Heavy losses during raids on Germany

Original caption 'A Hurribomber from No 402. Squadron, based at Manston, being armed with 250lb bombs on 6th November 1941.' See comments below.

RAF strategy was to attack targets on mainland Europe in an attempt to divert Luftwaffe resources back from Russia. Bomber Command was going through a transitional period as the new four engined bombers became gradually available. Losses from the old Whitley bombers which had made up the backbone of the fleet now became completely unsustainable.

Publicity shots of an unnamed Whitley crew preparing for a raid on Germany sometime in November 1941.

Fighter Command was now operating a proportion of Hurricanes as low level bombers, keeping in service aircraft that had become outdated at fighters. Only a year before the Hurricane had provided the greater part of the fighter strength during the Battle of Britain. The ‘Hurribomber’ was to sustain heavy losses, as it made attacks on low level targets:

Several successful attacks were made by Hurricane bombers of Fighter Command. Eight Hurricanes bombed a factory near Bergues causing a large explosion, and six dropped all their bombs on an oil refinery at Beauchamps, near Le Treport, leaving the main buildings enveloped in smoke and flames. Eight others bombed the alcohol factory at St. Pol, setting the factory on fire and causing the Still tower to collapse. Hurricane bombers also attacked barges, lock gates and railway tracks near Nieuport, and railway bridges and electric pylons near Dieppe.

Fighters attacked a variety of targets, including gasometers near Bergues and Middlekerke, one of which was set on fire, an oil refinery at Verton in the Pas de Calais, and goods trains near Dieppe.

During these operations our fighters destroyed 12 enemy aircraft, probably destroyed eight and damaged 12. Our losses were 25 aircraft but three pilots were rescued.

Enemy defensive activity by day was rather above the recent average, moderate to strong patrols being flown over the Pas de Calais area on five days of the week.

….

On the night of 7th/8th November 400 aircraft, which is the largest force of bombers to have operated from this country on a single night, were despatched to attack targets in Germany and occupied territory. Very bad weather was encountered and 37 aircraft are missing.

From the Air Situation Report for the week as reported to the British War Cabinet, see TNA CAB 66/19/43

Details of all the bombers and their crews lost on the night of 7th November can be found at Lost Bombers.

The Whitley crew enjoy 'the traditional post operational breakfast of bacon and eggs' after returning from the raid.

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Editor March 29, 2013 at 9:57 am

Nigel

Many thanks for updating that. I use the full original captions whenever they are available but I am aware, after looking at quite a few of them over time, that they are by no means infallible. It is possible that ones like these were deliberately misleading, released to the press so that German intelligence would pick it up and get a false impression of how many Squadrons were at Manston, which was obviously a frontline station of great interest to them.

Martin

Nigel Tilbury March 29, 2013 at 9:29 am

11/11/1942 The photo of the Hurribomber being bombed up perpetuates the erroneous statement that the machine is one of 402 squadrons aircraft (code letters AE). The machine is in fact an aircraft on charge with 607 County of Durham squadron (code letters AF) the machine being AF-S of B flight (indicated by the letter on the wheel chock on the starboard side). 402 squadron as far as I have been able to ascertain, were never based at Manston where the photo was taken. My father is the airman on the extreme left of the picture and other images taken in the same publicity shoot include the squadron commander; Squadron Leader Noel Mowat.

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