Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary

Campaign Diary
June 1943


1/2 June 1943

Minelaying: 23 Wellingtons and 10 Stirlings laid mines in the Frisians, off Texel and off the Biscay ports without loss.

2/3 June 1943

Minelaying: 21 Wellingtons and 14 Stirlings laid mines off the Biscay ports without loss.

3/4 June 1943

24 Wellingtons and 15 Stirlings minelaying off the Biscay ports, 16 OTU leaflet flights. 1 OTU Wellington was lost in the sea.

5/6 June 1943

12 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians, 5 OTU sorties to the Vichy-controlled area of France. No aircraft lost.

WAAFs in Bomber Command
Second-line support duties were often in the hands of WAAFs. Here a number get to grips with a Halifax engine.

9/10 June 1943

8 OTU Wellingtons on leaflet flights to France. 1 aircraft crashed in England.

10/11 June 1943

5 Whitleys and 1 Wellington from OTUs on leaflet flights to France. 1 Whitley lost.

11/12 June 1943

Düsseldorf: 783 aircraft - 326 Lancasters, 202 Halifaxes, 143 Wellingtons, 99 Stirlings, 13 Mosquitos. The Pathfinder marking plan proceeded excellently until an Oboe Mosquito inadvertently released a load of target indicators 14 miles north-east of the target area. This caused part of the Main Force to waste its bombs on open country. But the main bombing caused extensive damage in the centre of Düsseldorf, where 130 acres were claimed as destroyed, and this proved to be the most damaging raid of the war for this city. 38 aircraft - 14 Lancasters, 12 Halifaxes, 10 Wellingtons, 2 Stirlings - lost, 4.9 per cent of the force.

Münster: 72 aircraft - 29 Lancasters, 22 Halifaxes, 21 Stirlings - were dispatched on an interesting raid. All the aircraft were provided by No 8 Group and it was really a mass H2S trial. 33 of the aircraft carried markers or flares, the remaining aircraft acting as the bombing force, although the marker aircraft also bombed. The marking and bombing were very accurate and the whole raid lasted less than 10 minutes. Photographic reconnaissance showed that much damage was done to railway installations in Münster as well as to housing areas. Unfortunately the raid was expensive for the small force involved; 5 aircraft - 2 Halifaxes, 2 Lancasters and 1 Stirling - were lost, 6.9 per cent of the aircraft involved.

3 Mosquitos to Duisburg and 2 to Cologne, 23 OTU sorties to France. 1 OTU Wellington was lost.

Düsseldorf and Münster
Aerial recce picture of extensive damage to the Derendorf district of Dusseldorf. Aerial recce picture of Munster after the raid of 11/12 June.

12/13 June 1943

503 aircraft - 323 Lancasters, 167 Halifaxes, 11 Mosquitos to Bochum.

This raid took place over a completely cloud-covered target but accurate Oboe skymarking enabled the all Lancaster/Halifax Main Force to cause severe damage to the centre of Bochum. 14 Lancasters and 10 Halifaxes lost, 4.8 per cent of the force.

Minelaying: 34 Wellingtons to the Frisians, Lorient and St Nazaire. No losses.

Aerial recce picture of Bochum after the raid of 12/13 June.

13/14 June 1943

13 Mosquitos - 6 to Berlin, 4 to Düsseldorf and 3 to Cologne - but all targets were cloud-covered and only estimated positions were bombed. 18 Wellingtons and 12 Stirlings were sent minelaying off the Biscay ports and there were 8 OTU sorties. 1 Wellington minelayer lost.

14/15 June 1943

197 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitos to Oberhausen. This target was also cloud-covered but once again the Oboe skymarking was accurate. 17 Lancasters lost, 8.4 per cent of the force.

2 Mosquitos to Cologne, 29 aircraft minelaying off Brittany and in the River Gironde. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

15/16 June 1943

6 Mosquitos carried out a nuisance raid to Berlin without loss.

16/17 June 1943

202 Lancasters and 10 Halifaxes of 1, 5 and No 8 Groups to Cologne. The marking for this raid was not by Oboe but by 16 heavy bombers of the Pathfinders fitted with H2S. The target was cloud-covered and some of the Pathfinder aircraft had trouble with their H2S sets. The skymarking was late and sparse, and the bombing of the all-Lancaster Main Force was thus scattered. 14 Lancasters lost.

Fuelling a Lancaster
A Lancaster is fuelled prior to the night op.

