Operation Gisela (ii)

Giselle

This was a German night-fighter intruder operation against British bombers on their way back to England from an attack on Dortmund (3/4 March 1945).

On this night Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris’s RAF Bomber Command had despatched 212 Avro Lancaster heavy bombers, supported by 10 de Havilland Mosquito light bombers of No. 5 Group to attack the Dortmund-Ems Canal. The aircraft bombed the canals’s Ladbergen aqueduct, breaching it in two places and putting it completely out of action. The British lost seven Lancaster bombers.

In the same night’s support and minor operations, 95 training aircraft had been sent on a diversionary sweep, 64 Mosquito light bombers attacked Berlin and 32 more attacked Würzburg; 61 aircraft undertook radar/radio countermeasure sorties; 29 Mosquito aircraft patrolled; 31 Lancaster aircraft, of which one was lost, laid mines in the Kattegat and Oslofjord; and 17 aircraft were involved in resistance support operations

In 'Gisela' (ii), the Luftwaffe launched about 200 night-fighters to follow the various bomber forces to England. This offensive took the British defences largely by surprise and the Germans shot down 20 bombers (eight Handley Page Halifax machines of No. 4 Group, two Lancaster machines of No. 5 Group, three Halifax, one Boeing Fortress and one Mosquito machines of No. 100 Group, and three Lancaster and two Halifax machines from the Heavy Conversion Units which had been taking part in the diversionary sweep.

‘Gisela’ (ii) was the last major operation undertaken by the Luftwaffe’s Nachtjagdgeschwadern (night-fighter wings) in World War II. Three of the German night-fighters crashed through flying too low, and the German night-fighter which crashed near Elvington airfield was the last Luftwaffe aircraft to crash on English soil during the war.

By March 1945 the Luftwaffe had been whittled away to a nub of its former strength and capability, and had lost air superiority over all the fronts on which it was engaged. The air forces of the Western Allies held air supremacy over the Germany and remaining parts of Europe still held by the Germans. Day and night bombing by the Allied air forces was approaching a zenith which continued to pound German industrial cities and communications to an extent which was crippling Germany’s war effort. Allied armies had also reached and in placed broken through the pre-war German frontiers and now held numbers of German cities and towns. In the west the German defeat in Normandy in ‘Overlord’ and the subsequent Allied advance across North-West Europe had significant consequences for the Luftwaffe’s ability to defend Germany from British night attacks: the ‘Kammhuber-Linie’ air-defence system, which had extended through occupied France, Belgium and the Netherlands, was now broken and much of its early warning network had been lost. The Luftwaffe was further crippled by its inability to train night-fighter crews in the numbers and to the standard now required, and this factor was compounded by the increasingly debilitating shortage of fuel. By this stage in the war this latter was a major contributor to the collapse of training programmes, and as resulted in the grounding of existing combat units. Equally serious was the threat posed by de Havilland Mosquito night-fighter intruder aircraft of the RAF operating seemingly at will over most of Germany.

In a desperate attempt to improve the situation and hamper British operations, a number of experienced night-fighter commanders and pilots suggested the resumption of intruder operations over the areas of England in with the RAF’s night bomber forces were based. During 1940/41 German night-fighters, which lacked the airborne radar equipment which would have allowed them to locate the bombers over Germany, had flown to British bomber bases and attempted to destroy the bombers as they returned from their missions. Adolf Hitler had ordered the end of these activities for propaganda and practical reasons, despite the fact that they had enjoyed modest success in 1941, and it was felt they may do so again.

After Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, commander-in-chief of the Luftwaffe, had sanctioned the ‘Gisela’ (ii) operation, the Germans had to build up the stock of fuel the night-fighters would require for this long-range undertaking, and also to await the opportunity to begin the intruder operation. This opportunity presented itself on the night of the 3/4 March 1945, but the operation failed to achieve the level of success which had been anticipated, and the resulting profit/loss ratio did not justify the quantities of fuel the Germans expended and numbers of crew and aircraft lost.

