(Unit Code T5 + )
also as: Fernaufklärungsstaffel z.b.V. ?
Versuchsstelle für Höhenflüge ?
Sonderstaffel des Aufklärungsgruppe Ob.d.L. ?
Formed 10 October 1939, probably at Berlin-Tempelhof or Werder/Havel southwest of Berlin, and equipped with Dornier Do 17Ps. The correct lineage of this Staffel is exceedingly unclear, and the several attempts that have been made since 1945 to unscramble its origins and outline its history have only made things worse. The Staffel may have been formed new, from elements of 2.(F)/Aufkl.Gr.121, or perhaps from a combination of these two. It appears to have been closely related to Fernaufklärungsstaffel z.b.V., under which designation it may have operated until May 1940, Versuchsstelle für Höhenflüge at Oranienburg, and perhaps the Sonderstaffel des Aufklärungsgruppe Ob.d.L. An individual Feldpost number was not assigned to the Staffel until the beginning of 1941, although it had been operationally active over enemy territory and reporting losses since May 1940. Then strangely, and for no apparent reason, the Feldpost number was deleted in summer or early autumn 1941. There is absolutely no mention of the Staffel in the loss records for all of 1941, even though it was flying high-altitude reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union and at least one loss is known to have occurred. Even the date of the Staffel’s supposed disbandment is uncertain. The Rowehl manuscript implies it was disbanded on 27 January 1943 with the rest of Aufklärungsgruppe Ob.d.L., another source states January 1942 and yet a third gives 1 March 1943 as the date. However, all agree that its assets were incorporated into 1./Versuchsverband Ob.d.L. on or about 27 January 1943.
Scandinavia, France and the Air Offensive Against England
Unlike the other Staffeln belonging to Aufklärungsgruppe Ob.d.L., 4.(F) appears to have been permanently based at Berlin-Tempelhof and then later at Oranienburg/30 km north of Berlin from where small detachments of 3 or 4 aircraft were temporarily dispatched to the various fronts for high-altitude photo mapping tasks. In May and June 1940, one of the detachments moved to Norway while another went to Fritzlar (10 May), then to Neufchâteau/Belgium (12 May) and finally to Paris-Orly on 21 June. The latter of these, or perhaps both, used Dornier Do 215s taken over from 1.(F)/124, which had become temporarily inactive. The first recorded loss charged to 4.(F)/Ob.d.L. was a Do 215 crash at Romilly/SE of Paris on 26 May, followed on 2 June by another which was attacked by a RAF Gladiator east of Narvik in North Norway and forced down in neutral Sweden, the crew being briefly interned. Further losses were incurred over southeast England during the Air Offensive (Battle of Britain) by aircraft operating from NE France and North Germany. Do 215 (G2+JH) was shot down by Spitfires off the Norfolk coast on 30 August with the loss of Oblt. Sonnleitner and his crew and, the next day, other Spitfires destroyed Do 215 (G2+LH) over Suffolk. Do 215 (G2+KH) was attacked and shot down by Hurricanes on 18 September while photographing airfields and carrying out weather reconnaissance over Kent. No further losses were reported until 13 November, when a Do 215 belonging to the Staffel was shot up by AA-fire during a photo recce flight over London.
The Staffel was ordered East at the end of 1940 in preparation for the impending attack on the Soviet Union (22 June 1941). Apparently operating as the Versuchsstelle für Höhenflüge or Sonderstaffel des Ob.d.L., probably for security purposes, detachments of Junkers Ju 86Ps, Do 215s, Heinkel He 111s and Ju 88s were sent to Kraków/S Poland, Bucharest/Romania and possibly Budapest/Hungary to photograph Soviet airfields and drop agents in the area between Minsk and Kiev. On 15 April 1941, Ju 86P (D-APEW) (Werknummer 5141) flown by pilot Uffz. Schnetz and crew operating from Kraków, experienced engine trouble while on a photo reconnaissance mission to the Kiev-Zhitomir area and came down near Rovno/W Ukraine. The crew was captured and taken to Rovno, but later liberated from Soviet captivity by advancing German troops at the end of June 1941. Another high-altitude detachment may have flown from North Norway during the summer of 1941.
No further mention of 4.(F)/Ob.d.L. has been found until November 1941 when a detachment of at least two He 111s (T5+XH and ZH) were identified at Balciu/6 km SW of Iaşi in eastern Romania flying reconnaissance missions over Crimea. The coding on these two Heinkels would suggest that they had been borrowed from 1.(F)/Ob.d.L. Moving forward to Nikolayev around the latter part of December 1941, missions were flown through May or June 1942 over Caucasia east to the Caspian Sea with only one recorded loss. On 31 January 1942, Ju 88D (K9+WH) failed to return from a mission to the Baku area. On 1 March the Staffel reported 12 x Ju 88s, 6 x Do 215s, 6 x He 111s and 4 x Ju 86s on strength.
The Staffel’s main effort was focused on the British Isles during the second half of 1942 with Ju 86Ps and Ju 88s, operations being flown from Brest-South in Brittany and Aalborg/Denmark. On 1 December the Staffel reported 3 x Ju 88 Bs, 3 x Ju 88 C-7s, 2 x Ju 88 D-5s, 1 x Ju 88 D-6, 3 x He 111 Ps, 9 x He 111 H-6s, 3 x Ju 86 R-1s, 7 x Ju 86 R-2s and 1 x Bf 110 F-2 trop. A very large Staffel with 32 operational aircraft. Only one loss has been found, and that occurred on 25 December 1942 when Ju 88 D-6 (T5+KM) failed to return from a sortie over northern Scotland. Renamed or incorporated into 1./Versuchsverband Ob.d.L. on or about 27 January 1943?
pN: L 00663
Maj. Alfred Wenz (c.10 Oct 39 - May 40)
Hptm. Hans Wolff (May 40 - Jan 41)
Oblt. Josef Bisping ( ? - ? ) 1942
BERGMANN, Ernst Fritz Paul Richard, Oblt.d.R.
GESSNER, Alfred, Lt.
HERDER, Oskar, Oblt.
HORLACHER (HERLACHER?), Friedrich Karl, Oblt.
NEWE, Alfred, Hptm.
NOELL, Cornelius (“Conny”), Oblt.
OTTMANN, Ernst, Lt.
RUHNKE, Johannes, Oblt.d.R.
SCHICKLER (SCHMICKLER?), Heinrich (Hans), Lt./Oblt.
SCHMINKLER, Wilhelm, Oblt.
SONNLEITNER, Heinrich, Oblt.
© H.L. deZeng IV, 2022
- T.Rowehl-Chronik; G.Thomas and B.Ketley – KG 200: The Luftwaffe’s Most Secret Unit (Hikoki Pub. Ltd, 2003); David Kahn – Hitler’s Spies (1978); C.Shores - Fledgling Eagles: The Complete Account of Air Operations During the ‘Phony War’ and Norwegian Campaign, 1940; F.K.Mason - Battle Over Britain; W.G.Ramsey (ed.) - The Blitz, Then And Now, 3 volumes; Mikhail Timin, - Air Battles over the Baltic 1941 (2018); BA-MA Freiburg: RL 2 III Meldungen über Flugzeugunfälle…..(Loss Reports – LRs); NARA WashDC: RG 242 (various rolls from T-312, T-313, T-321 and T-971); W.Horst (president of the Aufklärungsflieger veterans association in Germany) – personal correspondence with the author, 1994-96); web site ww2.dk.