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Portrait photo of Major Arved Crüger. ca. 1941
25 June 1911 in Pillau (Ostpreussen), district Fischhausen
01.04.31-04.10.32 Infanterie Regiment Nr. 2
05.10.32-10.06.33 I./ Lehrgang der Infanterie Schule
11.06.33-09.07.33 Infanterie Regiment Nr. 6
10.07.33-06.03.34 II./ Lehrgang der Artillerie Schule
00.00.00-00.00.00 Flg. Ausb. Regt. 24 Olinitz ?
15.04.39-15.09.39 10./Lehrgeschwader 2
16.09.39-30.06.40 3./Kampfgeschwader 30
01.07.40-03.10.40 Ergänzungsgruppe 4 (Ju 88)
04.10.40-09.11.40 II./Lehrgeschwader 1
10.11.40-31.08.41 III./Kampfgeschwader 30
01.09.41-03.01.42 Schnellkampfgeschwader 210, Stab
04.01.42-12.03.42 Zerstörergeschwader 1, Stab
13.03.42-22.03.42 Kampfgeschwader 77, Stab
Pages 4/5 from Major Crüger's Soldbuch.
01.03.34 Leutnant (46)
01.04.36 Oberleutnant (22)
16.09.39 Staffelkäpitan 3./KG 30
01.07.40 Gruppenkommandeur Ergänzungruppe 4
01.10.40 Major (89)
04.10.40 Gruppenkommandeur II./LG 1
10.11.40 Gruppenkommandeur III./KG 30
01.09.41 Geschwaderkommodore SKG 210
04.01.42 Geschwaderkommodore ZG 1
13.03.42 Geschwaderkommodore KG 77
20.05.35 Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Pilots Badge)
02.10.38 Dienstauszeichnung IV. Klasse (Long Service Award 4th Class)
25.08.39 Medaille Zur Erinnerung An Den 13. März 1938 (Commemerative Medal of 13.03.38)
30.09.39 Medaille Zur Erinnerung An Den 1. Oktober 1938 (Commemerative Medal of 1.10.38)
17.03.40 Eiserne Kreuz 2. Klasse (Iron Cross 2nd Class)
04.05.40 Eiserne Kreuz 1. Klasse (Iron Cross 1st Class)
19.06.40 Ritterskreuz des Eisernes Kreuz (Knights Cross of the Iron Cross)
19.05.41 Frontflug-Spange für Kampfflieger in Silber (Operational flying clasp in Silver for bombers)
15.10.41 Frontflug-Spange für Kampfflieger in Gold (Operational flying clasp in Gold for bombers)
17.01.40 Ungarischen Verdienstorden mit Schwerten (Hungarian Service Order with Swords)
06.05.40 Offizerskreuz des Orden des Krone v. Rumänien (Officers Cross Order of the Crown of Rumania with Swords)
00.00.41 Italienische Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Italian Pilots Wings)
Pages 22/23 from Crüger's Soldbuch.
Crüger's earlier education takes place in the house of his parents. Crüger's father, Gustav, was killed during the First World War on 8 August 1914 at Lyck while serving as a Hauptmann with Prussian Infantry Regiment 147 during the early Russian offensives on the Eastern front.
26 October 1924
Crüger's mother Elly (born Goeldel) dies in Allenstein.
Fall 1924 - 6 January 27
Arvid Crüger attends the Heinrich von Kleist Gymnasium Berlin-Grünewald.
6 January 27 - February 1931
Crüger attends and receives his diploma from the National Educational Institute Köslin.
1 April 31
Recruit Arvid Crüger joins the German Armed forces (Reichschwer) and is posted to Infanterie Regiment Nr. 2.
1 April 32
Crüger is promoted to the rank of Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier.
1 August 32
Crüger is appointed as an officer cadet.
5 October 32
Continuing his training towards becoming an infantry officer, Fahnenjunker-Unteroffizier Arvid Crüger is posted to I./ Lehrgang der Infanterie Schule.
The officers of Nachrichten Abt. 6 congratulate Crüger on his promotion.
1 March 34
Oberfähnrich Crüger receives his comission and is promoted to the rank of Leutnant (46).
20 May 35
Leutnant Crüger completes his pilot training and is awarded his Flugzeugführerabzeichen (Pilots Badge).
