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Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary


Campaign Diary
April 1943

 

1 April 1943

12 Mosquitos bombed a power-station and railway yards at Trier. Both targets were hit.

A lone Lancaster of No 103 Squadron, again piloted by Squadron Leader C O'Donoghue, set out to bomb the town of Emmerich just over the German border, but the Lancaster was shot down over Holland and the crew were all killed.

Trier Railway Yards
Dramatic photo taking by one of the Mosquitos participating in the raid on the railway yards at Trier. Explosions and bombs can be seen bursting on the yards and adjacent engine sheds.

2 April 1943

The only Bomber Command operation on this day was the first sortie of the newly formed No 1409 (Meteorological) Flight, based at Oakington. One Mosquito, crewed by Flight Lieutenant P Cunliffe-Lister and Sergeant I Doyle, made a weather reconnaissance flight to Brittany in preparation for the Bomber Command raids to be carried out in the coming night. The Flight operated until the end of the war, flying 1,364 sorties and losing only 3 Mosquitos.

2/3 April 1943

55 mixed aircraft to St Nazaire and 47 to Lorient in the last raids on these French ports. Bomber Command was released from the obligation to bomb these targets 3 days later. 1 Lancaster was lost from the St Nazaire raid.

33 aircraft laid mines off the southern part of the Biscay coast. 1 Lancaster lost.

3 April 1943

12 Venturas bombed shipping at Brest and 8 Mosquitos attacked railway targets in Belgium and France. 1 Mosquito lost.

3/4 April 1943

Essen. 348 aircraft - 225 Lancasters, 113 Halifaxes, 10 Mosquitos; this was the first raid in which more than 200 Lancasters had taken part. 12 Halifaxes and 9 Lancasters lost - 6.0 per cent of the force - and 2 further Halifaxes crashed in England. The weather forecast was not entirely favourable for this raid and the Pathfinders prepared a plan both for skymarking and ground-marking the target and the Main Force crews were somewhat confused to find two kinds of marking taking place. The resultant bombing, however, was accurate and a higher proportion of aircraft produced good bombing photographs than on any of the earlier successful raids on Essen. Local reports showed that there was widespread damage in the centre and in the western half of Essen.

16 Wellingtons minelaying off Brittany ports, 9 OTU sorties. 1 minelaying aircraft lost.

4 April 1943

60 Venturas attacked an airfield near Caen (24 aircraft), a shipyard at Rotterdam (24 aircraft) and a railway target as St Brieuc (12 aircraft). All targets were successfully bombed but 2 aircraft from the Rotterdam raid were lost.

4/5 April 1943

577 aircraft - 203 Lancasters, 168 Wellingtons, 116 Halifaxes, 90 Stirlings - on the largest raid so far to Kiel, more than twice as many aircraft as on any previous raid taking part. This was also the largest 'non-1,000' bombing force of the war so far. 12 aircraft - 5 Lancasters, 4 Halifaxes, 2 Stirlings, 1 Wellington - lost, 2.1 per cent of the force. The Pathfinders encountered thick cloud and strong winds over the target so that accurate marking became very difficult. It was reported that decoy fire sites may also have drawn off some of the bombing.

Preparing a Halifax
Armourers prepare to load a Halifax for the night's mission to Kiel.

5 April 1943

12 Venturas attacked a tanker at Brest. The ship was not hit but nearby dock installations were. 3 Venturas were lost.

Venturas attack Brest
View from one of the Venturas of the raid on Brest.

6 April 1943

8 Mosquitos attacked Namur railway workshops accurately and without loss.

Mosquitos attack Namur
Another illustration of how low Mosquitos carried out a 'low-level attack'.

6/7 April 1943

Minelaying: 47 aircraft to lay mines off the Biscay ports. 1 Halifax and 1 Wellington lost.

8/9 April 1943

Duisburg

392 aircraft - 156 Lancasters, 97 Wellingtons, 73 Halifaxes, 56 Stirlings, 10 Mosquitos despatched to Duisburg with little success. 19 aircraft - 7 Wellingtons, 6 Lancasters, 3 Halifaxes, 3 Stirlings - lost, 4.8 per cent of the force.

27 aircraft sent minelaying off the Biscay coast. 1 Wellington lost.

9 April 1943

4 Mosquitos attacked various targets just over the German border but a raid by 4 more Mosquitos to a railway target at Orleans was abortive. No aircraft lost.

9/10 April 1943

5 Mosquitos and 104 Lancasters were dispatched to Duisburg but thick cloud again caused a scattered attack. 8 Lancasters lost. 5 OTU Wellingtons carried leaflets to France without loss.

10/11 April 1943

502 aircraft - 144 Wellingtons, 136 Lancasters, 124 Halifaxes, 98 Stirlings - raided Frankfurt. Complete cloud cover in the target area again led to a failure. The bombing photographs of every aircraft showed nothing but cloud and Bomber Command had no idea where bombs had fallen. Frankfurt reports only a few in the suburbs of the city south of the River Main. 21 aircraft - 8 Wellingtons, 5 Lancasters, 5 Stirlings, 3 Halifaxes - lost, 4.2 per cent of the force.

