Royal Air Force Bomber Command 60th Anniversary


Campaign Diary
May 1943

 

1 May 1943

1 May 1943

12 Bostons to a railway target at Caen and 6 Mosquitos to the Philips factory at Eindhoven; both raids were abandoned because of cloud.

1/2 May 1943

Minelaying: 18 Wellingtons and 12 Stirlings laid mines off the Brittany and Biscay coasts. 1 Stirling lost.

2 May 1943

12 Bostons and 12 Venturas attacked a steelworks at Ijmuiden; the Venturas hit the target but not the Bostons. 7 Mosquitos bombed railway workshops at Thionville. No aircraft lost.

3 May 1943

12 Venturas of 487 (New Zealand) Squadron were dispatched to attack a power-station on the northern outskirts of Amsterdam. 1 aircraft returned early; the remaining 11 proceeded with an escort of 3 squadrons of Spitfires. Unfortunately, an earlier Spitfire sweep alerted the German defences while the Ventura force was still flying at low level over the North Sea. Unfortunately, too, an exceptional number of experienced German fighter pilots were present at Schiphol airfield for a conference. 69 German fighters were thus up in the air near Amsterdam when the Ventura force crossed the Dutch coast. Some of the German fighters engaged the Spitfires while the remainder attacked the bombers. 9 Venturas were shot down before reaching the target and a tenth was badly damaged but it managed to turn back and reach England. The only remaining Ventura from the formation was that of Squadron Leader L. H. Trent, a New Zealander. His Ventura, completely alone, pressed on to the target and bombed it. The bombs just missed but some blast damage was caused. This last Ventura was then immediately shot down. Squadron Leader Trent and his navigator were the only survivors and became prisoners of war. The story of this action, in which 10 out of 11 Venturas were shot down, was reconstructed after the war and Squadron Leader Trent was awarded the Victoria Cross in 1946.

6 Bostons successfully bombed the steelworks at Ijmuiden but 1 aircraft crashed into the sea.

Total Bomber Command effort for the day: 18 sorties, 11 aircraft (61 per cent) lost.

3/4 May 1943

4 OTU Whitleys dropped leaflets over France without loss.

4 May 1943

12 Venturas attacked railway yards at Abbeville. 3 Mosquitos out of 6 dispatched bombed power-stations at Haarlem and The Hague. No aircraft lost.

4/5 May 1943

596 aircraft - 255 Lancasters, 141 Halifaxes, 110 Wellingtons, 80 Stirlings, 10 Mosquitos - on the largest 'non-1,000' raid of the war to date and the first major attack on Dortmund. 31 aircraft - 12 Halifaxes, 7 Stirlings, 6 Lancasters, 6 Wellingtons - lost, 5.2 per cent of the force. A further 7 aircraft crashed in bad weather at the bomber bases. The initial Pathfinder marking was accurate but some of the backing-up marking fell short. A decoy fire site also attracted many bombs. But half of the large force did bomb within 3 miles of the aiming point and severe damage was caused in central and northern parts of Dortmund.

6 Stirlings and 2 Halifaxes on an H2S training raid to Rheine. 24 OTU sorties. No losses.

The raid on Dortmund
Photograph taken from one of the aircraft attacking Dortmund during Bomber Command's first major attack on the city. The white streaks are the tracks of fires and incendiaries.

5 May 1943

5 Mosquitos to attack a railway works south of Brussels. Only one aircraft is believed to have hit this target. No aircraft lost.

Mosquito attack on steelworks
Although not listed as a target, this photo (dated for this day) shows a low-level attack by Mosquitos on a power station at Lille in Northern France.