30 September 38
(shortly after 0100 hours) The Munich Agreement, allowing Germany to annex the Sudetenland portion of Czechoslovakia, is signed, by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, French Premier Édouard Daladier, Italian Premier Benito Mussolini, and German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. In further demonstrations and rallies, Czechs and Slovaks call for president Beneš not to abide by the agreement. After further pressure from both the cabinet under General Syrový and the Czechoslovak population, Beneš declares that Czechoslovakia will not abide by the agreement. As a result, the Soviet Foreign Minister, Maxim Litvinov, reassures the Czechoslovak government that the Soviet Union is willing to come to Czechoslovakia's assistance. Adolf Hitler, furious by the Czech refusal, orders that Fall Grün must be initiated the following morning. Later that evening, a cross border incident (named the Egerteich incident) is staged, in which three Sudeten Germans and two German soldiers are allegedly killed by Czech soldiers. Attacks on Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia by Czech authorities are also staged.
1 October 38
The first real act of war takes place at 04:40, when 25 Heinkel He-111 bombers of 2./KG 157 of German Air Force (Luftwaffe) bomb the Czechoslovak capital, Prague. At 05:05, Heinkel He-111 bombers of 1./KG 157 and Dornier Do-17 bombers of 5./KG 153, escorted by Messerschmitt Bf-109 fighter aircrafts of 1./JG 132 commence bombing runs on the centres of transportation and political centres of Plzen and Prague, while other cities such as Karlovy Vary, Brno, Ostrava and Bratislava are bombed as well. As a result of these bombing runs, around 1,200 people are killed, most of them civilians. However, damage on the cities and the effectivity of the attacks are severly reduced due to bad weather.
Shorty after the first bombs hit their targets in Prague, at 04:50, 2 Stuka groups equipped with Junkers Ju-87 dive bombers begin bombing military installations behind the border fortifications, such as communication centres, artillery and armour concentrations and regimental headquarters.
At 5:10, German field artillery units open fire on the Czechoslovak fortifications, artillery enplacements and garrisons along the Czech-German frontier. The artillery barrage proves to be quite accurate, and around 25% of the Czech artillery positioned along the border are destroyed.
At 08:00, the German troops of the Second, Eight, Tenth and Fourteenth armies, still without a formal declaration of war issued, cross the Czech-German frontier. They manage to secure the border crossings and several Sudeten villages and towns, including Aš (Asch), Teplice (Teplitz), facing little to no resistance, but then they run into the Czechoslovak border fortifications, especially in northern and southern Moravia and northern Bohemia. The Germans are forced to retreat with heavy casualties and regroup. The Germans subsequently need two weeks to break through the Czech border fortifications.
At 10:00, Adolf Hitler adresses the Reichstag, condemning the oppression of the Sudeten Germans by the Czech Government, followed by applauce from the listeners.
At 12:30, the Czech government led by President Edvard Beneš and Prime Minister Arm. Gen. Jan Syrový meet at the Prague Castle (Pražský hrad) to discuss the political and military situation, now that war with Germany has broken out. Seeing that the French and British have abandoned them (as a response of the statement made by their Prime Minister earlier that morning), they urge the Soviets to intervene militarily.
At 14:00, Vyacheslav Molotov secretly proclaimes that he will send the promised 300,000 men and material as soon as they are mobilised and receives permission from the Romanian government to pass through their territory. Until then, he urges the Czechs to withstand the German attack and to use the Soviet military aircraft already present in Czechoslovak territory.
At 15:30 25 Heinkel He-111 bombers from 3./KG 157 begin the third aerial bombardement of Prague, targeting the central railway station. While being quite successful, they are surprised by 25 Avia B-534 fighters of the Stíhací Letka 44 and 83.5 mm anti-aircraft guns on the ground.
2 October 38
After four years of service in the German armed forces Oberleutnant Crüger receives the Dienstauszeichnung IV. Klasse (Long Service Award 4th Class).
15 April 39
Oberleutant Crüger is posted to the 10th Staffel of Lehrgeschwader 2 then based in Travemünde flying Do. 18's and He111's. The original function of this staffel was to test and evaluate new types of maritime aircraft.. It continued in this capacity until mobilisation on 26 August 1939.
26 August 1939
German armed forces including Lehrgeschwader 2 are mobilized in anticipcation of the upcoming campaign against Poland.
