||Last Updated: Dec 23rd, 2013 - 13:52:10
5./B.F.Gr. 196, 1./S.A.Gr. 128 and 10./Z.G. 1 were three of the designations used by a small but successful Luftwaffe unit operating the FW 190 in 1943 and 1944. 5./B.F.Gr. 196 was formed in pre-war times, and primarily used the Ar 196 until March 1943, when it was recognised that a stronger German fighter presence was needed in the Brest area and over the Bay of Biscay. Thus, alongside the Ar 196s, the unit took on a handful of auxiliary tank-equipped FW 190 A-5s, which could be used for more aggressive patrols. Successes were initially limited, but after 5./B.F.Gr. 196 was re-designated 1./S.A.Gr. 128 in May 1943, scores mounted. In particular, the unit’s leader – Heinz Wurm – did very well. Aside from patrolling the oceans around Brest, the unit was also occasionally employed against USAAF bombing raids, with mixed results. Some high-scoring days were had in July and August 1943, but then action again decreased as poor weather set in, and the British Coastal Command aircraft began to avoid the Brest peninsula and the operating radius of the Focke-Wulf 190s. In early February 1944, 1./S.A.Gr. 128 became 10./Z.G. 1. Within a month 10./Z.G. 1 had left Brest and found itself fighting French partisans. In the aftermath of the Allied invasion of France on 6 June 1944, 10./Z.G. 1 was attached to Geschwader Bongart [see my other article].
Other Bay of Biscay and Atlantic Ocean Luftwaffe units
While operating from Brest, 5./B.F.Gr. 196, 1./S.A.Gr. 128 and 10./Z.G. 1 worked alongside other German units under the Fliegerführer Atlantik. 8./J.G. 2 periodically flew against the Coastal Command anti-submarine aircraft, and in June 1943 the Staffel took on strength some long-range FW 190 A-5/U8s (some of these were kept until February 1944). The best known of the German units flying over the Bay of Biscay was V./K.G. 40 with its Ju 88s (it became I./Z.G. 1 in October 1943). Other units were more enigmatic, like the Me 410-equipped 7./Z.G. 1, which flew a single six-aircraft mission on 28 July 1943, before leaving the next day. Other elements of Z.G. 1 and Z.G. 26 also made appearances over the Bay in 1943 and 1944 with Ju 88s and Bf 110s. 1./S.A.Gr. 129 operated the BV 138 and BV 222, while 2./S.A.Gr. 128 flew the Ar 196 A-3.
Early History of 5./B.F.Gr. 196
5./196 was formed in July 1937 from 1./Kü.Fl.Gr. 406, and was initially equipped with He 60s. The first Ar 196s were received in mid-1939. The unit was based at Kiel-Holtenau until the invasion of Denmark, and on 11 April 1940, 5./196 moved to the newly occupied base at Aalborg-See. Two months were spent there, before a three day deployment at Grossenbrode, east of Kiel. The unit then transferred to Trondheim-Hommelvik via Aalborg-See, arriving in Norway on 23 June 1940. 5./B.F.Gr. 196 stayed at Trondheim-Hommelvik until 3 September 1940, when it returned to Kiel-Holtenau. A move west was imminent, and during September the air crews, ground personnel, equipment and Ar 196s all moved to Cherbourg. In April 1941, 5./B.F.Gr. 196 moved to Brest-Süd, where it would remain for two years, under the command of the Fliegerführer Atlantik. 5./B.F.Gr. 196’s code was 6W + _N, and this was passed on to 1./S.A.Gr. 128 in mid-1943. The Staffelkapitän was Oblt. Heinz Wurm, who claimed a number of aerial victories in his Ar 196 in late 1942.
Table 1: 5./B.F.Gr. 196 Orders of Battle
Date Type Aircraft Aircrew
31.03.41 Ar 196 A 20 (17) 19 (13)
17.03.42 Ar 196 A 15 (13) 12 (?)
15.01.43 Ar 196 A 20 (10) ?
5./B.F.Gr. 196’s Conversion from the Ar 196 to the FW 190
During the early months of 1943, the Luftwaffe was not providing adequate protection for the Atlantic U-Boats, and this situation had to be remedied. The introduction of centimetric radar on Allied aircraft in February 1943 meant that U-Boat sinkings greatly increased. In early April, the Fliegerführer Atlantik, Generalleutnant Ulrich Kessler, requested that patrols be flown by auxiliary tank-equipped FW 190s to the area south-west of Cornwall, where Coastal Command aircraft could be expected to fly.
5./196 received its first FW 190s during March 1943, but the intention was not to fully re-equip the unit with single-engined fighters. The FW 190s were to be used as long-range fighters - in accordance with Kessler’s wishes - while the Ar 196s would remain on strength to continue their old duties. In early March 1943, a pair of FW 190 A-5s came direct from the factory, while some earlier variants arrived at the unit from repair facilities. Conversion was completed during April, and the obsolete early FW 190 models were passed to other units. The FW 190 A-5s operated by 5./B.F.Gr. 196 were equipped with a pair of 300-litre drop tanks under each wing, giving them increased range, enough to cover the area south-west of Cornwall and the Scilly Islands. The range of the FW 190s was quite good, but the British soon learnt to avoid the FW 190s by flying outside their radius of action.
29 January 1943
At 14:34 Oblt. Wurm claimed his first victory for 1943, and his last in the Ar 196, when he shared a Boston with a German anti-aircraft unit in the Morlaix area. Heinz Wurm’s victim was probably Boston AL278 of 226 Sqdn. 8./J.G. 2 was also involved in this air battle, claiming three Spitfires destroyed for one FW 190 A-4 shot down.
