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Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary


Campaign Diary
February 1943

 

2 February 1943

36 Venturas bombed railway targets at Abbeville and Bruges without loss.

Venturas attack Abbeville
Several sticks of bombs are seen falling towards their target at Abbeville.

2/3 February 1943

Cologne

Cologne attacked by 161 aircraft - 116 Lancasters, 35 Halifaxes, 8 Stirlings, 2 Mosquitos in another experimental raid using a 4-engined bombing force with various forms of Pathfinder techniques. Markers were dropped by both the Oboe Mosquitos and the H2S heavy marker aircraft. Again the results were disappointing, with no clear concentration of markers being achieved and with subsequent bombing being well scattered. Unfortunately, a Pathfinder Stirling on this raid was shot down by a night fighter and crashed in Holland handing the Germans an example of the H2S set on only the second night that this new device was used. The set was damaged but the German firm of Telefunken was able to reassemble it. This gave the Germans an early indication of the operational use of H2S and eventually led to the development of a device, 'Naxos', which would enable German night fighters to home on to a bomber which was using its H2S set. 5 aircraft - 3 Lancasters, 1 Halifax, 1 Stirling - lost, 3.1 per cent of the force.

13 Halifaxes of No 6 Group minelaying in the Kattegat but bad weather was encountered and only 5 aircraft laid their mines: there was 1 OTU sortie. No aircraft lost.

3 February 1943

60 Venturas to various targets in France, Belgium and Holland but only 15 aircraft bombed railway yards at Abbeville and at St Omer airfield. 2 Venturas lost.

3/4 February 1943

263 aircraft - 84 Halifaxes, 66 Stirlings, 62 Lancasters, 51 Wellingtons - provided by all groups on the first 200-plus raid for more than 2 weeks for a raid on Hamburg. Icing conditions in cloud over the North Sea caused many aircraft to return early. The Pathfinders were unable to produce concentrated and sustained marking on H2S and the bombing of the Main Force was scattered. The results in Hamburg were no better than the attack by a much smaller force a few nights earlier. The German night fighters operated effectively, despite the bad weather, and 16 bombers were lost - 8 Stirlings, 4 Halifaxes, 3 Wellingtons and 1 Lancaster, 6.1 per cent of the force.

8 Wellingtons minelaying off Lorient and St Nazaire, 4 OTU sorties. 1 Wellington minelayer lost.

4/5 February 1943

188 aircraft - 77 Lancasters, 55 Halifaxes, 50 Stirlings, 6 Wellingtons ordered to Turin of which 156 reached the target. Elsewhere in Italy, 4 Pathfinder Lancasters were sent to this Italian port to try out a new type of 'proximity fuzed' 4,000lb bomb which exploded between 200 and 600ft above the ground to widen the effects of the resulting blast. 3 aircraft dropped their bombs successfully, but this type of weapon does not seem to have come into general use. 3 Lancasters, all from the Turin raid, lost.

128 aircraft - 103 Wellingtons, 16 Halifaxes, 9 Lancasters attacked Lorient. 1 Wellington lost. This was an all-incendiary attack without the Pathfinders. Bombing was concentrated and large areas of fire were started.

Finally, 2 Mosquitos bombed Bochum and Ruhrort and 1 Wellington laid mines off Lorient

5/6 February 1943

19 Stirlings of No 3 Group were sent minelaying in the Frisian Islands; 2 aircraft lost.

6/7 February 1943

52 Wellingtons and 20 Halifaxes minelaying between St Nazaire and Texel, 2 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf, 3 OTU sorties. 3 minelaying Wellingtons lost.

7/8 February 1943

323 aircraft - 100 Wellingtons, 81 Halifaxes, 80 Lancasters, 62 Stirlings to Lorient in a well-executed raid. 7 aircraft - 3 Lancasters, 2 Halifaxes, 2 Wellingtons - lost.

2 Mosquitos bombed Essen and Hamborn without loss.

Scampton Scenes, February 1943
A pilot looks across at his aircraft before departing on the night's raid. Lancasters of No 83 Squadron at rest. A Lancaster of No 83 Squadron during the afternoon air test.

