Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary
|Striking the Nazi 'heart'|
99 Lancasters of No 3 Group made G-H attacks through cloud on the Benzol plants at Dortmund and Castrop-Rauxel. Bombing appeared to be accurate at both targets. 1 Lancaster lost from the Dortmund raid.
3 Oboe Mosquitos each to the railway yards at Ludwigshafen and Neuss. No aircraft lost.
1 Hudson flew on a Resistance operation.
Royan: 347 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 5 and 8 Groups. 4 Lancasters were lost and 2 more collided behind Allied lines in France and crashed.
This was a tragic raid with a strange - and disputed - background. Royan was a town situated at the mouth of the River Gironde in which a stubborn German garrison was still holding out, preventing the Allies from using the port of Bordeaux. The task of besieging the town had been given to 12,000 men of the French Resistance commanded by Free French officers appointed by General de Gaulle. The commander of the German garrison recognized the Resistance units as regular forces and the normal rules of warfare were observed. The French, lacking artillery, made little progress with their siege. The German commander gave the inhabitants of the town the opportunity to leave but many preferred to stay in order to look after their homes. It is believed that there were 2,000 civilians at the time of the raid.
On 10 December 1944, a meeting took place at the town of Cognac between French officers and an American officer from one of the tactical air force units in France. After a meal, at which much alcohol is supposed to have been consumed, the American officer suggested that the German garrison at Royan should be 'softened up' by bombing. He was assured by the French that the only civilians remaining in the town were collaborators - which was not correct. The suggestion that the town be bombed was passed to SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force), which decided that the task should be given to Bomber Command: 'To destroy town strongly defended by enemy and occupied by German troops only.' It is said that SHAEF ordered a last-minute cancellation because of doubts about the presence of French civilians but the order, if issued, was not received by Bomber Command in time.
The attack was carried out by 2 waves of bombers, in good visibility conditions, in the early hours of 5 January. 1,576 tons of high-explosive bombs - including 285 'blockbuster' (4,OOOlb bombs) - were dropped. Local reports show that between 85 and 90 per cent of the small town was destroyed. The number of French civilians killed is given as '500 to 700' and as '800' by different sources. Many of the casualties were suffered in the second part of the raid, which took place an hour after the first and caught many people out in the open trying to rescue the victims of the first wave of the bombing trapped in their houses. The number of Germans killed is given as 35 to 50. A local truce was arranged and, for the next 10 days, there was no fighting while the search for survivors in wrecked houses continued.
There were many recriminations. Bomber Command was immediately exonerated. The American air-force officer who passed on the original suggestion to SHAEFwas removed from his command. The bitterest disputes took place among the Free French officers and accusations and counter-accusations continued for many years after the war. A French general committed suicide. De Gaulle, in his Memoires, blamed the Americans: 'American bombers, on their own initiative, came during the night and dropped a mass of bombs.' The German garrison did not surrender until 18 April.
66 Mosquitos to Berlin and 7 to Neuss, 2 Halifax RCM sorties. No aircraft lost.
Some of the Light Night Striking Force (No 8 Group) Mosquitos which attacked Berlin on this night flew 2 sorties each. These Mosquitos took off in the early evening, bombed Berlin returned and changed crews, and then flew to Berlin again. This method of augmenting the Mosquito campaign against Berlin was used several times during the long nights of midwinter.
160 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked the railway-yards at Ludwigshafen. 2 Lancasters lost.
1 Hudson flew a Resistance operation.
Hannover: 664 aircraft - 340 Halifaxes, 310 Lancasters, 14 Mosquitos - of Nos 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups. 23 Halifaxes and 8 Lancasters lost, 4.7 per cent of the force. This was the first large raid on Hannover since October 1943.
131 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitos of No 5 Group attacked Houffalize, a bottleneck in the German supply system in the Ardennes. The target was bombed with great accuracy. 2 Lancasters lost.
69 Mosquitos to Berlin, 8 to Neuss and 6 to Castrop-Rauxel, 58 RCM sorties, 55 Mosquito patrols. 4 Mosquitos lost, 2 from the Berlin raid and 2 from No 100 Group.