This was Ramrod 50 carried out by the RAF’s 10 Group. It involved six squadrons of Spitfires covering twelve Bostons attacking the viaduct at Morlaix. 310 Sqdn claimed 2-1-2 FW 190s, and lost two pilots killed. A Boston was reported to have been shot down by FW 190s.
May 1943 – Re-designation to 1./S.A.Gr. 128
5./B.F.Gr. 196 was re-designated 1./S.A.Gr. 128 in May 1943. 1./S.A.Gr. 128 took on 17 Ar 196s and six FW 190s, and a couple of Bü 133s were also used. 1./S.A.Gr. 128 was based at Brest-Süd throughout its existence, but had detachments at Bayonne. In eight months of operations, the unit lost no Ar 196s, but five FW 190s were lost to enemy action, and eight to other causes.
17 May 1943
The United States VIII Bomber Command carried out a bombing raid on Lorient and Bordeaux shortly after midday, and the FW 190s of I. and III./J.G. 2 and 1./S.A.Gr. 128 intercepted. Oblt. Wurm made his unit’s only claim, a Fortress II at 12:22, while J.G. 2 claimed ten bombers and a Spitfire. The Luftwaffe concentrated its efforts on the B-17s of the 1st and 4th Bomber Wings, as can be seen in the below table:
Table 2: U.S. VIII Bomber Command to Lorient and Bordeaux
Units No. & Type Target Bombs Away Losses Claims
1st and 4th BW 159 B-17s Lorient U-Boat pens 12:13 - 12:17 6 lost, 1 Cat. E, 27 damaged 47-8-29
2nd BW 39 B-24s Bordeaux U-Boat pens 12:38 - 12:44 1 lost, 1 damaged 0-1-0
24 May 1943
Karl Dönitz – commander of the Kriegsmarine - ordered his U-Boats out of the North Atlantic patrol areas, confirming a major Allied victory. U-Boats were now to return to base, or to concentrate in more southerly areas away from prowling Allied aircraft.
30 May 1943
Towards evening Oblt. Wurm downed a Liberator at 20:54 in the area of Pl.Qu. 15 West S/9076, to the north of the Brest peninsula. His victim was probably BZ713 of 224 Sqdn. Ofw. Vincenz Giessuebel of 14./K.G. 40 made a claim for a Liberator 120 km north-west of Brest, and this was possibly related to Oblt. Wurm’s victory.
By June 1943, Coastal Command could call on 90 Beaufighters, Mosquitos and Mustangs to patrol over the Bay of Biscay.
6 June 1943
An FW 190 A-5 of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 was badly shot up in combat, and landed at Brest airfield. It is likely that 1./S.A.Gr. 128 had taken part in a combat alongside 8./J.G. 2 to the south of the Scilly Islands. Lt. Förster of 8./J.G. 2 claimed a Mustang I at 20:35 some 30 km south of the Scilly Islands at low-altitude (about 190 km N.W. of Brest).
7 July 1943
At around midday 1./S.A.Gr. 128 came across Allied Beauforts in the area of Pl.Qu. 15 West S/7078. Ofw. Helmut Haase and Oblt. Heinz Wurm both claimed victories, at 12:05 and 12:10 respectively. One of their victims was probably Beaufort JM336 of 248 Sqdn.
13 July 1943
This was 1./S.A.Gr. 128’s most successful day, as the FW 190 pilots shot down five Allied four-engined aircraft, claimed as Liberators. These were actually British Lancasters returning to England from a raid on Turin in Italy.
A total of 295 Lancasters took off on 12 July 1943 between 21:55 and 22:49 to fly an operation to Turin. Weather en route was good, the pathfinders marked the target reasonably accurately, and bombs were dropped in the north and north-east of the town. Fourteen Lancasters failed to return. Of these, two were reported to have been attacked by fighters, six were lost without trace, one crashed at base, two crashed in France, and one crashed in Switzerland, one crew was captured, and another crashed into the Bay of Biscay.
The FW 190s of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 and 8./J.G. 2 scrambled from their bases near Brest in the early hours of daylight on 13 July, and a few minutes before 06:30 they came across the bombers. Oblt. Wurm made the first claim at 06:27, in the area of Pl.Qu. 14 West N/8944. Three minutes later, 8./J.G. 2’s Ofw. Friedrich May achieved his 26th victory, a Lancaster. Oblt. Wurm then downed another of the British bombers at 06:35. A minute later, Uffz. Schüler and Gefr. Hess from 8./J.G. 2 got the fourth and fifth bombers at low-altitude. At 06:40, Ofw. Hans Gryz and Ofw. Friedrich Jost achieved their first victories, as they shot down bombers from 700 m and 1,000 m respectively. Heinz Wurm was the last claimant, getting his third for the morning at 06:43. A total of eight bombers were claimed, in what was a highly successful action that demonstrated how effective 1./S.A.Gr. 128 could be.
Three Lancasters were almost certainly shot down by the German fighters. W/Cdr. J.D. Nettleton (VC) was flying a Lancaster I with 44 Sqdn on this raid. He was believed to have been shot down by a night-fighter off the Brest peninsula, but no doubt fell victim to the FW 190s. A second victim of the FW 190s was the Lancaster III of 106 Sqdn flown by P/O. Hayley. This aircraft was last heard over the W/T at 06:30, reporting that it was under attack by enemy fighters – then the transmission stopped abruptly. P/O. Forbes’ Lancaster was another victim. Forbes took off at around 22:13 with his unit, 12 Sqdn, and was later reported to have crashed in the Bay of Biscay. Four of the crew were killed, including Forbes, but three were captured, including the radio operator, F/Sgt. L.D. Mitchell, who recalled his experience on the morning of 13 July 1943:
“We crashed into the Bay of Biscay. The aircraft smashed into several pieces. I was in the mid section and managed to get clear and swim to the surface. In front of me was the upturned dinghy. The navigator was there and I heard a voice calling for help. We managed to right the dinghy and underneath it was the M. U. G. We heard others shouting but never saw them. I raised the distress flag on the aerial mast and waited. Don't ask me how long we were in the water, but we were picked up by a French fishing smock, taken to a fishing port and handed over to the Gestapo.”
