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Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary


Campaign Diary
November 1943

 

1 November 1943

589 aircraft - 344 Lancasters, 233 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitos ordered to Düsseldorf. 18 aircraft - 11 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes - lost, 3.1 per cent of the force. The main weight of the raid fell in the centre and south of the city with extensive damage both to housing and to industrial premises.

38 Lancaster IIs - Nos 3 and 5 Groups - made the first large-scale test of the G-H blind-bombing device and attempted to bomb the Mannesmann tubular-steel works on the northern outskirts of Düsseldorf while the main raid was taking place. 5 had to return early and 2 more were lost; the equipment in 16 other aircraft failed to function leaving only 15 aircraft to bomb the factory on G-H. The device later became a most useful blind-bombing device when it was produced in sufficient numbers for a major part of Bomber Command to be fitted with it.

52 Lancasters and 10 Mosquitos of No 8 Group carried out a diversionary raid on Cologne without loss.

Other operations were 13 Oboe Mosquitos to a Krupps foundry at Rheinhausen and 2 Mosquitos to Dortmund, 23 aircraft of No 3 Group minelaying in the Frisians, 27 OTU sorties. 1 OTU Whitley lost.

H2S was used for the first time to assist the minelaying force and is an indication that a start had been made in equipping Main Force squadrons with H2S.

A further Victoria Cross was awarded for an action during the Düsseldorf raid. The Lancaster of Flight Lieutenant William Reid, No 61 Squadron, was twice attacked by night fighters before the target was reached. The aircraft suffered extensive damage, which put most of its guns out of action; the navigator was killed and the wireless operator fatally injured. Flight Lieutenant Reid was wounded in both attacks and his flight engineer was also hurt but Reid pressed on for the remaining 200 miles to the target and his bomb aimer, Sergeant LG Rolton, obtained an 'aiming point photograph'. The return flight was full of problems. The cockpit windscreen was shattered and the oxygen supply failed. The pilot lapsed into semi-consciousness and the injured flight engineer, Sergeant JW Norris, had to do some of the flying. Flight Lieutenant Reid recovered to take over for the emergency landing in misty conditions which took place at Shipdham in Norfolk, even though he could not see properly for blood running into his eyes from a head wound. One leg of the Lancaster's under-carriage collapsed but the landing was otherwise successful. Flight Lieutenant Reid was awarded the Victoria Cross but the Squadron Operations Record Book does not say whether other crew members were decorated.

4/5 November 1943

24 Mosquitos attacked a chemical works at Leverkusen, causing fires and a large explosion, 4 Mosquitos to Aachen, 36 aircraft minelaying at various places from Lorient to the Kattegat. 4 minelaying Stirlings lost.

5/6 November 1943

26 Mosquitos made small attacks on Bochum, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Hannover. 27 OTU Wellingtons carried leaflets to France. No aircraft lost.

6/7 November 1943

19 Mosquitos to Bochum, Duisburg and Düsseldorf, 16 Wellingtons minelaying off Texel, Brest, Lorient and St Nazaire, 8 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

7/8 November 1943

6 Mosquitos to Essen, 35 aircraft minelaying off the French coast from Brest to southern Biscay, 7 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

8/9 November 1943

7 Oboe Mosquitos bombed Cologne and Duisburg without loss.

9/10 November 1943

18 Oboe Mosquitos bombed blast furnaces at Bochum and a steelworks at Duisburg. No aircraft lost.

10/11 November 1943

313 Lancasters of 5 and No 8 Groups to attack the railway yards at Modane on the main line between France and Italy. The Pathfinder marking, in difficult conditions, was slightly beyond the target but 200 aircraft brought back photographs to show that their bombs fell within 1 mile of the target and the railway system was seriously damaged.

2 Mosquitos to Dortmund, 7 Stirlings minelaying in the River Gironde and off La Pallice, 20 OTU flights. No aircraft were lost from the 342 sorties flown on this night.

11/12 November 1943

In another attack on the French transport system, 124 Halifaxes and 10 Lancasters of 4,6 and No 8 Groups to bomb marshalling yards at Cannes and railway installations on the main coastal line to Italy. 4 Halifaxes lost.

The night was clear and the Pathfinders marked the target from 5,000ft but the railway yards were not hit at all and the railway workshops suffered only blast damage.

No 617 Squadron resumed operations after its period of high-level training with the new 'Stabilizing Automatic Bomb Sight'. 10 Lancasters each dropped one 12,000lb bomb on the railway viaduct at Anthéor but no hits were recorded

29 Mosquitos to Berlin, Hannover and the Ruhr, 45 aircraft minelaying from Brest to the Frisian Islands, 6 OTU sorties. 1 Halifax and 1 Wellington lost from the minelaying force.