3 Mosquitos to Berlin, 4 OTU sorties. No losses.

17/18 June 1943

7 Mosquitos, 4 to Berlin and 3 to Cologne and the Ruhr. No aircraft lost.

19/20 June 1943

290 aircraft - 181 Halifaxes, 107 Stirlings, 2 Lancasters - to bomb the Schneider armaments factory and the Breuil steelworks at Le Creusot. The tactics for this raid were that the Pathfinders would only drop flares and that each crew of the Main Force was to identify their part of the target by the light of these flares. The Main Force crews were then to make 2 runs over the target area, dropping a short stick of bombs on each run from altitudes between 5,000 and 10,000ft. By this stage of the war, however, Main Force crews were used to bombing target indicators and many had difficulty in making a visual identification of their target. Lingering smoke from the large number of flares was blamed for most of the difficulty. Bombing photographs showed that all crews bombed within 3 miles of the centre of the target but only about one fifth managed to hit the factories. Many bombs fell on nearby residential property but no report could be obtained from France to give details of casualties. 2 Halifaxes lost.

26 of the H2S-equipped Pathfinders who had released flares at Le Creusot were intended to fly on to drop flares over the electrical-transformer station at Montchanin. By the light of these flares, a further 26 Lancaster bombers of No 8 Group were to attack this second target. Most of the attacking crews, however, mistook a small metal factory for the transformer station and bombed that target instead. A few aircraft did identify the correct target but their bombs scored no hits on it.

6 Mosquitos to Cologne, Duisburg and Düsseldorf, 12 Lancasters of No 3 Group minelaying in the River Gironde. 1 Lancaster was lost.

Halifaxes taking-off for Le Creusot
Halifaxes preparing to epart the home airfield for Le Creusot. Personnel gather to wave-off Halifaxes.

20/21 June 1943

60 Lancasters to attack the Zeppelin works at Friedrichshafen, on the shores of Lake Constance (the Bodensee). This factory made Würzburg radar sets which were an important part of the German-fighter interception boxes through which Bomber Command had to fly every time they attacked a target in Germany.
This was a special raid with interesting and novel tactics. Like the recent Dams Raid, the attack was to be 'controlled' by the pilot of one of the Lancasters. This feature would later be known as 'the Master Bomber' technique. The plan was formulated by No 5 Group which provided the Master Bomber - Group Captain LC Slee - and nearly all of the aircraft involved; the Pathfinders sent 4 Lancasters of 97 Squadron. Group Captain Slee's aircraft developed engine trouble and he handed over to his deputy, Wing Commander GL Gomm of 467 Squadron. The attack, like the recent raid on Le Creusot, was intended to be carried out from 5,000 to 10,000ft in bright moonlight, but the flak and searchlight defences were very active and Wing Commander Gomm ordered the bombing force to climb a further 5,000 ft. Unfortunately the wind at the new height was stronger than anticipated and this caused difficulties.
The bombing was in 2 parts. The first bombs were aimed at target indicators dropped by one of the Pathfinder aircraft. The second phase was a 'time-and-distance' bombing run from a point on the shores of the lake to the estimated position of the factory. This was a technique which No 5 Group was developing. Photographic reconnaissance showed that nearly 10 per cent of the bombs hit the small factory and that much damage was caused there. Nearby factories were also hit.
The bomber force confused the German night fighters waiting for the return over France by flying on in the first shuttle raid to North Africa. No Lancasters were lost.

4 Mosquitos to Berlin and 1 to Düsseldorf, 15 aircraft minelaying off La Pallice and in the River Gironde. 3 OTU sorties. No losses.

A crew of No 9 Squadron board their Lancaster before taking off for Friedrichshafen. One of the giant Zeppelin airship hangars still dominates the surrounding factory areas despite suffering a number of hits. A Lancaster crew endure the traditional post-op interrogation after the raid on Friedrichshafen.

21/22 June 1943

705 aircraft - 262 Lancasters, 209 Halifaxes, 117 Stirlings, 105 Wellingtons, 12 Mosquitos. 44 aircraft - to Krefeld. 17 Halifaxes, 9 Lancasters, 9 Wellingtons, 9 Stirlings - were lost, 6.2 per cent of the force. This raid was carried out before the moon period was over and the heavy casualties were mostly caused by night fighters. 12 of the aircraft lost were from the Pathfinders; 35 Squadron lost 6 out of its 19 Halifaxes taking part in the raid. The raid took place in good visibility and the Pathfinders produced an almost perfect marking effort, ground-markers dropped by Oboe Mosquitos being well backed up by the Pathfinder heavies. 619 aircraft bombed these markers, more than three quarters of them achieving bombing photographs within 3 miles of the centre of the target. A large area of fire became established and this raged, out of control, for several hours.

