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Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary


Campaign Diary
March 1944

 

Day Operations, 1-16 March 1944

On 5 days during this period, 2 Bomber Command Oboe Mosquitos acted as 'formation leaders' for bomber units of the Second Tactical Air Force attacking flying-bomb sites. The formation bombed as soon as it saw the bombs of the Oboe Mosquito being released. There were no losses from the 10 Bomber Command sorties flown in this period.

1/2 March 1944

Stuttgart: 557 aircraft - 415 Lancasters, 129 Halifaxes, 13 Mosquitos. Thick cloud on the routes to and from the target made it difficult for the German fighters to get into the bomber stream and only 4 aircraft - 3 Lancasters and 1 Halifax - were lost, 0.7 per cent of the force.

18 Mosquitos to airfields in Holland, 11 Mosquitos on a diversion raid to Munich, 6 RCM sorties, 10 Serrate patrols. No aircraft lost.

1 Mosquito to a flying-bomb site, 10 Halifaxes and 1 Stirling on Resistance operations, 16 OTU sorties. No losses.

Total effort for the night: 630 sorties, 4 aircraft (0.6 per cent) lost.

2/3 March 1944

117 Halifaxes and 6 Mosquitos of 4, 6 and 8 Groups to attack the SNCA aircraft factory at Meulan-Les-Meureaux, 15 miles outside Paris. The Oboe marking was accurate and the Halifaxes seriously damaged the factory buildings. No aircraft lost.

15 Lancasters of No 617 Squadron carried out a successful raid on an aircraft factory at Albert in France, 13 Mosquitos to 3 targets in Germany and a flying-bomb site, 2 RCM sorties, 8 Serrate patrols, 8 Stirlings minelaying off French Channel ports, 44 aircraft on Resistance operations, 10 OTU sorties.

3/4 March 1944

16 Mosquitos to Berlin, 10 to Düsseldorf, 1 to Krefeld and 2 to Sottevaast flying-bomb site, 45 aircraft minelaying off French ports, 9 OTU sorties. No losses.

3 Wellington minelaying sorties flown on this night by 300 (Polish) Squadron, based at Ingham, were the last Wellington operations flown by a normal Bomber Command squadron; RCM squadrons of No 100 Group would continue to use Wellingtons in small numbers for several months and the OTUs would use Wellingtons until the end of the war.

4/5 March 1944

Mosquito operations: 15 to Berlin, 6 to Duisburg, 1 to Aachen and 1 to Sottevaast, 10 Halifaxes minelaying off Brest, 76 aircraft on Resistance operations. 15 Lancasters of No 617 Squadron were unable to locate their target, the La Ricamerie needle-bearing factory near Lyons, because of cloud, and returned without bombing. No aircraft lost.

5/6 March 1944

9 Mosquitos to Duisburg and 1 to Aachen, 4 RCM sorties, 4 Serrate patrols, 49 Stirlings and 17 Halifaxes on Resistance operations. 1 aircraft, believed to be a Halifax, was lost on one of the Resistance flights.

6/7 March 1944

261 Halifaxes and 6 Mosquitos of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups on the first of a series of raids on railway targets in France and Belgium in preparation for the invasion. No aircraft lost.

15 Mosquitos to Hannover, 6 to Kiel and 1 to Krefeld, 1 RCM sortie, 30 aircraft on Resistance operations. No losses.

Preparing the bomb loads
Sticks of incendiaries being prepared for an operation in early March 1944. Bombs and incendiaries being loaded into the wing-cells of a Halifax.

7/8 March 1944

304 aircraft - 242 Halifaxes, 56 Lancasters, 6 Mosquitos - of Nos 3, 4, 6 and 8 Groups to Le Mans. No aircraft lost. The target was cloud-covered but heavy damage to the railway yards was believed to have been caused. Approximately 300 bombs fell in the railway yards; 250 wagons were destroyed, many railway lines were cut, a turntable was put out of action and 6 locomotives were hit.

15 Mosquitos to 4 German targets, 6 RCM sorties, 1 Serrate patrol, 51 aircraft on Resistance operations, 6 OTU sorties. No losses.

