Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary
|Nordhausen, before and after|
327 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos of Nos 3, 6 and 8 Groups attacked the synthetic-oil plant at Leuna. The target was cloud-covered, the bombing was scattered and only minor damage was caused. 2 Lancasters lost.
327 aircraft - 277 Halifaxes, 36 Lancasters, 14 Mosquitos - of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups attacked the Rhenania oil plant, Harburg. The target was easily identified and severe damage was caused to it. 2 Lancasters and 1 Halifax lost.
258 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups attacked the oil refinery at Lützkendorf. Bomber Command claimed 'moderate damage'. 6 Lancasters lost.
35 Mosquitos to Berlin and 31 to Magdeburg, 70 RCM sorties, 66 Mosquito patrols, 30 Lancasters minelaying in the Oslo Fjord and the Kattegat. 5 aircraft lost. 12 Mosquitos from the Magdeburg raid and 3 Lancasters of No 1 Group from the Kattegat minelaying operation. The 136 aircraft dispatched by No 100 Group on this night were that group's largest effort of the war.
Total effort for the night: 1,172 sorties, 16 aircraft (1.4 per cent) lost.
54 Lancasters and 1 Mosquito of No 5 Group to attack a ship or ships which had broken the naval blockade around that large part of Western Holland where German forces were cut off. The raid was abandoned because of bad weather.
15 Lancasters (No 617 Squadron) and 2 Mosquitos of No 5 Group carried out an accurate attack on ships at Ijmuiden. No aircraft lost.
175 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitos of No 5 Group attacked the benzol plant at Molbis, near Leipzig. The weather was clear and the bombing was so effective that all production at the plant ceased. No aircraft lost.
6 RCM sorties and 14 Mosquito patrols were flown by No 100 Group without loss.
440 aircraft - 263 Halifaxes, 160 Lancasters, 17 Mosquitos - of Nos 4,6 and 8 Groups dispatched to Hamburg. 3 Halifaxes and 3 Lancasters lost. This attack was intended for the shipyard areas but partial cloud caused the raid to become dispersed. Some damage was probably caused to the shipyards but, as an American raid on the yards had taken place a few hours earlier, damage seen in photographs could not be allocated between the two forces. This was the last major Bomber Command raid of the war on Hamburg.
231 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitos of No 5 Group attacked the Lützkendorf oil refinery, which had escaped serious damage the previous night. The refinery was rendered 'inactive'. 6 Lancasters lost.
22 Halifaxes of No 4 Group in a diversionary raid on Travemünde, 71 Mosquitos to Dessau, 28 to Berlin (where Oboe from forward ground stations was used for the first time) and 8 to Munich, 64 RCM sorties, 43 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
Total effort for the night: 918 sorties, 12 aircraft (1.3 per cent) lost.
Hamburg: 57 Lancasters of No 5 Group attacked oil-storage tanks (40 aircraft) and U-boat shelters (17 aircraft of No 617 Squadron with Grand Slams and Tallboys). Both attacks were successful. 2 Lancasters were lost from the raid on the oil tanks.
591 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3 and 8 Groups to Kiel. 3 Lancasters lost. This was an accurate raid, made in good visibility on two aiming points in the harbour area. Photographic reconnaissance showed that the Deutsche Werke U-boat yard was severely damaged, the pocket battleship Admiral Scheer was hit and capsized, the Admiral Hipper and the Emden were badly damaged. The local diary says that all 3 shipyards in the port were hit and that the nearby residential areas were severely damaged.
22 Halifaxes in a diversionary raid to Stade, 44 Mosquitos to Berlin, 37 to Plauen and 24 to Hamburg, 45 RCM sorties, 37 Mosquito patrols, 70 Lancasters and 28 Halifaxes minelaying in Kiel Bay and the Little Belt. 1 Halifax from the diversion raid crashed in France.
Total effort for the night: 906 sorties, 4 aircraft (0.4 per cent) lost.
230 aircraft - 134 Lancasters, 90 Halifaxes, 6 Mosquitos - attacked the Engelsdorf and Mockau railway yards at Leipzig. The weather was clear and the bombing was accurate. 1 Halifax and 1 Lancaster lost.
