Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary

Campaign Diary
July 1943


12 Lancasters minelaying in the Frisian Islands, 25 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

2/3 July 1943

3 Mosquitos to Cologne, 2 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 32 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off Brittany ports. No aircraft lost.

3/4 July 1943

653 aircraft - 293 Lancasters, 182 Halifaxes, 89 Wellingtons, 76 Stirlings, 13 Mosquitos returned to Cologne. The aiming point for this raid was that part of Cologne situated on the east bank of the Rhine. Much industry was located there. Pathfinder ground marking was accurately maintained by both the Mosquito Oboe aircraft and the backers-up, allowing the Main Force to carry out another heavy attack on Cologne. 30 aircraft - 9 Halifaxes, 8 Lancasters, 8 Wellingtons, 5 Stirlings - lost, 4.6 per cent of the force.

This night saw the first operations of a new German unit, Jagdgeschwader 300, equipped with single-engined fighters using the Wilde Sau (Wild Boar) technique. In this, a German pilot used any form of illumination available over a city being bombed - searchlights, target indicators, the glow of fires on the ground - to pick out a bomber for attack. Liaison with the local flak defences was supposed to ensure that the flak was limited to a certain height above which the Wild Boar fighter was free to operate. The new German unit claimed 12 bombers shot down over Cologne but had to share the 12 available aircraft found to have crashed with the local flak, who also claimed 12 successes.

4 Mosquitos to Duisburg and 4 to Hamburg, 14 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians. 2 Stirlings lost.

4/5July 1943

3 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 13 Stirlings minelaying off La Pallice and in the River Gironde, 4 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

5/6 July 1943

4 Mosquitos to Cologne and 4 to Hamburg, 34 aircraft minelaying off French ports and in the Frisians, 18 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling and 1 Wellington lost from the minelaying force.

6/7 July 1943

4 Mosquitos to Cologne and 3 to Düsseldorf, 36 aircraft minelaying off Biscay ports. 1 Lancaster minelayer lost.

The King and Queen with bomber crews
Princess Elizabeth looks on a HRH King George VI and Queen Elizabeth chat with Bomber Command crews.

7/8 July 1943

4 Mosquitos to Cologne and 4 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf. No losses.

Elvington, 7 July 1943
Groundcrew show their appreciation a a particularly low-pass by this aircraft of No 77 Squadron. This crew take time to enjoy flying a Halifax without the stresses and strains of German night-fighter attacks. Caught in a rare moment of peace, this Halifax rests as groundcrew assist a local farmer tend his fields. Groundcrew take a tea-break as the NAAFI wagon arrives at the squadron dispersal.

8/9 July 1943

Cologne: 282 Lancasters and 6 Mosquitos. 7 Lancasters lost, 2.5 per cent of the force.

The Oboe skymarking was accurate and another successful raid followed, the north-western and south-western sections of the city being the worst hit.

8 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 46 aircraft minelaying off Texel, Brittany and the Biscay coast, 27 OTU sorties. 1 Wellington minelayer lost.

9/10 July 1943

418 aircraft - 218 Lancasters, 190 Halifaxes, 10 Mosquitos to Gelsenkirchen on an unsuccessful raid. The Oboe equipment failed to operate in 5 of the Mosquitos and a 6th Mosquito dropped skymarkers in error 10 miles north of the target. 12 aircraft - 7 Halifaxes and 5 Lancasters - lost, 2.9 per cent of the force.

4 Mosquitos to Nordstern, 18 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off Texel. No losses.

12/13 July 1943

295 Lancasters of 1, 5 and No 8 Groups to Turin. 13 Lancasters lost, 4.4 per cent of the force. The main weight of this raid fell just north of the centre of Turin in clear weather conditions. Among the RAF casualties on this night was Wing Commander JD Nettleton, Commanding Officer of 44 (Rhodesia) Squadron, who had won the Victoria Cross for the low-level daylight raid on Augsburg in April 1942. Nettleton's Lancaster was shot down by a German night fighter over the Channel while returning from Turin. He and his crew all died.

22 Wellingtons minelaying off Brest, Lorient and St Nazaire, 19 OTU sorties. No losses.

13/14 July 1943

374 aircraft - 214 Halifaxes, 76 Wellingtons, 55 Stirlings, 18 Lancasters, 11 Mosquitos ordered to Aachen. A strong tail wind brought the first waves of the Main Force into the target area before Zero Hour with the result that, when the first Pathfinder markers were released, an unusually large number of aircraft bombed in the first minutes of the raid. The visibility was good and large areas of Aachen appeared to burst into flame at once. In the words of the report from Aachen, 'A Terrorangriff [Terrorattack] of the most severe scale was delivered.' 20 aircraft - 15 Halifaxes, 2 Lancasters, 2 Wellingtons, 1 Stirling - lost, 5.3 per cent of the force.