9/10 March 1944

44 Lancasters of No 5 Group attacked an aircraft factory at Marignane near Marseilles and carried out an accurate raid in bright moonlight. No aircraft lost.

8 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf, 2 Serrate patrols. No losses.

10/11 March 1944

102 Lancasters of No 5 Group carried out moonlight raids on 4 factories in France -33 aircraft to the Michelin works at Clermont-Ferrand, 30 to an aircraft factory at Châteauroux, 23 to Ossun and 16 (from 617 Squadron) to the La Ricamerie factory. All targets were successfully bombed. 1 Lancaster lost from the Clermont-Ferrand raid.

29 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 93 aircraft on Resistance operations. No losses.

11/12 March 1944

47 Mosquitos to 6 German cities, with the largest raid being by 20 aircraft to Hamburg, 4 Serrate patrols, 43 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off Brest and Biscay ports, 22 aircraft on Resistance operations, 21 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

12/13 March 1944

14 Mosquitos, 11 to Aachen and 3 to Duisburg; none lost.

13/14 March 1944

213 Halifaxes and 9 Mosquitos of Nos 4,6 and 8 Groups on a repeat raid to Le Mans. 1 Halifax lost. The local report shows that the Maroc Station and two nearby factories were severely damaged, with many lines being cut and 15 locomotives and 800 wagons being destroyed.

39 Mosquitos to 5 German targets, with the largest raid being by 26 aircraft to Frankfurt, 4 RCM sorties, 4 Serrate patrols, 25 Stirlings and 10 Halifaxes minelaying off French Channel ports, 19 aircraft on Resistance operations, 21 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

14/15 March 1944

30 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf, 2 Mosquitos on RCM sorties, 3 Halifaxes on Resistance operations. No losses.

15/16 March 1944

863 aircraft - 617 Lancasters, 230 Halifaxes, 16 Mosquitos - ordered to attack Stuttgart. The German fighter controller split his forces into 2 parts. The bomber force flew over France nearly as far as the Swiss frontier before turning north-east to approach Stuttgart. This delayed the German fighters contacting the bomber stream but, when the German fighters did arrive, just before the target was reached, the usual fierce combats ensued. 37 aircraft - 27 Lancasters, 10 Halifaxes - were lost, 4.3 per cent of the force. 2 of the Lancasters force-landed in Switzerland. Adverse winds delayed the opening of the attack and the same winds may have been the cause of the Pathfinder marking falling back well short of the target, despite the clear weather conditions. Some of the early bombing fell in the centre of Stuttgart but most of it fell in open country south-west of the city. The Akademie was damaged in the centre of Stuttgart and some housing was destroyed in the south-western suburbs.

140 aircraft - 94 Halifaxes, 38 Stirlings, 8 Mosquitos - attacked railway yards at Amiens. 2 Halifaxes and 1 Stirling lost.

22 Lancasters of No 5 Group to an aero-engine factory at Woippy, near Metz. 10/10ths cloud caused the attack to be abandoned before any bombs were dropped. No aircraft lost.

17 Mosquitos to 5 German targets and 10 Mosquitos to airfields in Holland, 2 RCM sorties, 11 Serrate patrols, 2 Stirlings minelaying off Texel, 31 aircraft on Resistance operations, 18 OTU sorties. 1 Serrate Mosquito lost.

Total effort for the night: 1,116 sorties, 41 aircraft (3.7 per cent) lost. The number of sorties flown on this night was a new record.

16/17 March 1944

130 aircraft - 81 Halifaxes, 41 Stirlings, 8 Mosquitos - repeated the previous night's attack on Amiens. No aircraft lost. The Bomber Command report again reported successful bombing.

21 Lancasters of No 5 Group, mostly from 617 Squadron, carried out a successful precision attack on the Michelin tyre factory at Clermont-Ferrand. No aircraft lost.

8 Mosquitos to Cologne and 1 to Duisburg (only Cologne was bombed), 2 RCM sorties, 2 Serrate patrols, 3 Stirlings minelaying off the Dutch coast. No losses.

