Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary
|Wellingtons at last light|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6 Mosquitos bombed Berlin through cloud and 9 OTU Wellingtons took leaflets to France. 1 Mosquito lost.
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.
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.
10 Mosquitos to Essen and 1 to Duisburg, 10 aircraft minelaying off Brest and Cherbourg, 7 OTU sorties.
21 Mosquitos to Bochurn, Cologne and Düsseldorf, 9 OTU sorties.
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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