5/6 May 1943

21 Stirlings minelaying in the Frisian Islands; 1 aircraft lost.

7 May 1943

6 Mitchells to a railway target at Boulogne were recalled.

9/10 May 1943

21 Stirlings minelaying off La Pallice and in the River Gironde without loss.

11 May 1943

6 Mitchells to a railway target at Boulogne were recalled.

12/13 May 1943

572 aircraft - 238 Lancasters, 142 Halifaxes, 112 Wellingtons, 70 Stirlings, 10 Mosquitos bombed Duisburg. This was the fourth raid on the city so far during the Battle of the Ruhr, the first 3 raids having been only partially successful. The Pathfinder marking on this night, however, was near perfect and the Main Force bombing was particularly well concentrated. The centre of Duisburg and the port area just off the River Rhine, the largest inland port in Germany, suffered severe damage. 34 aircraft - 10 Lancasters, 10 Wellingtons, 9 Halifaxes, 5 Stirlings - lost, 5.9 per cent of the force.

No 106 Squadron, Syerston, May 1943
Lancaster at rest. Groundcrew check the engines of a Lancaster. Personnel from all around Syerston gather to wave of the Lancasters bound for another raid over Germany.

13 May 1943

12 Bostons attacked Cherbourg docks and 6 Mitchells attacked railway targets at Boulogne. 1 Mitchell lost.

13/14 May 1943

Bochum attacked by 442 aircraft - 135 Halifaxes, 104 Wellingtons, 98 Lancasters, 95 Stirlings, 10 Mosquitos; 24 aircraft - 13 Halifaxes, 6 Wellingtons, 4 Stirlings, 1 Lancaster - lost, 5.4 per cent of the force. This raid started well but, after 15 minutes, what were believed to be German decoy markers drew much of the bombing away from the target.

156 Lancasters and 12 Halifaxes were dispatched in a further attempt to bomb the Skoda armaments factory at Pilsen. 120 aircraft from this force were from No 5 Group; the remainder were Pathfinders. 9 aircraft were lost. The target again proved to be a difficult one to find and mark accurately and nearly all the bombs fell in open country north of the Skoda works.

12 Mosquitos to Berlin, 8 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians, 12 OTU flights. 1 Mosquito on the Berlin raid was lost.

Damage to Wellington
Proof that the Wellington could take an large amount of damage, and still fly home. The extensively damaged rear fuselage of a Wellington hit during the mission to Bochum

14 May 1943

6 Mitchells sent to the steelworks at Ijmuiden were recalled.

14/15 May 1943

5 OTU Wellingtons dropped leaflets over France without loss.

15 May 1943

24 Bostons and 12 Mitchells to various targets. 12 Bostons and 6 Mitchells were recalled but 12 Bostons bombed Poix airfield and 6 Mitchells attacked an industrial target at Caen. No aircraft lost.

15/16 May 1943

3 Mosquitos to Berlin, 16 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

16 May 1943

12 Venturas bombed Morlaix airfield and 5 Mitchells bombed Caen airfield but 7 further Mitchells could not locate their airfield target. No aircraft lost.

16/17 May 1943

Operation Chastise - The 'Dambusters' Raid

One of the most daring raids of the war was undertaken by newly-formed No 617 Squadron. Under the inspired leadership of Wing Commander Guy Gibson, the squadron attempted to breach a number of dams in Germany in an attempt to severly disrupt German industrial output. Of the four attacked, two, the Möhne and Eder were breached. The cost to the squadron was enormous. Nineteen aircraft were scheduled for the attacks, but only 12 made it and a further four more were lost on the return journey. 53 crew members were killed with a further 3 taken prisoner.

For his leadership, Gibson, who later went on to become one of the most famous of all Bomber Command pilots, received the Victoria Cross. Another 34 decorations were made to other members of the squadron.

A full description of Operation Chastise will be added to the Bomber Command site in the near future

9 Mosquitos to Berlin, Cologne, Düsseldorf and Münster, 54 aircraft minelaying off Biscay ports and in the Frisians, 4 OTU sorties. 1 Wellington minelayer lost.

Operation Chastise
One of the dams successfully breached was the Mohne. Water was still flowing through the broken dam wall some hours after the atack when a recce Spitfire took this picture. The second dam to be destroyed was the Eder. Almost 20 miles down river lies Kassel. This recce picture shows the extent of the flooding caused by the breaching of the dams.