Amiens/Longeau Marshalling Yards
After attacks by Bomber Command on consecutive nights, this was all that remained at Amiens when photographed on 23 March.

17/18 March 1944

28 Mosquitos to Cologne and 2 to Aachen, 1 Mosquito on RCM sortie. No losses.

18/19 March 1944

846 aircraft - 620 Lancasters, 209 Halifaxes, 17 Mosquitos - to Frankfurt. The German fighter force was again split. One part was lured north by the Heligoland mining operation but the second part waited in Germany and met the bomber stream just before the target was reached, although cloud made it difficult for these fighters to achieve much success. 22 aircraft - 12 Halifaxes, 10 Lancasters - were lost, 2.6 per cent of the force. The Pathfinders marked the target accurately and this led to heavy bombing of eastern, central and western districts of Frankfurt. The later phases of the bombing were scattered but this was almost inevitable with such a large force; new crews were usually allocated to the final waves.

17 Mosquitos to airfields in Holland, Belgium and France, 98 aircraft on minelaying diversion in the Heligoland area, 11 Mosquitos on a diversion raid to Kassel, 4 RCM sorties, 13 Serrate patrols. No aircraft were lost and the Serrate Mosquitos claimed 3 Ju88s destroyed.

19 Lancasters of No 5 Group (including 13 aircraft from No 617 Squadron) on an accurate raid of an explosives factory at Bergerac in France, 12 Mosquitos to Aachen, Dortmund and Duisburg, 8 aircraft on Resistance operations, 18 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

Total effort for the night: 1,046 sorties, 22 aircraft (2.1 per cent) lost.

19/20 March 1944

21 Mosquitos - 9 to Berlin, 8 to Düsseldorf and 4 to Aachen, 4 RCM sorties, 3 Serrate patrols, 19 Stirlings minelaying off Dutch and French coasts, 6 OTU sorties. 1 RCM Wellington lost.

20/21 March 1944

20 Lancasters of No 5 Group - 14 from No 617 Squadron - bombed an explosives factory at Angoulême; 25 Mosquitos attacked 5 targets in Germany, the largest raid being by 12 aircraft to Munich, and 9 aircraft flew on Resistance operations. No aircraft lost.

21/22 March 1944

Mosquitos: 27 to Cologne, 6 to Aachen and 3 to Oberhausen, 1 RCM sortie, 3 Serrate patrols, 18 aircraft minelaying off Channel and Biscay coasts, 4 OTU sorties. No losses.

22/23 March 1944

Frankfurt: 816 aircraft - 620 Lancasters, 184 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitos. Again, an indirect route was employed, this time crossing the Dutch coast north of the Zuider Zee and then flying almost due south to Frankfurt. This, and the Kiel minelaying diversion, confused the Germans for some time; Hannover was forecast as the main target. Only a few fighters eventually found the bomber stream. 33 aircraft - 26 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes - were lost, 4.0 per cent of the force.

The marking and bombing were accurate and Frankfurt suffered another heavy blow; the city's records show that the damage was even more severe than in the raid carried out 4 nights earlier. Half of the city was without gas, water and electricity 'for a long period'. All parts of the city were hit but the greatest weight of the attack fell in the western districts. The report particularly mentions severe damage to the industrial areas along the main road to Mainz. 162 B-17s of the Eighth Air Force used Frankfurt as a secondary target when they could not reach Schweinfurt 36 hours after this RAF raid and caused further damage. The Frankfurt diary has this entry: "The three air raids of 18th, 22nd and 24th March were carried out by a combined plan of the British and American air forces and their combined effect was to deal the worst and most fateful blow of the war to Frankfurt, a blow which simply ended the existence of the Frankfurt which had been built up since the Middle Ages."

20 Mosquitos bombing night-fighter airfields, 128 Halifaxes and 18 Stirlings minelaying in Kiel Bay and off Denmark, 22 Mosquitos on diversion and harassing raids to Berlin, Dortmund, Hannover and Oberhausen, 16 RCM sorties and 16 Serrate patrols. 1 Halifax minelayer lost.