Total effort for the night: 1,000 sorties, 37 aircraft (3.7 per cent) lost.
1 Hudson flew a Resistance operation.
Hanau: 482 aircraft - 314 Halifaxes, 154 Lancasters, 14 Mosquitos - of Nos 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups. 4 Halifaxes and 2 Lancasters lost. The attack was aimed at that part of Hanau in which an important junction in the German railway system was situated. The local report says that many bombs did fall in this area but also states that a large proportion of the bombing was scattered in the south - into the centre of Hanau - and to the north - into an area of countryside and villages.
Neuss: 147 Lancasters of Nos 1 and No 3 Groups. 1 Lancaster crashed in Belgium. As in Hanau, some of the bombing fell into the railway area but most was scattered over surrounding districts. 1,749 houses, 19 industrial premises and 20 public buildings were destroyed or seriously damaged.
20 Mosquitos to Kassel (a 'spoof' raid) and 6 to Castrop-Rauxel, 52 RCM sorties, 32 Mosquito patrols, 49 Lancasters minelaying off Baltic ports. 2 RCM Halifaxes and 2 Lancaster minelayers lost.Total effort for the night: 788 sorties, 11 aircraft (1.4 per cent) lost.
645 Lancasters and 9 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3, 5, 6 and 8 Groups to Munich. 11 Lancasters lost and 4 more crashed in France. Bomber Command claimed a successful area raid, with the central and some industrial areas being severely damaged. This was the last major raid on Munich.
54 Mosquitos to Hannover, 18 to Nuremberg and 12 to Hanau, 39 RCM sorties, 45 Mosquito patrols. 2 Mosquitos lost - 1 from the Hannover raid and a No 100 Group aircraft.
The last Bomber Command Wellington operation was flown on this night by Flying Officer BH Stevens and his crew of No 192 Squadron. The Wellington was on an RCM flight over the North Sea 'to investigate enemy beam signals connected with the launching of flying bombs and believed to emanate from marker buoys'. Bad weather over the North Sea caused the flight to be curtailed but the Wellington landed safely, the last of more than 47,000 sorties carried out by this type of aircraft in Bomber Command.
Total effort for the night: 822 sorties, 17 aircraft (2.1 per cent) lost.
50 Mosquitos to Hannover and 3 each to Cologne, Koblenz, Mannheim and Wiesbaden. No aircraft lost.
152 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H raid on the railway yard in the Uerdingen suburb of Krefeld. No aircraft lost.
1 Stirling flew on a Resistance operation.
32 Lancasters and 1 Mosquito of Nos 9 and 617 Squadrons attacked U-boat pens and shipping in Bergen harbour. 3 Lancasters of No 617 Squadron and 1 from No 9 Squadron were lost; the Germans told the local people that 11 bombers had been shot down. A local report says that 3 Tallboys penetrated the 3½-metre-thick roof of the pens and caused severe damage to workshops, offices and stores inside.
2 Mosquito fighters of No 100 Group flew long-range escort for an air-sea rescue operation and 2 Stirlings flew RCM sorties, all without loss.
11 Mosquitos to Bochum and 9 to Recklinghausen, both forces to bomb synthetic-benzol plants, and 32 Halifaxes minelaying off Flensburg and Kiel. 4 Halifaxes lost.
158 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked the railway yards at Saarbrücken. The bombing appeared to be accurate, though with some overshooting. 1 Lancaster crashed in France.
1 Hudson flew on a Resistance operation.
Saarbrücken: 274 aircraft - 242 Halifaxes, 20 Lancasters, 12 Mosquitos - of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups. 1 Halifax crashed in France. Bomber Command assessed this raid, on the railway yards, as being extremely accurate and effective.
Politz: 218 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos of No 5 Group attacked this oil plant, near Stettin. 2 Lancasters lost. This raid had been planned as a blind-bombing attack but, because the weather conditions were better than forecast, low-level marking was carried out and very accurate bombing followed. Bomber Command, on the basis of photographic reconnaissance, states that the oil plant was 'reduced to a shambles'.
