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Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary


Campaign Diary
January 1943

 

2 January 1943

12 Bostons and 1 Mosquito ordered to attack a whaling factory ship at Cherbourg were recalled.

2/3 January 1943

42 Wellingtons and Lancasters minelaying off Biscay ports.

3 January 1943

11 Bostons to Cherbourg were recalled, 6 Mosquitos attacked railway targets in the Amiens and Tergnier areas. No aircraft lost.

3/4 January 1943

3 Pathfinder Mosquitos and 19 Lancasters of No 5 Group continued the Oboe-marking experimental raids on Essen. 3 Lancasters lost.

45 Wellingtons and Lancasters minelaying off the French and Dutch coasts.
The first operational sorties by the new No 6 (Canadian) Group were flown on this night by Wellingtons of No 427 Squadron taking part in the minelaying operation.

4/5 January 1943

4 Pathfinder Mosquitos and 29 Lancasters of No 5 Group to Essen. 2 Lancasters lost.
'Skymarker' flares were dropped on Oboe. City reports concentrated bombing in the Borbeck suburb, north of the centre.

7/8 January 1943

3 Pathfinder Mosquitos and 19 Lancasters of No 5 Group mount ineffective raid on Essen. No aircraft lost.

8/9 January 1943

3 Mosquitos of the Pathfinders, now officially designated as No 8 Group, and 38 Lancasters of No 5 Group attack Duisburg. (The terms 'No 8 Group' and 'Pathfinders' are quite interchangeable.) 3 Lancasters lost.

73 aircraft minelaying off the Danish and German coasts; 2 minelaying Lancasters were lost.

9 January 1943

12 Venturas dispatched to Ijmuiden steelworks, 12 Bostons to Abbeville airfields and 7 Mosquitos to railway targets at Mons and Rouen. The Abbeville force was recalled but all other targets were bombed. 1 Mosquito lost.

Ijmuiden Steelworks
Photograph taken from one of the Venturas ivolved in the attack on the steelworks at Ijmuiden in Holland.

9/10 January 1943

Essen attacked 2 Pathfinder Mosquitos and 50 Lancasters of No 5 Group. 3 Lancasters lost.
Essen reports concentrated bombing in or near the centre with 127 buildings destroyed or seriously damaged and 28 people killed.

121 aircraft - 78 Halifaxes, 41 Wellingtons, 2 Stirlings - on a large minelaying operation in the Frisians, the German Bight and the Kattegat. 97 aircraft reported laying mines in the designated areas. 4 Halifaxes lost.

11/12 January 1943

4 Pathfinder Mosquitos and 72 Lancasters of Nos 1 and 5 Groups continue trials with Oboe on Essen. 1 Lancaster lost.

12/13 January 1943

4 Pathfinder Mosquitos and 55 Lancasters of Nos 1 and 5 Groups in problematical attack on Essen. 1 Lancaster lost.
The Oboe equipment of the first Mosquito to arrive failed and the other 3 Mosquitos were all late. Because of this, many of the Lancasters bombed on dead reckoning. Some bombs did fall in Essen, where 20 houses were destroyed or seriously damaged and 9 people were killed, but other bombs fell in Neviges, Remscheid, Solingen and Wuppertal, a group of towns 12-20 miles south of Essen. 19 people were killed in Remscheid.

32 aircraft minelaying of Biscay ports without loss.

13 January 1943

36 aircraft of No 2 Group - 18 Venturas, 12 Bostons, 6 Mosquitos - attacked airfield and railway targets in France. 6 Wellingtons laid mines in the Frisian Islands. No aircraft lost.

13/14 January 1943

Another trial raid on Essen by 3 Mosquitos and 66 Lancasters. 4 Lancasters lost.
Another poor raid for Oboe aircraft - 2 aircraft had to return without marking and the skymarkers of the third aircraft failed to ignite above the cloud. German aircraft also appeared to have dropped decoy flares to distract the Lancasters. Despite all this, Essen reports a sharp raid with 63 people killed, including 11 French prisoners of war and 6 other foreigners.
This raid concluded the Oboe trials.