1 September 39
Invasion of Poland, Lehrgeschwader 2 serves under the control of Luftflotte 3. The 10th staffel (See) starts the war based in Kiel-Holtenau with Do 18 and He111's.
3 September 39
On a morning bombing raid, Oberleutnant Crüger and 10th staffel of Lehrgeschwader 2 are directed to attack a nitrogen processing plant (Stickstoffwerke) at Moscice and a power plant (Kraftwerk) at Pruszkow (from Crüger's Auszug aus Feindflugbuch Nr. 1, feinde flug nummer 1). The raid was flown using He111's and had a duration of 3 hours 20 minutes, this would be Crüger's only mission over Poland.
16 September 39
Oberleutant Crüger is transferred to the newly formed Kampfgeschwader 30 (formerly KG25) and is appointed staffekäpitan of the recently created 3rd staffel of I Gruppe. The I Gruppe was at this time flying Ju88A's from bases in Jever .
1 October 39
Oberleutant Arvid Crüger is promoted to the rank of Hauptmann (Captain) .
1 January 40
Three aircraft from I/KG30, one flown by Crüger, are directed to the area of Scapa Flow (from Crüger's Auszug aus Feindflugbuch Nr. 1, feinde flug nummer 2). According to British reports hostile aircraft were reported at 1008 hours near Walsey Skerries and at 1052 in Lerwick. One Ju88 of I/KG30 was engaged and shot down by a Gladiator. The raid was flown using Ju88 A1's and had a duration of 5 hours 58 minutes.
24 January 40
(from Crüger's Auszug aus Feindflugbuch Nr. 1, feinde flug nummer 3)
29 January 40
(from Crüger's Auszug aus Feindflugbuch Nr. 1, feinde flug nummer 4)
4 March 40 - 11 March 40
Hauptmann Crüger takes leave to ??
16 March 40
Crüger and his 3rd Staffel aircraft are directed to attack the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow (from Crüger's Auszug aus Feindflugbuch Nr. 1, feinde flug nummer 5). According to British reports a combination of H.E. bombs and incendiary were dropped over and in the vicinity of the harbor. Minimal damage is inflicted however the raid has the distinction of claiming the first civilian casualty from enemy action in Great Britain since the start of the war. The raid was flown using Ju88 A1's and had a duration of 7 hours 40 minutes.
German newsreel clip (below) made following KG30's attack
on Scapa Flow. Crüger is shown later in the clip
standing between Loebel and Dönch and recognized
by his height differance.
17 March 40
Following his 5th sortie against enemy targets and in particular for his invovlement in the previous nights attacks on the British Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, Hauptmann Crüger is awarded the Eiserne Kreuz 2. Klasse (Iron Cross 2nd Class).
28 March 40
30 March 40
9 April 40
The first major air-sea engagement of the war occurred on the afternoon of the 9th when elements of Kampfgeschwader 30 sank the HMS Gurka and damaged the cruisers HMS Southhampton and Galetea. Hauptmann Crüger, then Staffelkäpitan 3./KG 30, was responsible for the damage to one of the cruisers when he claimed a hit with a 1,000 kg bomb (from Crüger's Auszug aus Feindflugbuch Nr. 1, feinde flug nummer 8). The raid was flown using Ju88 A1's and had a duration of 6 hours 27 minutes.
10 April 40
20 April 40
22 April 40
4 May 40
Following his 13th sortie against enemy targets Hauptmann Crüger is awarded the Eiserne Kreuz 1. Klasse (Iron Cross 1st Class)
A Ju 88A-5 of 3./KG 30, June 1940, a similar mount to what Hauptmann Crüger would have flown while serving with the unit. 4
19 June 40
In recognition of Hauptmann Arved Crüger's leadership as Staffekäpitan of 3rd Staffel Kampfgeschwader 30 during the anti-shipping campaign against the United Kingdom and during the Battle of France he is awarded the Ritterskreuz des Eisernes Kreuz (Knights Cross to the Iron Cross). Crüger was joined by four other members of Kampfgeschwader 30 receiving the award on this day. His award occurs while he held the post of Staffelkäpitan 3./Kampfgeschwader 30. Crüger became only the 7th recipient of the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross within the bomber forces to date and only the 37th within the Luftwaffe.
Image of Hauptmann Arved Crüger from the
25 June 1940 issue of "Der Adler", announcing
his award of the Knights Cross.