Table 3: RAF Bomber Command Losses, 12/13 July 1943
Sqdn Pilot Type Serial Code Remarks
12 P/O. T.B. Forbes III LM328 GZ-F2 Take-off 22:35, crashed into Bay of Biscay, broke up
44 W/Cdr. J.D. Nettleton I ED331 KM-Z Take-off 22:23, fighters off Brest peninsula
49 F/O. J.G. Millar III ED726 EA-V Take-off 22:25, lost without trace
50 P/O. E.J. Burnett III DV156 VN- Take-off 22:35, lost without trace
57 F/Sgt. J. Pickett III ED861 DX- Take-off 21:55, lost without trace
100 F/Sgt. W.R. Caldwell I ED561 HW-F Take-off 22:18, crashed 30 km N.N.W. Troyes
100 F/Sgt. A.G. Sadler III EE183 HW-P Take-off 22:12, most of crew became prisoners
103 F/Sgt. H.R. Graham I ED769 PM-U Take-off 22:15, lost without trace
106 P/O. C. Hayley III DV181 ZN- Take-off 22:30, attacked by fighters at 06:30
156 P/O. J.J. Hewerdine III ED919 GT- Take-off 22:48, lost without trace
467 F/Lt. R.W.A. Gibbs III JA676 PO-B Take-off 22:42, lost without trace
467 P/O. C.A. Chapman III LM311 PO-L Take-off 22:48, badly damaged, crashed on landing
14 July 1943
During a raid on Le Bourget airfield by the USAAF VIII Bomber Command, an FW 190 A-5 of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 was destroyed by bombs.
23 July 1943
Oblt. Heinz Wurm received a well-deserved Deutsches Kreuz in Gold.
29 July 1943
Ofw. Hans Gryz claimed a Liberator in the late afternoon (20:36) in the area of Pl.Qu. 15 West S/7044. The big four-engined aircraft was shot down into the sea from a height of ten metres. Ofw. Gryz’s victim was probably FL965 of 224 Sqdn.
Due to the success of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 in July 1943, there had been a proposal by the General der Luftwaffe beim ObdM for another FW 190-equipped See-Jagd-Staffel, to be designated 3./128. However, this proposal was never carried out, and 1./S.A.Gr. 128, occasionally supported by 8./J.G. 2, remained the only long-range single-engined German fighter unit operating over the Bay of Biscay.
7 August 1943
At 20:35, Oblt. Henny Passier of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 shot down a Sunderland in the area of Pl.Qu. 14 West N/8515. 20 minutes later, Ofw. Gryz continued his run of success by claiming a Beaufighter, possibly JM347 of 248 Sqdn.
11 August 1943
Uffz. Friedhelm Dorf’s aircraft suffered engine failure during a non-combat flight, and he died in the subsequent crash at Brest-Süd airfield.
15 August 1943
Combat occurred over the Brest peninsula in the afternoon, as Allied fighters swept the area. Circus 51 was flown by bomb-carrying Whirlwinds of 263 Sqdn, escorted by various fighter units. The Whirlwinds were tasked with bombing Guipavas airfield. 193 and 266 Sqdns were to fly together as one squadron, with six aircraft from each unit taking part, and they were to operate in a free-lance role. However, the Whirlwinds and their escort were recalled before bombs were released due to bad weather over the target area, but 193 and 266 Sqdns did not know that the mission had been cancelled, and continued to Brest peninsula at 5,300 m. Once there, 266 Sqdn spotted an estimated four to seven enemy aircraft approaching from behind, and six Typhoons of the squadron turned back to engage. 193 Sqdn made no enemy contact, and was on the way home when it realised 266 Sqdn had run into FW 190s.
S/Ldr. A.S. McIntyre was shot down and killed early in the combat in Typhoon Mk.Ib JP492, by an FW 190 from about 50 m distance. F/Sgt. Derek Erasmus, a Rhodesian in Typhoon Ib EJ917, and S/Ldr. McIntyre’s Number Two, attacked the FW 190 and shot it down. F/O. J. Small was killed at this time, despite being seen to bale out of Typhoon Mk.Ib DN296. F/Sgt. Erasmus attacked a number of enemy aircraft, and claimed one damaged, but was attacked several times himself. He submitted the following combat report:
“We turned hard through 180º; I positioned myself about 500 ft above, up sun of Red 1, when he called out ‘190’s’. He went for the first of the two which rolled on its back. The second one opened fire at Red 1. I fired at this one from long range and it dived away. I turned hard port to look for Red 1 and was immediately attacked from above and behind, I turned into it and the 190 overshot. I then saw a 190 about 1,000 feet below on its back, I dived at it opening fire at about 300 yards and saw strikes in rear of fuselage. I then did a climbing turn into sun and called up Red 1 but received no answer. I immediately saw a 190 close behind a Typhoon below me, to port. The 190 opened fire, black smoke came from the Typhoon and the 190 went into about 50 yards, there was a flash from the Typhoon which turned on its back with black smoke and flashes coming from it. The 190 did a steep climbing turn just as I opened fire out of range. I then closed into about 150 yards firing with 30º deflection. There was a bright flash in the cockpit and it went down burning. I saw it crash near three other aircraft burning on the ground. I was then attacked by another 190 which I turned with. I turned inside him and before I could fire he turned on his back and dived, I followed him as he had black and white smoke coming from his engine, and wing tip trails, I think he had been damaged before. I was closing rapidly but he was heading in towards France so I gave him a quick squirt and turned hard for home. On the way over the coast I passed a 190 with long range tank. I called up Red 1 but there was no answer. I also heard ‘Circus Leader calling Finnan Leader.’”
