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Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary


Campaign Diary
December 1943

 

1/2 December 1943

Minelaying: 19 Stirlings and 12 Halifaxes were sent to the Frisians and to the east coast of Denmark. 2 Stirlings lost.

2/3 December 1943

458 aircraft - 425 Lancasters, 18 Mosquitos, 15 Halifaxes - continued the Battle of Berlin. There were no major diversions and the bombers took an absolutely direct route across the North Sea and Holland and then on to Berlin. The Germans identified Berlin as the target 19 minutes before Zero Hour and many fighters were waiting there. Incorrectly forecast winds scattered the bomber stream, particularly on the return flight, and German fighters scored further victories here. A total of 40 bombers - 37 Lancasters, 2 Halifaxes, 1 Mosquito - were lost, 8.7 per cent of the force. 460 (Australian) Squadron lost 5 of its 25 Lancasters on this raid, including the aircraft in which two newspaper reporters were flying. These were Captain Grieg of the Daily Mail and Norman Stockton of the Sydney Sun. The inaccurate wind forecast caused great difficulties for the Pathfinders, who were not able to establish their positions correctly. The bombing photographs of the Main Force suggested that the attack was scattered over a wide area of southern Berlin and the countryside south of the city. The Berlin report confirms this but adds that some useful damage was caused in industrial areas of the eastern and western districts, with two more of the Siemens factories, a ball-bearing factory and several railway installations being badly hit. Damage elsewhere was light, only 136 buildings being destroyed.

6 Mosquitos to Bochum and 1 to Witten, 3 RCM sorties, 25 OTU sorties. 1 Mosquito lost from the Bochum raid.

3/4 December 1943

527 aircraft - 307 Lancasters, 220 Halifaxes - to Leipzig. Despite the loss of two pressmen on the previous night, the well-known American broadcaster, Ed Murrow, flew on the raid with a 619 Squadron Lancaster crew. He returned safely. The bomber force took another direct route towards Berlin before turning off to bomb Leipzig. German fighters were in the bomber stream and scoring successes before the turn was made but most of them were then directed to Berlin when the Mosquito diversion opened there. There were few fighters over Leipzig and only 3 bombers are believed to have been lost in the target area, 2 of them being shot down by flak. A relatively successful raid, from the point of view of bomber casualties, was spoiled when many aircraft flew by mistake into the Frankfurt defended area on the long southern withdrawal route and more than half of the bombers shot down on this night were lost there. 24 aircraft - 15 Halifaxes, 9 Lancasters - were lost, 4.6 per cent of the force. The Pathfinders found and marked this distant inland target accurately and the bombing was very effective; this was the most successful raid on Leipzig during the war. A large area of housing and many industrial premises were severely damaged. One place which was hit by a large number of bombs was the former World Fair exhibition site, whose spacious buildings had been converted to become war factories, the largest buildings being taken over by the Junkers aircraft company.

9 Mosquitos in feint attack on Berlin, 3 RCM sorties, 12 Halifaxes minelaying in the Frisians. No losses.

Halifax sunset
Halifaxes caught at low level as the sun sets.

4/5 December 1943

9 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 48 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians, 9 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling minelayer and 1 OTU Whitley lost.

5/6 December 1943

3 Wellingtons flew RCM sorties without loss.

9/10 December 1943

3 Wellingtons flew RCM sorties without loss.

10/11 December 1943

25 Mosquitos to Leverkusen and 2 to Krefeld, 4 OTU sorties. No losses.

11/12 December 1943

18 Mosquitos attacked Duisburg and 1 Wellington flew an RCM sortie without loss.

12/13 December 1943

Mosquitos: 20 to Essen, 9 to Düsseldorf, 1 to Osnabrück, 4 RCM sorties, 4 OTU sorties. 1 Mosquito lost on the Essen raid.

13/14 December 1943

16 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf, 1 to Bonn, 25 OTU sorties. No losses.