26 June 40
27 June 40
Hauptmann Arved Crüger's preliminary document (Vorläufiges Besitzzeugnis) for the Knights Cross, issued
while he served as Gruppenkommandeur of Ergänzungruppe 4 (Ju 88). 27 June 40
Crüger (center) with Hajo Hermann (right holding dog)
and officers of III Gruppe.
1 July 40
Crüger assumes command of Gruppenkommandeur Ergänzungruppe 4 a replacement and training unit temporarily attached to Kampfgeschwader 30.
Crüger (left) with fellow KG30 pilot, Hajo Hermann. Crüger (center in sheep skin lined coat) with pilots from his 3rd Staffel KG 30.
14 September 40 - 23 September 40
Hauptmann Crüger takes leave to ??
1 October 40
Hauptmann Crüger is promoted to the rank of Major (89).
Portrait photo of Major Arved Crüger Oct-Nov. 40.
10 November 40
Crüger becomes the new Gruppenkommandeur of III Gruppe Kampfgeschwader 30, one of his staffekäpitan's Hajo Hermann later wrote "My kommodore, Major Bloedorn, became Kommodore of KG 30 and was replaced by Major Arvid Crüger, an excellent pilot, a considerate leader and, above all, a kind man, of whom I was very fond. His leadership was relaxed and informal but because of the example he set, it was positive and conducive of loyalty also." 1
A Ju 88A of Stab III./KG 30, November 1940, a similar mount to what Gruppenkommandeur Major Crüger
would have flown after joining the unit. 4
14 January 41
15 January 41
29 March 41
30 March 41
Due to Crügers actions the previous day he is mentioned in Oberkommando des Wehrmacht Bericht dispatches, the following paragraph describes his flight. "Combat aircraft under the command of Major Crüger successfully attacked a strong English naval force on the afternoon hours of 29 March in the sea-area west of Crete. They obtained three direct hits despite violent Flak and aircraft interception on the attacking force. Also during the air attack a British Hurricane fighter was shot down".2
Press photo of Major Crüger (front/back) for his mention in dispatches. ca.5 April 41
Although not found in any written docmentation, around this timeframe Crüger is awarded the Italian Pilots Wings by the Fascist Italian governmemt. Photographic evidence is (see photo of Crüger and Carola Höhn on the Isle of Capri) however in existence that shows Crüger wearing this decoration below is operational bomber clasp.
6/7 April 41
Invasion of Yugoslavia (Balkans), III./ Kampfgeschwader 30 is based in Gerbini flying Ju88A's. Operation 'Marita', the attack on the Balkans, was originally scheduled for 1 April 1941. Yugoslavia had agreed to allow the German Army passage through its territory, and a two-pronged attack, through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, was planned. At the last minute, the Yugoslavs changed sides. In the face of this altered situation, Hitler immediately delayed the impending attack on the Soviet Union in order to deal with it.
6/7 April 41
Like the Polish Air Force before it, the Yugoslav Air Force deployed to secondary airfields, only to find that barely half were operational, while inadequate communications reduced their effectiveness. Moreover, their positions were betrayed by a Croatian staff officer, and some 60 per cent of effectives were destroyed on the ground.
Units were transferred from the West for this campaign, although as it was spearheaded by the Stukas of StG 3 and StG 77, assisted mainly by low-flying Dorniers of KG 2 and KG 3, this did little to weaken the assault on Britain. Launched on 6 April, the main attack was directed against Belgrade, the targets in which were the Citadel, the Parliament buildings and the castle and barracks in the Topcider district. As the Panzers raced through the mountain passes, Yugoslav resistance collapsed and the Wehrmacht drove on into Greece.
Joachim Helbig's II/LG 2 had been joined in Sicily by Hajo Herrmann's 9/KG 30. Since then the other two Staffeln of III/KG 30 had arrived, led by Ritterkreuz holder Arved Crüger. This Gruppe was to carry out what proved to be one of the most devastating attacks of the entire war.
On the night of 6/7 April the target was the Greek harbour at Piraeus, which was crammed with shipping. The assigned load was two mines, but Herrmann, always a law unto himself, added two 250kg bombs to the load carried by his Staffel. Crüger, making a last-minute inspection, ordered them to be taken off, adding the comment, 'And try and look a bit happier next time!' Herrmann gave the order, but, after Crüger had departed, managed to ensure that it was not obeyed.
