The Wüstennotstaffel was a rather unique Luftwaffe unit - a "desert rescue squadron". Equipped with the remarkable Fieseler Fi 156 'Storch' STOL aircraft, 1./Wüstennotstaffel served as a ‘jack-of-all trades’ for Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel throughout the North African campaign. The story of the unit is a fascinating one and it has been superbly written up and published by AirWar Publications in their eArticle series. For French readers the story is told in the current issue (no 48) of Chris Ehrengardt's Aerojournal magazine.
It is a story that involved a number of lively escapades and events in the two years from its creation in the summer of 1941 to its disbandment in the summer of 1943. Although rarely reporting more than a dozen aircraft on strength, the Wüstennotstaffel carried out all manner of tasks in the desert war, ranging from its regular rescues of downed Axis and Allied airmen, to evacuation of wounded German soldiers, providing assistance to various Axis special forces and irregular units, transporting senior German army and air force personnel, and generally doing whatever miscellaneous tasks it was required to perform. The unit’s Staffelkapitän, Heinz Kroseberg, was awarded the Ritterkreuz for his efforts in rescuing friend and foe alike, although the award was given posthumously after he sacrificed his life trying to save some downed German airmen in the Mediterranean Sea off the North African coast. This article outlines the history of the unit in North Africa, and delves into several of the more prominent events that it was involved in.
The range of duties performed by the Wüstennotstaffel was surprisingly wide. The unit was involved in the battle against the British LRDG and SAS, undertook sabotage missions of their own, transported the likes of Rommel and Kesselring, and undertook dozens of other tasks. The authors have unearthed some really good stories, and as a result of extensive correspondence with the family of Heinz Kroseberg (the Wüstennotstaffel leader from June 1941 to May 1942), the article includes lots of previously unpublished first-hand accounts.
As we've said before on this blog Air War Publications' earticles are a great idea, always packed with interesting details, so many congratulations to Morten and Andrew for yet another winner. I also have to say that it looks extremely good on my Ipad mini!
This 10,000 word article featuring artworks and a fine collection of images is available for download in two parts for not much more than the cost of a print magazine on the AirWar Publications site here
Fi 156 CQ+QP, 1./Wüstennotstaffel, late-1941 - early 1942. The eArticle also includes a page of modellers colour notes
Reference and colour notes for modellers building the Hasegawa/Revell Fi 156 in 1/32nd scale
below; colour image from "Recon for Rommel" by S.Ommert shows the effects of a sand storm on a Fi 156 C coded 5F+YK of AufklGr 14. The camouflage scheme consists of a 'dark' and quite dense mottle of a sand colour, possibly of Italian origin, over the RLM 79, while the lower surfaces are likely to be RLM 78. Note the white fuselage theatre band..
1. Most, if not all, desert Fi 156s carried only the white fuselage band as theatre markings.
2. The underside of the fuselage on Fi 156 Storks delivered in the RLM 79/RLM 78 scheme was RLM 78
3. Photos show that the inside of the cockpit door was almost certainly RLM 66 as was the instrument panel, but the rear cockpit wall was a lighter colour (RLM 02?). Photos of Fi 156 Ds (ambulance version - all theatres) show the area around where the stretchers are fitted is this same lighter colour.
Fi 156 C-5/Trop, probably liaison Aircraft of Stab/JG 27, taking off from a North-African desrt airstrip, 1942
two more Wüstennotstaffel machines, above, repainted after capture by the British but retaining the Staffel emblem on the nose and, below, DL+AW