Thursday 26 May 2022

more Bf 109 Aufklärer - 4.(H)/12 in Tunisia January -April 1943

Bf 109 G-2 of 4.(H)/12 seen on Sicily after departing Tunisia during April-May 1943. To view a larger version of this photo click on the image. 

In January 1943, a weakened 4.(H)/12 were resting at Bir Dufan before the Bf 109s of the Staffel were deployed to Tunisia to operate in the 'pocket' alongside those of 2.(H)/14 which had recently returned to Africa. On January 20th, at Bir el Ghnem, a 'Friedrich' had to be scrapped. Three days later, a further two Bf 109s (which were to be part of a rear commando left near Tripoli) were also destroyed. Two wounded were then reported during landing accidents in Zuara and Gabes. On February 9, Ofw Hönig was injured when his aircraft hit an obstacle in Gabes. It was 80% destroyed and this was the last mention of a Bf 109 F-4 in the Staffel. On February 20, Oblt Gerhard Wernicke was reported MIA, hit by ground fire and forced to make an emergency landing south-west of Zarzis. He was flying 'black 14' WNr. 10764  - one of the first Bf 109 G-2s to be transferred to the unit to replace the unit's Friedrichs. Wernicke, a former observer with 2.(H)/14 transferred to 4.(H)/12 and then turned pilot, managed to evade capture and returned to the unit on foot. Two more 'Gustavs' were damaged on landing at Hadjeb el Aioln on the same day, a ferry flight disrupted by bad weather. On 21 February, in a G-2, Fw Josef Harl was hit by flak at  Ben Gardane (near Medenine) and went into captivity. 

On 24 February, Kapitän Schneider left his post to lead a training unit, 4/Nahaufklärungsgeschwader 102 and then II./NAG 102. His successor was Hptm Rolf Sauer, a veteran who had been shot down south of Arrancy on May 13, 1940 by GC I/5 while flying a 3.(F)/Aufkl.Gr. 22 Dornier Do 17 P.  He had been taken captive but was freed when France fell and, in 1943, was assigned to the Nahaufklärung. On March 10 Fw Werner Schmidt was shot down near Gafsa by three Spitfires of N° 601 Sq. Schmidt was killed and this victory was attributed to P/O Baxter and Sgt Steele. On March 17, a G-2 was destroyed after an emergency landing due to enemy fire, the pilot was unharmed. 

During these risky missions in Tunisian skies, 4.(H)/12 were not 'clay pigeons'. Uffz Friedrich Stannek (left) was the ace of the Staffel, claiming at least six enemy machines downed during this campaign. Lt. Karl-Otto Holzapfel, who knew him, said; "We didn't like flying with Stannek. He was far too much of a Draufgänger. He often came back with a victory... but without his Kaczmarek".  Stannek claimed his 7th on May 23, a P-38 shot down 50 km south-west of  Cap Spartivento. Stannek was awarded the RK late in 1943 and was killed in a crash on October 25, 1944. 

 On March 19, Uffz Antonius Uhler flying Bf 109 G-2 'black 6' WNr. 10672 was hit by flak near Gafsa. He jumped and was captured. 4.(H)/12 had apparently reached the end of the line. In early April, two or three of its G-2s were destroyed at La Fauconnerie and Bir el Djem. (April 9,1943: Bf 109 G-2 W.Nr. 13899 was destroyed by German troops at Fl.Pl. Bir el-Djem). The last recorded loss for 4.(H)/12 in Tunisia was Bf 109 G-2 WNr. 10837, bombed at Sainte-Marie du Zît on April 12. The Staffel evacuated to Sicily and thereafter back to mainland Italy, missing the last of the fighting in the Tunisia and the surrender of the Panzerarmee Afrika in May 1943.

Below;  'white 6' a G-4 of 4./(H)/12 (note prancing horse cowl emblem) on Sicily. 4.(H)/12 was incorporated into the 'new' NAG 11 during October 1943, being re-designated 2./NAG 11.

Also on this blog;

The full story of battlefield recce Staffel 4.(H)/12  - from the Hs 126 to the Bf 109 Gustav, 1939 -1943 - is told by Jean-Louis Roba in the latest issue of 'Avions' magazine (Lela Presse). More details and a pdf extract here