The weather forecast was not good—heavy cloud over the Greek mountains. Crüger's solution was to climb over them. Herrmann preferred to approach beneath the cloud base, threading his way between the islands, in line astern at between five- and seven-kilometre intervals (just over one minute). At every turning point each bomber would fire a flare to guide the aircraft behind it. Accurate navigation was essential for the leader, but Herrmann had no worries on that score. His observer was the very experienced future Ritterkreuz winner Heinrich Schmetz, steering by compass and by stopwatch.
Well into the mission, great flashes were seen. The superstitious thought that these might be caused by the Olympian Gods occurred but was quickly rejected. It was in fact the 8th Staffel, flying higher and suffering icing, which had been forced to jettison its mines, which had exploded on impact. Herrmann was in many ways typical of the regular German officer in that his education had been classical rather than technical. The ratio was about nine in every ten. His classical background took over as he neared the target.
For the first time in my life I saw those places that we had discussed so often during our schooldays, from class to class, in history, legend and poem. There they all were—the battlefields of Leuktra and Platea. By the pale light of the moon I saw Marathon and Athens. Phidias, Plato and Aristotle all lived and worked there.
Sterner realities soon asserted themselves. The harbour entrance was narrow, while the mines could only be dropped from low level and a speed of no more than 300kph. As at Plymouth almost a year earlier, Herrmann elected to attack from the landward side, and he throttled back to a little above the stall at about 3,000m. With dive brakes deployed, he hauled hard back on the stick. Buffeting violently, the Junkers, by now semi-stalled, fell steeply, nose-up, towards the entrance channel. Levelling out at 300m, Schmetz dropped the mines, then tore at full throttle out of the cage!
Back at altitude, Herrmann circled to distract the defences while the remainder of his Staffel attacked. His two 250kg bombs remained. Two orbits were made while Schmetz calculated the wind speed and heading. Selecting what appeared to be the largest ship in the harbour below, Herrmann sneaked in at 1,000m, then throttled back to no more than 250kph. An upward lurch announced that the Schmetz had released the bombs and Herrmann pivoted around his port wing tip to observe the result.
It was rather more than he expected. A tremendous explosion lit up the area and violent turbulence tossed the heavy Junkers about like a toy. His target had been the ammunition ship Clan Frazer, which still had most of its cargo on board. It blew up with such ferocity that ten other ships were sunk and many more damaged, while Piraeus, by far the most important Greek port, was wrecked from end to end.
The fact that Herrmann's Ju 88 survived the blast was little short of miraculous. Only its tough structure, stressed for dive bombing, allied to a steep angle of bank which minimised its presented area, allowed it to stay in the air. However, it had not escaped unscathed. The port engine was damaged— whether by anti-aircraft fire, night fighters or flying debris was never established— and had to be shut down. With no chance of returning to Sicily, Herrmann headed for Rhodes, only to arrive in the middle of an air raid with fuel gauges reading zero. The landing could only be described as fraught.
19 May 41
After 62 front flights Crüger is awarded the Frontflug-Spange für Kampfflieger in Silber (Operational flying clasp in Silver for bombers).
Crüger's award document for the Bomber Clasp in Silver.
The newly engaged couple, Carola Höhn and Major Crüger
on the Isle of Capri, April/May 1941.
7 August 41
The German film star and wife of Crüger, Carola Höhn.
Telegram 31 August 1941
Telegram 1 September 41
1 September 41
Crüger assumes command as Geschwaderkommodore of Schnellkampfgeschwader 210, a fast bomber squadron then operating in Russia and based out of Seschtschinskaya. The unit was at that time equipped with Bf110's.
Major Walter Storp (right) shown here with Major Crüger
following the Crüger 's appointment to Geschwaderkommodore
of Schnellkampfgeschwader 210. ca. Sept. 41
13 September 41
Major Arved Crüger and German film star Carola Höhn are married in the presence of the German Ambassador in Rome. Crüger reported his wedding/marriage to Karolina (correct name) to the II. Fliegerkorps. His note was sent 23 Sept 1941 from his unit. (at that time he was of Commander Schnellkampfgeschwader 210).
Early October 41
A Bf110E S9+AA of Stab /Schnellkampgeschwader 210, September - October 1941, of Geschwaderkommodore Major Crüger .