Judging from his gun camera stills, it is clear that F/Sgt. Erasmus had downed an FW 190 with long-range tanks. There are six shots in total. In the first two, a hit can be seen in the tail. In the third a major hit is seen at the base of the port wing. In shots four, five and six, this hit develops into a major explosion covering the port side of the aircraft.
F/Sgt. Erasmus returned to base alone, and belly-landed at Portreath. The three other 266 Sqdn pilots met up, closed formation, and headed for home at low-altitude. When they were 32 to 48 km from the French coast they spotted aircraft approaching from the rear. The three aircraft turned to engage, but in doing so F/O. F.B. Biddulph stalled and crashed into the sea in Typhoon Mk.Ib R8767. F/Lt. J.D. ‘Barney’ Wright in JP511 and P/O. J. ‘Tusky’ Haworth in DN442 then fought with the enemy aircraft, and became separated. F/Lt. Wright damaged one enemy fighter. P/O. Haworth’s two starboard cannon had jammed, and two FW 190s continually attacked him. He was hit in the tail by a 20 mm shell, but eventually managed to escape the Germans and return home.
F/Lt. Wright reported:
“I was flying as Yellow 1 and as we were coming down out of France I reported aircraft at eleven o’clock coming around to seven behind, there were about six or seven. Pinnan Leader told us to turn to port and we engaged the aircraft. Two enemy aircraft came up behind us (Yellow 1 and 11), I turned sharply warning No. 11, I got a deflecting shot in at the enemy aircraft, saw strikes, enemy aircraft rolled on his back and went down. I then saw my No. 11 flying towards coast with white smoke coming out of his aircraft, I saw him bale out and get caught up with tail plane. His parachute then dragged him free. I then turned towards coast and met Blue section as we were diving towards sea. When about 20 miles out two 190s closed to about 250-200 yards behind. I warned Finnan aircraft and turned in towards them, enemy aircraft was firing at me in turn but managed to get a deflection shot in at him and claim a damaged. During this combat saw a splash in the water and presume it was F/O. Biddulph. In this attack I saw another aircraft coming up at me from beneath and starboard and dived on him but couldn’t get my sights on aircraft. I turned round to face another attack and saw nothing in sight. I then decided to beat it home. Unfortunately I didn’t see other Typhoons.”
Along with some III./J.G. 2 FW 190s, 1./S.A.Gr. 128 became involved in this combat, and Ofw. George Sievert was able to make his first victory claim at 16:45. However, he was not to have much time to savour his victory. Two further German victories were claimed at 16:45, including a Spitfire by Oblt. Wurm, and a Typhoon by a 9./J.G. 2 pilot. Five minutes later, Uffz. Nozika of 8./J.G. 2 claimed another Typhoon. In return for these victories, Ofw. George Sievert and Ofw. Hans Gryz were both shot down and killed by 266 Sqdn Typhoons. Ofw. Sievert crashed near Landerneau, and Ofw. Gryz near Ploudaniel (where he is buried).
Ofw. Gryz and Ofw. Sievert had been two of 1./S.A.Gr. 128’s older pilots, both being born in 1916.
19 August 1943
An FW 190 A-5 of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 suffered engine failure during a non-combat flight, crash-landing at Brest and sustaining 40 percent damage.
22 August 1943
Oblt. Wurm claimed a Mosquito at 10:11, about 120 km west of Brest (Pl.Qu. 14 West N/8926), a rare victory over that particular Allied aircraft type. His victim may have been HJ655 of 307 Sqdn.
25 August 1943
During the mid-afternoon 1./S.A.Gr. 128 encountered Beaufighters about 120 km west of Brest, and quickly downed four of them. Oblt. Heinz Wurm got a pair of victories at 14:56 and 15:08, and Ofw. Friedrich Jost accounted for the other two Beaufighters at 14:56 and 14:57. The unit’s victims may have all come from 143 Sqdn (JL880, JL942, JM159, JL886).
9 September 1943
Oblt. Wurm claimed his twelfth victory for 1943 during the day, a Beaufighter.
13 September 1943
20-year old Uffz. Herbert Schöpel was killed at Brest-Süd when his FW 190 A-5 suffered engine failure.
16 September 1943
In the afternoon, 295 American bombers of VIII Bomber Command attacked Nantes, La Pallice, La Rochelle and Cognac, and J.G. 2, Jagdgruppe Ost, II./Z.G. 1, and 1./S.A.Gr. 128 were all scrambled to intercept. Unfortunately, this was to be a tragic day for 1./S.A.Gr. 128. During combat with the bombers near Brest, Oblt. Wurm was shot down and killed by B-17 gunners in his FW 190 A-5 W.Nr 410 218. During his time in command of 5./B.F.Gr. 196 and 1./S.A.Gr. 128, Heinz Wurm had led from the front, accounting for over half of his unit’s aerial victories. In this particular combat, eleven American four-engined bombers and a Spitfire were claimed destroyed between 15:47 and 19:13 by German fighters, but 1./S.A.Gr. 128 was unable to avenge its leader’s death.
23 September 1943
An FW 190 A-5 of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 experienced a technical problem on this day, when one of its 20 mm cannon exploded, causing slight damage to the wing. The aircraft had probably taken part in the action against an American bombing raid on Nantes, Vannes, Kerlin/Bastard and Rennes.
8 October 1943
During a bombing raid on Brest-Süd, two 1./S.A.Gr. 128 aircraft were damaged.
15 October 1943
Ofw. Helmut Haase of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 was shot down and killed by a pair of 257 Sqdn Typhoons at Tal-ar-Groas, south of Brest.
