Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary
|Lucky escape for Stirling and Halifax crews|
12 Wellingtons of No 6 Group minelaying off Lorient and St Nazaire without loss.
5 Mosquitos bombed the estimated positions of Cologne and Duisburg through cloud. No losses.
5 Mosquitos, out of 8 dispatched, bombed Duisburg and Düsseldorf without loss.
8 Mosquitos to Cologne and Duisburg, 20 Stirlings and 14 Wellingtons minelaying south of Texel and off Brest and the Biscay ports, 13 OTU sorties. 2 Stirling minelayers were lost.
In response to urgent political orders, 197 Lancasters were dispatched to attack Genoa, Milan and Turin. It is believed that every aircraft reached the target area; 195 crews returned and reported bombing; 2 aircraft were lost. Group Captain JH Searby, of 83 Squadron, acted as Master Bomber for the bombing at Turin but with only limited success. This was a trial in preparation for the role he would play in the raid on Peenemünde later in the month. The only report available from Italy says that 20 people were killed and 79 were injured in Turin.
4 Mosquitos bombed Cologne and 1 bombed Düsseldorf. No losses.
Mannheim: 457 aircraft - 286 Lancasters and 171 Halifaxes. The target area was mainly cloud-covered and the Pathfinder plan did not work well. The resulting bombing appeared to be scattered. 9 aircraft - 6 Halifaxes and 3 Lancasters - lost, 2.0 per cent of the force.
6 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 10 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians, 14 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.
653 aircraft - 318 Lancasters, 216 Halifaxes, 119 Stirlings to Nuremberg. The Pathfinders attempted to ground-mark the city and, although their markers were mostly obscured by cloud, a useful attack developed in the central and southern parts of Nuremberg. The Lorenzkirche, the largest of the city's old churches, was badly damaged and about 50 of the houses in the preserved Altstadt were destroyed. There was a large 'fire area' in the Wöhrd district. 16 aircraft - 7 Halifaxes, 6 Lancasters, 3 Stirlings - lost, 2.5 per cent of the force.
9 Mosquitos to the Ruhr, 18 Wellingtons minelaying off Texel and in the Frisians. No losses.
8 Mosquitos to Cologne and Duisburg, 23 Wellingtons minelaying off Brest, Lorient and St Nazaire, 19 OTU sorties. 1 Wellington minelayer was lost and 1 OTU Wellington came down in the sea.
504 aircraft - 321 Lancasters and 183 Halifaxes despatched to Milan and carried out a successful raid. 2 Halifaxes and 1 Lancaster lost.
152 aircraft of 3 and No 8 Groups - 112 Stirlings, 34 Halifaxes, 6 Lancasters to Turin. 2 Stirlings lost.
7 Mosquitos to Berlin, 24 Wellingtons minelaying off Brittany ports, 9 OTU sorties. 1 Mosquito and 2 Wellington minelayers lost.
One of the bravest Victoria Crosses was won on this night. A Stirling of 218 Squadron was badly damaged by a burst of fire while approaching Turin. The navigator was killed and several members of the crew were wounded, including the pilot, Flight Sergeant Arthur Louis Aaron, who was struck in the face by a bullet which shattered his jaw and tore part of his face away; he was also injured in the chest and his right arm could not be used. The flight engineer and the bomb aimer took over the controls of the aircraft and set course for North Africa although one engine was useless, the pilot was out of action, having been dosed with morphia, and the navigator was dead. The Stirling reached the cost of Africa and Flight Sergeant Aaron insisted on returning to his seat in the cockpit to help prepare for the landing. Twice he tried to take over the controls and, although he had to give up this attempt, he continued to help by writing down instructions for landing with his left hand. He could not speak. Under Aaron's guidance, given in great pain and at the limits of exhaustion, the Stirling landed safely at its fifth attempt at Bône airfield with its wheels up. Flight Sergeant Aaron died 9 hours later. It was considered that he might have survived if he had rested after having been wounded instead of insisting on helping his crew. The wireless operator, Sergeant T Guy, and the flight engineer, Sergeant M Mitcham, were each awarded the Distinguished Flying Medal. It was later established that the machine-gun fire which struck the Stirling was fired by a nervous tail gunner in another bomber. Flight Sergeant Aaron was 21 years old and came from Leeds.
