Text: Chris Goss

Illustration: Piotr Forkasiewicz

Cat. No. 7468

Early August 1943, the Bf 110 G-2s of II./ZG 1 moved from Monte Corvino to Lanveoc-Poulmic. Command of II./ZG 1 passed to Hptm Karl-Heinrich Matern, Staffelkapitän of 4./ZG 1. II./ZG 1 was to be used countering increased Allied air traffic over the Bay of Biscay together with Ju 88 C-6s of V./KG 40 and Fw 190s of III./JG 2 and 1./Seeaufklärungsgruppe 128.

August 21, 1943, saw the first victory when the Gruppe claimed a Liberator. This is believed to be from 311 Sqn. and was flown by Wg Cdr Jindřich Breitcetl – all eight crew perished but Uffz Georg Planer of 5./ZG 1 was lost in the combat.

On September 11, 1943, Mosquitoes of 307 Sqn. claimed to have destroyed a Bf 110, probably destroyed two and damaged one. Lt Dieter Bambauer of 5./ZG 1 was lost so was probably the victim of Flt Sgt Zbigniew Dunin-Rzuchowski. Five days later, II./ZG 1 intercepted B-17s attacking targets in western France claiming three, credited to Fw Klaus Schreuer and Oblt Arnold Dorka of 4. Staffel and Fw Emil Pfeiffer of 6. Staffel.

A Liberator of 53 Sqn. flown by Flt Lt Tony Spooner was then damaged by Bf 110s between the Scillies and Lundy Island on September 21, 1943 and three days later, the Gruppe suffered its heaviest losses to date. Despite Ofw Ruhland Zahn and Fw Hans Fuchs of 5./ZG 1 each claiming  a Spitfire and Ofw Heinrich Börger and Uffz Peter Schölz of 6./ZG 1 claiming a Mitchell and a Spitfire, four Bf 110s, including those of Zahn, Fuchs and Oblt Arnold Dorka, were lost to Spitfires of Nos. 66, 313 and 610 Sqn. No 98 Sqn. Mitchells were lost but 313 Sqn. lost three which included Sqn Ldr Jaroslav Himr.

II./ZG 1’s time over the Bay of Biscay would now only last another three weeks. On the morning of September 27, 1943, Fw Klaus Schreuer of 4. Staffel claimed a Wellington and 30 minutes later, 5./ZG 1 got a second Wellington. The Wellingtons came from No. 612 Sqn. flown by Flt Sgt Robert Hyndson and No. 407 Sqn. flown by Wg Cdr John Archer, the latter having gone to search for a No. 407 Sqn. Wellington which had ditched off the Scillies returning from the Bay.

Six days later, the Gruppe apparently claimed a Sunderland and a Typhoon. The former was possibly from No. 10 Sqn. RAAF captained by Fg Off Fred Lee while the latter was possibly a Hurricane of 1449 Flt flown by Flt Sgt Richard Adams which was reported shot down 35 miles south-west of the Scillies at 0900hrs.

The end for II./ZG 1 came on October 8, 1943. At 0735hrs, seven Spitfires of No. 453 Sqn. took off on what was called an anti-Me 110 patrol. At 0845 they came across eight Bf 110s and in the ensuing battle, Fg Off Harold Parker was seen to be shot down and Flt Lt Russell Ewins, having shot down a Bf 110, suffered engine failure and ditched. Parker was reported missing, but Ewins was rescued. Another four Bf 110s were claimed destroyed by Fg Off Patrick McDade and Plt Off Colin Leith. At 1330hrs, eight Bf 110s got airborne from Lanveoc-Poulmic looking for two aircraft lost that morning. No. 610 Sqn. were relieving a Mosquito circling Russell Ewin’s dinghy and at 1415hrs bounced the Germans. Fg Off Vincent Moody and Flt Sgt Bob Hussey each claimed a Bf 110 around 1415hrs. Finally, at 1445hrs, No. 66 Sqn. together with 453 Sqn., got airborne to escort aircraft bombing II./ZG 1's home base. No. 66 Sqn. bounced eight to 10 Bf 110s off Brest claiming three Bf 110s destroyed, one probable and one damaged.

The timings for II./ZG 1’s losses are hard to determine. There were some claims by 6. Staffel as Ofw Heinrich Börger claimed a Mitchell, Fw Franz Meissl a Spitfire and Uffz Anders a P-47 around 1545hrs. During the day they lost 11 fighters with three more suffering varying degrees of damage. Those lost included Hptm Karl-Heinrich Matern (who would be awarded the Ritterkreuz the following day – he was possibly lost in the morning as Hptm Rudolf Wangner was leading the Gruppe later that day), Lt Hans-Bodo Busch (Adjutant) while Lt Hans Schmidtal, who was leading 6. Staffel, was wounded. Lt Wolfgang Priebe and his radio operator from 4./ZG 1 were captured after being shot down by No. 610 Sqn. and their interrogation revealed much about the Gruppe but by then it was too late. Having suffered such heavy losses, one more coming on October 14, 1943, when Uffz Max Wichert of 6./ZG 1 crashed due to engine failure off the Ille D’Ouessant, in November, II./ZG 1, now commanded by Ritterkreuz winner Hptm Egon Albrecht, former Staffelkapitän of 6. Staffel, withdrew to Wels where in July 1944 it was disbanded to become the Bf 109-equipped III./JG 76.