Bomber Command target Dusseldorf

Vertical aerial photograph taken over the centre of Dusseldorf at 11 pm on 10 September 1942, at the height of the major night raid by 479 aircraft of Bomber Command. Most of the area photographed is covered with widespread incendiary fires, from which flame and smoke are rising to obscure the target.

The operations of RAF Bomber Command were still subject to a number of variables, including the weather. The Pathfinder target marking force was just getting established and was developing its techniques. When the weather and moon conditions were right, the target was marked correctly and the bomber stream was concentrated on the target in a short period of intense bombing the results could be devastating.

All of these factors came together for the raid on the 10/11th September, causing more destruction than had ever been achieved before, apart from one of the experimental 1000 bomber raids. Bomber Command was beginning to have the impact that was hoped for:

At Dusseldorf, 360 aircraft dropped 700 tons of bombs. Though a large part of the attacking force concentrated its effort on the main objective, starting a number of extensive fires (see Appendix VII [below]). scattered fires were also seen west of the target, and some bombs fell at Krefeld, Munchen-Gladbach and adjacent towns. Thirty bombers are missing, five crashed and three came down in the sea.


Assessment of damage from photographs taken the day after the attack on the 10th/11th is rendered difficult as parts of the town are wholly obscured by the smoke of fires still burning.

It is at present only possible to give some idea of the extensive damage that has actually been caused. In the centre of the town there are six noteworthy areas of damage, the three largest of which are 3/4 mile long, varying in-width from 90 yards to 1/4 mile, 1/2 long by about 180 yards wide, and nearly 1/4 mile long and 250 yards wide.

The damage to residential and industrial property on both banks of the Rhine is severe, and
evacuation will be hindered by a direct hit on the main station, which appears to have been heavily damaged.

From the Air Situation Report for the week as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB 66/28/48

The later post raid assessment was also seen by the War Cabinet:

Dusseldorf (10th/11th September).

It is now apparent that, measured by the extent of destruction to industries and communications, this attack was the most profitable of all our bombing raids, with the exception of that on Cologne on 30th/31st May.

Large areas were devastated in both Rostock and Lubeck but this did not result in more
than a fraction of the industrial damage done in Dusseldorf.

In Dusseldorfs 380 acres of complete devastation no less than 30 factories and important works were either completely destroyed or so damaged that output must be seriously curtailed.

Among them were six factories making steel products or machinery, two factories making steel tubes, one making machine tools and magnetic mines, two chemical works and many other factories producing a variety of commodities such as enamel, paper, boilers, wire, insulating materials, railway wagons and harvesting machinery.

This formidable list of destroyed or seriously damaged factories is additional to the 24 factories damaged in the raid of the last night of August.

The estimate of 380 acres of complete devastation mentioned above does not include innumerable isolated incidents of bomb and blast damage throughout the city and its suburbs.

NB: the numbers of aircraft involved vary between different official accounts.

Armourers make final checks on the bomb load of an Avro Lancaster B Mark I of No. 207 Squadron RAF at Syerston, Nottinghamshire, before a night bombing operation to Bremen, Germany. The mixed load (Bomber Command executive codeword ‘Usual’), consists of a 4,000-lb HC bomb (‘cookie’) and small bomb containers (SBCs) filled with 30-lb incendiaries, with the addition of four 250-lb target indicators (TI).

The forward section of an Avro Manchester Mark I of No. 207 Squadron RAF, while running up the port Rolls-Royce Vulture II engine at Waddington, Lincolnshire, showing the nose with the bomb-aimer’s window, the forward gun-turret and the pilot’s cockpit.

Vickers Wellington Mark IV, Z1407 ‘BH-Z’, “Zośka”, of No. 300 Polish Bomber Squadron RAF on the ground at Ingham, Lincolnshire, having lost most of its rear fuselage fabric through battle damage sustained on 4/5 September 1942 when raiding Bremen, Germany. In spite of a damaged wireless set, a badly working rudder, damaged flaps and no navigational instruments, the pilot, Pilot Officer Stanisław Machej, with the cooperation of his whole crew, brought the aircraft safely home.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin smith October 26, 2016 at 8:29 pm

Thanks to all who as written these articles, I am very interested in this subject as my farther was in the RAF bomber command, but only ground crew, he spoke little about these times and was always disturbed by the loss of life and damaged from these 1000 bomber raids.
Have not yet proved this story , but it goes as our great grandfather lived in Dusseldorf and was involved in the construction of the gas works before moving to the uk in the 18 th century, changing his name to smith, don’t know if this is true, as if I ever asked about my great Grandfather, was told not to ask! Why?
As I now am retired would like to find out more, I always have been interested of anything German, and love the country when I have traveled there.
Just thoughts may be of interest to someone.
Regards Martin smith

Desmond Jordan June 23, 2016 at 11:53 am

How many people perished because of the bombing?