17 May 1943

13 Venturas bombed Caen airfield without loss.

17/18 May 1943

3 Mosquitos to Munich, 6 aircraft minelaying off La Pallice. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

18 May 1943

13 Bostons bombed Abbeville airfield without loss.

18/19 May 1943

13 Lancasters and 4 Wellingtons minelaying off Brest and in the southern part of Biscay. No losses.

19 May 1943

12 Venturas to Morlaix airfield were recalled.

19/20 May 1943

6 Mosquitos to Berlin - only 2 bombed there, 5 OTU sorties. No losses.

20 May 1943

2 Mosquitos bombed locomotive sheds at Tergnier without loss.

20/21 May 1943

3 Mosquitos to Berlin, 23 aircraft minelaying in southern Biscay, 5 OTU sorties. No losses.

21 May 1943

4 Mosquitos bombed a railway target at Orleans; 1 aircraft lost. 12 Mitchells to Abbeville airfield were recalled.

21/22 May 1943

Minelaying: 104 aircraft - 64 Wellingtons, 36 Stirlings, 4 Lancasters - carried out extensive minelaying in the Frisians and the River Gironde, and off La Pallice. 3 Wellingtons and 1 Stirling lost. 4 Mosquitos attacked Berlin without loss.

22 May 1943

7 Mosquitos to attack railway workshops at Nantes turned back because of fighter opposition. No aircraft lost.

23 May 1943

12 Venturas of 487 Squadron bombed a power-station at Zeebrugge in the first operation for the squadron since its heavy losses on the Amsterdam raid 3 weeks earlier. The formation's bombs fell on to railway yards near the power-station, No aircraft were lost.

23/24 May 1943

After a 9-day break in major operations, Bomber Command dispatched 826 aircraft to Dortmund - a record number of aircraft in a 'non-1,000' raid so far in the war and the largest raid of the Battle of the Ruhr. The force comprised: 343 Lancasters, 199 Halifaxes, 151 Wellingtons, 120 Stirlings and 13 Mosquitos. 38 aircraft - 18 Halifaxes, 8 Lancasters, 6 Stirlings, 6 Wellingtons - were lost, 4.6 per cent of the force. The Pathfinders marked the target accurately in clear weather conditions and the ensuing attack proceeded according to plan. It was a very successful raid. Many industrial premises were hit, particularly the large Hoesch steelworks, which ceased production. Dortmund was not attacked in strength again by Bomber Command until exactly 1 year after this raid.

There is an interesting story to tell about a Wellington of 431 Squadron which took part in this raid. Just after leaving the target, the Wellington was coned by searchlights and hit several times by fragments of flak. The rear gunner reported that he thought the aircraft was on fire. The pilot twice put the aircraft into a steep dive to evade the searchlights but was not able to do so. There was some confusion over whether an order to bale out was given by the pilot and the pilot actually did leave the aircraft. The bomb aimer, Sergeant SN Sloan, an Englishman, took over the controls and eventually was able to shake off the searchlights. The navigator and wireless operator were still aboard and Sergeant Sloan flew the aircraft back to England and made a perfect landing at Cranwell. He was immediately awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Medal, commissioned and posted to a pilot training course.The wireless operator, Flying Officer JBG Bailey, and the navigator, Sergeant GCW Parslow, received immediate awards of the DFC and the DFM respectively.

15 OTU aircraft carried out leaflet flights to France. 1 Wellington lost.

Dortmund
Scene of devastation at the Hoesch AG factory, Dortmund after the attack of 23/24 May.

25 May 1943

12 Mitchells attempted to raid Abbeville airfield but cloud over the target and flak disrupted the attack and only 5 aircraft bombed dispersal buildings near the airfield. 2 Mitchells were lost. 12 Bostons on a raid to Cherbourg abandoned the operation.