In the period before the outbreak of war, and indeed during its early phases, German air doctrine had seen little need for the development of a nocturnal air-defence system and the Luftwaffe concentrated on the offensive use of air power. The failure of the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940 ended hopes for an early victory and forced the continuance of hostilities with the UK, however, and in the face of complete German domination of northern Europe, the British appreciated that the only offensive weapon available to them in the short-term for the exertion of military pressure on Germany was the night bomber.

Though Bomber Command had initially preferred the concept of day bombing as this eased the problems of navigation and bomb aiming, it had been forced to switch to night bombing by December 1939, largely as a result of the command’s losses to German fighters in the daylight Battle of the Heligoland Bight. The British night bombing effort was at first wholly inaccurate and completely ineffective in any military sense, though it was a morale booster for the British population, but nonetheless embarrassed Göring, who had once boasted ‘You may call me Meyer’ if enemy bombers ever flew over Germany. On 26 June 1940, therefore, Göring ordered the creation a new force to combat night bombing.

An experienced pilot, Major Wolfgang Falck was entrusted with the development of a new organisation, and initially established Nachtjagdgeschwader 1 under his own command. By April 1941 another three Nachtjagdgeschwadern had been created as NJG 2, NJG 3 and NJG 4. To improve the management of the expanding night-fighter force, the 1st Nachtjagddivision was established on 17 July 1940 under the command of Oberst Josef Kammhuber. This officer was aggressively mined, and created the Fernnachtjagd as the long-range night-fighter intruder force on the basis of Hauptmann Karl-Heinrich Heyse’s (from 24 November 1940 Major Karl Hülshoff’s) I/NJG 2, and this remained the Luftwaffe’s only dedicated night intruder unit.

The Germans quickly developed a series of basic tactics. Lack of airborne radar at this stage in the war meant that the location and destruction of British bombers at night was difficult, so it was decided to use the Fernnachtjagd for operations over the UK. Major Kuhlmann and Generalmajor Wolfgang Martini, the heads of the German wireless telegraphy interception service and Luftnachrichtentruppe (air signal corps) respectively, played major roles in aiding the Luftwaffe night-fighter force. The interception of British signal communications by monitoring the radio traffic of ground stations and aircraft made it possible for the Germans to establish the location of the RAF airfields on which there was night activity. With the British base or bases identified, Falck could then sent his night intruders to attack these airfields. The standard tactic involved three waves of aircraft: the first to attack the bombers as they took off, the second to cover the known routes taken by the British bombers over the North Sea, and the third to attack the bombers at they came into land at a time, after a long operational flight, when their crews were tired and much less alert. For operational purposes, the eastern part of England was divided into three Räume (areas): Raum A was Yorkshire bounded by Hull, Leeds, Lancaster and Newcastle; Raum B was the Midlands and Lincolnshire; and Raum C was East Anglia bounded by London, Peterborough, Luton and the Wash.

The main night intruder operation began in October 1940.

While sound in theory, the German night intruder was difficult to achieve in practice. The crews’ inexperience was a major factor, and by December 1940 NGJ 2 had lost 32 aircrew killed in action and 12 aircraft lost in exchange for 18 British aircraft claimed shot down. Despite the claims made by German crews, as always in air fighting the evidence showed considerable over-claiming, and the difficulty in substantiating claims at night and over enemy territory soon became evident.

In 1941 growing experience began to give the German night intruders a greater success rate. The British anti-aircraft defences, which had taken a major toll of the German units in 1940, were now side-stepped by a decision to shift the area of operations to the North Sea off the English coast. In June German night-fighter units claimed 22 British aircraft, 18 of them over the sea. In July 19 British aircraft were claimed for four losses. By October 1941 the British loss records listed 54 aircraft of all types destroyed and a further 44 damaged in these operations to all causes, while the German losses amounted to 27 aircraft destroyed and 31 damaged to all causes.

However, while the number of losses to the German night-fighters was not significant, the psychological damage to the British was substantial. Many crashes were attributable to the nervousness of British bomber pilots, who did not feel safe over their own airfields and consequently landed too hard and fast, or refused to go around a second time for fear of attack by German intruders.