Plauen: 307 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and 8 Groups. No aircraft lost. The bombing fell around the railway yards in the northern half of the town. The railways were hit and 365 acres, 51 per cent, of the town's built-up area were also destroyed.
76 Lancasters and 19 Mosquitos of 5 and 8 Groups attacked the Wahren railway yards, Leipzig. The eastern half of the yards was destroyed. 7 Lancasters lost.
77 Mosquitos to Berlin, 21 to Chemnitz and 7 to Bayreuth, 53 RCM sorties, 26 Mosquito patrols. 1 Mosquito from the Berlin raid and 1 RCM Halifax were lost.
Total effort for the night: 594 sorties, 9 aircraft (1.5 per cent) lost.
129 Halifaxes of No 4 Group and 14 Pathfinder Lancasters attacked the railway yards at Nuremberg with great accuracy. No aircraft lost.
100 Halifaxes of No 4 Group and 14 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos of No 8 Group also carried out a very good attack on railway yards on Bayreuth without loss.
107 Mosquitos attacked Berlin in 3 waves. Large fires were seen. 1 Mosquito lost. 8 Mosquitos attacked Munich without loss.
97 Mosquitos to Berlin and 3 to Munich. 13 Mosquitos on Intruder patrols. No aircraft lost.
34 Lancasters of No 5 Group (Nos 9 and 617 Squadrons) set out to attack the warships Prinz Eugen and Lützow in Swinemünde harbour but the raid was abandoned because of cloud over the target. All aircraft returned safely.
377 Lancasters and 105 Halifaxes of Nos 3, 6 and 8 Groups to Kiel. 2 Lancasters lost. This raid was directed against the port area, with the U-boat yards as the main objective. Bomber Command rated this as 'a poor attack' with scattered bombing.
20 Halifaxes and 8 Mosquitos in a diversionary raid on Boizenburg, 87 Mosquitos to Hamburg, 20 to Stralsund and 12 to Reisa, 62 RCM sorties, 55 Mosquito patrols, 82 Lancasters and 27 Halifaxes minelaying in Kiel Bay and the Kattegat. 1 Mosquito of No 100 Group lost.
Total effort for the night: 855 sorties, 3 aircraft (0.4 per cent) lost.
20 Lancasters of 6 17 Squadron again found their target at Swinemünde covered by cloud and returned without bombing. No aircraft lost.
500 Lancasters and 12 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3 and 8 Groups attacked Potsdam. This was the first time that Bomber Command 4-engined aircraft had entered the Berlin defence zone since March 1944 but the approach, across parts of Germany recently captured by Allied troops, and the Cuxhaven diversion led to only 1 Lancaster being lost; it was shot down by a night fighter.
This was the last raid of the war by a major Bomber Command force on a German city. The aiming point was the centre of Potsdam and the intention was to destroy the local barracks (depot of the old German Guards regiments) and the railway facilities. The attack was reasonably successful and severe damage was caused in Potsdam but bombs also fell in the nearby northern and eastern districts of Berlin.
24 Lancasters and 4 Mosquitos in a diversion raid to Cuxhaven, 62 Mosquitos to Berlin and 10 to Wismar, 54 RCM sorties, 50 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
Total effort for the night: 716 sorties, 1 aircraft (0.1 per cent) lost.
106 Mosquitos to Berlin, 8 to Oranienburg airfield and 4 to Lechfeld airfield, 27 RCM sorties, 19 Mosquito patrols. 1 Mosquito of No 100 Group lost.
18 Lancasters of No 617 Squadron flew to Swinemünde to attack the pocket battleship Lützow. The force flew through intense flak; 1 Lancaster was shot down (No 617 Squadron's last loss of the war) and all but 2 aircraft were damaged. 15 aircraft managed to bomb the target with Tallboys or with 1,000-pounders. The effects of one near miss with a Tallboy tore a large hole in the bottom of the Lützow and she sank in shallow water at her moorings.
222 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitos of No 5 Group carried out an accurate attack on the railway yards at Pilsen. 1 Lancaster crashed in France.
167 Lancasters and 8 Mosquitos of 6 and 8 Groups attacked the railway yards at Schwandorf, causing severe damage. 1 Lancaster lost.
