Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary

Campaign Diary
January 1944


1/2 January 1944

421 Lancasters despatched to Berlin. Despite a Mosquito 'spoof' raid on Hamburg, German fighters were directed on to the bomber stream at an early stage and were particularly active en-route to Berlin. 28 Lancasters were lost, 6.7 per cent of the force.

15 Mosquitos to Hamburg, 11 to Witten, 7 to Duisburg, 4 to Bristillerie and 1 to Cologne, 6 RCM sorties, 14 OTU sorties. No losses.

Waiting for the off...
A Lancaster of No 44 (Rhodesian) Squadron waiting to depart for Berlin. This aircraft, R5729 KM-A, was lost two weeks later during the raid on Brunswick (14/15 January).

2/3 January 1944

383 aircraft - 362 Lancasters, 12 Mosquitos, 9 Halifaxes - return to Berlin. German fighter controllers followed the bombers all the way to the target. Night fighters were sent to a radio beacon between Hannover and Bremen but these fighters missed the bomber stream and did not come into action until they were directed to Berlin. Most of the bomber casualties were in the Berlin area. 27 Lancasters were lost, 10 per cent of the force. The casualties included 10 Pathfinder aircraft; No 156 Squadron, from Warboys, lost 5 of its 14 aircraft taking part in the raid.

8 Mosquitos to Duisburg and 3 to Bristillerie, 2 Beaufighters on Serrate patrols, 26 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off French ports, 25 OTU sorties. No losses.

3/4 January 1944

6 Mosquitos to Solingen and 2 to Essen. No losses.

4/5 January 1944

80 aircraft - 57 Stirlings, 12 Mosquitos, 11 Lancasters - to two flying bomb sites, one in the Pas de Calais and one at Bristillerie, near Cherbourg. Both targets were attacked effectively and no aircraft were lost.

Special Operations: Supplies and Agents For Resistance Forces

Bomber Command's records for this night contain their first mention of this type of operation, although Nos 138 and 161 Squadrons had been carrying out such operations for 2 years under nominal Bomber Command control. 18 Halifaxes and 1 Hudson of Nos 138 and 161 Squadrons made flights on this night and 6 Stirlings from No 214 Squadron also operated. No aircraft were lost. The Stirling flights represented a new type of work for the Stirling squadrons, which had recently been relieved from bombing raids to Germany.

13 Mosquitos to Berlin, 3 to Krefeld and 2 to Cologne, 4 RCM sorties, 40 aircraft minelaying off Lorient and Brest, 8 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

5/6 January 1944

348 Lancasters and 10 Halifaxes in the first large raid on Stettin since September 1941. The Mosquito diversion at Berlin successfully kept most of the German fighters away from the main force of bombers. 16 aircraft - 14 Lancasters, 2 Halifaxes - lost, 4.5 per cent of the force.

13 Mosquitos to Berlin and 25 to four other targets, 1 Mosquito RCM sortie, 1 Beaufighter Serrate patrol, 6 Lancasters minelaying off Swinemünde. No losses.

The Beaufighter sortie on this night was the last Serrate flight by this type of aircraft; all later Serrate patrols were carried out by Mosquitos.

Back from Stettin
A crew from No 9 Squadron leave their Lancaster after successfully completing a mssion to Stettin. This aircraft, W4964 WS-J, was delivered to the RAF in April 1943 and went on to complete 106 operational sorties before being retired to ground instructional duties in December 1944.

6/7 January 1944

Mosquitos: 16 to Duisburg, 2 to Bristillerie and 1 each to Dortmund and Solingen, 57 aircraft minelaying off Biscay ports, 10 OTU sorties. No losses.

7/8 January 1944

6 Mosquitos to Krefeld and 5 to Duisburg, 1 aircraft on a Resistance operation, 28 OTU sorties. The Resistance operation aircraft - a No 138 Squadron Halifax - crashed in England soon after taking off, killing all 10 men on board, probably 7 crew and 3 passengers.

8/9 January 1944

Mosquito operations: 10 to Frankfurt, 8 to Solingen, 3 to Aachen, 2 to Dortmund. 2 aircraft lost.