15 October 41
Having completed 110 front flights, Crüger is awarded the Frontflug-Spange für Kampfflieger in Gold (Operational flying clasp in Gold for bombers).
Crüger's award document for the Bomber Clasp in Gold.
18 December 41 - 14 January 42
Major Crüger takes leave and travels to Berlin to spend time with his wife Carola Höhn-Crüger, this would be their final meeting.
4 January 42
Schnellkampfgeschwader 210 is redesignated Zerstörergeschwader 1. Major Crüger's Stab and the balance of the unit were based in Lechfeld attached to VIII. Fliegerkorps. The unit was equipped with Bf110's and Crüger would stay with the unit as Geschwaderkommodore until 12 March 1942.
13 March 42
Crüger assumes command of Kampfgeschwader 77 then based in Comiso (Italy). At the time of Crüger's appointment to head of KG 77 the unit was heavily committed to the bombardment of Malta and the associated naval blockade of the island fortress. Unforutantley due to Crüger's brief tenure with the unit very little is available as to how many flights he undertook while Geschwaderkommodore. Presumably his initial time with the unit was spent executing administartive duties.
20 March 42
Convoy MW10 sails from Alexandria early on the 20th of March, and later that day was shadowed by the Italian submarine Platino. As dusk was falling 6 Junkers Ju52 transport aircraft from North Africa, en-route to Crete, over flew the convoy, and circled above the ships, reporting the composition of the convoy and escort, its position, speed and course.
The convoy consisted of 3 fast freighters under convoy commodore Captain Hutchinson. The Clan Campbell, 7,255 tons loaded with Aviation fuel in 4 gallon cans, ammunition and stores. The 6,798 ton Norwegian ship Talabot, carrying kerosene, aviation spirit and ammunition. Pampas, of 5,415 tons, was carrying army stores and foodstuffs. and the Breconshire, 9,776 tons and loaded with fuel and stores, were heavily escorted by 3 anti aircraft cruisers, HMS Cleopatra, HMS Dido, and HMS Euryalus, the converted antiaircraft cruiser HMS Cleopatra, and the destroyers Jervis, Hasty, Havock, Hero, Kingston , Kipling, Kelvin, Sikh, Zulu , Lance and Lively, with Admiral Vian in overall command. 7 destroyers, had been sent to join the convoy from Tobruk, but HMS Heythrop was torpedoed of Sidi Barrani at 32:22N 25:28E by U652, at 11:00 on the 20th, she was taken in tow by HMS Eridge, but sank at 16:00 that day.
21 March 42
Early on the morning of the 21st, the convoy was re-enforced from Malta by the anti-aircraft cruiser Penelope, with the destroyer Legion. During the morning the convoy was shadowed, and frequently attacked by Italian Savoia aircraft, which dropped torpedoes at extreme range, at least 2 of these were shot down by the convoys anti-aircraft defences.
At 2:10 that afternoon smoke was sighted on the horizon, and, HMS Euryalus reported 4 unknown ships bearing 015. Admiral Vian immediately, left the convoy with a single cruiser and a screen of 6 destroyers, he formed the rest of his ships into 5 divisions in line ahead towards the Italian ships, which proved to be the cruisers Trento and Gorizia under Admiral Parona and 2 destroyers, shortly afterwards 2 more destroyers and the cruiser Giovanni della Banda Nere were also sighted.
The Italians swung broadside on and at 2:36 opened fire with ranging shots at a range of 27,000 yards. The British put their pre-arranged plan into operation, with the convoy and its escorts turning onto a South Westerly course for Malta, with the Carlisle and the Avon Vale making smoke to conceal the convoy. It took another 15 minutes for the outgunned British to close the range to 22,000 yards but at 2:56 Cleopatra and Euryalus started to return fire, After a short exchange of fire the Italian ships turned to the North, with the exception of the Trento, which continued a rapid but inaccurate fire for a few minutes before turning Northwards in an attempt to lure the British ships into Admiral Iachinos force headed by the battleship Littorio.
In rapidly deteriorating weather conditions, Admiral Vian turned back at 3:15 towards the convoy, where the anti-aircraft fire from the escorting destroyers and HMS Carlisle was fighting off a succession of heavy air attacks by German Ju87 dive bombers and Ju88s, coming in simultaneous waves from different heights and bearings, straddling the Breconshire and near missing the Carlisle. In repelling these attacks HMS Carlisle used nearly 30% of her ammunition, and some of the escorting destroyers used almost half of theirs.
