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.

Dusseldorf

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.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris August 22, 2018 at 4:09 pm

PS to my previous comment.
80 million Germans.
8 million were in Nazi party.
1 million of those Nazis followed Hitlers orders.
12 million were forced to be fighting soldiers.
32000 became secret service called Gestapo.

I was born in 44.
I have hungered and cleared rubble as a kid.
My father was disable never belonged to a party or a war.
Why would I at age 74 having lived in the usa
For 55 years be called Gestapo when I sit at the pool and say ‘kids should not jump into water in shallow area.’
I could give 100s of examples where I was called Nazi or Gestapo.

Do we call people of America KKK ?
Or murderers of millions of Native Americans or African Americans.
No it’s always the villainous Germans.
Oh well.

Chris August 22, 2018 at 3:33 pm

Someone said ‘ the Germans reaped what they sowed.’ I don’t agree. 80 Million people did not cause the mess but 1 maniac who reigned over a few thousand politicians who in turn controlled an Army.
My father was disabled. My mother and father were simple people. They evacuated Duesseldorf with my one year old brother September 1st. They lost everything. I was born 44 during the war in the East evacuation zone. We returned
After the war, now fleeing from the Russian back to Duesseldorf. I knew nothing but rubble, hunger, friends dying from polio, typhus, dytheria.
Where did we sow?
Remember this all can happen again here…yes here in the USA, too. No one stands up to power craving politicians. ‘ what can I do? Nothing.’ Is always the andwer. Anyway…I still appreciate every piece of bread and half a glass of milk.
All I am trying to say is that millions suffer ( ww2 80 million died), my mother and father each lost 5 brothers and sisters.
Why? What for?
Since then we have had more than 500 wars and close to 300 million death.
What for?
When will they ( we) ever learn.
Best wishes.

Willhelm Keitel March 4, 2018 at 1:42 pm

It must have been bad for everybody, my father survived the war and was a prisoner in England, my mother was English, dad did not want to return to his home in Thuringen as it was controlled by the Russians, so here I am. I hope we can all get along together in the future but never forget how easy it is to start a war……

Bruce Leary October 29, 2017 at 9:54 pm

In reply to Ralph Schmidt
Do not blame Churchill and Harris for what your Fuhrer made you suffer as you say he started it. Because Hitler invaded Poland, I was machine gunned in my garden by a german fighter bomber, the school I went to was bombed at lunch time on Wednesday, 20 January 1943 killing 38 children and six teachers and wounding 60 others. Children in plain site in the playground. My grandmother was bombed out twice. We put up with V1s and V2s, totally random attacks against civilians, with no military value except as terror weapons.
As for “the murderous “Bomber” Harris concocted the monstrous strategy of “blanket” bombing of civilians”. –
“On the 14th November 1941, 515 german bombers attacked Coventry. After the pathfinders, the first wave of bombers dropped high explosive bombs, knocking out the utilities (the water supply, electricity network, telephones and gas mains) and cratering the roads, making it difficult for the fire engines to reach fires started by the later waves of bombers. These later waves dropped a combination of high explosive and incendiary bombs. There were two types of incendiary bomb: those made of magnesium and those made of petroleum. The high explosive bombs and the larger air-mines were not only designed to hamper the Coventry fire brigade, they were also intended to damage roofs, making it easier for the incendiary bombs to fall into buildings and ignite them. At around 20:00, Coventry Cathedral, was set on fire by incendiaries. The volunteer fire-fighters managed to put out the first fire but other direct hits followed and soon new fires broke out in the cathedral; accelerated by a firestorm, the flames quickly spread out of control. During the same period, more than 200 other fires were started across the city, most of which were concentrated in the city-centre area, setting the area ablaze and overwhelming the fire-fighters. The telephone network was crippled, hampering the fire service’s command and control and making it difficult to send fire-fighters to the most dangerous blazes first; and as the Germans had intended, the water mains were damaged by high explosives, meaning there was not enough water available to tackle many of the fires.” (Wikipedia)
The raid reached such a new and severe level of destruction that Joseph Goebbels later used the term coventriert (“coventrated”) when describing similar levels of destruction of other enemy towns. During the raid, the Germans dropped about 500 tonnes of high explosives, including 50 parachute air-mines, of which 20 were incendiary petroleum mines, and 36,000 incendiary bombs. The raid of 14 November combined several innovations which influenced all future strategic bomber raids during the war.These were:

1. The use of pathfinder aircraft with electronic aids to navigate, to mark the targets before the main bomber raid.
2. The use of high explosive bombs and air-mines (blockbuster bombs) coupled with thousands of incendiary bombs intended to set the city ablaze in a firestorm.

So now we know who concocted the monstrous strategy of “blanket” bombing of civilians, certainly not Harris.

The Blitz 1940- 1941 – By mid-November 1940, more than 12,000 tons of high explosive and nearly 1,000,000 incendiaries had fallen on London. In September 1940 alone, the German air force – dropped 5,300 tonnes of high explosives on London in just 24 nights. In September and October alone more than 13,000 civilians had been killed, and almost 20,000 injured. Around 32,000 people were killed in the Blitz and over 87,000 injured In German efforts to ‘soften up’ the British population and to destroy morale before the planned invasion, German planes extended their targets to include the major coastal ports and centres of production and supply. The Germans Destroyed 2 million homes in the Blitz.

This was total war against a determined and fanatic enemy whose attempt to destroy the populations of major British cities and towns, knew no bounds. When you are attacked the only way is to fight back. Just think how we felt when the first 1000 bomber raid was announced – at last we are hitting back after years of taking it (being constantly bombed).

When you talk about destruction I suggest you consider the bombing of Guernica in the Spanish Civil war where the German Condor Legion bombed unprotected innocent civilians to destruction. I also suggest you consider the people of Warsaw where the German bombers destroyed around 84% of the city in 1944, and the massive destruction waged against Stalingrad and other Russian cities. Try a picture of Wielun in Poland the first Polish City destroyed by the Luftwaffe, also Rotterdam, Belgrade and any number of other cities.

Thanks to Germans we had to live in shelters at night, we had to exist on very limited rations, in March 1940 the weekly ration per person – butter 50 grams, tea 50 grams, 1 egg, sugar – 8 ounces, cooking fat 2 ounces, meat 3/4 pound, milk 1200 ml, bacon 100 grams. Not only did they try to bomb us into submission but they tried to starve us out with submarine warfare. We all grew up far too soon. So while it was not Ralph’s doing or my doing, we both suffered, however do not blame the British War leaders they did what they thought they had to at the time and in response to unprecedented, long term, continuous attacks on the UK.

James Hall September 10, 2017 at 9:49 pm

Replying to both the massive murder that was the aerial war in WWII (after all probably 380 young pilots died in this venture along with their targeted civilians and the attempt by some to rationalize it as kind of “payback” – it still remains a definable War Crime and Crime Against Humanity! It is just as sickening to accept the German soldiers part in the murder of many, many civilians, especially in the East as it is to justify deliberate attempts to cause the civilians to turn against their government, whether German or English. It never worked. Some of us refuse to learn from history and we should read the 1947 Aerial Bombing Survey, and Albert Speer’s accounts of how quickly it turned out to be to rebuild most factories. He also maintained that had the Bomb mad dogs of England and the US continued to blast the ball bearing factories after successfully bombing them in 42, the war would have been over at least a year earlier. As “Bomber Harris”, Churchill, and Roosevelt would say “sad”.

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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