Eight Typhoon Mk.Ibs of 257 (Burma) Sqdn took off at 15:03 to take part in 10 Group’s Rodeo 41. The aircraft swept over the Brest peninsula and met four FW 190s with long-range tanks flying 500 m above the Typhoons, one of which was shot down by F/O. S.J. Khin (from Burma, flying JP447 coded FM-C) and F/Sgt. D.C.J. Calnan (flying JP799). F/O. Khin also claimed one FW 190 damaged. F/O. Khin submitted the following combat report:
“I warned the others and pulled up in a steep climbing turn and selected the rearmost enemy aircraft as my target. He dived down towards me, and at about 350 yards range, angle of 20º, giving _ ring deflection, fired a half second burst. The enemy aircraft flicked and I saw black smoke come from the enemy aircraft. Below and to port, I saw another FW 190 diving towards land. I immediately dived on his tail and gave chase at zero feet. I quickly overtook him, opening all taps. His speed was 320 mph (512 km/h). With Yellow 4 (F/Sgt. Calnan) alongside, I gave a series of short bursts from dead astern, closing from 400 to 100 yards, when I gave him a final burst of 2 _ seconds, saw strikes all over the aircraft from commencement of firing. He finally caught fire and exploded in mid air. I claim _ destroyed and one damaged.”
The destroyed aircraft crashed eight kilometres inland, and the claims occurred at around 16:40. The squadron also spotted two Bf 110s and gave chase, but could not catch them. 257 Squadron landed at 17:30.
2 December 1943
An FW 190 G-3 of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 was slightly damaged on landing at Brest-Süd during the day.
20 December 1943
Table 4: Jagdkommando 1./128 at Brest
Type Strength Serviceable
Ar 196 A-3 5 ?
FW 190 A 8 6
In December 1943, FW 190s finally outnumbered Ar 196s in 1./S.A.Gr. 128, as seven Ar 196s were given to 2./S.A.Gr. 128. At the end of the month, 1./S.A.Gr. 128 had five Ar 196s and seven FW 190s on strength.
30 December 1943
At 15:08 an FW 190 G-3 of 1./S.A.Gr. 128 was damaged in combat in Pl.Qu. 15 West S/8055.
co-ordinates 49-04N, 06-35W
At 14:10 eight Spitfires of 341 (Free French) Sqdn took off from Perranporth. After crossing the Channel at low-altitude, at 14:55 S/Chef Pierre Gallay saw four aircraft at four o’clock at sea level, flying west-north-west. The Commanding Officer, Capt. L. Christian Martell, flying Spitfire Vb AA846, was told about the aircraft, and the formation turned to investigate, quickly identifying the enemy as four FW 190s. One of the FW 190s broke and climbed, and was followed by Capt. Martell and S/Chef Gallay. Capt. Martell fired a short burst and hit the FW 190 in the fuselage, but it then disappeared in clouds. Martell claimed his victories in co-ordinates 49-04N, 06-35W. Capt. Jacques Soufflet fired several bursts at another of the FW 190s, but did not see any damage caused. After diving back to low-altitude, Capt. Martell fired at a second FW 190, which flew away trailing smoke. The squadron then reformed and was heading home when S/Lt R. Borne in Spitfire Vb AB241 spotted an FW 190 and chased it. He opened fire, and during several bursts saw parts of the tail unit come off at 15:00 in co-ordinates 49-04N, 06-35W. He then chased the FW 190 for four minutes, but had to turn for home due to lack of fuel. This FW 190 was damaged, and was smoking badly, and Borne claimed it as probably destroyed. The Squadron landed at 16:00. S/Chef Fry had been fired at by one of the FW 190s, but had not been hit.
31 December 1943
23-year old Lt. Karl Albers crashed on take-off from Brest-Süd at 11:20, and was killed. He was taking off as part of the Luftwaffe response to an incursion by American bombers on their way to attack Bordeaux and Cognac. Other units that scrambled included Jagdgruppe Ost and Jagdgruppe West, J.G. 2 and J.G. 26, and they made 39 claims. However, no 1./S.A.Gr. 128 victories are known.
Jagdkommando 1./S.A.Gr. 128
In January 1944, 1./S.A.Gr. 128 became Jagdkommando 1./128, handing over its final five Ar 196 A-3s to other units, and receiving eleven FW 190s, including two FW 190 A-6s. During January 1944, Jagdkommando 1./128 lost one FW 190 A-6 and an FW 190 G-2 to other causes, and one FW 190 G-3 to enemy action.
6 January 1944
During combat with Sunderland JM709 of 228 Sqdn, Lt. Erich Stain was shot down and killed in his FW 190 G-3 W.Nr 160 819. However, the Sunderland was then shot down at 15:23 about 190 km west of Brest by another Jagdkommando 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190.
31 January 1944
Jagdkommando 1./128 had seven aircraft serviceable, including three FW 190 A-5s, an A-6, a G-2 and two G-3s.
1 February 1944
On the first day of February, 1./S.A.Gr. 128 was re-designated 10./Z.G. 1. The Staffel was probably attached to III./Z.G. 1, which was equipped with the Ju 88 C-6 at the time.
12 February 1944
Lt. Herbert Jarmer was shot down and killed by friendly anti-aircraft fire eight kilometres north of Cap du Raz, and was 10./Z.G. 1’s first loss.
14 February 1944
10./Z.G. 1 was based at Brest-Süd, and during a non-combat mission on this day, Lt. Heinz Bichler went missing after crashing into the sea two kilometres south of Morgat.
10./Zerstörergeschwader 1 leaves Brest
During the next few weeks, 10./Z.G. 1 left the Atlantic coast for central France, moving to Lyon-Bron to help fight partisans under the command of X. Fliegerkorps.
