Vertical aerial photograph taken during the major raid on Lubeck on the night of 28/29 March 1942, showing the glare of incendiary fires in the Altstadt (upper left), illuminating the Klughafen on which a number of barges can be seen moored.

Arthur ‘Bomber’ Harris, now leading Bomber Command was determined to prove that his force was a war winning weapon that could bring Germany to her knees. The strategy had now moved over to area bombing, destroying swathes of industrial infrastructure, in which industrial workers, and their families, would be ‘dehoused’ – there was a tacit admission that many would be killed during this process.

Not surprisingly, after the Luftwaffe had destroyed the fine old medieval city of Coventry, there were no scruples about attacking a similar target in Germany. Like Coventry, Lubeck was also an industrial centre of some importance.

Harris was to record his reasons for the choice of the first target in his memoirs:

On the night of March 28th-29th the first German city went up in flames. This was Lubeck, a rather distant target on the Baltic coast, but not difficult to identify because of its position on the River Trave, by no means so well defended as the Ruhr, and from the nature of its buildings easier than most cities to set on fire.

It was a city of moderate size, of some importance as a port, and with some submarine building yards of moderate size not far from it. It was not a vital target, but it seemed to me better to destroy an industrial town of moderate importance than to fail to destroy a large industrial city.

However, the main object of the attack was to learn to what extent a first wave of aircraft could guide a second wave to the aiming point by starting a conflagration: I ordered a half an hour interval between the two waves in order to allow the fires to get a good hold before the second wave arrived. In all, 234 aircraft were dispatched and dropped 144 tons of incendiaries and 160 tons of high explosives. At least half of the town was destroyed, mainly by fire. It was conclusively proved that even the small force I had then could destroy the greater part of a town of secondary importance.

In the attack on Lubeck 13 aircraft were missing, most of them being shot down along the route, a loss rate of 5.5 per cent, and no more than could be expected on a moonlight night and with the target at so great a distance from base.

For Harris this was an unsustainable rate of loss. See Arthur Harris: Bomber Offensive.

The burning cathedral in Lubeck - the Nazis sought to make a propaganda issue out of the burning of the historic heart of the city.

The first wave of bombs included blockbusters which blew apart buildings - into these ruins incendiaries fell, starting the firestorm that caused the greater part of the destruction.

A few days later Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister was to acknowledge in his diary the impact that the raid had made on the population:

The damage is really enormous, I have been shown a newsreel of the destruction. It is horrible. One can well imagine how such a bombardment affects the population. … Thank God, it is a North German population, which on the whole is much tougher than the Germans in the south or south-east. We can’t get away from the fact that the English air-raids have increased in scope and importance; if they can be continued on these lines, they might conceivably have a demoralising effect on the population.

Vertical photographic-reconnaissance photograph taken over Lubeck, Germany following the major night raid by Bomber Command aircraft on 28/29 March 1942. This shows the devastated western part of the Altstadt from the gutted cathedral (top left) to the Drehbrucke (bottom right) and Kanalstrasse (bottom left).

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Mar

28

1942

The Commando raid on St. Nazaire

28th March 1942: The Commando raid on St. Nazaire

After about three or four minutes of this brisk action there was a perceptible slackening in the enemy’s fire. This was a triumph for the many gun-layers in the coastal craft and in the Campbeltown. It was, at this stage, a straight fight between the carefully sited enemy flak emplacements ashore, enjoying all the protection which concrete could afford, and the gun-layers, handling the short-range weapons on the exposed decks of their small and lively craft.

Mar

27

1942

Fighters clash over the Desert

27th March 1942: Fighters clash over the Desert

The enemy escort drew off some of our fighters, but other Hurricanes which had by now climbed to a dizzy height, dived like thunderbolts on the Stukas quickly followed by the top-cover Messerschmitt escort who were still higher. The first Hurricane to dive came streaking down the coast followed by a Messerschmitt, firing its cannons in furious bursts, peppering the air with black smoke puffs.

Mar

26

1942

The end of Burma’s air defence – the retreat continues

26th March 1942: The end of Burma’s air defence – and the retreat continues

The main weight of the enemy attack was concentrated on the aerodromes at Magwe and Akyab. At the former, which was subjected to five raids, almost all aircraft of the two and a half squadrons located there were either destroyed or damaged. Akyab aerodrome was attacked three times by a total of 80 bombers with fighter escort, and nine of our aircraft were destroyed and a further six were damaged on the ground. In addition, an ammunition dump was hit and a hangar demolished.

Mar

25

1942

Merchant ship supply lines stretched on all fronts

25th March 1942: Merchant ship supply lines stretched on all fronts

During the week ending the 25th March 897 ships, including 245 Allied and 22 neutral, were convoyed. Seven cruisers and anti-aircraft ships, two armed merchant cruisers, 68 destroyers (including 17 American and two Russian destroyers) and 114 sloops and corvettes were employed on escort duties.

Mar

24

1942

Hardegan on U-123 strikes again

24th March 1942: Hardegan on U-123 strikes again

There – after 61 seconds – hit ahead of the foremost mast.  High, dark explosion plume and shortly thereafter the whole tanker seems to blow up.  He had a load of gasoline in the forepart.  Several explosions followed and we saw a sea of flames, which one observes rarely.  Just when we believed that he sank he used the radio.  Oops! 

Mar

23

1942

Hitler warns of danger on European Coast

23rd March 1942: Fuhrer Directive No. 40 Hitler warns of danger on European Coast

The time and place of the landing operations will not be dictated to the enemy by operational considerations alone. Failure in other theatres of war, obligations to allies, and political considerations may persuade him to take decisions which appear unlikely from a purely military point of view.

Mar

22

1942

Italian battle fleet attacks Malta convoy

22nd March 1942: Italian battle fleet attacks Malta convoy in Sirte Battle

A series of flashes in the smoke followed by a dull, rumbling boom announced the opening of the surface engagement. As if this was a signal, a formation of torpedo bombers flew into sight, skimming just above the sea. Simultaneously an even larger group of high level bombers were briefly glimpsed through the smoke and clouds on the opposite side of the convoy.

Mar

21

1942

Heaviest bombing raid on Malta yet

21st March 1942: Attack on Malta intensifies

The heaviest attack which has yet been delivered against Malta was made on the 21st March, when Takali aerodrome was the main objective. A mixed force of nearly 220 enemy aircraft participated in this raid, and great devastation was caused among buildings, and a reservoir was destroyed. During the day small reinforcements of Spitfires and Blenheims reached the island.

Mar

20

1942

A Soviet army is trapped in the northern pine forests

20th March 1942: A Soviet army is trapped in the northern pine forests

As soon as our howitzers fired the first ranging shot, it was apparent that the many tall trees in this virgin forest would pose problems beyond just obscuring my observation of enemy movement. If one of our shells prematurely collided with a tree on its ascent, its impact would cause the tree to fall or shower splinters that might injure or kill any friendly troops around it.