However, just as it appeared that night intruder sorties were showing major promise, Hitler ordered their end on 12 October 1941 as he believed that German civilian morale would benefit more from the destruction of British bombers over Germany. Hitler was also reacting to the fact that there had been no major reduction in the number and weight of British air raids, and that the RAF had not adopted these methods against German bombers during the ‘Blitz’ bombing of London and other major British cities. Kammhuber urged the reinstatement of intruder operations, but without success, and his efforts to expand the intruder force beyond a single unit were thwarted by the lack of interest revealed by the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe, which was more concerned with the provision of reinforcements for other tacks and on other theatres.

Over the next three years the British and later the US bombers of the combined bomber offensive and ‘Pointblank’ forced the Luftwaffe into an enormous manpower and matériel investment in air defence. In the campaign against the British, the ‘Kammhuber-Linie’ become increasingly sophisticated. In 1942 the introduction of Lichtenstein air-interception radar and improvements in night-fighter armament and capability created a force capable of inflicting heavy losses on British bomber streams. Though British losses rarely exceeded 10% of the bombers committed to any raid (considered the minimum figure to damage British combat power beyond sustainability), the night-fighter force continued to grow in size and capability. British losses in the Battle of the Ruhr (March/July 1943) and most notably in the Battle of Berlin (November 1943/March 1944) were high, and in the latter battle totalled 569 bombers.

To increase the losses of the Allied bomber force still further, intruder operations were resumed briefly in August 1943. These were intermittent, and undertaken largely on the initiative of single crews as there was no organised Fernnachtjagd. Success was still possible. On 22 April 1944 Major General Robert B. Williams’s 1st Bombardment Division and Major General Curtis E. LeMay’s 3rd Bombardment Division of Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle’s US 8th AAF were returning to England at dusk after a daylight raid over Germany, and were attacked by a number of Messerschmitt Me 410 heavy fighters of destroyers of Oberstleutnant Wolf Dietrich Meister’s Kampfgeschwader 51 over their bases: in a 20-minute period 10 aircraft, nine of them Consolidated B-24 Liberator heavy bombers, were shot down and 61 men killed for the loss of only two Me 410 aircraft and their four crewmen. The attack coincided with ‘Steinbock’, the German bombing and intruder offensive against Greater London in response to the British offensive against German industrial cities, but ‘Steinbock’ was directed at the British capital rather than bomber bases in England.

In mid-1944 there came a series of events which permanently impaired the German night-fighter defence. The most serious of these events was the collapse of the German front in Normandy during August: this paved the way to the advance of the Allied armies across France into Belgium and the southern Netherlands. The sections of the ‘Kammhuber-Linie’ ground-based in these regions were eliminated, leaving only the the line’s northern portion in northern Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark: the result was that the Ruhr industrial region was exposed to ever-heavier bombing. Added to this, night-fighting over France and occupied Europe was becoming increasingly costly for the Germans. The RAF consistently attacked on moonlit nights, and in these attacks the bombers were accompanied by large numbers of long-range Mosquito night-fighter intruder escorts of Air Vice Marshal E. B. Addison’s No. 100 Group. These and other factors meant, a mere three months after its most successful campaign in defence of Berlin, that the German night-fighter arm was fast becoming insignificant. Although numerically stronger and with more formidable aircraft (including the excellent Heinkel He 219) than ever before, the Germans found that the British were winning the electronic war and had succeeded in jamming German radar and radio communications to the extent German countermeasures were rendered effectively useless. The German SN-2 radar and Naxos radar detector had been technically negated after examples of these equipments had been captured by the British in July 1944 and examined to pave the way to the development of effective countermeasures.