19 Halifaxes of No 6 Group and 4 Pathfinder Mosquitos to Gablingen airfield, 64 Mosquitos to Berlin and 23 to Munich, 57 RCM sorties, 35 Mosquito patrols. 2 Halifaxes and 1 Fortress of No 100 Group were lost.
Total effort for the night: 610 sorties, 5 aircraft (0.8 per cent) lost.
90 Lancasters and 11 Mosquitos of No 5 Group attacked the railway yards in the small town of Cham deep in south-eastern Germany. The attack was completely successful, with tracks torn up and rolling stock destroyed. No aircraft lost.
61 Mosquitos to Berlin and 43 to Ingoldstadt airfield, 28 RCM sorties, 40 Mosquito patrols. 2 Mosquitos lost from the Berlin raid.
969 aircraft - 617 Lancasters, 332 Halifaxes, 20 Mosquitos - of all groups attacked the naval base at Heligoland, the airfield and the town on this small island. The bombing was accurate and the target areas were turned almost into crater-pitted moonscapes. 3 Halifaxes were lost.
114 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitos of No 5 Group attacked the railway yards in the Czechoslovak town of Komotau (now known as Chomutov). This was the last major raid in the long communications offensive to which No 5 Group had made a particularly effective contribution. The raid was completely successful and all the aircraft involved returned safely.
57 Mosquitos to Berlin and 36 to Schleissheim airfield near Munich, 35 RCM sorties, 33 Mosquito patrols. 1 Mosquito of No 141 Squadron was lost while carrying out a napalm attack on an airfield in Northern Germany; this was a new form of weapon being used by the Mosquito squadrons of No 100 Group.
49 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H raid on the Pasing railway yards, Munich. The bombing appeared to be concentrated. No aircraft lost.
36 Lancasters of 9 and 617 Squadrons attacked coastal battery positions at Heligoland with Tallboy bombs. All targets were hit and no aircraft were lost.
79 Mosquitos to Berlin, 35 to Wittstock airfield and 8 to Schleswig airfield, 34 RCM sorties, 40 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
100 Lancasters of No 3 Group bombed the fuel-storage depot at Regensburg accurately. 1 Lancaster lost. This was the last raid in the current campaign against German oil targets which had been waged since June 1944. Much of Bomber Command's effort during this period, sometimes at considerable loss, had been devoted to these oil operations, which had helped not only the Allied ground forces on the Western Front but also those fighting in Italy and on the Eastern Front.
76 Mosquitos made 6 separate attacks on Berlin. This was the last RAF raid of the war on Berlin; the Russians were about to enter the city. Mosquito XVI ML929, of No 109 Squadron, claimed the last bombs - 4 500-pounders - at 02.14 British Time. The crew were Flying Officer AC Austin, pilot, and Flying Officer P Moorhead, navigator. All aircraft returned safely.
36 Mosquitos to Schleissheim airfield, 3 RCM sorties, 2 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
107 Mosquitos to Kiel. 2 aircraft lost.
16 Mosquitos to Eggebek airfield near Flensburg, 3 RCM sorties, 16 Mosquito patrols, 20 Lancasters of No 6 Group minelaying in the Kattegat. No aircraft lost.
Bremen: 767 aircraft - 651 Lancasters, 100 Halifaxes, 16 Mosquitos - of Nos 1, 3, 6 and 8 Groups. 2 Lancasters lost. This raid was part of the preparation for the attack by the British XXX Corps on Bremen. The bombing was on the south-eastern suburbs of the city, where the ground troops would attack 2 days later. The raid was hampered by cloud and by smoke and dust from bombing as the raid progressed. The Master Bomber ordered the raid to stop after 195 Lancasters had bombed. The whole of Nos 1 and 4 Groups returned home without attacking.
40 Mosquitos to Bremen and 11 to Kiel, 56 RCM sorties, 39 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
148 Lancasters of No 5 Group set out to attack the railway yards and port area at Flensburg but the operation was abandoned because of cloud which covered the target on the bomb run. All aircraft returned safely.