25/26 May 1943

Düsseldorf: 759 aircraft - 323 Lancasters, 169 Halifaxes, 142 Wellingtons, 113 Stirlings, 12 Mosquitos. 27 aircraft - 9 Lancasters, 8 Stirlings, 6 Wellingtons, 4 Halifaxes - lost, 3.6 per cent of the force. This raid was a failure. There were two layers of cloud over the target and the Pathfinders experienced great difficulty in marking it. It is believed that the Germans were also operating decoy markers and fire sites. The result was that the Main Force bombing was scattered over a wide area.

27 May 1943

14 Mosquitos of 105 and 139 Squadrons were dispatched to fly at low level and attack a glassworks and the Zeiss optical-instruments factory at Jena. These were the last operations flown by the two squadrons with No 2 Group before the coming transfer to No 8 Group. The round flight from the Dutch coast was more than 500 miles. 2 Mosquitos of 139 Squadron collided on the outward flight near Paderborn and crashed; another Mosquito of 105 Squadron was also lost. 11 aircraft bombed the 2 targets with great accuracy. On the return to England, 2 more Mosquitos - 1 from each squadron - crashed in Norfolk and the crews were all killed.

139 Squadron Mosquitos, May 1943
Mosquito of No 139 Squadron. Armourers move the bomb trolley under the belly of a Mosquito

27/28 May 1943

518 aircraft - 274 Lancasters, 151 Halifaxes, 81 Wellingtons, 12 Mosquitos dispatched to Essen. 23 aircraft - 11 Halifaxes, 6 Lancasters, 5 Wellingtons, 1 Mosquito - lost, 4.4 per cent of the force. The weather was cloudy and skymarking had to be used. The main bombing was scattered, with many aircraft undershooting. The limited damage caused in Essen was mainly in the central and northern districts.Bombs fell in 10 surrounding Ruhr towns.

23 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians, 19 OTU sorties. 1 Stirling minelayer lost.

28 May 1943

12 Venturas bombed a power-station at Zeebrugge. 1 Ventura lost.

28/29 May 1943

34 aircraft minelaying in the Frisians, off Brittany ports and in the River Gironde, 5 OTU sorties. No aircraft lost.

29 May 1943

12 Venturas bombed Caen airfield without loss.

29/30 May 1943

Wuppertal

719 aircraft - 292 Lancasters, 185 Halifaxes, 118 Stirlings, 113 Wellingtons, 11 Mosquitos. 33 aircraft - 10 Halifaxes, 8 Stirlings, 8 Wellingtons, 7 Lancasters - lost, 4.6 per cent of the force.

This attack was aimed at the Barmen half of the long and narrow town of Wuppertal and was the outstanding success of the Battle of the Ruhr. Both Pathfinder marking and Main Force bombing was particularly accurate and a large fire area developed in the narrow streets of the old centre of the town. It is probable that this fire was so severe that the first, small form of what would later become known as a 'firestorm' developed. Because it was a Saturday night, many of the town's fire and air-raid officials were not present, having gone to their country homes for the weekend, and the fire services of the town - in their first raid - were not able to control the fires. Approximately 1,000 acres - possibly 80 per cent of Barmen's built-up area - was destroyed by fire. 5 out of the town's 6 largest factories, 211 other industrial premises and nearly 4,000 houses were completely destroyed.

3 OTU aircraft on leaflet flights to France were recalled.

30/31 May 1943

27 aircraft minelaying off Biscay ports, 14 OTU sorties. No losses.

31 May 1943

Last No 2 Group Raids

The squadrons of No 2 Group dispatched 54 aircraft on 5 raids on this, the last day before the group left Bomber Command.
30 Venturas were dispatched: 12 to attack Zeebrugge power-station, 12 to Caen airfield and 6 to Cherbourg docks. 12 Mitchells bombed a shipyard at Flushing. All of these raids were successful. The only casualty was a Mitchell of 180 Squadron which ditched in the sea; 3 of its crew were picked up safely, but Flight Sergeant AW Wood, the New Zealand wireless operator/air gunner, died - the last casualty suffered by No 2 Group with Bomber Command. 12 Bostons sent to attack a power-station in France were not able to reach their target.


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

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