The Allies’ bombing campaigns against the oilfields and refineries of Romania and against the synthetic oil plants in the Ruhr had led to the destruction or damage of most oilfields and facilities, many of which were later overrun, by the beginning of 1945. This led to a critical fuel shortage from the autumn of 1944, and this denied the Luftwaffe the resources to capitalise on its numerical strength. Paradoxically, aircraft manufacturing rates were able to replace the relatively small losses of German aircraft, and operational serviceability were very high as ground crews had more opportunity to work on the aircraft in their care. The Luftwaffe was still capable sometimes of inflicting major damage on Bomber Command, but without more powerful radars and effective communications it was impossible for the Germans to challenge the British nocturnal air superiority. The limitations of the German night-fighter arm was demonstrated during the attack on Dresden (13/15 February 1945), when the second wave of Allied bombers was hardly opposed. ‘Clarion’, launched later in the same month to support ‘Veritable’ and ‘Grenade’, was also not opposed effectively.

Even after the September 1943 removal from the command of German night air defences of Kammhuber, their staunchest advocate, there were still appeals for the reinstatement of intruder operations. The new General der Nachtjagd, Generalleutnant Joseph Schmid, the commander of the I Jagdkorps, had long argued for a resumption of intruder operations, and first pressed for them in December 1943. Göring rejected Schmid’s argument on the grounds that intruder operations were not within his purview. Moreover, Schmid was not supported by other field commanders, most notably Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen Stumpff, the commander of the Luftflotte Reich charged with the air defence of Germany, who objected after meeting Schmid in January and February 1944: Stumpff’s grounds were that Hitler opposed such operations and newer German radar was not to fall into Allied hands. This attitude had not changed four months later. Generalmajor Dietrich Peltz, the Angriffsführer ‘England’ and commander of the IX Fliegerkorps also revealed little enthusiasm for intruder missions as his remaining forces were committed to night attacks against the Allies’ ‘Overlord’ beach-head in Normandy. It was only in October 1944 that Schmid finally won support from Oberst Werner Streib, the Inspekteur der Nachtjagd (inspector of night-fighters), to press once again for the resumption of intruder operations. The plan now developed was essentially simple: a force of between 600 and 700 night fighters was to be assembled and launched on one concentrated effort.

Another officer also credited with ensuring that ‘Gisela’ (ii) took place was Major Heinz-Wolfgang Schnaufer, eventually the most successful night-fighter ‘ace’, who attempted to gain support for such as offensive. Schnaufer regularly followed and attacked British bombers as far as the English coast or deep into Allied airspace, and had discovered that there was no British interference outside German-held territory: Schnaufer had established that he met with no British jamming and interference inside Allied airspace. Schnaufer submitted a proposal to his commander, Generalmajor Walter Grabmann, the commander of the 3rd Jagddivision, that a intruder operation be undertaken. Grabmann was enthusiastic, and went beyond Schnaufer’s suggestion (attacks on the British bombers until they crossed the English coast) to urge attacks on the bombers as they landed at bases in eastern England. Schnaufer learned of Schmid’s wish for a major intruder operation at this time, and urged him to approach the high command once again.

Hitler was finally convinced of the need to try every possible method to stop Bomber Command’s night offensive over Germany, and the operation received Oberkommando der Luftwaffe authorisation during November. Secrecy was all-important, and from an early stage of ‘Gisela’ (ii) planning it was appreciated that the preparation of a large number of aircraft and crews raised significant security fears. When crews of Major Paul Semrau’s NJG 2 and Oberst Günther Radusch’s NJG 3 were summoned to a briefing, they were locked behind guarded doors and informed that all available night-fighters would participate in an major attack on Bomber Command over its airfields in England. The operation was to be based on two waves of night-fighters, which would to cross the English coast in the region of Hull. To avoid detection by British radar, the aircraft were to fly at minimum altitude and then climb to 14,765 ft (4500 m) as they reached the coast as this was thought to be the average operational altitude of the British bombers. The Luftwaffe intelligence branch for the western front prepared dossiers which advised on the layout of British airfields and their lighting systems, and provided information about control tower lighting codes used to warn bomber crews of a possible intruder in the vicinity.