12/13 November 1943

7 Mosquitos attacked Düsseldorf, Essen and Krefeld without loss.

13/14 November 1943

9 Mosquitos to Berlin, 8 Oboe Mosquitos to blast furnaces at Bochum. No losses.

15/16 November 1943

10 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf and 2 to Bonn. 2 aircraft lost, one from each target.

16/17 November 1943

21 Mosquitos to Cologne, Gelsenkirchen and Krefeld, 8 OTU Wellingtons on leaflet flights to France. No losses.

Wellingtons at last light
Wellingtons waiting for the signal to depart.

17/18 November 1943

66 Lancasters and 17 Halifaxes of No 8 Group on a purely H2S blind-bombing raid to Ludwigshafen without any target indicators being dropped. Few details are available about the results of the bombing but it is believed that the attack was accurate and the IG Farben factory was hit. Because of misleading instructions broadcast from England to the German night-fighter pilots, most of the fighter force landed early and only 1 Lancaster was lost.

21 Mosquitos to Berlin, Bochum, Bonn and Duisburg, 4 OTU sorties.

18/19 November 1943

The 'Battle of Berlin' begins

440 Lancasters and 4 Mosquitos were dispatched. Few German fighters intercepted the force. 9 Lancasters were lost, 2.0 per cent of the force. Berlin was completely cloud-covered and both marking and bombing were carried out blindly; Bomber Command could make no assessment of the results.

Major diversionary raid on Mannheim and Ludwigshafen by 395 aircraft - 248 Halifaxes, 114 Stirlings, 33 Lancasters - of Nos 3, 4, 6 and 8 Groups. German fighters successfully engaged the bomber force and 23 aircraft - 12 Halifaxes, 9 Stirlings, 2 Lancasters - were lost, 5.8 per cent of the force.

Cloud was present over the target area and much of the bombing was scattered. 21 people were killed, 154 injured and 7,500 bombed out. Many bombs fell outside the city and the local report lists much damage and loss at farms.This was the last major raid on the much-bombed city of Mannheim for 15 months.

10 Mosquitos to Essen, 6 to Aachen and 6 to Frankfurt, 16 Wellingtons minelaying from Texel to St Nazaire, 7 OTU sorties.

Total effort for the night: 884 sorties, 32 aircraft (3.6 per cent) lost.

19/20 November 1943

Leverkusen bombed by 266 aircraft - 170 Halifaxes, 86 Stirlings, 10 Mosquitos - of Nos 3,4,6 and 8 Groups. Only 4 Halifaxes and 1 Stirling - 1.9 per cent of the force - lost; very few German fighters were operating, probably because of bad weather at their airfields. Failures of equipment prevented most of the Oboe marking being carried out and other Pathfinder aircraft were unable to mark the target properly in difficult weather conditions, leading to bombs being scattered over a wide area. At least 27 towns, mostly well to the north of Leverkusen, recorded bombs. Leverkusen's own records show only one high-explosive bomb in the town!

6 Mosquitos to Duisburg and 2 to Rheinhausen, 25 aircraft minelaying off Biscay ports, 11 OTU sorties. No losses. Many of the aircraft returning from operations encountered fog conditions on reaching England and 2 Halifaxes and 1 Stirling crashed, but 4 Halifaxes of No 35 Squadron landed safely at Graveley when the first operational use was made of the oil-burning fog dispersal equipment called FIDO (Fog Investigation Dispersal Operation), which was installed at Graveley airfield. Several other airfields were soon fitted with this useful device.

22/23 November 1943

Berlin attacked by 764 aircraft - 469 Lancasters, 234 Halifaxes, 50 Stirlings, 11 Mosquitos. This was the greatest force sent to Berlin so far but it was also the last raid in which Stirlings were sent to Germany. Bad weather again kept most of the German fighters on the ground and the bomber force was able to take a relatively 'straight in, straight out' route to the target without suffering undue loss. 26 aircraft - 11 Lancasters, 10 Halifaxes, 5 Stirlings - were lost, 3.4 per cent of the force. Berlin was again completely cloud-covered and returning crews could only estimate that the marking and bombing were believed to be accurate, In fact, this was the most effective raid on Berlin of the war. A vast area of destruction stretched from the central districts westwards across the mainly residential areas of Tiergarten and Charlottenburg to the separate suburb city of Spandau. Because of the dry weather conditions, several 'firestorm' areas were reported and a German plane next day measured the height of the smoke cloud as 6,000 metres (nearly 19,000 ft).