13 March 1944
Six pilots, five FW 190s and corresponding technical personnel of 10./Z.G. 1 left Lyon-Bron for an unknown destination.
1 April 1944
On this day, Fliegerführer Atlantik was absorbed by X. Fliegerkorps.
11 April 1944
Ofw. Friedrich Jost was recommended for decoration, after flying 118 FW 190 missions, including 105 over the Atlantic. By this date, he had also flown thirteen missions against partisans on the plateau of Savoy in eastern France.
20 April 1944
Barely a week after being nominated for an award, 28-year old Ofw. Friedrich Jost was killed. The circumstances of his death are not known.
It was impossible for 5./196, 1./S.A.Gr. 128 and 10./Z.G. 1 to change the course of the war in the Bay of Biscay with just a handful of FW 190s and Ar 196s. Allied technical developments, new aircraft types, and weight of numbers, meant that the FW 190s could only cause some disruption to Allied successes. On some notable occasions, the long-range FW 190s were very successful, but these pin-pricks were not enough to save Dönitz’s U-Boat force from near-annihilation between May and December 1943. In early 1944, 10./Z.G. 1 gave up the patrols over the Bay, and found itself engaged in another demanding role – fighting partisans in southern France. This was a difficult and somewhat distasteful role, but the FW 190 was a good fighter-bomber, and could be successful against the French Resistance. Soon after the Allied invasion of Normandy, 10./Z.G. 1 joined Geschwader Bongart, and some bitter months of fighting followed [see my other article].
In the confusion of the German retreat from France after the Allied landings in Normandy, it is unknown what happened to the pilots who had belonged to 5./196, 1./S.A.Gr. 128, 10./Z.G. 1, and then Geschwader Bongart. Ofw. Friedrich Jost received a posthumous Deutsches Kreuz in Gold around 1 October 1944, but nothing is known of the other men. Whatever their eventual fates, these men had fought well over the Bay of Biscay, then over France. They had helped demonstrate one of the major advantages of the FW 190, its adaptability. They had proved that the FW 190 was a viable long-range fighter, particularly against lumbering Coastal Command aircraft (and just as frequently against more nimble Beaufighters, Spitfires, and even a Mosquito). As the Allied invasion approached, 10./Z.G. 1 moved into a more difficult role, combating partisans in central and southern France. After attachment to Geschwader Bongart, 10./Z.G. 1 moved into obscurity, but the activities of Geschwader Bongart seem to have been equally as successful as those by the FW 190s over the Bay. Few casualties were incurred by 5./B.F.Gr. 196, 1./S.A.Gr. 128, 10./Z.G. 1, and Geschwader Bongart in 1943 and 1944, and in exchange these units played low-key but important roles in defending the German occupation of France.
Appendix I - Loss List (display style below is limited - our apologies)
Date Unit Type W.Nr Pilot Cause / Remarks Location % F/H
06.06.43 5./B.F.Gr. 196 FW 190 A-5/U8 0150 888 ? Combat, to repair facility 08.07.43 Brest 70 F
14.07.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 A-5/U8 840 055 - Bombing raid Fl.Pl. Le Bourget 100 F
11.08.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 A-5/U8 0150 891 Uffz. Friedhelm Dorf + Engine failure, to repair facility 01.09.43 Fl.Pl. Brest-Süd 100 H
15.08.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 A-5/U8 181 523 Ofw. George Sievert + Shot down by 266 Sqdn Typhoons near Landerneau 100 F
15.08.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 A-5/U8 840 127 Ofw. Hans Gryz + Shot down by 266 Sqdn Typhoons Ploudaniel 100 F
19.08.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 A-5/U8 181 521 ? Engine failure, crash-landing, to repair facility 16.09.43 Brest 40 H
13.09.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 A-5 218 (?) Uffz. Herbert Schöpel + Engine failure, crash-landing Fl. Pl. Brest-Süd 100 H
16.09.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 A-5 410 218 (?) Oblt. Heinz Wurm + Shot down by B-17s near Brest 100 F
23.09.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 A-5 0150 1466 ? Cannon exploded ? 10 F
08.10.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 A-5 3564 - Bombing raid Fl.Pl. Brest-Süd 30 F
08.10.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 G-2 181 524 - Bombing raid, to repair facility 08.11.43 Fl.Pl. Brest-Süd 40 F
15.10.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 G-2 840 057 Ofw. Helmut Haase + Shot down by 257 Sqdn Typhoons Tal-ar-Groas 100 F
02.12.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 G-3 16037 (?) ? Landing accident ? 10 ?
30.12.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 G-3 160 407 ? Shot down at 15:08 by 341 Sqdn Spitfires Pl.Qu. 15 West S/8055 35 F
31.12.43 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 G-3 ? Lt. Karl Albers + Take-off accident at 11:20 Fl.Pl. Brest-Süd 100 F
06.01.44 1./S.A.Gr. 128 FW 190 G-3 160 819 Lt. Erich Stain M Shot down by 228 Sqdn Sunderland 190 km W. Brest 100 F
12.02.44 10./Z.G. 1 FW 190 ? Lt. Herbert Jarmer + Shot down by anti-aircraft fire 8 km N. Cap du Raz 100 F
14.02.44 10./Z.G. 1 FW 190 ? Lt. Heinz Bichler M Crashed in sea 2 km S. Morgat 100 H
20.04.44 ? ? ? Ofw. Friedrich Jost + ? ? ? ?