German security was breached within weeks, however, for on 1 January 1945, after participating in ‘Bodenplatte’ in support of ‘Wacht am Rhein’, a Junkers Ju 88 night-fighter of the 9./NJG 3 landed erroneously in Luxembourg and its pilot Unteroffizier Lattoch, who had been present at the briefing on 1 December, was taken prisoner and handed over to the intelligence branch of Lieutenant Hoyt S. Vandenberg’s US 9th AAF. Luttoch revealed details of the meeting, and the information was passed to the British.

Air Marshal Sir Roderic Hill’s Fighter Command and Harris’s Bomber Command attempted to warn all of their aircraft currently in the air, and bomber units were ordered to plan alternate landing sites in the event of an attack on their airfields. As all bomber and fighter groups were linked by telephone, the ground control organisation was able to forward to pilots the details of intruder operations, including altitude and heading, when they occurred. Station commands organised the black-out of airfields and pilots could be ordered to switch the navigation lights off at any time. Only the Mosquito groups remained active against the intruders, though the majority of these units were supporting Allied operations on the continent.

The British propaganda radio station Soldatensender Calais (Soldiers’ Radio Calais) was used to make clear broadcasts to the Germans that the planned intruder operation was no longer secret by playing the song I Dance with Gisela Tonight. The Germans postponed the operation repeatedly until they believed that the British had relaxed their vigilance.

At about 12.00 on 3 March, teletype messages from the headquarters of Bomber Command at High Wycombe began reaching airfields in eastern England with the details of the planned raid over western Germany using moderate numbers of bombers. A complex plan of feint attacks and diversions was used to deceive the German air-defence system. The main force was split into two separate groups in the Münster area: Air Vice Marshal J. R. Whitley’s No. 4 Group was ordered to destroy the synthetic oil plant at Kamen, and Air Vice Marshal H. A. Constantine’s No. 5 Group to destroy the viaduct, safety gates and canal boats on the Dortmund/Ems Canal at Ladbergen.

The British missions involved almost 5,000 men in 817 heavy bombers, which were fuelled and armed during the evening. A trigger plan was prepared to serve as a feint but on this night Bomber Command amended the feint, which was partially compromised by weather conditions. Restrictions on the flight path of the bombers was also changed. The bomber streams were permitted to fly over Ingoldmells Point to Filey, but not over coastal areas where there were no ground defences. The route then took the bombers to southern England via Reading, and across the English Channel as required by the trigger plan. The bombers were then ordered to turn back toward the North Sea, however, the reason for this being the low cloud covering the entire northern part of Europe on this night: this cloud would make it difficult for pilots to see and therefore to steer clear of zones heavily protected by Allied ground defences near the front line, and where there would otherwise have been the possibility of major ‘friendly fire’ losses.

The first bombers began to take-off at 18.00, and the first British aircraft over Germany were Mosquito medium bombers, of which Air Vice Marshal D. C. T. Bennett’s No. 8 Group committed 89 of these aircraft to bomb Berlin and Würzburg. Some of the Mosquito bombers marked the Berlin area with target indicators and 64 dropped 59 tons of bombs. Six Mosquito aircraft marked Würzburg and 24 others each dropped one 4,000-lb (1814-kg) ‘blockbuster’ bomb in a concentrated area to the east of the river causing a large fire. None of the crews noticed any defence of the target.

Over the same period No. 5 Group and Air Vice Marshal R. S. Blucke’s No. 1 Group sent 15 and 16 Avro Lancaster bombers respectively to drop some 36 Mk IV and 54 Mk VI naval mines in Oslo harbour. One No. 1 Group Lancaster was shot down by a Ju 88 night-fighter of the NJG 3 over the Kattegat off Denmark. No. 1 Group claimed one victory against a Ju 88 in return. Air Vice Marshal J. B. Cole-Hamilton’s No. 11 Group sent 12 Handley Page Halifax bombers and four Short Stirling adapted bombers to form a ‘Mandrel’ screen to jam German Freya and Würzburg long-range radars. These ‘Mandrel’ aircraft orbited for 120 minutes over the North Sea. Meanwhile one Mosquito and seven Halifax aircraft of No. 192 Squadron accompanied No. 4 Group’s bombers to Kamen while monitoring German radio transmissions.