At 4:37 HMS Zulu, leading the 3rd Division sighted the whole Italian force appearing on the horizon to the North, steering South-West at high speed to try and get between the convoy and Malta. Again, as Carlisle and Avon Vale laid a covering smoke screen, the outgunned cruisers and destroyers turned back towards the Italians, laying a smoke screen towards the enemy, helping to hide the convoy, which turned to the South East under its cover, and preventing the Italian gun layers spotting their fall of shot.
For the next 2 hours the battle continued, with the British ships ducking into the smoke screen when the Italian fire grew to close, whilst the Italians tried 3 times to tried to get round the Western end of the smoke screen, each time being turned back by the British destroyers Havock, Lively, Hero and Sikh, laying smoke and attacking with torpedoes.
At 6:00 the Littorio, with Trento and Gorizia tried to force their way through the end of the smoke screen, but as they cleared the smoke the cruisers Penelope and Euryalus came in from the East, where they had been covering the other end of the smoke screen, and opened fire at a range of 13,000 yards, hitting the Littorio between the after turrets and starting a fire, whilst Cleopatra swung broadside on and launched 3 torpedoes which narrowly missed the battleship, and the Italians turned away.
HMS Cleopatra was hit by fire from the Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, destroying the after turret, and the cruisers Penelope and Euryalus both suffered heavy damage. The Littorio was hit but remained undamaged, although her aircraft caught fire and was destroyed by the flash of the battleships own guns, and one of the Italian cruisers was seen to be on fire, although it did not suffer sever damage.
At 6:30, with the weather worsening to a force 5, with a 30 Knot wind and steep 20 foot waves, the Italians made a final attempt to round the smoke screen but the destroyers launched a torpedo attack from a range of 6,000 yards, which forced the Italians back, for although they were significantly outgunned, the British destroyers outnumbered theirs. No hits were achieved on the Italian ships, and HMS Havock received a direct hit from one of a salvo of 15 inch shells, which left her dead in the water, and HMS Lively was damaged by fire from the Littorio, this damaged a bulkhead and resulted in her speed being reduced to 20 Knots. Sikh was hit by fire from the Trento, and Lance, Legion, Kingston and Zulu all suffered damage. HMS Cleopatras bridge was hit by a 6 inch shell, and HMS Kipling was damaged by a 15 inch projectile.
As darkness gathered, at about 7:00, the Italian force turned away North West, realising that without radar they would be at a disadvantage. 2 destroyers, the Lanciere and the Sirocco were later lost, with only 18 survivors, as the weather deteriorated into a severe storm, and the Geniere sustained weather damage and lost several members of her crew. The British Tribal Class destroyer H.M.S. Zulu had her forecastle stove in by the severe weather The damaged cruiser Giovanni delle Bande Nere, heading for La Spezia, was sunk by the Malta based submarine HMS Urge 11 miles South East of Stromboli Island. Hit by 2 torpedoes the cruiser broke in half and sank rapidly.
The convoy, which had been forced Southwards by the Italian attacks, now turned Westwards and headed for Malta, knowing that dawn would bring further air attacks the convoy was dispersed some 240 miles Southeast of Malta and each merchant ship proceed as fast as possible. During the night the Breconshire was joined by the destroyers Southwold and Beaufort, and at 10:00 the cruiser Carlisle caught them up.
22 March 42
Convoy MW10, with the destroyers on either bow, and the cruiser following astern steered a course of 310 at 17 knots getting within 20 miles of Malta as dawn broke at 7:45 on the 22nd of March. The weather was still bad, with a cloud ceiling of 800 feet, and visibility limited to about 11 miles.