19 RCM sorties, 22 Mosquito patrols, 10 Lancasters minelaying off Swinemünde. 1 Mosquito of l00 Group lost.
Total effort for the night: 550 sorties, 4 aircraft (O.7 per cent) lost.
134 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked the railway yards at Saarbrücken in clear visibility and without loss.
573 Lancasters and 14 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 5. 6 and 8 Groups carried out two attacks, 3 hours apart, on the synthetic oil plant at Leuna. The attacks caused severe damage throughout the plant. Albert Speer, in his post-war interrogations, stated that this was one of a group of most damaging raids on the synthetic-oil industry carried out during this period. 10 Lancasters lost.
151 aircraft - 136 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitos, 3 Lancasters - of Nos 6 and 8 Groups attacked the railway yards at Grevenbroich. The raid was successful and no aircraft were lost.
115 aircraft - 100 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitos, 3 Lancasters - of Nos 4 and 8 Groups attempted to bomb a Luftwaffe fuel-storage depot at Dülmen, near Münster, but most of the bombing fell in open country south and south-east of the target. Only slight damage was caused to the fuel dump. 1 Halifax lost.
Support and 126 training aircraft on a diversionary sweep over the North Sea, 83 Mosquitos to Berlin and 9 to Mannheim, 58 RCM sorties, 54 Mosquito patrols, 21 Halifaxes and 10 Lancasters minelaying off Oslo and in the Kattegat. 1 Lancaster from the diversionary sweep and 1 Mosquito of No 100 Group were lost; 3 Mosquitos from the Berlin raid crashed in Belgium and 1 RCM Liberator crashed in Holland. A further 7 aircraft from the sweep and 5 Mosquitos from the Berlin raid crashed in England because of bad weather.
Total effort for the night: 1,214 sorties, 17 aircraft (1.4 per cent) lost and 14 aircraft crashed in England.
|Oil plant at Leuna|
82 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked a benzol plant at Recklinghausen. The bombing appeared to be excellent. No aircraft lost.
63 Lancasters of No 3 Group carried out a G-H raid through thick cloud on the Robert Muser benzol plant at Bochum. No results known. No aircraft lost.
1 Hudson on a Resistance operation.
371 aircraft - 320 Halifaxes, 44 Lancasters, 7 Mosquitos - of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups dispatched to Magdeburg. 17 Halifaxes lost, 4.6 per cent of the total force, 5.3 per cent of the Halifax force. This was an area raid. Bomber Command claimed that it was successful, with 44 per cent of the built-up area being destroyed. No local report is available.
Zeitz: 328 Lancasters of Nos 1, 6 and 8 Groups. 10 Lancasters lost, 3.0 per cent of the force. The target was the Braunkohle-Benzin synthetic-oil plant near Leipzig. Much damage was caused to the northern half of the plant.
231 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitos of Nos 1 and No 5 Groups attacked a synthetic-oil plant at Brüx in Western Czechoslovakia. The raid was a complete success. Speer also mentioned this raid as causing a particularly severe setback to oil production. 1 Lancaster lost.
138 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked the benzol plant at Wanne-Eickel. No results known. 1 Lancaster lost.
17 Mosquitos to Mannheim and 9 to Hamburg, 55 RCM sortie Mosquito patrols, 23 Halifaxes and 8 Lancasters minelaying off Oslo and in the Kattegat. 1 Mosquito of No 100 Group lost.
Total effort for the night: 1,238 sorties, 30 aircraft (2.4 per cent) lost.
1 Hudson on a Resistance operation.
72 Mosquitos to Magdeburg, 8 to Ruthen oil-storage depot and 3 each to Cologne, Frankfurt, Koblenz and Mannheim, 33 RCM sorties, 13 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
56 Mosquitos to Sterkrade oil refinery, 12 each, on H2S trials, to Düsseldorf, Kassel and Koblenz and 7 to Ruthen oil depot. 1 Mosquito from the Sterkrade raid crashed in Belgium.
