Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary
Minelaying: 60 aircraft to coastal areas between Texel and the River Gironde. 2 Wellingtons and 1 Lancaster lost.
6 Mosquitos to the Ruhr without loss. The aircraft which bombed Essen scored direct hits in the middle of the main Krupps factory.
10 Mosquitos of No 139 Squadron carried out a long-range raid on the important molybdenum mine at Knaben in Norway. The target was successfully bombed but 1 Mosquito was shot down by FW 190s.
Hamburg. 417 aircraft - 149 Lancasters, 123 Wellingtons, 83 Halifaxes, 62 Stirlings despatched with 10 aircraft - 4 Lancasters, 2 Wellingtons, 2 Halifaxes, 2 Stirlings - lost, 2.4 per cent of the force. Visibility was clear over the target but the Pathfinders made a mistake, possibly thinking that the H2S indications of mudbanks in the Elbe which had been uncovered by the low tides were sections of the Hamburg docks. Most of the Main Force bombing thus fell 13 miles downstream from the centre of Hamburg, around the small town of Wedel. Even so, a proportion of the bombing force did hit Hamburg which suffered 27 people killed and 95 injured and whose fire brigade had to put out 100 fires before devoting all its energies to helping the town of Wedel, which suffered so heavily. The damage at Wedel included a large naval-clothing store burnt out as well as several important industrial concerns destroyed in Wedel's harbour area and this illustrated another Bomber Command view: that bombing could usually be useful even if the wrong target was hit.
5 Mosquitos to the Ruhr, with more direct hits on Krupps, 14 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians, 5 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.
12 Mosquitos attacked railway targets at Arnage and Aulnoye without loss.
6 Mosquitos to the Ruhr, 27 aircraft minelaying in areas as far south as Bayonne and as far north as Gydnia, 16 OTU sorties. 1 Lancaster minelayer and 1 OTU Wellington lost.
Essen was the target for 442 aircraft - 157 Lancasters, 131 Wellingtons, 94 Halifaxes, 52 Stirlings, 8 Mosquitos - in the first raid of the 'Battle of the Ruhr'. It was on this night that Bomber Command's 100,000th sortie of the war was flown. 14 aircraft - 4 Lancasters, 4 Wellingtons, 3 Halifaxes, 3 Stirlings - lost, 3.2 per cent of the force.
The only tactical setback to this raid was that 56 aircraft turned back early because of technical defects and other causes. 3 of the 'early returns' were from the 8 Oboe Mosquito marker aircraft upon which the success of the raid depended but the 5 Mosquitos which did reach the target area opened the attack on time and marked the centre of Essen perfectly. The Pathfinder backers-up also arrived in good time and carried out their part of the plan. The whole of the marking was 'blind', so that the ground haze which normally concealed Essen did not affect the outcome of the raid. The Main Force bombed in 3 waves - Halifaxes in the first wave, Wellingtons and Stirlings in the second, Lancasters in the third. Two thirds of the bomb tonnage was incendiary; one third of the high-explosive bombs were fused for long delay. The attack lasted for 40 minutes and 362 aircraft claimed to have bombed the main target. These tactics would be typical of many other raids on the Ruhr area in the next 4 months. Reconnaissance photographs showed 160 acres of destruction with 53 separate buildings within the Krupps works hit by bombs. Small numbers of bombs fell in 6 other Ruhr cities.
7 aircraft of No 4 Group were sent minelaying in the Frisian Islands without loss.
|Damage to Krupps' Works||Fires in Essen|
14 Wellingtons and 6 Halifaxes of No 4 Group minelaying in the Frisians, 2 OTU sorties. 1 Halifax and 1 Wellington of the minelaying force lost.
16 Mosquitos to railway centres at Tergnier and Aulnoye in France and at Lingen in Germany. All targets were bombed; 1 Mosquito lost.
335 aircraft - 170 Lancasters, 103 Halifaxes, 62 Stirlings - to Nuremberg. 8 aircraft - 4 Stirlings, 2 Halifaxes, 2 Lancasters - lost, 2.4 per cent of the force.