15/16 December 1943

4 Mosquitos to Bochum and 4 to Leverkusen, 3 RCM sorties. No losses.

16/17 December 1943

483 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitos on the main raid to Berlin and 5 further Mosquitos dropped decoy fighter flares south of Berlin. The bomber route again led directly to Berlin across Holland and Northern Germany and there were no major diversions. The German controllers plotted the course of the bombers with great accuracy; many German fighters were met at the coast of Holland and further fighters were guided on to the bomber stream throughout the approach to the target. More fighters were waiting at the target and there were many combats. The bombers shook off the opposition on the return flight by taking a northerly route over Denmark. 25 Lancasters, 5.2 per cent of the Lancaster force, were lost. Many further aircraft were lost on returning to England. Berlin was cloud-covered but the Pathfinder skymarking was reasonably accurate and much of the bombing fell in the city. In the city centre, the National Theatre and the building housing Germany's military and political archives were both destroyed. The damage to the Berlin railway system and to rolling stock, and the large numbers of people still leaving the city, were having a cumulative effect upon the transportation of supplies to the Russian Front; 1,000 wagon-loads of war material were held up for 6 days. The sustained bombing had now made more than a quarter of Berlin's total living accommodation unusable. On their return to England, many of the bombers encountered very low cloud at their bases. The squadrons of 1, 6 and No 8 Groups were particularly badly affected. 29 Lancasters (and a Stirling from the minelaying operation) either crashed or were abandoned when their crews parachuted. The group with heaviest losses was No 1 Group with 13 aircraft lost; the squadron with heaviest losses was 97 Squadron, No 8 Group, with 7 aircraft lost.

47 aircraft - 26 Stirlings, 12 Mosquitos, 9 Lancasters - carried out raids on 2 flying-bomb sites near Abbeville. Neither raid was successful. The larger raid, by the Stirlings on the Tilley-le-Haut site, failed because the Oboe Mosquito markers could not get any closer than 450 yards from the small target. The 9 Lancasters of 617 Squadron which attacked the second site, in a wood at Flixecourt, dropped their 12,000lb bombs accurately on the markers placed by the only Oboe Mosquito operating at this target but the markers were 350 yards from the flying-bomb site and none of the 617 Squadron bombs were more than l00 yards from the markers. No aircraft lost.

2 Beaufighters and 2 Mosquitos of 141 Squadron, recently transferred from Fighter Command to No 100 Group, inaugurated Bomber Command's Serrate operations in patrols near the routes of the Berlin raid. (Serrate was a device which homed on to the radar emissions of a German night fighter.) 1 Mosquito made contact with an Me110 and damaged it with cannon-fire. The crew of this first successful Bomber Command Serrate patrol was Squadron Leader FF Lambert and Flying Officer K Dear.

5 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 35 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off Biscay ports. No losses.

19/20 December 1943

6 OTU Wellingtons dropped leaflets over French towns without loss.

20/21 December 1943

Frankfurt: 650 aircraft - 390 Lancasters, 257 Halifaxes, 3 Mosquitos. The German control rooms were able to plot the bomber force as soon as it left the English coast and were able to continue plotting it all the way to Frankfurt. There were many combats on the route to the target. The Mannheim diversion did not draw fighters away from the main attack until after the raid was over but the return flight was quieter. 41 aircraft - 27 Halifaxes, 14 Lancasters - lost, 6.3 per cent of the force. The bombing at Frankfurt did not go according to plan. The Pathfinders had prepared a ground-marking plan on the basis of a forecast giving clear weather but they found up to 8/10ths cloud. The Germans lit a decoy fire site 5 miles south-east of the city and also used dummy target indicators. Some of the bombing fell around the decoy but part of the creepback fell on Frankfurt causing more damage than Bomber Command realized at the time. Part of the bombing somehow fell on Mainz, 17 miles to the west, and many houses along the Rhine waterfront and in southern suburbs were hit.

44 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitos of 1 and No 8 Groups carried out a diversionary raid on Mannheim but most of the bombing fell outside the city. No aircraft lost.