76 Mosquitos to Kassel and 4 to Mainz, 23 RCM sorties, 9 Mosquito patrols, 2 Hudsons on Resistance operations. 1 Mosquito lost from the Kassel raid.
1 Halifax flew an RCM sortie.
Duisburg: 286 Lancasters and 16 Mosquitos of Nos 1, 3 and 8 Groups. 2 Lancasters lost. This raid was intended for the benzol plant in the Bruckhausen district of Duisburg. This target was identified visually by moonlight and much damage was inflicted on it. Further bombing also hit the nearby Thyssen steelworks, either by misidentification or by a simple spread of the bombing. Duisburg's local report assumed that the steelworks were the primary target and stated that 500 high explosive bombs fell on the Thyssen premises.
Gelsenkirchen: 152 aircraft - 107 Halifaxes, 29 Lancasters, 16 Mosquitos - of Nos 4, 5 and 8 Groups. No aircraft lost. This was a small area-bombing raid. The Bomber Command report states that 'moderate' damage was caused to residential and industrial areas.
48 Mosquitos to Hannover and 6 to Dortmund, 50 RCM sorties, 40 Mosquito patrols. No aircraft lost.
Total effort for the night: 598 sorties, 2 aircraft (0.3 per cent) lost.
8 Mosquitos bombed the Castrop-Rauxel synthetic-oil refinery without loss.
1 Lightning of No 100 Group flew on a signals-investigations patrol.
12 Mosquitos to Berlin: 8 bombed this target and 3 bombed alternative targets. No aircraft lost.
153 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked the railway yards at Cologne/Gremberg in conditions of good visibility. Some of the bombing fell on the target but some overshot. 3 Lancasters were lost and 1 crashed in France.
602 aircraft - 316 Halifaxes, 258 Lancasters, 28 Mosquitos - of Nos 1, 4, 6 and 8 Groups dispatched to 2 targets in the Stuttgart area. 11 aircraft - 6 Lancasters, 4 Halifaxes, 1 Mosquito - lost. This raid was split into 2 parts, with a 3-hour interval. The first force - 226 aircraft - was directed against the important railway yards at Kornwestheim, a town to the north of Stuttgart, and the second was against the north-western Stuttgart suburb of Zuffenhausen, where the target is believed to have been the Hirth aero-engine factory. The target area was mostly cloud-covered for both raids and the bombing, on skymarkers, was scattered. Bombs fell in many parts of Stuttgart's northern and western suburbs. The important Bosch works, in the suburb of Feuerbach, was hit. A large number of bombs fell outside Stuttgart, particularly in the east around a decoy fire site which was also firing dummy target-indicator rockets into the air. The village of Weilimdorf, situated not far away, complained bitterly about its damage and casualties! This was the last large RAF raid on Stuttgart. Stuttgart's experience was not as severe as other German cities. Its location, spread out in a series of deep valleys, had consistently frustrated the Pathfinders and the shelters dug into the sides of the surrounding hills had saved many lives.
67 Mosquitos to Berlin and 8 to Mainz (a 'spoof' raid for the Stuttgart attacks), 51 RCM sorties, 36 Mosquito patrols, 6 Lancasters of No 1 Group minelaying in the Kattegat. 1 Mosquito of No 100 Group crashed in France.
Total effort for the night: 770 sorties, 12 aircraft (1.6 per cent) lost.
148 Lancasters of No 3 Group attacked the Uerdingen railway yards at Krefeld without loss. Bombing was claimed to be accurate but a short Krefeld report states that bombs fell over a wide area.
59 Mosquitos; 50 aircraft reached and bombed Berlin without loss.
8 Mosquitos to the Hansa benzol plant at Dortmund and 6 Mosquitos to Duisburg. 1 aircraft from the Dortmund raid crashed in Holland.
The weather started to improve at the beginning of February and Bomber Command commenced an almost unbroken period of operations of the most intense and concentrated nature which would continue until a halt was called to the strategic-bombing offensive in April. The first round of raids, however, was not very effective because of poor weather at the targets.
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