14 January 1943

6 Halifaxes on a cloud-cover raid to Leer but only 1 aircraft bombed, through a gap in the clouds. 7 Wellingtons of No 4 Group minelaying in the Frisians; 1 aircraft lost.

14/15 January 1943

122 aircraft - 63 Halifaxes, 33 Wellingtons, 20 Stirlings, 6 Lancasters - in the first of 8 area attacks on the French port of Lorient which was being used as a U-boat base. 2 Wellingtons lost. This was No 6 (Canadian) Group's first bombing operation, with 9 Wellingtons and 6 Halifaxes being dispatched. One Wellington of No 426 Squadron was the group's first loss; Pilot Officer George Milne and his crew - 5 Canadians and 1 Englishman - all died when their aircraft Wellington was lost in the sea.
The Pathfinder marking of the target was accurate but later bombing by the Main Force was described as 'wild'.

41 aircraft minelaying of Lorient and Brest, 13 OTU flights. 1 Wellington of 91 OTU lost.

15 January 1943

10 Bostons attacked a whaling factory ship at Cherbourg but scored no hits. 6 Wellingtons attempted a cloud-cover raid to Norden but only 1 aircraft bombed.

15/16 January 1943

157 aircraft - 65 Wellingtons, 48 Halifaxes, 40 Stirlings, 4 Lancasters attack Lorient. 1 Stirling and 1 Wellington lost.
Bombing was more accurate than on the previous night. At least 800 buildings were destroyed and 12 civilians killed. Most of the inhabitants had fled the town during the previous day.

2 Mosquitos to Aachen, 9 Wellingtons minelaying of Lorient and St Nazaire, 3 OTU sorties. The 2 Mosquitos raiding Aachen used Oboe.

16/17 January 1943

201 aircraft - 190 Lancasters, 11 Halifaxes - from the Pathfinders and Nos 1, 4 and 5 Groups were dispatched to Berlin the first attack on the city for 14 months. It marked the first use of proper 'target indicators' and the use of an all 4-engined bombing force. Stirlings were withdrawn from an original plan so that only the higher-flying Lancasters and Halifaxes would participate. Most of the force was provided by No 5 Group.

The raid was a disappointment. Berlin was well beyond the range of Gee and Oboe, and H2S radar was not yet ready. Thick cloud which was encountered on the way to the target hindered navigation and Berlin was found to be covered by haze. Bombing was scattered, mostly in the southern areas, with the greatest concentration in the Tempelhof district. The report from Berlin contains some interesting items among the usual details of buildings destroyed, etc. The German air-raid warning system failed to report the approach of a large bomber force, only of a few single aircraft. The Lancasters and Halifaxes thus arrived over Berlin in the evening when a lot of people were away from their homes. The first bombs coincided with the sounding of the sirens and there were many scenes of panic until the police could control the crowds attempting to find shelter. Goebbels, the Gauleiter of Berlin, is reported as having been most angry and he ordered an overhaul of the procedure. Because of the failure, an unusually high number of people were killed, considering the weakness of the bombing: 198; but this figure includes 53 prisoners of war - 52 Frenchmen and 1 Englishman - and 6 foreign workers. Another event was that about half of the personnel of the Berlin flak units were away from the city, taking part in a course; this resulted in a very much lighter barrage than normal.

10,000 people attending a fair at the Deutschlandhalle had a remarkable escape. The air-raid police and the fire brigade managed to supervise the evacuation of every person and all the circus animals to open ground in parks around the hall. 21 people were slightly injured in the crush as the crowds left the building. Just after the last person had left, a large number of incendiary bombs fell on to the hall and it was completely burned out. None of the 10,000 people in the open near by were hurt!

The RAF casualties were also light. Only 1 Lancaster, from No 5 Group, was lost. The Bomber Command report mentions the lightness of the Berlin flak defences and assumed that the greater altitude of the bomber force surprised the German gunners.

2 Mosquitos attacked Duisburg and Essen without loss.

The Deutschlandhalle, Berlin
The shell of the Deutschlandhalle in Berlin from where 10,000 people escaped seconds before its destruction.