8 Lancasters of 617 Squadron and 8 Pathfinder Mosquitos attempted to bomb an armaments factory near Liege but the Mosquito marking was not visible below the clouds and the Lancasters did not bomb; 1 Lancaster lost. 6 Mosquitos to Rheinhausen and 5 to Leverkusen, 8 RCM sorties, 2 Beaufighters on Serrate patrol, 23 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians, 38 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

21/22 December 1943

9 Oboe Mosquitos to the Mannesmann factory at Düsseldorf and 4 to the Knapsack power station, 4 OTU sorties. No losses.

22/23 December 1943

51 aircraft - 29 Stirlings, 11 Lancasters, 8 Mosquitos, 3 Halifaxes - to attack 2 flying-bomb sites between Abbeville and Amiens. 1 site was bombed accurately but the other could not be located. No aircraft lost.

9 Mosquitos to Frankfurt and 2 to Bonn, 2 RCM sorties, 16 aircraft minelaying off Biscay ports, 21 OTU sorties. No losses.

23/24 December 1943

Berlin: 379 aircraft - 364 Lancasters, 8 Mosquitos, 7 Halifaxes. The bomber casualties were not as heavy as on recent raids, partly because German fighters encountered difficulty with the weather and partly because the German controller was temporarily deceived by the Mosquito diversion at Leipzig. The main force of fighters only appeared in the target area at the end of the raid and could not catch the main bomber stream. 16 Lancasters were lost, 4.2 per cent of the force. The Berlin area was covered by cloud and more than half of the early Pathfinder aircraft had trouble with their H2S sets. The markers were scattered and sparse.

12 Mosquitos to Aachen, 9 to Duisburg and 7 to Leipzig, 4 RCM sorties, 3 Beaufighters on Serrate patrols, 7 OTU sorties. 1 Beaufighter lost.

24/25 December 1943

No bombing raids were carried out on Christmas Eve but 35 Halifaxes were sent minelaying in the Frisians and returned without loss.

28/29 December 1943

Mosquitos: 10 to Duisburg, 9 to Düsseldorf, 1 to Cologne, 11 OTU sorties. No losses.

29/30 December 1943

712 aircraft - 457 Lancasters, 252 Halifaxes, 3 Mosquitos - returned to Berlin. A long approach route from the south, passing south of the Ruhr and then within 20 miles of Leipzig, together with Mosquito diversions at Düsseldorf, Leipzig and Magdeburg, caused the German controller great difficulties and there were few fighters over Berlin. Bad weather on the outward route also kept down the number of German fighters finding the bomber stream. 20 aircraft - 11 Lancasters, 9 Halifaxes - were lost, 2.8 per cent of the force. Berlin was again cloud-covered. The Bomber Command report claiming a concentrated attack on skymarkers is not confirmed by the local report. The heaviest bombing was in the southern and south-eastern districts but many bombs also fell to the east of the city.

8 Mosquitos to Magdeburg, 6 to Düsseldorf, 5 to Leipzig, 4 to Bristillerie - a suspected V-weapon site near Cherbourg - and 3 to Leverkusen, 6 RCM sorties, 2 Beaufighters on Serrate patrols, 5 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians and off French ports, 4 OTU sorties. No losses.

30/31 December 1943

10 Lancasters of 617 Squadron and 6 Pathfinder Mosquitos attempted to destroy a V1 site which had been missed on an earlier raid, but the markers were 200 yards from the target and, with the Lancasters' bombs well grouped around these, the site was again undamaged. No aircraft lost.

10 Mosquitos to Cologne, 8 to Duisburg and 3 to Bochum, 6 RCM sorties, 26 aircraft minelaying off Texel and French ports, 28 OTU sorties. No losses.

31 December 1943/1 January 1944

There were no bomber operations on New Year's Eve; 2 Stirlings laid mines off the Dutch coast and returned safely.


1943 November  1944 January
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