20 OTU Wellingtons carried out leaflet flights to France without loss.

Total effort for the night: 1,056 sorties, 34 aircraft (3.2 per cent) lost.

23/24 March 1944

143 aircraft - 83 Halifaxes, 48 Stirlings, 12 Mosquitos - of Nos 3,4,6 and 8 Groups to Laon. 2 Halifaxes lost. The weather in the target area was clear but the Master Bomber ordered the attack to be stopped after 72 aircraft had bombed. The local report states that about half of the bombs hit the railway yards but the remainder were scattered in an area up to 3 km from the target. The bombing did cut the through lines but these were repaired the following day. 83 houses around the station were hit but only 7 civilians were killed and 9 injured because most of the people who lived near the station moved to other parts of Laon at night.

20 Lancasters of No 5 Group, including No 617 Squadron, bombed an aero-engine factory near Lyons without loss.

13 Mosquitos to Dortmund and 2 to Oberhausen, 5 RCM sorties, 4 Serrate patrols, 2 Stirlings minelaying off Brittany, 6 OTU sorties. No losses.

24/25 March 1944

811 aircraft - 577 Lancasters, 216 Halifaxes, 18 Mosquitos - to Berlin. 72 aircraft - 44 Lancasters, 28 Halifaxes - lost, 8.9 per cent of the force.

This night became known in Bomber Command as 'the night of the strong winds'. A powerful wind from the north carried the bombers south at every stage of the flight. Not only was this wind not forecast accurately but it was so strong that the various methods available to warn crews of wind changes during the flight failed to detect the full strength of it. The bomber stream became very scattered, particularly on the homeward flight and radar-predicted flak batteries at many places were able to score successes. Part of the bomber force even strayed over the Ruhr defences on the return flight. It is believed that approximately 50 of the 72 aircraft lost were destroyed by flak; most of the remainder were victims of night fighters. Needless to say, the strong winds severely affected the marking with, unusually, markers being carried beyond the target and well out to the south-west of the city.

This was the last major RAF raid on Berlin during the war, although the city would be bombed many times by small forces of Mosquitos.

147 aircraft from training units carried out a diversionary sweep west of Paris; 27 Mosquitos bombed night-fighter airfields and 15 Mosquitos bombed Duisburg, Kiel and Münster; aircraft of No 100 Group flew 4 RCM sorties and 10 Serrate patrols. 1 Serrate Mosquito lost.

9 aircraft dropped supplies to the Resistance without loss.

Total effort for the night: 1,023 sorties, 73 aircraft (7.1 per cent) lost.

25/26 March 1944

192 aircraft - 92 Halifaxes, 47 Lancasters, 37 Stirlings, 16 Mosquitos - attacked railway yards at Aulnoye in France. No aircraft lost.

22 Lancasters of No 5 Group to an aero-engine factory at Lyons, 10 Mosquitos to Berlin and 2 to Hamm, 7 Serrate patrols, 14 Stirlings minelaying in Brittany to the Frisians, 5 OTU sorties. No losses.

26/27 March 1944

Essen: 705 aircraft - 476 Lancasters, 207 Halifaxes, 22 Mosquitos. The sudden switch by Bomber Command to a Ruhr target just across the German frontier caught the German fighter controllers by surprise and only 9 aircraft - 6 Lancasters, 3 Halifaxes - were lost, 1.3 per cent of the force. Essen was covered by cloud but the Oboe Mosquitos marked the target well and this was a successful attack.

109 aircraft - 70 Halifaxes, 32 Stirlings, 7 Mosquitos of Nos 3, 4, 6 and 8 Groups - attacked railway targets at Courtrai. No aircraft lost.

22 Mosquitos to Hannover, 3 to Aachen and 3 to Julianadorp, 8 RCM sorties, 13 Serrate patrols, 20 Stirlings minelaying off French ports, 4 aircraft on Resistance operations, 12 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

Total effort for the night: 899 sorties, 9 aircraft (1.0 per cent) lost.