It was estimated that 175,000 people were bombed out. Interesting entries among the lists of buildings destroyed or severely damaged are: the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church which is now, half ruined, half restored, a major attraction in West Berlin), the Charlottenburg Castle, the Berlin Zoo, much of the Unter den Linden, the British, French, Italian and Japanese embassies, the Ministry of Weapons and Munitions, the Waffen SS Administrative College, the barracks of the Imperial Guard at Spandau and, among many industrial premises, 5 factories of the Siemens electrical group and the Alkett tank works which had recently moved from the Ruhr.

12 Mosquitos to Leverkusen, 14 Wellingtons minelaying in the Frisians and off Texel, 12 OTU sorties.

23/24 November 1943

383 aircraft - 365 Lancasters, 10 Halifaxes, 8 Mosquitos - to continue the attack on Berlin. The bombing force used the same direct route as had been employed on the previous night. The German controllers made an early identification of Berlin as the probable target; their single-engined fighters were gathered over the city before the arrival of the bombers and other fighters arrived a few minutes later. Fake instructions broadcast from England caused much annoyance to the German who was giving the 'running commentary'; the Germans started using a female commentator but this was promptly countered by a female voice from England ordering the German pilots to land because of fog at their bases. 'Spoof' fighter flares dropped by Mosquitos north of the bomber stream also caused some diversion of German effort. Bomber crews noticed that flak over the target was unusually restrained, with the German fighters obviously being given priority. 20 aircraft - all Lancasters - were lost, 5.2 per cent of the bomber force. The target was again cloud-covered and the Pathfinders carried out skymarking, but many of the Main Force crews aimed their bombs through the cloud at the glow of 11 major fires still burning from the previous night. Much further destruction was caused in Berlin.

6 Oboe Mosquitos attacked the Knapsack power-station near Cologne without loss.

24/25 November 1943

6 Mosquitos bombed Berlin through cloud and 9 OTU Wellingtons took leaflets to France. 1 Mosquito lost.

25/26 November 1943

262 aircraft - 236 Halifaxes and 26 Lancasters - of Nos 4, 6 and 8 Groups to Frankfurt. As on the previous night, there were no major diversions and the bomber force took a relatively direct route to the target. The German controller did not know whether Mannheim or Frankfurt was the real objective but he eventually chose Frankfurt, where the flak was restricted to 15,000 ft. 12 bombers - 11 Halifaxes and 1 Lancaster - lost, 4.6 per cent of the force.

3 Mosquitos to Berlin, 48 aircraft minelaying off Brest and Texel and in the Frisians, 28 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

26/27 November 1943

443 Lancasters and 7 Mosquitos to Berlin and Stuttgart (diversion). Both forces flew a common route over Northern France and on nearly to Frankfurt before diverging. The German controllers thought that Frankfurt was the main target until a late stage and several bombers were shot down as they flew past Frankfurt. Only a few fighters appeared over Berlin, where flak was the main danger, but the scattered condition of the bomber stream at Berlin meant that bombers were caught by fighters off track on the return flight and the casualties mounted. 28 Lancasters were lost, 6.2 per cent of the force, and 14 more Lancasters crashed in England. The weather was clear over Berlin but, after their long approach flight from the south, the Pathfinders marked an area 6-7 miles north-west of the city centre and most aircraft bombed there. Because of Berlin's size, however, most of the bombing still fell within the city boundaries and particularly on the semi-industrial suburb of Reinickendorf; smaller amounts of bombing fell in the centre and in the Siemensstadt (with many electrical factories) and Tegel districts. The Berlin Zoo was heavily bombed on this night. Many of the animals had been evacuated to zoos in other parts of Germany but the bombing killed most of the remainder. Several large and dangerous animals - leopards, panthers, jaguars, apes - escaped and had to be hunted and shot in the streets.

The diversionary raid on Stuttgart was carried out by 157 Halifaxes and 21 Lancasters. 6 Halifaxes lost, 3.4 per cent of the force. The bombing was very scattered and caused little damage but part of the night-fighter force was drawn off from the Berlin operation.

19 Stirlings and 14 Wellingtons minelaying off Texel and in the Frisians, 5 OTU sorties.

Total effort for the night: 666 sorties, 34 aircraft (5.1 per cent) lost.

28/29 November 1943

10 Mosquitos to Essen and 1 to Duisburg, 10 aircraft minelaying off Brest and Cherbourg, 7 OTU sorties.

29/30 November 1943

21 Mosquitos to Bochurn, Cologne and Düsseldorf, 9 OTU sorties.

30 November/1 December 1943

No 192 Squadron, flying from Foulsham, inaugurated No 100 (Bomber Support) Group's operations by dispatching 4 Wellingtons on radio-countermeasures (RCM) flights. No aircraft lost.

4 Mosquitos to Essen, 29 Stirlings and 15 Wellingtons minelaying off French coast, 7 OTU sorties.


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