8/9 February 1943

6 Lancasters laid mines in Baltic areas without loss.

9/10 February 1943

21 Wellingtons minelaying between Brest and Texel, 2 Mosquitos to Essen and Ruhrort.

10 February 1943

12 Venturas bombed Caen railway yards without loss but the escorting Spitfires had a fierce fight with German fighters.

11 February 1943

19 Bostons attempted attacks on railway targets over a wide area. 8 aircraft bombed various locations; 1 Boston lost.

11/12 February 1943

Wilhelmshaven. This was an interesting and important raid by 177 aircraft - 129 Lancasters, 40 Halifaxes and 8 Stirlings. The Pathfinders found that the Wilhelmshaven area was completely covered by cloud and they had to employ their least reliable marking method, skymarking by parachute flares using H2S. The marking was carried out with great accuracy and the Main Force bombing was very effective. Crews saw through the clouds a huge explosion on the ground, the glow of which lingered for nearly 10 minutes. This was caused by bombs blowing up the naval ammunition depot at Mariensiel to the south of Wilhelmshaven. The resulting explosion devastated an area of nearly 120 acres and caused widespread damage in the naval dockyard and in the town. Much damage was also caused by other bombs. It has not been possible to obtain details of the casualties from Wilhelmshaven. 3 Lancasters lost, 1.7 per cent of the force.
This raid represented the first blind-bombing success for the H2S radar device.

2 Mosquitos to Bochum and Hamborn, 36 aircraft minelaying from La Pallice to the Frisians, 5 OTU sorties. No losses.

Total effort for the night: 220 sorties, 3 aircraft (1.4 per cent) lost.

Mariensiel Ammunition Depot, Wilhelmshaven
Pre-raid recce picture of the area around the ammunition depot at Mariensiel. The same area after Bomber Command's visit during the night of 11/12 February. A closer view of the devastation at Mariensiel.

12 February 1943

16 Mosquitos attacked targets in Eastern Belgium and over the German border without loss.

12/13 February 1943

2 Mosquitos bombed Düsseldorf and Rheinhausen, 38 aircraft minelaying off Heligoland and in the Frisians, 5 OTU sorties. There were no losses.

13 February 1943

34 Venturas and 22 Bostons were sent in 5 different raids to attack Ijmuiden steelworks (the Venturas) and ships at Boulogne and the lock gates at St Malo (the Bostons). 41 aircraft bombed successfully and none were lost.

Ventura over Ijmuiden
The distinctive shape of a Ventura over the steelworks at Ijmuiden.

13/14 February 1943

466 aircraft - 164 Lancasters, 140 Wellingtons, 96 Halifaxes, 66 Stirlings - carried out Bomber Command's heaviest attack on Lorient during the war. The ordinary squadrons of Bomber Command, not reinforced for a 1,000-bomber type raid, dropped more than 1,000 tons of bombs on a target for the first time. The raid was carried out in clear visibility and considerable further damage was caused to the already battered town of Lorient. 7 aircraft - 3 Wellingtons, 2 Lancasters, 1 Halifax, 1 Stirling - were lost, 1.5 per cent of the force.

2 Mosquitos to Duisburg and Essen, 17 OTU sorties. No losses.

14 February 1943

10 Mosquitos to Tours railway yards, which were accurately bombed by 6 aircraft without loss.

14/15 February 1943

243 aircraft - 90 Halifaxes, 85 Wellingtons, 68 Stirlings to Cologne. 9 aircraft - 3 of each type - lost, 3.7 per cent of the force.

The Pathfinder marking was again based on skymarkers dropped by H2S but it was only of limited success. 218 aircraft claimed to have bombed Cologne but local records suggest that less than 50 aircraft hit the target, mostly in the western districts. 2 industrial, 2 agricultural and 97 domestic premises were destroyed. 51 civilians were killed and 135 injured and 25 French workers died when their barracks at an old fort on the western outskirts of Cologne were bombed.

142 Lancasters of 1, 5 and No 8 Groups attacked Milan and carried out concentrated bombing in good visibility. Fires could be seen from l00 miles away on the return flight. No report is available from Milan. Italian defences were usually weak and only 2 Lancasters were lost on this raid.

