Information on RAF Light Night Striking Force Air Crew Members

In preparation for an upcoming publication, I am looking for personal information on members of the Light Night Striking Force that got killed, went missing or were taken POW during missions to Berlin in late 1944 and 1945.

I have compiled a list of air crew members in question and I would be gratful if you would contact me by eMail at andreas@andreaszapf.de if you  can and are willing to provide publishable background information.

I just want to try and honor these man and their Luftwaffe adversaries by describing them as more than just a name or number on a listing.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

February 22nd, 1945: 10./NJG 11 and “Operation Clarion”

Some sources in Literature say that Oblt. Kurt Welter and at least some of his pilots flew daylight missions to counter “Operation Clarion” on February 22/23, 1945. It is also said, that they made five claims, Oblt. Kurt Welter and Fw. Fritz Reichenbach scoring two Mosquitos each, while Fw. Gustav Richartz claimed a single twin-engine bomber1)Bowman, Martin: German Night Fighters Versus Bomber Command 1943-1945, Page 201.

2nd Tactical Air Force – A Loss List

Before we are taking a look at the Luftwaffe side of things, here is a quick summary of the documented Mosquito losses for “Operation Clarion”:

  • No. 21 Sqn. RAF lost 2 Mosquitos, two crew members being killed, two indicated as “safe”
  • No. 107 Sqn. RAF lost 1 Mosquito, both crew members being captured.
  • No. 305 Sqn. RAF lost 1 Mosquito, one crew member being killed and one captured.
  • No. 418 Sqn. RAF lost 4 Mosquitos, four crew members being killed, two captured and two indicated as “safe”.
  • No. 464 Sqn. RAF lost 2 Mosquitos, three crew members being killed, one captured.
  • No. 487 Sqn. RAF lost 5 Mosquitos, eight crew members being killed, two indicated as “safe”.
  • No. 605 Sqn. RAF lost 6 Mosquitos, five crew members being killed, three captured and two indicated as “safe”.
  • No. 613 Sqn. RAF lost 3 Mosquitos, four crew members being killed, two indicated as “safe”

So on Mosquitos, the 2 TAF lost a total of 24 aircraft – a major loss record for just two days.

The Luftwaffe Record of Events

The Luftwaffe records “Operation Clarion” as follows:

“Strong fighter activity over NW-, W- and SW-Germany, a total of about 1.000 aircraft with focus on the Rhine-Westphalian industrial area and the Münsterland (450) as well as the central Rhine area (250).”2)BArch. RL 2-II/388: Tagesmeldungen Reich Ic Februar 1945

Unfortunately, the Morgenmeldung Luftwaffeführungsstab Ic only records the air operations of 1. Jagd-Division, 10./NJG 11 (or “Kommando Welter”) was flying under the authority of 2. Jagd-Division during the month of February 1945.

The US Missing Air Crew Listing of Allied A/C Losses

NARA holds a summary document containing a listing of crashed allied aircraft in Germany which has likely been compiled from German records captured after the war was over. This document – for February 22nd, 1945 – lists a total of 21 Mosquitos crashed in German occupied territory.

Some of those Mosquitos listed can be traced back to the actual losses of “Operation Clarion” – others can only be guessed, some remain open.

Details on Mosquito Operations

Working from the squadron’s Operations Records Books, we can “work backwards”, analyzing the known Mosquito operations of the day:

No. 21 Sqn. RAF

As mentioned earlier, No. 21 Sqn. RAF lost two Mosquitos in “Operation Clarion”, two crew members being killed and two indicated as “safe”.

The two Mosquitos in question are PZ305 (with P/O Adams and F/SGT Nicholas as crew) and HR150 (with F/LT Hugh Henry Fielding Johnson [130659, RAFVR] and F/O Leonard George Harbord [152426, RAFVR])3)The National Archives, AIR 27/265: Operations Record Book No. 21 Sqn. RAF.

While the first one performed a successful belly-landing at Brussels, the latter one failed to return. The crew rests at the Hannover War Cemetery, the Graves Concentration Report Form shows the cemetery of Ströhen as initial burial location, which usually is very close to the place of the actual crash.

No. 107 Sqn. RAF

No. 107 Sqn. RAF has a single Mosquito which fails to return, HR188 flown by MAJ. Hunt and P/O Collins4)The National Archives, AIR 27/845: Operations Record Book No. 107 Sqn. RAF. She left her base at Cambrai/F at 11:18 hrs. and reportedly crashed near Meyenburg, north of Bremen5)see Website Fliegerschicksale, Mosquito HR188. Cause for this loss was Flak, both crew members where taken prisoner.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany, it is #17 of the above list:

No. 305 Sqn. RAF

This unit reports one Mosquito missing, the “J-Aircraft”, Mosquito PZ380. She was flown by W/O Smith and F/SGT Robertson, leaving base at 11:35 hrs. She was last seen by the “A-Aircraft” of the squadron with one engine on fire and preparing to land about 8 miles south-west of Bremen6)The National Archives, AIR 27/1672: Operations Record Book No. 305 Sqn. RAF.

While F/SGT Robertson survives the crash, W/O E. Smith (1268888, RAFVR) is killed in the crash, the initial burial recorded at the cemetery of Kassebruch which is located approx. 30 km north-northwest of Bremen.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#15):

No. 418 Sqn. RCAF “City of Edmonton”

The squadron lost four Mosquitos over the course of action, all listed under the date of “21st/22nd” in the Operations Records Book of the unit. All four crews had the operational target “Patrol Zwolle – Osnabrück” listed as assigned duty.

First listed is the “X-Aircraft”, Mosquito PZ397 with W/CDR Wickett and F/O Jessop. It appears that the Mosquito has been shot down near Groningen/NL by flak, both crew members taken POW.

