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Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary


Campaign Diary
February 1942

 

31 January/1 February 1942

Brest

72 aircraft. 3 Manchesters and 2 Hampdens lost. The 3 Manchesters lost were all from 61 Squadron, which sent only 9 aircraft on the raid.

Minor Operations: 31 aircraft to St-Nazaire, 14 aircraft to Le Havre, 13 aircraft on leaflet flights to France. No losses.

4/5 February 1942

3 Manchesters to lay mines in the Frisians were recalled.

6 February 1942

33 Hampdens and 13 Manchesters carried out daylight minelaying operations in the Frisians. 1 Hampden lost.

6/7 February 1942

Brest

57 Wellingtons and 3 Stirlings; only 21 aircraft claimed to have bombed the primary target area, in thick cloud. 1 Wellington lost.

7 February 1942

32 Hampdens minelaying in the Frisians. German fighters attacked and 3 Hampdens were lost.

8/9 February 1942

4 Blenheim Intruders to Dutch airfields were recalled.

10/11 February 1942

Bremen

55 aircraft. No losses.

Minor Operations: 12 Wellingtons and 8 Stirlings to Brest, where cloud completely covered the target, and 3 Whitleys to Emden. No losses.

11/12 February 1942

Mannheim

49 aircraft. No losses.

Le Havre

25 Wellingtons and 6 Whitleys. 1 Wellington lost.

Minor Operations: 18 Wellingtons to Brest, 1 Manchester minelaying in the Frisians, 5 aircraft on leaflet flights to France. 1 Wellington lost from the Brest raid.

12 February 1942

The Channel Dash

The German battle-cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau and the lighter cruiser Prinz Eugen sailed from Brest to Germany through the English Channel in a carefully prepared and well-executed operation. News of the preparations did not reach Britain and the Germans chose a day when bad weather and low cloud gave their ships maximum concealment. A German fighter escort was provided throughout the voyage. The ships were not reported until late morning when a Spitfire of Fighter Command spotted them off Le Touquet. All available Royal Navy and R.A.F. units were ordered to attack the German ships before darkness closed in.

Most of Bomber Command was 'stood down' for the day; only 5 Group was at 4 hours' notice. The bomber squadrons made a frantic effort to prepare planes for attacks, which were mounted in 3 waves. Other aircraft of Coastal and Fighter Commands and of the Fleet Air Arm were also involved. The first Bomber Command aircraft were airborne at 1.30 p.m. and 242 sorties were flown by the squadrons before dark. Every type of aircraft available flew except the Whitleys which were stationed in the North of England. Bomber Command aircraft dispatched were: 92 Wellingtons, 64 Hampdens, 37 Blenheims, 15 Manchesters, 13 Halifaxes, 11 Stirlings and 10 of the new American-built Boston bombers with which some of the 2 Group squadrons were being equipped, although they were not yet officially ready for operations. It was the largest Bomber Command daylight operation of the war to date. Most of the bombers were unable to find the German ships in the poor weather conditions and, of those aircraft which did bomb, no hits were scored on these fast-moving and heavily defended targets. None of the attacks by other forces caused and serious damage to the German ships but the two largest, the Scharnhorst and the Gneisenau, were both slowed down after striking mines laid by 5 Group Hampdens or Manchesters in the Frisian Islands during recent nights. Scharnhorst hit 2 mines and Gneisenau one. All the German ships reached the safety of ports in Germany before daybreak.

The sailing of these ships, although a successful operation for the Germans, finally released Bomber Command from the effort-consuming and costly requirement to bomb the ships while they had been in French ports. Bomber Command had dropped 3,413 tons of bombs on these 3 ships in recent months and lost 127 aircraft in doing so. But these raids had achieved some success. Both Scharnhorst and Gneisenau had been hit and badly damaged by bombs; this and the constant threat of further damage prevented the ships from sailing from Brest on another Atlantic shipping raid and persuaded the Germans that they should be brought back to the greater protection of German ports.

The Gneisenau seen undergoing heavy repairs at Gdynia in October 1942. A - 180 foot section of bow missing, B - Front and rear turrets removed and C - Floating crane used to effect repairs.

12/13 February 1942

12 Hampdens and 9 Manchesters were sent to lay further mines in the Frisians, although weather conditions were still unfavourable. Only 8 aircraft laid their mines but all returned without loss, but 1 Hampden crashed in England.

13/14 February 1942

Cologne, Aachen, Le Havre

85 aircraft to these targets - 39 to Cologne, 28 to Le Havre, 18 to Aachen - but all encountered icing and thick cloud and only meagre bombing results were claimed. There were no losses.

14/15 February 1942

Mannheim

98 aircraft. 1 Hampden and 1 Whitley lost.
67 aircraft claimed to have bombed Mannheim in difficult conditions. The city reports only a light raid, with 2 buildings destroyed, 15 damaged, some railway damage and with 1 man wounded and 23 people bombed out.

Minor Operations: 15 aircraft to Le Havre, 1 Manchester on a leaflet flight to France. No losses.

