of new recruits for autumn 1942 and all of 1943 had been blocked. The only exception to these cuts was to be the radar stations. An announcement also went out from the Luftwaffe Operations Staff of a week-long planning conference for the air reporting service, starting on 15 November. Local commands were to send “three of the important officers”, including those actually responsible for carrying out the reporting.

No. 221 Squadron was still reporting ASV jamming during the last week of September:

23rd: The Operations Record Book notes that F/O Burke’s crew (HF857) encountered “very severe S.I. jamming”.

24th: F/O Hancock’s crew sighted a southbound destroyer, 220 km north of Tobruk but their Wellington (BB471) was hit by light Flak, reducing their speed. Their ASV was “very badly jammed”.

28th: F/O Cochrane (BB461) found a convoy and dropped flares, despite jamming of ASV. On detachment from No. 120 Squadron, F/L Proctor’s Liberator (AM916/L) picked up three blips on its starboard beam aerial despite considerable interference with ASV, and dropped flares but could not get a visual sighting.

To compound these problems, ASV could develop normal faults and sometimes enemy aircraft were encountered too. On 26 September F/S Taylor’s crew spotted a southbound convoy, dropped flares and carried out the homing procedure but were attacked by a Ju 88 and although not hit were prevented from providing the illumination request by aircraft “Z”. While 12 Ju 88 flew escort sorties on the 26th, none reported encountering enemy aircraft.

By the end of the month, Air HQ Egypt had issued a set of instructions for the “Control of ‘Lark’ Fighters”, setting out how jamming aircraft were to be countered:

The apparatus works through the V.H.F. set by means of special aerials. When these are switched on the pilot can D/F himself onto any aircraft giving out a transmission.

At present the gauge altitude from the apparatus. He may be able to get some assistance re altitude from his A.I. but this is usually jammed when close to and behind a “Lark” bandit.

The range is about seventy miles. Initial vectors are given to the fighter not to get a contact, but to save time and distance and to avoid a long stern chase …

When a “Lark” is reported and the probable “Lark” bandit established, Sector will give the fighter a vector to cut off the bandit. If possible they will give the height and course of the bandit and its distance from the fighter.

When the fighter is nearing the bandit and it is thought that the interception cannot be assisted by further vectors, the pilot will be told to go over the Channel “C”. He will then switch on the apparatus and complete the interception himself …

It had been concluded by 2 October that the enemy might not use “Lark” throughout a raid but only intermittently, for example during an attempted AI interception:

The “FLYCATCHER” Beaufighters must, therefore, be given first priority under G.C.I. control unless it is established that the enemy are using “LARK” continuously.

Measures were also underway to increase ground radars’ resistance to jamming and a standard format had been developed for the stations to report times, frequencies, bearings etc.

By early November the defending “special” fighters were also being referred to as “lark aircraft” while the threat to Egypt was so far diminished that only one of them was being held at 30 minutes’ readiness, at RAF Abu Sueir. By that time, “to avoid a certain amount of confusion”, the following standard terminology had been specified:

Bandit responsible for interference conditions


Beaufighters specially equipped to intercept the above


Hurricanes specially equipped to intercept the above


Jamming conditions


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