Other diversion operations included 40 Lancaster, 19 Halifax and 35 Vickers Wellington bombers of Air Vice Marshal E. A. B. Rice’s No. 7 Group to flying toward the Frisian islands group: some of the aircraft had to abort as a result of mechanical problems, but the other 91 dropped 3,721 bundles of ‘Window’ chaff over the North Sea. Five Halifax, three Consolidated Liberator and eight Boeing Flying Fortress aircraft also assisted with jamming operations. The USAAF committed 24 B-24 Liberator bombers to attack Emden in support of the main force. In the final prelude to the main attack No. 100 Group committed 10 Halifax and six Mosquito aircraft to drop target markers over Mepen in an attempt to mislead German ground controllers into the belief that this was the target.

No. 5 Group’s bombers struck Ladbergen, and the canal burst its banks, the safety gates were overwhelmed and canal boats were stranded. The attack lasted just 25 minutes. The jamming operations were effective, but the decision to pack a large number of aircraft into relatively small airspace made it certain that German night-fighters would locate some of the aircraft. At this time, German policy was to commit to the battle only Experten (aces) as these had the skill and experience to find and shoot down Allied bombers. The first fighters were being vectored onto their targets as the bombs began to fall on Ladbergen. Four pilots claimed all eight of the Lancasters lost on the raid out of a operating force of some 203 bombers.

No. 4 Group’s bombers attacked Kamen. Mosquito aircraft of No. 8 Group marked the target from an altitude of 28,000 to 35,000 feet (8535 to 10670 m). No 8 Group also sent 21 Lancaster aircraft to assist. They dropped 98 tons of high explosive which effectively illuminated the synthetic oil plant for the following 181 Halifax bombers. Although German night-fighters were seen, none attacked the bombers. A total of 690 tons of bombs hit the target area in 10 minutes. The 29 Mosquito night-fighters despatched by Fighter Command orbited the area in the hope of intercepting German night-fighters, of which two were claimed destroyed and one damaged for no losses. German sources confirm that two night-fighters were destroyed over Germany, and four damaged.

Even before the British raids started to unfold, Martini’s Luftnachrichtentruppe command had started to search the ether for signs of a British raid and, in the period before the first RAF bombers took off, had already determined that a raid of at least 500 aircraft would take place that night. The Luftwaffe defences were alerted. Shortly afterwards the code word for ‘Gisela’ (ii) was issued to fighter units, some of which failed to react with the urgency required: it is probably that, after a gap of several months, the relevant officers did not remember the significance of the warning and it took time for the crews to recall that it signified the attack about which they had been briefed late in 1944. Crews were given a rapid refresher briefing to compensate for the three-month time-gap, and then informed that there was a 31-mph (50-km/h) northerly wind, and also a strong front moving across the North Sea, which meant that the bombers would fly above it on the return leg. The night-fighters would have to fly below this, in heavy rain, to keep below the British radar coverage.

The units committed to ‘Gisela’ (ii) were Oberstleutnant Hans-Joachim Jabs’s NJG 1, Oberstleutnant Wolfgang Thimmig’s NJG 2, Radusch’s NJG 3, Schnaufer’s NJG 4 and Oberstleutnant Walter Borchers’s NJG 5, and their first Ju 88 night-fighters took off at 23.00 and flew toward the Dutch coast, where they dived to sea level and remained at some 165 ft (50 m) as they headed out over the sea. In order to preserve surprise until the last possible moment, crews had been forbidden to engage British aircraft over the North Sea. While the rain and squalls aided the crews in judging where they were over the water, the possibility of human error persuaded many crews to use the very accurate FuG 101 radar altimeter and the Ju 88’s blind-flying instruments. The strain on the crews was very great as a constant watch had to be kept on the instrument readings until the British coast was reached and the pilots began to climb to the height of the returning bomber stream. As they did so, the aircraft released Düppel chaff to obscure the air-interception radar of any lurking Mosquito night-fighters. The pilots were then free to begin their attacks.

