Intense RAF daylight bombing raids on Germany

A view of the raid in progress on one of Cologne's two power stations.

The continued need to put pressure on the Luftwaffe and divert resources from Russia saw the RAF stepping up their attacks:

The heaviest daylight bombing raid against Germany since the outbreak of war was carried out with considerable success on the 12th August. In this major operation 78 bombers and 485 fighters were employed; the targets were two of the main power stations in the Rhineland—the Goldenburg at Cologne-Knapsack and the Quadrath Fortuna at Cologne.

The day’s operations began with a sweep by 84 fighters escorting 6 Hampdens in an attack on St. Omer aerodrome, the object being to draw off the enemy force based in the district ; it is estimated that 150 Me. 109s were engaged in the combats which ensued.

While this operation was in progress 54 Blenheims, escorted by Whirlwinds of Fighter Command, left the coast and, flying low over the sea, penetrated through the mouth of the Scheldt to Antwerp, where the covering Whirlwinds returned to base. Simultaneously, a Fortress bombed De Kooy aerodrome from 32,000 feet, to keep enemy fighters in that area employed.

Meanwhile the Blenheims, flying close to the ground, located and attacked, under favourable weather conditions, the two power stations at Cologne. From reports received, both power stations appear to have been severely damaged in most determined attacks ; 24 tons of bombs were dropped on the turbine and boiler houses and the targets were left with fires blazing.

Heavy A.A. fire was encountered, but only three Me. 109s were seen; further diversions by Fortresses over Cologne and the naval base at Emden assisted in drawing off enemy fighters, which might otherwise have attacked. These Fortresses released their bombs from 35,000 and 37,000 feet respectively.

The Blenheims were met at Antwerp on their homeward journey by formations of Spitfires and, during this withdrawal, a further diversion was carried out by 144 fighters escorting 6 Hampdens to attack Gosnay Power Station, near Bethune; bursts were seen on or around the target. Later, 4 Blenheims with fighter escort bombed the shipyards at Le Trait, near Rouen, hits being obtained on slipways and on a ship alongside.

In this series of co-ordinated operations we lost 12 Blenheims and 10 fighters. Four enemy aircraft were destroyed, 5 probably destroyed and 10 damaged.

From the Air Situation Report for the week see TNA CAB 66/18/17

Also see original RAF Secret Photographic Interpretation Intelligence Document for the raid of 12th August, many thanks to Jason for providing the link:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LOwC5s7jOrB9SsbJHKZSPFvHJWedRxFv1FTiU7Va5NQ/edit?usp=drivesdk

The view from a Blenheim bomber as it finishes its bomb run over the other Cologne power station with bombs exploding on target.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

David Marshall August 16, 2018 at 2:30 am

I have recently discovered that my mother’s first husband was Sgt Ernest Bainbridge, the third member of the crew of Blenheim T2437 UX-Y lost over Holland on 12th August 1941.
I came across this site while starting to research more information, and came across posts from relatives of Hugh Clark & Graham Rolland.
I would really like to make contact from any living relatives of theses brave men and hope to be able to compare notes to learn more information about the crew / mission.
Obviously I would be extremely interested to find out more about Sgt Ernest Bainbridge and would welcome information from any of his relatives.
I can be contacted via davidwjmarshall@gmail.com
Thank you

PATRICIA CRAIG November 10, 2017 at 12:37 pm

My father, Acting Flying Officer Thomas H. Baker, DFM, was the lead navigator on the Knapsack Raid. He survived and received the DFC for it. I have a silver cigarette case inscribed “Knapsack Raid, August 1941”. “From one of the thirty-six who were taken straight there and straight back” . My father was shot down outside Amsterdam in a Blenheim in 1942 and saw out the war in a POW camp, surviving the Great Escape and The Long March in the process. He retired from the RAF in 1958 as a Wing Commander and died in 2006.

Jan S. October 3, 2017 at 3:05 pm

Hello, a very good documention about the raid can be found here:
http://willi-weiss.com
In German Language. additional a lot of Informations about bombing raids at Colongne and the Erft area as well as facts about the Western Front in 1945.
I’m native from Hürth (Knapsack is a part of Hürth with industrial area) and I know the Location very well.
One hint: the powerplant Fortuna was located at Oberaussem not Quadrath.

Jan

Hugo Barnacle September 6, 2017 at 7:47 pm

John Cooper,
Michael JF Bowyer’s book 2 Group RAF (Faber 1974, republished Crecy 1992), p.184, claims that Pilot Officer Rolland’s 82 Sqn Blenheim, T2437 UX-Y for Yorker, was shot down by flak and ‘crashed in flames’ on the outbound route, but this appears to be wrong, since the crash location at Strijensas is some 30 miles north of the outbound route. WR Chorley’s book Bomber Command Losses, Vol.II: 1941 (Midland 1993), p.113, states that the crash occurred at 12.10 — wartime Double British Summer Time and Continental time being the same — which implies that the bomber was on the return route, having successfully attacked Quadrath, as 82 Sqn took off from Watton at 09.50 and landed back about 13.15. Chorley gives the cause as ‘Hit by flak.’

Stuart Berry June 23, 2017 at 1:01 am

My father was a 19 year old WAG (wireless air gunner) in 107 squadron and this raid on Knapsack was his introduction to a long but lived war. Shortly before his death in 1986 he published an article about this raid in the RCAF Airforce Magazine. This was forever etched in his mind as he spoke of it often. If you can find a copy I believe it was in 1985 vol 11 issue no 2.