Appendix II – Victory Claims (display style below is limited - our apologies)
Sources: CG = via C. Goss; Film = from Luftwaffe Victory Claims microfilms; WJA = Tony Wood
Date Claimant Unit Type Location: Altitude Time Remarks Sources
29.01.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 1 5./B.F.Gr. 196 Boston Morlaix: - 14:34 Shared with German anti-aircraft unit CG
17.05.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 2 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Fortress II Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4867: - 12:22 Anerk: ASM; Oblt.’s name illegible Film C. 2031/II
30.05.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 3 Jagdkdo West Liberator Pl.Qu. 15 West S/9076: - 20:54 CG
07.07.43 Ofw. Helmut Haase: 1 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Beaufort Pl.Qu. 15 West S/7078: - 12:05 Anerk: Nr.2; Goss says Friedrich Jost CG; Film C. 2027/I
07.07.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 4 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Beaufort Pl.Qu. 15 West S/7078: - 12:10 Anerk: Nr.3 CG; Film C. 2027/I
13.07.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 5 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Liberator Pl.Qu. 14 West N/8944: - 06:27 Anerk: Nr.5; Goss says Halifax CG; Film C. 2027/I
13.07.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 6 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Liberator Pl.Qu. 14 West N/7934: 20 m 06:35 Anerk: ASM; Goss says Halifax CG; Film C. 2027/I
13.07.43 Ofw. Hans Gryz: 1 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Liberator Pl.Qu. 14 West N/7931: 700 m 06:40 Anerk: ASM; Goss says Halifax CG; Film C. 2027/I
13.07.43 Ofw. Friedrich Jost: 1 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Liberator Pl.Qu. 14 West N/7914: 1,000 m 06:40 Anerk: ASM; Goss says Halifax CG; Film C. 2027/I
13.07.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 7 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Liberator Pl.Qu. 14 West N/7919: - 06:43 Anerk: Nr.4; Goss says Halifax CG; Film C. 2027/I
29.07.43 Ofw. Hans Gryz: 2 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Liberator Pl.Qu. 15 West S/7044: 10 m 20:36 Anerk: Nr.6 CG; Film C. 2027/I
07.08.43 Oblt. Henny Passier: 1 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Sunderland Pl.Qu. 14 West N/8515: 400 m 20:35 Anerk: Nr.7; unit recorded as 11./Z.G. 1 Film C. 2031/II
07.08.43 Ofw. Hans Gryz: 3 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Beaufighter - 20:55 CG
15.08.43 Ofw. George Sievert: 1 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Spitfire Pl.Qu. 14 West N/5947: 1,000 m 16:45 Anerk: Nr.8; name difficult to make out Film C. 2031/II
15.08.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 8 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Spitfire Pl.Qu. 14 West N/5947: 1,000 m 16:45 Anerk: Nr.9 Film C. 2031/II
22.08.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 9 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Mosquito Pl.Qu. 14 West N/8926: 100 m 10:11 Anerk: Nr.16; CG says 10:20, 120 km W. Brest CG; Film C. 2031/II
25.08.43 Ofw. Friedrich Jost: 2 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Beaufighter Pl.Qu. 14 West N/8936: - 14:56 Anerk: ASM; CG says 120 km W. Brest CG; Film C. 2031/II
25.08.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 10 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Beaufighter Pl.Qu. 14 West N/8936: - 14:56 Anerk: Nr.11 Film C. 2031/II
25.08.43 Ofw. Friedrich Jost: 3 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Beaufighter Pl.Qu. 14 West N/8932: - 14:57 Anerk: ASM; CG says 120 km W. Brest CG; Film C. 2031/II
25.08.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 11 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Beaufighter Pl.Qu. 14 West N/9412: - 15:08 Anerk: Nr.12; CG says 15:07, 120 km W. Brest CG; Film C. 2031/II
09.09.43 Oblt. Heinz Wurm: 12 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Beaufighter Pl.Qu. 15 West S/7869: - - Anerk: Nr. - Film C. 2031/II
06.01.44 - Jagdkdo 1./S.A.Gr. 128 Sunderland 190 km W. Brest: - 15:23 CG
Other victories mentioned in the text(display style below is limited - our apologies)
Date Claimant Unit Type Location: Altitude Time Remarks Sources
29.01.43 Uffz. Leopold Groiss: 5 8./J.G. 2 Spitfire Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4913: 500 m 14:25 Film C. 2031/II
29.01.43 Fw. Rudolf Eisele: 8 8./J.G. 2 Spitfire Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4915: 2,800 m 14:29 Film C. 2031/II
29.01.43 Hptm. Bruno Stolle: ~25 8./J.G. 2 Spitfire Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4075: 100 m 14:35 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Fw. Paul Bleyer: 1 9./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4849: 4,000 m 12:15 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Uffz. Siegfried Lemke: 2 1./J.G. 2 B-17 10 km S.E. Île de Groix: 7,500 m 12:15 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Lt. Josef Wurmheller: 75 9./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4345: 7,000 m 12:13 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Fw. Wilhelm Kopp: 1 9./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4843: 7,000 m 12:20 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Fw. Martin Brendel: 2 1./J.G. 2 B-17 25 km N.W. Lorient: 7,500 m 12:20 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Fw. Karl-Heinz Münsche: 5 9./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4819: 5,000 m 12:28 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Lt. Hans-Ulrich Tartsch: 3 8./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4938: 7,500-4,000 m 12:42 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Ofw. Hans Oeckler: 1 8./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4938: - 12:42 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Fw. Herbert Glassl: 2 8./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4975: 3,000 m 12:45 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Ofw. Werner Beckers: 6 8./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/4075: 3,000 m 12:45 Film C. 2031/II