10/11 January 1944

20 Mosquitos: 10 to Berlin, 7 to Solingen, 2 to Koblenz, 1 to Krefeld. No losses.

13/14 January 1944

25 Mosquitos: 12 to Essen, 9 to Duisburg, 2 to Aachen, 2 to Koblenz. 1 aircraft lost.

14/15 January 1944

496 Lancasters and 2 Halifaxes on the first major raid to Brunswick of the war. 38 Lancasters lost, 7.6 per cent of the force. The German running commentary was heard following the progress of the bomber force from a position only 40 miles from the English coast and many German fighters entered the bomber stream soon after the German frontier was crossed near Bremen. The German fighters scored steadily until the Dutch coast was crossed on the return flight. 11 of the lost aircraft were Pathfinders. Brunswick was smaller than Bomber Command's usual targets and this raid was not a success. The city report describes this only as a 'light' raid, with bombs in the south of the city which had only 10 houses destroyed and 14 people killed. Most of the attack fell either in the countryside or in Wolfenbüttel and other small towns and villages well to the south of Brunswick.

82 aircraft - 59 Stirlings, 13 Halifaxes, 10 Mosquitos - attacked flying bomb sites at Ailly, Bonneton and Bristillerie without loss.

11 Mosquitos to Magdeburg and 6 to Berlin, 9 RCM sorties, 2 Serrale patrols, 29 aircraft minelaying off Brest and in the Frisians, 36 OTU sorties. No losses.

Total effort for the night: 673 sorties, 38 aircraft (5.6 per cent) lost.

Lancaster in Flight
A Lancaster of No 1661 Heavy Conversion Unit (HCU) seen in flight, 7 January. These units were responsible for the final training of Lancaster crews, and many nearing the end of their training were sent on leaflet raids over France for a taste of what was to come on operational duties.

20/21 January 1944

769 aircraft - 495 Lancasters, 264 Halifaxes, 10 Mosquitos - to Berlin. 35 aircraft - 22 Halifaxes, 13 Lancasters - lost, 4.6 per cent of the force. No 102 Squadron, from Pocklington, lost 5 of its 16 Halifaxes on this raid, 2 more crashed in England and the squadron would lose 4 more aircraft in the next night's raid. The bomber approach route took a wide swing to the north but, once again, the German controller managed to feed his fighters into the bomber stream early and the fighters scored steadily until the force was well on the way home. The diversions were not large enough to deceive the Germans. The Berlin area was, as so often, completely cloud-covered and what happened to the bombing is a mystery. The Pathfinder skymarking appeared to go according to plan and crews who were scanning the ground with their H2S sets believed that the attack fell on eastern districts of Berlin. No major navigational problems were experienced. No photographic reconnaissance was possible until after a further 4 raids on Berlin were carried out but the various sources from which the Berlin reports are normally drawn all show a complete blank for this night.

12 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf. 4 to Kiel and 3 to Hannover, 6 RCM sorties, 5 Serrate patrols, 29 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off French ports, 20 OTU sorties. No losses.

Total effort for the night: 848 sorties, 35 aircraft (4.1 per cent) lost.

21/22 January 1944

648 aircraft - 421 Lancasters, 224 Halifaxes, 3 Mosquitos - on the first major raid to Magdeburg. The German controller again followed the progress of the bomber stream across the North Sea and many night fighters were in the stream before it crossed the German coast. The controller was very slow to identify Magdeburg as the target but this did not matter too much because most of the night fighters were able to stay in the bomber stream, a good example of the way the Tame Boar tactics were developing. 57 aircraft - 35 Halifaxes, 22 Lancasters - were lost, 8.8 per cent of the force; it is probable that three quarters of the losses were caused by German night fighters. The Halifax loss rate was 15.6 per cent! The heavy bomber casualties were not rewarded with a successful attack. Some of the Main Force aircraft now had H2S and winds which were stronger than forecast brought some of these into the target area before the Pathfinders' Zero Hour. The crews of 27 Main Force aircraft were anxious to bomb and did so before Zero Hour. The Pathfinders blamed the fires started by this early bombing, together with some very effective German decoy markers, for their failure to concentrate the marking.

22 Lancasters and 12 Mosquitos of 5 and 8 Groups carried out a diversionary raid to Berlin; 1 Lancaster lost.

111 aircraft - 89 Stirlings, 12 Lancasters, 1O Mosquitos - carried out raids on 6 flying bomb sites in France without loss.

8 Mosquitos to Oberhausen and 5 to Rheinhausen, 8 RCM sorties, 5 Serrate patrols, 8 Wellingtons minelaying off St Nazaire, 16 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

Total effort for the night: 843 sorties, 58 aircraft (6.9 per cent) were lost. The number of aircraft lost was the heaviest in any night of the war so far.