This distant raid had to be marked by a combination of H2S
and visual means. The Pathfinders had no moon to help them and, although
there was no cloud, they found that haze prevented accurate visual identification
of the target area. The result was that both marking and bombing spread
over more than 10 miles along the line of the attack, with more than
half of the bombs falling outside the city boundaries. This result would
be typical of raids carried out beyond the range of Oboe during this
Sergeant DR Spanton, a mid-upper gunner in a 7 Squadron Stirling, had a fortunate escape on this night. After his aircraft crossed the English coast on the return flight, Spanton realized that he was the only man still in the plane. The remainder of the crew, newly arrived on this Pathfinder squadron, had baled out earlier, possibly because of suspected fuel shortage, and the pilot left the plane flying on automatic pilot. Spanton had not heard the order. He parachuted safely over Kent and the empty Stirling later crashed into the Thames estuary. The remainder of the crew, presumably thinking they were parachuting over France, had actually come down in the sea and were all drowned. Sergeant Spanton went on to fly a further 12 operations but his plane was lost on the night of 24/25 June 1943 in a raid on Wuppertal and the presence of his name on the Runnymede Memorial probably indicates that he died in the sea on that occasion.
4 Mosquitos to the Ruhr, 16 Wellingtons minelaying in the Frisians. No losses.
15 Mosquitos bombed the Renault works at Le Mans and scored direct hits. 1 Mosquito lost.
|Mosquito attack at Le Mans|
Raid by 264 aircraft - 142 Lancasters, 81 Halifaxes, 41 Stirlings - on Munich. The wind caused this raid to be concentrated on the western half of Munich rather than on the centre of the city, but much damage was caused. The most serious industrial damage was at the BMW factory where the aero-engine assembly shop was put out of action for 6 weeks. Many other industrial concerns were hit, including 141 small, back-street-type workshops which were destroyed. 8 aircraft - 5 Lancasters, 2 Halifaxes, 1 Stirling - lost, 3.0 per cent of the force.
8 Mosquitos to the Ruhr, 62 aircraft minelaying off Kiel and in the Frisians, 4 OTU sorties. 3 Wellington minelayers lost.
2 Mosquitos to Essen and Mulheim, 20 Lancasters and 15 Stirlings minelaying over a wide area from Biscay to Swinemünde in the Baltic, 5 OTU sorties. 2 Lancaster minelayers lost.
Unsuccessful raid on Stuttgart by 314 aircraft - 152 Lancasters, 109 Halifaxes, 53 Stirlings. The Pathfinders claimed to have marked Stuttgart accurately but the Main Force is reported to have been late arriving. The first use by the Germans of dummy target indicators is also reported. Most of the bombing fell in open country but the south-western suburbs of Vaihingen and Kaltental were hit. 118 buildings - nearly all houses - were destroyed, 112 people were killed and 386 were injured. 11 aircraft - 6 Halifaxes, 3 Stirlings, 2 Lancasters - lost, 3.5 per cent of the force.
11 Stirlings and 3 Lancasters laid mines in the Frisians and the River Gironde without loss.
12 Mosquitos bombed an armaments factory at Liege and scored direct hits. 1 Mosquito lost.
A return to Essen. 457 aircraft - 158 Wellingtons, 156 Lancasters, 91 Halifaxes, 42 Stirlings, 10 Mosquitos in another very successful Oboe-marked raid. The centre of the bombing area was right across the giant Krupps factory, just west of the city centre, with later bombing drifting back to the north-western outskirts. Photographic interpretation assessed that Krupps received 30 per cent more damage on this night than on the earlier successful raid of 5/6 March. 23 aircraft - 8 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes, 6 Wellingtons, 2 Stirlings lost, 5.0 per cent of the force.
9 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians, 7 OTU sorties. No losses.
Minelaying: 51 Wellingtons and 17 Lancasters to areas between Lorient and the Kattegat. 2 Wellingtons and 1 Lancaster lost.
13 Wellingtons minelaying in the Frisians without loss.
11 Venturas bombed La Pleine airfield in Brittany. 1 Ventura lost in the sea.
16 Mosquitos attacked railway workshops at Paderborn, nearly 200 miles inland from the coast, and scored direct hits. 1 Mosquito lost.
2 Wellingtons of No 1 Group minelaying in the Frisian Islands without loss.
2 Venturas attacked an oil refinery at Maasluis but their bombs just missed the target; 12 further Venturas turned back from raids to targets in France. No aircraft lost.
12 Mosquitos to Louvain and Malines railway yards but only Louvain was reached.
1 Lancaster bombed Leer, near Emden. This flight was carried out by Squadron Leader C O'Donoghue of No 103 Squadron, No 1 Group. O'Donoghue decided to make this lone flight after a major Bomber Command effort planned for the previous night was cancelled. The Lancaster attacked Leer soon after dawn and its bombs fell close to the railway station.
12 Wellingtons and 4 Lancasters minelaying off Biscay ports but the Wellingtons were recalled. No aircraft lost.
12 Venturas attacked Maasluis oil refinery but again failed to hit the target. 12 further Venturas turned back from French targets. No aircraft lost.