By 7:50 the ships were spotted and shadowed by an Italian Cant seaplane which reported their position, and 5 minutes later the first attack came, as a German JU88 dived on the Breconshire, dropping 2 bombs close astern. Very soon all the merchant ships were reporting air attacks from positions between 15 and 50 miles from Malta., Despite air cover from relays of Hurricanes and Spitfires from the Island, which during the course of the day were to cost the Luftwaffe a Heinkel III and 2 Ju88s, with another 8 Ju88s badly damaged. A low level attack on the Clan Campbell resulted in several direct hits, killing her master and nine members of the crew and she had to be abandoned as she rapidly foundered in the heavy seas 20 miles from Malta. With the destroyers and the Carlisle providing anti-aircraft support, the next attack on Breconshire was repulsed at 8:17, a JU88 being driven off trailing black smoke, however, shortly afterwards 3 Messerschmitt 109 fighter bombers dived out of the low cloud, hitting the tanker with 3 250lb bombs, one hitting level with number 1 hold, which was packed with ammunition and bombs, a second hit aft, and the third impacted close to the port deck rail.
With the engine room flooding fast, no electrical power and the steering jammed the Breconshire was now in a very vulnerable state, and less than 10 minutes later a JU88 attacked the stricken ship, despite being hit several times by fire from the Southwold it pressed home the attack, dropping 3 500lb bombs close on the port beam. This left the ship out of control, listing and rolling in the heavy swell with the engines stopped. Just over 10 minutes later 2 more JU88s came in at very low level, one was forced away by the heavy anti-aircraft fire, but the other dropped 2 bombs from mast height close to the Breconshires starboard beam. These explosions virtually lifted the ship out of the water and swinging broadside on she started to drift towards the Zonker Point minefield.
Despite 3 more attacks, with several near misses and being machine-gunned twice, the crew of the ship managed to gain some control by rigging hand steering from aft, and with 12 feet of water in the engine room stopping all power, they resorted to hand pumps to try and control the flooding. Just after 10:00 the Carlisle, short of fuel and almost out of ammunition, went on to Malta, being replaced by the Penelope, which had already refuelled and taken on ammunition. At 10:25 the cruiser tried to take the Breconshire in tow, but with no power the crew of the damaged ship were unable to haul in and secure the heavy towing cable to the capstan or winches.
In the early afternoon a flight of Ju 88's from Stab/Kampfgeschwader 77 is led by Major Crüger to attack the Convoy MW10. By the time Crüger's force had reached the target area the weather had deteriorated and near gale force force winds from the south-east had whipped up the sea. Meanwhile the weather was too bad for tugs from Malta to assist the stricken Freighter Breconshire and, less than 9 miles from Grand Harbour, she was forced to drop anchor to avoid being swept into the minefield. During the afternoon and evening the Penelope, and the re-supplied Carlisle gave Breconshire added anti-aircraft support, assisted by the destroyers Beaufort, Southwold, Hurworth and Dulveston
At about this time and despite the severe weather Major Crüger pressed home the attack though under such weather conditions and in the face of intense AA fire his force could achieve nothing more than a few near misses. Following their bombing runs the Ju 88 crews did manage to strafe the convoy but at the expense of two attacking aircraft. One of the Ju 88's shot down was Crüger's. After only eight days at the command of Kampfgeschwader 77, Geschwaderkommodore Major Arved Crüger was lost along with his entire crew.
Aircraft - Ju88A-4, 3Z+AA (Werknummer 8627). 3
No photo available
No photo available
Major Arved Crüger FF Geschwaderkommodore KG77
Walter Wagner BS
Erich Atzler BO
Ernst Raithel BF
1. Source: "Eagle's Wings" The Autobiography of a Luftwaffe Pilot, Hajo Hermann
2. Source: "Das waren die Kampfflieger Asse 1939-1945", Georg Brütting, page 295
3. Source: "Malta: The Spitfire Year 1942", Christopher Shores, Brian Cull and Nicola Malizia, page 140
4. Source: Ju 88 profile by illustrator John Weal from Osprey Combat Aircraft "Ju88 Kampfgeschwader on the Western Front".
Major Arved Crüger document group
1. Crüger's Soldbuch dated 1 September 19391 and preliminary award document
for the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross 19 June 1940
2, Two sheets for Crüger's Auszug aus Feindflugbuch Nr. 1 (03.09.39 - 18.08.41)
3. 25 June 40 issue of Der Adler and postcard of Crüger's wife Carola Höhn
4. Various Beurteilungs notiz (letters of judgment) and Personal Nachweis (personal record).
5. Two (2) telegrams to Crüger while serving with SKG 210 and
Verleihung der Frontflug - Spange, preliminary confirmation of 19.05.41
6. Crüger's Personal Nachweis (personal record).