140 Lancasters of 1, 5 and No 8 Groups carried out another attack on Milan, claiming much further damage. 1 Lancaster lost.
7 Mosquitos carried out a nuisance raid on Berlin without loss.
199 Lancasters continued the offensive against Milan, claiming particularly concentrated bombing. 7 aircraft were lost, mostly to German fighters which were awaiting the bombers' return over France.
8 Mosquitos to Berlin, 63 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off Texel and off all the main Brittany and Biscay ports, 16 OTU sorties. 2 Wellingtons and 1 Stirling from the minelaying force were lost.
154 aircraft of 3 and No 8 Groups - 103 Stirlings, 37 Halifaxes, 14 Lancasters to Turin in what was the . 4 aircraft - 2 Halifaxes, 1 Lancaster, 1 Stirling - lost.
This raid concluded the Bomber Command attacks on Italian cities which had commenced in June 1940.
The Peenemünde Raid
596 aircraft - 324 Lancasters, 218 Halifaxes, 54 Stirlings. This was the first raid in which 6 (Canadian) Group operated Lancaster aircraft. 426 Squadron dispatched 9 Lancaster IIs, losing 2 aircraft including that of the squadron commander, Wing Commander L Crooks, DSO, DFC.
This was a special raid which Bomber Command was ordered to carry out
against the German research establishment on the Baltic coast where
V2 rockets were being built and tested. The raid was carried out in
moonlight to increase the chances of success. There were several novel
features:- there was a Master Bomber controlling a full-scale Bomber
Command raid for the first time; There were three aiming points - the
scientists' and workers' living quarters, the rocket factory and the
experimental station; The Pathfinders employed a special plan with crews
designated as 'shifters', who attempted to move the marking from one
part of the target to another as the raid progressed; Crews of No 5
Group; bombing in the last wave of the attack, had practised the 'time-and-distance'
bombing method as an alternative method for their part in the raid.
The Pathfinders found Peenemünde without difficulty in the moonlight and the Master Bomber controlled the raid successfully throughout. A Mosquito diversion to Berlin drew off most of the German night-fighters for the first 2 of the raid's 3 phases. The estimate has appeared in many sources that this raid set back the V-2 experimental programme by at least 2 months and reduced the scale of the eventual rocket attack.
Bomber Command's losses were 40 aircraft - 23 Lancasters, 15 Halifaxes and 2 Stirlings. This represents 6.7 per cent of the force dispatched but was judged an acceptable cost for the successful attack on this important target on a moonlit night. Most of the casualties were suffered by the aircraft of the last wave when the German night fighters arrived in force. This was the first night on which the Germans used their new schräge Musik weapons; these were twin upward-firing cannons fitted in the cockpit of Me 110s. Two schräge Musik aircraft found the bomber stream flying home from Peenemünde and are believed to have shot down 6 of the bombers lost on the raid.
8 Mosquitos carried out a highly successful diversion raid on Berlin. 1 aircraft lost.
30 OTU Wellingtons on leaflet raids to France without loss.
8 Mosquitos to Berlin. 1 aircraft lost.
Leverkusen: 462 aircraft - 257 Lancasters, 192 Halifaxes, 13 Mosquitos.
The IG Farben factory was chosen as the aiming point for this raid and it was hoped that some of the bombs would hit this important place. There was thick cloud over the target area and there was a partial failure of the Oboe signals. Bombs fell over a wide area; at least 12 other towns in and near the Ruhr recorded bomb damage. 3 Lancasters and 2 Halifaxes lost, 1.1 per cent of the force.
12 Mosquitos to the Ruhr and 6 to Hamburg, 47 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off Texel, 7 OTU sorties. No losses.
727 aircraft - 335 Lancasters, 251 Halifaxes, 124 Stirlings, 17 Mosquitos - despatched to Berlin. The Mosquitos were used to mark various points on the route to Berlin in order to help keep the Main Force on the correct track. A Master Bomber was used; he was Wing Commander JE Fauquier, the Commanding Officer of 405 (Canadian) Squadron.