17/18 January 1943

170 Lancasters and 17 Halifaxes repeated the raid on Berlin. The weather was better than on the previous night but the Pathfinders were again unable to mark the centre of the city and again the bombing fell mainly in the southern areas. The Bomber Command report stated that the Daimler-Benz factory was hit, either during this night or during the raid of the previous night, but this is not confirmed by the German report; however, a BMW aero-engine factory at Spandau was hit by incendiaries and slightly damaged. There was no damage of note in any part of Berlin.
The routes taken by the bombers to and from Berlin were the same as those followed on the previous night and German night fighters were able to find the bomber stream. 19 Lancasters and 3 Halifaxes were lost, 11.8 per cent of the force. The experiments with this Lancaster/Halifax force, using target indicators against Berlin, now ceased until H2S became available.
An observer of this raid was Richard Dimbleby, the BBC broadcaster, who flew in a 106 Squadron Lancaster piloted by Wing Commander Guy Gibson.

Berlin
Fires continue to burn in Berlin after the tow recent attacks by Bomber Command.

18 January 1943

21 Venturas and 14 Bostons to Caen and Cherbourg were all recalled because of unfavourable weather.

18/19 January 1943

22 Stirlings and 7 Wellingtons of No 3 Group laid mines off the Frisian Islands without loss.

20 January 1943

8 Mosquitos made a low-level attack on the Stork engineering works at Hengelo. 6 aircraft bombed successfully and there were no losses.

Hengelo
Photo taken from a Mosquito during the attack at Hengelo. Arrow A  - Main workshop; Arrow B - Bomb heading towards the target; Arrow C - Smoke from anti-aircraft gun position.

20/21 January 1943

8 Wellingtons minelaying in the Frisians without loss.

21 January 1943

36 Bostons and 15 Venturas attempted to attack the docks at Flushing and Cherbourg and an airfield near Caen but were largely foiled by cloud.

21/22 January 1943

79 Lancasters and 3 Mosquitos dispatched to Essen encountered total cloud and bombs were dropped blindly on estimated positions. 4 Lancasters lost.

70 aircraft on a large minelaying operation in the Frisian Islands; 4 Wellingtons and 2 Halifaxes lost.

22 January 1943

23 Bostons and 18 Venturas attacked airfields in France while 12 Mitchells of Nos 98 and 180 Squadrons carried out the first raid by this new type of aircraft on oil targets at Terneuzen near Ghent. 2 Venturas and 3 Mitchells were lost, including the aircraft of Wing Commander CC Hodder, commanding officer of No 180 Squadron.

22/23 January 1943

2 Mosquitos attacked Cologne without loss. This was the first Oboe attack on Cologne and the damage reported (55 houses damaged, 5 people killed and 22 injured) show that a few aircraft using modern aids could sometimes cause as much damage as the forces of up to 100 bombers which had often been sent to Cologne in marginal weather conditions in 1941 and 1942.

23 January 1943

6 Wellingtons of No 6 Group on a cloud-cover raid to a target near Wilhelmshaven; all found somewhere to bomb without loss. 4 Mosquitos bombed Osnabrück railway yards; 1 Mosquito lost.

23/24 January 1943

121 aircraft - 75 Halifaxes, 33 Stirlings, 8 Lancasters, 5 Wellingtons - ordered to Lorient and claimed successful bombing of the target area in good visibility. 1 Stirling lost.

Düsseldor was raided by f80 Lancasters and 3 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 5 and 8 Groups which bombed through complete cloud cover. 2 Lancasters lost.

4 OTU Whitleys dropped leaflets on French towns without loss.

25 January 1943

12 Bostons bombed Flushing docks; 1 aircraft lost.

26 January 1943

24 Venturas and 12 Bostons to railway targets in France and Belgium but only 12 Venturas reached their targets.

26/27 January 1943

Lorient

Lorient visited gain by 157 aircraft - 139 Wellingtons, 11 Lancasters, 4 Halifaxes, 3 Stirlings - which bombed in poor visibility. 2 Wellingtons and 1 Lancaster lost.