This aircraft is possibly listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#5):

Also listed is the “R-Aircraft”, Mosquito PZ388 with F/LT Hugh Murdo Hope [C23855, RCAF] and F/O Leslie Amos Thorpe [163879, RAFVR]. According to Canadian documents, the Mosquito was shot down by flak and crashed approx. 450 yards from the depot of Nieuwe Schans, about 27 miles east of Groningen/NL. Both airmen were killed in the crash.

Next up – or rather: down – is Mosquito RS604, the  “M-Aircraft”, flown by F/LT Hackett and F/O Brittain. Not much is known about this crash, however, both crew members seem to have survived the crash as there is no record of any deceased airmen by this name and date. It is said that they have been lost south of Terschelling/NL, over sea.

This aircraft is possibly listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#19):

Finally, Mosquito RS569 with F/LT Herbert Edwin Miller [138448, RAFVR] and F/SGT Wilfred Hooper [196283, RAFVR] is also lost, both crew members are killed in the crash. While F/SGT Hooper is still listed as “missing in action”, F/LT Miller is buried at the Reichswald Forest War Cemetery with no initial burial location noted.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#4):

No. 464 Sqn. RAAF

Two Mosquitos are lost from No. 464 Sqn. RAAF in “Operation Clarion” – the first one being NT177 with F/O Ronald William Alexander Rankin [J25391, RCAF] and P/O Derek Stephen Judd [165090, RAFVR]. While latter one survives the crash, F/O Rankin is killed.

Canadian documents indicate his initial burial location as Rotenburg an der Wümme, just south of Hamburg which suggests that the location of the crash is somewhere near, maybe at the airfield of Rotenburg.

Two aircraft are listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany as having come down at Rotenburg (#6 & #14) – which one of those is NT177 remains open, although one source suggests it is the one that crashed at the local airfield:

Also missing is Mosquito HX920, flown by F/O Allan John McMahon [422870, RAAF] and P/O Kennedy Gowlett [426457, RAAF]. While F/O McMahon is still listed as “missing in action”, P/O Gowlett is today buried at the Hannover War Cemetery with the initial burial recorded at the Engelbostel Cemetery, north-northwest of Hannover7)The Grave Concentration Report Form lists an “unknown navigator”, died on Januar 10, 1945, which is a strong indication that – if correct – this identification in fact might be incorrect..

Given that the aircraft of the squadron operated in the same area, it is also possible that the second Mosquito crashed at Rotenburg is in fact HX920 – but that is a far shot.

No. 487 Sqn. RNZAF

This squadron suffered the second highest loss of Mosquitos in “Operation Clarion” – a total of five aircraft went missing.

First noted is Mosquito PZ395 with W/CDR Reginald William Baker (401748, RNZAF) and F/LT Alexander John Fowler (422654, RNZAF). Both crew members were killed in the crash of their aircraft, their bodies discovered at the cemetery of Bevern/Bremervörde.

A second Mosquito lost is NS963, flown by F/LT Paul Christopher Wendover Sage [113425, RAFVR] and F/O John Cockburn [145110, RAFVR]. Both crewmen are killed, ther initial burial is recorded at Bevern/Bremervörde.

Both aircraft are likely listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#8 & #9) – which one is which, however, will remain unknown for the time being:

The third Mosquito which did not return is NS981 with F/O Lance Dixon Gilbertson [421368, RNZAF] and F/O A. J. Askew [RNZAF]. They are noted as having been heard to say “baling out” and in fact, both survived the crash of their Mosquito, becoming prisoners of war. Likely, their aircraft came down near Barchel.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#3):

The fourth Mosquito lost is HP933 with F/O Peter Harold Burne [J88797, RCAF] and F/LT Allan Jerry Vickers [J13115, RCAF]. She was hit by flak near Hüttenbusch / Worpswede and exploded in mid-air. The remains of both crewmen were initially buried at Geestmünde.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany – although identified as HP833 (#11):

Last but not least, Mosquito HR177 fails to return with F/LT David Potts [129379, RAFVR] and F/SGT Frank Valentine [1625056, RAFVR] at the controls. Both were initially buried at the cemetery of Ostermede (today known as “Osterwede”), south-west of Bremervörde. She most likely crashed near Brillit, the next village to the west of Osterwede.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#1):

No. 605 Sqn. RAF

The first Mosquito lost is HR355, flown by S/LDR McCall and P/O Caulfield. Both survive the crash of the Mosquito and become prisoners of war.

Possibly, this aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany #10):

The above match is made under the assumption that the aircraft of the squadron may have operated in one specific area and that other aircraft lost in this area are identified in the listing, leaving only this one entry unmatched.

Next, Mosquito PZ406 with F/LT Edward Leonard Jones [131857, RAFVR] and F/O Gerwyn Phillips [153228, RAFVR] is lost. This crew is not so lucky – both airmen are killed. The initial graves are located at the cemetery at Lehe, south of Papenburg.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#13):

The third Mosquito lost is PZ416, flown by F/O Robert James Rex Owen [171378, RAFVR] and P/O George Thirlwell [165656, RAFVR]. Both are killed in the crash, their initial graves located at Lehe cemetery, south of Papenburg.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#2):

This Mosquito is followed swift by PZ409, flown by F/LT Jack George Enticott [129748, RAFVR] and F/SGT Derek Cecil Hinton [1602154, RAFVR]. While the navigator survives the crash by baling out, the pilot, F/LT Enticott, is killed. The crash location is said to be located near Eelde airfield, supported by the fact that F/LT Enticott is today buried at the Eelde General Cemetery.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#7):

A little bit later, another Mosquito is lost, HR205. She is flown by F/LT Archibald Vincent Rix [109142, RAFVR] and F/O Robert Burrows [154847, RAFVR]. The Mosquito is damaged by flak and is belly-landed at RAF Blackbushe where is is rated as “damaged beyond repair”. Both crewmen escape the wreck unharmed.

