FLUGMELDEDIENST: German Third Reich. 1932-1945. The German Aircraft Reporting Service was established in 1932, and transferred to the Luftwaffe in 1939. Organized by Luftgau (a Luftgau was an Air District, a Luftwaffe administrative, supply, and technical support organization responsible for airfields and facilities within a geographic region, and subordinate to an Air Fleet, or Luftflotte), it typically was designated as a Luftgau-Nachricten- Regiment (Air District Communications Regiment). Typically the Regiment was divided into one or more Flugmeldeabteilungen (Air Reporting Units) roughly equivalent in organizational level to a Battalion. The Air Reporting Unit level was formed of Air Reporting Reserve Companies (Flugmelde-Res. Kp.). These were further subdivided into Flugwachkommandos (Air Watch Detachments, often abbreviated Fluko) and Flugwachen (Air Watches, abbreviated Fluwa). The Flugwachkommando served as filter centers, and the Flugwach as observer posts. Table 1 shows this organization in 1939 for Luftgau XI.
Table 107-1. Luftgau XI Flugmeldedienst Organization 1939
|Flugmeldeabteilungen II/11 (Bremen)||Flugmeldeabteilungen V/11 (Hamburg)|
Flugmelde-Reserve Kompanie 10/11
Flugmelde-Reserve Kompanie 9/11
Flugmelde-Reserve Kompanie 8/11
Flugmelde-Reserve Kompanie 11/11
Flugmelde-Reserve Kompanie 11/11
Each Company was divided into Flukozuge and Flugwachzugen (platoons). The Flugwachkommandos were staffed with 3 shifts of 10 to 12 men, with additional staff, for approximately 40 personnel assigned to a Flukozuge. In addition, female auxiliaries were assigned, typically 2 telephone exchange operators, recorders (1 for every 3 Flugwachen, 1 for neighboring Flugwachkommando), and tellers. Auxiliaries were scheduled in 3 and occasionally 4 shifts.
Each Flugwach was staffed with 11 personnel, 1 troop leader, 1 assistant troop leader, and 3 shifts of 3 men (an observer, an assistant observer, and a telephone teller). A representative Flugwachzuge with 10 Flugwachen and administrative staff would total approximately 120 personnel.
Staffing for the Flugmeldeabteilungen varied due to the wide variance in organizational structure. For example, on 31 January 1942 Flugmeldeabteilungen V/11 had approximately 2,500 airmen and 1,000 female auxiliaries assigned. Staff for Flugwachen were recruited locally, apparently both male and female personnel. Photographs of a Flugwach show older male personnel dressed in standard Luftwaffe uniforms, with a mix of non-commissioned officer and enlisted ranks shown on their collars. Although British sources indicate that Aircraft Reporting Service personnel received no recognition training, German sources indicate that in addition to communications procedures training, the Service's personnel were trained on aircraft recognition using 1:50 scale models produced by Wiking, a German model building company to this day.
The individual Flugwachen at first had a simple, one story, wood building that served as a shelter for the duty crew, with a wood sentry box for the observer beside it. These were replaced with concrete observation posts, with an office, day room, and sleeping quarters. Above the first floor of the building as a second story was an observation room with a flat roof and glassed windows on each side. This room was supposed to be at least 4 meters in height above the surrounding terrain.
Unlike in the British Royal Observer Corps, observation posts did not use a pointing and altitude assessment instrument to provide track information. Reports indicated the number of aircraft, the direction of flight in clock code, and the height as low, medium, or high.
Information gathered by the Aircraft Reporting Service flowed to command posts of fighter units, the anti-aircraft artillery, air bases, air raid protection, and the railway warning service. In addition reports were passed to neighboring Flugwachkommandos and to the Kleine Luftmelde-Sammelstelle (literally small air reporting collecting point) in each Luftgau headquarters.
By 1943 heavy air raids identified needs for procedural and organizational changes. The existing message system resulted in each aircraft report being written down at least 3 times in the transmission process, and required delivery of these written messages to the plotters. To increase the rapidity of reporting, observers at the Flugwachen were equipped with headphone telephone instruments sets and connected directly to the plotters at the Flugwachkommando.
In addition, experience indicated that at most 15 to 20 Flugwachen could be connected to one Flugwachkommando before system overload started to set in. The larger Flugwachkommando areas were partitioned, forming Kleine Flukos (the new Small Air Watch Detachments) and Haupt Flukos (the old Flugwachkommando, or Main Air Watch Detachment). Each Kleine Flugwachkommando had a horizontal table mounted 1:100,000 scale map of its reporting area around which plotters sat. Incoming messages from each Flugwach were indicated by a light signal, and as the plotter posted the track the same message was also received at the neighboring Kleine Fluko and Haput Fluko.
At the Haupt Flugwachkommando reports were exchanged with neighboring Haupt Flugwachkommando, subordinate Kleine Flugwachkommando, and the Fernfluko (approximately distance telling air watch detachment). The Fernfluko in turn alerted the Fernflukos in occupied countries, Holland, Norway, Luftgau I, anti-aircraft artillery and fighter divisions, 1 Fighter Corps, and the Reich Luftflotte. The Fernfluko assumed the duties of the Kleine Luftmelde-Sammelstelle in the unit's Luftgau headquarters.
Organizationally the Flugmeldeabteilungen were upgraded from battalion equivalents to regiments as Luftnachrichten-Flugmelde Regiments. Flugmelde-Reserve Kompanie were upgraded from company to battalions as Flugmeldeabteilungen.
During this same period a number of staffing changes were put in place due to wartime manpower requirements. Flugwach staffing was reduced to 6 airmen and 2 auxiliaries. The Kleine Flugwachkommando was satffed by 6 to 8 airmen and 30 auxiliaries working in three 10 person shifts. Fernflukos were staffed with 4 officers, 40 airmen, and 210 auxiliaries. Throughout the system wherever possible male military personnel were replaced by female auxiliaries. As a result a typical regimental strength shifted to 1,000 airmen and 2,500 auxiliaries. Male personnel were used as Troop Leaders for observation posts, plotters, evaluation leaders, and watch officers. Female personnel served as recorders, plotters, telephone operators, teleprinter operators, and radio operators. Female auxiliaries were recruited through the labor office.
The conversion was officially completed on 28 August 1943. Operationally reports were now passed in 1 minute, and reporting to multiple filter centers helped eliminate duplicate track reporting. In addition, reporting direct to plotters eliminated the possibility of old reports superseding new ones.
The fighter units had a separate ground control intercept organization, which was merged with the Aircraft Reporting Service on 1 April 1944. This merger was not smooth, and integration was not completed until the winter of 1944/1945.
In 1945 the Royal Air Force reactivated a segment of the complete German air raid warning system for exercise POST MORTEM from June 25 to July 7 to evaluate its capacity under attack conditions. The British assessment was that the Flugmeldedienst provided a confused and inaccurate air picture, with delayed reports, and little ability to identify aircraft types.
Sources: The Hoelscher Family, "Flugbeobachtungsstation 'Ilseberg' und 'Kleiner Berg,'" location http://www.hoelscher-com.de/spuren/spuren5.htm, 2002. Wood, Derek, Attack Warning Red: The Royal Observer Corps and the Defence of Britain 1925 to 1975, London, United Kingdom, MacDonald and Jane's, 1976.
Entry 03107 - posted 16 September 2003