60 Mosquitos dispatached to Kiel; none lost.
38 Mosquitos to Rendsburg, 32 to Travemünde and 8 to Schleissheim airfield, 45 RCM sorties, 35 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
110 Lancasters attacked the railway yards at Bad Oldesloe. No aircraft lost.
30 Mosquitos and 7 Lancasters dropped leaflets on 8 POW camps in which British prisoners-of-war were waiting to be liberated. Medical supplies were also dropped at the Neubrandenburg camp, north of Berlin. No aircraft were lost.
40 Mosquitos to Schleissheim airfield, 38 to Pasing airfield and 17 to Kiel, 27 RCM sorties, 19 Mosquito patrols. 1 Mosquito from the Schleissheim raid crashed in Belgium.
Wangerooge: 482 aircraft - 308 Halifaxes, 158 Lancasters, 16 Mosquitos - of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups. 5 Halifaxes and 2 Lancasters lost. The raid was intended to knock out the coastal batteries on this Frisian island which controlled the approaches to the ports of Bremen and Wilhelmshaven. No doubt the experience of Antwerp, when guns on the approaches had prevented the port being used for several weeks, prompted this raid. The weather was clear and bombing was accurate until smoke and dust obscured the target area. The areas around the batteries were pitted with craters but the concreted gun positions were 'hardly damaged'; they were all capable of firing within a few hours. Part of the bombing hit a camp for forced workers and the holiday resort and many buildings were destroyed, including several hotels and guest houses, the Catholic church and two children's holiday homes, although these do not appear to have been occupied at the time of the bombing.
6 of the 7 bombers lost were involved in collisions - 2 Halifaxes of 7No 6 Squadron, 2 Lancasters of No 431 Squadron and 2 Halifaxes of Nos 408 and 426 Squadrons (both from Leeming airfield). There was only 1 survivor, from one of the No 76 Squadron aircraft. 28 Canadian and 13 British airmen were killed in the collisions. The seventh aircraft lost was a Halifax of No 347 (Free French) Squadron, whose crew were all killed.
Berchtesgaden: 359 Lancasters and 16 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 5 and 8 Groups. 2 Lancasters lost. This raid was against Hitler's 'Eagle's Nest' chalet and the local SS guard barracks. Among the force were 16 Lancasters of No 617 Squadron dropping their last Tallboys. 8 Oboe Mosquitos were also among the bombing force, to help with the marking, but mountains intervened between one of the ground stations transmitting the Oboe signals and the Mosquitos could not operate even though they were flying at 39,000 ft! There was some mist and the presence of snow on the ground also made it difficult to identify targets, but the bombing appeared to be accurate and effective. No other details are available.
Total effort for the day: 857 sorties, 9 aircraft (1.0 per cent) lost.
Most of the squadrons taking part in the raids on this day were flying their last operations of the war.
|Attacking the 'Eagles Nest'|
107 Lancasters and 12 Mosquitos of No 5 Group attacked the oil refinery in Tonsberg in Southern Norway in the last raid flown by heavy bombers. The attack was accurately carried out and the target was severely damaged. A Lancaster of No 463 Squadron came down in Sweden, the last of more than 3,300 Lancasters lost in the war; Flying Officer A Cox and his all-British crew all survived and were interned in Sweden until the end of the war - only a few days away.
82 Mosquitos to Pasing airfield and 18 to Kiel, 9 RCM sorties, 35 Mosquito patrols, 14 Lancasters minelaying in Oslo Fjord (the last minelaying operation of the war), 12 Mosquitos of No 8 Group dropping leaflets over prisoner-of-war camps.
Bomber Command Lancasters now started flying to Brussels, and later to other airfields, to collect British prisoners of war recently liberated from their camps. 469 flights were made by aircraft of Nos 1, 5, 6 and 8 Groups before the war ended and approximately 75,000 men were brought back to England by the fastest possible means (unlike the end of the First World War when some British ex-prisoners were still not home by Christmas, although the Armistice was signed on 11 November 1918). There were no accidents during that part of Operation Exodus which was carried out before the war ended.
31 Mosquitos to Husum, 28 each to Eggebek and Grossenbrode and 12 to Neumünster (all airfields in Schleswig-Holstein), 12 Mosquitos to Kiel, 4 Mosquito Intruders on patrols. No aircraft lost.