No. 613 Sqn. RAF

Another three Mosquitos are lost to No. 613 Sqn. RAF – the first one being LR338 with F/LT David Walter Thomas Stealey [66552, RAFVR] and F/O Arthur John Backshell [154555, RAFVR] at the controls. The crew is still “missing in action”, both are remembered at the Runnymede Memorial.

Also lost is Mosquito RS563, flown by F/LT Albert Eric Arnold [116563, RAFVR] and F/O Arthur William Higginson [163646m RAFVR]. Their initial graves are located at Hohn near Rendsburg.

This aircraft is listed in the US Listing of Allied Aircraft crashed over Germany (#12):

Finally, Mosquito NS899 is lost, flown by F/O Harold Maurive Dean [136502] and F/O Muir. Both are indicated as “safe”, meaning they not only survived the loss of their aircraft but also walked away from the landing on own territory.

Back to 10/NJG 11…

So back to Kurt Welter and 10./NJG 11: none of the Mosquitos lost during “Operation Clarion” – at least those, that I was able to identify – are lost anywhere close to Kurt Welter’s area of operations.

Most of the Mosquitos lost are attributed to anti-aircraft fire – or “Flak”. None of them is remotely connected to a claim of a Messerschmitt Me 262 as Welter and his men flew them.

So far, there is no conclusive evidence available that suggests that Kurt Welter and 10./NJG 11 have been operating against the Mosquito raiders of “Operation Clarion”. Leave alone that any of them would have scored a Mosquito…or five.

References   [ + ]

1. Bowman, Martin: German Night Fighters Versus Bomber Command 1943-1945, Page 201
2. BArch. RL 2-II/388: Tagesmeldungen Reich Ic Februar 1945
3. The National Archives, AIR 27/265: Operations Record Book No. 21 Sqn. RAF
4. The National Archives, AIR 27/845: Operations Record Book No. 107 Sqn. RAF
5. see Website Fliegerschicksale, Mosquito HR188
6. The National Archives, AIR 27/1672: Operations Record Book No. 305 Sqn. RAF
7. The Grave Concentration Report Form lists an “unknown navigator”, died on Januar 10, 1945, which is a strong indication that – if correct – this identification in fact might be incorrect.
Posted in General | Leave a comment

In search of: Mosquito MM233, Royal Air Force

On Sepmber 2, 1944, a lone Mosquito of No. 544 Sqn. RAF, flown by F/O Harry Woods (Serial: 139965) and F/SGT Philip Bullimore (Serial: 1545776), is on a long-range reconnaissance mission down the river Elbe.

West of Jüterbog, the Mosquito is intercepted and shot down by a Messerschmitt Bf 109, flown by Ofw. Heinrich von Stade, 10./JG 300 – a unit specialized in Mosquito hunting.

The crash site is documented as “Weddin, 12 km NE of Wittenberg”. Both crew members are killed, they are initially buried in the church yard of the tiny village. I have recently visited the village of Weddin to take photos for a book project.

MM233-5

To the south of the village, the vast woodlands of the Korpstädter Heide are covering the landscape, frequently interrupted by farm fields. To the north, west, and east, open country with fields dominates.

MM233-2

The village itself is tiny, probably only 20 – 30 houses. It is a remote, very quiet place and today, it is hard to believe that it was the staging area of a Mosquito loss and subsequent burial about 70 years ago.

MM233-4

The only cemetary on the village is in the church yard of the small church – the size fitting the size of the village.

MM233-3

The crew now rests on the British War Cemetery in Berlin, both graves have been photographed.

MM233-1

I am interested in the following:

  • any detailed information with provisioning of the originating source that states where exactly the aircraft came down.
  • any detailed information incl. publishable photographs of the two crew men – their backgrounds, their education, families, etc.
Posted in Aircraft Losses | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

In search of: Mosquito MM231, Royal Air Force

On September 18, 1944, a Mosquito of No. 544. Sqn. RAF, flown by F/LT Geoffrey Colin Devas Hunter, DFC, (Serial: 126596) and F/O John Fielden, DFC, (Serial: 141154) left her base at Benson/UK at 11:55 hrs. for a mission to northern Germany.

The Operational Records Book of No. 544 Sqn. states: “Objective: Targets at Hitzacker, Hamburg, Lübeck, Parchim.” – the aircraft failed to return from the mission.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission lists their initial burial site as the cemetery of the small village of Meetzen, south-east of Lübeck, west of Schwerin in northern Germany (see here).

German documents show the crash of a Mosquito at 15:07 hrs. between the villages of Holdorf and Meetzen, 4.5 km NW of Gadebusch – the Mosquito disintegrated mid-air and burnt on ground impact. Clear evidence of a fighter attack is noted.

The claims of the Luftwaffe do not include a matching entry but sources attribute the loss of the Mosquito to Lt. Joachim Weber from EKdo. 262 who supposedly claimed a Mosquito that day (the only one).

I have recently visited the approximate crash site – or more prescisely: the road between the villages of Meetzen and Holdorf.

MM231-1

That part of Germany is wide open country with miles and miles of farm fields in between. The roads are usually lines with big old trees and the villages are remote and tiny.

I have also visited the small cemetery at Meetzen where the two crew members were intially buried – like the village, it is a tiny, peaceful place.

MM231-2

Both crewmembers have been relocated after the war, their final resting place is the Berlin War Cemetary at Heerstrasse.

MM231-3

With respect to a book project I am working on, I would have the following questions:

  • Can anyone provide conclusive evidence of the claim made by Lt. Joachim Weber?
  • Is anyone able to provide background information including publishable photos of the two crew members?
  • Does anyone have a more detailed location for the crash or material from German archives that would help to isolate the exact location where MM231 came down?
Posted in Aircraft Losses, General | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Messerschmitt Me 262 of 10./NJG 11

While researching the unit history of 10./NJG 11 (see here), also known as Kommando Welter, one of the interesting questions is: which aircraft were flown by Kurt Welter and his men – when he was at Rechlin doing testing, when they were Kommando Welter and when they finally were an operational unit as 10./NJG 11.

It has been an interesting ride gathering the information I am now able to present – this is not the end of it but it serves as a solid foundation to ask other Luftwaffe enthusiasts for feedback and maybe additional material.

Personally, I have one or two more Werknummern to trace and I think adding the history of the Messerschmitt Me 262 Twinseaters (the Me 262 B-1a Trainers) to the story will help as well – but that is a work to be done.

PDFPlease click the PDF Logo in the left or here to download a copy of what I was able to accumulate on information. And please look at it from a point of “work in progress” – something that I am reasonably happy with at the moment but also will update in the future (as outline above). Comments and feedback are always welcome!

Posted in General | Tagged | Leave a comment

New “home” for “Kommando Welter”

My information on 10./NJG 11 – also known as “Kommando Welter” has now been updated and translated to English. It also comes with a completely new web site, please go and visit Kommando-Welter.de.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Luftwaffe Navigation Map

I have mentioned it before – I prefer to have access to “authentic” material when writing or illustrating my work. This time, eBay provided a possibility to get my hands on an original Luftwaffe navigation map.

Luftnavigationskarte - 1280The map itself is not “new” in the sense that there would not be a couple of copies available electronically. This one has probably been cut and then fitted onto a piece of linen. Typically, it should indicate the publishing source – Generalstab der Luftwaffe – and the year it was published.

Unlike some other copies I have, this one does not have the Luftwaffen Meldenetz included – it also does not show any indication as to the date the information concerning the validity of Bodenorganisation – the ground installations of the Luftwaffe. I still assume that it has been published early in 1940, given the contents.

The map’s legend is preserved – it allows us to distinguish the major (civil) airfields (Verkehrsflughafen) from those with night-lighting facilities (Verkehrsflughafen mit Nachtbefeuerung) and the Seaplane Stations (Wasserflughafen). It also shows the landing grounds (Landeplatz).

Image 02 - LegendeQuite interesting are the major airways – at a time where there was no GPS and radio navigation was in it’s infancy, navigation uses ground-based light-beacons to mark the airways.

Image 04 - RoutesThe image above shows the area between Hamburg and Danzig (Gdansk) in the north, down to Leipzig in the South including the major airways in the area (mostly to and from Berlin).

Next is the airfields and landing grounds on the map – it is not “all of them” in the area but here are the major ones: Berlin-Tempelhof (1), Rangsdorf (2), Stettin-Altdamm, Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel (4), Hannover-Vahrenwald (5), Braunschweig-Waggum (6), Magdeburg-Süd (7), Wernigerode (8), Leipzig-Schkeuditz (9).

There are also some few landing grounds indicated on this map: Stargard (A), Gifhorn (B), Sachau (C), Weißewarte (D), Brandenburg-Mötzow (E), Lippen (F), Groß-Schönefeld/Pomerania (G), Wittenberg (H), Bad Frankenhausen (I).

Image 05 - AirfieldsMany of these airfields are mentioned in the document “Der Reichsminister der Luftfahrt und Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe – LB 4 – Az. 40 b 10 Nr. 540/39 (II A)“, dated June 28, 1939, and held on file at the Bundesarchiv/Militärarchiv in Freiburg (Signature: RL 6/21). You can find a transcript of this file here (in German).

Obviously, those volumes of the full series “Flugplätze der Luftwaffe 1934 – 1945 – und was davon übrig blieb” are also covering those airfield that eventually were used by the Luftwaffe. For those able to read German, you can find more information here.

Posted in Maps | Leave a comment

“Kommando Welter” – The 10./NJG 11

I have promised this for quite some time, now I have reached a point where I want to live up to my promise. A few comments, I hope, are allowed though:

  1. I have spent about a year researching the background behind 10./NJG 11 – others have spent a much longer time doing so.
  2. I don’t claim, I have the answer to it all and I don’t believe that my documented findings are without error.

I share my findings and thoughts with everyone at no cost because I believe this is a story worth being told and the airmen involved, no matter what country they have been flying for, deserve to be remembered.

If you think, I made a mistake somewhere… you may be right. In this case, please get in touch with me and tell me where you think I am wrong and why. I’d love to hear your position! And I am much appreciating any kind of input!

I am fully aware that – at the moment – the German language of the script reduces it’s reach. Therefore, I will begin a translation into English. Having said this, my current intention is to only correct and amend any of my findings in the to-be English version to avoid double work. As I am currently also running a second project, I have no due date for this English version – I’d like to loosely target Q2/2015.

2015-06-21: Please note that the download of the originally posted version has been removed and the document has been replaced by a web site to be found here.

Having said this, please feel free to download your copy of my findings on Mosquitos and their Me 262 adversaries… a fascinating story about the Luftwaffe’s only operational jet unit in the Nachtjagd. And please: let me know what you think and where you think that I need to adjust my script over time!

 

Posted in General | Tagged | 1 Comment

…reviewing British ULTRA Records – 10./NJG 11 Status Update

Now, while working on the additional material that keeps showing up, I also found  my way to some ULTRA Material (to be precise: DEFE 3 Data) on the website of the National Archives. I don’t know why I did not notice them earlier, but maybe I was just using the wrong search terms.

A quick note on the ULTRA Material used here

My use of the term “ULTRA” in the previous statement is not quite precise as I was using it as a reference to general wartime signal intelligence data collected, deciphered and analyzed by the British intelligence units at Bletchley Park.

With respect to that, it should be noted that (technically) there is no such thing like an “ULTRA Intercept” or “ULTRA Message” – there are just different types of information intercepted, collected and processed under the “ULTRA” umbrella – one needs to be more accurate:

ULTRA itself is not more or less than a security level – “top secret” was the highest ranking level at the time, “top secret – ultra” is above it and merely indicates the sensitive nature of this data (or more precisely of the British ability to decipher the material). Would the Germans have known that the British were able to read their intercepted messaged, they would have changed their way of coding them, taking away the ability of the British to read and act upon that information in almost “real-time”.

HW5 is (more or less) a kind of “raw data” – the non-interpreted, non-filtered English translation of the deciphered German messages intercepted. Each one of these messages has a unique ID, e.g. CX/MSS/T469/31. These are more or less “continuous” numbers with “roll-over” counters (e.g. T469/99 would be followed by T470/1). There are also different “streams” for messages of different importance – e.g. “T469” or “R469”. An example for HW5 information can be found below (recreated from the original, mimicking the layout and appearance but abbreviated in content)

Example - HW5 MessageDEFE 3, on the other hand, is a series of processed and filtered information compiled from the HW5 “raw data”. Again, each DEFE 3-record has a unique ID (e.g. BT 5569) and a reference to one or more HW5 records used to compile the DEFE 3.

These DEFE 3 Messages were then used as briefing documents for other layers of the military branch. The example below (again, reproduced from the original and maintained in layout and appearance but abbreviated) shows how the above message filters through to the DEFE 3 Message:

EXAMPLE - DEFE3 MessageThe example shows how information filters down from HW5 raw data to DEFE 3 data and is summarized (and condensed). Also, HW5 data that was not deemed “important” enough to be included in summaries might not have been transferred into a DEFE 3 record at all. Understanding this relationship between the levels of ULTRA information allows to judge the type of information shown for the rest of this post.

A much more elaborate discussion on the material and how it is related, how it can be obtained, and how it can be read is provided by Nick Beale on his own website.

Original Data vs. Data presented

In my original draft of this post, I was using screen shots of the original DEFE 3 Records retrieved from the National Archives. I have then decided to replace them with “reproductions mimicking the general layout and appearance” of the data.

These reproductions have been altered in content by omitting certain information (e.g. the header), replacing the “literal” representation of numbers with actual numbers (e.g. THREE is represented as 3) and removing the duplications used to emphasize words which are now displayed in bold characters (e.g. “WELTER £ WELTER” has been replaced by WELTER).

There are two main reasons for that:

  1. The qualify of the material is poor – the original information is hard to read as the letters have been really “washed out” in the reproduction. It is readable but it is nicer to have a clear print.
  2. I am not sure about the actual copyright – the material is available “for free” but that does not necessarily mean that the National Archives would be too thrilled about someone just “re-using” their material (I pulled their electronic records, I did not photograph them myself).

All in all, I hope you can live with the limitations – if you want, you can always pull the original records at no cost.

DEFE 3 and 10./NJG 11

It is said that the ULTRA data (HW5) only holds a handful or two of records in relation to 10./NJG 11 – or “Detachment Welter” as the British referred to it. And only a part of this information has been filtered down and is included in DEFE 3 records.

From December 1944 to May 1945, there are roughly 19.000 Pages making up the “Main Series of Signals”. Needless to say: you are not going to read through all of them…

Image 01 - Adobe Lightroom ArchiveWhat you see above is a part of my “Image Database”, built with Adobe Lightroom. What I am trying to achieve is to get all my data into a homogeneous format (JPG in my case) and manage them in one central location. It is just to give you a taste but on the image strip at the bottom, you can notice some page previews with little black boxes in the lower right corner – these are the ones that I have already indexed with some keywords so I can easily find them later.

But being able to index them does still not remove the need to read them in order to assess their content. And we are back to those 19.000 pages for 1945… or finding a decent “starting point”…

A “quick & dirty” first Scan

As I already said: the graphical quality of the DEFE 3 records is poor – and although they all have been typed in their time, they are hardly readable these days – especially not for an OCR software. Still, I did process them to come up with some initial data quickly (not relieving me from digging the details at a later point in time.

The first finds on “Kommando Welter” occur in DEFE 3/506 included in the set compiled between February 10 and February 13, 1945. The first one that I noticed is BT 4732:

Image 02 - BT4732BT4732 is a report on unit strength intercepted on February 3, 1945. The original message is a bit tricky to read due to the way the DEFE 3 records are worded but the simplified version above makes the message pretty clear:

“Strength return from Detachment Welter to Night Fighter Department of unspecified authority. Aircraft 23 and 15, namely 15 and 10 G-6, 3 and 2 G-10, 5 and 3 G-14. Crews 17 and 14.

Secondly, on Tenth, Detachment Welter, Burg, reported 3 aircraft serviceable to Jagddivision 2. Comment: Detachment Welter at Rechlin-Lärz in December and Part at Burg on February 8th.”

The first part, I think, is incorrectly related to “Kommando Welter” – it refers to the strengths of two Staffeln, possibly of II./NJG 11 (which is not “Kommando Welter”). They report their respective strength on Messerschmitt Bf 109 G-6, G-10, and G-14 together with their crews – 17 and 15.

The second part – reported February 10, 1945 – very well refers to “Kommando Welter” – reporting three aircraft (Messerschmitt Me 262) ready for combat. The comment added by the intelligence people located the unit at Rechlin-Lärz in December 1944 and Burg near Magdeburg in February 1945.

Digging deeper…

OCR only took me so far – at the end, nobody saves you from going into the data directly but with the OCR picking up bits and pieces, you also get the references to other messages and that helps tremendously. The next occurrence of ULTRA material referring to 10./NJG 11 is located in DEFE 3/510, the material compiled between February 23 and February 26, 1945. The reference is BT 5569.

Image 03 - BT5569This one is a summary of operations covering the night of February 21/22, 1945. It amends a second report, BT 5511, and provides some details on the attacks of the night – specifically the success claims of the Luftwaffe with “Kommando Welter” in particular.

The part interesting in relation to 10./NJG 11 is the lower part: it seems like this is the first time the British notice that 10./NJG 11 (aka “Kommando Welter”) is equipped with Messerschmitt Me 262 – the earlier report referenced here incorrectly assumed Messerschmitt Bf 109 from the included report on strength that most likely was for the remaining Staffeln of II./NJG 11 (which 10./NJG 11 is associated with).

A similar report, also drawn from the content of BT 5511 (or more precisely: the underlying HW5 data), is BT 5568:

Image 04 - BT5568In essence, this is the same content than the previous one – a bit more precise in the sense that the Mosquitos are specified to have been raiding Berlin – but also adding the same comment on previous locations at Rechlin-Lärz and Burg near Magdeburg. Those two reports, BT 5569 and BT 5568 are providing identical information.

The already mentioned record BT 5511 is a rare find: an intercepted report by Fliegerkorps IX Ic on the night operations of February 21/22 – transmitted at 0100 February 23, 1945.

Image 05 - BT5511The important part with respect to 10./NJG 11 is

“18 sorties including 1 Me 262 against first Mosquito Raid on Berlin, 1859 – 2120 hours. Me 262 claimed Mosquitos (Comment: Number not known) shot down. One Me 262 sortie against second Berlin attack, 2230 – 2343 hours, 1 Mosquito claimed.”

This intercept adds an indication that “someone” of 10./NJG 11 claimed three Mosquitos in one night. Given that there was only one Me 262 up in the air, the pilot claiming should be Kurt Welter himself. In this case, a closer look at the underlying HW5 Record only suggests a proof of this at first glance – but given that other units are also referred to including the name of their commanding officer, this merely shows that the British very well knew who was in command – and not that the named pilots necessarily scored that particular night.

(Note: the above conclusion has been removed as I may very well have been too cautions about the scores of this particular night. The underlying HW5 data may very well represent the actual claims of the following pilots: Hptm. Heinz Rökker (2./NJG 11), Hptm. Johannes Hager (II./NJG 1), Ofw. Günther Bahr (I./NJG 6), Maj. Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer (Stab/NJG 4) and Oblt. Kurt Welter (10./NJG 11). I have requested copies of the flight logs and hope they show the respective claims as a nice confirmation. Until then, please disregard the removed text above.)

Image 08 - HW5 T469-31To complete the picture: the Royal Air Force it not missing a single Mosquito from the Berlin raids that night – all the “Mossies” return to their home airfields safely. Strange enough, non of the crews is noting any sort of attack – despite the weather being clear and they did mention being perfectly able to see the target in the bright moon. To my current knowledge, only two Mosquitos are assessed with damage attributed to flak – both belonging to the No. 608 Sqn.

Of lesser importance is the intercept of a personal matter: BT 6121 records the transfer of an officer from III./NJG 3 to II./NJG 11 – it adds “Detachment Welter” but if that was part of the intercepted message or an assumption by the intelligence people is unknown. Date of this transfer was possibly February 12, 1945.

Image 09 - BT6121Another interesting record on the current strength of 10./NJG 11 is BT 6339:

Image 06 - BT6339Sent out in early March, possibly March 3rd, 1945, it details “ME 262 Strength of 10./NJG 11 according to 2. JD on 3rd: Total 6 of which 2 to strength. Serviceable: 2″.

Given that the message was intercepted coming from 2. Jagddivision, it is totally possible that it has been reported earlier – however, the strength of the unit at the beginning of March 1945 is 6 Messerschmitt Me 262 of which 2 are serviceable.

(Note: there are two further signals detailing night operations in early April – BT9790 and BT9960 which I only found after posting this article. I will amend the information at a later point in time.)

The next DEFE 3 Report dealing with 10./NJG 11 is KO 877 – at least the next one I was able to find.

Image 07 - KO877This transmission, dating April 18, 1945, indicates 10./NJG 11 now being located at the highway strip near Reinfeld, just to the south-southwest of Lübeck.

This highway strip is their interim base and dispersal area as Lübeck-Blankensee is extremely packed and also subject to frequent attacks by RAF Night Fighters flying intruder missions over the remaining unoccupied Germany.

This transmission verifies the arrival of Welter’s unit in Lübeck on or before April 18, 1945 after they had to vacate the bombed airfield at Burg near Magdeburg.

A final DEFE 3 Report, KO 1411, is dated April 26, 1945, dealing with an intercepted naval report describing the air situation of April 19th, 1945.

Image 10 - KO1411The part of the intercept shown above deals with one of the final Mosquito Raids on Berlin – and two of 10./NJG 11’s Me 262 in pursuit of the “Mossies”, claiming two of them shot down.

Wrapping up…

As mentioned in the beginning, the DEFE 3-records I have been using for this post are based upon a subset of the HW5 records (the “raw data”). Hence, there are a couple of HW 5 Series snippets that I was not able to locate in the DEFE 3 Series – they may not have been found important enough to be covered in the higher level summaries:

  • CX/MSS/R400/C/22: dated December 1944 (possibly December 13) and requests experienced radio operators for an assignment to “Detachment Welter”.
  • CX/MSS/R456/C/26: dated February 8, 1945, containing some snippets about the availability of men from “Kommando Welter” to service a Signals Station at Burg and a request for starting time (probably take-off time).
  • CX/MSS/R458/C/9: on February 11, 1945, various snippets about availability of personell and wireless transmission equipment.
  • CX/MSS/R475/A/27: on February 28, 1945, a reference to an “Ahorn” (code name for Me 262) with Oblt. Welter and Fu.G. 16 ZY and Fu.G. 25A.
  • CX/MSS/R506/C/27: dated March 18, 1945, a missing report on Me 262 A1 110 652 with Obfw.  Weibl (misspelled) and a reference to his flight route: Burg – Brandenburg – Magdeburg – Halberstadt – Stendal – Halle. Missing March 3, 1945.
  • CX/MSS/R529/A/11: summarizes a transfer of personal from NJG 5 (name not readable) and 4./NJG 11 to 10./NJG 11. The names given for the latter transfer are Ofw. Schmitdtchen, Lt. Cypionka, and Uffz. Happel. Date given is April 10, 1945.

I know there are some more that cover the topic but I have yet to see their content. However, I think for the purpose of this post, the assembled material is sufficient to support the conclusions.

Conclusions

At the end of the day, the ULTRA records do not reveal anything surprisingly new – but they confirm certain aspects of the story and first and foremost confirm that the Royal Air Force and the Allied Forces were well aware of a night-fighter unit taking jets up into the nightly sky of Germany. They are am important primary source to exploit and should definitely be regarded by anyone interested in first-hand information on the topic.

As mentioned before, DEFE 3 Records are available with the National Archives electronically and at no cost (which is why I used them here for illustration). The related HW 5 raw data is not available electronically so one either has to go to the UK and search the files directly or employ a researcher that does that. The HW 5 Records are more rewarding and present the original content of the intercepted messages – the DEFE 3 are good to get a general overview of the summarized information.

Acknowledgments

Once more, support was received from many sides, a particular “Thank you!” goes to Rod Mackenzie for helping with the HW5 Data – most of this information has been kindly provided by him (which allowed to me to quickly find the corresponding DEFE 3-Records).

Also, Andrew Arthy jumped in to help me – with material, with interpretation, with hints on where else to look. The second “Thank you!” to “Down Under”! If you get a chance, stop by at his web site – especially the blog entries there are quite an interesting read.

It is, by the way, nothing “new” – much of the data has been used by Rod Mackenzie and Theo Boiten in their meticulously researches “Nachtjagd War Diaries” – together with much more! If you are lucky enough to find a copy anywhere: get it! It is well worth it! I am really looking forward to your 2nd Edition to become available… 🙂

Posted in General | Tagged | Leave a comment

…and the data keeps coming in! – 10./NJG 11 Status Update

A little over a month ago, I published a first post about 10./NJG 11 and their history. Since then, a lot of new material has been showing up, much owed to researches like myself that graciously provided access to their own data (e.g. Dom Howard via www.lancasterbombers.net, Alexander Steenbeck via eMail, and a few unnamed but quite important others that prefer to have their involvement kept quiet). My sincere thanks go out to all of them, named and unnamed alike!

Last month, I have said I was about four weeks from releasing – now that new data has pushed things a bit behind but I would like to share a nice and interesting finding from the last days of the war with you. As I promised before, I am trying to draw as much as possible from primary sources and draw conclusions – everyone of you can then judge for yourself, knowing all the information I know.

The one example (which only has surfaced in the past few days as I got around finalizing my chapter on April 1945) teaches us a few things, first and foremost the importance of “personal perception” but also a warning about “premature judgment”. And the fact that “primary sources” still provide the best and most unbiased (although not always correct) account of the events…

The initial Information…

The initial information is a personal account of Jörg Czypionka, former pilot of 10./NJG 11. The story is published in a few books and also in a Prop-Talk issue available here, particularly the section “Final Flights” is of importance for this post.

Depending on where your read the account, information has been added or omitted in one or the other place, depending on the respective editor’s needs. Another sources for the account is “Air Combat Annals” by Thomas McKelvey Cleaver, Pacifica Military History, CA; 2011.

Jörg Czypionka talks about an encounter he had with Hawker Tempest of the Royal Air Force “in the final days of April”. He and another pilot of 10./NJG 111)Addition September 9, 2015: today I know the second pilot has been Karl-Heinz Becker, as per a written statement he once made that I have now been able to review were returning to their base, a highway strip of the Hamburg-Lübeck Autobahn, just south of Reinfeld2)Addition September 9, 2015: Karl-Heinz Becker, who has also described this event, says that Jörg Czypionka and he had been flying an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Hamburg – Lauenburg – Neumünster, trying to locate allied aircraft strafing German units..

Seeing the Tempest flight ahead, the two jet pilots quickly engaged the RAF fighters, then disengaged and headed towards Lübeck’s main airfield, Blankensee, to not give away the position of the highway strip. Some sources say that Lt. Czypionka claimed one of the Tempests, other sources (including the one cited above) do not include this claim.

When approaching Lübeck-Blankensee, Jörg Czypionka states that “they had been chased by the Tempests” and also met a “welcoming committee of Spitfires” over the airfield. The two jet pilots decided to approach from opposite directions to split the enemy fire and that both Me 262 were damaged on their final approach – which is why he decided to put his aircraft down on the ground with “gear up”, landing on the engine nacelles. Skidding to a hold, he left the aircraft as quickly as possible as the RAF Fighters continued to strafe the field.

…and what to make from it

Starting with the occasional claim that Jörg Czypionka in fact shot down one of the Hawker Tempest, one will quickly find out that there is no evidence of a Tempest lost under the conditions described. Also assuming that it might not have been a Hawker Tempest but a similar looking Hawker Typhoon does not help – no matching loss either. But memory serves Jörg Czypionka well – and I think, we can come as close to a proof as possible.

I had already downloaded all the available “Records of Events” from the UK National Archives. At least those for the Tempest Squadrons – with the help of a comment from Rod Mackenzie in a 12’OClock High Forum, I got the final link to a published source that pointed out the possibly involved Spitfire Squadrons – it saved me a lot of money, otherwise I would have gotten the records of all squadrons from the National Archives.

Turns out that an event very similar to the one described has been picked up in the book “2nd Tactical Air Force – Volume 3″ by Christopher Shores and Chris Thomas. The Spitfire Squadrons involved were the No. 41 Sqn. and No. 130 Sqn. of the RAF, also a Tempest V Unit was involved, No. 486 Sqn.

Let’s first look at the No. 486 Sqn. Data – their Operational Records Book (“Records of Events”) is filed with the National Archives as AIR 27/1934. For April 25, 1945, it lists an early morning sortie, Armed Reconnaissance of eight Hawker Tempest V into the Neustadt – Lübeck – Neumünster area. It also contains a remark “F/O Smith attacked a Me 262 going in to land at Lübeck-Blankensee airfield and destroyed it.”

A Combat Report, filed by F/O K. A. Smith, is also available (AIR 50/160) which I provide a copy here.

Combat Report SmithIt supports Jörg Czypionka’s account in multiple aspects:

  • it confirms the attack of two Me 262 on the Tempest V unit.
  • it confirms the chase of the adversaries to Lübeck-Blankensee.
  • it indicates the involvement of Spitfires in the incident.
  • it confirms the fact that the RAF Pilots continued to strafe after the Me 262’s had “landed” in Blankensee.
  • it even confirms the ground contact of the aircraft fuselage (or engine nacelles) – although the Tempest Pilot did not catch the fact that the Me 262 Pilot might have pulled the wheels up again (or this describes the attack on the second Me 262 which was not flown by Czypionka).

All in all, this is a good account – but it gets even better: the records of No. 41 Sqn. (one of the two Spitfire Squadrons involved) shows the following entires in the “Records of Events” (AIR 27/426):

No 41 Sqn Records of EventsThis unit was also on an “Armed Reconnaissance” mission into the area – Parchim – Wismar – Neumünster. Their account of picking up the two Me 262’s near “Bad Oldesloe” (which is in the immediate vicinity of the highway strip 10./NJG 11 was located at in these days) and the subsequent chase to the Lübeck Blankensee airfield indicate they have been involved in the same event than the No. 486 Sqn. Tempests – and even the times match! Their pilots confirm the other part of Jörg Czypionka’s account:

  • landing from two opposite ends of the runway.
  • being attacked while landing.

Their “Summary of Events” (Also AIR 27/426) even assumes that the damage to one of the Me 262 was caused by the fright of the pilot while landing – Czypionka clearly indicates his decision to land with “gear up” was made due to the unknown damage received by the aircraft while being attacked.

No 41 Summary of EventsHowever, F/Lt. Cowell is now claiming one Me 262 destroyed and one damaged – in addition to F/O Smith (486 Sqn.) also claiming one Me 262 destroyed.

But this is not the end of the story – the Spitfires of No. 130 Sqn. also got involved (although only briefly) into the fight – their pilots, F/Lt. Stowe and W/O Ockenden jointly claim a Me 262 landing at Lübeck-Blankensee as “probably destroyed” (AIR 50/52)

No 130 Sqn. Combat ReportTheir “Summary of Events” (AIR 27/938) also indicates that the pilot “left the aircraft half way down the runway” – although they claim to have seen him doing so by parachute. Again, time and location are a match.

Conclusions

Of course, everyone is free to draw their own conclusions of the data presented – mine is as follows:

  • Jörg Czypionka indicates an attack on RAF Tempest near the Reinfeld Autobahn highway strip when returning in the morning from a nocturnal mission around end of April 1945.
  • He probably claims one Tempest shot down but that is reciting secondary sources that said he does so.
  • He describes the chase to Lübeck-Blankensee, the opposing landing directions of the two jets and the fact that they had been shot up by the strafing RAF Pilots.
  • He describes his immediate “evacuation” from the aircraft once he had come to a hold – because the airfield and aircraft where continuously strafed by the RAF Pilots.

The original sources of the RAF Squadrons, available from the National Archives, Kew, UK, and specified by reference here, support the following:

  • on April 25, 1945, in the early morning hours, a flight of Tempest V of No. 486 Sqn. was attacked by two Me 262 jets which then tried to escape to Lübeck-Blankensee.
  • the Tempest flight as well as two Spitfire units engaged the two jets while they approached the airfield and strafed them after they touched down.
  • The Spitfire pilots describe the landing approach as “from opposite directions of the runway”
  • The general assessment is that one of the Me 262 “skidded to a hold” in the middle of the landing area with the pilot escaping the aircraft quickly.

Now that is the case and supporting data I have to present – you all may now draw your own conclusions. With respect to the probable claim of a Tempest: the involved units, particularly the records of No. 486 Sqn. show that no Tempest V was lost in this occasion – but there is no statement if one was damaged.

The 10./NJG 11 Script

Now back to my original promise to publish my findings “towards the end of September”. You can see the quality of data flowing in – and I have been promised some more. But I’d rather delay a bit and verify my information than issue it now. But I can confirm: there is not much to be done at this point and I will present the whole case in the not to distant future…

References   [ + ]

1. Addition September 9, 2015: today I know the second pilot has been Karl-Heinz Becker, as per a written statement he once made that I have now been able to review
2. Addition September 9, 2015: Karl-Heinz Becker, who has also described this event, says that Jörg Czypionka and he had been flying an armed reconnaissance mission in the area of Hamburg – Lauenburg – Neumünster, trying to locate allied aircraft strafing German units.
Posted in General | Tagged | Leave a comment