2 Oboe Mosquitos carried out a diversion for the Aachen raid by dropping target indicators over Cologne. 8 OTU Wellingtons carried out leaflet flights to France. 1 Wellington crashed in the sea.

14/15 July 1943

8 Mosquitos carried out a nuisance raid on Berlin, 1 aircraft crashed in the sea.

15/16 July 1943

165 Halifaxes to attack the Peugeot motor factory in the Montbéliard suburb of the French town of Sochaux, near the Swiss border. 5 Halifaxes were lost, 3.0 per cent of the force.

The outcome of this raid illustrates again the difficulties of hitting relatively small targets in the occupied countries and the danger to surrounding civilians. The night was clear, the target was only lightly defended and the attack altitude was 6,000 to 10,000ft, but the centre of the group of markers dropped by the Pathfinder crews of 35 Squadron was 700 yards beyond the factory. The factory was classed as 5 per cent damaged; the production was normal immediately after the raid.

617 Squadron carried out its first operation since the Dams Raid in May. It had been decided to keep the squadron in being and to use it for independent precision raids on small targets. It remained in No 5 Group and most of its replacement crews came from the squadrons of that group. The targets on this night were two electrical-transformer stations in Northern Italy - one near Bologna and the other near Genoa. The intention was to disrupt the supply of electricity to the railways carrying German troops and supplies to the battle front in Sicily. 12 Lancasters of 617 Squadron were joined by 12 further No 5 Group Lancasters for these attacks, which were not successful. No flares or markers were carried and the targets were partially hidden by mist. After bombing, the Lancasters flew on to North Africa. 2 Lancasters of the supporting force were lost.

6 Mosquitos flew on a nuisance raid to Munich but only 2 aircraft actually reached the target. No aircraft lost.

16/17 July 1943

18 Lancasters of No 5 Group attempted raids on two more transformer stations in Northern Italy. 7 aircraft bombed the Cislago station accurately but the second target was not located and an alternative target was bombed instead. 1 Lancaster lost. 6 Mosquitos bombed Munich and 7 OTU Wellingtons dropped leaflets over French towns without loss.

17/18 July 1943

4 OTU Wellingtons dropped leaflets over France without loss.

18/19 July 1943

16 Wellingtons of No 1 Group laid mines off Lorient and St Nazaire without loss.

Lancaster crew
A lull in operations made time for photographs such as this. Here a Lancaster crew (aircraft 'K-Kitty' - possibly W4236) pose on 21 July 1943.

23/24 July 1945

7 OTU Wellingtons dropped leaflets over France without loss.

24/25 July 1943

791 aircraft - 347 Lancasters, 246 Halifaxes, 125 Stirlings, 73 Wellingtons involved in the first raid of the 'Battle of Hamburg'. 12 aircraft - 4 Halifaxes, 4 Lancasters, 3 Stirlings, 1 Wellington - lost, 1.5 per cent of the force. 'Window' was used for the first time on this night. Conditions over Hamburg were clear with only a gentle wind. The marking - a mixture of H2S and visual - was a little scattered but most of the target indicators fell near enough to the centre of Hamburg for a concentrated raid to develop quickly. 728 aircraft dropped the bombs bombs in 50 minutes. Bombing photographs showed that less than half of the force bombed within 3 miles of the centre of Hamburg and a creepback 6 miles long developed. But, because Hamburg was such a large city, severe damage was caused in the central and north-western districts, particularly in Altona, Eimsbüttel and Hoheluft. The Rathaus, the Nikolaikirche, the main police station, the main telephone exchange and the Hagenbeck Zoo (where 140 animals died) were among the well-known Hamburg landmarks to be hit. Approximately 1,500 people were killed. This was the greatest number of people killed so far in a raid outside the area in which Oboe could be used.

33 Lancasters of No 5 Group returning from North Africa bombed Leghorn docks but the target was covered by haze and bombing was scattered. No aircraft lost.

13 Mosquitos carried out diversionary and nuisance raids to Bremen, Kiel, Lübeck and Duisburg; 6 Wellingtons laid mines in the River Elbe while the Hamburg raid was in progress and there were 7 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

25/26 July 1943

Essen attacked by 705 aircraft - 294 Lancasters, 221 Halifaxes, 104 Stirlings, 67 Wellingtons, 19 Mosquitos. The commander of the American VIII Bomber Command, Brigadier-General Fred Anderson, observed this raid as a passenger in an 83 Squadron Lancaster. This was an attempt to achieve a good raid on this major target while the effects of 'Window' were still fresh. The raid was successful, with particular damage being recorded in Essen's industrial areas in the eastern half of the city. The Krupps works suffered what was probably its most damaging raid of the war. The next morning, Doktor Gustav Krupp had a stroke from which he never recovered; this saved him from being charged with war crimes after the war.26 aircraft - 10 Halifaxes, 7 Stirlings, 5 Lancasters, 4 Wellingtons - lost, 3.7 per cent of the force.