7 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians, 4 OTU sorties. No losses.

11 April 1943

8 Mosquitos bombed an engineering factory at Hengelo and railway workshops at Malines. 2 Mosquitos lost.

Mosquitos at low-level
Several sticks of bombs are seen falling towards their target at Abbeville.

11/12 April 1943

Minelaying: 46 aircraft were sent to lay mines off Texel, Brittany and the Biscay ports. 1 Stirling and 1 Wellington lost.

13 April 1943

24 Venturas bombed railway targets at Abbeville and Caen but most of the bombs missed their targets. No Venturas lost.

13/14 April 1943

208 Lancasters and 3 Halifaxes bombed the dock area of La Spezia and caused heavy damage. 4 Lancasters were lost and 3 more, either damaged or in mechanical difficulty, flew on to land at Allied airfields in North Africa. It is believed that this was the first occasion that the recently captured North African airfields were used for Bomber Command aircraft in distress. The 3 Lancasters flew back to England later.

6 Mosquitos of No 105 Squadron, carried out nuisance raids to Bremen, Hamburg and Wilhelmshaven, 2 aircraft being sent to each target. These were the first non-Oboe Mosquito night raids and were the forerunners of Light Night Striking Force operations; the Germans hated the nuisance and harassing effect of the Mosquito raids and could rarely shoot down any of these fast, high-flying aircraft. The Mosquito was later modified to carry a 4,000lb bomb as far as Berlin - a favourite Mosquito target - and, in winter, individual Mosquitos were sometimes able to make 2 flights to Berlin under the cover of darkness in the same night, changing crews after the first landing.

10 Lancasters minelaying off Germany, 18 OTU sorties. 1 OTU Wellington was lost in the sea.

La Spezia
Damage to the docks at La Spezia; 2 fires (1 and 2) continue to burn while a large store has been completely gutted (3).

14/15 April 1943

462 aircraft - 146 Wellingtons, 135 Halifaxes, 98 Lancasters, 83 Stirlings - bombed Stuttgart. The Pathfinders claimed to have marked the centre of this normally difficult target accurately but the main bombing area developed to the north-east, along the line of approach of the bombing force. This was an example of the 'creepback', a feature of large raids which occurred when Main Force crews - and some Pathfinder backers-up - failed to press through to the centre of the marking area but bombed - or re-marked - the earliest markers visible. Bomber Command was never able to eliminate the creepback tendency and much bombing fell outside city areas because of it. 23 aircraft - 8 Stirlings, 8 Wellingtons, 4 Halifaxes, 3 Lancasters - lost, 5.0 per cent of the force.

15 April 1943

13 Venturas bombed a whaling factory ship in dry dock at Cherbourg. Bomb bursts were seen to straddle the target. No Venturas lost.

15/16 April 1943

23 aircraft minelaying from Brest to Lorient, 5 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

16 April 1943

25 Venturas bombed a chemical factory at Ostend and railway yards at Haarlem without loss.

The bombing at Ostend was accurate but the Haarlem raid hit housing near the railway causing many casualties. 85 Dutch people were killed and 160 injured and the old Town Hall was damaged by fire.

16/17 April 1943

327 aircraft - 197 Lancasters and 130 Halifaxes dispatched to bomb the Skoda armaments factory at Pilsen in Czechoslovakia. 18 Lancasters and 18 Halifaxes lost, 11.0 per cent of the force. One Canadian squadron, No 408, lost 4 of its 12 Halifaxes dispatched. This raid, took place by the light of a full moon but was not a success. In a complicated plan, the Main Force was ordered to confirm the position of the Skoda factory visually; the Pathfinder markers were only intended as a general guide. In the event, a large asylum building 7 miles away was mistaken for the factory and only 6 crews brought back bombing photographs which were within 3 miles of the real target. The Skoda factory was not hit. One report says that 200 German soldiers were killed when their barracks near the asylum was bombed.

Mannheim was the target for 271 aircraft - 159 Wellingtons, 95 Stirlings, 17 Halifaxes. The Pathfinders marked this target accurately and an effective attack followed. 18 aircraft - 9 Wellingtons, 7 Stirlings, 2 Halifaxes - lost, 6.6 per cent of the force.

11 OTU aircraft dropped leaflets over France without loss.

Total effort for the night: 609 sorties, 54 aircraft (8.9 per cent) lost. The aircraft losses on this night were the highest so far in the war, exceeding the 50 lost on the 1,000-bomber-type raid on Bremen on 25/26 June 1942, but 14 of the aircraft lost from the Pilsen and Mannheim raids came down in the sea and a proportion of their crews were rescued.

17 April 1943

37 Venturas bombed railway targets at Abbeville and Caen and a power-station at Zeebrugge. All targets were hit and no aircraft were lost.

17/18 April 1943

Minelaying: 24 aircraft laid mines off the Biscay ports without loss.

18 April 1943

12 Venturas attacked shipping and dock installations at Dieppe without loss.

18/19 April 1943

173 Lancasters and 5 Halifaxes were dispatched to bomb the dockyard at La Spezia but the centre of the bombing was north-west of the aiming point. The main railway station and many public buildings were hit. 1 Lancaster was lost. 8 further Lancasters laid mines off La Spezia harbour.