An unusual story is available, however, about a Lancaster of 101 Squadron, which was attacked by an Italian CR42 fighter just after bombing the target. The Lancaster was set on fire and the two gunners were both seriously injured, although they claimed to have shot down the fighter. The pilot, Sergeant IH Hazard, had to dive 8,000ft to put out the fire and 1 member of the crew mistook instructions and baled out. The remainder of the crew completed the extinguishing of the fire, tended the wounded and eventually reached England. The only officer in the crew, Pilot Officer FW Gates the wireless operator, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and Sergeant Hazard and the other members of the crew who helped to bring the Lancaster home all received Conspicuous Gallantry Medals, an unusually high number of awards of this decoration. Sergeant Hazard died with his flight engineer and navigator when their Lancaster crashed in a flying accident in Yorkshire less than a month after the Milan incident, and Pilot Officer Gates died when the Lancaster in which he was flying, with another crew, crashed when returning from Dortmund on 5 May 1943; the two air gunners in the crew appear to have survived the war.

4 Pathfinder Lancasters bombed La Spezia docks without loss.

Total effort for the night: 389 sorties, 11 aircraft (2.8 per cent) lost.

15 February 1943

23 Bostons attacked Dunkirk harbour, claiming hits on ships, and 12 Mosquitos bombed railway workshops at Tours. No aircraft lost.

Low-level Mosquito attack, Tours
Barely missing the buildings over the target, this Mosquito provides an excellent example of just how low a low-level attack was! Fires burning in the roundhouse at Tours.

15/16 February 1943

6 Oboe Mosquitos bombed Essen, Rheinhausen and the German night-fighter airfield at St Trond; a map from Essen shows that bombs were dropped on the southern part of the Krupps factory. 4 Stirlings laid mines in the River Gironde and 2 OTU Wellingtons dropped leaflets over France. No aircraft lost.

16/17 February 1943

377 aircraft - 131 Lancasters, 103 Halifaxes, 99 Wellingtons, 44 Stirlings - carried out the last large raid in this series on Lorient. 363 aircraft dropped mainly incendiary loads in clear visibility. 1 Lancaster lost.

Bomber Command had flown 1,853 sorties in 8 'area' raids in response to direct instructions from the Air Ministry against Lorient. 1,675 aircraft claimed to have bombed the port during these raids, dropping nearly 4,000 tons of bombs. 24 aircraft - 1.3 per cent of those dispatched - were lost. Few records are available from Lorient but it is known that the town was now almost completely ruined and deserted.

32 aircraft minelaying off Brest and St Nazaire, 4 OTU sorties. No losses.

Total effort for the night: 413 sorties, 1 aircraft (0.2 per cent) lost.

17 February 1943

12 Venturas to Dunkirk but the target was not reached, 6 Wellingtons on cloud-cover raids to Emden which was bombed by 3 aircraft. There were no losses.

17/18 February 1943

2 Mosquitos to Bochum and Hamborn, 12 Stirlings minelaying in southern Biscay. No aircraft lost.

18 February 1943

26 Mosquitos to Tours railway yards, 12 Venturas sent to Dunkirk did not reach their target. 1 Mosquito lost.

Tours Railway Yard
Picture taken during the low-level attack at Tours from one of the participating Mosquitos.

18/19 February 1943

195 aircraft - 127 Lancasters, 59 Halifaxes, 9 Stirlings - carried out an unsuccessful raid on Wilhelmshaven. 4 Lancasters lost, 2.0 per cent of the force.

Wilhelmshaven
Although the last raid on Wihelmshaven was not as successful as previous ones, the damage to some areas of the docks is very apparent.

Minelaying: 89 aircraft carried out widespread minelaying operations from St Nazaire to the Frisians. 2 Halifaxes lost. 9 OTU aircraft on leaflet flights. 1 Wellington lost.

Total effort for the night: 293 sorties, 7 aircraft (2.4 per cent) lost.

19 February 1943

12 Venturas attacked German naval torpedo workshops at Den Helder without loss.

19/20 February 1943

338 aircraft - 120 Wellingtons, 110 Halifaxes, 56 Stirlings, 52 Lancasters in a further attack on the port of Wilhelmshaven. 12 aircraft - 5 Stirlings, 4 Lancasters, 3 Wellingtons - lost, 3.6 per cent of the force. This raid was another failure, with the Pathfinder marking causing the Main Force bombing to fall north of Wilhelmshaven. After this raid it was found that the Pathfinders had been issued with out-of-date maps which did not show recent town developments. A general updating of maps now took place.