Just after 24.00 on 3/4 March 1945, as the bombers crossed over the English coast, a Ju 88 opened fire on a Flying Fortress of No. 214 Squadron as it returned after a ‘Window’ patrol. The bomber was damaged but evaded its attacker, landing safely at Oulton. This was the first combat of ‘Gisela’ (ii). The station commander at Oulton reported an intruder over his station and soon British radar screens began to detect large numbers of German aircraft. The headquarters of No. 100 Group was alerted, and a scramble order given to Mosquito squadrons. A ‘scram’ order was also transmitted to bomber units which were still in the air: this warned bomber crews that intruders were in the vicinity and they were to divert to less-threatened airfields in western or southern England. The second victim of the night was a Mosquito of No. 169 Squadron, probably shot down while flying to its alternative landing site.

Many of the bombers began to receive the warning and diversion orders only at 00.45. The Halifax aircraft of No. 4 Group were finally alerted at this time, but it was too late to prevent the German night-fighters from sighting and then homing onto the mass of landing lights. Crews from NJG 2 and NJG 4 were able to deliver beam and schräge Musik ventral attacks on the unwary crews. Pilots who had been alerted in time were able to fly a corkscrew manoeuvre and evade the attack. Some bombers managed to land safely, but were then strafed and destroyed, though their crews had been presented with a greater chance to escape.

At Winthorpe the German night-fighters attacked bombers illuminated by the landing lights, and here Leutnant Arnold Döring of Major Berthold Ney’s IV/NJG 3 engaged and destroyed two bombers between 01.05 and 01.15 with his schräge Musik cannon. The British crews who
saw the action switched off their navigation lights, and Döring did not engage another bomber successfully. Döring had been told not to return with any ammunition, so he engaged any targets of opportunity. He shot up a locomotive and set a wagon on fire. During the 10-minute period in which Döring had claimed his victories, nine bombers had been destroyed. At 01.05 some 60 of No. 5 Group’s Lancaster bombers were still airborne and further victories were gained by NJG 5.

By 01.30 the German intruders had been over England for 90 minutes and aircraft of No. 100 Group were out in numbers as they searched for them. Several Ju 88 night-fighters were chased out to sea and two were claimed as shot down. Three Ju 88 machines crashed while making ground attacks on targets of opportunity. A Ju 88 of NJG 5 attempted to attack a Liberator of Air Transport with its schräge Musik cannon, but was spotted, the transport’s pilot took evasive action and the Ju 88 was seen to crash into the ground after its wing tip touched the runway. Eight minutes another Ju 88 of the NJG 5 tried to attack a car, struck power lines as it attacked and crashed into the car, whose occupant died together with the German crew. Over Pocklington a Ju 88 attempted to attack a Halifax as it landed and then a taxi which had its headlights illuminated as it travelled along a parallel road near the airfield: the aeroplane hit some trees as its dived to low level and the crew was killed. These crews had the distinction of being the last German airmen to crash on British soil during the war.

The most dangerous part of the operation for the Germans was over by 02.15, and the intruders now had to return across the North Sea to the occupied Netherlands and Germany. The British had jammed German radio beacons and switched on others, operating on the same frequency, in the hope that this would deceive some German pilots to land in England. The Germans crews, all of them experienced, were not deceived, but had nonetheless to fly over the sea by dead reckoning.Thus while only five Ju 88 machines were lost in combat over England, eight crews were missing, three were killed in crash-landings or died from their injuries, six crews baled out, and 11 aircraft crashed or were damaged on landing.

The final tally for ‘Gisela’ (ii) was therefore 22 German aircraft destroyed, 12 aircraft damaged, 45 crew members killed and 11 injured. The British losses were 24 aircraft destroyed, nine aircraft damaged, 78 men killed, 18 men wounded and, among the civilian population, 17 persons killed and 12 severely wounded.