9 Halifaxes of No 6 Group attempted to bomb shipping in the River Gironde; 3 aircraft bombed Bordeaux docks. 18 OTU sorties were flown.

27 January 1943

9 Mosquitos made a successful low-level attack on a diesel engine factory at Copenhagen. 1 aircraft lost.

27/28 January 1943

'Ground marking' used for the first time in a raid on Düsseldorf by 162 aircraft - 124 Lancasters, 33 Halifaxes, 5 Mosquitos. 3 Halifaxes and 3 Lancasters lost, 3.7 per cent of the force.

This was the first occasion when Oboe Mosquitos carried out 'ground marking' - now the standard form of target marking - for the Pathfinders. Other Pathfinder Lancasters 'backed-up' the Oboe-aimed markers. There was a thin sheet of cloud over the target and, without Oboe and the new target indicators, this raid could have almost certainly been another failed attack on the Ruhr. Bombing was well concentrated on the southern part of the city. The local report lists damage at a wide variety of property 66 people were killed and 225 injured.

4 aircraft to Texel and the Frisians minelaying; 1 Stirling lost.

29 January 1943

12 Bostons bombed a railway viaduct at Morlaix and 2 of 12 Venturas dispatched bombed a steelworks at Ijmuiden. 1 Boston lost.

Morlaix Viaduct
Bombs fall on one of the approaches to the Morlaix Viaduct.

29/30 January 1943

75 Wellingtons and 41 Halifaxes of Nos 1, 4 and 6 Groups attcking Lorient encountered thick cloud and icing and, with no Pathfinder marking, the bombing was well scattered . 2 Halifaxes and 2 Wellingtons lost.

17 Wellingtons minelaying off Biscay ports and 5 OTU sorties to France also encountered bad weather. 1 aircraft from each operation was lost.

30 January 1943

2 formations, each of 3 Mosquitos, made dramatic at temps to interrupt large rallies being addressed by Nazi leaders in Berlin on this day. These raids would be the first time the German capital was bombed in daylight.
3 aircraft from No 105 Squadron successfully reached Berlin and bombed in mid-morning at the exact time that Goering was due to speak. The speech was postponed or an hour and all 3 Mosquitos returned safely.
In the afternoon, 3 Mosquitos of No 139 Squadron arrived at the time Goebbels was due to speak and again bombed at the correct time but the German defences were alerted and the aircraft of Squadron Leader DF Darling was shot down. Darling and his navigator, Flying Officer W Wright, were both killed and are now buried in Berlin

19 Wellingtons of No 4 Group and 17 Bostons to many places in Germany and Holland but only 5 Wellingtons and 1 Boston found targets to bomb. 4 Wellingtons lost.

30/31 January 1943

Hamburg; 148 aircraft - 135 Lancasters, 7 Stirlings, 6 Halifaxes - or 1, 5 and No 8 Groups carried out the first H2S attack of the war, with Pathfinder Stirlings and Halifaxes using the new device to mark the target. 5 Lancasters were lost, 3.4 per cent of the force.

Although H2S would later become a more effective device, its use was not successful on this night even though Hamburg, close to a coastline and on a prominent river, was the best type of H2S target. Bombing was scattered over a wide area most of the bombs appear to have fallen in the River Elbe or in the surrounding marshes. However, 119 fires - 71 large - were started; 58 people were killed and 164 injured.

4 Mosquitos to targets in the Ruhr, 17 aircraft minelaying off St Nazaire and in the Frisians. No losses.


The term 'H2S' seemingly had no real meaning, and so could not give away its purpose to German spies. (Many German codenames could, with a little lateral thinking, easily give away the purpose of secret equipment). However, when asked what 'H2S' stood for, the scientists responsible for the equipment replied "Home Sweet Home". After the initial trials of H2S had gone badly during 1942, many, who knew their chemistry commented "'It stinks!". For those that don't, H2S is the formula for Hydrogen Sulphide.

1942 December  1943 February
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