Keith Crosby November 14, 2015 at 7:45 pm

Ralph Schmidt

The Germans reaped what they sowed. In war you kill people and break things until one side loses the will to fight. German death camps, the complicity of the German people, and Germany’s war against the civilized world came with costs. Do you think Germany was merciful to the people of London whom they bombed night after night in the battle of Britain? What about the women and children Jewish, Eastern European and otherwise who perished in the death camps? What was good for Hitler was good for Germany and that worked both ways.

Nazism is a cancer. Cancer treatments are always painful. Surgery removes good tissue, too. Radiation damages tissue around the tumor. Chemotherapy introduces toxins affecting the whole body. But a cancer must be vanquished or the patient dies. Nazism was vanquished and Europe survived the cancer.

The German people and their support of Adolph Hitler, like the Japanese and their support of Tojo and Hirohito brought this suffering upon themselves. That’s war and all things being equal the world is a better place as the result of Germany’s defeat.

Ralph Schmidt July 21, 2015 at 4:47 am

My father, Friedrich Schmidt, was born in Dusseldorf in 1933; a six year old boy when the murderous “Bomber” Harris concocted the monstrous strategy of “blanket” bombing of civilians. This with the enthusiastic backing of the equally neferious rogue, Churchill. But even the infamous so called 1000 bomber raids failed to kill the young Friedrich, and hence, me. Though these terror raids were hidden under the euphemism of “military and industrial targets”, their true purpose, it turns out, was to burn the men, women and children of German cities to death in the apocalyptic rainstorm of incendiary devices ( phosphor bombs ). Like Anita MacCutcheon, the boy who would ‘bleib uber” and become my father also lived on the 6th floor of an inner city apartment block. What little parts remained are now called “Der Altstadt”. Though the buildings to the left and right burnt out, my grandparents apartment remained intact, as the young Friedrich and his older brother Rolf, would stay in the apartment with buckets of sand to smother any incendiaries which might land on their place and punch through the roof. These two boys would wrap themselves in thick, wet down woolens, and throw out any devices which had failed to burst. Most of the younger chidren were eventually billetted out to live and work on farms, so they might have a chance to survive. My uncle, Rolf, being that couple of years older, was unfortunately, drafted into the Wehrmacht and marched off to war.He was captured , spending the last months of the war as a POW, courtesy of the British. This left Rolf with severe PTSD for the rest of his life. Although it was’nt known as such ’till many years later. I was born and grew up in Adelaide, Australia, where my future father jumped ship at the age of 18 whilst in Oz on a 2 year bricklaying contract. An obvious trade for a young man in Dusseldorf at the end of it all; given the vast piles of bricks that had once been a city. “Fritz” met my future mother, Irene, in Adelaide; also a young war refugee from Europe.( boat person ) Eventually, I came along, grew up all too soon, and I too, became a bricklayer. I blame Churchill and Harris for that, too. Now I’m in my late fifties. Friedrich has been dead six years. But whenever my chronic back pain ( from too many years on building sites ) gets too much, I blame Hitler. After all, he started it, didn’t he?

Luke Thompson April 29, 2015 at 12:44 am

I have just recieved some family war records today. My Grandmothers cousin was a 19 year old New Zealand pilot that flew the Wellington bomber BJ828. He took part in this terrible raid and his plane was one of the bombers shot down that night. His plane crashed near Cologne and he and his 4 crew are buried at the Rheinberg war cemetary in Germany.

Luke Thompson April 29, 2015 at 12:41 am

I just recieved the military records for some members of my family today. My Grand mothers cousin was a 19 year old New Zealand pilot in the British Wellington bomber BJ828 that took part in this terrible raid. His plane was one of the 5 that were shot down that night. He and his crew are burried at Rheinberg war cemetary in Germany.

Anita MacCutcheon September 9, 2013 at 7:27 pm

I lived in Dusseldorf,and our Apartment bld.that belonged to my Grandparents 6 floors up was completely destroied half the street was only rubble,it was a horrible time.I myself did not know any better for me that was just the way it was,however my big sister knew what life was like before the war.The city is now so beautyful,it was destoied between 80&85% there where over 200000 homeless people in the city and when the refugees from east Germany came it went from bad to worse.No one can immagine what it was like no food,no cloth,we only had the cloth on our back when we got bombed and there was nothing in the stores to buy,we where lucky my Mother knew how to sew so she pieced scaps together to make a dress etc.

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