27/28 March 1944

14 Mosquitos to Duisburg and 3 to Krefeld. No losses.

29/30 March 1944

76 Halifaxes and 8 Mosquitos of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups attacked the railway yards at Vaires, near Paris, in bright moonlight. The bombing was very accurate and 2 ammunition trains which were present blew up. 1 Halifax lost.

19 Lancasters of No 5 Group to the aero-engine factory at Lyons, which was bombed accurately. Mosquitos: 32 to Kiel, where 47 people were killed and 134 were injured, 11 to Krefeld, 5 to Aachen and 4 to Cologne. No losses.

30/31 March 1944

This would normally have been the moon stand-down period for the Main Force, but a raid to the distant target of Nuremberg was planned on the basis of an early forecast that there would be protective high cloud on the outward route, when the moon would be up, but that the target area would be clear for ground-marked bombing. A Meteorological Flight Mosquito carried out a reconnaissance and reported that the protective cloud was unlikely to be present and that there could be cloud over the target, but the raid was not cancelled.

795 aircraft were dispatched - 572 Lancasters, 214 Halifaxes and 9 Mosquitos. The German controller ignored all the diversions and assembled his fighters at 2 radio beacons which happened to be astride the route to Nuremberg. The first fighters appeared just before the bombers reached the Belgian border and a fierce battle in the moonlight lasted for the next hour. 82 bombers were lost on the outward route and near the target. The action was much reduced on the return flight, when most of the German fighters had to land, but 95 bombers were lost in all - 64 Lancasters and 31 Halifaxes, 11.9 per cent of the force dispatched. It was the biggest Bomber Command loss of the war.

Most of the returning crews reported that they had bombed Nuremberg but subsequent research showed that approximately 120 aircraft had bombed Schweinfurt, 50 miles north-west of Nuremberg. This mistake was a result of badly forecast winds causing navigational difficulties. 2 Pathfinder aircraft dropped markers at Schweinfurt. Much of the bombing in the Schweinfurt area fell outside the town and only 2 people were killed in that area. The main raid at Nuremberg was a failure. The city was covered by thick cloud and a fierce cross-wind which developed on the final approach to the target caused many of the Pathfinder aircraft to mark too far to the east. A 10-mile-long creepback also developed into the countryside north of Nuremberg. Both Pathfinders and Main Force aircraft were under heavy fighter attack throughout the raid. Little damage was caused in Nuremberg.

49 Halifaxes minelaying in the Heligoland area, 13 Mosquitos to night-fighter airfields, 34 Mosquitos on diversions to Aachen, Cologne and Kassel, 5 RCM sorties, 19 Serrate patrols. No aircraft lost.

3 Oboe Mosquitos to Oberhausen (where 23 Germans waiting to go into a public shelter were killed by a bomb) and 1 Mosquito to Dortmund, 6 Stirlings minelaying off Texel and Le Havre. 17 aircraft on Resistance operations, 8 OTU sorties. 1 Halifax shot down dropping Resistance agents over Belgium.

Total effort for the night: 950 sorties, 96 aircraft (10.1 per cent) lost.

Pilot Officer Cyril Barton, a Halifax pilot of No 578 Squadron, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross for carrying on to the target in the Nuremberg operation after his bomber was badly damaged in a fighter attack and 3 members of his crew baled out through a communication misunderstanding. Although the navigator and wireless operator were among the men who had parachuted, Barton decided to attempt the return flight to England in spite of the fact that only 3 engines were running. An unexpected wind took the Halifax steadily up the North Sea and it was short of fuel when the English coast was reached near Sunderland. Barton had to make a hurried forced landing when his engines failed through lack of fuel and he died in the crash, but his 3 remaining crew members were only slightly hurt. Pilot Officer Barton's Victoria Cross was the only one awarded during the Battle of Berlin, which had now officially ended.

31 March/1 April 1944

3 Oboe Mosquitos to Essen, 28 aircraft on Resistance operations, 15 OTU sorties. 1 Halifax on a Resistance supply-dropping operation was lost.


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