10 Stirlings minelaying in southern Biscay, 5 OTU sorties. No losses.

19 April 1943

6 Mosquitos to bomb railway workshops at Namur could not locate the target in bad visibility. No aircraft lost.

20 April 1943

36 Venturas bombed railway yards at Boulogne, shipping at Cherbourg and the power-station at Zeebrugge. No Venturas lost.

20/21 April 1943

339 aircraft - 194 Lancasters, 134 Halifaxes, 11 Stirlings - ordered to attack Stettin. This raid, on a target more than 600 miles from England, proved to be the most successful attack beyond the range of Oboe during the Battle of the Ruhr. Visibility was good and the Pathfinder marking was carried out perfectly. 24 fires were still burning when a photographic reconnaissance aircraft flew over Stettin a day and a half later. 21 aircraft - 13 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes, 1 Stirling - lost, 6.2 per cent of the force.

86 Stirlings were dispatched to attack the Heinkel factory near Rostock but a smoke-screen concealed this target and bombing was scattered. 8 Stirlings were lost.

11 Mosquitos carried out a raid to Berlin as a diversion for the forces attacking Stettin and Rostock; 18 Wellingtons were minelaying off Brittany ports and there were 3 OTU sorties. 1 Mosquito was lost from the Berlin raid.

Stettin and Rostock
The smokescreen designed to protect the Heinkel factory near Rostock from air attack has just started to form its protective shield as the raid on the site commences. Dotted lines mark the areas destroyed in the raid on Stettin while a large fire still burns in one area. Further damage was caused at Rostock. This picture shos 6 1/2 acres destroyed at the Neptun shipyard.

21 April 1943

11 Venturas bombed railway yards at Abbeville. 3 Venturas lost.

22/23 April 1943

32 aircraft minelaying off Biscay ports, 5 OTU sorties. 1 Lancaster and 1 Wellington from the minelaying force were lost.

24 April 1943

5 Mosquitos attacked railway targets at Tours, Paderborn and Trier without loss.

26 April 1943

6 Mosquitos attacked railway targets at Tours, Jülich and Lingen without loss.

26/27 April 1943

Duisburg. 561 aircraft - 215 Lancasters, 135 Wellingtons, 119 Halifaxes, 78 Stirlings, 14 Mosquitos. 17 aircraft - 7 Halifaxes, 5 Wellingtons, 3 Lancasters, 2 Stirlings - lost, 3.0 per cent of the force. This heavy raid was a partial failure. The Pathfinders claimed to have marked the target accurately but daylight reconnaissance showed that most of the bombing had fallen to the north-east of Duisburg; the Main Force may have bombed too early or they may have been lured by early fires short of the target. However, Duisburg had more than 300 buildings destroyed and a death roll of between 130 and 207 (reports vary). 4 of the Mosquitos taking part in this raid were from No 2 Group; they bombed Duisburg 3 hours after the main raid, then dived hard and flew back to England at low level. Bombs hit 6 other towns in the Ruhr.

8 OTU aircraft dropped leaflets over France without loss.

27 April 1943

12 Venturas dispatched to attack a railway target at St Brieuc turned back because of l0/l0ths cloud.

27/28 April 1943

Minelaying: 160 aircraft - 58 Halifaxes, 46 Lancasters, 31 Wellingtons, 25 Stirlings - in the biggest minelaying operation so far mounted. 123 aircraft carried out their flights successfully, laying 458 mines off the Biscay and Brittany ports and in the Frisian Islands. 1 Lancaster lost.

4 OTU Wellingtons carried leaflets to France without loss.

28/29 April 1943

Minelaying: 207 aircraft - 68 Lancasters, 60 Halifaxes, 47 Wellingtons, 32 Stirlings - carried out another large minelaying operation. 167 aircraft laid 593 mines off Heligoland, in the River Elbe and in the Great and Little Belts. Low cloud over the German and Danish Coasts forced the minelayers to fly low in order to establish their positions before laying their mines and much German light flak activity was seen. 22 aircraft - 7 Lancasters, 7 Stirlings, 6 Wellingtons, 2 Halifaxes - were lost. This was the heaviest loss of aircraft while minelaying in the war, but the number of mines laid was the highest in one night.

6 Mosquitos carried out a raid to Wilhelmshaven, dropping many flares to divert attention from that part of the minelaying force which was operating near by. No Mosquitos lost.

30 April/1 May 1943

305 aircraft - 190 Lancasters, 105 Halifaxes, 10 Mosquitos - to Essen. Cloud was expected over the target so a Pathfinder technique based solely on Oboe Mosquito skymarkers was planned. This was not expected to give such good results as ground-marking but the plan worked well and 238 crews reported that they had bombed Essen. Because of the cloud, no bombing photographs were produced. The Krupps factory was hit again. 6 Halifaxes and 6 Lancasters lost, 3.9 per cent of the force.

8 Stirlings and 4 Halifaxes of the Pathfinders carried out H2S training attacks on Bocholt. 1 Stirling lost.


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