2 Mosquitos bombed Dortmund and Essen without loss. The Essen bombs just missed the Krupps works.

20/21 February 1943

20 Wellingtons laid mines in the Frisian Islands. 1 aircraft lost.

21/22 February 1943

143 aircraft - 130 Lancasters, 7 Stirlings, 6 Halifaxes - dispatched to Bremen and 129 crews bombed, through cloud. No photographs were brought back because of the cloud. No aircraft were lost from this medium to large-sized raid.

24/25 February 1943

Wilhelmshaven

115 aircraft of Nos 6 and No 8 Groups - 71 Wellingtons, 27 Halifaxes, 9 Stirlings, 8 Lancasters - carry out the final raid on the much-bombed town of Wilhelmshaven until October 1944. Bomber Command documents make no comment on the outcome of this raid. Wilhelmshaven's report calls it a 'small raid' with 'a little damage in the town' and makes no mention of casualties. Once again, the bomber force returned without losing any aircraft.

4 Mosquitos bombed Brauweiler and Düsseldorf without loss.

25/26 February 1943

Nuremberg raided by 337 aircraft - 169 Lancasters, 104 Halifaxes, 64 Stirlings. 9 aircraft - 6 Lancasters, 2 Stirlings, 1 Halifax - lost, 2.7 per cent of the force.

Weather conditions were poor and the Pathfinders were late with their marking. However, more than 300 buildings were damaged, including a historic military chapel which was burnt out.

6 Mosquitos to the Ruhr (13 people were killed in Cologne), 54 aircraft minelaying off Brittany and in the Frisians, 20 OTU sorties. No losses.

Total effort for the night: 417 sorties, 9 aircraft (2.2 per cent) lost.

26 February 1943

Dunkirk

60 Venturas. 33 aircraft bombed; none lost.

20 Mosquitos were sent to attack a naval stores depot at Rennes in France. 17 aircraft bombed and an ammunition dump was seen to explode. 3 Mosquitos were lost including 2 which collided.

Mosquito attack at Rennes
Remarkable picture of a Mosquito making its attack on the naval depot at Rennes.

26/27 February 1943

427 aircraft - 145 Lancasters, 126 Wellingtons, 106 Halifaxes, 46 Stirlings, 4 Mosquitos - bombed Cologne. Most of the bombs from this large raid fell to the south-west of the city and 10 aircraft - 4 Wellingtons, 3 Lancasters, 2 Halifaxes, 1 Stirling - lost, 2.3 per cent of the force.

2 Mosquitos to Aachen, 21 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians, 4 OTU sorties. No losses.

Total effort for the night: 454 sorties, 10 aircraft (2.2 per cent) lost.

27 February 1943

24 Venturas attacked ships at Dunkirk without loss.

27/28 February 1943

Minelaying: 91 aircraft to the Frisian Islands and Texel. 1 Halifax was lost.

6 Mosquitos to the Ruhr, 2 OTU sorties. No losses.

28 February 1943

10 Mosquitos to targets in Holland without loss.

28 February/1 March 1943

Having destroyed Lorient, Bomber Command was now ready to start on the second target on the list of French U-boat base ports - St Nazaire - which the directive of 14 January had ordered to be destroyed. 437 aircraft - 152 Lancasters, 119 Wellingtons, 100 Halifaxes, 62 Stirlings, 4 Mosquitos - were dispatched. 5 aircraft - 2 Lancasters, 2 Wellingtons, 1 Stirling - were lost, 1.1 per cent of the force.
This initial raid caused widespread destruction. Local reports say that many bombs fell into the port area and that 60 per cent of the town was destroyed. 29 people are reported as being killed and 12 injured; it is presumed that most of the local population had left the town.

3 Mosquitos to the Ruhr, 5 Wellingtons minelaying off St Nazaire, 2 OTU sorties. No losses.

First attack on St Nazaire
Areas of extensive damage in the Loire shipyards, Saint Lazaire.

1943 January  1943 March
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