17.05.43 Ofw. Kurt Goltzsch: 23 4./J.G. 2 Spitfire Pl.Qu. 15 West S/4072: 5,000 m 12:52 Film C. 2031/II
30.05.43 Ofw. Vincenz Giessuebel: 4 14./K.G. 40 Liberator 120 km N.W. Brest: - - CG
06.06.43 Lt. Förster: 1 8./J.G. 2 Mustang I 30 km S. Scilly Islands: low-altitude 20:35 WJAW
13.07.43 Ofw. Friedrich May: 27 8./J.G. 2 Lancaster Pl.Qu. 14 West N/6949: 50 m 06.30 Film C. 2027/I
13.07.43 Uffz. Fritz Schüler: 2 8./J.G. 2 Lancaster Pl.Qu. 14 West N/6949: low-altitude 06.36 Film C. 2027/I
13.07.43 Gefr. Egon Hess: 1 8./J.G. 2 Lancaster Pl.Qu. 14 West N/6949: low-altitude 06.36 Film C. 2027/I
30.07.43 Ofw. Bärschen [sic] 8./Z.G. 1 Ventura TL: 5 m 17:50 Maybe 10./Z.G. 1 Film C. 2027/I
15.08.43 Fw. Karl-Heinz Münsche: 11 9./J.G. 2 Typhoon Pl.Qu. 15 West S/5073: low-altitude 16:45 Film C. 2031/II
15.08.43 Uffz. Erich Nozika: 1 8./J.G. 2 Typhoon Pl.Qu. 15 West S/5064: 3,000 m 16:50 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Lt. Helmut Beitz: 1 10./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/2818: 6,000 m 15:47 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Fw. Geisthardt: 1 10./J.G. 2 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/2835: 7,000 m 15:48 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Fw. Ernst Henning: 5 1./J.G. 2 B-17 DS-52: 7,200 m [E. Rennes] 15:50 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Fw. Josef Lorey: 5 1./J.G. 2 B-17 ER-62: 7,200 m [15 km S. Rennes] 15:55 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Uffz. Rudolf Wirtgen: 1 1./J.G. 2 B-17 IQ-95: 7,200 m [Île de Noirmoutier] 16:05 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Fw. Schreuert: 1 4./Z.G. 1 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/6821: 600 m 17:20 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Fw. Pfeiffer: 1 6./Z.G. 1 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/6825: 100 m 17:23 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Oblt. Dorka: 1 4./Z.G. 1 B-17 Pl.Qu. 14 West N/6821: 600 m 17:25 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Uffz. Dominik Kraigher: 1 4./J.G. 2 Spitfire 15 km N.E. Lisieux: 2,000 m 18:30 Film C. 2031/II
16.09.43 Fw. Heinz Schlüter: 1 4./J.Gr. Ost Fortress II 26222: 5,500 m [La Rochelle area] 18:47 Film C. 2026/II
16.09.43 Lt. Hans Weik: 12 4./J.Gr. Ost Fortress II 2 km S. La Rochelle: 6,000 m 18:59 Film C. 2026/II
16.09.43 Ofw. Graße: 1 2./J.Gr. Ost Fortress II 15 km W. Île de Rè: 6,000 m 19:13 Film C. 2026/II
NA AIR 27/1527, 257 Sqdn Operations Record Book
NA AIR 27/1559, 266 Sqdn Operations Record Book
NA AIR 27/1738, 341 Sqdn Operations Record Book
NA AIR 40/1887, Air P/W Interrogation Unit Main Headquarters Second T.A.F.: Focke-Wulf Repair Facility, Auxerre
NA AIR 50/100, 257 Sqdn Combat Reports
NA AIR 50/105, 266 Sqdn Combat Reports
BA-MA RL 2 III/876 – 882, Flugzeugbestand und Bewegungsmeldungen material
Chorley, W.R. Royal Air Force Bomber Command Losses of the Second World War, Volume 4: Aircraft and Crew Losses 1943, Specialty Press, North Branch, 1996, ISBN 0-904597-90-3.
Used to identify 1./S.A.Gr. 128 claims on 13 July 1943.
Neitzel, S. Der Einsatz der deutschen Luftwaffe über dem Atlantik und der Nordsee 1939-1945, Bernard & Graefe Verlag, Bonn, 1995, ISBN 3-7637-5938-7.
This is a very useful source, extensively researched, and, in the words of Nigel Moore, is “critical to a full understanding of German operations over the Bay of Biscay”. The section relevant to 5./B.F.Gr. 196, 1./S.A.Gr. 128 and 10./Z.G. 1 runs from page 194 to page 201. There are a number of very useful maps, and many footnotes with references to primary sources in the BA-MA and NA.
Rosch, B.C. Luftwaffe Codes, Markings & Units 1939 – 1945, Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, 1995, ISBN 0-88740-796-X.
Rosch’s book is a fantastic resource for those interested in the histories of the smaller and lesser-known Luftwaffe units. Rosch provides details like formation and disbandment dates, Feldpostnummern, types of aircraft operated, codes, along with photos and profiles throughout. The sections on 5./B.F.Gr. 196 and 1./S.A.Gr. 128 are useful, and there are a number of photographs of aircraft operated by 5./B.F.Gr. 196 (unfortunately there are no shots of FW 190s).
Forbes, T. http://www.revolver66.freeserve.co.uk
Holm, M. http://www.ww2.dk
Bundesarchiv, one photo of a 5./B.F.Gr. 196 Ar 196, in Rosch, Luftwaffe Codes, Markings & Units 1939 – 1945, p.86; one photo of a 5./B.F.Gr. 196 Ar 196 in France during 1942, in Rosch, Luftwaffe Codes, Markings & Units 1939 – 1945, p.152
S.W. Parry, one photo of a 5./B.F.Gr. 196 He 114 A-2 in Rosch, Luftwaffe Codes, Markings & Units 1939 – 1945, p.86
N. Beale, T. Forbes, C. Goss, N. Moore, D. Pausey, J. Perry, A. Stewart, J. Vaittinen, D. Wadman
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