15/16 February 1942

St Nazaire

1O Whitleys and 6 Halifaxes; only 9 aircraft bombed, in cloudy conditions. No aircraft were lost but 3 crashed in England.

16 February 1942

8 Bostons, of 88 and 226 Squadrons, commenced the first regular operations with this new type the of day bomber. They searched for German shipping off the Dutch coast without success or loss.

16/17 February 1942

37 Hampdens and 12 Manchesters to the Frisian Islands. 1 Hampden and 1 Manchester lost.

Minor Operations: 28 Wellingtons on roving commissions to Northern Germany, 5 Blenheim Intruders over Dutch airfields, 22 aircraft on leaflet flights to France and Belgium. No losses.

17 February 1942

5 Bostons on an uneventful shipping search off the Dutch coast.

17/18 February 1942

10 Wellingtons and 3 Stirlings to Emden, Hamburg, Kassel and Aachen; visibility was poor and most bombing results were unobserved. Leaflet flights were carried out to Oslo by 1 Whitley and to France by 3 Hampdens. No aircraft were lost on this night.

18/19 February 1942

Minelaying: 25 Hampdens to lay mines in the Frisians and off Wilhelmshaven and Heligoland, 1 Hampden lost. 7 aircraft carried leaflets to France and Belgium without loss.

19/20 February 1942

Minor Operations: 8 Wellingtons on roving commissions to Germany, 7 aircraft on leaflet flights to France and Belgium. No losses.

21/22 February 1942

Roving Commissions: 22 Wellingtons and 20 Hampdens to many areas of Germany, 2 Hampdens and 1 Wellington lost.

Norwegian Airfields: 15 aircraft - 6 Halifaxes, 5 Manchesters, 4 Stirlings - attacked 4 airfields to provide a diversion for a Fleet Air Arm strike from the aircraft carrier Victorious on the Prinz Eugen, which had taken shelter in a Norwegian fjord near Trondheim after being torpedoed and damaged by the submarine Trident. The Fleet Air Arm strike was not successful, because of poor weather conditions. 1 Manchester was lost.

6 Manchesters minelaying off Wilhelmshaven without loss.

22/23 February 1942

Wilhelmshaven

31 Wellingtons and 19 Hampdens to bomb the floating dock which the Germans might be using to repair the Scharnhorst or Gneisenau. The area was cloud-covered and bombs were mostly released on the estimated position of Wilhelmshaven. The local diary has no entry for this night.

Minor Operations: 7 aircraft to Emden, 5 to Ostend, 5 Manchesters minelaying off Wilhelmshaven, 2 Hampdens on leaflet flights to France.

There were no aircraft losses from the operations of this night.

23/24 February 1942

23 Hampdens minelaying off Wilhelmshaven and Heligoland. 1 aircraft lost.

24/25 February 1942

Minor Operations: 42 Hampdens and 9 Manchesters minelaying in the Frisians and off Wilhelmshaven and Heligoland. 2 Hampdens lost. 5 aircraft on leaflet flights to France and Belgium without loss.

25/26 February 1942

Kiel

61 aircraft - 43 Wellingtons, 12 Manchesters, 6 Stirlings - to bomb the floating dock at Kiel. 3 Wellingtons lost.
In the bombing of the harbour area, the accommodation ship Monte Sarmiento was hit and burnt out with the loss of 120-130 lives. 16 people were also killed and 39 injured in the town.

Norway

21 Whitleys to bomb aluminium factories at Heroya and Odda. These areas were cloud-covered and the Whitleys returned without bombing.

Minor Operations: 18 Hampdens and 1 Manchester minelaying off German ports, 3 aircraft on leaflet flights. No losses.

26 February 1942

4 Bostons of 226 Squadron commenced the first regular operations for this type of aircraft. Ships off the Hook of Holland were attacked without loss.

26/27 February 1942

Kiel

49 aircraft - 33 Wellingtons, 10 Hampdens, 6 Halifaxes - to attack the floating dock. 2 Wellingtons and 1 Halifax lost.
Crews claimed good results in clear weather with bombs close to the floating dock. A high-explosive bomb scored a direct hit on the bows of the Gneisenau, causing severe damage and killing 116 men in the crew. This proved to be the end of Gneisenau as a fighting unit. Bombing in the town of Kiel destroyed several houses and killed 16 people.

Minor Operations: 27 Hampdens minelaying off German ports, 5 Hampdens on leaflet flights. No losses.

27/28 February 1942

Kiel

68 aircraft - 33 Wellingtons, 17 Manchesters, 18 Hampdens - to bomb the floating dock. The area was completely cloud-covered. 47 aircraft bombed the approximate position of Kiel but, although Kiel reports hearing the planes, no bombs dropped in the town. No aircraft were lost.

Wilhelmshaven

33 aircraft of mixed types were sent to find and bomb the Scharnhorst, which was believed to be at Wilhelmshaven, but the cloud was present here also. Wilhelmshaven reports only 3 bombs exploding, in the water of the harbour. 3 Whitleys lost.

11 Hampdens and 4 Manchesters minelaying in the Frisians without loss.

28 February 1942

Ostend

6 Blenheims with a fighter escort bombed the harbour without loss.


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