1 Mosquito to Hamborn, 15 OTU sorties. No losses.

22/23 June 1943

Mülheim: 557 aircraft - 242 Lancasters, 155 Halifaxes, 93 Stirlings, 55 Wellingtons, 12 Mosquitos.

The Pathfinders had to mark this target through a thin layer of stratus cloud but reports indicate accurate initial marking. In later stages of the raid, the Pathfinder markers and the bombing moved slightly, into the northern part of the town; this had the effect of cutting all road and telephone communications with the neighbouring town of Oberhausen, with which Mülheim was linked for air-raid purposes. Not even cyclists or motor-cyclists were able to get out of Mülheim; only messengers on foot could get through. The post-war British Bombing Survey Unit estimated that this single raid destroyed 64 per cent of the town of Mülheim.

4 Mosquitos each to Berlin and Cologne, 26 OTU sorties. 1 OTU Wellington lost.

23/24 June 1943

52 Lancasters from the force which bombed Friedrichshafen 3 nights earlier flew from North Africa, bombed La Spezia, and then flew on to England without loss. Bomber Command claimed damage to an armaments store and an oil depot at La Spezia.

3 Mosquitos each to Cologne and Duisburg, 30 aircraft minelaying off Brittany and Biscay ports. No aircraft lost.

Halifax maintenance
Many aircraft had maintenance checks in the open before being despatched on a night-time operation.

24/25 June 1943

630 aircraft - 251 Lancasters, 171 Halifaxes, 101 Wellingtons, 98 Stirlings, 9 Mosquitos - despatched to Wuppertal.

This attack was aimed at the Elberfeld half of Wuppertal, the Barmen half of the town having been devastated at the end of May. The Pathfinder marking was accurate and the Main Force bombing started well but the creepback became more pronounced than usual. 30 aircraft bombed targets in more western parts of the Ruhr; Wuppertal was at the eastern end of the area. These bombing failures were probably a result of the recent run of intensive operations incurring casualties at a high level. However, much serious damage was again caused to this medium-sized Ruhr town. The post-war British survey estimated that 94 per cent of the Elberfeld part of Wuppertal was destroyed on this night.

4 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 4 Stirlings minelaying in the River Gironde, 7 OTU sorties. No losses.

25/26 June 1943

473 aircraft ordered to Gelsenkirchen - 214 Lancasters, 134 Halifaxes, 73 Stirlings, 40 Wellingtons, 12 Mosquitos. This was the first raid to the city since 1941, when it had been one of Bomber Command's regular 'oil targets', although, being in the middle of the Ruhr, this town had often been hit when other targets were attacked. 30 aircraft - 13 Lancasters, 7 Halifaxes, 6 Stirlings, 4 Wellingtons - were lost, 6.3 per cent of the force.

The raid was not a success. The target was obscured by cloud and the Oboe Mosquitos, for once, failed to produce regular and accurate marking since 5 of the 12 Oboe aircraft found that their equipment was unserviceable.

33 aircraft were sent minelaying in the Frisians and off French ports. 1 Lancaster lost.

26/27 June 1943

4 Mosquitos to Hamburg, 3 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 16 Wellingtons minelaying off Lorient and Brest, 14 OTU sorties. 1 Wellington minelayer lost.

27/28 June 1943

15 Lancasters and 15 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians, off La Pallice and in the River Gironde, 4 OTU sorties. 1 Lancaster minelayer lost.

28/29 June 1943

608 aircraft - 267 Lancasters, 169 Halifaxes, 85 Wellingtons, 75 Stirlings, 12 Mosquitos to Cologne. 25 aircraft - 10 Halifaxes, 8 Lancasters, 5 Stirlings, 2 Wellingtons - lost, 4.1 per cent of the force.

The circumstances of this raid did not seem promising. The weather forecast said that Cologne would probably be cloud-covered although there might be a break; the Pathfinders had to prepare a dual plan. The target was cloud-covered and the less reliable skymarking system had to be employed. Only 7 of the 12 Oboe Mosquitos reached the target and only 6 of these were able to drop their markers. The marking was 7 minutes late in starting and proceeded only intermittently. Despite all these setbacks, the Main Force delivered its most powerful blow of the Battle of the Ruhr.

4 Mosquitos to Hamburg, 6 Stirlings minelaying in the River Gironde. No losses.

29/30 June 1943

16 Wellingtons were sent to lay mines off Lorient and St Nazaire. 1 aircraft lost.

1943 May  1943 July
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Date Last Updated : Wednesday, April 6, 2005 2:40 AM

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