British War Cabinet monitors German morale

Annotated vertical photograph taken over Hamburg, Germany by a specially-equipped aircraft to show the feasibility of damage plotting during a night raid. This exposure, taken without the use of a photoflash, shows areas of the city identified by the pattern of fires resulting from the bombing. The locations, all in the Wandsbek district are: ‘A’ – Horner Weg; ‘B’ – Washingtonallee; ‘C’ – Kamp Jenfelder; ‘D’ – the north end of Stengelestrasse; ‘E’ – fires burning among barracks; and ‘F’ – fires in the grandstand of the racecourse.

At the time the Bombing Campaign against Germany was the single most important method of ‘hitting back’ that the Government could point to.

Nevertheless great attention was paid the effectiveness of the strategy, both in terms of the damage caused to German industry and war production, and to the impact raids were having on people in Germany. An intelligence paper was circulated to the War Cabinet:

German Reactions to Bombing Raids.

A Prague paper :— ” British bombers carried bombs of a size which had until now seemed impossible. The German population are able to judge exactly and unmistakably the terrific effect of these new British weapons.”

A letter from Dortmund :— ” The Tommies are doing what they like again. At night we go to bed filled with terror.”

A letter from Altenstadt (near Kassel) :— ” I am completely exhausted. I cannot stand it any longer.”

Letters from Bremen :— ” I am crying from fear. I am surprised I have not gone out of my mind.” ” The attacks are ghastly and our poor Bremen is like a ruin.” ” The worry over whether one can retain one’s goods and chattels through this murderous destruction is nerve-racking.”

Other extracts from intercepted letters :— ” Hamburg is unrecognisable. It looks as if an earthquake has taken place.” ” Very soon there won’t be even ruins in our Duisburg.” ” If the Tommies keep on bombing us like this Western Germany will soon cease to exist.” ” I cannot understand what you are doing at the front that we should be bombed four nights in succession.”

This is the sort of personal news which is spreading among the German troops in Russia and Egypt.

October 13, 1942.

From the fortnightly report on Bomber Command Operations as submitted to the War Cabinet see TNA CAB 66/29/44

Ten days later a more detailed report The Effects Of Air Raids On German Civilian Morale was to consider the benefits in more detail:

Heavy raids concentrated in time and space have a disproportionately greater effect on morale than less heavy raids. Such concentrated attacks have so far been delivered on comparatively few German towns; but there is evidence to show that in at least some of the areas affected they have caused in varying degrees temporary panic, breakdown in administration and even anti-Nazi reactions, including one authenticated case of anti-Nazi rioting in Duisburg.

In certain towns where the A.R.P. organisation has been overwhelmed, a feeling of complete helplessness has been induced and the tendency in such circumstances had been for the victims to throw much of the blame for the disaster on the regime. There have also been isolated cases of subversive activity and this development is known to be causing increasing concern to the authorities.

From the British War Cabinet Minutes and Discussion Papers see TNA CAB 66/30/12.

What the British authorities were unable evaluate at the time was the tenacious grip on power that the Nazi regime had. The system of policing and concentration camps had been developed at the very beginning of Nazi rule to stamp out any form of dissent from German citizens.

Almost everyone knew how dangerous it was to say anything critical at all about the the progress of the war, let alone about the Nazis themselves. It was a system that proved capable of withstanding any latent opposition to the regime right up to the end of the war, by which time the effects of bombing were far more devastating.

Rod cleaning the front machine guns of Avro Lancaster R5666/`KM-F’, while another member of the ground crew cleans the cockpit windows.

Lancaster I, R5740/KM-O of No 44 Squadron, running up its engines at Waddington, 12 October 1942.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Conn Nugent October 14, 2017 at 5:21 am

Perhaps Mr Ramirez’s comment might better be placed under the 12 October coverage of a Japanese PoW Camp. Though God knows his fury is well-placed.

I was glad to read the last two parapgraphs of today’s 13 October 1942 entry on the assessment of German civilian morale in the wake of heavy RAF bombings. US post-war analyses said much the same thing: Allied bombing had indeed terrorized and depressed German civilians, but civilian angst had virtually no effect on the German war machine. On the other hand, bombing of military targets immediately before and after the Normandy invasion made a significant difference, particularly in Operation Cobra and the Allied breakout from the coast. Arthur Harrris to the contrary, USAF and RAF fighter-bombers attacks on the Wehrmacht mattered a good deal more than the so-called strategic bombings of German cities.

percival ramirez April 6, 2013 at 3:28 am

Like what I said before they were very brutal in their treatments like wild animals. I cant never ever forget the time when they be-headed my Dad in front of my Mom in 1942..when they found out that he was with the US Navy..He used to play in the band of the USS Arizona before they bombed Pearl Harbor. Is there a way I can send you guys his picture playing at the uss aRIZONA..THANKS. i’LL NEVER FOGET NOR FORGIVE THEM ON WHAT THEY DID.

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