357 aircraft - 189 Lancasters, 99 Halifaxes, 63 Stirlings, 6 Mosquitos - despatched to St Nazaire. 1 Lancaster lost.
6 Wellingtons laid mines off Texel without loss.
15 Mosquitos to railway-engine works at Nantes. Direct hits were scored and no aircraft were lost.
|St Joseph's Railway Works, Nantes|
45 aircraft laid mines in the Frisian Islands and south of Texel, 21 OTU aircraft dropped leaflets over French towns. 2 Wellingtons lost, one each from the minelaying and OTU forces.
3 Mosquitos shot up trains in areas east of the Ruhr without loss.
455 aircraft - 173 Wellingtons, 157 Lancasters, 114 Halifaxes, 9 Mosquitos, 2 Stirlings - to Duisburg. 6 aircraft - 3 Wellingtons, 1 Halifax, 1 Lancaster, 1 Mosquito - lost, 1.3 per cent of the force. The Mosquito lost was the first Oboe Mosquito casualty. A message was received from the pilot, Flight Lieutenant LJ Ackland, that he was having to ditch in the North Sea. His body was never found but his navigator, Warrant Officer FS Sprouts, is believed to have survived. This raid was one of the few failures of this series of attacks on Ruhr targets. It was a cloudy night and, for once, accurate Oboe sky-marking was lacking because 5 Oboe Mosquitos were forced to return early with technical difficulties and a sixth was lost. The result was a widely scattered raid.
5 OTU aircraft carried leaflets to France without loss.
|Waiting for the off|
5 Mosquitos reached and bombed an engineering factory at Hengelo but 7 other Mosquitos did not reach their targets. No aircraft lost.
Failed raid on Berlin by 396 aircraft - 191 Lancasters, 124 Halifaxes, 81 Stirlings. The bombing force approached the target from the south-west and the Pathfinders established two separate marking areas, but both well short of the city. No bombing photographs were plotted within 5 miles of the aiming point in the centre of Berlin and most of the bombing fell from 7 to 17 miles short of the aiming point. A most interesting story concerns a secret Luftwaffe stores depot in the woods at Teltow, 11 miles south-west of the centre of Berlin. By chance, this was in the middle of the main concentration of bombs and a large quantity of valuable radio, radar and other technical stores was destroyed. The Luftwaffe decided that this depot was the true target for the RAF raid on this night and were full of admiration for the special unit which had found and bombed it so accurately. The Gestapo investigated houses near by because someone reported that light signals had been flashed to the bombers. 9 aircraft - 4 Halifaxes, 3 Lancasters, 2 Stirlings - lost, 2.3 per cent of the force.
24 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off Texel, 4 OTU sorties. No losses.
Total effort for the night: 424 sorties, 9 aircraft (2.1 per cent) lost.
24 Venturas, escorted by fighters, bombed Rotterdam docks and hit at least 6 ships and started a fire in a dockside warehouse. No Venturas were lost.
6 Mosquitos were dispatched to attack a railway yard near Liege but 2 aircraft were shot down and the remaining 4 bombed an alternative target.
St Nazaire attacked by 323 aircraft - 179 Wellingtons, 52 Halifaxes, 50 Lancasters, 35 Stirlings, 7 Mosquitos - with most of th bombs falling on the port area. 1 Halifax and 1 Lancaster lost.
7 aircraft minelaying off St Nazaire, 5 OTU sorties. No losses.
61 Venturas flew 2 raids to Rotterdam docks and 1 to a railway target at Abbeville but the weather was unfavourable and only the bombing on the second raid to Rotterdam was accurate. No Venturas lost.
Berlin attacked by unsuccessfully by 329 aircraft - 162 Lancasters, 103 Halifaxes, 64 Stirlings. Weather conditions were difficult, with icing and inaccurately forecast winds causing most of the bombs to fall in open countryside 6 miles south-east of Berlin. 21 aircraft - 11 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes, 3 Stirlings - lost, 6.4 per cent of the force.
8 Oboe Mosquitos and a 'Main Force' composed of 149 Wellingtons also visited Bochum. This raid was another failure. The night was moonless and cloudy and the Mosquitos were not able to adhere to their timetable and there were long gaps in the skymarking. 12 Wellingtons lost, 8.0 per cent of the force.
1 Mosquito to Dortmund and 7 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians without loss.
Total effort for the night: 494 sorties, 33 aircraft (6.9 per cent) lost.
10 Mosquitos bombed the Philips works at Eindhoven but could only hit the corner of the factory. No aircraft lost.
© Crown Copyright 2004 and © Deltaweb International Ltd 2004