The raid was only partially successful. The Pathfinders were not able to identify the centre of Berlin by H2S and marked an area in the southern outskirts of the city. The Main Force arrived late and many aircraft cut a corner and approached from the south-west instead of using the planned south-south-east approach; this resulted in more bombs falling in open country than would otherwise have been the case. The German defences - both flak and night fighters - were extremely fierce. 56 aircraft - 23 Halifaxes, 17 Lancasters, 16 Stirlings - were lost, 7.9 per cent of the heavy bomber force. This was Bomber Command's greatest loss of aircraft in one night so far in the war.
40 Wellingtons minelaying in the Frisians and off Lorient and St Nazaire, 22 OTU sorties. No losses.
|Going to 'The Big One'|
8 Mosquitos to Berlin, 66 aircraft minelaying in the Heligoland, Frisian and Texel areas. No aircraft lost.
6 Mosquitos to Berlin, 42 aircraft minelaying off Brest and the Biscay ports, 7 OTU sorties. 1 OTU Wellington lost.
32 aircraft minelaying off Brest and the Biscay ports, 1 OTU sortie. No aircraft lost.
674 aircraft - 349 Lancasters, 221 Halifaxes, 104 Stirlings - to Nuremburg. 33 aircraft - 11 of each type on the raid - lost, 4.9 per cent of the force.
The marking for this raid was based mainly on H2S. 47 of the Pathfinder H2S aircraft were ordered to check their equipment by dropping a 1,000-lb bomb on Heilbronn while flying to Nuremberg. 28 Pathfinder aircraft were able to carry out this order. Nuremberg was found to be free of cloud but it was very dark. The initial Pathfinder markers were accurate but a creepback quickly developed which could not be stopped because so many Pathfinder aircraft had difficulties with their H2S sets. The Master Bomber could do little to persuade the Main Force to move their bombing forward; only a quarter of the crews could hear his broadcasts.
47 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians and off La Pallice, Lorient and St Nazaire, 10 OTU sorties. 1 Wellington minelayer lost.
4 Oboe Mosquitos to Cologne and 4 to Duisburg. 1 aircraft lost.
660 aircraft - 297 Lancasters, 185 Halifaxes, 107 Stirlings, 57 Wellingtons, 14 Mosquitos - tasked to carry out a double attack on Mönchengladbach and Rheydt. The visibility was good and the Oboe-assisted marking of both targets was described in Bomber Command's records as 'a model' of good Pathfinder marking. The bombing was very concentrated with little creepback.
St Omer: This was the first of a series of small raids in which OTU
crews bombed ammunition dumps located in various forests of Northern
France. A handful of Pathfinder aircraft marked each target and one
of the purposes of the raids was to accustom OTU crews to bombing on
to markers before being posted to front-line squadrons.
This raid was carried out by 33 OTU Wellingtons, with the Pathfinders providing 6 Oboe Mosquitos and 6 Halifaxes. The target was a dump in the Forêt d'Eperlecques, just north of St Omer. The bombing was successful and a large explosion was seen. 2 Wellingtons were lost.
12 Mosquitos to Duisburg, 9 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisians. 1 Mosquito lost.
|Stirling engine runs|
622 aircraft - 331 Lancasters, 176 Halifaxes, 106 Stirlings, 9 Mosquitos carried out a further attack on Berlin.
This raid was not successful. There was some cloud in the target area; this, together with difficulties with H2S equipment and probably the ferocity of the German defences, all combined to cause the Pathfinder markers to be dropped well south of the centre of the target area and the Main Force bombing to be even further away. The main bombing area eventually extended 30 miles back along the bombers' approach route. After this raid, Gauleiter Goebbels ordered the evacuation from Berlin of all children and all adults not engaged in war work to country areas or to towns in Eastern Germany where air raids were not expected. 47 aircraft - 20 Halifaxes, 17 Stirlings, 10 Lancasters - lost, 1.6 per cent of the force. The Stirling casualties were 16.0 per cent! Approximately two thirds of the bombers lost were shot down by German fighters operating over or near Berlin. The use of 'fighter flares', dropped by German aircraft to 'mark' the bomber routes into and away from the target, was noted for the first time in Bomber Command records.
30 OTU Wellingtons with 6 Mosquitos and 5 Halifaxes of the Pathfinders bombed an ammunition dump in the Forêt de Hesdin and 6 Mosquitos were sent to Brauweiler. No aircraft lost.
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