A large pocket in Western Holland was still in German hands and the population was approaching starvation; many old or sick people had already died. A truce was arranged with the local German commander and Lancasters of Nos 1, 3 and 8 Groups started to drop food supplies for the civilian population. Pathfinder Mosquitos 'marked' the dropping zones. 2,835 Lancaster and 124 Mosquito flights were made before the Germans surrendered at the end of the war and allowed ships and road transport to enter the area. Bomber Command delivered 6,672 tons of food during Operation Manna.
Hitler committed suicide in Berlin on this day, after handing over the leadership to Admiral Doenitz, who was in the Kiel-Flensburg area.
There had been no offensive operations by Bomber Command since 26/27 April and most squadrons thought that their war in Europe was over, but it was feared that the Germans were assembling ships at Kiel to transport troops to Norway in order to carry on the war there. A last raid by No 8 Group Mosquitos was thus organized, with a large supporting effort being provided.
16 Mosquito bombers of No 8 Group and 37 Mosquitos of No 100 Group were first dispatched to attack airfields in the Kiel area. A Mosquito of No 169 Squadron, No 100 Group, was lost while carrying out a low-level napalm attack on Jagel airfield; its crew - Flying Officer R Catterall, DFC, and Flight Sergeant DJ Beadle - were killed.
126 Mosquitos of No 8 Group then attacked Kiel in 2 raids, 1 hour apart. The target area was almost completely cloud-covered but H2S and Oboe were used. Large fires on the ground were seen through the cloud. No Mosquitos were lost on these raids. Towards morning, a large column of military vehicles departed in the direction of Flensburg on the Danish frontier. 'The upsurge in the population's morale was indescribable', comments the town diary. 'There was a final spasm of fear when explosions were heard from the harbour but these turned out to be all the flak guns and warships in the harbour firing off their ammunition.' After this, Kiel was declared an open, undefended town. As soon as this happened, all the military stores and some of the civilian ones containing rationed goods were thrown open to the public before Allied troops arrived 36 hours later.
Meanwhile, there had been a final small tragedy for Bomber Command. 89 RCM aircraft of No 100 Group had been sent to support the Mosquito bomber force and 2 Halifaxes from No 199 Squadron, each with 8 men on board, were lost. The Halifaxes had been part of the Mandrel screen and were also carrying 4,500lb bombs and large quantities of Window. The 2 aircraft crashed at Meimersdorf, just south of Kiel, and it is probable that they collided while on their bomb runs. They were the last Bomber Command aircraft to be lost in the war. There were only 3 survivors. 13 airmen, 12 from the United Kingdom and one from the Irish Republic, mostly second-tour men, died. They were: Warrant Officer WF Bolton; Flight Sergeant AA Bradley; Flight Lieutenant WE Brooks; Sergeant FT Chambers; Flying Officer KNJ Croft; Warrant Officer KAC Gavin; Flight Sergeant D Greenwood; Flying Officer ASJ Holder, DFC; Flight Sergeant JR Lewis; Flight Sergeant J Loth; Pilot Officer WHV Mackay; Warrant Officer RHA Pool; and Flight Sergeant D Wilson.
On 4 May, German officers came to the Tactical Headquarters of Montgomery's 21st Army Group on Lüneburg Heath and signed a surrender document for all German forces in North-West Germany, Denmark and Holland, to be effective from the following day. Various local surrenders took place elsewhere. On 7 May General Eisenhower, with representatives from Britain, Russia and France, accepted the unconditional surrender of all German forces on all fronts, to be effective from 0001 hours on 9 May. But the fighting was effectively already over. Allied troops, fully supported by Bomber Command, had liberated the whole of Western Europe in just eleven months of hard fighting. The British Army lost nearly 40,000 men during this campaign. Bomber Command had lost 2,128 aircraft during the same period, with approximately 10,000 airmen being killed. Many of the bomber squadrons were now earmarked for Tiger Force, to continue the war against Japan, but the dropping of two atom bombs three months later brought the surrender of Japan and the end of the Second World War before Tiger Force left England.
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