Chris March 14, 2017 at 11:14 pm

To John Cooper about Hugh Maxwell Clark. In 2015 a Memorial for all fallen airmen over the former island “Hoekse Waard”is unveiled. On this Memorial is also your nephew honoured. Every year the airmen at the Cemetry at Strijen are rememberd on 4th may and Christmas. Please contact?
chr.vd.linden@gmail.com

Fiona Judson November 10, 2016 at 1:00 am

Hi
My grandfather Alan Sheffield Judson was acting squadron leader of 114 squadron on this raid.
(James Rough ……)
I am searching for more information to honour his memory (he survived this mission)
Any more information would be great.
Bless them all

Hans Groen December 14, 2015 at 9:10 pm

Hello everyone,

For those who are interested!
I made a small documentary video of the last moments from one of the Bristol Blenheims IV ( No. 226 Squadron / RAF-serial No. V5859) who took part at the Knapsack raid on August 12th 1941.
This Blenheim was one of the two Blenheims from No.226 Squadron which navigated the withdrawal formations of Spitfires to the Westerschelde Region and they should have navigate the returning bombers home. Both of the Blenheims were shot down.
The video is made of several scenes from the Internet and the last main part is about an official service and unveiling a memorial at the exact place where the Blenheim crashed.
The ‘link’ to the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=orLF5LgYkvk

More information about this crash + other planes during this Raid, you can find it in the ‘Database’ of the site from WingstoVictory: http://wingstovictory.nl/Database/database.php
Sorry, but it’s mostly in Dutch or German language.

There was also a small (eyewitness)story about the Raid, which was published in the Reader’s Digest in January 1942:
part 1: http://wingstovictory.nl/Database/documentatie/121-knapsack%20raid.jpg
part 2: http://wingstovictory.nl/Database/documentatie/121-knapsack%20raid.1.jpg

Kind regards,
Hans Groen

Jennifer Rolland August 2, 2015 at 12:53 am

Hello Fiona Cox
Graham Cooper Rolland was my father’s cousin. I’ve just watched a BBC2 programme about an 18 year old Spitfire pilot, Geoff Wellum and it made me want to look on the internet for information on Graham and I have come across this site with your post.
I wonder if we can make contact through this?
Jennifer Rolland

James Rough June 15, 2015 at 1:43 am

Hello everyone,

I was very glad to find this page and the forum.

Any information on Sergeant James Rough (998697) 114 Squadron, would be fantastic. I believe he was a gunner in one of the Blenheim Bombers and was subsequently awarded a DFM for the mission. Is there a way I can confirm this?

I have just started to look into my Grandfathers service history and I would love to hear from anyone. Many questions left unanswered.

Many thanks,

James

Bryn Evans May 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Our Uncle, Brynmor Evans, was a navigator during the attack on the Cologne power stations. He was subsequently awarded the DFM.

He was killed at Abbeville in May 1945. When I read the account here all I can think is ‘My God, those guys had some guts.’ God bless them all.

Fiona Cox January 5, 2014 at 5:00 pm

Hello John Cooper
Graham Rolland was my uncle. It was his first mission. The Blenheim crashed on the way out to Cologne with your cousin, Hugh Clark. It may have hit some ducks or been shot down, there are conflicting descriptions. The historical society in Strijen has done some research regarding servicemen who are buried there and sent us some photos a few years ago of the burial. The burgomaster tended the graves and his daughter lived with us for a while when I was a child.
Best wishes, Fiona Cox nee Rolland

Ian Mitchell April 14, 2013 at 5:40 pm

My dad Leslie Charles Mitchell was the gunner in one of the Blenheims that day. I think it was his 14th sortie. Their plane was shot down over the North Sea on the way home by a 109. All three crew were rescued and spent the rest of the war as prisoners, including time at Stalag Luft iii. Dad was 19 at the time. I have just read Max Hastings’ and Anthony Beevor’s books on WWII but these early bombing raids by Blenheims do not get a mention. Shame. All brave lads. Both excellent books though.

Ian Jenkins January 14, 2013 at 10:56 pm

Thank you , Martin, for the photograph. Brave boys indeed.

Regards,

Ian

John Cooper July 16, 2012 at 6:04 pm

A cousin of mine P/O Hugh Maxwell Clark was navigator in an 82 Squadron Blenheim lost on this raid. Their target was the Quadrath Fortuna power station at Cologne. His pilot was 18 yr old Graham Cooper Rolland and third crew member Sgt Ernest Bainbridge. All buried at Strijen Protestant Cemetery, south of Rotterdam. I presume they were on the way home, but possibly hit on way over. Official record does not specify. Any experts tell me how to get more precise info.?

Editor July 10, 2012 at 10:28 am

Hi Ian

I did find Low-level oblique aerial photograph taken during a major daylight raid on the docks at Rotterdam, Holland, by Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs of No. 2 Group. Blenheims of No. 21 Squadron RAF approach the target at low-level.

-Low-level oblique aerial photograph taken during a major daylight raid on the docks at Rotterdam, Holland, by Bristol Blenheim Mark IVs of No. 2 Group. Blenheims of No. 21 Squadron RAF approach the target at low-level.-

although I can’t immediately find the date of this raid. Hopefully somebody else will have more.

regards

Martin

Ian Jenkins July 9, 2012 at 9:00 pm

My Uncle, Sgt Thomas Parkinson was navigating one of the Blenheims on this day. If anybody has any other photographs or memories of him or 21 Sqn I’d love to hear from you.
Regards,
Ian

Dr Mivart Thomas September 7, 2011 at 12:34 am

My uncle, Sgt WEST JL, RAF (VR), (983201), was the navigator of one of the Blenheims lost in this raid. His plane was last seen by others in the returning squadron losing height over the coast of Holland. He now lies in a war grave in Germany.

Leave a Comment

Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: