1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by Ironmachine » 23 Jun 2009 19:33

phylo_roadking wrote:Does anyone have John Ward's Hitler's Stuka Squadrons to hand?

I have it. What do you want to know?

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by phylo_roadking » 23 Jun 2009 21:33

I-M, what does it say...if anything...about the transfer of Stab. I./St. G 3 from Crete to North Africa? Specifically - when they were ordered to, when they actually left and if in one or more groups, and where they were then stationed in Libya. And anything else that Ward might say about the event :wink: Obviously that's quite a wish list and he won't have all of it, but it would be nice to add some more to the strange outline of this event to date.

I'm assuming the ended up somewhere east of Cyrenaica - for anywhere further to the West would be a hell of a long ferry flight for a Stuka from Crete, event with tanks. But somewhere around Bardia for instance would be entirely feasible...and still readily useable in the first days of CRUSADER.

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by phylo_roadking » 23 Jun 2009 21:58

I've just discovered that Britain At War ran a story on the Illustrious' part in EXCESS in last month's magazine!

Basically - it's a mish-mash of cut&pasted online sources like Wiki etc. for all the general details (funny seeing them used almost word for word when others are derogatory of them :lol: ), and just a handful of interesting - but thankfully good - secondary sources, including Malta Convoys 1940-1943 by R. Woodman and A.H. Jones & M.H. Jones' No Easy Choices: A Personal Account of Life on the Carrier H.M.S. Illustrious 1940-1943...but the article DOES add quite a few interesting details.

1. Between the two attacks on the Illustrious, on the 16th and the 19th - her FAA personnel and her aircraft support/maintenance personnel were removed to Hal far to support Illustrious' surviving Fulmars, which as we know formed part of Malta's fighter defences from then on until they were eventually all lost...

BUT - at the request of the island's defenders, Illustrious' GUNNERS were also removed from the carrier!!! 8O Apparently, the AA gunners over French's Creek complained that the fire from the carrier's own guns on the 16th had made difficulties for THEIR new box barrage!!! :lol:

2. On the 19th - it wasn't the two bombs dropped by the Germans that actually damaged the Illustrious!!! These did indeed explode on the sea bed on either side of the carrier - and lifted the carrier bodily up and dashed her against the quay! 8O It was THAT impact that stove in a couple of her hull plates, flooded one boiler room and ruptured her port turbine housing, putting it out of action. Again, that she made 21 knots on the 23rd with a third of her drivetrain completely out of action is now even more impressive!

3. There's been an occasional reference to it before now - and its not clear from the article EITHER...that the RA may have INTENTIONALLY drawn off the Illustrious' Fulmar CAP, allowing the Luftwaffe to bomb her accurately on the 10th...

However, there were other factors at work;

A/ the RA did indeed draw off the carrier's four airborne Fulmars; when the LW arrived, they were pursuing the Italians towards Sicily, and the carrier was defenceless in the air;

B/ the Illustrious however had TWO more Fulmars, and was indeed sailing at top speed into the wind to launch them when the Germans arrived, and as we know disintegrated one of the remaining Fulmars as it was being hoisted to the flightdeck...
BUT - there was a serious delay of almost five minutes between Captain Denis Boyd requesting permission to turn (aide from the convoy) into the wind from the Flotilla's commander - Adm. Cunningham! - and him getting an answer. Had permission arrived by return, the Illustrious' remaining Fulmars could have been airborne and the carrier not as exposed.

C/ The Illustrious - and the rest of her class - carried far fewer fighters for defence than the Ark Royal. One of the major innovations in her design had been far more armoured bulkheading belowdecks, creating an "armoured box" for storing her aircraft (BEFORE the later amendments to her boiler rooms as mentioned above...); but THIS meant....that though only marginally smaller than the Ark Royal in overall size - the Illustrious and her sister ships carried FAR fewer aircraft...including fighters 8O

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by Ironmachine » 24 Jun 2009 11:25

Phylo, no luck with Hitler's Stuka Squadrons. The only reference that I could find in the book was the following quote:
In June 1941, the dive-bomber component of the Axis forces in North Africa comprised the Ju 87s of II/St.G 2 and I/St.G 3, together with the 209th squadron of the Regia Aeronautica.

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by Ironmachine » 24 Jun 2009 15:46

There is some information, unfortunately not much, in Osprey's Junkers Ju-87 Stukageschwader of North Africa and the Mediterranean, but it differs from the quote from Hitler's Stuka Squadrons:
Towards the end of August the Geschwaderstab StG 3, under Oberstleutnant Walter Sigle, arrived from Greece to take command of the two desert Stukagruppen -I./StG 1 still at Derna and II./StG 2 now at Tmimi, somewhat closer to Tobruk...

It was just as Crusader was starting that I./StG 3 arrived in Libya from Rhodes...

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by Dili » 24 Jun 2009 15:53

THIS meant....that though only marginally smaller than the Ark Royal in overall size - the Illustrious and her sister ships carried FAR fewer aircraft


Yes roughly: 57 to 33. Neither could they take fixed wing Hurricanes except in flight deck park. Only Indomitable fixed a part of problems increasing planes to 45-48 and take fixed wing Hurricanes.

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by Jon G. » 25 Jun 2009 01:16

phylo_roadking wrote:...
we don't ever hear WHERE any included intelligence in the FDR telegrams comes from


...what we DON'T know is if the FDR telegram data of the 28th was compiled from ULTRA alone or in conjunction with other material :wink: As raw decrypts at Bletchely Park were the start of the analysis process that produced the ULTRA digests, we have no idea what else may or may not have gone into that "15" figure; F.O. staff may not even have HAD the ULTRA digests for the 26th/27th in their sweaty hands by the time the 28th Telegram was sent.


No, we don't know if other intel could have influenced the 28 Nov optel - but we do know that ULTRA intel of Nov 26th gives a strength return of I./St.G 3 of 20 serviceable a/c (of 25) - info which was forwarded to the PM on nov 27 at 7.30 am. The Nov 27th strength return, in turn, would have been too late to have been part of the basis for the Nov 28 optel, unless we wish to assume that this info made it to the optel compilers before it made it to Churchill. In other words, there is a mismatch between information made available to Churchill and information made available to FDR regarding I./St.G 3 strength in North Africa.

I realize a scan of the relevant ULTRA excerpt will add weight to my point. I hope I can provide one later; as it is I've already been sponging rather shamelessly from Andreas' research.

...Can you remember from your discussion with Andreas if the HW1/13 ULTRA material confirmed the whole Stab. was in North Africa by those reporting dates?


Apparently the Stab of St.G 3 had been based at Derna since August though in this case, I am relying on an interweb source.

Interestingly - those serviceability figures are much better than the rest of Frolich's command in North Africa, which Hooton puts at down at only 50% immediately before the start of CRUSADER and the bad weather...


Yep, it seems that the Ju 87 was a very reliable aircraft in terms of serviceability. For example, Ju 88s had really poor serviceability rates in North Africa. But in this case, the better serviceability of St.G. 3 Stukas may have been affected by their deployment in Crete (until Crusader took off), rather than in khamsin-ridden Cyrenaica.

dili wrote:
I wonder if anyone can make out the nationality markings on the Ju 87 seen in this picture?


I can't see the marks, it appears to be an R2 due to what appears to be external wing fuel tanks, I think Italians had already R's also . When Germans put the white Mediterranan band on? This doesn't appears to have the white fuselage band.


Good point about the Mediterranean fuselage band. I actually think that the wing markings of the Ju 87 in the picture look more like three Italian fasci than they look like a Balkenkreuz, but I am far from sure - and I suppose it's possible, perhaps even likely, that some Fliegerkorps X aircraft did not yet have white the Med band - no, I don't offhandedly know when it was introduced - in January 1941.

phylo_roadking wrote:I'm assuming the [= I./St. G 3] ended up somewhere east of Cyrenaica


Derna, according to the link I gave above. Also note that there was no 'Stab. I./St. G 3'; there simply was a Stab St. G 3; the other two Gruppen of this Geschwader were only formed in 1942.

for anywhere further to the West would be a hell of a long ferry flight for a Stuka from Crete, event with tanks. But somewhere around Bardia for instance would be entirely feasible...and still readily useable in the first days of CRUSADER.


It is important to remember that the transfer of I./St.G 3 to North Africa originally had nothing to do with Crusader, so it does not have to fit with the opening of that operation. The Ju 87s were originally meant to be in Cyrenaica for just four days, assisting Rommel in his assault on Tobruk.

There is a rather nice write-up about I./St. G 3 in North Africa over on Andreas' blog.

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Jun 2009 01:40

Interestingly - those serviceability figures are much better than the rest of Frolich's command in North Africa, which Hooton puts at down at only 50% immediately before the start of CRUSADER and the bad weather...


Yep, it seems that the Ju 87 was a very reliable aircraft in terms of serviceability. For example, Ju 88s had really poor serviceability rates in North Africa. But in this case, the better serviceability of St.G. 3 Stukas may have been affected by their deployment in Crete (until Crusader took off), rather than in khamsin-ridden Cyrenaica.


Actually - I should have bee more specific and typed from Hooton again; this - "serviceability figures are much better than the rest of Frolich's command in North Africa, which Hooton puts at down at only 50% immediately before the start of CRUSADER and the bad weather" actually refers to what Hooton describes Frolich's force as comprising of as CRUSADER started -

"By 15 November only half Frohlich's 171 aircraft, mostly Stukas, were serviceable,..."


Obviously the Aegean Stukas would have had a far lower sortie rate, being I presume on anti-shipping duties in the Eastern Med...but then again...these would possibly have been conducted over much HIGHER average ranges than Frohlich's Stukas in North Africa, supporting the DAK from just behind the front lines? I would have thought the lower sortie rate but longer ranges on operations would have averaged out to a much higher unserviceability rate...

The Nov 27th strength return, in turn, would have been too late to have been part of the basis for the Nov 28 optel


This is MY point in turn; the figure of "15" Stukas from "Crete" (or Rhodes LOL) must therefore indicate other sources of intelligence at work rather than a total (and vulnerable) reliance on ULTRA.

Derna, according to the link I gave above


That's fine; Derna fits....just LOL Still quite far - very possibly beyond a halfway-point abort? - but still "east" of the most northerly point of Cyrenaica.

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Jun 2009 01:50

Jon, I've just realised something...

Apparently the Stab of St.G 3 had been based at Derna since August


It is important to remember that the transfer of I./St.G 3 to North Africa originally had nothing to do with Crusader, so it does not have to fit with the opening of that operation. The Ju 87s were originally meant to be in Cyrenaica for just four days, assisting Rommel in his assault on Tobruk.


...ULTRA information, which gave I./St. G 3 strength as 20 serviceable a/c (out of 25) on nov 26th and 23 serviceable a/c (out of 26) on nov 27th.


...15 Junker 87's came from CRETE...


ALL the sources entirely complement each other IF you read it as THIS situation...

EDIT: wait, I'm revising this...

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Jun 2009 02:08

An interesting line from Andreas' blog...

As an interesting aside, the staff of StG3 had been in North Africa for a while – this appears weird to me, but is correct. I wonder what they were doing there with only 10 planes on strength...


Okay - there IS a way that ALL the sources can be reconciled...expecially IF ten of the gruppe's Stukas were ALREADY in North Africa... 8O

...ULTRA information, which gave I./St. G 3 strength as 20 serviceable a/c (out of 25) on nov 26th...


What's 25 minus 10??? :wink: 15....

So - Stab of St. G 3 PLUS TEN AIRCRAFT are already in Cyrenaica; Giesler orders the rest of the gruppe to transfer to North Africa...15 transfer, thus the FDR Telegram data is correct!!!...sometime between the 20th and the 26th - and when Bletchley Park intercepts Stab St. G3's serviceability report, they're reporting serviceability for the WHOLE reunited gruppe....?

If that IS the case - the serviceability reports are for the WHOLE of St. G 3...though prior to the transfer it had aircraft physically in two locations...then that actually shows how accurate British intelligence really was!!! For it means that without it explaining the ins-and-outs of it in detail, just commenting - the FDR Telegram was very correct! 8O

EDIT: I wonder where Andreas got his "And so on the 19 November the information came that I./StG3 would move from Crete to Derna in North Africa on the 20th"....for Hooton is quite definite that the order to transfer came four days after the 19th (because of the state of the airfields in-theare after the bad weather)

Possibly a "go" order on the 20th...but then delayed for a couple of days?

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by Jon G. » 25 Jun 2009 03:44

OK, I'll make an interim post before I have the full picture myself. I should restate that I am not out to miscredit the FDR optels (or ULTRA, for that matter), only to point out a possible mismatch between the two. I consider that a satisfying exercise in itself.

phylo_roadking wrote:An interesting line from Andreas' blog...

As an interesting aside, the staff of StG3 had been in North Africa for a while – this appears weird to me, but is correct. I wonder what they were doing there with only 10 planes on strength...


Okay - there IS a way that ALL the sources can be reconciled...expecially IF ten of the gruppe's Stukas were ALREADY in North Africa... 8O


The devil is in the detail. I do not have a problem with 10 Stab St. G 3 aircraft in Cyrenaica since August, but I don't think they were all Ju 87s :) Other Luftwaffe Stab units had just three aircraft of the Gruppe's main aircraft type on strength - but apparently, Stuka Gruppen all had 3 Ju 87s and 6 Bf 110s at this time of the war.

In this case, even full establishment strength for the St. G 3 Stab would still leave us one unspecified aircraft short.

...ULTRA information, which gave I./St. G 3 strength as 20 serviceable a/c (out of 25) on nov 26th...


What's 25 minus 10??? :wink: 15....

So - Stab of St. G 3 PLUS TEN AIRCRAFT are already in Cyrenaica; Giesler orders the rest of the gruppe to transfer to North Africa...15 transfer, thus the FDR Telegram data is correct!!!...sometime between the 20th and the 26th - and when Bletchley Park intercepts Stab St. G3's serviceability report, they're reporting serviceability for the WHOLE reunited gruppe....?

If that IS the case - the serviceability reports are for the WHOLE of St. G 3...though prior to the transfer it had aircraft physically in two locations...then that actually shows how accurate British intelligence really was!!! For it means that without it explaining the ins-and-outs of it in detail, just commenting - the FDR Telegram was very correct! 8O


That could be. But it all depends very much on the exact wording of pertinent ULTRA files. From Andreas' blog it is however apparent that the strength return pertains to I./St.G 3 only, not to the entire Gruppe:

Andreas' blog wrote:...I./StG3 was already earmarked for just such a transfer, and was persumably ready to go at short notice, with 26 out of 31 planes serviceable and 33 out of 36 crews ready for action on 17 November, a rate of 84% for planes and 92% for crews, according to a strength return of X. Fliegerkorps, then its parent formation, a high number. So on 16 November it was duly ordered to report how many Ju52 transport planes would be needed to transport the ground crews to Africa...


Note, BTW, how the same 15-Stuka optel makes reference to two to three hundred Ju 52s in the Mediterranean :)

EDIT: I wonder where Andreas got his "And so on the 19 November the information came that I./StG3 would move from Crete to Derna in North Africa on the 20th"....for Hooton is quite definite that the order to transfer came four days after the 19th (because of the state of the airfields in-theare after the bad weather)

Possibly a "go" order on the 20th...but then delayed for a couple of days?


Well, the optel isn't very specific, perhaps deliberately so. But originally, the Stukas of I./St. G 3 had been earmarked to go to North Africa for a while. As we know, Crusader got in the way, so instead of the intended four-day stint, the Gruppe was sent to Cyrenaica more or less permanently - with four-days-only out the window, Siegel had to bring more ground staff and stores with him than originally intended.

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by Jon G. » 25 Jun 2009 20:40

I'll put on my ventriloquist act and just provide a link to an updated post about I./St. G 3 in North Africa over on Andreas' blog, including relevant ULTRA scans.

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Jun 2009 20:59

It's a pity we have to put the strange "four days" thing down to an error on Hooton's part; it would be an untypical and rare one on his part.

However -

Here the Foreign Office states that 15 German dive bombers and 25 Italian have arrived. I’ll have a look at my Italian sources, but this seems odd to me. The other way round would make more sense, since the Italian units had about 15 or so planes per unit, while the German Gruppe based on the available intelligence had brought over at least 25 planes. I do not know if an Italian Stuka unit was sent, but I must say that I have not seen any info on this in the files I am using, and this prior post of mine, containing the average frontline strength of the Italian air units, does not seem to indicate any additional units (although this is not conclusive – they may just have lost them very quickly). This was a bit of a mystery to me until I rechecked my files, and while at first it seemed to be a clerical error, or maybe a simple typo, it now appears that maybe the Optel is using the old intel from 16 November, which only talks of the Group staff and the 3rd Squadron being sent, which would come to at most 15 planes, and ignores the later info that at least 23 planes had been sent.


...this makes more sense. As for WHY Whitehall used the earlier intel...the answer is probably in HOW Bletchley's decrypts were used; the British would I assume try where possible to corroborate intelligence before using it. This corroboration would have been further delayed if I./St.G3 wasn't immediately flying combat ops as Andreas describes, and thus the Desert Air Force wouldn't necessarily have direct contact with them for some days.

Also, as you mentioned last night, the later serviceability info for the 25th and 26th - which would have dragged Whitehall kicking and screaming to the realnumbers - may simply not have been available yet by the time the optel in question had to be sent. But, as I said before, that's the nature of the optels - they're snapshots of the situation as percieved at the time they're sent - and don't necessarily always go back and corect earlier data.

EDIT - just had a quick trot through the rest of the week's telegrams after that under-discussion one - no, Whitehall doesn't ever return to to update that data set about LW reinforcements transferred into North Africa.
Last edited by phylo_roadking on 25 Jun 2009 21:17, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by phylo_roadking » 25 Jun 2009 21:11

As a P.S. -

Note, BTW, how the same 15-Stuka optel makes reference to two to three hundred Ju 52s in the Mediterranean


I do indeed note...

Two to three hund %red Junker 52 transports aircraft from RUSSIA
and Eastern GERMANY
are now being employed in Libyan campaign


...in other words, to shift reinforcements and supplies to Libya in the face of CRUSADER - the LW had to scare up Ju52s from everywhere to achieve those numbers.

"Two to three hund %red " - six months before they could muster 493 for Crete...

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Re: 1941 convoys in the Central Med & the air battle over Malta

Post by Jon G. » 25 Jun 2009 21:59

phylo_roadking wrote:It's a pity we have to put the strange "four days" thing down to an error on Hooton's part; it would be an untypical and rare one on his part...


Indeed. Although Hooton's four days could pertain to the lag between the order to despatch the Stukas and bombers to Libya and their actual arrival -

Says Andreas
16 Nov – request to I./StG3 to report on transport aircraft requirement for the planned move to North Africa of staff of Group and 3rd Squadron in connection with an operation lasting 4 days (assault on Tobruk)

19 Nov – request for immediate despatch of group to North Africa.

19 Nov – info that group will leave for North Africa on 20 Nov

21 Nov – group is active in North Africa

Likely arrival date therefore 20 Nov 41...


Says Hooton (p. 96)
...Before 'Crusader' began on 18/19 November heavy rain turned the Axis airfields into swamps, and it was four days before Geisler could despatch a Stukagruppe and two Kampfgruppen with the remainder of III./ZG 26, although Fröhlich was demanding a Stuka- and a Kampfgeschwader...


...maybe Hooton is a little unclear - just as he was with LW losses in the Illustrious blitz, discussed upthread - but you can read four days' worth of delay into the above timeline if you want to.

I wouldn't crucify Hooton over such a small matter. His two-volume book on the Luftwaffe is IMO still very good


phylo_roadking wrote: As for WHY Whitehall used the earlier intel...the answer is probably in HOW Bletchley's decrypts were used; the British would I assume try where possible to corroborate intelligence before using it. This corroboration would have been further delayed if I./St.G3 wasn't immediately flying combat ops as Andreas describes, and thus the Desert Air Force wouldn't necessarily have direct contact with them for some days.


Well, that addresses the dissimilar nature of the FDR optels and ULTRA decrypts - the optels constitute an as-is snapshot picture of events, assembled from several sources - including ULTRA we can safely assume - whereas the ULTRA decrypts are intelligence, straight from the horse's proverbial mouth, and evidently decrypted and typed out in great haste (note the typo where Ju 87s become Ju 88s) since intel of this sort has a much shorter best-by date than fresh fish.

...
Two to three hund %red Junker 52 transports aircraft from RUSSIA
and Eastern GERMANY are now being employed in Libyan campaign


...in other words, to shift reinforcements and supplies to Libya in the face of CRUSADER - the LW had to scare up Ju52s from everywhere to achieve those numbers.

"Two to three hund %red " - six months before they could muster 493 for Crete...


'Everywhere' in this particular context being Russia, right before Moscow. Although I would be a little careful measuring the direct effect on the Eastern Front of all those Ju 52s going south, the disadvantages of fighting a two-front war is a point which Hooton makes strongly. There also is an entry about that on Andreas' blog

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