6 Mosquitos to Hamburg and 3 each to Cologne and Gelsenkirchen, 17 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians, 7 OTU sorties. No losses.

26/27 July 1943

6 Mosquitos to Hamburg, 3 OTU sorties. No losses.

27/28 July 1943

787 aircraft - 353 Lancasters, 244 Halifaxes, 116 Stirlings, 74 Wellingtons - returned to Hamburg. Brigadier-General Anderson, again flew in a Lancaster and watched this raid. The centre of the Pathfinder marking - all carried out by H2S on this night - was about 2 miles east of the planned aiming point in the centre of the city, but the marking was particularly well concentrated and the Main Force bombing 'crept back' only slightly.

This was the night of the firestorm, which started through an unusual and unexpected chain of events. The temperature was particularly high (30° centigrade at 6 o'clock in the evening) and the humidity was only 30 per cent, compared with an average of 40-50 per cent for this time of the year. There had been no rain for some time and everything was very dry .The concentrated bombing caused a large number of fires in the densely built-up working-class districts of Hammerbrook, Hamm and Borgfeld. Most of Hamburg's fire vehicles had been in the western parts of the city, damping down the fires still smouldering there from the raid of 3 nights earlier, and only a few units were able to pass through roads which were blocked by the rubble of buildings destroyed by high-explosive bombs early in this raid. About half-way through the raid, the fires in Hammerbrook started joining together and competing with each other for the oxygen in the surrounding air. Suddenly, the whole area became one big fire with air being drawn into it with the force of a storm. The bombing continued for another half hour, spreading the firestorm area gradually eastwards. It is estimated that 550-600 bomb loads fell into an area measuring only 2 miles by 1 mile. The firestorm raged for about 3 hours and only subsided when all burnable material was consumed. The burnt-out area was almost entirely residential. Approximately 16,000 multi-storeyed apartment buildings were destroyed. There were few survivors from the firestorm area and approximately 40,000 people died, most of them by carbon monoxide poisoning when all the air was drawn out of their basement shelters. In the period immediately following this raid, approximately 1,200,000 people - two thirds of Hamburg's population - fled the city in fear of further raids.

3 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 6 Wellingtons minelaying in the River Elbe, 11 OTU sorties. 1 Mosquito lost.

28/29 July 1943

4 Mosquitos to Hamburg and 3 to Düsseldorf, 17 aircraft minelaying in the Frisian Islands, 4 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

29/30 July 1943

The Battle of Hamburg continued with 777 aircraft - 340 Lancasters, 244 Halifaxes, 119 Stirlings, 70 Wellingtons, 4 Mosquitos being despatached. The marking for this raid was again all by H2S. The intention was to approach Hamburg from almost due north and bomb those northern and north-eastern districts which had so far not been bombed. The Pathfinders actually came in more than 2 miles too far to the east and marked an area just south of the devastated firestorm area. The Main Force bombing crept back about 4 miles, through the devastated area, but then produced very heavy bombing in the Wandsbek and Barmbek districts and parts of the Uhlenhorst and Winterhude districts. These were all residential areas. There was a widespread fire area - though no firestorm - which the exhausted Hamburg fire units could do little to check. 28 aircraft - 11 Halifaxes, 11 Lancasters, 4 Stirlings, 2 Wellingtons - lost, 3.6 per cent of the force.

4 Mosquitos to Düsseldorf, 6 Wellingtons minelaying in the River Elbe, 9 Lancasters of 617 Squadron dropping leaflets over Italian cities, 3 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

En-route Hamburg, 30 July
A Lancaster crew of No 61 Squadron, Systerston, prepare for the night's mission. Lancasters of No 50 Squadron in formation.

30/31 July 1943

273 aircraft - 95 Halifaxes, 87 Stirlings, 82 Lancasters, 9 Mosquitos - were dispatched to the previously unbombed town of Remscheid on the southern edge of the Ruhr; only 26 people had been killed in Remscheid, by stray bombs, in the last 3 years. This raid marks the true end of the Battle of the Ruhr. 15 aircraft - 8 Stirlings, 5 Halifaxes, 2 Lancasters - were lost, 5.5 per cent of the force.

8 aircraft laid mines in the Frisian Islands without loss.

Devastation in Hamburg
Scenes of total devastation in Hamburg. Scenes of total devastation in Hamburg.

1943 June  1943 August
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Date Last Updated : Wednesday, April 6, 2005 2:40 AM

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