23/24 January 1944

37 Mosquitos dispatched to 6 different targets, 3 RCM sorties, 9 aircraft minelaying off Cherbourg, Brest and Le Havre. No aircraft lost.

25/26 January 1944

76 aircraft - 56 Stirlings, 12 Lancasters, 8 Mosquitos - attacked flying bomb sites in the Pas de Calais and near Cherbourg without loss.

14 Mosquitos to Aachen, 18 OTU sorties. 1 OTU Wellington lost.

27/28 January 1944

515 Lancasters and 15 Mosquitos despatched to Berlin. The German fighters were committed to action earlier than normal, some being sent out 75 miles over the North Sea from the Dutch coast. A number of elaborate feints and diversions had some effect; Half of the German fighters were lured north by the Heligoland mining diversion and action in the main bomber stream was less intense than on recent nights. 33 Lancasters lost, 6.4 per cent of the heavy force. The target was cloud-covered again and skymarking had to be used. Bomber Command was not able to make any assessment of the raid except to state that the bombing appeared to have been spread well up and down wind.

Extensive operations were carried out in support of the Berlin raid. 80 Stirlings and Wellingtons flew to the Dutch coast and laid mines there, 21 Halifaxes did the same near Heligoland, both hoping to draw the German fighters up early. 9 aircraft flew RCM sorties and 12 Mosquitos flew Serrate patrols. 18 Mosquito-bomber aircraft dropped imitation 'fighter flares' away from the main bomber routes to and from the target. 140 aircraft were thus engaged in various operations in support of the main raid. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

9 Mosquitos bombed a flying-bomb site at Herbouville, 8 Halifaxes flew Resistance operations sorties, 10 OTU aircraft dropped leaflets over France. No aircraft lost.

Total effort for the night: 697 sorties, 34 aircraft (4.9 per cent) lost.

28/29 January 1944

Berlin: 677 aircraft - 432 Lancasters, 241 Halifaxes, 4 Mosquitos. Part of the German fighter force was drawn up by the early diversions and the bomber approach route over Northern Denmark proved too distant for some of the other German fighters. The German controller was, however, able to concentrate his fighters over the target and many aircraft were shot down there. 46 aircraft - 26 Halifaxes, 20 Lancasters - lost, 6.8 per cent of the force. The cloud over Berlin was broken and some ground-marking was possible but the Bomber Command claim that this was the most concentrated attack of this period is not quite fully confirmed by German records. The western and southern districts were hit but so too were 77 places outside the city.

63 Stirlings and 4 Pathfinder Halifaxes carried out minelaying in Kiel Bay 5 hours before the main Berlin operation; this was the first time that Pathfinder aircraft helped a minelaying operation. 6 Mosquitos bombed Berlin 4 hours before the main attack and 18 Mosquitos bombed night-fighter airfields at Deelen, Leeuwarden and Venlo. 4 Mosquitos carried out a diversionary raid to Hannover and 6 more Mosquitos flew Serrate patrols at the same time as the main raid. 2 Stirling minelayers and 1 Serrate Mosquito were lost from these operations. 16 OTU Wellingtons carried out leaflet flights to France without loss.

Total effort for the night: 794 sorties, 49 aircraft (6.2 per cent) lost.

29/30 January 1944

22 Mosquitos - 12 to Duisburg and 10 to Herbouville flying-bomb site - 6 OTU sorties. No losses.

30/31 January 1944

534 aircraft - 440 Lancasters, 82 Halifaxes, 12 Mosquitos - to Berlin. There were no preliminary diversions on this night and the attempt by the German controllers to intercept the bomber stream over the sea failed. The bombers were, therefore, well on the way to Berlin before meeting any fighters but the Germans were then able to follow the bomber stream until well into the return flight. 33 aircraft - 32 Lancasters and 1 Halifax - lost, 6.2 per cent of the force.

22 Mosquitos to Elberfeld and 5 to Brunswick, 8 RCM sorties, 7 Serrate patrols, 12 Stirlings minelaying in the River Gironde, 22 OTU sorties. No losses.

Total effort for the night: 610 sorties, 33 aircraft (5.4 per cent) lost.

1943 December  1944 February
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Date Last Updated : Wednesday, April 6, 2005 2:40 AM

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